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Friday, 23 July 2010

Gambian Opposition Leader Denounces Coup Celebration as Illegal

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The leader of Gambia’s main opposition United Democratic Party (UPD) has described as illegal the celebration of the coup d’état that brought President Yahya Jammeh to power 16 years ago Thursday.
Ousainou Darboe, who is also a human rights attorney, condemned the planned celebration saying it sends the wrong signal to the country’s security forces that there is a virtue in taking up arms to overthrow a constitutionally-elected president.
The Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh
“Our party’s position is that, today, (Mr.) Jammeh will again be celebrating an illegality. He will be celebrating a rape on the Constitution of The Gambia. And, he will be sending a very wrong signal to other members of the security forces that there is virtue in staging coup d’états. And, I do not think that is right,” he said.
Mr. Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994, but was later elected three times. He is also set to run for a fourth term in next year’s general election.
Gambia’s local media quoted President Jammeh recently as saying that “whether you like it or not, no coup will end my government, no elections can end my government. By God's grace, I will rule this country as long as I wish and choose someone to replace me.”
Supporters of the Gambian leader have reportedly arrived in the capital, Banjul, to participate in the coup d’état celebration.
But, critics say these “supporters” were either forced against their will or bribed to be part of the celebration, an accusation the government denies.
Opposition leader Darboe described the celebration as an insult to law abiding citizens and called on Gambians to boycott Mr. Jammeh’s coup d’état celebrations.
“We are in a democratic dispensation (and) we should be celebrating everything that is democratic, but we should not be celebrating undemocratic events. Our party has condemned it in the past and, today, again we condemn it and we will continue to condemn it as long as he continues to celebrate it,” Darboe said.
In a televised address last year, President Jammeh said he will supervise the killing of anyone who aims to destabilize the country. He also warned human rights groups to stop interfering in The Gambia’s internal politics, warning citizens not to cooperate with them.
Mr. Jammeh recently expelled two U.N. officials without any explanation. The opposition claims the president’s death threat is a calculated ploy to silence any dissent.

Campaigning Begins in Rwandan Election

Rwandan President Paul Kagame addresses the crowd at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali during the Liberation Day ceremonies marking the 16th anniversary of the end of the Genocide, 04 Jul 2010
Photo: AP
Rwandan President Paul Kagame (file photo)

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Campaigning has begun in Rwanda for an election expected to return President Paul Kagame to power.

Political tensions are high in the country following a series of arrests and killings that targeted opposition figures and journalists.

Also, three main opposition parities say authorities did not allow them to register for the August 9 vote.

Victoire Ingabire, leader of the unregistered Unified Democratic Forces party says she is ready to organize a boycott of the elections.

Ingabire has faced legal action since April, after being accused of denying Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

Earlier this month, the vice president of the Rwandan Democratic Green Party, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, was found dead, nearly decapitated. Also this month, the editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Umuvugizi, Jean Leonard Rugambage, was shot and killed.

The government denies any involvement in the killings.

Critics have accused President Kagame of stifling opposition and freedom of expression ahead of the poll.

The French news agency, AFP, reports that Mr. Kagame told reporters in Kigali Tuesday that Rwandans have the freedom to decide who will lead them. He said he is confident Rwandans will choose to work with the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front but said he cannot take anything for granted.

The presidential election will be the second since the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

President Kagame and his party won the last election in 2003.

The official Rwanda News Agency says the candidates will have 20 days to campaign.

Niger's Political Parties Form Alliance Before Presidential Election

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Seventeen political parties in Niger that opposed the country's ousted president have formed an alliance ahead of presidential elections due in January of next year. The various opposition parties say they each will present their own presidential candidates in the first round of voting. They have pledged to throw their collective support behind whichever candidate advances to the second round. The strategic accord was signed Saturday in Niger's capital, Niamey.
Opposition leader and group spokesman Mahamadou Issoufou says the parties signing the pact will work to ensure that one of their candidates is elected in the presidential poll. He says they will make no electoral agreements with political parties outside the alliance. Issoufou said the pact will apply to those legislative and regional elections as well.

The presidential election will take place 3 Jan 2011, with a run-off planned for 14 Jan, if necessary. Local and legislative elections also are planned during that time.

This is not the first time these 17 political parties have joined forces. They also were part of the Coordination of Democratic Forces for the Republic that had opposed former President Mamadou Tandja. Mr. Tandja had grown increasingly unpopular since expanding his power and giving himself another three years in office through a controversial referendum in August 2009.

Mr. Tandja was ousted in a military coup this February. Soldiers promised an election and a return to civilian government within the year.

Zimbabwe's Coalition Parties Meet in Rare Talks

President Robert Mugabe, centre, shares a light moment with Morgan Tsvangirai, left, Zimbabwe's Prime Minister and his Deputy, Arthur Mutambara after giving their end of year message to the nation, at
Photo: AP
President Robert Mugabe, centre, shares a light moment with Morgan Tsvangirai, left, Zimbabwe's Prime Minister and his Deputy, Arthur Mutambara after giving their end of year message to the nation, at Zimbabwe House in Harare, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009

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For the first time Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party's politburo and the national executive committees of the two Movement for Democratic Change parties met on Wednesday to discuss ways to ensure that political violence ends in Zimbabwe.

The meeting in Harare was the first time the three parties' national executives have met since a unity government was formed 17 months ago.

Following the establishment of the unity government, a multi-party Committee for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration was formed to try to heal some of the scars of political violence since Zimbabwe's independence from the United Kingdom in 1980.

The healing committee has traveled to several regions of the country to persuade victims and perpetrators to face one another and tell their stories.

More than 100 delegates from the three parties agreed by consensus that there could be no national healing without justice and compensation, and that the police must arrest anyone who commits violence.

MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti described the meeting as historic and said the challenge was to ensure that no Zimbabwean ever attacks or kills another on the basis of political affiliation.

Most of the political violence of the decade followed the emergence of the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, which came close to winning elections in 2000.

Domestic and international human rights monitoring groups, such as Human Rights Watch, say that President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party has been responsible for most of the political violence since independence.

Although rights monitors say political violence has declined significantly since the unity government came to power, the MDC says some of its members, particularly in rural areas, are still being attacked.

In Nigeria, Northern Politicians Offer Conditional Support for President Jonathan

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In Nigeria, northern politicians have offered to support President Goodluck Jonathan in next year’s elections if he promises not to seek re-election. Analysts say the compromise offer is the strongest indication yet that Mr. Jonathan is the leading candidate of the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
But the compromise is not a significant political development, says Abubakar Momoh, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science Lagos State University.
“It’s just [a] political calculation and strategizing by some elite who think they just have to be politically relevant. The first question to ask is on whose behalf [is] this olive branch [being extended].”
Momoh disagrees with speculation that the compromise is a ploy by pro-Jonathan elements to weaken the position of the North.
“I don’t really believe that some of the names that are being peddled around are really the ones to determine ultimately how electorates in the north will vote. And the electorate in this area is not gullible, it is informed and it knows what is going on. It will vote on the basis of what is on ground, the issues and questions about who is credible and so on. They are going to make a rational choice on the basis of what they are offered.”
The deal offered to the Nigerian leader, says Momoh, is intended to push one part of the country against the other and will be rejected by the electorate.

Gambia: President Jammeh attacked

  1. Kemo Cham, AfricaNews reporter in Dakar, Senegal
    The Dakar-based African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights has attacked Gambian president Yahya Jammeh for poor human rights and democracy record.
    yahya jammeh
    "Since the accession of Captain Yahya Jammeh to power in 1994, the state of democracy and human rights in the Gambia continues to deteriorate," the organization said in a statement in response to the recent conviction and sentencing to death of eight Gambians.

    The convicts include former chief of Defense Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces, Lt. General Lang Tombong Tamba.

    “Since taking office more than two hundred (200) coups have been identified in a country where everything has been clocked and where there is intimidation and terror that spares no political actors (opposition and ruling party),” the statement said.

    It added: "Currently, many people are detained without charge or illegally imprisoned after unfair trials. Most of them are victims of torture or other ill-treatment."

    The organization called on President Yahya Jammeh to respect his obligations vis-à-vis the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Under fire Paul Kagame speaks out

  1. Watyekele Sezi, AfricaNews reporter in Jinja, Uganda
    President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has launched his campaign for the August 9 polls and promised free elections despite attacks, assassinations and arrests on the opposition. Human rights groups have also berated him for not protecting lives of innocent ones ahead of the tensed voting.
    Rwanda's Kagame set to run for second presidential term
    "Rwandan voters have the freedom to decide," Kagame told his Rwandan Patriotic Front supporters at a rally at the Kigali national stadium.

    The rally was estimated to cost $2 million. However, campaign co-coordinator Christophe Bazivamo said the funding was supplied by "voluntary contributions".

    The more modest Social Democratic Party of Deputy Speaker Jean-Damascene Ntawukuriryayo is planning to take out a bank loan.

    Two other presidential challengers – the Liberal Party's Prosper Higiro and the Party of Progress and Concord's Alvera Mukabaramba – will also be campaigning on low budgets.

    Those three parties supported Kagame during the 2003 presidential election and are described by the opposition as the RPF's "political satellites".

    But the three main opposition parties that had planned to contest the election are already practically sidelined.

    The Unified Democratic Forces has not been officially registered by the authorities and its leader, Victoire Ingabire, has faced legal action since April after being accused of negating the genocide and abetting terrorism.

    The Social Party (Imberakuri) faces similar problems and its leader Bernard Ntaganda has been behind bars since June 24.

    In another development, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka – vice chairperson of the unregistered opposition Democratic Green Party – was found dead, nearly decapitated, on July 14.

    Several senior army officers have been arrested in recent months and one general, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, narrowly survived an assassination attempt in exile in South Africa.

    An opposition journalist who claimed to have uncovered the regime's responsibility in the attempted murder was shot dead days later.

    Kagame's government has flatly denied any involvement in the killings.

    "There have been all kinds of activities... which have been orchestrated in order to instill a climate of fear in the run-up to the elections but also in an attempt to smear the government," Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told AFP in a recent interview.

    Restricting political and press freedom

    Rights groups have repeatedly accused Rwanda of restricting political and press freedom ahead of the election.

    Kagame has often been praised by Western countries for his economic vision and his ability to maintain stability in genocide-scarred Rwanda but the latest outbreak of political violence appeared to cause some unease.

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "expressed his concerns regarding the recent incidents which have caused political tensions" and demanded a full investigation into the death of the journalist and Rwisereka's murder.

    Ban's statement came last week in Madrid, where Kagame was invited to talk on the status of the Millennium Development Goals.

    Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero opted out of a meeting with Kagame at the last minute following protests from some political parties over the Rwandan president's role in the genocide.

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