Friday, November 30, 2018

Zimbabwe President Puts His Stamp on New Parliament Building
01 DEC, 2018 - 00:12 

President Mnangagwa officiates at the new Parliament Building ground-breaking ceremony, while Vice Presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, China’s Acting Ambassador to Zimbabwe Cde Zhao Baogang, Cabinet ministers and Government officials look on in Mt Hampden yesterday. —Picture by Justin Mutenda

Farirai Machivenyika
Senior Reporter
Zimbabwe Herald

President Mnangagwa yesterday officially launched the construction of the new 650-seater Parliament Building in Mt Hampden, nearly 20 kilometres outside Harare, that is expected to be completed by mid-2021 at the latest.

The building is being constructed by the Shanghai Construction Group using a grant of approximately $98 million (RMB 676,43 million) extended to Zimbabwe by the Chinese government.

The construction of the new Parliament Building is expected to solve the space challenges being experienced at the current building that has become too small for the 350 legislators.

The new Parliament Building is part of Government’s wider plans to establish a new city in Mt Hampden, where all three arms of the State will be housed.

In his address before he broke the ground and laid the foundation stone, President Mnangagwa said the new Parliament would enhance the country’s democracy.

“This infrastructure will enable parliamentarians to fully execute their legislative roles and further entrench democratic tenets in all facets of our society,” President Mnangagwa said.

He said parliamentarians had a critical role to play for the attainment of the country’s Vision 2030 that called for hard work and dedication to duty.

“I urge all parliamentarians to understand that they have a critical role to play as they enact and pass laws that will propel the attainment of our national Vision 2030,” said President Mnangagwa.

“As such, hard work, diligence and commitment to duty must be a trait that is embedded in all parliamentarians. In the Second Republic, non-attendance of meetings and dereliction of parliamentary duty should not be tolerated.”

President Mnangagwa said the law was an instrument of development that should facilitate and promote development and urged legislators to demand urgency in the pace of various legislative reforms that were being implemented.

“In addition, MPs must be accountable to the people both individually and collectively, as they have the onerous burden to truly represent the people that elected them into office,” he said.

“I call upon all citizens to account for all MPs with regards to their activities in Parliament and legislative agenda.”

President Mnangagwa said the relocation of Parliament would be a catalyst for other developments.

“The relocation of Parliament to Mt Hampden will be a catalyst for subsequent developments throughout this area,” he said. “All three arms of the State will relocate here.

“We shall also develop other Government buildings, banking halls, shopping malls, residential areas and recreation facilities which will culminate in the emergence of a new city.”

President Mnangagwa thanked the Chinese government for providing the grant for the construction of the new Parliament Building.

“This long awaited construction of the new Parliament will be undertaken by Shanghai Construction Group and is funded by the Government of the People’s Republic of China to the tune off RMB 676,43 million,” he said.

Chinese Government for their continued support of our various development programmes. We commend the Belt and Road Initiative under which infrastructure development projects such as this one are being undertaken in emerging markets.”

China has provided funding for various infrastructure programmes in the country, including the ongoing expansion of the Hwange Thermal Power Station and the expansion and modernisation of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport that will commence soon.

Early this year, President Mnangagwa commissioned and switched on the $533 million Kariba South Power Station Extension Project undertaken by China’s Sino Hydro, which added another 300 megawatts to the national grid.

In 2016, the Government commissioned the $153 million Victoria Falls International Airport built by China Jiangsu International Economic and Technical Cooperation Group.
Zimbabwe Starts Building New Parliament, Paid by China
Kenya Daily Nation

In Summary
Officials say the current colonial-era parliamentary building in the city centre is too small to accommodate lawmakers.

Mnangagwa said at the ceremony that China had provided a "grant, not a loan, to build a new parliament", without giving a figure.

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday laid the foundation stone for huge new parliament

The building which is to be located on farmland north-west of the capital, Harare, will have a total floor area of 33,000 square metres.

When completed it will replace the current parliament building, built in the colonial era, which the government has said is too small to house its more than 200 lawmakers.

The project will cost $46m, news site Quartz reported in 2016.

An artist's impression of the building, which is being funded by China, has been shared by the information ministry:

Officials say the current colonial-era parliamentary building in the city centre is too small to accommodate lawmakers.

Mnangagwa said at the ceremony that China had provided a "grant, not a loan, to build a new parliament", without giving a figure.

"Other facilities like banks, hotels will be built around this place," Mnangagwa said adding that a "modern, smart city" was planned.

Mnangagwa took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe who was ousted by the military in November 2017.

He has vowed to revive Zimbabwe's economy that has been in ruins for nearly two decades.

China has funded and provided loans for many infrastructure projects across Africa in recent years, ranging from roads and power plants to sports stadiums and government institutions.

Critics say China's increasing sway over the continent undermines democracy and sovereignty.

Additional report by AFP
Uhuru, Magufuli to Open Namanga Border Centre
Kenya Daily Nation

President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) and his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli at State House in Nairobi on October 31, 2016. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In Summary
The consolidation of border control functions in shared spaces between the two countries is meant to ease the turn-around time for clearance of goods by traders.
Apart from Namanga, other border points between Kenya and Tanzania are Holili, Horohoro and Sirali.


President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Tanzanian counterpart, John Magufuli, are set to launch the Namanga border crossing tomorrow amid unresolved long-standing trade disputes between the two countries.

The Namanga One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) is one of a dozen others, which have either been launched or are being commissioned to ease trade flow within the six-nation East African Community (EAC) bloc.

The consolidation of border control functions in shared spaces between the two countries is meant to ease the turn-around time for clearance of goods by traders.

The Namanga post, whose construction works started in 2014, has been open since October last year. Reports indicated earlier in the year official launch was put on hold due to the delayed installation of electronic equipment.

“The launch of Namanga OSBP paves the way for speedy clearance of goods moving in the main trade corridor between Kenya and Tanzania,” the Kenya Revenue Authority said in a note inviting guests.

“The Namanga OSBP is part of the EAC regional initiative, implemented jointly with Kenya and Tanzania, supported by development partners through the Japan International Cooperation Agency and AfDB (African Development Bank).”

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Magufuli are likely to revisit undying trade spats between the bureaucrats in both countries since they directed the differences to be ironed at a meeting in Uganda in February 2018.

Apart from Namanga, other border points between Kenya and Tanzania are Holili, Horohoro and Sirali.
40,000 Tonnes of Sugar Shipped Back to Brazil Over Quality Concerns
Sugar at the Mombasa port. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kenya Daily Nation

About 40,000 tonnes of sugar imported by Darasa Investment Limited was on Friday shipped back to Brazil after failing to meet Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) specifications

The vessel carrying the consignment, MV Iron Lady, left the Mombasa port at around 3.30pm.

A multi-agency team from Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Ports Authority, the Kenya Navy, National Intelligence Service, DCI Officers and the National Police Service undertook a verification on board the ship to ensure the cargo had not been tampered with before the government ordered for it to be sent back to the country of origin.

KRA Customs and Boarder Control acting commissioner Kenneth Ochola confirmed the that the sugar was sent back to Brazil.

The KRA and the importer had agreed to an out-of-court settlement where the importer was to clear arrears in taxes before the sugar is released.

Darasa Ltd was to clear the Sh2.5 billion tax and VAT arrears.

According to the agreement, Darasa was also required to settle a Sh547.8 million in 90 days if waiver of interest and penalties is not granted as per the East African Community Customs Management Act.

The deal brought to an end the prolonged court battle between the tax man and Darasa over the imported Brazilian sugar.

The dispute was pending at the Supreme Court where Darasa was challenging a Court of Appeal decision which had ruled against allowing it to import the sugar duty free.

The Court of Appeal in Mombasa had allowed the appeal by KRA and set aside a decision by the High Court which ruled that the sweetener imported by Darasa was entitled to be cleared duty free.

Appellate Judges Alnashir Visram, Wanjiru Karanja and Martha Koome unanimously said the appeal by KRA had merit before setting aside the orders issued by High Court Judge Eric Ogola.

The High Court had ruled that the sugar, imported by Darasa was entitled to be cleared duty free by the taxman and termed the decision by KRA to levy duty as unlawful.

Justice Ogola also ruled that he was satisfied that the vessel that carried the consignment from Brazil could not dock at the port of Mombasa due to its size hence the sugar had to be trans-shipped in Dubai.

Darasa had termed a decision by KRA to levy duty on its sugar consignment as irrational and unreasonable.
Kenya Parliament Vote on Gender Bill Vote: What You Need to Know
Kenya Daily Nation

MPs during debate on the gender bill on November 21, 2018. The 12th Parliament could be dissolved if MPs do not enact the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2018, when the vote is taken on November 28,2018. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In Summary
Members of Parliament will on Wednesday afternoon vote on the enactment of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2018.

For the bill to sail through to the third reading stage, it requires two-thirds, majority or at least 233 of the MPs to support it.

A recent meeting organised by Kenya Women Parliamentary Association to drum up support for the bill, attracted only 15 women legislators out of the 75 elected and nominated women MPs.


The gender bill, which seeks to amend the Constitution to provide for the special nomination seats for women to bridge the gender gap in Parliament, is set for consideration in the National Assembly Wednesday afternoon.

But, the bill is running into headwinds because of lack of serious lobbying, meaning that it could fail if brought for debate going by the mood of the 349 members in the National Assembly.

For the bill to sail through to the third reading stage, it requires two-thirds, majority or at least 233 of the MPs to support it.


The Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale has two options. The first option is to have the bill voted on or request House Speaker Justin Muturi to have the voting deferred to the next session of the current Parliament.

If Mr Duale does not ask for deferment and attempts to have it voted on, if the members in the House at the time of voting are less than 233, the bill will be negatived.

This means that it can only be introduced afresh in the second session of the current 12th Parliament after six months.

The reintroduction will mean that it be published afresh and must undergo all the process required once a bill is introduced.

The impact of this and according to the House rules, the earliest the bill can see the light of the day is in June 2019, if all the factors remain constant.

Because it is a constitutional bill, it will take another 90 days for it to mature, that is, if it is reintroduced, before members can start debate on it afresh.

The Constitution provides that a constitutional bill will mature after 90 days after its introduction.

Counting 90 days from June next year means that it can only be ripe for debate in September 2019.


These timelines are only tentative, that is, if the House Business Committee (HBC) chaired by the House Speaker prioritises the bill, otherwise the bill runs the risk of extending to 2020.

The HBC sets the agenda of the House on a weekly basis.

The last attempt to have the bill passed was in 2016. Therefore, deferment is the only way that will make the bill alive and therefore relevant to the next session of the House.

This will provide room for lobbying ahead of the voting.

Standing Order 141 (1) of the National Assembly provides that a bill, the second reading or third reading of which has been rejected, may be introduced again in the next session, or after the lapse of six months in the same session but subject to fresh publication.

However, sub clause (2) provides that a bill whose second reading has been concluded at the end of a session it was published, shall resume in the next session of the same parliament at the stage where it was interrupted.


This bill was published in the current session meaning that it can only lapse in the next session if debate is not concluded.

The rules also provide that a bill only lapses at the second session where it was not published as well as at the end of the term of parliament.

Nevertheless, a majority of the MPs claim that the bill is where it is today because of lack of serious lobbying.

“Women MPs are busy lobbying outside there. They have not reached to their male colleagues in parliament. We wonder how far they intend to go with this because it is not those outside there who will vote but us,” a male MP, who did not want to go on record, said.

A recent meeting organised by Kenya Women Parliamentary Association to drum up support for the bill, attracted only 15 women legislators out of the 75 elected and nominated women MPs.


Eldas MP Adan Keynan, who attended the event, told the women MPs that they are not serious.

This raises questions on the current leadership of Kewopa. “It has been mute, absent and clueless as far as this bill is concerned,” a member of Kewopa said.

In the last parliament, former Woman Representatives Priscilla Nyokabi (Nyeri) and Florence Kajuju (Meru) were so forceful in their quest to have the bill passed.

Though it failed after the House did not get the requisite numbers, they did serious lobbying.

“The current leadership is poor at tact and everything. Their purported lobbying outside parliament could be a well generated scheme to show their financiers that they did something when they actually did nothing,” a male MP said.

The women legislators are also using the courts to threaten their male colleagues that if they do not support, Parliament will be dissolved. But the male MPs are arguing that they cannot vote under threats.
House Shelves Gender Bill As Loyalties Fall
Kenya Daily Nation

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale (left) with some MPs at Parliament buildings on November 28, 2018. MPs failed to raise the numbers to pass the gender bill. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In Summary
To pass the bill, Parliament required a total of 233 MPs to vote in its support.

By the time Majority leader Aden Duale rose to seek its deferment, only 212 MPs were present, 21 short of the required numbers.

It emerged that majority of the MPs were reluctant to pass the bill before President Kenyatta assents to the Parliamentary Service Bill 2018.


Parliament was on Wednesday forced to defer the gender bill after MPs appeared to defy President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chiefs Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka by staying away from the House.

To pass the bill, Parliament required a total of 233 MPs to vote in its support, but at the time Majority leader Aden Duale rose to seek its deferment, only 212 MPs were present, 21 short of the required numbers.

The absenteeism was despite the fact that both Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka were in the Speaker’s gallery to demonstrate their support for the proposed law, which aims to have more women in the country's elective positions, in line with the provisions of the Constitution.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi had alerted the members of the duo’s presence, introducing Mr Odinga as African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa and Mr Musyoka as a special envoy to South Sudan. Mr Odinga had earlier held a meeting with Mr Muturi to discuss the bill.


But, despite the duo’s presence in the gallery and president Kenyatta’s declared support for the bill, majority of the male MPs remained opposed to the bill, accusing their female counterparts of trying to intimidate them into supporting it.

By extension, their hardline positions presented to Parliament a remarkable show of defiance and shifting party loyalties, right under the noses of their party heads.

It also emerged that majority of the MPs were reluctant to pass the bill before President Kenyatta assents to the Parliamentary Service Bill 2018, which seeks to enhance their perks, including house allowance, car loans, enhanced insurance cover, and a special kitty in each of the 290 constituencies for monitoring and evaluation of national government projects.

President Kenyatta has publicly criticised the MPs’ push to enhance their perks at the expense of the taxpayer, but the parliamentarians have maintained that they will pass the bill, the criticism notwithstanding. The feeling among some of the MPs is that the President first assents to the Parliamentary Service Bill 2018 before they pass the Gender one.


Mr Muturi accepted the request by Mr Duale to have the bill put on hold until February next year as the House is set to proceed on the long Christmas recess on Thursday next week.

“The House Business Committee will meet on Tuesday next week to consider this serious matter and decide when the bill will appear on the order paper for consideration. It is so ordered,” Mr Muturi said.

The Gender bill is intended to align the membership of the National Assembly with the Constitution, which requires that not more than two thirds of seats in the appointive and elective bodies should be of the same gender. It also seeks to create special nomination slots for women in the National Assembly and Senate to bridge the gender gap.

Mr Duale’s deferment request was made in line with standing order 141 as the numbers in the House were not enough for a vote to be taken. However, the deferment will not lapse the bill.

A loss would have meant that the bill be introduced afresh, the earliest in June 2019, because it takes six months to reintroduce a bill that has been negated.


It would have taken another 90 days for it to mature before debate commences. That means the bill would only have been ripe for debate in September 2019.

Immediately Mr Duale made his request, a good number of female MPs — members of the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) — rose in support of the deferment.

Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka

Mr Duale said his decision was based on consultations with the House leadership, and that if a vote is taken when a lot of members are not in the House, it risks being lost. “I don’t want history to judge me harshly. We will have an opportunity to have it voted on next year. We will lobby more. This is not an ordinary bill,” he said.

Mr Odinga’s allies were quick to defend the Opposition chief from claims that he, President Kenyatta and Mr Musyoka had failed to marshal the requisite numbers to pass the bill.


Minority Whip Junet Mohamed (Suna East) told the Nation that his party leader, Mr Odinga, had done his groundwork well to ensure all his troops supported the bill.

“We had the numbers because Mr Odinga had marshalled his troops, who were ready for the bill. All our MPs were in the house ready to pass it, save for about ten. All we wanted was a ten-minute adjournment to allow the ten to stream in. I’m surprised they decided to defer it instead,” he said.

Mr Musyoka also told the Nation that his Wiper party was in full support of the bill.

“Had other party leaders, especially those from the Jubilee side, graced the House to rally their troops, the requisite numbers would have been realised,” Mr Musyoka said.

Minority leader John Mbadi defended the deferment, saying it was intended to save it from certain defeat as the mood in the House was not conducive for voting. “It makes sense to defer it. If we had 233 MPs in the House. We would have gone ahead with the vote,” he said.


There were also accusations that KEWOPA leadership had not lobbied enough to secure the required numbers to pass the bill.

“KEWOPA has been mute, absent and clueless as far as this bill is concerned,” a female MP, who requested anonymity, said yesterday before the House met for the afternoon session.

“Their purported lobbying outside parliament could be a scheme to show their financiers that they were doing something when in real sense they did nothing,” a male MP said.

Kirinyaga Woman Representative Purity Ngirici is KEWOPA chairperson.
MPs Now Plot to Remove Two-thirds Gender Rule
Kenya Daily Nation

Nominated MP David Sankok. He has said he had drafted proposals on the two-thirds gender rule and forwarded them to the office of the Speaker. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In Summary
According to the proposal, the MPs want all elective bodies in the country exempted from the constitutional requirement of the two-thirds gender rule.
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale distanced himself from the amendment and vowed to frustrate its adoption on the floor.


A section of members of the National Assembly have hatched a scheme to counter calls for the enactment of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendments) Bill, 2018 which seeks to pave the way for the nomination of an additional 75 women to both the National Assembly and the Senate.

It has emerged that the MPs, mainly from Jubilee Party, have already drafted the legislative proposal to that effect and submitted it to Speaker Justin Muturi for approval.

If the Speaker determines the proposal is sound, he will forward it to the parliamentary legal office for it to be drafted into a legal document.

According to the proposal, the MPs want all elective bodies in the country exempted from the constitutional requirement of the two-thirds gender rule.

This means that the Senate, National Assembly and county assemblies will no longer have offices of nominated members.


As a result, through the proposal forwarded to the Speaker by nominated MP David Sankok, the MPs want Article 27 (8) amended by deleting the words “two-thirds of the members of elective or”.

They want the clause substituted with the words “40 per centum of the members of”. This is meant to increase the share of seats due to either gender in the appointive bodies to the ratio of 60:40.

In the memorandum of objectives, Mr Sankok says presently the two-thirds gender rule has resulted in undesired results where the persons nominated do not really represent the interests of the women and the nominations are not based on merit or competence or any known criteria.

“Elections are based on the free will of the people. Affirmative action for elective positions negates the provisions of Article 38(2) of the Constitution on political rights, which provide that every citizen has the right to free, fair and regular elections based on universal suffrage and the free expression of the will of the electors for any elective position.”


On Friday, Mr Sankok said he had drafted the proposals and forwarded them to the office of the Speaker.

“Everything is with the Speaker now,” Mr Sankok said, while confirming that he had drafted the bill to protect the sovereignty of the people.

“The provision to ensure that elective bodies are subjected to gender rule has denied the people their sovereign power. The amendment seeks to return this power to the people,” he said.

Mr Sankok said the chorus to adopt the gender rule is detrimental to women because it is going to make it hard for women candidates to be elected in single member constituency.


This would then mean that the question of two-thirds gender rule will only apply in appointive positions.

Constitutional amendment bills mature for debate within 90 days after introduction.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale distanced himself from the amendment and vowed to frustrate its adoption on the floor.

Mr Duale said: “They will not get the numbers to pass it in the House. I will frustrate them."
How Kenyan MPs Blocked Law Advocating More Women in Politics
Low turnout scuppered a vote guaranteeing Kenyan women more seats in parliament on Wednesday, with campaigners saying it was “a dark day” for citizens in the east African nation.

The bill would have reserved one in three seats for women but not enough politicians showed up to vote on the controversial issue, with campaigners citing chauvinism.

“Once again, a majority of our members of parliament have failed to show up and stand up for women,” said Josephine Wambua-Mongare, who chairs the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya, which has petitioned the court over the issue.

This is not about women. This is not about cost. It is about the constitution that we passed.If we engage the public, they will engage their leaders, so that when we come back in February, the members will come out and support the bill.

“It is unfortunate to see our current leaders defer a priority concern for girls and women in Kenya. It is a dark day for all Kenyans.”

The speaker of Kenya’s National Assembly, Justin Muturi, agreed to a motion by the government to defer the vote since there were only 212 out of a total 349 members present.

For the bill to pass, 233 members must be present and all must vote in favour.

“I am conscious that should we proceed to take the vote and if it is discovered we are below the requisite 233 members as required, we will risk losing the bill,” Aden Duale, leader of the majority and sponsor of the bill told parliamentarians.

“However if we defer it today, we will save it.”

Duale said he hoped to schedule the vote to take place in the next parliamentary session in February, adding this would give supporters of the bill more time to lobby members.

But campaigners expressed disappointment, saying it was a deliberate attempt to block the draft legislation.


Women hold 23 percent of seats in Kenya’s lower and upper houses of parliament combined, says the Inter-Parliamentary Union – on a par with the global average, but lower than east African neighbours Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burundi.

Kenya’s 2010 constitution states that no more than two-thirds of an elected or appointed body can be of one gender, but does not set out a mechanism for attaining that goal.

Court rulings since 2012 have directed parliament to pass legislation to enforce the gender rule or risk dissolution – but previous attempts have failed, largely due to quorum hitches.

The bill – backed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and leader of the opposition Raila Odinga – provides for special seats to be created if parliamentary elections fail to achieve the required numbers, with candidates nominated to fill them.

But it has faced stiff resistance from some male MPs who claim the additional salaries will be a burden on Kenyan taxpayers, and seats will be given to politicians’ mistresses and girlfriends rather than candidates based on merit.

Critics have also whipped up opposition by using populist comments and sensationalist sexist slurs, to portray the draft legislation as a “womens’ bill”.

Women MPs said they were disappointed with the low show despite intense lobbying. Greater public awareness about the bill was needed as it would dispel widespread misconceptions.

“This is not about women. This is not about cost. It is about the constitution that we passed,” Esther Passaris, representative for Nairobi, told the national assembly.

“If we engage the public, they will engage their leaders, so that when we come back in February, the members will come out and support the bill.”

Ethiopia's Judicial System Gets €10 m EU Support
Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban
Africa News

The European Union, EU, has upped its support for Ethiopia in the area of justice and rule of law, announcing a support package on Thursday.

The 10 million euro support was announced after a meeting between Ambassador of the EU to Ethiopia, Johan Borgstam, and Ethiopia’s Chief Justice, Meaza Ashenafi.

CJ Ashenafi expressed appreciation to the EU for what she said was “its continuous partnership and support to ensure rule of law in Ethiopia.”

It will be a privilege if I am able to contribute to the independence of our judiciary… [and] the government is ready to ensure that I get all the support I need to build an independent judiciary.

She stressed that the two parties had also held fruitful discussions on areas of importance and of mutual interest. Ashenafi since taking office as Ethiopia’s first female CJ has stressed the need to reform the judiciary.

“This is an honour and a distinct privilege. This kind of offer does not come every day and this is a new chapter in our country as we go through a transformation.

“It will be a privilege if I am able to contribute to the independence of our judiciary… [and] the government is ready to ensure that I get all the support I need to build an independent judiciary,” she said.

“I am so happy that the glass ceiling is shattered and my daughters can dream of becoming anyone they want to be in Ethiopia,” she told the BBC.

Under the less that a year old administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia currently has its first woman president in career diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde.

A powerful peace minister in the person of Muferiat Kamil – Ethiopia’s first woman speaker of parliament, its first defense minister, Aisha Mohammed and eight other woman holding cabinet portfolios.

Its current twenty-seat cabinet is occupied by ten women. The government has received wide commendation internationally over its steps at empowering women to hold top leadership positions in the governance structure.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Saudis to Lend Tunisia US$500 Million: Sources
 29 NOV, 2018 - 20:11

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi meets with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Carthage Palace in Tunis, on November 27. – Reuters

TUNIS. – Saudi Arabia will lend Tunisia US$500 million at a favourable interest rate and will finance two projects worth $140 million, two sources told Reuters on Wednesday, a day after a visit from the Saudi crown prince that drew Tunisian protests.

Hundreds of Tunisians staged the first demonstrations in the Arab world against Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, on his visit on Tuesday, denouncing him as a murderer involved in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The kingdom’s de facto ruler faces no overt criticism at home and received lavish receptions earlier in his tour in visits to Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

The crown prince was received by President Beji Caid Essebsi, who awarded him the republic’s medal, the highest official award. Tunisia has struggled economically and is hungry for foreign funding.

“Tunisia will announce in a few days important deals with Saudi, including a loan with low interest rate, agreements on investment and other important details,” Nourredine Ben Ticha, an advisor to the president, told state television.

Two Tunisian sources – an official and a source close to the discussions between Prince Mohammed and Essebsi – told Reuters that the loan would be worthUS$500 million. They said that the Saudi Development Fund will also finance two projects worth about US$140 million, but did not give more details.

Tunisia is struggling to cut its budget deficit, stabilize falling foreign currency reserves and manage expectations of international lenders demanding reforms such as trimming the public wage bill.

Tunisia’s economy has been in turmoil since autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in a 2011 uprising sparked by anger at unemployment, poverty and record levels of inflation.

Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has aimed to cut the budget deficit to about 4.9 percent of GDP this year from 6.2 percent last year.

The crown prince told Tunisian state television that Saudi Arabia has long had good relations with Tunisia: “I cannot come to North Africa without visiting Tunisia…Tunisia’s president is like my father.”

– Reuters
South Africa's Message on the Occasion of the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
The South African Government joins the international community today in observing the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, as well as in renewing our shared commitment to a just and lasting solution to the Question of Palestine.

The prolonged Palestinian struggle against dispossession and the fragmentation of the State of Palestine has resulted in the aggressive displacement of many Palestinians seeking refuge mainly in the Middle East. In the past decades, civilians have been denied their dignity and fundamental rights to free movement, education, healthcare and even the right to life.

With each passing day, the number of Palestinians in need of humanitarian assistance increases. It has therefore become clear that the conflict between Palestinian and Israel feeds into the wider regional dynamics by having a negative effect on peace, economic development, socio-political progression and security throughout the entire region.

South Africa remains concerned and condemns the continued illegal settlement expansion by Israel which constitute a contravention of international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. The ongoing Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories is a fundamental obstacle to a return to negotiations and a grave threat to the very existence of a future Palestinian state as well as a safe and secure Israel.  South Africa calls for the effective and immediate implementation of resolution 2334 (2016), which reaffirms that Israeli illegal settlements have no legal validity. 

The South African Government believes that the only way to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East is to have a two state solution for Palestine and Israel based on the international recognition and independence of the State of Palestine, based on the 04 June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, functioning within recognized and secure borders and living side-by-side in peace with Israel and its other neighbours as endorsed in the Quartet Roadmap the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

South Africa believes that there can be no military solution to the conflict and that peaceful negotiation is the only means of ensuring lasting peace, security and stability. In this regard, South Africa ecourages the call on all parties in multilateral forums such as the UN, the Arab League and the African Union to negotiate in good faith in order to reach a permanent and just solution.

South Africa welcomes the ceasefire brokered by Egypt between Palestine and Israel on 13 November 2018 following two days of Israel’s aerial attacks on Gaza, making this the most severe flare-up since the 50-day conflict in 2014. We further call for maximum restraint and express the hope that there will be no renewed escalation in Gaza or in any of the occupied Palestinian Territories.

South Africa expresses its deep concern regarding the budgetary shortfall that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) presently faces. We therefore continue to appeal to the international community to continue and increase support and humanitarian assistance to UNRWA, which seeks to restore the dignity of the Palestinian People by improving their living conditions through the provision of emergency relief, health and social services, descent accommodation, and access to education. As a symbolic gesture, South Africa remains committed through its annual financial contribution to UNRWA in order to assist the agency to effectively carry out its mandate in addressing the plight of Palestine refugees.

We reiterate our solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination, as well as our traditional support for a free and sovereign State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital. South Africa believes that ending the occupation is in the interest of both Israel and Palestine, and we call on both parties to take concrete steps to that end.
Burkina Faso: Protest Against Fuel Price Increase
Africa News

Thousands of people demonstrated in Burkina Faso on Thursday against the hike in fuel prices.

The general strike in the capital Ouagadougou, with the slogan “No to the rise of hydrocarbons” was organised by the National Coalition against the Cost of Living.

The first vice-president of the National Coalition to fight Against the High Cost of Living, Chrysogone Zougmoré, said that they had had enough.

We expect the government to make a war effort, in particular by reducing the salaries of ministers paid in millions! by canceling the privileges in water, electricity, luxury vehicles and so on enjoyed by these members of the government.

“Comrades, enough is enough! We say no to this increase in hydrocarbon prices which, inevitably, will have terribly damaging consequences on the populations and especially on the most vulnerable people.”

Since November 9, the price of gasoline and diesel in Burkina Faso has risen by 75 CFA francs per litre, an increase of 12%.

The demonstrators submitted a list of demands to the Minister of Trade Harouna Kaboré.

Chrysogone Zougmoré, expects the government to reduce the slaries and benefits of government officials.

“We expect the government to make a war effort, in particular by reducing the salaries of ministers paid in millions! by canceling the privileges in water, electricity, luxury vehicles and so on enjoyed by these members of the government.”

They also demand a stop to violations of democratic and trade union freedoms and the withdrawal of the draft law which provides serious restrictions on the right to strike adopted by the Council of Ministers.
Terrorism Trial of Cameroon Separatist Leaders Starts Dec. 6
Ten Cameroonian separatist leaders extradited from Nigeria earlier this year will face trial next month on terrorism charges that could lead to the death penalty, one of their lawyers said after a court hearing on Tuesday.

The accused include Julius Ayuk Tabe, the leader of an Anglophone separatist movement in western Cameroon fighting to break away from the Francophone-dominated central government.

Hundreds of people, including civilians, separatist fighters and Cameroonian security agents, have been killed in the past year’s violence, which has emerged as the most serious security threat to President Paul Biya, in power for 36 years.

Ten charges have been brought against them, including terrorism, advocating terrorism, secession, civil war and revolution.

“Ten charges have been brought against them, including terrorism, advocating terrorism, secession, civil war and revolution,” lawyer Christopher Ndong told Reuters after the charges were read out at the capital Yaounde’s military court.

The trial is scheduled to begin on Dec. 6, Ndong added.

Tabe and his co-defendants were among 47 Anglophone Cameroonians arrested in Nigeria and deported to Cameroon in January. The remaining 37 suspects are still being held by the authorities and have not been charged, said Ndong.

Cameroon’s government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

A separatist insurgency gained pace in 2017 following a government crackdown on peaceful protests by Anglophones, who complain of being marginalised by the French-speaking majority.

Violence from both sides of the conflict intensified this year, forcing thousands of civilians to seek refuge in Francophone regions.

Biya, re-elected to a seventh term in October, said in his inauguration speech last month the separatists must lay down their arms or face the full force of the law.

Cameroon regularly sentences people to death but has not carried out an execution in years.

Syrian Air Defenses Intercept an Aggression Over al-Kiswah in Damascus Countryside, Prevent it from Achieving Any Target
29 November، 2018

Damascus, SANA- Syrian army air defense intercepted on Thursday an aggression over the southern region and prevented it from achieving any of its targets.

A military source told SANA that the air defenses intercepted hostile targets over al-Kiswah region and downed them.

Meanwhile, sources added that the Syrian Air defenses foiled the aggression and though its density, it failed to achieve any of the targets as the defenses dealt with all the hostile targets and downed them.

Earlier, SANA reporter pointed out to sounds of explosions in the space of southern region coming from the interception of the Syrian air defenses to a number of the hostile targets.

Syria Shoots Down ‘Israeli War Plane' Near Damascus
Fri Nov 30, 2018 02:25AM

The Syrian military has shot down an Israeli war plane and four missiles over the country’s southern region, reports say.

"Our air defense forces shot down an Israeli war plane and four missiles before they reached the targets," a Syrian security source was quoted as saying by Russia's RIA news agency on Thursday night.

The source said that all of the missiles aimed at the town of Kiswah, south of the capital Damascus, were shot down before landing on their targets.

Other sources reported that objects had fallen from the sky near Harfa village, but it was not clear if it was an intercepted missile or debris from an interceptor missile.

However, speaking to Reuters, an Israeli military spokesman rejected the RIA report as "bogus."

Israeli media claimed that Iranian military advisors as well as fighters from Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah were the main target in the attack.

Hezbollah, which has been working closely with Iran to purge foreign-backed terrorists from Syrian cities, has reportedly established a communications and logistics hub for operations in southern Syria near the Israeli border at the Golan Heights, two senior regional intelligence sources told Reuters.

Israel claims that Iran’s presence in Syria as part of an advisory mission requested by Damascus poses a threat to the regime’s security. Using this pretext, Tel Aviv has struck alleged positions of Iranian and Iran-backed forces across Syria over the course of the seven-year conflict.

The attacks are usually viewed as attempts to prop up terrorist groups that have been suffering defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces.

Israel and the US have even put pressure on Russia, another close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the war against terrorist groups, to chase Iran out of Syria.

In October, Moscow equipped Damascus with the advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles, days after Israeli fighter jets attacking Syrian targets used a Russian surveillance plane flying nearby as a shield and misled the Syrian air defenses to shoot it down.

Since then Israel has been very careful with its operation over Syria.

It is not yet clear whether the S-300s were among the air defense systems used in the Thursday night counterattacks.
Iran Bank Rejects US Claims of Illegal Money Transfer to Iraq
Thu Nov 29, 2018 05:00PM

An undated photo of a branch of Bank Melli Iran in the German city of Hamburg

The Bank Melli Iran (BMI) has dismissed a claim by US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that it has been funneling "billions of dollars" to its Iraqi branch in order to fund militias.

In a statement, Bank Melli said the OFAC 's claim about transferring money for Iraqi militias, which was cited by anti-Iran media outlets a few days ago, is "far from reality and unaccounted for."

Earlier this month, the OFAC sanctioned more than 700 individuals, entities, aircraft, and vessels as part of the US administration's re-imposition of anti-Iran sanctions that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear agreement.

In its press release, the OFAC said it sanctions Bank Melli for "assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of" the IRGC's Quds Force.

"As of 2018, the equivalent of billions of dollars in funds have flowed through IRGC-QF controlled accounts at Bank Melli," the OFAC claimed.

PressTV-US reimposes ‘toughest’ oil, economic sanctions on Iran
The US announces the reimposition of new and strengthened sanctions against Iran in an attempt "to force Tehran to change its behavior to Washington’s liking."
The Iranian bank, however, says the whole money transferred to and withdrawn from its branch in Iraq is far less than the amount claimed by the US Treasury.

"All the activities of the branch are according to the regulations of the Iraqi Central Bank," the bank's statement said.

The Bank Melli branches in regional countries and other parts of the world are operating in accordance with the international trade regulations and the rules of the host countries, the statement noted.

"The activities of these branches ... have been monitored by the central banks in these countries during the past seven decades," the statement said.

The Bank Melli Iran's branch in Iraq was established in 2007 in a professional move and as part of the bank's branch expansion policies, it added.

The branch was established in Iraq in a bid to offer conventional banking services according to legal procedures of the Arab country, the Bank Melli said in the statement. It added that so far, according to the audits of the host country, the bank's performance has been assessed as accurate and well-documented.

"Therefore, the OFAC 's false claim about transferring money for Iraqi militias ... ignores the consistent cultural, historical, social and economic relations between the two countries, and the fact that the huge number of pilgrims commuting between the two states need to use banking services," the statement said.

In its press release, the OFAC claimed the IRGC's Quds Force "has used Bank Melli to dispense funds to Iraqi Shia militant groups, and Bank Melli’s presence in Iraq was part of this scheme."

"Bank Melli has enabled the IRGC and its affiliates to move funds inside and outside of Iran," it added.

Bank Melli Iran is the first national and commercial retail bank of Iran. It is considered as the largest Iranian company in terms of annual income. It is the largest bank in the Islamic world and in the Middle East.

By the end of 2016, BMI had a net asset of $76.6 billion and a vast network of 3,328 banking branches; so it is known as the largest Iranian bank based on the amount of assets.

The Bank Melli has 3,328 active branches inside Iran and 14 active branches and four sub-stations abroad. The first foreign branch of BMI was opened in Hamburg, Germany in 1948.

A recent report by Germany’s business newspaper Handelsblatt claimed that Germany's part state-owned telecom provider Deutsche Telekom had cut off Bank Melli's Hamburg office.

However, Bank Melli announced in a statement that all of its overseas branches remained connected to phone and internet services. 
United States Threatens Iran Amid Resolution to End Support for Saudi War in Yemen
11/29/18 AT 12:31 PM

The United States has warned that conducting military action against Iran is a viable option in dealing with the revolutionary Shiite Muslim power, just one day after senators voted in favor of a measure that would withdraw support for Saudi Arabia.

State Department special representative on Iran Brian Hook hosted a press conference Thursday at Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling in Washington, D.C., where an array of allegedly Iranian weapons and military paraphernalia were on display. Hook argued that Tehran has provided such equipment, which included ballistic missiles, to nonstate actors in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

When asked what next steps could be taken as the White House's hard-line sanctions campaign against Iran failed to force Tehran into compliance, Hook cited a previous statement by President Donald Trump, who promised "swift and decisive action" in the wake of rocket attacks blamed on Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militias against U.S. diplomatic buildings in Iraq. Hook elaborated on what this meant.

"We have been very clear with the Iranian regime that we will not hesitate to use military force when our interests are threatened. I think they understand that. I think they understand that very clearly," Hook said. "I think right now, while we have the military option on the table, our preference is to use all of the tools that are at our disposal diplomatically."

Hook's presentation echoed one held last year by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the same venue. Her conference came shortly after the Zaidi Shiite Muslim group known as Ansar Allah or the Houthis fired a Burkan H2 short-range ballistic missile from Yemen toward Saudi Arabia's King Khaled International Airport last November. Saudi Arabia reportedly intercepted the missile, though the official account has been questioned, as have Iran's alleged role in supplying such weapons and ongoing U.S. support for Riyadh's war in the neighboring war-torn country.

The Houthis ousted former Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in 2015, prompting Saudi Arabia to form a U.S.-backed Arab coalition to begin bombing the rebels, which they accused of being an Iranian proxy group. Riyadh and Tehran have long competed for regional supremacy and legitimacy, with Washington firmly backing the former and providing extensive military assistance to its top weapons export partner, even as reports of civilian casualties mounted.

The conflict has been largely locked in a stalemate, though recent events have shaken U.S. resolve for supporting Saudi Arabia, a longtime ally in the region. Last month, Riyadh's agents killed Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a government critic who fled the kingdom only to be slain in his home country's consulate in Istanbul. The Saudi government has admitted to the operation, but it claimed it was not ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—the country's de facto ruler—though mounting evidence has suggested otherwise.

Still, the Trump administration has stood by the royal, with the president's response largely pivoting the conversation toward Iran and its alleged support for Shiite Muslim militias and acts of terrorism worldwide. Trump admitted last week, "It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of” Khashoggi's slaying, but maintained that military agreements, oil ties and their shared stance against Iran were more important to the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that there was "no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to order the murder of Jamal Khashoggi."

Both officials denied that a classified CIA investigation into the incident had indicted the crown prince, challenging media reports citing sources with knowledge of the matter. However, lawmakers protested and, despite appeals from Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis, senators voted 63-37 to move forward a resolution to ​withdraw U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Reports indicate that at least five of the Republican senators who voted against this measure had received funds from the Saudi lobby in Washington.

Echoing other administration officials' defense of Saudi Arabia, Hook told reporters Thursday that "abandoning Yemen right now would do immense damage to U.S. national security interests and to those of our partners in the Middle East."

The U.S. has argued that the 2015 nuclear deal forged between former President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani emboldened Tehran to increase backing for movements it supports across the region, where frictions between the U.S. and Iran have intensified. In Iraq, Iran has supported Shiite Muslim militias battling the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) alongside the U.S.-backed Iraqi military. In Syria, Iran-backed militias have also fought the jihadis as well as rebel groups on behalf of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while a U.S.-led coalition has bombed ISIS and called for the removal of Assad's government.

Since the White House abandoned the nuclear agreement in May—despite pleas from fellow signatories China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom—Iran adopted a more hostile stance toward the U.S. As new sanctions further choked a struggling Iranian economy and Washington's rhetoric grew increasingly militant, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on his country's armed forces Wednesday to prepare for a potential conflict.

"The Islamic Republic does not intend to start a war with anyone," Khamenei said during a meeting with top naval officials. "However, you need to strengthen your abilities so much so that not only the enemy will fear attacking Iran, but, as a result of unity, might and effective presence of the armed forces in the field—the shadow of intimidation and threats will also go away from the Iranian nation."
CNN Fires Marc Lamont Hill After Comments About Palestine
By NewsOne Staff

Watch the actual address before the United Nations on Wed. Nov. 28, 2018 at the link below:

During a speech at the United Nations on Wednesday, author and activist Marc Lamont Hill spoke out about the treatment of Palestinians in Israel. The comments have received backlash and he has been fired from CNN.

Hill said, “We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grassroots action, local action, and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.”

He also said, “Contrary to western mythology, Black resistance to American apartheid did not come purely through Ghandi and nonviolence, rather slave revolts and self-defense and tactics otherwise divergent from Dr. King or Mahatma Gandhi were equally important to preserving safety and attaining freedom. If we are to operate in true solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must allow the Palestinian people the same range of opportunity and political possibility.”

Hill continued, “If we are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must recognize the right of an occupied people to defend itself. We must prioritize peace, but we must not romanticize or fetishize it. We must advocate and promote nonviolence at every opportunity, but we cannot endorse a narrow politics of respectability that shames Palestinians for resisting, for refusing to do nothing in the face of state violence and ethnic cleansing.”

Some felt like Hill was calling for violence and were offended by the term “from the river to the sea.” Newsweek reports, “‘From the river to the sea’ is a phrase often used by groups, including Hamas, who wish to remove Israel and replace the country with a Palestinian state that would stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”

Hill was challenged with this on Twitter. He responded by Tweeting, “.River to the sea’ is a phrase that precedes Hamas by more than 50 years. It also has a variety of meanings. In my remarks, which you clearly didn’t hear, I was talking about full citizenship rights IN Israel and a redrawing of the pre-1967 borders.”
CNN Drops Commentator After Expressing Solidarity with Palestine
11/29/2018 06:19 PM EST

CNN dropped commentator Marc Lamont Hill on Thursday after he made remarks in support of Palestinian rights that some interpreted as calling for the elimination of Israel.

“Marc Lamont Hill is no longer under contract with CNN,” a network spokesperson told POLITICO.

Speaking at a meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday, Hill called for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” The statement, which many say refers to the boundaries of the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, is a rallying cry by several Palestinian groups, including Hamas, and is viewed by some as calling for the elimination of Israel, which currently occupies those boundaries.

The comments received quick backlash from some pro-Israel organizations, which pointed out that “from the river to the sea” has historically been used by groups actively hostile to Israel. The Anti-Defamation League condemned his comments, as well as the UN meeting, which fell on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

“‘Those calling for “from the river to the sea” are calling for an end to the State of Israel,’” the organization wrote on Twitter, quoting Sharon Nazarian, its senior vice president for international affairs. “It’s a shame that once again, this annual Palestinian event at the UN does not promote pathways to a future of peace & instead promotes divisiveness and hate.”

Hill, a longtime media contributor and a professor of media studies at Temple University, spurned criticism of his comment as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel. In a series of tweets, Hill argued that his statement was calling for a reversal of Israeli policy that he said was harmful to Palestinians, and made no reference to dismantling the state of Israel.

“I did not. I have not. And I would not,” Hill tweeted in response to a tweet claiming he called for the destruction of Israel.

“I support Palestinian freedom. I support Palestinian self-determination. I am deeply critical of Israeli policy and practice. I do not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to my speech. I have spent my life fighting these things,” Hill tweeted.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Madagascar Top Court Confirms Run-off Vote, Incumbent Out
November 28
Africa News

Madagascar’s High Constitutional Court has confirmed that former presidents Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, will contest the second round of the presidential election.

Neither candidate secured 50 percent of votes cast, required to secure an outright victory.

The country’s top court said on Wednesday, Ravalomanana got 35.35 percent of the vote in the November first round, while Rajoelina got 39.23 percent.

I hope and I pray for a change.

“The two candidates cleared to go to the second round are Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana,” Constitutional Court judge president Jean Eric Rakotoarisoa said.

Current president Hery Rajaonarimampianina got just 8.82 percent, the court said, and will not take part in the second round, due on Dec. 19. The court rejected his request to have the election cancelled.

Madagascar is hoping for the second peaceful election since upheaval in 2009 when Ravalomanana was forced out of office by protests led by Rajoelina in what the African Union and other international organisations said was a coup.

The court said total voter turnout was 53.95 percent of the registered voters.

Ravalomanana withdraws fraud complaints

Madagascar’s former president Marc Ravalomanana, who won the first round of the November 7 presidential election, has withdrawn his legal complaints over alleged irregularities, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Neither Ravalomanana nor his arch-rival Andry Rajoelina, won the 50 percent of votes required for a first-round victory in the November 7 ballot. A run-off vote is scheduled for December 19.

“For the peace and sovereignty of Madagascar, the TIM (Ravalomanana’s party) have decided to withdraw all their complaints,” Hasina Andrianadisaona, Ravalomanana’s lawyer, told reporters.

Rajoelina who took 39.19% of the first-round vote against Ravalomanana’s 35.29%, also lodged complaints with the courts and accused election officials of “manipulation”.

The election commission issued a statement in response to Rajoelina’s allegations insisting that it had “ensured the transparency of the electoral system at all times”.

Election result to be challenged

Madagascar’s presidential election result is likely to face stiff legal challenges, following accusations of electoral fraud and corruption against the electoral body.

AFP says appeals have already been lodged with the country’s High Constitutional Court.

Madagascar’s electoral commission announced results on Saturday, confirming an expected presidential election run-off after neither of the candidate obtained the 50% of votes needed to win outrightly.

According to the Independent electoral commission, former presidents Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana, will contest the second round having secured 39.19% and 35.29% respectively.

The outgoing president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, placed third in the polls with only 8.84% of the vote.

The commission said turnout was 54. 3%.

Police urges calm ahead of results

With 96 percent of all polling stations counted, Madagascan police on Friday called for calm, as results showed two former presidents leading the close presidential race; Andry Rajoelina was on 39.38 percent and Marc Ravalomanana on 34.19 percent.

Outgoing president Hery Rajaonarimampianina came in third place with about nine percent.

“The electoral process is at a delicate moment, sensitive to any tensions and rivalries, so all stakeholders are urged to protect the best interests of the nation and to guarantee order,” the police said in a statement.

The three leading candidates have all raised allegations of fraud and malpractice by election authorities.

Thirty-six candidates participated in the first-round election.

The second-round duel between the two top vote winners — required if no candidate scores above 50 percent in the first round — is to take place on December 19.

Partial results point to election run-off

With 80 percent of the ballots counted from last week’s vote, two former presidents are in the lead, with Andry Rajoelina on 39.63 percent, while Marc Ravalomanana was on 35.42 percent, pointing towards a close race for the presidency in the head-to-head second round.

Outgoing president Hery Rajaonarimampianina was in third place with eight percent.

“Given the results of the CENI (Independent National Electoral Commission), the second round is now inevitable,” Madagascan analyst Mahery Lanto Manandafy told AFP.

Under Madagascar’s electoral regulations, the two frontrunners go through to a run-off, scheduled for December 19 — if neither manages to secure more than 50 percent in the first round.

Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were banned from contesting the last election in 2013 under international pressure to avoid a repeat of political violence that engulfed the island in 2009.

Ravalomanana, 68, and Rajoelina, 44, are bitter rivals and this is the first time they have faced each other at the polls.

Ravalomanana ruled from 2002 to 2009 until he was ousted in a military-backed coup that installed Rajoelina who was in power until 2014.

Rajaonarimampianina succeeded him, ruling until earlier this year.

EU approval, incumbent president claims fraud

While Madagascar’s president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who is running for a second term, has complained about some electoral irregularities, the EU observer chief said last Friday that there were not enough irregularities to affect the outcome of Wednesday’s election.

Rajaonarimampianina on Thursday complained against the use of an invalid voter register, delays in the opening of the polls in some places, intimidation and ballot-stuffing.

But the EU’s chief observer Cristian Preda said any irregularities observed so far were not sufficient to change the outcome or call the vote into question.

“We are in a good atmosphere. The disputes are part of the democratic game… it’s normal, it’s human. Disputes must be handled by the law enforcement bodies,” Preda said.

Campaign financing

He however noted that the lack of a cap on campaign spending by the candidates had put some at a disadvantage, without providing any names.

The result of the first round of voting in one of the world’s poorest countries could hinge in part on which of the frontrunners, all wealthy men, spent the most money.

“In 2013, the European Union recommended capping candidate expenses and in future reports, there will still be this recommendation,” Preda said.

As election officials count votes, following Wednesday’s presidential poll, the frontrunners have expressed optimist about their chances of winning.

Incumbent president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, is facing a stiff challenge from two former presidents, Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina.

“I am optimistic and positive, I do not think there will be a second round,” dairy tycoon Marc Ravalomanana said at his political headquarters, where dozens of supporters gathered.

For his part, former nightclub promoter Andry Rajoelina spoke to hundreds of supporters gathered at the studio of his TV chain Viva, saying he was satisfied the early results “express the desire for change.”

Rajaonarimampianina called it “a big day… a victory for democracy” after casting his ballot.

While election observers are hoping for a peaceful election, having detected no anomalies in the polls, some are worried about the possibility of a second round.

“The big risk of this election is that it will return us to an era of crisis,” said Sahondra Rabenarivo, an analyst at the Malagasy Observatory on Public Life.

“It’s very important that the results are credible and that the third-placed candidate accepts them.”

If the poll needs to go to a second round, it will involve only the two top candidates and take place on Dec. 19.

Polls close, issues during voting

Polling stations closed in Madagscar at 5pm local time (14:00GMT), having opened as early as 6am (3:00GMT).

While the head of the European Union’s observer mission, Cristian Preda, reported that there were no issued during the voting, some voters in the capital reportedly could not find their names on the voters’ register.

With close to 10 million registered voters, the electoral body, CENI reported a turnout of 40%.

Vote counting is now underway, in the presidential race that pit incumbent President Hery Rajaonarimampianina against his two main challengers are former heads of state: Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina.

Polls open

The Malagasy people demonstrated enthusiasm as they started voting early on Wednesday morning in a presidential election, hoping for change of the Indian Ocean island’s fortunes in terms of job opportunities, poverty eradication and corruption.

Voter Sahondramalala Nirisoa told Reuters she had arrived early because she needed to get to work.

“I hope and I pray for a change,” she said. “That is why I came to vote.”


There are nearly 10 million registered voters in the country of 25 million people, data from the electoral commission showed.

Few analysts expect an outright winner from the 36 total who are contesting.

All three leading candidates have criss-crossed the island in a hunt for votes and each has pledged to accelerate recovery for an economy the International Monetary Fund forecasts will grow at more than 5 percent this year, its highest rate in a decade.

If the poll needs to go to a second round, it will involve only the two top candidates and take place on Dec. 19.

Since a peaceful election in 2013, investors and donor governments re-engaged following a four-year freeze that began after Rajoelina came to power.

The events of 2009 prompted an exodus of foreign investors from a country that is one of the world’s poorest despite reserves of nickel, cobalt, gold, uranium and other minerals.

The island was hit by a fresh political crisis in April sparked by a legal amendment by Rajaonarimampianina’s government that would have prevented Ravalomanana from standing for office.

Rajaonarimampianina approved a new law removing that provision the following month, allowing Ravalomanana to register as a candidate.
Ethiopia's Oromo Parties Merge
Daniel Mumbere 
Africa News

Ethiopia’s Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), which is part of the ruling coalition has formalised its merger with the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF), which recently returned from exile.

Oromia state president, Lemma Megersa, who is ODP’s deputy chair signed a memorandum of understanding with ODF’s chair, Lencho Leta on Wednesday.

The merger could play a significant role in the Oromia region, where the largest ethnic group (Oromos), have agitated for political power in recent years.

Addisu Arega, ODP’s rural political mobilization head said the two parties will establish a technical committee that will share more details of merging strategy and policy programs.

Electioneering ahead of 2020?

ODP, which is headed by the prime minister is one of four member parties of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Front coalition (EPRDF).

The party, led by prime minister Abiy Ahmed, also agreed to ‘work closely and resolve differences’ with another major opposition party in the region, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).

In September, the OLF, which recently returned from its base in Eritrea to puruse a peaceful struggle, announced a merger with the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC).

OFC was heavily involved during the Oromo protests that rocked the country partly contributing to change in leadership of government earlier this year.

Two of its leaders, Dr. Merera Gudina and Bekele Gerba, became the face of the political struggle as they faced multiple criminal charges and spent long periods in detention. The state has since dropped the cases against them.

The leaders were part of the group of opposition leaders that met Abiy on Tuesday, discussing electoral reforms and means of ensuring a free, fair and credible election in 2020.
Media Advisory: 2018 African Economic Conference “Regional and Continental Integration for Africa’s Development”
What: The 2018 African Economic Conference (AEC) will take place in Kigali, Rwanda, under the theme “Regional and Continental Integration for Africa’s Development”.  The Conference is jointly organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) (

H.E. Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda (TBC)
H.E. Saulos Chilima, Vice-President, Republic of Malawi
H.E. Prof. Victor Harison, Commissioner for Economic Affairs, African Union Commission
Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Director for Africa, UNDP
Ms. Giovannie Biha, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNECA
Mr. Gabriel Negatu, Director General, East Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery Office, AfDB
When:  Monday 3 December 2016 –  Wednesday 7 December 2018

The Opening Ceremony will start on Monday 3 December 2018 at 09:30AM, Kigali time, 7:30AM Abidjan/GMT, 2:30 AM New York.

Where: Marriott Hotel, Kigali

Following the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area for Africa in March 2018, the Conference objective will be advocate for and provide clear policy guidance based on research and best practices for a stronger partnership for faster integration in all its dimensions. It will offer a unique avenue for researchers, policymakers and development practitioners to debate and build knowledge on solutions for continental integration. The debates would focus on using four pillars (Conceptual underpinning of Africa’s integration; Infrastructure and institution for Africa’s integration; Leveraging private sector for Africa’s integration; Partnerships for effective integration) to propel innovative solutions to impediments of Africa’s regional and continental integration.

The Conference will include the following special events:

Accelerating Inclusive Regional Integration (UNDP) on Monday 3 December 2018 (Marriott Hotel, Kigali/Kilimanjaro Ballroom, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM Kigali time.

What Next After the Launch: Implementing the AfCFTA? (Launch of the 2018 Visa Openness Index) on Tuesday 4 December 2018 (Marriott Hotel, Kigali/Kilimanjaro Ballroom, 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM Kigali time.

Launch of the 2018 Africa Sustainable Development Report (AfDB, ECA, UNDP) and the African Governance Report (ECA) on Tuesday 4 December 2018 (Marriott Hotel, Kigali/Kilimanjaro Ballroom, 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM Kigali time.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Development Bank Group (AfDB).
Media Contacts:
UNDP (Kigali): Lamine Bal, +1 646-242-3253
UNDP (Kigali): Gisele Nyampinga, +250 788802595
AfDB (Kigali): Alkassoum Diallo, +225 56 72 55 82
UNECA (Kigali): Ernest Chi, +251 92 990 7768
UNECA (Addis Ababa): Sandra Nyaira, +251 92 911 7895
For more information on the 2018 African Economic Conference, please visit:
Official hashtags: #AEC2018
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About UNDP:
UNDP ( partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspectives and local insights to help empower lives and build resilient nations.

About the African Development Bank Group:
The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) ( is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). On the ground in 38 African countries with an external office in Japan, the AfDB contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states.

About ECA:
Headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa ( was established in 1958 with the mandate of promoting the economic and social development of its member States, fostering intra-regional integration, and promoting international cooperation for Africa's development.