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Opposition to Contest Kenyan Presidential Election in Court

NAIROBI — 

Since Friday, when Kenya’s electoral commission announced President Uhuru Kenyatta had been re-elected, opposition candidate Raila Odinga has been telling supporters to stay tuned for his NASA coalition’s next steps.

He ended the suspense Wednesday when he announced the coalition will take its case of what he called a “stolen election” to the Supreme Court, despite previous statements to the contrary.

“By going to court, we are not legitimizing misplaced calls of some [electoral] observers for us to concede, but are seeking to give those who braved the long lines and the morning chill, and out all afternoon on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017 — mothers with their children tied on their backs, the sick, people with disabilities, old and young — a chance to be heard,” said Odinga.

Odinga asserts the voting system was hacked. These allegations led him to begin his announcement Wednesday by giving the title of his statement, “Kenyans Say No to Computer-Generated Leaders.”

The best move

University of Nairobi lecturer Herman Manyora believes going to court is the best move for Odinga and NASA.

“I think this will be the best option because first of all, it deals with the anxiety within the country, the tension it will ease, and you, 14 or so days when he’s in the court is enough for people to heal, for people to act out of thinking and not out of emotions, so it’s like you buy time even for grief. You know, for you to go through grief. But it’s also much better because then you put your case forward in an environment that allows you to do so systematically,” said Manyora.

Odinga justified his previous refusals to consider court action by referencing what he called the government’s “determination to silence all voices” by attempting to shut down two Kenyan rights groups in recent days, and said NASA would now be laying out their evidence before the whole world via the court process.

Legal action suspended

The acting secretary for the interior, Fred Matiangi, has ordered a 90-day suspension of legal action against the rights groups.

The action came after police and revenue officials attempted to raid the African Center for Open Governance offices early Wednesday, and the NGO coordination board de-registered the Kenya Human Rights Commission on Tuesday.

Odinga also left the door open to future demonstrations.

“We will preach peace, as we have done so. And we will uphold our rights to assemble and protest. We shall hold vigils, moments of silence, beat drums, and do everything else to peacefully draw attention to the gross electoral injustices being meted on our country, and demand redress,” said Odinga.

The electoral commission says Kenyatta won the election with 54.3 percent of the vote, beating Odinga’s 44.8 percent.

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UN Inquiry Finds Congolese Militia Likely Killed UN Monitors

UNITED NATIONS — 

A United Nations inquiry found that two U.N. investigators were murdered by a group of Congolese, likely militia members from central Democratic Republic of Congo, but an absence of evidence “does not preclude the possibility that others are involved.”

Michael Sharp, an American who was coordinator of an independent sanctions monitoring group, and Zaida Catalan, a Swede, were killed in central Congo on March 12 while carrying out investigations for a report to the U.N. Security Council.

The bodies of Sharp and Catalan were found in a shallow grave two weeks later. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres set up an internal board of inquiry and gave an executive summary of the findings to the Security Council on Tuesday.

“Without further investigation and the necessary judicial processes, the identity, affiliations, and motives of the group that participated in killing Mr. Sharp and Ms. Catalan cannot be fully established,” read the inquiry’s executive summary, seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

The Congolese government screened a film to reporters in Kinshasa on April 24, which they said showed members of the anti-government Kamuina Nsapu militia killing the U.N experts.

The pair were shot and Catalan was subsequently beheaded.

More than 3,300 people have been killed and 1.4 million forced to flee their homes in Kasai since the start of an insurrection nearly a year ago by the Kamuina Nsapu militia, which wants the withdrawal of military forces from the area.

Many analysts say the grainy video of the murders raises more questions than it answers, such as why one of the assassins from the Tshiluba-speaking militia gave orders in Lingala, which is the language of western Congo and the army.

“It is the judgment of the Board that information circulating regarding the possible involvement of various government individuals or organizations does not provide proof of intent or motive,” the U.N. inquiry said.

“An absence of evidence however does not preclude the possibility that others are involved,” it said.

A Congolese military prosecutor has said there was no evidence Congolese forces were involved in the murders.

The Board of Inquiry recommended the Congolese government conduct a criminal investigation with the support of other member states. The inquiry said Congolese authorities had arrested a dozen people and would try them in a military court.

“It’s naturally my intention to do everything … with the Congolese government and with the Security Council for the criminals to be punished,” Guterres told reporters on Wednesday.

The remaining members of Sharp and Catalan’s monitoring group recommended last month that the Security Council ask Guterres to establish an independent international investigation. The United States has also called for Guterres to establish a special investigation.

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Kenyans Voted Along Ethnic, Geographic Lines to Re-elect Kenyatta

WASHINGTON — 

Kenyans voted mainly along ethnic and geographic lines to give President Uhuru Kenyatta a second term in office, according to election data analyzed by VOA.

Over the weekend, the country’s Elections Observation Group deemed the Aug. 8 vote valid and reiterated Kenyatta’s victory, despite the opposition’s rejection of the outcome and allegations of vote rigging. The U.S. State Department also supported the results of the election.

To understand how the country voted, VOA looked at ballot tallies provided by Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, along with demographic data from census reports and the World Bank.

According to the official results, Kenyatta won the popular vote by about 10 percent, with 54 percent of the overall vote.

However, tallies at the county level reveal deep divisions across Kenya.

Kenyatta and his chief rival, opposition leader Raila Odinga, won 27 of 47 counties by a margin of at least 80 percent. Together, these counties account for 59 percent of the country’s population.

Ethnic, regional divisions

Kenya’s diverse ethnic composition has long influenced the country’s politics. Over 70 ethnic groups are in Kenya, with the largest group, the Kikuyu, accounting for about 20 percent of the population.

Kenyatta won all 12 counties where the Kalenjin or Kikuyu are the predominant ethnic groups. He belongs to the Kikuyu ethnic group and, in the six counties where they are the main group, received 96 percent of the vote.

The same voting patterns held for the opposition party. Odinga won all eight counties where the Luhya or Luo are the main groups. He belongs to the Luo ethnic group and received 95 percent of the vote in the four counties where they are predominant.

Similar differences were evident at the provincial level. Kenyatta swept the Central and North Eastern provinces. Odinga swept Coast and Nairobi provinces. Kenyatta won 12 of the 14 counties in Rift Valley province, and Odinga won five of the six counties in Nyanza province.

Only Eastern province was roughly split, with Kenyatta winning five counties and Odinga winning three.

Opposition challenge

Odinga said Wednesday that, contrary to its earlier statements, the opposition will challenge the election outcome in the Supreme Court.

He questioned the voting results given by the electoral commission, saying it “shamelessly cooked” the numbers to reach a predetermined result.

No such criticism has come from international election observers. The head of the European Union delegation, Marietje Schaake, said last Friday that her team had seen no signs of “centralized or localized manipulation” of the voting process.

Historic tensions

Kenya’s latest election is part of an ongoing, bitterly contested political saga. In 1964, Kenyatta’s and Odinga’s fathers vied for the country’s presidency following independence.

“[Kenya’s] politics now remain really in the grip of a few ethnic, oligarchic families that essentially practice ‘machine’ politics,” Murithi Mutiga, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, told the Associated Press in the run up to the election.

In late 2007 and early 2008, ethnic violence resulted in over 1,000 deaths following Mwai Kibaki’s victory over Odinga, who went on to serve as the country’s prime minister until 2013. Amid the violence, over a half-million people were forcibly evicted from their homes.

Top-ranking officials, including Kenyatta and longtime ally William Ruto, were accused of crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating the violence. At the time, Kenyatta was deputy prime minister.

Upon winning the 2013 election, Kenyatta became the first head of state to face charges at the International Criminal Court. The charges were eventually dropped, with prosecutors alleging witness tampering.

Some deaths have also been reported around the country leading up to and following this year’s vote.

Economic factors

There is also some evidence that Odinga was a more popular candidate in regions that haven’t benefited equally from Kenya’s economic growth, including those counties with more poverty and greater public health concerns.

Odinga won 12 of the 14 counties with the greatest portion of women and girls. He also won 11 of the 14 counties with the highest HIV infection rates for women and nine of the 14 counties with the highest HIV infection rates for men.

Kenyatta, meanwhile, won eight of the country’s 10 most affluent counties and just four of its 10 poorest.

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Grace Mugabe Seeks Diplomatic Immunity in South Africa Assault Case

JOHANNESBURG — 

Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe has sought diplomatic immunity in South Africa, where she is under investigation over the assault of a 20-year-old model in an upscale hotel, South African police said on Wednesday.

Police also confirmed that Mugabe, the 52-year-old wife of Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe, had failed to appear at a court hearing Tuesday relating to allegations she attacked Gabriella Engels with an electric extension cord.

Engels’ mother Debbie told Reuters her daughter had received 14 stitches on her head from Sunday’s assault – which the mother did not witness – and demanded Mugabe face justice.

She also showed Reuters photographs taken in the hours after the incident showing gashes on Gabriella’s forehead and back of the head. Another picture, taken on Wednesday, showed a large, livid bruise on her right thigh.

‘It’s about justice’

“I just want justice for my daughter. It’s not about money. It’s about justice. She attacked my child for no reason,” she said.

The police statement said Harare had sought diplomatic immunity for Mugabe – which, if granted, would exempt her from prosecution – but said she would be “processed through the legal system”.

Reuters has not been able to verify key aspects of the assault allegations independently, and multiple requests for comment from Mugabe’s spokesman in Harare and from Information Minister Chris Mushowe went unanswered.

Mugabe, a potential successor to her 93-year-old husband, was in South Africa to receive treatment to an injured foot, according to local media reports. A Zimbabwean intelligence source told Reuters she was not traveling on a diplomatic passport.

Criminal attorney Riaan Louw said diplomatic immunity would not apply if Mugabe had indeed entered on private business.

“If she wasn’t here on official business, that rules out the possibility of diplomatic immunity,” Louw said.

Diplomatic fallout?

However, given the potential for diplomatic fallout, South African prosecutors could yet decide not to prosecute if they thought the injuries were not too severe, he added.

“They can fail to prosecute her,” he said. “They’ve got the powers to decide that it’s not in the interests of the community or it might create animosity between us and Zimbabwe.”

Police said Tuesday’s abortive court hearing was designed to obtain a statement from Mugabe, along with her version of the events, but that she failed to appear as arranged.

Police spokesman Vish Naidoo did not comment on the specifics of the case, other than to say it related to assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Reuters has been unable to identify Mugabe’s lawyers in Johannesburg. Isaac Moyo, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Pretoria, said he “knew nothing”. “I have to go to my office to get briefed,” he said.

Gabriella Engels said she was attacked while waiting to meet up with Chatunga, one of Mugabe’s two adult sons, in the hotel in Johannesburg.

The News24 website quoted Engels’ version of events in the hotel room. “When Grace entered, I had no idea who she was. She walked in with an extension cord and just started beating me with it,” the model said.

The incident is not the first time Mugabe has been accused of assault.

In 2009, a newspaper photographer in Hong Kong said she and her bodyguard had assaulted him. Police there said the incident was reported but that no charges were brought.

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Straight Talk Africa

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Nigerians Demand Absent President 'Resume or Resign'

ABUJA, NIGERIA — 

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has spent more time outside of the country than in it this year.

Buhari returned from London in March after being away for nearly two months, seeking treatment for an undisclosed illness. He left again on May 7.

During both absences, Buhari followed the constitution, temporarily passing executive power to his vice president.

However, citizens say it is time for the Nigerian president to make a decision: Either get back to work or step down.

A street rally Tuesday was one of several held in the capital of Abuja over the past week. Participants carried banners with the words “Resume or Resign.”

The slogan stems from a hashtag campaign that started online earlier this month and quickly spread. In Lagos, there also have been street demonstrations.

On Tuesday in Abuja, the “Resume or Resign” activists entered an open market and came face-to-face with the market traders, many of whom are avid supporters of Buhari.

“Sai Buhari, Sai Buhari,” the pro-Buhari supporters chanted, which means “Only Buhari” in the local Hausa language.

Some pro-Buhari supporters beat the “Resume or Resign” activists, according to reports. Local newspaper reporter Oludare Richards said he had to seek medical treatment after the Tuesday rally.

“I was hit with sticks and stones and I was covered in blood,” Richards said.

While Nigerians are divided over Buhari’s presidency, the calls for resignation are getting louder.

“Him remaining as president is just a virus to the country because someone sick for the first time will always be sick,” said Edwin Agbo, 23.

Gloria Egere, 26, disagrees. “He should be allowed to recover and come back and continue being our president, and we love him so much,” she said.

Jim Esomugha, 40, holds a different view. “It is only in this country that a president will try to run a whole country like this from another country,” he said. “Don’t we have shame anymore? What is going on?”

Chukwudi Aniobi, 33, argues that Buhari should focus on his own well-being.

“It’s better for him to resign and face his health,” Aniobi said. “He should hand over power to his vice. I think his vice will do better.”

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been an active acting president. He has carried out the daily duties of state, and he has been pushing an economic agenda to attract foreign investors in hopes of lifting Africa’s most populous nation out of its recession.

Constitutional rules

Last week, Buhari announced that he is ready to return from London and is waiting for his doctor’s approval, though the Nigerian people remain in the dark about the president’s exact state of health. His advisers and the first lady say he is recovering and doing fine. But doubts persist.

Nigeria’s constitution requires a two-third’s vote of the president’s Cabinet, as well as confirmation by a medical panel that the president is “incapable of discharging the functions of his office,” before he can be removed.

“There is nothing in the constitution that limits the time of absence of the president while on medical or other forms of vacation,” said Mohammed Zoro, a representative in the lower chamber of the National House of Assembly and a member of the ruling party. “So constitutionally, he has not breached anything and there is no cause for alarm.”

But the “Resume or Resign” campaigners are determined to have a say, vowing to continue protesting in the streets until the president returns to Nigeria.

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Former Somali Foreign Minister dies in US at age 79

Former Somali’s longtime-serving minister of foreign affairs, Abdirahman Jama Barre has passed away in US at the age of 79, his family has confirmed on Wednesday, August 16. Late Barre,  who also served Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minster during former former Somali military regime has died in San Diego, California after an unidentified illness. […]

The post Former Somali Foreign Minister dies in US at age 79 appeared first on Shabelle.

Africa 54

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East Libyan Elite Forces Snub ICC Over Warrant for Commander

BENGHAZI, LIBYA — 

An elite forces unit linked to the army that controls much of eastern Libya has snubbed international efforts to bring to justice one of its senior officers for allegedly executing dozens of prisoners.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for Mahmoud al-Werfalli, a commander in the Special Forces of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

The accusations against him relate to incidents in and near Benghazi in spring and early summer, towards the end of a three-year LNA campaign against Islamists and other opponents in Libya’s second city.

Videos circulated on social media appear to show Werfalli executing or overseeing the execution of masked and handcuffed prisoners “The Special Forces strongly reject the arrest warrant,” spokesman Milad Al-Zwai said.

Zwai said the ICC should instead focus on arresting “those who killed and displaced men, women and children, and the people who meted out torture and killing and destruction.”

“We will continue our struggle against this oppressive faction,” he said without further explanation. His statement mentioned neither the videos nor the accusations against Werfalli.

In May, Werfalli announced his resignation from the Special Forces, but this was rejected by the unit’s top commander. The following month a U.N. panel of experts reported he was involved in running secret detention centers outside Benghazi.

The LNA has previously said it would investigate war crimes allegations in eastern Libya, where it is the main military force.

The Special Forces is an elite unit nominally under LNA control that joined the Benghazi campaign in its early stages.

Since announcing victory in the campaign in July, the LNA has extended its presence in the centre and south of the divided country as it has vied for control with forces linked to the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and other rivals.

GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and Haftar last month committed to a conditional ceasefire and to work towards holding elections next spring in talks brokered by France.

Several previous attempts at peace deals have been scuttled by internal divisions between the myriad of competing armed groups that have emerged in oil-producing Libya since rebels toppled strongman Muammar Gadhafi in 2011.

In July, the United Nations said it was deeply concerned that people detained by the LNA might be at risk of torture or summary execution.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said she “will not hesitate to bring new cases” in Libya, where evidence dictates.

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5 Yrs After Mine Strike Killings, S. Africa Activists Say Little Has Changed

JOHANNESBURG — 

Five years after South African police shot dead 34 striking miners in the worst show of brutality since apartheid, South Africans are looking back on the Marikana Massacre and how it sparked frustration over unchanging conditions for the nation’s poor.

On Aug. 16, 2012, striking workers in Marikana, the site of British company Lonmin’s platinum mine, gathered with sticks and machetes on a scrubby plain outside the mine to demand better pay, chanting, singing and dancing the toyi-toyi, a Southern African protest dance.

And then the shooting began, shocking the nation.

“Marikana was a watershed in post-apartheid South African politics and post-apartheid society,” said activist Mark Heywood. “It seemed unthinkable that in the free South Africa, in a democracy, 34 striking mine workers who were not threatening anybody could be mowed down in cold blood by the police.”

But five years later, activists say the poverty and inequality the miners were striking against remain.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International says many of the surviving strikers still face criminal charges over their actions that day, and families of the victims are still fighting for compensation. In addition, although an inquiry was established, none of the police officers involved have faced criminal charges.

In the shack settlement around Marikana, conditions have not improved, Heywood says.

“All of those conditions are pretty much the same as they were five years ago,” he said. “And there is a significance and a symbolism of that, because it is the story of the wider South Africa. It is the story of the way poor people are marginalized.”

But township-based organizer General Moyo says that some hope has sprung up around the tragedy.

“The massacre itself gave confidence to many struggles across the country, even if the real achievements, or the real victory, was not actually won by the strikers, because it was silenced by the massacre, of course. But it really raised consciousness to most of the struggles that [are] taking place around South Africa, and outside South Africa,” he said.

He says residents of his Johannesburg informal settlement are protesting their lack of basic services. As a shack-dweller in South Africa’s largest city, he says, he does not have running water or electricity.

He spoke to VOA at a Johannesburg screening of a new film, Strike a Rock, about the female activists of Marikana. The film follows the path of one woman, Primrose Sonti, as she went from being a local organizer to a member of parliament for the then-emerging far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party.

Sonti has spent three years in parliament delivering fiery speeches in her native Xhosa, seeking better conditions for marginalized South Africans. She has also leveraged her maternal fury in verbal attacks against President Jacob Zuma, who faces 783 corruption charges.

“I am Primrose Sonti,” she states, refusing to recant after calling Zuma a liar and a thief, “… Withdraw, never!”

That is the mixed legacy of Marikana: pain, anger and grief, but also hope and determination that one day things will get better.

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