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Uganda opposition slams crackdown on age limit protests

Posted AFP

on  Friday, September 22   2017 at  19:09

Uganda's main opposition leader Kizza Besigye on Friday condemned a police crackdown on opponents of a plan to scrap presidential age limits to allow incumbent President Yoweri Museveni to run again.

A proposal by ruling party lawmakers National Resistance Movement (NRM) to table the constitutional amendment has sparked outrage from opposition politicians, civil society groups and students who protested at a Kampala university for a second day Friday.

Mr Besigye, the leader of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, said Museveni's regime was a "military junta" that had seized control of the state.

"What we are seeing happening in the country today has been in the making since Museveni took the oath as president in 1986 and began embarking on a programme to construct a presidential monarchy," Besigye said.

A ruling party MP had been set to table the motion Thursday but it was delayed without explanation.

Presidential age limit

The amendment would scrap the presidential age limit, currently set at 75, to pave the way for Museveni — 73-year-old — to run for a sixth consecutive term in 2021.

Besigye said the age limit was the last constitutional check on presidential power left after term limits were removed by parliament in 2005.

"This age limit provision is the only way Museveni can be forced to give up power peacefully," he said.

On Thursday, Besigye had been prevented from leaving his home while another senior opposition figure, Kampala mayor Erias Lukwago, was arrested.

Police said the mayor was planning an illegal demonstration and that they had "pre-empted the planned activities" by arresting him. Lukwago said Ugandans were living under a "reign of terror".

Students at the country's main Makerere University in the capital played cat-and-mouse with armed police firing tear gas on Friday as they protested the arrest of some of their leaders during the Thursday's demonstration.

After his release student leader Ronald Ainebyoona claimed to have been "tortured" by police. "They used gun butts to hit us to extract confessions", he said.

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No room for caretaker govt in Kenya, says AG Githu Muigai

Posted DAILY NATION

on  Friday, September 22   2017 at  13:05

Kenya's Attorney-General Githu Muigai has dismissed claims of a looming constitutional crisis as the country prepares for repeat presidential election.

Mr Muigai, on Thursday said at a press conference, called to clarify the law on the opposition coalition National Super Alliance lawyer’s recent claims that a caretaker or transitional government would formed if electoral body IEBC fails to hold the poll were misguided.

Powers

He reiterated that President Kenyatta is in charge until new president is sworn in.

Speaking at his office, the government’s chief legal adviser said President Kenyatta would enjoy all the powers bestowed on his office until the next head of state is sworn in.

The powers, he said, include that of the Commander in Chief of the armed forces.

Opposition National Super Alliance has described the status enjoyed by President Kenyatta as “temporary incumbency” as provided in Article 134 of the Constitution.

The Article mentions the period between the election date and the day the newly elected president is sworn in.

Limit

Prof Muigai, however, stated President Kenyatta’s legitimacy could not be questioned.

He said the Constitution only restricts President Kenyatta from carrying out some functions as stated in Article 134(2).

They include nomination or appointment of judges, appointment or dismissal of Cabinet secretaries or any other state or public officers and conferring the power of mercy or honours.

“There is no room for the creation of any other form of government. Until the day of the swearing-in of a newly elected president, the legitimacy of the government cannot be questioned,” he said.

Kenyans head for the repeat presidential poll on October 26, after the August 8 election was nullified by the Supreme Court.

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Zitto adamant over ‘Parliament hijack’ claim

Posted THE CITIZEN

on  Friday, September 22   2017 at  12:10

Kigoma Urban Member of Parliament Zitto Kabwe was on Thursday adamant and unapologetic over remarks he made recently accusing Parliament and Speaker Job Ndugai of being held captive by the executive.

Mr Kabwe who appeared before the Parliamentary Privileges, Ethics and Powers Committee in Dodoma for questioning over the remarks reiterated his position that the government was interfering in Parliament’s independence.

In a written statement submitted to the committee and which he made available to the media, Mr Kabwe protested that his arrest and summons was an infringement of his rights and an attempt to muzzle free speech.

The MP also submitted before the committee an addendum in which he claimed that the recent deadly and daylight shooting of opposition MP Tundu Lissu was the work of forces who wanted to silence vocal critics of President John Magufuli and his administration.

Mr Lissu is recuperating at Nairobi Hospital from near-fatal injuries he sustained when unknown people ambushed and sprayed more than 30 bullets on his car shortly after leaving Parliament.

Defence

Mr Kabwe who is Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT)-Wazalendo Party Leader offered his defence before the committee chaired by Newala MP George Mkuchika.

He had been driven there at dusk Thursday following his arrest at the Julius Nyerere Airport on Wednesday night.

Speaker Job Ndugai had ordered that the MP be questioned for his remarks, including what he viewed as a personal attack on his style of leadership of Parliament.

But Mr Kabwe said he was within his constitutional right to express his views as a concerned Tanzanian and leader. He went on to list several examples he said show that Mr Ndugai had ceded the power of Parliament to the executive.

“My right to speak and express my views must not be curtailed, it is against the Constitution and the Arusha Declaration,” said Mr Kabwe.

Among the issues he said pointed to the executive interfering in Parliament was the withdrawal of live coverage of Parliament in favour of public meetings of the President around the country.

He said the government has denied Parliament funds to run its operations while Mr Ndugai must seek permission from the government for MPs to travel abroad.

“The Parliament’s decision to return Sh6 billion to the government over cost cutting initiatives without approval of MPs was a decision taken to ingratiate to the executive, because while the money is returned some committees failed to function over inadequate funding,” he told the committee.

Mr Kabwe said President Magufuli has on several occasions publicly issued orders to the Speaker on how to discipline MPs he labelled problematic inside the August House.

He said Mr Ndugai’s decision to hand over gemstone investigation reports to President Magufuli before a resolution of the whole House painted a House pandering to the executive.

“The revelation by the President that Mr Ndugai called him to suggest names of MPs to sit on the gemstone probe committees is proof of direct interference,” said Kabwe, adding that the House has also taken to the habit of deleting from opposition speeches any mention of President Magufuli and other ills by the government.

Lissu’s assassination

Mr Kabwe told the committee that Mr Lissu’s assassination attempt and ongoing arrests of opposition MPs justified his statement that the Parliament was no longer independent.

He said the government had declined to table in Parliament a quarterly budget statement as required while Mr Ndugai allegedly allowed an amendment to spare the government of this accountability requirement.

On Lissu’s saga, Mr Kabwe claimed it was engineered to silence critics.

“Without mincing words, I believe the attacker’s main goal is to silence people, specifically critics of the government. Recently he (Mr Lissu) has been one of the most critics of the President’s actions,” he told the committee.

He dismissed theories that the attack could have been carried by people whose intentions is to taint the government’s image.

“The best answer to these heartless attackers is simple: We must continue the role Lissu played. We must not be silenced. We must continue to speak our minds, air our views and question government policies,” he said.

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Uhuru hints at changes in law to tame judges

Posted BUSINESS DAILY

on  Friday, September 22   2017 at  06:46

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday hinted at major constitutional changes targeting the Judiciary, deepening his attack on the courts in wake of a Supreme Court decision that nullified his August 8 victory.

The President made the remarks in a late afternoon live TV address – his second in a day – even as the electoral body Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced it had moved the date of the repeat presidential poll from October 17 to 26.

Mr Kenyatta instructed Parliament to make necessary legal changes, signalling the Executive’s efforts to trim powers of the Judiciary just one day after the Supreme Court made public the grounds for its September 1 decision to annul the August 8 presidential poll.

“The judgment has a potential to throw us into judicial chaos,” Mr Kenyatta said. “I urge Parliament to act with speed to protect our country from ambiguities that may arise from that judgment.”

The Constitution

The country's Constitution, however, demands that any changes that touch on the independence of the Judiciary must be taken through a referendum besides gaining a two-thirds majority support in Parliament.

On September 1, the court annulled by a majority of four judges against two Mr Kenyatta’s 1.4 million-vote win over his rival Raila Odinga.

Chief Justice David Maraga, his deputy Philomena Mwilu, Justice Isaac Lenaola and Justice Smokin Wanjala upheld Mr Odinga’s petition against Mr Kenyatta’s victory with Justices Jacton Ojwang’ and Njoki Ndung’u dissenting.

The court cited failure by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to, among other things, adhere to the law and regulation governing the recording and transmission of results.

The decision has opened both the Supreme Court and IEBC – the two crucial institutions in presidential polls - to attacks by government and opposition while casting a dark shadow over the repeat poll. 

Mr Kenyatta’s lawyer, Ahmednasir Abdullahi, criticised the four judges “for lowering the standard of proof required in a presidential petition”, insisting they relied on clerical errors as opposed to fundamental mistakes or grave violation of electoral regulations to arrive at the decision.

Trimming Judiciary’s powers

The planned trimming of the Judiciary’s powers comes after a series of attacks on the Supreme Court by the President and his supporters.

Shortly before he addressed the nation, Mr Kenyatta renewed his attacks on Supreme Court judges, accusing them of violating the Constitution.

“This (judgment) is nothing short of a coup,” he told delegates from northern Kenya. “Kenya managed to escape military coups that has afflicted many African states in the last 50 years, but now we hold a record because ours has been executed by just four people sitting in the Supreme Court,” he said, insisting that the judgment had usurped the will of 45 million Kenyans because the petitioner neither disputed the number of votes cast nor contested his vote count.

“We have reversed everything in this country by the decision of a few people. I don’t know how history will judge these gentlemen. The citizen has been told he does not have a voice ... If that is not dictatorship, then I don’t know what to say,” said Mr Kenyatta.

The Supreme Court on September 1 ordered the IEBC to conduct fresh elections in 60 days. 

Opposition leader Mr Odinga and his supporters maintain that they will not participate in polls organised by the IEBC as presently constituted.

Mr Kenyatta however says the repeat polls must be conducted as planned as cabinet has approved the supplementary budget for the purpose.

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Heavy police presence as Uganda age limit debate flops

Posted CHARLES M. MPAGI in Kampala

on  Thursday, September 21   2017 at  19:51

A much anticipated Private Member's Bill to remove age limits in Uganda’s Constitution did not make it to the House on a day characterised by chaos in and outside the National Assembly.

Chaotic scenes ensued in Parliament after the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition had made brief statements as several MPs rose to sabotage a statement from Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.

Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza had questioned the circumstances in which Parliament was sitting literary under a police and military siege.

Dr Rugunda had tried to explain away the heavy deployment, inside and outside of Parliament, key areas of Kampala City and at the two main public universities; Makerere and Kyambogo.

Were not ready

He said the deployment had been necessitated by threats detected ahead of the seating.

The MPs objected and demanded that the House be adjourned, insisting they were not ready to debate “under the barrel of the gun”.

Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanya, who presided over the House, was forced to adjourn sitting until next week.

Members complained the security agents had denied them access to Parliament in their cars.

Makerere University was the centre of clashes between security agents who laboured to avert demonstrations.

Press conference

One student was reportedly shot and killed while several others were injured or arrested.

A number of opposition leaders, including Kampala Lord Erias Lukwago, were arrested.

Before Parliament sat for the day’s business, Members of Cabinet addressed a press conference in the Prime Minister’s Office to endorse a decision of the ruling NRM party Caucus on Wednesday for MP Raphael Magyezi to present a Private Members Bill seeking amendment of Article 102 (b) that restricts eligibility for one to contest as a President between the ages of 35 and 75 years.

The NRM members want this removed in a move seen largely as aimed at benefiting President Yoweri Museveni, 73.

President Museveni would be disqualified from contesting the next elections if the Constitution remains as is as he will have surpassed the cap.

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No let up in the Togolese push for reforms

Posted AFP

on  Thursday, September 21   2017 at  19:06

Opposition parties in Togo readied for a second day of demonstrations on Thursday over the rule of President Faure Gnassingbe, the scion of Africa’s oldest political dynasty, amid accusations of harsh repression by the security forces.

Opposition leaders, at the start of a march in the capital Lome, condemned a crackdown by security forces of demonstrations in the far north of Togo, and accused troops and militia of infiltrating the rallies.

At least 77 people were injured in the town of Bafilo when security forces fired rubber bullets at the crowd on Wednesday, according to the opposition.

Four people who were critically wounded were sent for treatment in Sokode, the country’s second biggest city, about 50km to the south, it said.

In statement, the opposition added that soldiers and militiamen in civilian dress “infiltrated demonstrations” in the northern cities of Bafilo, Kara, Mango, Sokode and Dapaong.

There is shooting

“In Dapaong, soldiers staged punitive operations all night,” the coalition said.

“The town is burning,” opposition leader Brigitte Adjamagbo-Johnson said.

“The market is at this moment burning and there is shooting.”

But a source close to the presidency blamed the violence on Panafrican National Party (PNP) of opposition leader Tikpi Atchadam, accusing its supporters of attacking officials of the ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) and torching houses.

In Mango, the source said, a nine-year-old child was killed and 25 people were injured, including 10 by gunshot.

The injuries were caused by hunting rifles and other guns — types of weapons that the security forces did not use, the source said.

Francois Patuel of Amnesty International said that “despite official declarations in favour of appeasement, the repression of demonstrations by the armed forces continues.”

Amnesty called for “an independent and impartial inquiry” into the child’s death in Mango and use of force by security forces.

Mr Patuel also said on social media that the popular messaging service Whatsapp had been blocked.

The opposition has boycotted a vote on constitutional reform that would have included a presidential term limit, arguing it was a ploy to let President Gnassingbe stay in power until 2030.

They want the limit to apply retroactively so that President Gnassingbe, who has been in power since 2005, could not run again in 2020.

Unprecedented turnout

His father Gnassingbe Eyadema ruled from 1967 until his death in 2005.

To press their demands, the opposition staged rallies on September 6 and 7 that drew more than 100,000 people — an unprecedented turnout in a country widely criticised for stifling democracy.

The 14-party coalition has called for follow-up rallies for Wednesday and Thursday.

Thousands of people thronged Lome in rival demonstrations on Wednesday.

Police said 10,000 to 15,000 people marched nationwide on Wednesday, but Eric Dupuy, spokesman for the main opposition National Alliance for Change (ANC) party, said “tens of thousands of protesters” marched in the capital alone.

Mobile phone networks and 3G services had been severed for more than 24 hours on Thursday morning, while wifi networks ran intermittently.

Veteran political opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre has called for new demonstrations to be held on September 26, 27 and 28.

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Kenya repeat poll set for October 26

Posted WALTER MENYA in Nairobi

on  Thursday, September 21   2017 at  17:47

The Kenya electoral commission has changed the date for repeat presidential poll occasioned by Supreme Court’s nullification of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election.

The commission on Thursday said it had moved the poll from October 17 to October 26, 2017.

This came on the day the Cabinet approved $98 million (Sh10bn) budget for the high-stakes poll.

In a brief statement, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati announced that the decision was taken to ensure the commission is fully prepared in light of the apex court’s judgment delivered on Wednesday.

The standards set

“There is no doubt that the judgment impacts on the election operations and in particular technology to be deployed,” Mr Chebukati said.

“In order to ensure that the commission is fully prepared to deliver an election that meets the standards set out by the Supreme Court, we wish to notify the public and all stakeholders that the fresh presidential election shall now be held on Thursday October 26, 2017,” the chairman added, further announcing that IEBC will issue more details on Friday on the state of preparedness.

According to Mr Chebukati, IEBC continues to review the detailed Supreme Court ruling for purposes of understanding its implications on the court-ordered fresh poll.

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Uhuru tells of ‘coup’ by four judges in Kenya

Posted IBRAHIM ORUKO in Nairobi

on  Thursday, September 21   2017 at  16:16

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has said the decision by the Supreme Court to nullify his August 8 re-election was a “coup by four people sitting in court”.

The president described the majority decision in the full judgment delivered Wednesday as judicial dictatorship that had robbed Kenyans the power of decision making.

“This was a coup…I must call it what it is,” he said, while meeting the ruling Jubilee Party elected leaders from northern Kenya at State House, Nairobi, on Thursday.

“This is a voice of a few, who on their own decided they can choose a leader for the majority of Kenyans. If this is not dictatorship, I don’t know what it is,” he said.

He said all the gains of the Constitution promulgated in 2010 was overturned by the judgment, which has allowed a few people to lead over the majority.

“The judgment has shown the voice of the people matters no more. What matters is the voice of a few people, who arrogate to themselves powers they don’t have,” he said.

The Constitution, he said, had entrenched democratic values, devolution and conferred on the people basic rights and freedoms and curtailed the power of the president to do as he pleased.

President Kenyatta told Chief Justice David Maraga that the judgment did not fit within the meaning or spirit of the Constitution.

He was riled by the court when it said it will not hesitate to nullify presidential election if it is not conducted as provided by the law.

“They say numbers don’t matter but they refused to look at the important documents, which is the only way to determine the expression of people’s sovereign will,” he said.

He said the judges should have ordered a recount of the ballots if they were genuine in their push for justice.

“In a free country source documents best express people will, but the judges refused to look at them. They are lucky they are dealing with a polite man, who respects the constitution and is not interested in seeing Kenyans fight,” he said.

He told the leaders from northern Kenya to support his bid and prove to the judges that no person has the power to overturn the will of the people.

He reiterated that he respects the court decision, saying repeat elections should be held within 60 days.

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Lobby group faults Cameroon media law

Posted NDI EUGENE NDI in Yaoundé

on  Thursday, September 21   2017 at  15:05

Authorities in Cameroon are using an anti-terrorism law to intimidate journalists in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said.

CPJ disclosed in a new report published on Wednesday that the controversial legislation was passed in 2014 to counter the Boko Haram militants.

However, it pointed out, the Cameroon government was now using the law to silence journalists who report on the activities of the group, unrest in the English-speaking regions or who were critical of President Paul Biya’s administration.

The report; Journalists Not Terrorists: In Cameroon, anti-terror legislation is used to silence critics and suppress dissent, said journalists had been arrested under the Act, including Ahmed Abba of Radio France Internationale (RFI).

The RFI correspondent is currently serving a 10-year jail sentence.

Faced charges

In addition to Abba, CPJ said it was aware of at least four other journalists who faced charges under the 2014 anti-terror law for their reporting, who were detained until August 30 when a presidential decree secured their release.

Mr Atia Tilarious Azohnwi, the political editor of The Sun; Mr Hans Achomba, a documentary filmmaker; and Mr Tim Finnian, the publisher and editor of the weekly Life Time, had spent several months in jail.

“All of them faced trial before a military court and, if convicted, they would have faced the death penalty,” the report authored by CPJ Africa Programme Director Angela Quintal said.

The report said journalists in Cameroon were ‘too scared to cover politics or sensitive issues’ because of the crackdown which deepened late last year amid the unrest in the English-speaking regions.

Stifling of criticism

“There is an atmosphere of fear. You don’t report about the issue of federalism [or] all those issues that are considered to be unfriendly to the regime – even if they are true,” a Cameroonian journalist, who asked not to be named, told CPJ.

At the time of filing this report, Yaoundé had yet to officially react to the CPJ report.

Cameroon is rated “not free” on the 2017 Press Freedom and Political Rights Index of Freedom House.

“With elections scheduled for next year, and Cameroon due to host the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament in 2019, the stifling of criticism, including through the anti-terror law, was likely to come under increased international scrutiny,” Ms Quintal said.


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Pope Francis congratulates Angolan present-elect

Posted ARNALDO VIEIRA in Luanda

on  Thursday, September 21   2017 at  13:25

The head of the Catholic Church in the world, Pope Francis, has congratulated Angolan president-elect João Lourenço.

Pope Francis, in a message, wished the former Defence minister success in his new role.

“I wish to present my compliments and wishes of success in your term of service and cohesion, harmony and prosperity to the nation,” the state-owned Jornal de Angola quoted Pope Francis as saying in a message Thursday.

The president-elect has also been congratulated by the leaders of Russia, China, Portugal, France, Brazil, Cameroon, Guinea Bissau and Togo.

The US State Department also congratulated Mr Lourenço.

The votes cast

The ruling MPLA flag bearer was a fortnight ago confirmed by the Constitutional Court (CC) as the winner of the Angolan presidency.

Mr Lourenço, 63, will be installed on September 26 in Luanda, replacing President dos Santos, after 38 years in power, but extending MPLA's 42-year rule.

Mr Bornito de Sousa will be inaugurated as the vice-president.

The National Electoral Commission (CNE) confirmed that MPLA had won the August 23 poll with 61.07 per cent vote and 150 MPs

Unita came second with 26.7 per cent of the votes cast and 51 MPs, while Casa-Ce was third with 9.4 per cent and 16 MPs.

Fourth was the social Renovation Party (PRS) with 1.45 per cent of the vote and two MPs, followed by the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) with 0.93 per cent and a single MP, then the National Patriotic Alliance (APN) with 0.51 per cent and no MP.

The election was Angola's fourth since independence from Portugal in 1975 and the third since the end of the war in 2002.