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Mauritians go to polls in first post-Anerood ballot2 minutes read

He faces two opponents who say his appointment to the country’s top job amounted to little more than nepotism

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Mauritians go to polls in first post-Anerood ballot
Mauritian women check their names on a list before casting their votes for the parliamentary election at Soopaya Soobiah Government School in Reduit, Mauriitus, on November 7, 2019. - Nearly a million voters are registered for the parliamentary election in Mauritius, a stable democracy in the Indian Ocean. (Photo by Beekash ROOPUN / L'Express Maurice / AFP)

Mauritians on Thursday have their first chance to decide if Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth should continue to rule since he was hand-picked for the job when his father stepped down more than two years ago.

Nearly a million voters are registered for the parliamentary election in Mauritius, a stable democracy in the Indian Ocean. The more than 300 polling stations opened at 0600 local time (0200 GMT) and are due to close at 1800.

Jugnauth succeeded his father Anerood Jugnauth as Prime Minister without a popular vote when the older man stood down in 2017, two years ahead of schedule.

The 57-year-old is asking voters to judge him on his short time in office, pointing to his record on modernising public infrastructure and economic reforms in the former British colony.

But he faces two opponents who say his appointment to the country’s top job amounted to little more than nepotism.

The ballot marks the first opportunity for Mauritians to choose whether he deserves a mandate. Counting begins Friday, with results expected later that day. 

Observers expect a smooth election in the prosperous country of 1.3 million that has evolved from a poor, agriculture-based economy, to one of Africa’s wealthiest nations and financial services hub.

Campaigning lasted for a furious two weeks, with Mauritius bedecked in the flags and colours of the warring parties.

Mauritius, comprised of four volcanic islands roughly 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) off the eastern coast of Africa, is predominantly Hindu but has sizeable Christian and Muslim minorities.

New alliances –

For the first time in decades, three distinct political blocs will vie for power in the legislative elections. New alliances could be likely if none can clinch an absolute majority.

READ: Mauritius sets legislative elections for November 7

Jugnauth heads the centre-right Morisian Alliance, Navin Ramgoolam, a two-time former premier leads the centre-left National Alliance and one of his former allies, Paul Berenger, is going out alone with his Mauritian Militant Movement.

Berenger, who briefly served as prime minister between 2003 to 2005, has also denounced dynastic politics and accused Jugnauth of presiding over “scandals of all kinds”.

The Prime Minister has banked on the strength of the Mauritius economy — it grew 3.8 per cent in 2018 — and key reforms such as introducing a minimum wage and hiking pensions.

Mauritius has increasingly come under fire for helping global companies avoid paying taxes and was until October on a European Union watch list.

General unemployment, while low compared to the rest of the continent, also remains high among youth at 22 per cent, and inequality is seen to be rising.

Voters have to choose 62 MPs — 60 from the main island of Mauritius, and two from Rodrigues, a small island some 600 kilometres to the east.

The Electoral Commission then appoints eight other representatives from among those not elected, but who received a high number of votes, to rebalance the distribution of seats between parties and communities in the national assembly.

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East Africa News

Aston Villa sign Tanzania captain Mbwana Samatta

27-year-old becomes first Tanzanian to play in the English Premier League

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English Premier league side Aston Villa have completed the signing of Tanzanian striker Mbwana Samatta for £10m on a four-and-half-year deal, subject to a work permit and international clearance.

The 27-year-old scored 10 goals for Genk in all competitions this season including a goal against Liverpool at Anfield in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Villa manager Dean Smith hailed the signing “I’m really pleased we have managed to bring Mbwana to the club, he has scored goals throughout his career and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

Samatta makes history as the first Tanzanian to play in the Premier League but will be unavailable for Villa’s home match against Watford on Tuesday.

Samatta who is captain of the Tanzanian national side expressed his joy at making the move “I’m so excited, it’s a huge step for me in my career. It’s a big step for the country too. Everyone was looking for a Tanzanian to play in the Premier League.

“I know a lot about Aston Villa. I used to watch Gabby Agbonlahor when he was here.”

Samatta is Villa’s third signing of the January transfer window following loan signings of midfielder Danny Drinkwater from Chelsea and goalkeeper Pepe Reina from AC Milan.

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East Africa News

One US citizen, four Africans arrested by Kenyan Police for spying for Al-Shabaab

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Three men and two women have been arrested by Kenyan security forces for preparing a terror attack in Nairobi, a police report seen by AFP on Sunday showed.

The report stated that the group comprising three men — a US citizen, a Somali and their Kenyan driver — and two Somali women were believed to be on a reconnaissance mission for an attack in the north of the capital, the report dated Saturday said.

Police received information on Friday saying that “suspected terrorists” were carrying out a surveillance operation at a pub on Kiambu Road, a spot popular for its many bars and nightclubs.

Kenyan security forces have been on high alert since the Somali Al-Shabaab group, close to Al-Qaeda, stepped up attacks in the east of the country this month, threatening to target more Kenyan and US interests.

On January 5, the Somali Al-Shabaab group attacked Camp Simba, killing three Americans and destroying several aircraft and warning Kenya to withdraw its forces from Somalia while they still “have the chance”.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission fighting against Al-Shabaab, and has seen several brutal retaliation attacks both on its troops in Somalia and civilians in Kenya.

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Tanzania goes digital to woo Chinese tourists

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Tanzania is going digital in its quest to attract more Chinese tourists to the country.

Addressing tourism players and investors in Arusha this past week, Tanzania’s ambassador to China, Mbelwa Kairuki says the country should meet Chinese tourists on its own turf-which is online.

 Kairuki says the embassy is creating an online booking platform specifically for promoting Tanzania’s tourism services in China, which will host a reservation and booking app, Chinese social media apps and offer marketing and advertising space. 

Tourism investors will be expected to pay for the platform for at least, six months.

China is more technologically advanced than Tanzania, although the government has banned WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter and developed its own unique platforms such as WeChat, Weibo and QQ.

WeChat, which is synced with financial and translation services, is China’s top social media platform.

Tanzanian companies will therefore be expected to have WeChat QR codes on the website.

All tourism players in Tanzania are expected to market themselves through the website.

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