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Fraud accusations mar Congo election

International | The country might have to wait even longer for a democratic transfer of power
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 1/15/19, 02:18 pm

The Democratic Republic of Congo faces possible violence and political uncertainty as the surprise outcome of the recent presidential election undergoes a court challenge.

The country’s Electoral Commission said last week that Felix Tshisekedi, an opposition candidate, secured 38.6 percent of the 18 million votes cast. Martin Fayulu, another opposition candidate, garnered 34.8 percent, while ruling party contender Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary received 23.8 percent.

Shortly before the election, Tshisekedi, 55, broke away from the opposition coalition as it attempted to unite behind a single presidential candidate. He pledged instead to work in harmony with incumbent President Joseph Kabila, saying, “Today we should no longer see him as an adversary, but rather as a partner for democratic change in our country.”

Kabila has led the country since 2001 after the assassination of Laurent Kabila, his father and the former president. A three-term limit barred Kabila from running again for office, but he delayed the vote for two years, igniting deadly protests throughout the country.

Tshisekedi’s presidency could mark the country’s first peaceful democratic transfer of power, but runner-up Fayulu rejected the results as an “electoral coup,” accusing Tshisekedi of reaching a backroom deal with Kabila. On Saturday, Fayulu filed a challenge with the Congolese Constitutional Court demanding a recount. The court has seven days to reach a decision.

Fayulu is not the only one calling for a recount. The Congolese Catholic Church, which sent out a 40,000-strong observer mission during the election, noted the results “do not correspond to the data collected by our observation mission from polling stations and vote counts.”

Belgian Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian requested clarification of the vote, and British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted he was “very concerned about discrepancies” in the results. The influential Southern African Development Community said a recount would “provide the necessary assurance to both winners and losers.”

Uncertainty in the country could increase with the court’s ruling. Congo’s Electoral Commission President Corneille Nangaa said the court order could mean Kabila stays in power until a new vote is held.

Stephanie Wolters, an analyst with the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, said it is still essential to confirm the legitimacy of the vote: “We’re in a period of contestation, and I think that without clarity, we’re going to continue to have political instability.”

Associated Press Associated Press Anti-government protesters in Khartoum, Sudan, on Sunday

Unrest shakes Sudan

Anti-government protests that began in December have persisted in the largest defiance yet of Sudanese President Omar Bashir.

“We will march to the Parliament to deliver our demands and we will continue to do so peacefully until the government steps down,” said Mohamed Asbat, spokesman for the Sudanese Professional Association, which is staging marches and nationwide strikes.

In a parliamentary report, Interior Minister Ahmed Bilal Othman said that since Dec. 19, authorities counted 381 demonstrations that injured at least 127 people. Police last week raised the death toll to 22 after at least three demonstrators died in clashes with riot police. Human Rights Watch reported that 40 people died, and local activists said authorities arrested more than 2,000 people. The demonstrations began over rising prices and shortages but soon turned into calls for Bashir to step down.

The government has imposed a state of emergency in several provinces and shut down some schools over safety concerns. More than 20 political parties have united in an opposition group called National Front for Change and called on the president to step down and introduce a transition government.

Bashir, who has led Sudan for 25 years, denounced the uprising as a conspiracy against the country, saying he would only step down “through election.” —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Rene Rossignaud Associated Press/Photo by Rene Rossignaud Migrants disembark at Pieta, Malta, on Wednesday.

EU to take in stranded migrants

Nine European Union nations reached a deal last week to take in nearly 300 migrants, including 49 stranded on a boat at sea near Malta since December. Prior to the agreement, Italy and Malta had both refused to allow the charity rescue boats to dock.

The BBC reported the agreement also applied to 249 migrants already on the island of Malta.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told the BBC he welcomed the show of solidarity and understanding in reaching an agreement with France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Romania.

Last June, a boat of more than 600 migrants waited a week at sea for Italy and Malta to accept it before Spain intervened, letting the ship dock in Valencia.

Migration to Europe peaked in 2015 as more than 1 million migrants and refugees fled to the Continent. Increased resistance by EU nations to accept additional refugees has reduced the flow. The Wall Street Journal reported that 114,941 people migrated to Europe by sea in 2018, about one-third less than the previous year. The migration route across the central Mediterranean Sea remained the deadliest in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration. —Julia A. Seymour

Associated Press/Photo by Dake Kang Associated Press/Photo by Dake Kang Adilgazy Yergazy holds photos of his detained younger brothers at his home near Almaty, Kazakhstan, in December.

China to release some Muslims from camps

China will allow more than 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs in the western region of Xinjiang to renounce their Chinese citizenship and return home, according to Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry. The move could soften international backlash to China’s oppression of Muslims in the region.

Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry did not confirm the timeline or procedure for the release but said it would let the Kazakhs return and apply for permanent residency or citizenship.

Chinese authorities in Xinjiang launched a large-scale crackdown in 2016, placing Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in mass internment camps. China defended the camps this year as “reeducation centers” that assimilated the Uighurs into the “modern, civilized” world, but testimony from former residents told a story of repression and abuse.

In a rare openness to counteracting negative pressure, the Chinese government last week allowed foreign media access to three of the Uighur detention facilities in southern Xinjiang. Officials called the centers temporary and claimed fewer people will be sent there over time. —O.O.

Myanmar court rejects journalists’ appeal

A court in Myanmar, also known as Burma, last week rejected the appeal of two journalists facing a seven-year sentence for violating the Official Secrets Act. Judge Aung Naing at the Yangon High Court said lawyers for Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone did not hand in sufficient evidence to prove their innocence.

Authorities detained the two journalists, who worked for Reuters, in Dec. 2017 after they reported on the security crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state that led to 700,000 people fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh. Prosecutors accuse them of collecting “important secret papers” from two policemen.

The latest ruling came as a disappointment to journalists in the country and the men’s families. “We were even hoping to go to the jail to welcome them if they were released today,” Kyaw’s wife, Chit Su Win, told reporters after the appeal was denied. —O.O.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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