Ex-general Mohamed Ould Ghazouani was declared the official winner Monday of presidential elections in Mauritania that opposition candidates claim were unfair.
The Constitutional Council, the final authority on Mauritania’s founding law, rejected an opposition challenge and confirmed the CENI electoral commission’s announcement that Ghazouani had won the June 22 poll with an absolute majority of 52 per cent.
He will on August 2 officially take over the presidency from close ally Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is stepping down after serving the maximum two five-year terms.
On Friday, Ghazouani hailed the beginning of “democratic pluralism” in the country. The election represented Mauritania’s first democratic transition of power since independence from France in 1960.
But on Sunday night, the four opposition candidates denounced alleged election fraud.
There were some polling stations where Ghazouani officially “won 100 per cent or more” of the vote, claimed candidate Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, who officially received just over 18 per cent of the vote.
The opposition’s own analysis showed Ghazouani could not have taken more than 48.5 per cent overall, the candidates told journalists at an opposition campaign office re-opened after it was closed by police last week.
Claiming hundreds of people were arrested in a crackdown on post-poll protests, the opposition had lodged an appeal to void the result with the nine-member Constitutional Council.
That challenge was rejected on Monday for “insufficient proof,” according to the council, whose premises have been guarded by military vehicles since last week’s CENI announcement that Ghazouani had won.
“The electoral system in Mauritania has improved much,” and “continues to improve with each election,” said council president Bathia Mamadou Diallo.
Following the vote, police raided opposition party headquarters, clashed with opposition supporters, and announced last week they had arrested more than 100 foreigners accused of working with domestic opposition parties to destabilise the country through protests.
There was also a three-day internet blackout.
Rights groups accuse Mauritania’s government of restricting freedom of expression and assembly and call for the nation to do more to counter violence against women and slavery, which persists despite its official abolition in 1981.
Ghazouani campaigned on the themes of continuity, solidarity and security, and has been congratulated on his election by countries including France, Morocco, Algeria, Mali and Saudi Arabia.
“The security of the country comes before everything else,” the former armed forces chief (2008-2018) told a political rally on June 22, his face plastered countrywide on campaign posters, caps, T-shirts and even the bodywork of cars.
Since 2011, jihadist attacks in Mauritania have stopped. This degree of security in a nation of the Sahel region, a frequent target of jihadists, is widely attributed to Ghazouani’s firm guidance of the defence force.
He is also a former director general of the national security agency.
During the campaign, Ghazouani promised to “end inequalities and disparities among the different components of society”.
Russia, Turkey, France agree to stop meddling in Libyan conflict
The talks however failed to deliver “serious dialogue” between the warring parties — strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj — or to get both sides to sign up to a permanent truce.
The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France including other world leaders have committed to ending all foreign meddling in Libya’s civil war at a Berlin summit held Sunday, and to uphold a weapons embargo as part of a broader plan to end the long-running civil war.
The world powers signed up an agreement to stop interfering in the Libyan civil war whether through weapons, troops or financing, an AFP report said.
But the talks failed to deliver “serious dialogue” between the warring parties — strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj — or to get both sides to sign up to a permanent truce.
“Ensuring that a ceasefire is immediately respected is simply not easy to guarantee,” said summit host Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“But I hope that through today’s conference, we have a chance the truce will hold further.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged that there are “still some questions on how well and effectively” the commitments can be monitored.
But he said he is “optimistic that there will be less violence and… an opportunity to begin the conversation that (UN special envoy) Ghassan Salame has been trying to get going between the Libyan parties”.
Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
Most recently, Sarraj’s troops in Tripoli have been under attack since April from Haftar’s forces.
Clashes have killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters and displaced tens of thousands, until a fragile ceasefire backed by both Ankara and Moscow was put in place on January 12.
Although Sarraj’s government is recognised by the UN, powerful players have broken away to stand behind Haftar — turning a domestic conflict into what some have described as a proxy war in which international powers jostle to secure their own interests.
Alarm grew in recent weeks after Turkey ordered in troops to shore up Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).
– ‘Small step’ forward -UN chief Antonio Guterres said the world powers had made “a strong commitment to stop” the conflict escalating into a regional confrontation.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed to some positive takeaways from the talks, but said the summit failed to launch necessary talks between Sarraj and Haftar.
“It is clear that we have not yet succeeded in launching a serious and stable dialogue between them,” Lavrov told reporters after the conference, where Haftar and Sarraj did not meet face to face.
Nevertheless, the Libyan parties had taken “a small step” forward, Lavrov added.
Pro-Haftar forces upped the ante on the eve of the talks by blocking oil exports at Libya’s key ports, crippling the country’s main income source in protest at Turkey’s decision to send troops to shore up Sarraj.
In afternoon trade on Asian markets Monday, oil prices rose more than one percent on supply concerns following the move.
– Vested interests -The flaring oil crisis underlined the devastating impact of foreign influence in the conflict, in which Sarraj’s GNA is backed by Turkey and Qatar while Haftar has the support of Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Ahead of the talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Haftar, saying he needed to drop his “hostile attitude” if Libya is to have any chance at winning peace.
Russia has been accused of sending in mercenaries to help Haftar as Moscow seeks to extend its influence in the region — allegations it denies.
For Turkey, the fall of Sarraj’s GNA could jeopardise a maritime boundary agreement the parties signed. It gives Ankara extensive rights over the eastern Mediterranean where the recent discovery of undersea gas reserves has triggered a scramble by littoral states.
Erdogan has repeatedly urged Europe to stand united behind Sarraj’s government, warning that Tripoli’s fall could allow jihadist groups like the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda to regroup.
Further unrest could prompt a new wave of migrants to head for Europe, he has cautioned.
Amid the latest apparent ceasefire violation — according to GNA forces Sunday, Haftar’s militia opened fire on them in southern Tripoli — Sarraj issued a plea for international “protection troops”.
The call echoed a similar suggestion by the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell, who stressed that monitors must be present to check that any ceasefire and weapons embargo are respected.
With the idea gathering pace, Britain and Italy had voiced readiness to help, ahead of an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday that will discuss how the bloc can contribute to implementing Sunday’s deal.
But as Guterres noted, that discussion remains premature.
“First, we need to have a ceasefire — we cannot monitor something that doesn’t exist.”
UN envoy warns ‘foreign interference’ is destroying Libya
Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Ghassan Salame on Saturday warned international players to stop meddling in the Libyan conflict as ‘foreign interference’ was destroying the North African country.
Salame spoke with AFP on the eve of a summit of world powers scheduled for Sunday in Germany to try to bring peace to Libya and its people.
“All foreign interference can provide some aspirin effect in the short term, but Libya needs all foreign interference to stop. That’s one of the objectives of this conference,” Ghassan Salame said in an interview ahead of the Berlin summit.
Leaders of Russia, Turkey and France are due to join talks in Berlin on Sunday held under the auspices of the United Nations, which wants to extract a pledge from foreign powers wielding influence in the region to stop meddling in the conflict — be it by supplying weapons, troops or financing.
Both leaders of the warring factions — strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj — are also expected at the first gathering of such scale on the conflict since 2018.
Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi and toppled his regime.
More recently, Sarraj’s troops in Tripoli have been under attack since April from Haftar’s forces, with clashes killing more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters and displacing tens of thousands.
– ‘Vicious cycle’ -Although Sarraj’s government is recognised by the UN, some powerful players have broken away to stand behind Haftar — turning a domestic conflict into what is essentially a proxy war with international powers jostling to secure their own interests from global influence to oil and migration.
Alarm grew internationally when Ankara ordered in troops early January to help shore up Sarraj, while Moscow is suspected of providing weapons, financing and mercenaries to Haftar — something Russia has denied.
“We must end this vicious cycle of Libyans calling for the help of foreign powers. Their intervention deepens the divisions among the Libyans,” said Salame, noting that the place of international players should be to “help Libyans develop themselves”.
The UN envoy said Sunday’s meeting will also seek to “consolidate” a shaky ceasefire.
“Today we only have a truce. We want to transform it into a real ceasefire with monitoring, separation (of rival camps), repositioning of heavy weapons” outside urban zones, he said.
The UN had sought on multiple attempts to bid for peace, but talks have repeatedly collapsed.
– Erdogan issues warning -On the eve of the Berlin talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Europe to stand united behind Sarraj’s government, as Tripoli’s fall could leave “fertile ground” for jihadist groups like IS or Al-Qaeda “to get back on their feet”.
Erdogan also played up Europe’s fears of a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis in his commentary for Politico news website, that further unrest could prompt a new wave of migrants to head for the continent.
Accusing France in particular of siding with Haftar, Erdogan said leaving Libya to the general would be a “mistake of historic proportions”.
France has denied it was backing Haftar. But a diplomatic source noted that the fact that the general already controls 80 percent of Libya needed to be taken into account.
The European Union is watching with growing alarm at the escalating strife on its doorstep as it counts on Libya as a gatekeeper deterring migrants from crossing the Mediterranean.
New Sudan intelligence chief resumes amidst tension among operatives
The Transitional Council which runs the country also accepted the resignation of General Abu Bakr Dumblab, who previously headed the NISS.
Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council has appointed General Jamal Abdul Majeed as the new head of the General Intelligence Service, formerly known as National Intelligence and Security Service, NISS.
Until his appointment, Majeed had previously headed the country’s military intelligence, a council statement said on Thursday.
The council which runs the country also accepted the resignation of General Abu Bakr Dumblab, who previously headed the NISS.
Dumblab resigned “to open the door for a new leadership to take over the agency at this sensitive and delicate stage,” the intelligence service said in statement.
Dumblab had become head of the service after the removal of Bashir, a Reuters report said.
Majeed’s appointment came days after putting down an armed revolt by former agents linked to toppled ruler Omar al-Bashir, the sovereign council said.
The army said two soldiers were killed and four wounded in fighting late on Tuesday in Khartoum with former members of the country’s once-feared security service before government forces quelled the uprising.
It was the biggest confrontation so far between the old guard and supporters of the transitional authorities, which helped topple Bashir in April after 30 years in power.
Former agents of the intelligence service, who had been protesting against their severance packages, also shut two small oilfields on Tuesday.
The military took control of the two fields, which have an output of around 5,000 barrels a day, and production resumed on Wednesday.
The revolt also forced the authorities to close Sudan’s airspace but it was reopened on Tuesday.
In a speech early on Wednesday, the sovereign council head, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, vowed to stand firm against any coup attempt and added that the army was in control of all buildings used by the intelligence service.
Restructuring the security apparatus, blamed by many Sudanese for suppressing dissent under Bashir, was a key demand of the uprising that had forced his removal. However, once dismissed by the new transitional government, many of the security agents returned to barracks without handing in their weapons.
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