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Burundians await poll results, opposition alleges fraud2 minutes read

Opposition leader Agaton Rwasa said electoral observers from his party were chased away from some polling stations.

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Members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) show voters the empty ballot boxes before opening a polling station during the presidential and general elections in Ngozi, northern Burundi, on May 20, 2020. (Photo by - / AFP)

Burundians are currently awaiting results of the country’s general election held Wednesday which had many voters coming out to cast their ballot despite the threat of coronavirus.

Polling stations had closed across Burundi in a largely incident-free process keenly watched by local and foreign observers.

The polls will usher in the post-Pierre Nkurunziza era. In what could be the first competitive presidential election in Burundi since a civil war erupted in 1993.  5.1 million registered voters chose between Nkurunziza’s handpicked heir and frontrunner, 52-year-old general Evariste Ndayishimiye, main opposition competitor Agathon Rwasa, and five other candidates

Ruling CNDD-FDD party’s candidate, retired General Evariste Ndayishimiye, is running against opposition leader Agathon Rwasa and five others.

But voters also cast ballots for lawmakers and local level representatives. Internet connectivity for social media and messaging apps were blocked early Wednesday morning, a Reuters report said.

Burundians stood in long lines outside polling stations, which opened shortly after 6 am, most centers had hand washing points for people arriving to vote and election officials had some protective equipments in some instances.

After casting his ballot, Nkurunziza praised Burundians for the peaceful conduct of the process which he reiterated had been fully funded with local finances. He also stressed that politics was meant to serve the greater benefit of the populace.

Opposition leader Agaton Rwasa said electoral observers from his party were chased away from the polling stations.

“There is a massive electoral fraud. Our representatives, mandated to follow the electoral process to the end, have been chased. So how can you agree on results counted out of your sights?” he told Reuters.

He said his party’s election observers were chased away from some polling stations.

His National Freedom Council (CNL) party has also accused supporters of the ruling CNDD-FDD party of multiple voting. Neither the electoral commission nor the ruling party has commented on the allegations.

Preliminary results are expected by May 25.

The election took place despite an outbreak of coronavirus. Burundi has so far recorded 42 cases – 21 active cases, 20 recoveries and one death as of May 21, 2020.

Authorities largely ignored protocols by allowing mass rallies to take place despite the World Health Organization’s Africa head openly warning against it.

 There were few international election monitors after the government said they would have to spend 14 days in quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Full results are expected within a week. If no one wins 50% in the first round, then a run-off is held within a fortnight.

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East Africa Politics News

Court sets Tanzanian opposition leader free despite being guilty for sedition

In a written order setting out conditions for Kabwe’s discharge, Magistrate Huruma Shaidi said Kabwe should commit no seditious offence for a period of one year, and if he did, he would be liable to be sentenced for the offence.

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Zitto Kabwe, local lawmaker and head of ACT Wazalendo party.

A Tanzanian opposition leader found guilty of sedition and incitement on accusations that he falsely said some 100 people were killed in clashes between herders and police in his home region in 2018 was on Friday set free by a Dar es Salaam court.

Zitto Kabwe, a local lawmaker and head of ACT Wazalendo party was set free on condition that he refrain from saying or writing anything that would be considered sedition to the government.

Kabwe, who is member of parliament for Kigoma urban constituency, in western Tanzania, was charged in November 2018 with three counts related to incitement after saying that 100 people were killed in clashes between herders and police in the region, a Reuters report said.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At the time, the head of police in Kigoma said just two herdsmen and two officers had died during an operation to stop pastoralists keeping livestock illegally on a government-owned ranch.

Huruma Shaidi, principal magistrate of Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s court in Dar es Salaam, said he found Kabwe guilty on all three counts.

In a written order setting out conditions for Kabwe’s discharge, Shaidi said Kabwe should commit no seditious offence for a period of one year, and if he did, he would be liable to be sentenced for the offence.

Kabwe’s defence lawyers said they were going to appeal the verdict.

“Zitto Kabwe is a politician and we are in the elections period, we are going to appeal this ruling to clear him,” Jebra Kambole, Kabwe’s lead counsel, told reporters outside the court.

Kabwe split away from the main opposition CHADEMA movement in 2015 and is now his party’s only lawmaker.

The East African country has been one of the continent’s most stable, but opposition leaders and rights groups have accused the government of cracking down on dissent – an accusation it dismisses.

Tanzania is expected to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government elections in October.

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UN warns of possible war crimes among Lendu in northeastern Congo

In the six months to April 2020, at least 296 people were killed, 151 wounded and 38 raped, including women and children, mostly by fighters linked to the CODECO rebel group, said a report by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO).

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UN Security Council delegation convoy passes in front of a refugee camp near Bunia, east of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 12 June 2003. United Nations sent a French leaded force to prevent fightings between Hema and Lendu populations and secure the area. Gianluigi GUERCIA (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

The United Nations has cautioned that the widespread and systematic killings, beheadings, rape and other barbaric acts by some militia mostly from the ethnic Lendu community in northeastern Congo may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In the six months to April 2020, at least 296 people were killed, 151 wounded and 38 raped, including women and children, mostly by fighters linked to the CODECO rebel group, said a report by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) on Wednesday.

CODECO’s fighters are drawn from the Lendu ethnic group.

Rich in natural resources including gold, diamonds, oil and coltan, the Ituri province in northeast Congo was the site of some of the country’s worst fighting between 1999 and 2007, after a power struggle between rebel groups descended into ethnic violence, mostly between the Hema and Lendu communities.

After years of relative calm, tit-for-tat fighting erupted again in Dec. 2017, reviving longstanding tensions over land.

The recent attacks against civilians not only targeted the Hema and Alur communities, but included communities previously spared, UNJRHO report said. The raids intensified from March this year, particularly around artisanal mining sites.

“The persistence of this violence is likely to push members of the communities targeted by the attacks, who have so far shown restraint, to form self-defence militias,” UNJRHO said.

“This could increase the likelihood of large-scale inter-communal violence in the region,” a Reuters new report stated.

Since June 2018, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, bringing the number of displaced people in Ituri province to more than 1.2 million, UNJRHO said. On March 25 CODECO’s leader Justin Ngudjolo was killed in an army ambush, leading to a power struggle and split within the group.

“There is a high risk that leaders with more radical positions will emerge and plunge the area into a more serious cycle of violence, with even more attacks against (the army) and civilians,” UNJRHO said in the report.

Murder of Chinese businessmen raise tensions in Zambia

Strong tensions have been rekindled in Zambia, over the brutal murder of three Chinese factory bosses in the country, allegedly killed by disgruntled employees over the weekend.

The local press reported the three victims, who were found dead in their burnt out factory, were killed by aggrieved employees of their textile business in Makeni, a suburb of the capital Lusaka.

Police spokeswoman Esther Katongo on Wednesday said investigations had so far led to the arrest of two suspects, reporting also that they had “retrieved the third body of the Chinese national murdered in Makeni.”

“As government we are saddened by the killing and it’s regrettable, it’s barbaric and I am certain that the police will be on top of things,” Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji told AFP. “This is anarchy.”

The killings come after a campaign by Lusaka Mayor Miles Sampa, to close Chinese-owned businesses, including barber shops and restaurants, after locals complained about discrimination.

The mayor has also targeted his crusade on a number of other Chinese businesses, lambasting them to use English and stop employing only Chinese nationals, saying “apartheid” ended a long time ago.

His altercations with the Chinese went viral on social media, prompting some government officials to denounce his action but he won accolades from many Zambians.

Sampa on Wednesday apologised to Chinese nationals in Zambia for his actions saying “I accept my error in judgement.”

Zambian rights activist Brebner Changala warned of further repercussions as workers did not feel protected from Chinese employers who “want to behave like they are the owners of the country.”

“The unions and the ministry of labour that are supposed to protect them are not and so they have to fend and defend themselves,” Changala told AFP.

According to a United Nations 2019 world population study, an estimated 80,000 Chinese nationals live in Zambia.

China is the largest foreign investor in the landlocked country, having built airports, roads, schools, factories and police stations, fomenting anti-Chinese sentiment with Zambia now heavily indebted to Beijing.

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East Africa Politics News

Malawians escape isolation center after repatriation from South Africa

The 441 Malawians were bussed home on Monday from South Africa, where they were left stranded after the country closed its borders in March to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

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Deserted isolation centre in Blantyre, Malawi. Twiter/@zodiakonline

More than 400 people have escaped from a coronavirus quarantine centre in Malawi’s second largest city, Blantyre, after complaining about its poor state.

The 441 Malawians were bussed home on Monday from South Africa, where they were left stranded after the country closed its borders in March to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

More than a dozen were staying in an isolation centre after testing positive for the virus at the border.

The rest had been quarantined at a soccer stadium, where they were awaiting further test results.

“They have all gone home on their own,” district health officer Gift Kawaladzira told AFP.

“By then, 16 were positive already. Others were waiting for lab results,” he said. “If most of them have COVID-19, then we are facing very difficult times ahead.”

Kawaladzira said his team had mobilised other district offices to track down the escapees.

“The danger is that they will be hiding from authorities and hence cannot follow the set procedures for COVID-19 prevention,” he warned.

Doreen Lemani, who worked as a domestic cleaner in South Africa, said she returned home to Malawi fleeing tough economic conditions under the lockdown, only to be met by chaos in Blantyre.

“They did not provide us with food, and the toilets and showers here are in a horrible state. How did they expect us to stay here?” asked the woman, who was among those who left the stadium.

“We had wilfully offered ourselves to be tested, but this is chaos… Now they are telling us that they can’t find our test results,” the woman told a local TV station.

Malawi has recorded just 101 coronavirus cases so far, including four deaths.

South Africa by contrast has the highest number of infections of the continent, with more than 24,000 cases and 524 fatalities to date.

“I can guarantee you that the repatriation itself caused a lot of the people themselves to get sick,” warned Gama Bandawe, a virologist at the Malawi University of Science and Technology.

“Think about all the security personnel looking after these people, the escapees and the families of people. It’s a very big danger.”

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