Kenya goes to polls

Long queues are forming in Kenya as voters wait to cast their ballots in a hotly contested election that pits incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta against the nation’s former prime minister.

“I have been here for around two hours,” one man standing in line at a polling booth in Busia County on the border with Uganda told CNN affiliate NTV. “I came at six in the morning to exercise my democratic right and bring change to this country.”
Raila Odinga, who’s running for president for the fourth time, served as prime minister between 2008 and 2013. As the candidate for the National Super Alliance party, he is one of eight presidential candidates and the incumbent’s main challenger.
Kenyatta, who leads the Jubilee Alliance and is seeking a second five-year term, is the nation’s youngest president at 55. If he loses, he’ll make history as the only incumbent Kenyan president not to win re-election.

Makerere students casting votes for University leaders today

Voting is underway at Makerere University where students are electing their guild leaders. Voting started at 9:00 am at most polling centres, an hour later than the planned kick off time.

Abaasi Kizito, the Electoral commission spokesman has attributed the delay in the voting to slow transport which delayed delivery of voting materials.

“We had a delay because we were using the guild van to drop the voting materials to all 30 polling stations. Setting up the station and having all students delayed us a bit,” Kizito said.

He adds that there was an exception for the school of Public Health where voting started at 7:40am to allow students time to attend to different engagements scheduled for the day. The school has a voting population of 124 students.

However, there was chaos earlier at the School of Social Sciences where several students found their names missing. Owen Natukunda one of the students whose names could not be traced wondered how he could miss in the register of a university in his final year of study.

Kennedy Yesigomwe, a 4th year student of Public Health told URN that they had a similar problem at the School Of Public Health.  “We found that most names are missing in our register. If they can mess our school which is small with only 124 students what about those schools with thousands of students?” Yesigomwe stated.

The university delayed releasing voter’s registers due to closure of the university results management system on grounds of alteration of marks by university officials. Registers were released and pinned across university noticeboards around 7pm yesterday.

Sylvester Sabiiti, a 3rd year student of journalism and an agent of one of the candidates said that there is low voter turn up at the School of languages, Literature and Communication but was optimistic that the numbers will increase in the course of the day.

This year’s election has attracted 14 candidates.


South Korean president thrown out of office

Judges unanimously upheld parliament’s decision to impeach Ms Park over her role in a corruption scandal involving her close friend, Choi Soon-sil.

She now loses her presidential immunity and could face criminal charges.

There have been angry scenes outside the court. Police said two protesters had died.

The court ruling is the culmination of months of political turmoil and public protest. An election must now be held within 60 days.

Ms Park’s office said she would not be leaving the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential palace, on Friday nor making any statement.

Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn has called for calm, saying the government should remain stable to prevent internal conflict from spreading.

At the heart of the drama lies the close friendship between the president and Ms Choi.

Ms Choi is accused of using her presidential connections to pressure companies to give millions of dollars in donations to non-profit foundations she controlled.

Ms Park is alleged to have been personally involved in this, and to have given Ms Choi unacceptable levels of access to official documents.

Parliament voted to impeach Ms Park in December and the Constitutional Court has since been deciding whether to uphold or overturn this.

On Friday, a panel of eight judges ruled Ms Park’s actions “seriously impaired the spirit of… democracy and the rule of law”.

The court said she had broken the law by allowing Ms Choi to meddle in state affairs, and had breached guidelines on official secrets by leaking numerous documents.

Ms Park had “concealed completely Choi’s meddling in state affairs and denied it whenever suspicions over the act emerged and even criticised those who raised the suspicions,” it said.

But the judges dismissed some charges, including accusations Ms Park had infringed on freedom of the press by creating a media blacklist of cultural figures, and criticism of her response during the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster.

Ms Park was already suspended from presidential duties, with the prime minister taking over her responsibilities.

But she must now leave office – and her official residence – and a presidential election will be held within the next 60 days.

She has also lost her presidential immunity so could now face criminal charges over allegations she colluded with Ms Choi.





Legislators in Somalia vote president at an airport amidst tension

Somalia’s MPs are electing the country’s president in a heavily guarded aircraft hangar in Mogadishu, as the rest of the country is not safe.
Traffic has been banned, schools have been shut and a no-fly zone imposed over the capital to prevent attacks.

Despite this, suspected militant Islamists fired mortar rounds close to the venue on Tuesday night.
Somalia, marred by religious and clan conflict, has not had a one-person one-vote democratic election since 1969.
That vote was followed by a coup, dictatorship and conflict involving clan militias and Islamist extremists.

Somalia’s rocky road to democracy
The elections are part of a lengthy and complex process to help the East African state rebuild its democracy and achieve stability.
More than 20,000 African Union (AU) troops are stationed in Somalia to prevent militant Islamist group al-Shabab from overthrowing the weak government.
How safe is the airport?
The election hall, a converted aircraft hangar packed with MPs, is at the Mogadishu international airport complex.

It is viewed as the most secure site in Somalia, as the main AU base is there.
The vote was moved to the airport complex from a police academy because of growing fears that al-Shabab could strike.
The 2012 presidential vote was held at the academy, and the 2007 and 2004 vote in neighbouring Kenya and Djibouti respectively.
Who is running?
About 20 men ran for the presidency, but the number has been reduced to four after the first round of voting. The second round is under way, and the top two will battle it out in a third and final vote.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is standing for re-election and he has gone through to the second round.
At least 16 of the original candidates have dual citizenship – nine of them hold US passports, four UK passports and three Canadian passports, according to a leading Somali private radio station.

It means that if US President Donald Trump’s ban on Somali citizens entering the US comes into force again, some of them could be affected.
Many Somalis obtained dual nationality after fleeing the decades-long conflict. The US, UK, Kenya and South Africa are among countries where many Somalis have settled.




FDC urges East African Community to borrow a leaf from ECOWAS

By Waswa Deo

Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has asked the leaders of East Africa community to learn a lesson from Economic community of West African states (ECOWAS) as the only way to face-lift democracy in east Africa community.

FDC says the efforts by countries in West Africa exhibited to force Dictator Yahaya Jammhe to leave Gambia power after losing general elections against Adama Barrow was a common goal and such solidarity should also be seen  in the East African community.

While addressing journalists at party headquarters in Najjanankumbi, FDC party secretary general Harod Kaija noted that apparently there is no common goal among the  East Africa community leaders regarding to revamping democracy in some of member states

Gambia electoral commission head flees to Senegal fearing for his life

The head of Gambia’s electoral commission has fled to neighboring Senegal fearing a plot against him, a month after declaring President Yahya Jammeh lost elections following 22 years in power, one of his relatives said.

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairman Alieu Momar Njie “fled to Senegal after he got information that the Gambian authorities were plotting against him and his team” one of his relatives told AFP late Tuesday.

“Some of his team members have also left for Senegal,” the relative said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The relative did not elaborate on how Njie fled or say who had gone with him.

There was no immediate comment from Senegalese authorities.

Njie had declared opposition candidate Adama Barrow the winner of December 1 presidential elections and pleaded with all parties to respect the result.

Jammeh’s party later lodged a legal complaint against the electoral commission and the country has since been in political deadlock.

The 51-year-old Jammeh, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1994, has said he will await a Supreme Court ruling in the case, delayed until January 10, before ceding power.

Jammeh’s refusal to step down, despite initially conceding defeat in the election, has stoked international concerns about the future of the tiny west African country.

Both the United Nations and African leaders have called for him to step down.

Meanwhile, a security source said that a group of people arrested for selling or wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan #GambiaHasDecided had been released.

One of those briefly detained, who declined to be identified, said armed men had entered a shop selling merchandise featuring Barrow’s image and seized T-shirts, caps and badges.

They said they were taken to Gambian National Intelligence Agency headquarters where they were cautioned before being released.




Kofi Annan urges Ugandans to flee from abuse and intimidation ahead of elections

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged Ugandan authorities to maintain integrity in the electoral process as the country goes to the polls on February 18th.

“As Uganda prepares to elect its president on 18 February, I join all Ugandans in their hopes for an election with integrity, which will bestow legitimacy upon the winner and secure stability for the country, Annan said in a statement issued this morning.

Annan says the process should be free from all forms of abuse, intimidation and violence as a precursor for legitimate and credible results.

His call comes just a day before Ugandans go to the polls to elect a President and Members of Parliament. The much anticipated poll pits the incumbent president Yoweri Museveni against his four-time challenger Kizza Besigye and his former ally Amama Mbabazi. The presidential race attracted eight candidates.

“Legitimacy is the crucial currency of government in our democratic age. Only elections that are transparent and fair will be regarded as legitimate, both by the people of Uganda and by the international community,” Annan adds.

Annan also urged the government and the electoral authorities to ensure a level playing field for all candidates. He also urged candidates to exercise restraint in their deeds and rhetoric ahead of polling day.

“I encourage the candidates and their supporters to exercise restraint in their deeds and in their rhetoric so as to ensure credible and peaceful elections, which the people of Uganda demand and deserve.