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Jubilation in Malawi over court-ordered sack of President Mutharika3 minutes read

The country’s constitutional court on Monday ordered a fresh vote within 150 days after it annulled the May election result over widespread irregularities.

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FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Malawi's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) celebrate in the streets of Blantyre, on May 27, 2019, following President Peter Mutharika's re-election. - The final count of the vote was released after a court battle, with opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera obtaining a temporary injunction to bar the release of results over alleged vote-rigging. Shortly after the interdict was lifted, the Malawi Electoral Commission said Mutharika, who heads the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), won 38.57 percent of the vote with Chakwera, of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), on 35.41 percent. The polls were on Monday annulled by the Constitutional Court which ordered a rerun (Photo by AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP)

The sack of Malawi’s incumbent President Peter Mutharika following the court annulment of the polls that brought him to power made several opposition supporters to jubilate overnight after news of the landmark ruling that ordered a rerun filtered through the streets.

The country’s constitutional court on Monday ordered a fresh vote within 150 days after it annulled the May election result over widespread irregularities, including the use of correction fluid on results sheets.

It had been feared that the verdict would stoke turmoil in the normally peaceful southern African country but there were scenes of jubilation overnight as opposition supporters chanted anti-Mutharika songs in the streets, sporadically setting off fireworks in the two largest cities Blantyre and Lilongwe, an AFP report said.

“It is a good time to be alive in Malawi. We have demonstrated that democracy does and can work in Africa. And this victory is not for us, it is for generations to come,” said Lameck Hango, who celebrated with his friends in the capital Lilongwe.

Another Lilongwe resident, Johnson Banda, said he was “very happy with this judgement”. 

“It’s a true indication that Malawi has true democracy and we really appreciate our court judgement.”

The Nation newspaper led with the headline “Null and void”, while the Daily Times blared “It’s fresh election”.

Businesses and shops re-opened on Tuesday after they pulled down their shutters the previous day fearing an outbreak of violence following the verdict.

– ‘The beauty with democracy’ –

Mutharika, 79, will remain president until the new election because he was in power before the now-invalidated 2019 result. 

He has the right to appeal the verdict and has six weeks in which to do so.

The main opposition Malawi Congress Party, which led the court challenge, hailed the ruling as “a very fair judgement” that had “set a precedent” for future elections.

Mutharika supporter Chimpele Tsamwa was less pleased.

“The judgement is not what I expected nor wanted — but then all in all we trust the courts and have to go with what they have said. That’s the beauty with democracy,” he told AFP.

In a historic ruling the five judges concurred that “the irregularities and anomalies have been so widespread, systematic and grave… that the integrity of the results has been seriously compromised”.

The court said only 23 percent of the results sheets had been able to be verified.

The judges said that the results announced by Malawi’s Electoral Commission “cannot be trusted as a true reflection of the will of the voters”.

“We hold that the first respondent (Mutharika) was not duly elected as president of Malawi on May 21, 2019,” ruled lead judge Healey Potani.

Neither the ruling party nor the presidency have commented on the verdict.

But Mutharika has repeatedly dismissed opposition accusations that the poll was rigged and shrugged off doubts over the official results.

– ‘Respect the decision’ – 

Sporadic protests have broken out across the country since the election in May, when Mutharika was declared the winner by a narrow margin, with 38.5 percent of the vote.

Runner-up Lazarus Chakwera, who lost by just 159,000 votes, said he was robbed of victory and took the matter to court.

The case gripped the nation, keeping Malawians glued to their radios for hours on end as witnesses presented evidence of alleged vote-rigging during six months of hearings.

It is the first time a presidential election has been challenged on legal grounds in Malawi since independence from Britain in 1964.

The outcome echoes a historic decision by Kenya’s judiciary to annul presidential election results over claims of widespread irregularities in 2017.

International powers have sought calm.

“We call upon all Malawians to respect the decision of the court and to adhere to the path outlined in Malawi’s constitution and electoral laws, including on the right to appeal,” said Tibor Nagy, the top US diplomat for Africa.

The European Union said in a statement that it “stands ready to accompany Malawi on the way ahead in view of preserving the unity and democratic credentials of the country”.

Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC party also welcomed the ruling.

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Board of Governors agree to independent probe of AfDB President, Adesina

The ethics committee of the continental bank, headed by Takuji Yano, had in its report last month cleared Adesina of all sixteen counts saying he was was not guilty of all the charges but the United States remained unconvinced.

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President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina in an undated photo.

After weeks of review and consultation, the Bureau of Board of Governors of the African Development Bank Group has bowed to US pressure and approved an independent investigation of the allegations against the President of the Bank, Akinwumi Adesina.

“Based on the views of some Governors on the matter and the need to carry every Governor along in resolving it, the Bureau agrees to authorize an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors relative to the allegations considered by the Ethics Committee and the submissions made by the President of the Bank Group thereto in the interest of due process”, a communique from the Board of Governors said Thursday.

The decision, taken at the meeting of the Bureau on Thursday regarding the whistle-blowers’ complaints against Adesina, is in deference to the demand by the U.S. government that a fresh and in-depth investigation be conducted into the allegations against Adesina using an independent investigator, Premium Times, a Nigerian daily reported having access to the resolution on Friday.

On May 5, the ethics committee of the continental bank, headed by Takuji Yano, said in its report that Adesina was not guilty on all counts.

Yano is a Japanese executive director charged with the responsibility of investigating allegations by some concerned employees against the Bank’s president.

The committee described the allegations that Adesina violated the code of conduct of the institution as “spurious and unfounded”.

Regardless, the United States government expressed “deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process” and called for a fresh “in-depth investigation of the allegations.”

– Why fresh probe is required –

At the end of its meeting Thursday, the Bureau of Board of Governors issued a communique, agreeing with the U.S and authorizing an independent review of the ethic committee’s report.

The communique, signed by the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Boards of Governors, Niale Kaba, reads,

“The Bureau reiterates that it agrees that the Ethics Committee of the Boards of
Directors performed its role on this matter in accordance with the applicable rule under Resolution B/BG/2008/11 of the Board of Governors.

“The Bureau also reiterates that the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Board of
Governors performed her role in accepting the findings of the Ethics Committee in accordance with the said Resolution.

“However, based on the views of some Governors on the matter and the need to carry every Governor along in resolving it, the Bureau agrees to authorize an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors relative to the allegations considered by the Ethics Committee and the submissions made by the President of the Bank Group thereto in the interest of due process.

“The Independent Review shall be conducted by a neutral high calibre individual with unquestionable experience, high international reputation and integrity within a short time period of not more than two to four weeks maximum, taking the Bank Group’s electoral calendar into account.

“The Bureau agrees that, within a three to six month period and following the independent review of the Ethics Committee Report, an independent comprehensive review of the implementation of the Bank Group’s Whistle-Blowing and Complaints Handling Policy should be conducted with a view to ensuring that the Policy is properly implemented, and revising it where necessary, to avoid situations of this nature in the future.”

The AfDB President is yet to react to the latest decisions by the Board of Governors. But he has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

On a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, Mr Adesina, a former Nigerian Minister for Agriculture, said the 16 allegations raised against him were trumped up, “and without facts, evidence, and documents, as required by the rules and regulations of the bank.”

He added that the Ethics Committee of the bank cleared him of all the allegations, and that calls for a fresh investigation by the United States of America, were against the rules.

“My defence ran into 250 pages, and not a single line was faulted or questioned,” he said.

“The law says that report of the Ethics Committee should be transmitted to the Chairman of Governors of the bank. It was done, and the governors upheld the recommendations.

“That was the end of the matter, according to the rules. It was only if I was culpable that a fresh investigation could be launched.

“I was exonerated, and any other investigation would amount to bending the rules of the bank, to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.”

While stressing that the motive was to soil his name, and that of the bank, the AfDB President said he was proud to be Nigerian, and thanked President Buhari for his unflinching support.

Nigeria is the largest shareholder of the African Development Bank with 9.1 percent shares.

– Allegations against Adesina –

In its petition, the concerned staff accused Mr Adesina of 20 breaches of the bank’s code of conduct, including “unethical conduct, private gain, an impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, and involvement in political activities.”

The group, which noted their allegations were in line with AfDB’s whistle-blowing policy, said these activities adversely affected the confidence and integrity of the bank.

Nigeria, Adesina’s home country, had last week countered the US by insisting that such a request for an independent investigation could not be granted by the Board of Governors as AfDB’s corporate governance code contains no such provision for an external “independent outside investigator”.

Nigerian authorities then began lobbying for Adesina after receiving satisfactory intelligence briefing that the AfDB president was the victim of a witch-hunt by the Americans.

“The call for an independent investigation of the president is outside of the laid down rules, procedures and governing system of the bank and its articles as it relates to the code of conduct on ethics for the president,” Zainab Ahmed, Nigeria’s Finance minister wrote in a letter to AfDB’s Board of Governors where it denounced the plans to circumvent the bank’s internal procedures.

Ahmed asked the AfDB to “uphold the rule of law and respect the governance systems of the bank” and if there was need for improvement, it should be done according to laid down procedure. She then highlighted all Adesina’s projects and achievements which she noted did not warrant such an attack on his career.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, in a letter to former African presidents also canvassed support for Adesina, saying he had taken the bank to a great height since he took the position in the last five years.

Adesina, “has actively positioned (AfDB) as an effective global institution ranked fourth globally in terms of transparency among 45 multilateral and bilateral institutions,” Obasanjo wrote to 13 former heads of state including Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia and Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia.

The U.S. became a member of the African Development Fund in 1976 and of the African Development Bank in 1983. Also, its bilateral cooperation with the bank has been strengthened through cooperation agreements.

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Court rejects Burundian opposition bid to annul poll results

The panel of judges said the CNL had failed to provide sufficient evidence and ruled the complaints were “null and void”, validating Evariste Ndayishimiye’s victory with 68.7 percent of the vote.

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Presidential Candidate and Leader of opposition National Freedom Council (CNL), Agathon Rwasa

Burundi’s constitutional court has rejected an opposition bid to overturn the results of the May 20th presidential election, declaring the ruling party’s candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye the winner.

The opposition National Freedom Council (CNL), headed by Agathon Rwasa, had alleged the May 20 general election was riddled with fraud and irregularities, including intimidation of voters, the arrest of opposition polling agents, ballot stuffing and proxy voting. 

However the panel of judges said the CNL had failed to provide sufficient evidence and ruled the complaints were “null and void”, validating Ndayishimiye’s victory with 68.7 percent of the vote.

Rwasa’s share of the vote was given at 24.18 percent while opposition party UPRONA won 1.63 percent.

The ruling CNDD-FDD won 86 seats in parliament and the CNL 32, while UPRONA won two. Three seats are constitutionally reserved for the minority Twa ethnic group.

The ruling party’s information secretary Nancy Ninette Mutoni on Twitter hailed a turnout of 87.71 percent of 5.1 million registered voters.

Heavily armed police were deployed around the country’s main city Bujumbura for the court’s ruling.

The CNL appeared resigned to an outcome it had predicted.

“We were not expecting a miracle, despite the massive fraud and numerous irregularities that we presented to the court and despite the Catholic Church’s report,” party secretary general Simon Bizimungu told AFP.

“We are not surprised, because the court system is not independent in Burundi.”

Burundi’s Catholic Church said last week its observers stationed at polling centres across the country also witnessed ballot box tampering, officials harassing and intimidating voters, and proxies registered “in place of dead people and refugees”.

Foreign observers were not allowed to oversee the electoral process.

A joint statement issued by western diplomats made no reference to any irregularities and urged the opposition to pursue legal paths to contest the election outcome.

“The elections took place in a highly repressive environment with no independent international observers,” said Lewis Mudge of Human Rights Watch in a statement on Monday.

“Reports of killings, arbitrary arrests, beatings, and voter intimidation during the campaigns should not be brushed under the rug.”

One voter told the rights watchdog that the feared youth wing of the ruling party, known as the Imbonerakure, which the United Nations has described as a militia, were inside the voting station “telling people to vote for the CNDD-FDD.”

– Challenges ahead -Ndayishimiye, 52, a former army general who was handpicked by ruling party elites to succeed veteran President Pierre Nkurunziza, will be sworn in in August for a seven-year mandate.

Nkurunziza will step aside after 15 tumultuous years. His controversial bid to stand for a third term in 2015 sparked violence and a major political crisis which left at least 1,200 dead and saw 400,000 flee the country.

The regime tightened its grip on the country, and allegations of rights violations by security forces have soared in recent years.

Ndayishimiye is described by those who know him as more open-minded than many in the ruling CNDD-FDD party, and is not associated with the worst abuses of recent years.

However observers say he did not stand out as trying to rein in the violence that erupted after the 2015 election.

He is set to inherit a deeply isolated country, under sanctions and cut off by foreign donors, its economy and national psyche damaged by years of political violence and rights violations.

A first major challenge is likely to be the coronavirus outbreak until now largely ignored in the country, which has taken few measures to combat it, with authorities claiming God is protecting Burundi from its worst ravages.

The country has officially recorded 63 cases and one death, however doctors in Bujumbura speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity say many cases and deaths are going unreported.

Burundi’s first lady Denise Bucumi is currently in a Nairobi hospital after being evacuated last week, with a high-ranking government official and a source in the presidency confirming she had tested positive for the virus. 

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Health

Bitter sweets: Madagascar minister fired over candy plan

Minister Rijasoa Andriamanana said last week she was ordering $2.2 million worth of sweets to go with the Covid-Organics concoction, which some experts have warned is useless against COVID-19.

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Madagascar MPs investigated for corruption.
President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar.

Madagascar’s education minister was sacked Thursday after announcing a plan to buy sweets for students to take the edge off the “bitter taste” of a herbal tea the president says is a coronavirus remedy.

Minister Rijasoa Andriamanana said last week she was ordering $2.2 million worth of sweets to go with the Covid-Organics concoction, which some experts have warned is useless against COVID-19.

She told the press that “a purchase of sweets and lollipops” had been made, with all students in the Indian Ocean island nation to receive three each.

She added that it was for the “bitter taste” of the drink, which President Andry Rajoelina has been promoting for export, saying it is the country’s “green gold” which will “change history”.

The potential benefits of Covid-Organics, have not been validated by any scientific study. 

That such expense was going to sweets in one of the world’s poorest country’s sparked outrage, fanned by the Malagasy press, and the order was cancelled.

The minister defended the plan, but it was not considered by the cabinet, which relieved her of her duties in a dry statement.

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