African Overview

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Nigeria’s military says it didn’t call Biafra separatists terrorists, days after doing just that

A man points at a Biafran flag painted on a wall on Old Market Road in Onitsha, Nigeria, during a shutdown in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Nigerian Civil War on May 30. At least 1 million people were killed in the war, started after an ex-Nigerian military officer declared an independent Republic of Biafra in 1967. Photo credit: Stefan Heunis / AFP / Getty

By: Conor Gaffey / Source: Newsweek / September 19, 2017

Nigeria’s conflict with separatists calling for an independent state, known as Biafra, has escalated in recent months.

The leader of the main pro-Biafra group, Nnamdi Kanu, was released on bail in April after being held in detention without trial since October 2015. Since Kanu’s release, calls by his organization—the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)—for a referendum on independence from Nigeria have intensified, as have clashes between IPOB members and Nigerian security forces.

The Nigerian military appeared to have taken a controversial step on Friday: In a statement, a spokesman for Nigeria’s defense headquarters said that the armed forces categorized IPOB as a “militant terrorist organization” and urged residents of southeast Nigeria, where IPOB is based, to desist from joining the group.

But at a press conference on Monday, the head of Nigeria’s armed forces backed away from the declaration, calling it a “pronouncement” rather than an official designation.

“You have to get it very clear. First of all, what the defense headquarters did was to make [a] pronouncement. It wasn’t a declaration per se,” said General Tukur Buratai, Nigeria e-newspaper Premium Times reported.

The announcement by the defense headquarters had sparked criticism from some in the Nigerian government. The president of Nigeria’s Senate, Bukola Saraki, said that the military’s decision to designate IPOB as a terrorist group was “unconstitutional and does not follow due process.”

But Buratai denied that the military had overstepped its authority. “We are still within the limits. And I [assure] you that what the military said was to set the ball rolling and to bring the awareness to the public that this is what this organization is all about.”

A U.K.-based spokesman for IPOB, Emma Nmezu, told Newsweek on Friday that the designation was being used by the military “to justify the killings of unarmed people.”

Nigeria endured a two-and-a-half-year civil war between 1967 and 1970 after a disaffected military officer declared the independence of a region of southeast Nigeria, which he called Biafra. The region was largely populated by members of the Igbo, one of Nigeria’s biggest ethnic groups.

Nigeria

At least 1 million people died in the civil war, which ended when Biafran forces surrendered and the republic was reintegrated into Nigeria.

But secessionist fervor has risen in recent years, led by IPOB leader Kanu, a British-Nigerian dual national who has proclaimed that Nigeria faces a choice between “Biafra or death.” He is facing charges of treason at a trial due to commence in October.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari fought on the Nigerian side during the civil war and has dismissed the recent agitations.

But the former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo—who fought alongside Buhari against Biafra—told Newsweek last week that Buhari should sit down with Kanu to discuss the grievances of Biafra supporters, who claim to have been marginalized by the federal government in Nigeria.

Rights groups have criticized the Nigerian military for heavy-handedness in dealing with IPOB. An Amnesty International report in November 2016 said that the military had killed at least 150 IPOB members or supporters since August 2015. The military denied the allegations and accused IPOB members of using violence against soldiers.

 

New election date and protests in Kenya

Source: Notas Periodismo Popular / The Dawn News / September 24, 2017

Kenya

Kenya’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) has announced that finally the repetition of the presidential elections will be taking pace nine days after the originally-announced date.

After the annulment of the August 8 elections by the Supreme Court, new presidential elections had been announced for October 17. However, the French company in charge of providing the electronic vote system informed they wouldn’t be able to provide the service in time, and the vote was delayed until the 26th of the same month.

Parallelly, the main court of the country has announced the fundamentals of its sentence on the elections. It explained that the NEC had declared the victory of the current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, without considering the results of over 10 thousand electoral colleges. “The result weren’t verifiable and can’t pass the test of authenticity”, the Court stated.

In this sense, they rejected the argument made by the electoral entity, which affirmed that many districts had no means of communication to transmit the data. However, to avoid the same thing to occur in the upcoming elections, magistrates have ordered the people in charge of organizing the elections to “establish a complementary system in case technology fails”.

A day before this information became public, supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga and also supporters of President Kenyatta demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Supreme Court. The former demanded the court to inform the people why the elections had been annulled, while the latter criticized the judges for violating the people’s will. In fact, they presented a request to recuse two members of Court on the basis of having alleged political links to Odinga’s party.

Kenyatta, who had initially announced that he respected the ruling, gave a speech on Tuesday where he spoke of an opposition “coup”because” now they’re affirming that “numbers don’t matter—processes are what matters”.

 

Referendum Convened in Togo to Reform the Constitution and Limit the Length of the Presidential Mandate

Source: Notas Periodismo Popular / The Dawn News / September 24, 2017

Togo

Last Tuesday, Togo’s government tried—unsuccessfully—to pass a Constitutional reform to establish a maximum limit of two five-year mandates for Presidents of the Republic. This initiative was achieved after over a month of massive protests, convened by the entire spectrum of the opposition. Another demand is the resignation of current President Faure Gnassingbé Eyadéma.

However, the rest of the political parties boycotted the government’s initiative in Parliament, so they couldn’t reach the amount of votes they needed (80% of the Parliament) to reform the Magna Carta. So, in accordance with Togo’s legislation, now it is up to the population to decide whether or not they approve the reform.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, street protests were violently repressed and a 10-year-old boy died in the Northern city of Mango. The Security Minister. Colonel Damehame Yark, held protesters accountable for the death of the minor and denounced that they were carrying weapons.

The main demands of protesters are: going back to the time limit on Presidencies that was established in the 1992 Constitution, a change in the electoral code to reestablish the two-round voting system, and allowing nationals living outside the country to vote.

The current president has been in power since 2005 when, after his father’s death, he seized power through a coup that costed 500 lives. He then triumphed in the 2010 and 2015 elections, and his mandate will end in 2020.

Togo achieved independence from France in 1960. Seven years later, a coup d’état led by Gnassingbé Eyadéma (father of Faure Gnassingbé Eyadéma) seized power. He remained in power until 2005, when he passed away due to a heart attack. In 1992, the country adopted a multi-party system and limited Presidential mandates to two five-year terms. This was modified by Eyadéma in 2002 to enable a re-election. Thousands of Togolese people are demanding this democratic system to be adopted again.

 

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