Category Archives: East Africa

IGAD endorses Sudan’s elections

Sudan Tribune

April 17, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) approved of the conduct of the Sudanese elections and declared that it conformed with international standards and was credible overall.

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A Sudanese electoral worker breaks the seal on a ballot box as they begin the process of counting votes for the presidential and legislative elections in Khartoum, Sudan, Friday, April 17, 2015 (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

Mohammud Abdulahi Hussien, head of IGAD elections monitoring team, said that they successfully deployed their observers to eight states and urged candidates to accept the results or else challenge it through legal venues if needed.

At a press conference he also urged all parties to engage in the national dialogue process launched by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir last year.

Hussien urged officials to train election workers to raise awareness among youngsters whom he said mostly refrained from voting this time around.

The IGAD official acknowledged logistical issues that hindered elections in several states but nonetheless said that the National Elections Commission (NEC) performance improved relative to 2010.

He also underlined the high level of participation and inclusion of women in the voting process.

Yesterday the African Union (AU) team led by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo called for “enhancing” freedoms that would make for a more credible vote.

“I said there are a few things that could have [been] taken that could have made the quality of fairness and freedom to have been enhanced. But I will not say it is absolutely un-free or unfair,” Obasanjo said.

“Some measures could have been taken to enhance that,” he added.

The AU team affirmed that voter turnout was low and said it could be a result of boycott by opposition parties.

“It is not unlikely that the boycott has had some effect on the turnout of voters,” the AU team said in its preliminary assessment released today.

“The extension [of voting for an extra day] for the whole country was to allow more voters to cast their ballots”.

Obasanjo said on Thursday that the vote would likely not exceed 40%.

The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) issued a statement on Friday hailing the smooth conduct of the elections and its credibility despite attempts to derail it in several states by rebels.

It thanked observers who ignored western pressures and came to monitor the elections.

The vote counting has begun on Friday morning after polls were closed in most of the country on Thursday evening.

Partial results showed a handful of wins for independent and non-NCP candidates particularly in the northern states of Sudan.

But observers nonetheless expect a sweeping win for NCP candidates in all elections including presidency.

African Union confirms low turn-out in Sudan election

Sudan Tribune

 (KHARTOUM) – The head of the African Union observation mission for the Sudanese general election has confessed the weak participation of the Sudanese voters and estimate that nearly one-third of voters casted their bailout.

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Election officials at a polling station on the first day of Sudan’s presidential and legislative elections in Khartoum on 13 April 2015 (Photo: AP/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

Speaking in a press conference after the end of the four-day elections, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo told reporters that the percentage of eligible voters varies between 30 and 35 adding “the turnout was low, almost is less than 40%.”

Obasanjo attributed this small turnout to the boycott by opposition and civil society groups, but added that the elections should not affect the national dialogue between the Sudanese political forces to end war and achieve democratic reforms.

The National Election Commission (NEC) announced that the vote count operation will begin on Friday and the result will be officially announced on 27 April.

The opposition parties and civil society groups called to boycott the electoral process as the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) rejected their demand to postpone the elections and prioritise the African Union supported efforts to bring peace and engage a comprehensive national process for a new constitution.

Obasanjo noted that the vote faced difficulties in troubled Blue Nile and South Kordofan states where the government troops fight the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).

He also mentioned the logistical problems that triggered the extension of vote process in Al Jazirah state and some parts of Darfur region.

In a report disclosed recently, an African Union technical team tasked with evaluating the pre-elections environment in Sudan said the political environment in the country is restrictive due to the lack of political freedoms and continuation of war in different parts of the country.

In a report submitted to the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) last month, the assessment mission advised not to send a monitoring mission due to its inconsistency with the standards of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

However, the AUPSC went against its recommendations, underscoring its involvement in the ongoing efforts to end Sudan’s conflict and operate a smooth democratic transition.

Sudan Tribune reporters spotted several polling stations were empty from voters in different electoral constituencies in the Sudanese capital on Thursday while the ruling party urged its membership to work actively to bring voters to the vote centres.

Several heads of polling stations complained of weak voter turnout on the fourth day, also they pointed to the existence of errors related to the fall of voters names and the repetition of the names of electors in a number of electoral constituencies.

SATISFIED WITH THE ELECTION TURNOUT

However presidential assistant and NCP vice president Ibrahim Ghandour told reporters they are satisfied with the election turnout, adding they are not part in the NEC’s decision to extend the vote period.

“I can assure you that we are quite satisfied with the turnout of (election),” Ghandour said in a press briefing for foreign reporters at the premises of the ruling party on Thursday evening.

“Those who are talking about the low turnout they just do not know what is going on or they are deliberately talk about,” he said in English.

He further explained that his government was not involved in the decision of the electoral body to extend the vote for an additional day after the small participation during the three-day vote period.

CHINA: TRANSPARENT ELECTION

The head of the Chinese delegation to monitor the Sudanese election , Zhang Xun, said electoral process was characterised by transparency, stability and safety, and was held in line with international electoral standards .

In a press conference held at the Chinese embassy in Khartoum on Thursday, Xun stressed that the Sudanese elections are an internal matter for the people of Sudan alone, adding “We firmly reject (foreign) interference in the affairs of others.”

(ST)


Italian police report Chistian-Muslim clashes on African migrant boat

BBC

Migrants killed in ‘religious clash’ on Mediterranean boat

Rescued migrants
About 1,000 people a day are being rescued at the moment trying to reach the Italian coast

Italian police say they have arrested 15 Muslim migrants after they allegedly threw 12 Christians overboard following a row on a boat heading to Italy.

The Christian migrants, said to be from Ghana and Nigeria, are all feared dead.

In a separate incident, more than 40 people drowned after another migrant boat sank between Libya and Italy.

Almost 10,000 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean have been rescued in recent days. Italy has called for more help from the EU to handle the crisis.

More than 500 people from Africa and the Middle East have died making the perilous crossing since the start of the year. Earlier this week, 400 people were believed to have drowned when their boat capsized.

‘In tears’

Italian Red Cross personnel prepare to give first aid to shipwrecked migrants as they arrive in the Italian port of Augusta in Sicily on 16 April 2015.
Many migrants picked up by the Italian navy in recent days have been brought ashore to Sicily

The 15 Muslim migrants involved in the row with Christians were arrested in the Sicilian city of Palermo and charged with “multiple aggravated murder motivated by religious hate”.

The suspects, who are from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea, were among 105 migrants travelling in an inflatable boat that left Libya on Tuesday.

Eyewitnesses told police how the altercation resulted in Christians being thrown overboard, and that some of the survivors had formed human chains to avoid a similar fate.

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In numbers: Migration from north Africa to Europe

Graph showing migration arrivals from north Africa to Europe
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Also on Thursday, the Italian navy plucked four survivors – a Ghanaian, two Nigerians, and a man from Niger – from the sea. They said their inflatable boat had sunk after leaving Libya with 45 people on board.

The International Organization for Migrants (IOM) says the missing 41 people have drowned.

The four survivors were taken to Sicily along with 600 other migrants trying to make the crossing in various vessels.

‘No silver bullet’

Media caption James Reynolds spoke to rescued migrants as they arrived in Sicily

Earlier on Thursday Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Italy had “not had an adequate response from the EU” about the migrant crisis.

But European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said the organisation had no “silver bullet” for the problem.

Last year a record 170,000 people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East made the perilous crossing to Italy.

With improving weather conditions, the number of people making the crossing of at least 500km (300 miles) has surged. But vessels provided by people smugglers are often underpowered and overcrowded.

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Analysis: Gavin Lee, Europe reporter in Brussels

Italian Guardia Costiera takes part in a rescue operation of migrants off the coast of Sicily on 13 April 2015.

€2.8m (£2m) a month goes on Operation Triton, the border control policy that operates off the Italian coast. Monitoring the Mediterranean may not be enough, says commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud. “We have neither the money nor the political support to launch a European border guard system,” she told reporters.

Triton has proved an inadequate replacement for the Italian military search-and-rescue operation Mare Nostrum, which cost three times as much. That 2013 mission was activated after a similar tragedy, when 300 migrants drowned.

The Italian government has requested more financial help from the EU, but the question is: how much money are the 28 member states willing to invest?

Only 22 of the members are supporting the current system. Others, including the UK, opted out, describing the policy as unintentionally encouraging more migrant attempts to make the crossing.

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map showing migration routes

Sudan – two presidential candistes pull out of race

Sudan Tribune

(KHARTOUM) – Two candidates running for presidency in the Sudanese elections said that they have decided to drop out of the race in protest at what they describe as serious violations committed by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

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A man waits to check for his name at an official at a polling station on the third day of elections in Khartoum on 15 April 2015 (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

The NEC said Wednesday that it would extend the voting period nationwide by an extra day until Thursday evening without stating the reasons. Observers however attributed it to the poor voter turnout.

Ahmed Radi, one of the two withdrawing candidates, toldSudan Tribune that the NEC extension decision and low voter turnout prompted him to make that move.

Radi said he would formally inform the NEC of his decision on Thursday and noted that the NEC chairman told him that they will declare a winner any presidential candidate who receives a mere 50.1% of the votes.

The second candidate Omer Awad al-Karim also announced his withdrawal calling the elections a “farce”.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Karim said that his conscience and his sense of responsibility towards the nation and the people compelled him to stay away from “the play designed to trick the Sudanese people in the name of democracy”.

He cited several breaches including absence of serial numbers on the ballots, making the pre-elections silence period two days instead of one as stated by the electoral code and accepting residency affidavits in lieu of government identification for voters.

“As for what was happening inside the [polling] centres in terms of wrongdoing and abuses called irregularities by the NEC … I have seen with my own eyes offences happening that are contrary to the electoral law,” Karim said.

He also claimed that the NEC did not direct its staff to verify identities of face-veiled women opening the possibility of allowing duplicate voting.

Another presidential candidate by the name of Mahmoud Abdul-Jabbar said he rejects extending the voting process in the state of Khartoum, saying “This is totally unacceptable for us”.

“The extension will enable the ruling party to rig the elections dramatically and solicit people who do not have any proof of identity and give them residency affidavits to cast their votes,” he told Sudan Tribune.

“We are against the extension [of voting] in Khartoum state even for one hour,” he added, claiming outright fraud had been committed in the voting process.

Alam al-Huda Hamid, another presidential candidate, said the extension was due to voter numbers falling short of required quorum.

But he warned that the extension may spoil the electoral process and make it “messy” and lacking credibility based on democratic and international standards.

The Associated Press (AP) said that to increase turnout, Sudanese authorities gave awards for polling stations with high turnout.

Sudan Tribune reporter has seen attempts by supporters of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to convince voters in some neighbourhoods of Khartoum to cast their ballots by offering them free rides to the polling stations.

At one Khartoum polling centre in the upper-middle-class neighbourhood of al-Riyadh, turnout was only 15% after three days of voting, election official Youssef Ibrahim told AP.

Other workers spread out mattresses in the empty poll place while some drank tea.

“Even if you give people a month, they won’t come if they don’t want to come,” Ibrahim said. “The people are fed up. After 25 years, people have had enough.”

About 13.6 million people are eligible to vote across the country. The poll results are expected on 27 April.

(ST)


Sudan – election extended for a day and people told to vote

Radio Dabenga

Sudan election extended with one day, police ordered to vote

April 16 – 2015 KHARTOUM
An empty polling centre in Khartoum, 13 April 2015 (RD)
An empty polling centre in Khartoum, 13 April 2015 (RD)

The National Election Commission (NEC) on Wednesday announced the extension of the official three-day voting process with one day. Two presidential candidates announced their withdrawal. The police in Khartoum was pressured to vote. 

Because of the very poor voters’ turnout throughout the country, the NEC on Tuesday had already extended the voting time for Wednesday, the third and officially the last day of the presidential and parliamentary election, from 6pm to 7pm.

“The extension of the voting period will enable the ruling party to rig the election dramatically.”

A number of presidential candidates rejected the extension of the election period. Mahmoud Abdeljabar toldSudan Tribune that the extension “will enable the ruling party to rig the election dramatically and solicit people who do not have any proof of identity, and give them residency affidavits to cast their votes.”

Two presidential candidates, Ahmed Radi and Omar Awadelkareem, announced their withdrawal, in protest against “serious violations” of the electoral law.

At a press conference in Khartoum on Wednesday, Awadelkareem pointed to the abuses he had witnessed at several polling stations in the capital, “called irregularities by the NEC”. He had noted that the serial numbers were missing on the ballots, and that voters were allowed to identify themselves with residency affidavits, instead of their voter registration cards.

‘No vote, no salary’

A policeman in Khartoum reported to Radio Dabanga on Wednesday that senior police officers ordered their personnel to participate in the elections by voting for the ruling party. If they would not cast their vote, the payment of their salaries would be delayed or cancelled.

“We were instructed to present our electoral registration number to the police administrative unit, to ensure our participation in the election.”

Al Shabab recruiting in Kenyan towns

BBC

Kenyan crowd listens to speeches denouncing al-Shabab attacks
The Kenyan authorities hope to enlist the Muslim community’s help to combat radicalisation

Somalia’s Islamist al-Shabab militants are recruiting heavily in north-eastern Kenya, according to evidence gathered by the BBC.

The recruitment marks a new tactic for al-Shabab, underscoring fears voiced by Kenyan intelligence services and MPs.

In one town alone, the BBC has learnt of 26 young men whose disappearance was reported to police because they were suspected to have joined the militants.

Al-Shabab attacked a Kenyan university two weeks ago, killing 150 people.

The attack at Garissa was the deadliest yet on Kenyan soil by the militants. One of the gunmen was a Kenyan national.

Al-Shabab’s recruitment of fighters in Kenya’s own backyard marks a change of tactic for al-Qaeda’s affiliate in East Africa.

Soldiers at scene of Garissa attack
Kenyan security forces eventually killed the attackers at Garissa
Al-Shabab fighters in Somalia
Al-Shabab militants have been battling African Union forces in Somalia

The BBC has learnt of scores cases of missing young men in the north-eastern town of Isiolo, who later admitted in phone calls to their parents that they had joined the Islamist group.

Only half of those cases have been reported to the police because of fears of reprisals. There are similar concerns in other parts of the country.

As part of the Kenyan government’s efforts to enlist the help of the Muslim community to fight the radicalisation of Kenyan youth, an amnesty has been offered to young Kenyan men who have been lured into joining al-Shabab.

But one of the most powerful Muslim leaders in the country, Sheikh Abdullahi Salat, warned that widespread mistrust of the security services in Kenya threatens to frustrate investigations.

He claimed that corruption within the police, military and intelligence services was likely to hamper attempts to hunt down al-Shabab.

But the Kenyan government, whose anti-insurgency campaign has focused largely on military efforts across the border in Somalia, have described the allegations as a “diversion”.

Sudan – African Union panel says no chance of credible elections 

Sudan Tribune

April 14, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – An African Union (AU) panel tasked with evaluating the pre-elections environment in Sudan concluded that it would not be possible to hold credible polls in the East African nation, recommending that the pan-African body not send a monitoring mission.

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A Sudanese woman casts her ballot on the first day of Sudan’s presidential and legislative elections in Izba, an impoverished neighbourhood on the outskirts of Khartoum, on 13 April 2015 (Photo: AP/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

“The overall political environment is restrictive, which impacted on political participation by other stakeholders, including opposition parties, civil society and the media. Media houses and civil society organisations were barred from discussing issues relating to the conflict in the country and certain political and social topics,” the pre-election assessment mission said in its report submitted to the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) last month.

“Those who ignored this ruling either have their licenses withdrawn or arrested and detained by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Thus, freedom of expression, association and assembly were generally not respected,” the report adds.

The committee noted that it held meetings with all stakeholders including officials in the Sudanese government and the National Elections Commission (NEC), political parties, civil society groups, media representatives, candidates, Political Party Affairs Council, the Human Rights Commission, parliament, the AU-UN hybrid operations in Darfur (UNAMID), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), AU liaison office to Sudan, Arab League, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), African ambassadors, European Union (EU) and the troika countries’ (US, UK and Norway) ambassadors in Khartoum.

It added that asidefrom the government, NEC, representatives of public institutions, the Arab League envoy and some African ambassadors, most stakeholders wanted the AU to “distance itself from observing the elections”.

The mission led by Idrissa Kamara said the elections will take place amid “intense political polarisation”, against the backdrop of ongoing armed conflict in several parts of the country and international sanctions.

It concluded that that “the necessary conditions and environment for the holding of transparent, competitive, free and fair elections as agreed in the AU principles governing democratic elections have not been satisfied”.

“The existing government’s security measures put substantial restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly and do not provide an environment for free participation in the electoral process,” the report found.

The committee recommended that the AU not send an observation mission, saying that doing so “under this circumstance would not be viable and effective and would not contribute to democracy building”.

It called for the polls to be postponed in favour of furthering the national dialogue process initiated by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir last year on the basis that this would “allow more time for the creation of an enabling environment for credible, transparent and competitive elections”.

In a meeting held last week, the AUPSC brushed aside the findings and recommendations in the report and decided to send an observation mission headed by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo to monitor the three-day presidential and parliamentary electios, which got underway on Monday.

The decision drew strong criticism from the country’s rebel group, which expressed anger at the AUPSC for ignoring the recommendations of the pre-elections committee.

The country’s main opposition forces are boycotting the elections in which 15 little known candidates are challenging the incumbent. The voter turnout was very low in the first two days of the polls.

The ruling party had rejected calls by Sudanese opposition to postpone the general elections until after the national dialogue and formation of a transitional government and insists that it is a constitutional requirement that must be met.

Bashir launched the national dialogue initiative more than a year ago in which he urged opposition parties and rebels alike to join the dialogue table to discuss all the pressing issues.

But the initiative faced serious setbacks after rebel groups and leftist parties refused to join and after the National Umma Party (NUP) led by al-Sadiq al-Mahdi withdrew from the process in protest of al-Mahdi’s brief arrest last May.

Earlier this year, several political parties including the Reform Now Movement (RNM) led by Ghazi Salah al-Din and the Just Peace Forum (JPF) led by al-Tayeb Mustafa and the Alliance of the Peoples’ Working Forces (APWF) announced they had decided to suspend participation in the national dialogue until the requirements of a conducive environment are met.

Last Thursday the EU announced that it will not send a mission to observe this elections.

“When dialogue is bypassed, some groups are excluded and civil and political rights are infringed, the upcoming elections cannot produce a credible result with legitimacy throughout the country,” said a statement by EU representative of foreign affairs and security affairs and vice-president of the commission, Federica Mogherini.

“The people of Sudan deserve better. We therefore chose not to engage in support of these elections,” she added.

Canadian foreign minister Rob Nicholson echoed the same sentiments.

“Canada is disappointed by the failure of Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, to deliver on his promise to hold an inclusive national dialogue in the lead-up to the Sudanese general and presidential elections,” he said in a statement.

Over the past year, Sudanese authorities have been accused of repeatedly seizing newspaper print runs, ordering political arrests, including those of opposition leaders, and hindering election activities and targeting civilians in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

“These actions have obstructed the emergence of a free and open democratic process and have led many opposition parties to boycott the elections. As a result, the outcome of the elections will not reflect the will of all Sudanese people,” said Nicholson.

(ST)