Cairo, Jan 10 (AP/UNB) — Sudanese activists say two protesters have been killed in clashes between police and demonstrators calling on longtime President Omar al-Bashir to step down.
The activists said on Thursday the two were killed the previous day in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, where hundreds tried to march on parliament to submit a note demanding that al-Bashir resigns. They said eight were injured.
The activists said police used tear gas and fired in the air to disperse the protesters on Wednesday, the latest such clashes in three weeks of anti-government demonstrations initially sparked by price rises and shortages.
Police said late Wednesday they were investigating reports that three people might have been killed in the Omdurman clashes.
Al-Bashir has said those who want to remove him can only do so through elections.
Kinshasa, Jan 9 (AP/UNB)— Anti-riot police with water cannon and armored vehicles surrounded Congo's electoral commission on Wednesday ahead of the delayed announcement of the results of the presidential election.
Residents of the capital, Kinshasa, said the heavy security presence was a bad sign, with some recalling the violence that followed past disputed elections.
It "may be a message that the publication (of the results) won't meet the expectations of the Congolese people," resident John Kabamba said.
The first results could be announced as early as Wednesday. Police installed metal barriers and blocked traffic outside the electoral commission as it continued meetings that began late Tuesday to discuss the results compiled so far.
The preliminary results of the Dec. 30 vote had been expected on Sunday, but the commission indefinitely delayed the announcement, to the frustration and growing suspicion of many Congolese. Some said the delay is allowing manipulation in favor of the ruling party.
"Seeing all these barriers, it proves that (the commission) doesn't need or doesn't want to give us the name of the person who was elected," said Kinshasa resident Beni Babutu.
The vast, mineral-rich Central African country is choosing a successor to departing President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001. He backs ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who is under European Union sanctions for a crackdown on Congolese protesting two years of election delays while he was interior minister.
Leading opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, a Kinshasa lawmaker and businessman, has urged the electoral commission to announce the true results as quickly as possible and warned it not to "play with fire, it is very dangerous." He said the delay is to "fudge the results" and warned that his coalition would release its own figures if the official ones are in doubt.
Spokesmen for both Shadary and the other top opposition candidate, Felix Tshisekedi, have indicated that their candidates won. Tshisekedi's party on Tuesday called him the "presumed winner" and indicated that he has had contact with Kabila "to prepare a peaceful and civilized transfer of power." Kabila adviser Kikaya Bin Karubi, however, denied any such contact.
The government has cut internet service since the day after the election to prevent speculation on social media about who won, and blocked some radio stations.
The United States, African Union, European Union and others have urged Congo's government to make sure the election results conform to the will of the people. Western pressure likely has little effect, however, as Congo's government has rejected what it calls interference and expelled the EU ambassador days before the vote. Western election observers were not invited.
Many have seen this election as Congo's first chance at a democratic, peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960. But one Congolese election observer group, Symocel, on Tuesday reported "major irregularities" including the disappearance of envelopes containing results from nearly 120 polling stations in Kinshasa, an opposition stronghold.
Congo's powerful Catholic Church has said it found a clear winner from data compiled by its 40,000 observers deployed to all polling stations. Voting regulations prohibit anyone but the electoral commission from announcing results. The church has urged the commission to announce accurate ones.
Congo's ruling party responded angrily, calling the church's announcement "anarchist," and the electoral commission accused the church of "preparing an uprising." The church replied by saying that only the release of false results would incite an uprising.
Electoral commission president Corneille Nangaa has said authorities were aware that "this process has always been surrounded by distrust."
He blamed the delay on opposition parties' insistence that results be counted by hand and not transmitted electronically via voting machines, which Congo used for the first time. The machines were the focus of much concern, with the opposition and observers saying they could open the door to manipulating results.
Cairo, Jan 9 (AP/UNB) — Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday rejected calls for him to step down as hundreds took to streets in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman in a march to the national legislature to deliver a note demanding that he quit office.
The developments were the latest in three weeks of anti-government demonstrations that have engulfed Sudan.
Al-Bashir told a gathering of several thousands of supporters in the capital that he is ready to step down only "through election."
There "are those who conspire against Sudan and seek to attack it. There are no other options but national dialogue and elections," he said in televised comments as supporters chanted "there is no alternative to al-Bashir."
"The decision is the decision of the Sudanese people through the ballot box," added al-Bashir, who then briefly danced on the stage.
Also at the rally, al-Bashir, in power since he led an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, advised opposition parties to prepare for the elections in 2020. His supporters arrived in packed buses for what was the largest rally in Khartoum in support of the president since the protests erupted.
On Tuesday during a visit to a military base in the railway city of Atbara, al-Bashir blamed violence during anti-government protests on conspirators, the state SUNA news agency quoted him as saying — conspirators who "planted traitors among us."
Atbara is a traditional bastion of dissent and one of several cities where anti-government demonstrations began Dec. 19, initially over rising prices and shortages but which quickly shifted to calls for al-Bashir to step down.
As al-Bashir spoke at the Khartoum rally, hundreds of protesters in Omdurman chanted, "revolution is the people's choice" and "freedom, dignity and justice."
Police used tear gas and fired in the air to disperse them before they could deliver their note to the legislature. There were no reports of casualties.
Sudan's Parliament is packed with al-Bashir's loyalists, who are campaigning to amend the constitution to allow the general-turned-president, already one of the longest serving leaders in the region, to run for a new term in 2020 elections.
SUNA reported in August that the country's ruling party has nominated al-Bashir for re-election in 2020.
Sudan's economy has stagnated for most of al-Bashir's rule. He has also failed to unite or keep the peace in the religiously and ethnically diverse nation, losing three quarters of Sudan's oil wealth when the mainly animist and Christian south seceded in 2011 following a referendum.
Critics say rampant corruption is eating up a significant part of government funds and engineering shortages of basic items to manipulate prices. The protesters have been chanting against the "government of thieves."
Authorities have said that 19 people died in the three weeks of protests, while Human Rights Watch said Tuesday at least 40 people have been killed since the protests erupted. Sudan's Interior Minister Ahmed Bilal Othman told lawmakers on Tuesday that police have arrested 816 people.
Libreville, Jan 7 (AP/UNB) — Soldiers in Gabon have appeared on state television saying they have launched a coup to "restore democracy" in the West African country.
Early Monday a soldier who identified himself as Lt. Obiang Ondo Kelly, commander of the Republican Guard, read out a statement saying the military has seized control of the government. He was flanked by two other soldiers holding weapons and all were dressed in camouflage uniforms and green berets.
A curfew has been imposed over the capital, Libreville, and the internet has been cut. The city on the Atlantic Ocean coast is being patrolled by military tanks and armed vehicles. No violence has been reported.
President Ali Bongo, in power since 2009, has been out of the country since October amid reports that he had a stroke. He recently addressed the country in a New Year's message that was filmed in Morocco, where he has been receiving medical treatment.
Oil-rich Gabon has been ruled for more than half a century by Bongo and his father, Omar, who died in 2009. Critics have accused the family of profiting from the country's natural resources while not investing enough in basic services for the population of more than 2 million.
In his brief New Year's speech, the 59-year-old Bongo declared that the country was "indivisible" and acknowledged his health problems without giving details. "A difficult period," he called it, and a challenge that he surmounted "thanks to God." He promised to put all of his efforts into improving the daily quality of life for Gabon's people.
The French-educated Bongo, who was the country's defense minister before becoming president, narrowly won re-election in 2016 while opposition rival Jean Ping claimed irregularities and continues to call himself the country's real president.
Kinshasa, Jan 6 (AP/UNB) — The announcement of the results of the Congo's presidential election has been postponed, the country's top electoral official said.
The winner of the Dec. 30 election will not be made public Sunday as expected, the head of the national electoral commission Corneille Nangaa told The Associated Press. The electoral commission will confirm the delay later Sunday.
The postponement in announcing the winner may increase tensions, as some Congolese see it as a way for President Joseph Kabila's ruling party to manipulate the results in order to cling to power.
The Catholic Church, an influential voice in this strongly Catholic nation, said that it already knows there is a clear victor, according to data reported by its 40,000 election observers deployed in polling stations. The church urged the electoral commission to announce accurate results.
As regulations say only the electoral commission can announce election results, the church did name the winner. The government has already cut internet access across the vast Central African country to prevent any speculation on social media about who might have won the election.
Congo faces what could be its first democratic, peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960. Election observers and the opposition have raised concerns about voting irregularities as the country chooses a successor to longtime ruler Kabila, although a landslide win by one of the opposition candidates could remove any doubts that the election was skewed to the ruling party's candidate.
The United States and the African Union, among others, have urged Congo to release results that reflect the true will of the people. The U.S. has threatened sanctions against those who undermine the democratic process. Western election observers were not invited to watch the vote.
While Congo has been largely calm on and after the Dec. 30 vote, President Donald Trump informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that about 80 military personnel and "appropriate combat equipment" had been deployed to neighboring Gabon to support the security of U.S. citizens and staffers and diplomatic facilities. More will be deployed as needed to Gabon, Congo or neighboring Republic of Congo, he wrote.
Ahead of the vote, the U.S. ordered "non-emergency" government employees and family members to leave the country.
Congo's ruling party, which backs Kabila's preferred candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, has called the church's attitude "irresponsible and anarchist."
Leading opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, a businessman and lawmaker, has accused Congolese authorities of impeding his campaign. His campaign manager, Pierre Lumbi, on Saturday accused the electoral commission of being "in the process of postponing the publication of the results."
The delay is because of the slow compilation of the results by electoral officials. By Friday evening, the commission had compiled only 44 percent of results, said Jean-Pierre Kalamba, who said the process had been slowed by the requirement that only manually counted ballots could be used.
At stake is a vast country rich in the minerals that power the world's mobile phones and laptops, yet desperately underdeveloped. Some 40 million people were registered to vote, though at the last minute about 1 million voters were barred by the electoral commission which cited a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in eastern Congo. The eastern region is an opposition center and critics said the disenfranchisement of voters there undermines the election's credibility.
The presidential election took place more than two years behind schedule, while a court ruled that Kabila could stay in office until the vote was held. The delay led to sometimes deadly protests as authorities cracked down, and Shadary is now under European Union sanctions for his role in the crackdown as interior minister at the time.
Kabila, who took office in 2001 after his father was assassinated, is barred from serving three consecutive terms but has hinted that he could run again in 2023. That has led many Congolese to suspect that he will rule from the shadows if Shadary takes office.
Internet and text messaging services were cut off the day after the election in an apparent effort by the government to prevent social media speculation about the results. The U.S. has urged the government to restore internet service, and a U.N. human rights spokeswoman has warned that "these efforts to silence dissent could backfire considerably when the results are announced."