Dakar, Feb 24 (AP/UNB) — Senegalese voters are choosing whether to give President Macky Sall a second term in office as he faces four challengers.
Polls opened at 8 a.m. in the capital of Dakar, where Sall has dubbed himself the "builder of modern Senegal."
The West African democracy has a long tradition of peaceful transfers of power.
Critics, though, have accused Sall of blocking two prominent opposition politicians from challenging him in the vote including Dakar's former mayor.
The presidency asserts that the disqualified candidates were convicted of corruption charges and that Senegal's judiciary is independent.
Sall must win a majority in Sunday's vote in order to avoid a runoff. His main competitors are former prime minister Idrissa Seck and former tax official Ousmane Sonko.
Daura, Feb 23 (AP/UNB) -Nigeria's president says he will be congratulating himself at the end of the election after he was among the first Nigerians to cast their ballots.
A jovial President Muhammadu Buhari brushed aside reporters' questions about whether he would accept a loss to top challenger Atiku Abubakar in a race some observers now see as too close to call.
Buhari, voting in his northern hometown of Daura, jokingly checked the ballot his wife was casting to see whom she had voted for.
The president called the voting process smooth but in other parts of the country some officials were reporting concerns with a delayed opening of polls and a heavy security presence perhaps intimidating potential voters.
Nigerians have begun voting in a presidential election one week after a surprise last-minute delay blamed on logistical challenges.
President Muhammadu Buhari has cast his ballot as he seeks a second term in a race that observers now say is too close to call with top challenger and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
The ailing Buhari has been criticized for not delivering enough on his promises to tackle insecurity, the economy and corruption. Abubakar points to his business success in making sweeping pledges to turn the economy around but is dogged by corruption allegations.
Gunfire has been heard in at least two cities shortly before the polls opened, but police in Maiduguri in the northeast called the blasts there a show of force by security forces.
Multiple blasts in Nigeria's northeast are opening election day as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term in Africa's most populous nation.
The blasts in the Borno state capital of Maiduguri came shortly before polls were to open. Police there say it was for "security purposes" and not an attack.
Gunfire also has been heard in parts of Port Harcourt in the restive south, where the military presence is said to be heavier than in past elections.
Buhari in a final address to the nation on Friday vowed that the more than 72 million Nigerians who can vote in this election would be able to go to the polls in peace.
But the Boko Haram extremist group, its Islamic State-affiliated offshoot and various agitators across the country have other plans.
Cairo, Feb 23 (AP/UNB) — Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, facing deadly protests, on Friday declared a state of emergency for a year, disbanded the federal government and replaced all state governors with senior army officers.
Al-Bashir — who seized power in a 1989 coup— also said that he will postpone pushing for constitutional amendments that would allow him to seek a third term in office.
Facing genocide charges, al-Bashir's rule has been rocked by civil wars and increasing street demonstrations. A heavy security crackdown has left scores of protesters dead. At least 57 people have been killed since December.
"Our country is passing through a difficult and complicated phase in our national history," al-Bashir said in a speech aired live from the presidential palace in Khartoum. "We will get out of it stronger and more united and determined."
In a rare acknowledgment, al-Bashir described the demands of the protesters as "legitimate" but said there are attempts to exploit the youth protests "to take the country to the unknown."
The state of emergency will give the security forces a free hand in cracking down on protesters and carrying out detentions, and places heavier restrictions on the press and opposition parties.
The announcements were instantly met with street demonstrations, demanding the longtime president to step down. Witnesses said riot police fired tear gas and arrested a number of protesters.
Sudan has been gripped by nationwide protests since Dec. 19. The demonstrations, which show no sign of abating, were triggered by rising prices and shortages but quickly turned to calls for al-Bashir to step down.
Al-Bashir's term ends in 2020 and he has repeatedly promised over the years not to make new runs for the presidency. Without amending the constitutions, he can't run for a third term.
His announcement came days after a parliamentary committee tasked with amending the constitution to scrap presidential term limit canceled its meetings.
The Sudanese Professional Association, which is spearheading the country's demonstrations, warned of any measures that could "turn against" the demands of the Sudanese people, and vowed that it will respond with more escalation in street protests.
"The demands of this revolution are crystal clear," the statement said, "the regime and its head must step down."
However, al-Bashir warned the opposition of the "zero-sum" game that creates chaos, pointing to a wave of the Arab Spring uprisings that led to civil wars in countries like Libya and Yemen.
As he was speaking in the presidential palace in Khartoum and in other districts, dozens of protesters were already taking to the streets chanting, "just fall."
Shelving intentions to amend the constitution to pave the way for a third term in office appeared to be the only political concession al-Bashir has made so far after two months of nonstop demonstrations.
"What al-Bashir presented are tactics to keep his regime alive," said the leader of Umma Party, Mubarak al-Mahdi. "Declaring a state of emergency means suppressing freedom of expression and demonstration and tightening grip on the revolution."
Sudan's main opposition groups call for a four-year transitional government followed by elections.
Kano, Feb 17 (AP/UNB) — Nigeria's top candidates on Saturday condemned the surprise last-minute decision to delay the presidential election for a week until Feb. 23, blaming each other but appealing to Africa's largest democracy for calm.
The decision, announced five hours before polls were to open, is a costly one, with analysts at SBM Intelligence estimating an economic hit of $2 billion, plus a blow to the country's reputation. Authorities now must decide what to do with already delivered voting materials in a tense atmosphere where some electoral facilities in recent days have been torched.
Electoral commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu told observers, diplomats and others that the delay had nothing to do with insecurity or political influence. He blamed "very trying circumstances" including bad weather affecting flights and the fires at three commission offices in an apparent "attempt to sabotage our preparations."
If the vote had continued as planned, polling units could not have opened at the same time nationwide. "This is very important to public perceptions of elections as free, fair and credible," Yakubu said, adding that as late as 2 a.m. they were still confident the election could go ahead.
The new Feb. 23 election date is "without equivocation" final, he said.
Bitter voters in the capital, Abuja, and elsewhere who traveled home to cast their ballots, including from Nigeria's vast diaspora, said they could not afford to wait another seven days, and warned that election apathy could follow. Some anguished over rescheduling weddings, exams and other milestones.
If the electoral commission knew about complications, why wait until the final moment to announce a delay, asked Godspower Egbenekama, spokesman for the Gbaramatu kingdom in Delta state in the restive south. "This shows that someone is pulling the strings from somewhere."
The party backing top opposition challenger Atiku Abubakar accused President Muhammadu Buhari's administration of "instigating this postponement" with the aim of ensuring a low turnout. It urged Nigerians to turn out in greater numbers a week from now.
"You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny," Abubakar tweeted.
Buhari said he was "deeply disappointed" after the electoral commission had "given assurances, day after day and almost hour after hour that they are in complete readiness for the elections." His statement appealed for calm and asserted that his administration does not interfere in the commission's work.
A spokesman for the president's campaign committee, Festus Keyamo, accused Abubakar's party of causing the delay to try to slow Buhari's momentum.
But a ruling party campaign director in Delta state, Goodnews Agbi, said it was better to give the commission time to conduct a credible vote instead of rushing into a sham one "that the whole world will criticize later."
A civic group monitoring the election, the Situation Room, blasted the "needless tension and confusion" and called on political parties to avoid incitement and misinformation.
Nigeria's more than 190 million people anticipate a close race between Buhari and Abubakar, a billionaire former vice president. Both have pledged to work for a peaceful election even as supporters, including high-level officials, have caused alarm with warnings against foreign interference and allegations of rigging.
When Buhari came to power in 2015 — after a six-week election delay blamed on extremist insecurity — he made Nigerian history with the first defeat of an incumbent president. The vote was hailed as one of the most transparent and untroubled ever in Africa's most populous country, which has seen deadly post-election violence in the past.
Now Buhari could become the second incumbent to be unseated. This election is a referendum on his record on insecurity, the economy and corruption, all of which he has been criticized by some Nigerians for doing too little too slowly.
Harare, Feb 16 (Xinhua/UNB)-- More than 60 people are believed to have died in two mining shafts after a nearby dam burst in Zimbabwe's Mashonaland West Province, authorities said on Friday.
The number of illegal miners who could have been trapped was estimated at between 60 and 70, said Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo.
In a statement on Friday, Moyo said hopes of finding survivors are fading following heavy rains that pounded the area during the night.
Rescuers successfully pumped out water from two interlinked tunnels, and work to retrieve the bodies is expected to start Saturday, Moyo said.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the incident a State of Disaster on Friday.
Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka said the tragedy was a big wake-up call for mining authorities and the miners on the need to adhere to safety standards.