Category Archives: Africa – International

Mali – government foot dragging traps peacekeepers in endless conflict

Reuters

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Children stand in front of a health clinic in Kidal, Mali, July 23, 2015. The graffiti reads, ‘You who say you’re a health worker, be careful, nothing is hidden. Long live Azawad!’ REUTERS/Adama Diarra

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By Tim Cocks | BAMAKO

Last week, the offices of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the desert city of Gao in northern Mali were flattened by a truck bomb. On Tuesday, just five suspected Islamist militants succeeded in freeing 93 inmates from a jail in the town of Niono.

“Peace” in Mali looks increasingly like war by another name. As both rebels and government go slow on implementing a deal signed last year, it is the U.N. peacekeeping mission, which has lost 100 lives and is costing nearly a billion dollars a year, that is paying the price.

“The war makes a living for a lot of people,” said Moussa Mara, a former prime minister who led an abortive effort to retake the lawless desert town of Kidal in 2014 but no longer has a government post.

“There are those in the peace process who don’t want it to conclude. They get their ‘per diems’, they get their travel paid. These armed groups are not in a hurry,” Mara told Reuters, recalling that one meeting on implementation that was supposed to take an afternoon had ended up dragging on for weeks.

Ever since French forces intervened in 2013 to push back Islamists who had hijacked an ethnic Tuareg uprising in Mali’s desert north, world powers, especially former colonial master France, have invested huge sums in trying to soothe the complicated rivalries that caused Mali to implode.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, has 13,000 staff from 123 nations. France maintains a 4,000-strong parallel peacekeeping operation, “Barkhane”. And the European Union has 580 instructors training the Malian army.

“TIME IS OUR ENEMY”

The aim is to ensure the success of the July 2015 peace pact, which offers Tuaregs and other northern groups some autonomy if they give up on independence, and to prevent a resurgence of Islamist militants adept at exploiting any power vacuum.

But the setting up of interim authorities has stalled, and Islamist militants based in the desert north are venturing further and further south with their attacks. One of the north’s main cities, Kidal, lies completely outside government control because of fighting between pro- and anti-government Tuareg factions, partly over trafficking routes.

The head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Chadian diplomat Mahamat Saleh Annadif, has pressed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita personally for more urgency.

“I’ve told him that this is an emergency, and that time is our enemy,” Annadif told Reuters in his office in Bamako, inside a U.N. building protected by security barriers of sandbags.

Annadif said he believed Keita was sincere about wanting to implement the deal, but that he had said Mali was a democracy and had to work through its institutions, which took time.

“I told him, regardless of the justification, we could have moved more quickly.”

A spokesman for the president did not respond to a request for comment, but Security Minister Colonel Salif Traore told Reuters: “It’s the nature of a deal that nobody can get all they want … but I’m confident this deal will permit us to stabilise our country.”

Meanwhile, the security situation worsens.

Andrew Lebovich of the European Council on Foreign Relations said the northern rebel groups were becoming more fragmented, and had little trust in the U.N. force.

“Even supposedly pro-government militias (in the north) don’t really want the government back.”

FOOT-DRAGGING

Some analysts even say that all the international support has allowed Mali to delay rebuilding its own army, brutally exposed in 2012.

Mara said the government was dragging its feet elsewhere, too. Civil servants drawing up legal documents to enact the peace deal were sometimes sitting on them for months because they did not want to give up that power.

This has led the Tuaregs to suspect more sinister motives.

“The government signed the deal but they don’t like the deal,” Ilad Ag Mohammed, spokesman for a Tuareg umbrella group, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), told Reuters during a visit to Bamako to brief U.N. officials. “It’s bad faith.”

Yet Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, Mali’s defence minister until he was removed in September, told Reuters the Tuaregs had only put forward the names of local officials two months ago.

Meanwhile, the international effort goes on.

Instructors from EU armies have so far trained 9,000 Malian troops, almost half the army’s complement.

At least one of them has since been wounded fighting alongside the insurgents, the head of the EU training brigade, General Eric Harvent, told Reuters at the mission’s headquarters in Bamako’s Nord-Sud hotel — protected by sand-filled barriers since an attack by suspected Islamists in March.

“We have to be realists,” Harvent said. “Reform of an … army can take 10 years.”

France, for its part, is resigned to being in Mali for perhaps another 15 years, a senior diplomat said.

“The small progress we’ve achieved is because we’ve piled on pressure each time,” he said. “We shouldn’t imagine that we hold an election, deploy some blue helmets — and it’s solved”.

(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Cyber attack on Ghana election commission site

BBC

An electoral official overturns a ballot box prior to counting votes at a polling station in Tamale, northern region, on December 7, 2016.AFP More than 15 million people were registered to vote

Hackers have targeted the website of Ghana’s electoral commission as votes are counted after tightly contested elections.

The commission says the website is up again, and an attempt to put up “fake results” failed.

In a tweet, it urged people to ignore the “fake results” circulating on social media.

President John Mahama is facing a strong challenge from main opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo.

Wednesday’s election passed off peacefully, but voting was postponed to Thursday in one constituency after voting material failed to arrive on time.

A run-off will be held later in the month if neither of the two main candidates secures more than 50% of the votes.

The campaign was dominated by Ghana’s faltering economy.

In the previous election in 2012, Mr Mahama defeated Mr Akufo-Addo by less than 300,000 votes.

“We deplore the attempt to hack the EC’s [electoral commission’s] website. Please respect the integrity and independence of the EC,” it said in a tweet.

The website was offline for about four hours, but the commission had not put up results overnight so there was no chance of any tampering, a spokesman told the BBC.


Head-to-head:

L: John Dramani Mahama, R: Nana Akufo-AddoAFP John Mahama (L) wants a second term; Nana Akufo-Addo (R) hopes it will be third time lucky

NDC candidate: John Dramani Mahama, 58

  • Vice-president under President John Atta Mills, who died in 2012. Completed his term
  • Now seeking re-election after serving his first term of four years
  • Main promise: Launch more infrastructure projects and create jobs

NPP candidate: Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, 72

  • Campaigned for a return to multi-party democracy under military rule
  • A former justice and foreign minister in the NPP government from 2001 to 2007, he is running for president for a third time
  • Main promise: Build a factory in each of Ghana’s more than 200 districts

All seven candidates have pledged to keep the process peaceful but an opposition supporter died when a rally turned violent on Monday.

Final results are expected in the next two days, although provisional results from constituencies are being released.

The candidates signed a pact last week vowing to follow electoral rules and keep the peace.

Clashes near the border with Togo on Monday left one person dead and six in a critical condition.

Defeat for Mr Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) would make him the first incumbent to lose an election since Ghana returned to multi-party democracy in 1992.

He has been nicknamed “Mr Dumsor”, a local word that refers to the power cuts that have blighted the country during his term, but on the campaign trial has been trying to convince Ghanaians that he is delivering on his promise of creating more jobs.

Mr Akufo-Addo has promised free high-school education and more factories, but his critics have questioned the viability of his ambitions.

The other four candidates include former first lady Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings of the National Democratic Party (NDP), whose husband Jerry John Rawlings initially took power in the 1979 coup.

She is the first woman to run for president in the West African country.

Ghana – Edward Mahama concedes defeat to Nana Addo based on projections

Graphic (Ghana)

Dr Edward Mahama has eaten the humble pie

Presidential candidate of the People’s National Convention (PNC), Dr Edward Mahama has congratulated the NPP’s flagbearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for “winning” the 2016 Presidential elections.


Dr Mahama tweeted Thursday saying, “I will like to congratulate Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP for winning the 2016 general elections based on my projections.”

He further called on the other political parties to concede defeat “especially the sitting president.”

“I call on my other contenders to do same especially the sitting President to concede gracefully. This is a victory for all Ghana,” he said in another tweet.

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Meanwhile the NPP has held a press conference projecting a win for Nana Addo.

According to the National Campaign Manager of the party, Mr Peter Mac Manu, the party’s “parallel” counting of results from polling station pink sheets shows that Nana Addo has amassed 54% out of 80% of the votes counted so far.

 

Reuters

Thu Dec 8, 2016 9:54am GMT
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Ghanaian presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo (L) of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) talks next to his wife Rebecca after casting his vote at a polling station in Kibi, Ghana December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
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ACCRA (Reuters) – Ghana’s main opposition party said on Thursday it had a strong lead in elections and called on President John Mahama to concede defeat – comments dismissed as “treasonable” by the incumbent’s campaign team.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) said its candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, had won 52 percent of the vote according to its own tally of Wednesday’s presidential poll, against 44.8 percent for Mahama.

The Electoral Commission said it had not certified any results in the closely fought race to lead the West African nation that has seen a series of peaceful transfers of power.

But figures shown by television and radio stations showed the opposition making gains in both races.

“These are results that were declared at the polling stations … I am calling on the president to concede defeat,” said NPP campaign chief Peter Mac Manu.

A senior official for the ruling party, Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, countered that Mahama was “comfortably ahead” and asked his supporters to remain calm.

“The results are still trickling in and the call and declaration by the NPP is irresponsible and treasonable because it can throw this country into chaos,” he added.

Ghana is one of Africa’s most stable democracies and voters have ejected the government of the day twice since 2000.

Until 2014, the country also had one of Africa’s most dynamic economies, though growth has slowed in part due to a fall in the price of its commodity exports.

(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Andrew Heavens)

Mozambique budgets for huge deficit after loss of aid

Reuters

Thu Dec 8, 2016
Fishing boats sit beneath the skyline of Mozambique's capital Maputo, April 15, 2016. REUTERS/Grant Lee Neuenburg/File Photo
 

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Mozambique plans state spending of a third more than budgeted revenue in 2017 and to cover the shortfall with domestic and foreign loans, state news agency AIM quoted Finance Minister Adriano Maleiane as saying on Wednesday.

The country budgeted for a deficit of 11 percent of GDP this year, high by international standards, at a time when it had the financial support of the International Monetary Fund.

But the Fund and other donors suspended assistance earlier this year after the emergence of more than $2 billion in loans that were not approved by parliament or disclosed publicly, sending the metical currency into freefall.

That, and steep declines in commodity prices, have sharply slowed growth in one of Africa’s poorest economies.

Maleiane said next year’s spending would total 272 billion meticais ($3.74 billion).

He pegged state revenue at $2.5 billion, which indicated the deficit would narrow next year. Mozambican economic output totalled $15.6 billion in 2013, according to the latest available World Bank figures.

An IMF official said last month the Fund might agree a new aid programme early next year if the government renegotiated loans with creditors and allowed an independent debt audit. [nL8N1D32D5]

Maleiane said spending on education would account for 23 percent of next year’s budget while infrastructure, which was ravaged by a 16-year civil war that ended in 1992, would cover 18 percent, AIM reported.

Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, emerged from that war to become one of Africa’s best-performing economies, with annual growth averaging around 8 percent between 1996 and 2008.

Nigeria – Patience Jonathan appeals to House of Representatives to protect her against EFCC

PunchPatience Jonathan writes Reps


Former Nigeria’s First Lady, Patience Jonathan 

John Ameh, Abuja

Wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience, on Wednesday sought the protection of the House of Representatives against alleged harassment by the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The former President’s wife laid a petition before the House in Abuja, complaining that her fundamental human rights were infringed upon by the anti-graft agency.

A Peoples Democratic Party member of the House from Delta State, Mr. Lovette Idisi, had submitted the petition on behalf of Jonathan’s wife.

However, he told members that the document was signed by youth groups from six ethnic groups in the country.

The youth groups were the Ijaw Youth Council; Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council; Ndokwa Youth Council; Arewa Consultative Forum; Yoruba Youth Council; and the Middle Belt Youth Council.

Idisi, while conveying the complaints of Mrs. Jonathan to the House, said under the Nigerian constitution, mere allegations did not amount to guilt until a proper conviction by a competent court of law.

He added, “This petition is in line with Section 36 where every citizen is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Mr. Speaker, the constant harassment of the former first lady is in a petition emanating from her that was sent to my office.

“With the leave of the House, I seek your permission to lay the petition before the House.”

The Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, referred the petition to the House Committee on Public Petitions for hearing.

It is expected that the former President’ wife will come to the National Assembly when invited, to defend the petition.

The key issue raised by the groups on behalf of Jonathan was that the EFCC had frozen her accounts and those of some of her close associates on account of corruption allegations.

They noted that some of the affected individuals were not under investigation by the anti-graft agency, but the agency still froze their accounts.

Part of the document read, “A simple cost benefit analysis of the EFCC’s current approach would reveal that it is harming this government’s strategic interest far more than the brief publicity it gets from its current modus operandi…

“We are urging you to caution and rein in the EFCC to operate within the confines of its enabling laws, lest it becomes victim of the corrupting influence of absolute power.

Mrs. Jonathan and the EFCC have had a running battle of late over the $31m in some companies’ accounts frozen by the EFCC.

Jonathan is already in court over the matter.

South Africa – how Guptas laundered kickbacks millions

Huffington Post

Guptas ‘Laundered’ Kickback Millions — Here’s The Evidence

A year-long investigation points to an intricate system President Jacob Zuma’s friends, the Gupta family, allegedly used to extract bribes from companies doing business with a state institution.

08/12/2016

Evidence of millions flowing to a Gupta company has tied the family directly to an apparent racket of shaking down companies that sought state contracts.

For more than a year, amaBhungane has investigated how a letterbox company called Homix secreted away hundreds of millions; apparent kickbacks from companies doing business with Transnet, the state-owed transport operator.

There were signs all along that this had something to do with the Guptas. Homix’s self-proclaimed chief executive used to manage a Gupta company. Some of the money flowed to a Hong Kong firm that shared an address with a Gupta lieutenant’s companies.

Now, papers filed in the High Court in Johannesburg have provided direct evidence of Gupta involvement: after Homix was exposed, a seemingly round 10% of the first year’s fee on another big Transnet contract flowed to Gupta-owned TNA Media.

The amount, R17,1 million, was allegedly laundered through two companies on the strength of a backdated contract and bogus invoices before arriving at TNA, which publishes The New Age, court papers show.

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The latest evidence adds substance to the claim at the centre of the “state capture” debate: that the Guptas squeeze kickbacks from companies doing business with the state by using their political connections and officials they have deployed or bought.

We fully respect genuine media enquiries but will no longer reply to … amaBhungane.Gupta family

The Gupta family did not reply to questions this week, saying via a spokesperson: “AmaBhungane has consistently printed innuendo, speculation and lies about the Gupta family, its businesses and its friends. We have replied in good faith many times, but still suffer from total rubbish being printed. We fully respect genuine media enquiries but will no longer reply to … amaBhungane.”

Transnet denied wrongdoing, saying it was “confident in [our] processes”.

The emergence of Homix

The story so far starts in early 2014 when Homix made contact with telecoms provider Neotel. In a letter, it offered to land Neotel a Transnet IT equipment contract — in return for which it wanted 10% of the contract value.

Despite internal misgivings, Neotel paid Homix R35 million and landed the contract, worth over R300 million.

During August 2014, an even bigger prize came up. Transnet nominated Neotel as preferred bidder in a tender for a wide suite of network services, saying that it would get the contract if terms could be agreed by a December deadline.

With two weeks to go, Transnet withdrew from the negotiations without giving reasons, according to information from an investigation later ordered by Neotel’s board. In apparent desperation, Neotel reached out to Homix again.

A single person used to come in irregularly, generally after hours.

A Neotel employee told the board’s investigators that Homix again demanded 10%. Neotel bargained it down to 2% of the R1.8 billion contract value — R41 million including VAT.

Transnet returned to the negotiating table and Neotel got the contract.

There can be little doubt the payments were kickbacks. Homix was not a sophisticated consulting business whose work could justify millions in fees. When amaBhungane visited its Wierda Park, Centurion office address last year, we found a locked blue door abutting a latrine in a neglected office block.

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A neighbour said a single person used to come in irregularly, generally after hours.

Homix’s only registered director, Yakub Bhikhu, was hard to trace. When someone claiming to be him finally answered a phone number stuck to the blue door, he did not respond to questions.

However, when the Neotel investigators started asking questions, one Ashok Narayan identified himself as Homix’s chief executive and tried unsuccessfully to convince them that the company had done real work for Neotel.

Narayan was a former managing director of Gupta IT company Sahara Systems.

amaBhungane

The Homix laundry

Homix bank records later seen by amaBhungane confirmed the impression that it was a front to launder kickbacks, not a legitimate business.

The records showed minimal office and no salary expenses. But they did show money flowing in and out of Homix at an astounding rate: R144 million in and R189 million out over just six months.

The inflows consisted largely of transfers from Neotel and four other companies, each of which benefited from Transnet contracts.

Almost all of the outflows went to Bapu Trading, a company more obscure even than Homix. There the trail went cold.

But a month later, in May 2015, Homix made 16 transfers totalling about R66 million to two Hong Kong companies, according to an official report seen by amaBhungane.

The Reserve Bank got suspicious, as the outflows did not match claimed imports. It froze the last three transfers at the end of that month.

One of the two Hong Kong companies on the receiving end, Morningstar International Trade, shares a registered address with companies formed by Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa.

“Confinement” is Transnet’s term for appointing a supplier without a competitive tender.

CCTV contracts

During this entire history, two more very large contracts came up at Transnet, this time to install CCTV cameras at ports. Again they went to Neotel, and again 10% appears to have been laundered.

But this time it ended discernably in a Gupta account. It went like this:

In May 2014, Transnet approved the confinement of the first CCTV contract, worth R329 million, to Neotel. “Confinement” is Transnet’s term for appointing a supplier without a competitive tender.

Nine months later, on February 20, 2015, Transnet management recommended confining a second CCTV contract to Neotel too, Transnet procurement records show.

The timing was interesting. The day before, Neotel records show, Neotel had signed a “business consultancy agreement” with Homix finally to give effect to its promise to pay Homix R41 million to get the unrelated Transnet network services contract.

Transnet notified Neotel that it had won the second CCTV contract, worth another R505 million over three years, at the end of March 2015, Neotel records show. Two weeks later Transnet formally placed the order with Neotel.

Neotel in turn subcontracted a CCTV specialist company, Technology and Procurement Holdings, better known as Techpro.

Homix exposed

If Neotel or Techpro had promised a kickback on this latest contract too, paying it via Homix would have been risky.

In mid-April 2015, when Transnet placed the CCTV order, Neotel’s auditors were crawling all over the earlier Homix payments. They blew the whistle to Neotel’s board, which commissioned an investigation that ultimately led to Neotel’s chief executive and chief financial officers resigning.

And the air was not about to clear. By the end of April, Neotel’s auditors had reported the Homix payments to the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors, which in time notified other authorities, including the Hawks.

By the end of May, the Reserve Bank had frozen Homix’s remittances to Hong Kong.

Wanted: a new kickback channel

So if a kickback could not be paid via Homix, then who?

The answer appears to lie in the dirty washing of financial advisory firm Regiments Capital, hung out to dry in rancorous litigation between its directors at the Johannesburg High Court.

On June 4, 2015, days after the Reserve Bank froze Homix’s transfers to Hong Kong, Wood received an email from Narayan — the former Gupta manager and self-identified Homix chief executive.

Directors Litha Nyhonyha and Niven Pillay on the one hand, and Eric Wood on the other, fell out after Wood sided with the Guptas and Essa when a Gupta offer to buy Regiments fell through.

Though Wood joined Essa in the competing Trillian Capital Partners this year, the two sides are still trying to have each other removed from Regiments’ board.

In an affidavit filed last month, Nyhonya describes, and attaches, evidence he says was discovered after Wood left.

What it shows is this:

On June 4, 2015, days after the Reserve Bank froze Homix’s transfers to Hong Kong, Wood received an email from Narayan — the former Gupta manager and self-identified Homix chief executive.

Narayan asked Wood to get Regiments to invoice Techpro, the Neotel CCTV subcontractor, for R17,1 million. Wood complied.

The next day Narayan emailed Wood again, attaching three invoices, also totaling R17,1 million, from TNA, the Gupta media company, to Regiments. The TNA invoices purported to be for Regiments advertising in The New Age.

Next, Narayan emailed Wood an agreement purporting to be between Regiments and Techpro. It was already signed by Techpro and backdated five months to January 2015.

The agreement provided justification, on paper at least, for the Techpro payments to Regiments, saying Regiments would do “cost analysis and financial modelling” for Techpro “in respect of the second phase of CCTV installation at Transnet”.

amaBhungane

‘Fictitious transactions’

Nyhonyha states in his affidavit that Regiments did not advertise in The New Age and that Regiments did not provide the claimed services to Techpro. Wood, he charged, “knowingly allowed Regiments to be used as a conduit for an entirely fictitious set of transactions” to launder money from Techpro to TNA.

Wood denies this, saying his version will be provided when he files a replying affidavit.

But Nyhonyha’s version is supported not only by the emails, invoices and backdated contract annexed to his affidavit, but also by a Regiments bank statement which shows the symmetrical flow of R17,1 million from Techpro to Regiments and Regiments to the Gupta company on two consecutive days.

When the R17,1 million washed up at TNA, it not only swelled the Guptas’ purse but gave the clearest indication yet that they were the true beneficiaries of the Homix kickback laundry.

The backdated contract, perhaps carelessly in retrospect, tied the R17.1 million payment to the second Transnet CCTV contract. The amount also ties back neatly back to it.

Neotel records show that it recognised R150 million in revenue immediately on getting the contract from Transnet.

R17,1 million — R15 million excluding VAT — is a round 10% of that first year’s revenue.

And so, when the R17,1 million washed up at TNA, it not only swelled the Guptas’ purse but gave the clearest indication yet they may have been the true beneficiaries of the Homix kickback laundry.

amaBhungane

Responses

Narayan and Essa did not respond to requests for comment.

Wood said via a spokesperson: “Suffice to say that all of the allegations made by his former partners are strenuously denied and will be comprehensively traversed in his answer to the court papers which his attorneys are presently preparing on his behalf and which will be filed in short order.

“It would be improper and possibly prejudicial to his case to answer your questions prior to the filing of his answer.”

He also said he “would advise that these matters” be left to an independent investigation led by Advocate Geoff Budlender, appointed by Trillian chair Tokyo Sexwale.

“As you can imagine it is quite a shock getting this kind of information and we’ve sent it to [our attorneys] to investigate further.”

Techpro manager Craig Smith said about the allegations contained in the court papers: “As you can imagine it is quite a shock getting this kind of information and we’ve sent it to [our attorneys] to investigate further.”

He added: “Whether the insinuations that you are making are true or not true I don’t know…. If there is wrongdoing we want to know about it.”

Neotel chair Kennedy Memani said that during the company’s initial investigation the board “took all the necessary steps on the basis of what came out”.

He said he did not want “to go back to that debate … unless anything else comes out”.

A Transnet spokesperson said the company was “confident in its processes… In addition, Transnet was advised by Neotel that an independent investigation commissioned by Neotel revealed no wrongdoing or corruption by Transnet or any of our executives”.

“Please note that Homix is not a Transnet supplier. All matters related to Homix should be directed to Neotel. Transnet has never engaged with Homix or its executives.”

He said the confinement of the CCTV contracts was justified by Transnet’s urgent need to replace outdated CCTV equipment to comply with international standards and not lose its status as a ports authority. Neotel was chosen as service provider as the existing infrastructure belonged to Neotel and “the need to integrate new and existing equipment and systems was crucial”.

The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, an independent non-profit, produced this story. Like it? Be an amaB supporter to help it do more. Sign up for its newsletter to get more.

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MORE: Gupta Gupta Money Laundering Evidence News

Ghana votes in close presidential race

BBC

Long queues as Ghanaians vote in tight presidential poll

There are long queues at polling stations in Ghana amid a tight election race between President John Mahama and veteran opposition leader Nana Akufo Addo.

All seven candidates have pledged to keep the process peaceful but an opposition supporter died when a rally tuned violent on Monday.

The campaign has been dominated by the faltering state of Ghana’s economy and the issue of corruption.

Results are expected within three days.

A run-off will be held later in the month if neither of the two main candidates secures more than 50% of the votes.


Casting my vote – Akwasi Sarpong, BBC Africa, Tema

sarpong

In Tema, where I’m registered, I found a queue of men and women waiting for voting to start. The first in one of the queues, Alfred Aggrey, told me he arrived five hours earlier. Many wanted to get on with their day’s business.

Loud noises of disapproval rung out when polling officers positioned the voting booths away from the crowd. People demanded that the booths be made to face them so they could see people going in to thumbprint only the assigned ballot papers and no other papers that they suspected could be smuggled in.

After a few minutes of shouting at the officers, their request was carried out to cheers of approval.


Voting in his northern home region of Bole, where he was mobbed by a cheering crowd, President Mahama said Ghana’s democracy had “matured” and this election would further consolidate it.

Asked about corruption, he told AFP news agency: “There is a general perception of corruption in all African countries. I think it is a stage of our development. As we continue to strengthen the institutions of state, I think that people will come to see the integrity in these institutions.”

mahama votesAFP/GETTY Casting his vote, Mr Mahama said he had no regrets over his first term in office
Akufo votesREUTERS  Akufo-Addo said Ghana had to maintain its democratic image

Casting his vote in Kibi in the south of Ghana, Mr Akufo-Addo said he hoped for an orderly election.

“It’s very important that this process goes off efficiently and smoothly and peacefully so that Ghana continues to maintain its deserved image of being a democracy that takes democracy seriously,” he said.

The candidates signed a pact last week vowing to follow electoral rules and keep the peace.

Many Ghanaians began queuing at polling stations overnight.

“I needed to register the strong feeling I have about this country with my thumb and the least I could do was to sacrifice sleep,” Comfort Laryea, a 78-year-old who had waited to vote since 04:00 in the capital, Accra, told the Reuters news agency.

For many, the economy is the main issue.

“We need change in Ghana because things are very difficult,” taxi driver Stephen Antwi Boasiako told the AP news agency. “This country has a lot of resources that can provide good jobs, but they’re not used.”

Police have told voters to go home after casting their votes, Joy FM reported.

Clashes near the border with Togo on Monday left one person dead and six in a critical condition.

Defeat for Mr Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) would make him the first incumbent to lose an election since Ghana returned to multi-party democracy.

He has been nicknamed “Mr Dumsor”, a local word that refers to the power cuts that have blighted the country during his term, but on the campaign trial has been trying to convince Ghanaians that he is delivering on his promise of creating more jobs.

Mr Akufo-Addo meanwhile has promised free high-school education and more factories, but his critics have questioned the viability of his ambitions.

The other four candidates include former first lady Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings of the National Democratic Party (NDP), whose husband Jerry John Rawlings initially took power in the 1979 coup.

She is the first woman to run for president in the West African country.


Head-to-head:

L: John Dramani Mahama, R: Nana Akufo-AddoImage copyrightAFP
Image captionJohn Mahama (L) wants a second term; Nana Akufo-Addo (R) hopes it will be third time lucky

NDC candidate: John Dramani Mahama, 58

  • Vice-president under President John Atta Mills, who died in 2012. Completed his term
  • Now seeking re-election after serving his first term of four years
  • Political pedigree: His father was first minister of state for the Northern region

NPP candidate: Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, 72

  • Campaigned for a return to multi-party democracy under military rule
  • A former justice and foreign minister in the NPP government from 2001 to 2007, he is running for president for a third time
  • Political pedigree: His father was a prominent politician who served as chief justice and ceremonial president