Kinshasa, Jan 14(AP/UNB) — Congo's neighbors are calling for a vote recount in the disputed presidential election and suggesting the formation of a government of national unity to avoid possible instability.
The statements by the southern African and Great Lakes regional blocs put new pressure on the government of outgoing President Joseph Kabila to find a peaceful and transparent solution to a growing electoral crisis in one of Africa's largest and most mineral-rich nations.
The declared presidential runner-up, Martin Fayulu, filed a court challenge over the weekend asking for a recount. He points to figures compiled by the influential Catholic Church's 40,000 election observers that found he won 61 percent of the vote.
Fayulu accuses Kabila of making a backroom deal to declare as the winner opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, who came in a distant second according to the Catholic Church's results. Kabila is suspected of making a backroom deal to alter the results in order to protect his vast assets from Fayulu's anti-corruption efforts. Congo is a major source of the minerals central to smartphones and electric cars worldwide.
Congo's electoral commission has said Tshisekedi won 38 percent of the vote and Fayulu 34 percent. It later announced that Kabila's ruling coalition had won a majority in legislative and provincial elections, which would constrain any attempted reforms by Tshisekedi if he takes power.
The disparity in the ruling coalition's results in the presidential and other elections has raised questions in a vote also troubled by the malfunctioning of voting machines, polling stations that opened hours late and the last-minute decision to bar some 1 million voters in two communities affected by a deadly Ebola outbreak.
The Great Lakes statement issued overnight expressed "deep concern" about the various challenges to the official results, and urged Congolese authorities to be more transparent in the interest of the country's stability.
It followed a similar statement by the influential Southern African Development Community, which includes regional powers South Africa and Angola and rarely challenges countries' election results.
The statements by African groups may to have more influence with Kabila's government, which was annoyed by Western pressure over two years of turbulent election delays as many worried that Kabila was seeking a way to stay in power.
Fayulu's opposition coalition welcomed the new regional stance. "It would be dangerous not to support the democratic process," he said in a Twitter post.
Congo's 80 million people have been largely peaceful since the Dec. 30 vote but at least a dozen people have been killed in protests. Internet service, cut the day after the vote, remains off.
Abuja, Jan 12 (Xinhua/UNB) - Three people have been confirmed killed in an accident on southern Nigeria's Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the busiest inter-state route in the country, the local road safety police said on Saturday.
A passenger bus somersaulted many times along the 127 km expressway, causing 11 others to sustain varying degrees of injury on Friday.
Clement Oladele, a sector commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in the country's southwest region, told reporters that the somersault was preceded by excessive speed, a tyre burst, and the bus driver's subsequent loss of control.
The official said the injured victims were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, adding the remains of the dead victims were also deposited at a government-owned morgue.
The Lagos-Ibadan expressway connecting Ibadan, the capital of Nigeria's southwestern state of Oyo and the commercial hub Lagos, is also the major route to the northern, southern and eastern parts of Nigeria.
Cairo, Jan 12 (AP/UNB) — As violent anti-government protests enter their fourth week, Sudan appears headed toward political paralysis, with drawn-out unrest across much of the country and a fractured opposition without a clear idea of what to do if their wish to see the country's leader of 29 years go comes true.
Even for a country that looks unwieldy when its's not tearing itself apart, President Omar al-Bashir's years at the helm have turned Sudan into a cautionary tale — from genocide and bloody rebellions to ethnic cleansing, starvation and rampant corruption.
But Sudan has been hard to rule way before al-Bashir seized power in a 1989 military coup. Protest leaders say a whole new start is needed if the country is to stand any chance of progressing.
"There may be very few people out there who still support this regime, the way it governed or its use of an Islamic narrative," said Othman Mirghani, a prominent Sudanese analyst. "The conclusion reached by the people is that this regime must be brought down and the search start for a modern Sudanese state based on contemporary values."
Here is a look at where things stand after more than three weeks of protests, which claimed at least 40 lives.
POLITICS VS. MILITARY RULE
The military and democratically elected governments have taken turns ruling Sudan since independence in 1956, with coups bringing the generals to power, only to be brought down eventually by popular uprisings. The only exception was in 1986 when the army honored its promise to hand over the reins to an elected government a year after it seized power.
The military has been the dominant force in Sudan since independence and, analysts and activists say. Al-Bashir hails from the military, but he has sidelined the army as the country's main fighting force, replacing it with loyal paramilitary forces he created.
That has frustrated middle and lower ranking officers, in large part because the state's largesse has gone to the paramilitary forces and security agencies, not them.
Since the current protests began Dec. 19, the military twice stated its support for the country's "leadership" and pledged to protect the people's "achievements." Neither time did it mention al-Bashir by name.
Army troops have deployed to protect vital state installations but have not tried to stop protests and, in some cases, appeared to offer a measure of protection for the demonstrators.
All that raises the possibility the military could take over again and remove al-Bashir. But many fear the Sudan Rapid Forces, a 70,000-strong, well-armed paramilitary force of tribesmen allied with al-Bashir, could respond by stepping in, whether to protect the president or install someone of their own.
Curiously, the 74-year-old al-Bashir said Tuesday he would not mind if he is replaced by someone from the military.
Egyptian Sudan expert Hany Raslan said that "in any normal country, al-Bashir's comments would have been interpreted as part of a transfer of power, but that is Sudan and he is most likely just trying to curry favor with the military."
If Sudan's stretches of military rule brought suppression of freedoms and human rights violations, its brief democratic spells — 1956-1958, 1964-1969 and 1986-1989 — were defined by their ineffectiveness. Traditional parties like the Umma and Democratic Union governed, but their failure to build a modern state and put the economy on solid footing paved the way for the next military takeover.
AL-BASHIR'S ISLAMIC MODEL
Al-Bashir seized power with the backing of the military and Islamists, who then formed the bedrock of his rule. For the past three decades, his National Congress Party — dominated by hardline Islamists — has had a lock on government and dominated the economy.
The leadership has styled itself as bringing Islamic rule by Shariah to Sudan and styled its past wars as "jihad," whether against southerners or against insurgents in the western Darfur region. Al-Bashir often denounces "secularists" as Sudan's worst enemies and touts his long rule as proof of God's support.
Critics, however, say the Islamist ideology has largely become a veneer for a political machine that allows al-Bashir's relatives, loyalists, politicians and businessmen to amass wealth by their links to the government.
"It is not an Islamic experiment, it is an experiment that uses religious slogans as a cover for practices that have nothing to do with Islam," said Mirghani, the Sudanese analyst.
But even if al-Bashir goes, his cadres and other loyalists will still have considerable power and are likely to resist major change, backed by a religious rhetoric that can still rally some in the population to their side.
When past popular uprisings succeeded, the elected governments that followed were chiefly built around the Umma and Democratic Union parties.
These two traditional parties are now weak and fractured. Moreover, their political discourse is also immersed in religion, something which does not resonate with many in the new generation of mainly young street activists loyal to liberal parties and professional unions or those acting independently.
"It will be a misguided step if we publicly describe ourselves as liberals or secularists, but what we are looking for is policies that are essentially liberal while not blatantly contrary to Islamic teachings," said a 26-year-old protester. "We need a government of technocrats. We are done with the traditional parties," she said, speaking on condition she not be named for fear of reprisals.
The activists and analysts say the weakness of opposition groups is a direct product of al-Bashir's divide-and-rule tactics, constantly luring senior politicians away from their parties with lofty promises of national unity and a shot at positions that they can abuse for personal gain.
The protesters often chant "freedom, peace and justice" and "the people want to bring down the regime" — the latter the chief slogan of the Arab Spring revolts of 2011. But there isn't a clear path for reaching their ambitions.
"There is no doubt that there will be big changes as a result of these protests, but they will never be of the magnitude that Sudan needs," said another activist, who also did not want to be named.
"Al-Bashir could resign or be removed by the army, but the Islamists have the power to reorganize and regain power," she said.
Ouagadougou, Jan 11 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Twelve people were killed and two others injured Thursday in a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso's northern province of Soum, the country's security ministry announced late Friday in a statement.
The attack was perpetrated by around 30 armed individuals in broad daylight and targeted people who had gathered for a weekly market in the village of Gasseliki, according to the statement.
The attackers reportedly ransacked stores and opened fire on people.
No individual or group has claimed responsibility.
The country's parliament on Friday voted to extend a state of emergency in several northern provinces by six months as attacks have been surging in recent months.
The west African country has witnessed a deterioration in its security situation since 2015. More than 270 people, including members of the defense and security forces, have been killed in terrorist attacks.
Congo, Jan 12 (AP/UNB) — The ruling coalition of Congo's outgoing President Joseph Kabila has won a large majority of national assembly seats, the electoral commission announced early Saturday, while the presidential election runner-up was poised to file a court challenge alleging fraud.
The national assembly majority sharply reduces the chances of dramatic reforms under the declared presidential election winner, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi. The election runner-up, Martin Fayulu, has accused Tshisekedi of a backroom deal with Kabila to win power in the mineral-rich nation as the ruling party candidate did poorly.
Congolese face the extraordinary situation of a presidential vote allegedly rigged in favor of the opposition. "This is more than an electoral farce; it's a tragedy," the LUCHA activist group tweeted Saturday, noting the ruling party majority in both national assembly and provincial elections.
Fayulu, a businessman who has been vocal about cleaning up widespread corruption, is filing the court challenge on Saturday.
His opposition coalition on Friday said he won 61 percent of the vote, citing figures compiled by the Catholic Church's 40,000 election observers across the vast Central African country. The figures show Tshieskedi received 18 percent, the coalition said.
The church, the rare authority that many Congolese find trustworthy, has said its figures showed a different winner from the one officially declared. In remarks to U.N. Security Council on Friday, the church urged the electoral commission to release its detailed vote results for public scrutiny.
The commission has said Tshisekedi won with 38 percent of the vote while Fayulu received 34 percent.
This could be Congo's first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, but observers have warned that a court challenge could lead to violence. Some Fayulu supporters have worried that the constitutional court could invalidate the results, keeping Kabila in power until a new election.
There are two options, electoral commission president Corneille Nangaa told the Security Council: The official results are accepted or the vote is annulled.
"Even if Tshisekedi's presidency survives these court challenges, he will be compromised beyond repair and reliant on Kabila, whose patronage network controls most of the country's levers of power, including the security forces," professor Pierre Engelbert, a fellow with at the Atlantic Council's Africa Center, wrote on Friday.
The Dec. 30 election came after more than two turbulent years of delays as many Congolese worried that Kabila, in power since 2001, sought a way to stay in office to protect his sprawling assets.
Statements by the international community, including African regional blocs, have not congratulated Tshisekedi, merely taking note of official results and urging against violence.
Congo's 80 million people have been largely peaceful since the vote, though the U.N. peacekeeping mission has reported at least a dozen deaths in protests in Kwilu province, with authorities noting demonstrations in Kisangani and Mbandaka cities.
Internet service has been cut off across the country since election day.
Tshisekedi had not been widely considered the leading candidate. Long in the shadow of his father, the late opposition leader Etienne, he broke away from the opposition's unity candidate, Fayulu, to stand on his own.
After election results were announced, Tshisekedi said Kabila would be an "important partner" in the transition.
Fayulu, who was backed by two popular opposition leaders barred by the government from running, is seen as more of a threat to Kabila's interests.
The difference between Tshisekedi and Fayulu in official results was some 684,000 votes. One million voters were barred from the election at the last minute, with the electoral commission blaming a deadly Ebola virus outbreak. Elsewhere, observers reported numerous problems including malfunctioning voting machines and polling stations that opened hours late.
The presidential inauguration will be on Jan. 22, the electoral commission said Saturday.