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Malawi’s VP and former president Mbanda form coalition against ruling party

VP Chilima has fallen out with President Peter Mutharika, and has teamed up with Banda ahead of the elections

Kathleen Ndongmo

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Malawi Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima delivers a speech to officially launch his party, the United Transformation Movement (UTM) at the Masintha ground in Lilongwe - AFP

Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima and former president Joyce Banda have formed an alliance to take on the ruling party in May elections, a joint statement said Friday.

The opposition alliance does not include the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which came second to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the 2014 elections.

Chilima has fallen out with President Peter Mutharika, and has teamed up with Banda and two other smaller parties ahead of the May 21 vote.

The alliance said it would reveal its presidential candidate on Monday, adding that “there are grounds for a united front among Malawians discontented with the sad state of affairs in this country.”

Mutharika won the last election defeating Banda, who later fled after being embroiled in the multimillion-dollar “Cashgate” corruption scandal.

She returned to Malawi last year, saying the allegations against her were politically motivated. She has never faced any charges.

About half of Malawi’s 18 million population live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank, and the country relies on foreign aid.

Food shortages, power outages and ballooning external debt have hurt Mutharika’s popularity ahead of the vote.

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Politics

Ruling party ahead in partial Mozambique election results

The lopsided nature of partial results published could revive fears over the country’s fragile peace deal

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Partial results for Mozambique’s high-stakes general election were released on Friday, showing President Filipe Nyusi and his ruling Frelimo party headed for a dominant victory.

The National Electoral Commission (CNE) published the incomplete results as the US embassy in the country said its observers witnessed voting irregularities that it said “strains credulity”.

Frelimo, which has ruled the southern African nation for 44 years, had been widely expected to win the presidential, parliamentary and provincial polls held on Tuesday.

But the lopsided nature of partial results published by the National Electoral Commission (CNE) on Friday could revive fears over the country’s fragile peace deal.

According to the CNE’s running website tally, Nyusi won 75 per cent of the 830,000 votes counted so far — just six per cent of the country’s 13 million registered voters — in the presidential election.

The candidate of former rebel group turned main opposition party Renamo, Ossufo Momade, had garnered 20 per cent.

In the last presidential election in 2014, Nyusi won 57 per cent over 37 per cent for Afonso Dhlakama, Momade’s predecessor.

For the parliamentary election, Frelimo was leading with 70 per cent to Renamo’s 22 per cent out of 750,000 votes counted.

Such a crushing win would be a surprise after Frelimo suffered its worst-ever performance at the ballot box last year, winning 51.8 per cent of votes in local elections.

Before the partial results were released, the third biggest party Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) slammed the “shameful electoral process”.

“We confirm that there has been fraud,” the MDM said in a statement on Friday. “These elections were not fair, free or transparent.”

‘Strains credulity’

Also on Friday, the US embassy in the capital Maputo said its observers witnessed numerous irregularities during the election and early vote counting. 

It gave the example of the southern Gaza province, where local observer groups had reported the presence of 300,000 “ghost voters” — names not aligned with real voters — on the electoral roll.

In a campaign marred by violence, perhaps the lowest point came in Gaza, where a prominent election observer was brutally murdered by members of a special police unit.

The US embassy said its teams noted low turnout at numerous Gaza polling station until mid-afternoon, but results posted on Wednesday claimed turnout was close to 100 per cent.

Such results “would have required, in the final hours of the day, a rate of voter processing of such extraordinary alacrity that it strains credulity,” the embassy said in a statement.

While the embassy agreed with other international observers that voting had been relatively well-conducted, it noted a “lack of rigour” during the vote-counting process.

Frelimo and Renamo signed a peace deal in August hoping to move past a long history of conflict, including a 1975-1992 civil war in which nearly a million people were killed.

As part of the agreement, Frelimo agreed to allow the country’s 10 provinces elect governors for the first time.

Renamo had been tipped to win control of between three to five of the provinces, but the one-sided nature of Friday’s partial results could cast doubt on that prediction.

The CNE is expected to announce the result of the provincial elections on Monday.

The final results of all the polls must be published within 15 days of the vote.

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East Africa Politics News

Malawi police probes officers over rape allegations

Rights group, NGO-GCN said that some police officers took advantage of the chaos to sexually assault women

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Malawi police probes officers over rape allegations

Malawi police on Thursday announced the launch of an inquiry into allegations by rights groups that its officers raped and tortured women during demonstrations over presidential election results.   

The usually peaceful southern African country has been gripped by a wave of protests since President Peter Mutharika secured a second term in May.

Riots broke out last week in Msundwe — a trading outpost west of the capital Lilongwe — when opposition supporters blocked a pro-government group from attending a public meeting.

One policeman was stoned to death during the unrest.

Rights group Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) said Thursday that some police officers took advantage of the chaos to sexually assault women in and around Msundwe on the following day.

They urged authorities to “ensure thorough investigation into the following alleged rape, defilement and torture of innocent women and girls”.

Malawi police have since set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations.

“Different professionals…will investigate the matter in a transparent and independent manner,” said police spokesman James Kadadzera in a statement.

“All suspects identified will be treated according to the laws of the land without favour.”

The assaults allegedly took place on October 9 by police officers dispatched to quell the unrest, according to the NGO-GCN.

“Police went to these places on duty because they were in uniform and they used a police car,” said NGO-GCN head Barbara Banda, adding that the officers “threw teargas in every direction”.

“In one instance, the parents of one of the victims was asked to go into another room and the girl was raped.”

Banda told reporters that while three cases of sexual assault had been recorded so far, more could be “unveiled” by the investigation.

Protest organisers Malawi’s Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), also called for the allegations to be investigated.

“It is shocking that we have the police, who are supposed to protect people, abusing and victimizing women,” said HRDC official Gift Trapence.

Protests have flared in Malawi since Mutharika narrowly won May’s presidential election amid widespread allegations of fraud.

Opposition supporters are demanding the resignation of the electoral commission chairwoman, who they accuse of rigging the vote.

Most demonstrations have turned into violent clashes between groups, with security forces firing tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds.

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East Africa News

International election observers flag concerns over Mozambique’s polls

The country voted in general polls on Tuesday after a campaign marked by violence and claims of electoral fraud

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International election observers flag concerns over Mozambique polls

International observers on Thursday said Mozambique’s election was conducted in an “orderly manner”, but expressed concerns about voter registration irregularities and “an unlevel playing field”.

The country voted in presidential, parliamentary and provincial polls on Tuesday after a campaign marked by violence and claims of electoral fraud.

President Filipe Nyusi’s Frelimo party — which has ruled Mozambique since independence in 1975 — is widely expected to again beat its civil war foe, Renamo, a former rebel group turned main opposition party.

Election day was seen as largely peaceful, but tensions have risen with uncertainty over when the results will be released.

The final results must be published within 15 days of the vote, but the electoral commission has indicated a provisional tally — which had been expected on Thursday — would not be issued.

Ignacio Sanchez Amor, leader of the European Union’s OSCE observer mission, said “voting procedures were well-implemented” on election day.

However, he said the fact that there were no observers in almost half of the country’s polling stations “did not contribute to the transparency of the process”.

Amor added that “an unlevel playing field was evident throughout the campaign”.

READ: Mozambique votes in tense election after violent campaign

“The ruling party dominated the campaign in all provinces and benefited from the advantages of incumbency, including use of state resources.”

The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) said it was regrettable that irregularities in voter registration had not been addressed before the vote.

Local non-profit observer groups had reported the presence of 300,000 “ghost voters” — names not aligned with real voters — on the electoral roll in the southern Gaza province.

“Key aspects of the process such as the security challenges, voter registration, the campaign and selective accreditation of citizen observers posed challenges to the integrity of the elections,” said EISA Mozambique head and former Ghana President John Dramani Mahama. 

Former Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said the Commonwealth’s observer mission “remained concerned about the impact” of the suspected ghost voters on the election.

However, observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had no such concerns.

READ: Mozambique’s Renamo party says members attacked after peace deal

“The pre-election and the voting phases of the 2019 electoral processes were generally peaceful and conducted in an orderly manner,” said Zimbabwean Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, the SADC observer head.

The election has been seen as a key test of the peace deal sealed in August between Frelimo and Renamo, which fought a brutal 1975-1992 civil war.

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