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Congo Opposition Candidate Dies Of COVID-19

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Congo Opposition Candidate Dies Of COVID-19

Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, the Republic of Congo opposition candidate has died of Covid-19.

He died while being transferred to France for treatment, his campaign director said Monday, the day after presidential elections in which he was the main challenger.

Kolelas was seen as the main rival to veteran leader Denis Sassou Nguesso, who was expected to win Sunday’s vote.

The election was boycotted by the main opposition amid an internet blackout, with critics voicing concerns over the transparency of the polls seen as tilted towards Sassou Nguesso.

Kolelas “died in the medical aircraft which came to get him from Brazzaville on Sunday afternoon,” his campaign director Christian Cyr Rodrigue Mayanda told AFP.

The sixty-year-old tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday afternoon, and was unable to host his last campaign meeting in Brazzaville.

On Saturday, he posted a video from his sickbed, declaring he was “battling against death”.

“Rise up as one person… I’m fighting on my deathbed, you too fight for your change,” he urged his supporters, saying the election was “about the future of your children”.

Mayanda called on supporters of Kolelas to rally at 11 am local time (1000 GMT).

“We’ll continue to count the ballots. He was ahead in a number of areas,” he said.

Kolelas came second in the presidential election of 2016, picking up 15 per cent of the vote according to official results.

READ ALSO: Police Arrest Invader Of Home Of Igboho’s Mother

He had pledged to release the two candidates from that vote sentenced in 2018 to 20 years in prison for “undermining state security”, former army general Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko and ex-minister Andre Okombi Salissa.

He was the only serious contender left facing the president on Sunday after a string of boycotts, withdrawn candidacies and exclusions. Provisional election results are not expected for days.

There were no reports of major incidents before polling stations closed, but AFP correspondents said access to the internet and social media, as well as text messages, was cut.

In some areas voters complained that their names weren’t on the electoral list.

“The only uncertainty is what score Mr Sassou will tell the electoral commission to give him,” said Congolese novelist Emmanuel Dongala, contacted by AFP at his US home.

Sassou Nguesso, 77, a former paratrooper, first rose to power in 1979 and has since accumulated 36 years in office, making him one of the world’s longest-serving leaders.

Speaking after he cast his ballot, Sassou Nguesso said that the “atmosphere of peace” during the election campaign — marked by police crackdowns on the opposition — was “a good sign for our democracy”.

But when asked about security when election results are announced, a moment that triggered a wave of violence at the last vote in 2016, he responded: “I’m not God”.

Shops were closed and only security vehicles were seen in Brazzaville city centre during voting.

The largest opposition group, the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy or UPADS, is boycotting the poll in which some 2.5 million people are eligible to vote. UPADS — the group of former president Pascal Lissouba, who died in France last August — is the only opposition party to have a parliamentary group in the current national assembly.

“Overall, the Congolese shunned the ballot box,” said rights activist Brice Makosso.

“The polling stations were empty.” Flanked by its giant neighbour the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Gabon, the former French colony has abundant oil reserves and most of its budget comes from petroleum revenue.

But its economy is in a slump, hurt by a collapse in world crude prices, long-standing debt, and the pandemic, as well as a reputation for corruption.

Sassou Nguesso campaigned on agricultural development and portrayed himself as a defender of Congo’s youth — the average age of the population of five million is just 19, according to UN figures.

After first coming to power in 1979, Sassou Nguesso was forced to introduce multi-party elections in 1991 and was defeated at the ballot box a year later.

But he returned to power in 1997 following a prolonged civil war. He has won every election since, which the oppositions have mostly slammed as fraudulent.

A constitutional amendment in 2015, which ended a ban on presidential candidates aged over 70 and scrapped a two-term limit, allowed him to run again in 2016. [AFP]

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Sudan Coup Attempt Fails

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Sudan Coup Attempt Fails

A coup attempt in Sudan reportedly failed early Tuesday.

Top military and government sources told AFP that the attempt involved a group of officers who were “immediately suspended” after they

“failed” to take over the state media building.

“There has been a failed coup attempt, the people should confront it,” state television said, without elaborating.

Senior member of Sudan’s ruling body, Taher Abuhaja, said “an attempt to seize power has been thwarted.”

Another senior ruling body member, Mohamed al-Fekki said: “Everything is under control and the revolution is victorious.”

Traffic appeared to be flowing smoothly in central Khartoum, AFP correspondents reported, including around army headquarters, where protesters staged a mass sit-in that eventually led to Bashir’s ouster in a palace coup.

Security forces did however close the main bridge across the Nile connecting Khartoum to its twin city Omdurman.

Sudan is currently ruled by a transitional government composed of both civilian and military representatives that was installed in the aftermath of Bashir’s April 2019 overthrow and is tasked with overseeing a return to full civilian rule.

READ ALSO: German Lawmakers Quiz Merkel’s Likely Successor Over Corruption Charge

The August 2019 power-sharing deal originally provided for the formation of a legislative assembly during a three-year transition, but that period was reset when Sudan signed a peace deal with an alliance of rebel groups last October.

More than two years later, the country remains plagued by chronic economic problems inherited from the Bashir regime as well as deep divisions among the various factions steering the transition.

The promised legislative assembly has yet to materialise.

The government, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, has vowed to fix the country’s battered economy and forge peace with rebel groups who fought the Bashir regime.

In recent months, his government has undertaken a series of tough economic reforms to qualify for debt relief from the International Monetary Fund.

The steps, which included slashing subsidies and a managed float of the Sudanese pound, were seen by many Sudanese as too harsh.

Sporadic protests have broken out against the IMF-backed reforms and the rising cost of living, as well as delays to deliver justice to the families of those killed under Bashir.

On Monday, demonstrators blocked key roads as well as the country’s key trade hub, Port Sudan, to protest the peace deal signed with rebel groups last year.

AFP

 

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German Lawmakers Quiz Merkel’s Likely Successor Over Corruption Charge

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German Lawmakers Quiz Merkel's Likely Successor Over Corruption Charge

A top contender for Angela Merkel’s office as chancellor will on Monday face an investigation into an anti-money laundering agency overseen by his ministry.

The appearance of Finance Minister, Olaf Scholz, the frontrunner in the race to succeed Merkel, before the German parliament’s finance committee comes less than a week before Germans go to the polls in national elections on September 26.

MPs from opposition parties will have the opportunity to ask Scholz questions via video link after the finance and justice ministries were raided by prosecutors on September 9 as part of a probe into the Cologne-based Financial Intelligence Unit.

The body, part of Germany’s customs authority tasked with tackling money laundering, is suspected of failing to report potential wrongdoing to the relevant authorities.

Merkel’s conservative bloc has seen a steady decline in opinion polls under unpopular candidate Armin Laschet, allowing Scholz’s centre-left Social Democratic Party to grab a late polling lead.

“Nerves at the SPD are shredded” at the prospect that the scandal could have an impact on the party’s poll ratings, according to German weekly Der Spiegel.

But prosecutors are also under scrutiny over the timing of their raids.

READ ALSO: ECOWAS Gives Guinea Military Deadline To Restore Democracy

The under-pressure conservatives have seized the opportunity to attack Scholz for his involvement in the controversy.

In a televised election debate last Sunday, Laschet said the result of the finance minister’s actions was that “supervision had failed” and accused Scholz of trying to brush the issue under the carpet.

In response, Scholz distanced himself from the unit, saying the raids “had nothing to do with the ministries”, and accused Laschet of asking “dishonest” questions.

Scholz has previously been criticised for the failure of his ministry to heed early warning signs from the payments company Wirecard, which collapsed last year after acknowledging a 1.9-billion-euro ($2.2-billion) hole in its accounts.

The finance minister appeared in front of a parliamentary inquiry into Wirecard earlier this year, where he denied responsibility for the collapse of the company.

On the campaign trail, Scholz has defended his response to Wirecard, saying that he has led an effort to strengthen Germany’s financial watchdog in the aftermath.

“We did what we had to do,” Scholz said when confronted with accusations in a televised debate.
Scholz has also come under fire over Germany’s “cum-ex” tax fraud saga, a complicated share dividend scam that went on for years and is estimated to have cost the state some 5.5 billion euros.

The former mayor of Hamburg has denied putting pressure on the city’s tax authorities after meeting with the owner of a bank implicated in the scandal in 2016.

 

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ECOWAS Gives Guinea Military Deadline To Restore Democracy

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ECOWAS Gives Guinea Military Deadline To Restore Democracy

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has ordered the Guinean military to restore democracy in the country after its coup against the civilian government.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, stated this yesterday while representing President Muhammadu Buhari at the Extraordinary Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS member-states on the political situation in the Republics of Guinea and Mali, which held in Accra, Ghana.

According to the communique issued at the end of the extraordinary summit, ECOWAS leaders have resolved to freeze the financial assets of members of the military junta, place a travel ban on them, while also demanding that the junta return Guinea to constitutional rule within six months.

READ ALSO: ECOWAS Suspends Guinea Over Military Coup

At the last summit of ECOWAS leaders which held virtually on September 8, Nigeria, also represented by VP Osinbajo, condemned the coup de‘tat in Guinea, calling for an unconditional release of President Alpha Conde, and for stringent measures on Guinea’s military junta.

At the Accra summit, Prof. Osinbajo restated Nigeria’s position, urging the unconditional release of President Condé and calling for more pressure to be put on the country’s military leaders to return the nation to democratic rule.

The vice president said : “It is also important that ECOWAS should simply insist that there should be an immediate return to civil rule.”
Calling for more stringent measures to be taken by the sub-regional body, Prof. Osinbajo said “we must make sure that sanctions by ECOWAS achieve the intended objectives.”

The vice president restated the call to engage global bodies and Africa’s development partners in taking steps to prevent such unconstitutional change of government in countries on the continent.

He said: “In this connection, I think we should engage all well-meaning stakeholders including the Africa Union, European Union, United Nations, developmental partners, and financial institutions to join in taking more stringent measures by imposing travel bans and freezing of offshore financial assets of the coupists and their collaborators to ensure that they do return the country to democracy immediately.”

 

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