Jonathan receives Certificate of Return from INEC


PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan has collected his Certificate of Return, following his declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
as the winner of last Saturday’s presidential election.

It was given to him during a short ceremony on Tuesday at the Commission’s Airport Road Collation Centre in Abuja by the Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, who also presented a Certificate of Return to Vice-President Namadi Sambo for his emergence as the vice-president-elect.

In his remarks on the occasion, the president commended Professor Jega and his team for conducting a credible election that had been praised by both local and international observers, saying the success of the exercise was the beginning of good governance in the country.

According to him, “we really have to commend INEC. Professor Jega and his team have made Nigeria proud. Before now the international observers used to paint our elections in tainted colours but this year’s elections, first, that of the National Assembly and then the presidential, the information we have received and what we have read in the papers is that they have given us a pass mark.

“It has to be so because of the competence of INEC officers and the position of not compromising your independence. We thank you. All Nigerians are happy because you have placed us on higher rung of the ladder and others have seen us as people who conduct credible elections.

“This is the beginning of good governance. This is the beginning of economic development. This is the beginning of major changes in this country,” he said.

While thanking God for the grace to conduct the election, President Jonathan hoped that the next leg of the exercise would be better than the last two, saying, “we hope that, by the grace of God, the last leg of election coming on the 26th will be better than the presidential election. We thank God. It is God that made it possible. If it is man, it wouldn’t have been possible.”

He commended Nigerians for coming out en masse to participate in the exercise and for their cooperation with government and INEC, as well as for voting for him, saying that it was a clear demonstration of their patriotism.

Commenting on the riots in parts of the North over the election outcome, Jonathan said the development was regrettable, coming against the background of commendation from international observers who witnessed the election, but added that his administration would, in the next four years, focus on issues like that to prevent recurrence.

“It is regrettable that when international observers are commending us for credible elections, we witnessed some skirmishes in parts of the country. It is really regrettable. This is what happened in the late 50’s when some parts of the country witnessed things like this. But that is what the new generation leaders have to face.

“We will make sure that in the next four years, issues like this will not lead to riot. We assure Nigerians we will carry everyone along. We will run an open government where all Nigerians will play a key role, irrespective of party affiliations,” he said.

The president also addressed the issue of victims of the violence in the riots in the North and said that the government would take inventory of the lost properties, provide assistance for victims’ families and ensure that it would never happen again.

He called on religious and political leaders to condemn the riots, saying that government would work towards providing jobs for the nation’s unemployed youths, to prevent them from being used by unscrupulous politicians.

Millions more face poverty in crisis: World Bank


Tens of millions more people in Africa and elsewhere will be driven into poverty this year even though the world is recovering from the global financial crisis, World Bank president Robert Zoellick said on Sunday.

“I hope we are now on a path to global recovery,” he told African leaders at the annual summit of the African Union (AU).

“But we still face considerable risks in 2010 and we have to repair the damage done by the crisis. It has a human face,” he said.

“We estimate that 64 million people worldwide will fall into extreme poverty because of the crisis and an additional 30,000 to 50,000 babies may die in sub-Saharan Africa,” he added.

Zoellick said the bank would use its direct subsidy schemes to mitigate poverty for the those who are most vulnerable.

He also restated the bank’s promise to raise its financial commitments to the world’s poorest continent by a minimum of $15 billion over the next two to three years.

World Bank projects in Africa range from fertiliser procurement in Ethiopia to job programmes in Sierra Leone. The Washington-based institution invested $3.6 billion in the infrastructure of sub-Saharan Africa last year.

Malawian President Mbingu wa Mutharika, president elect of the AU, earlier pledged to push for a continental food security agenda during his year-long leadership of the 53-nation bloc.

SOURCED FROM REUTERS

Madagascar’s leader snubs calls for power-sharing


Madagascar’s leader Andry Rajoelina has snubbed the African Union’s top diplomat, again rejecting calls for a consensus government to be formed without delay to resolve a political crisis on the Indian Ocean island.

The AU’s Jean Ping left Madagascar on Friday after meeting the main power brokers and urging power-sharing deals agreed last year to be respected to end the year-long turmoil that has crippled economic growth and unnerved investors.

Rajoelina ruled out power-sharing in a statement late on Thursday: “…It is already the source of a new crisis and the origin of serious troubles in our country in recent times.”

“We’re not concerned by the current reactions,” Ping told reporters after meeting the military leaders who backed Rajoelina’s March coup, the government and opposition parties.

“The parties now have 15 days (to respond). We will wait for their definitive reactions and base our conclusions on those.”

Rajoelina’s hardline stance will do little to appease donors who stress that frozen aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars will only be released once there is a roadmap towards restoring constitutional order that is backed by all sides.

Africa’s youngest leader, who insists elections are the best way out of the crisis, added that last year’s failed attempts to set up a unity government were proof a multiparty, inclusive administration was the wrong answer.

“The transitional regime repeats its commitment to organising consensual elections, free and inclusive in their preparation and organisation,” said Rajoelina, who has scheduled elections for March 20.

But there are concerns among opposition leaders and international mediators that a hastily organised ballot will lack credibility and transparency.

Increased investor interest in Madagascar’s oil and mineral reserves by major foreign companies including Rio Tinto and Exxon Mobil has been undermined by months of political turmoil.

One opposition source conceded that although the opposition still demanded the formation of a unity government, it was inconceivable the political rivals would sit in the same room and work together.

“We need a miracle now,” said the senior opposition figure.

Madagascar is likely to be high on the agenda of the AU summit opening in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on January 25.

SOURCED FROM REUTERS

Camara’s absence from Guinea welcomed by world leaders


Some see Capt Camara's absence as the best hope for Guinea

World leaders have welcomed Guinea’s announcement that wounded junta head Capt Moussa Dadis Camara will not return to Guinea for several months.

The African Union praised the decision as a “positive development in the situation in Guinea”.

Meanwhile, France called it a “decisive stage” in ending the political crisis.

Capt Camara, who is convalescing in Burkina Faso, has agreed to let his deputy lead the country while he recovers from an assassination attempt.

“Guinea has marked a decisive stage in getting out of the crisis it has been in for a year and [is] on the way to a state of law and justice,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a statement.

“France will resolutely back the application of this declaration and, in this framework, can soon resume its co-operation.”

Mr Kouchner pledged to “attempt to mobilise Guinea’s partners so that they can accompany the process toward elections”.

In a statement on Friday, the military junta said Capt Camara would support the transition to civilian rule.

Earlier, interim leader Sekouba Konate had threatened to resign in a row with supporters of Capt Camara. He had opened talks with the opposition while Capt Camara was in hospital.

Friday’s announcement followed talks with Burkina Faso’s president, who is mediating in negotiations to resolve the country’s crisis.

The declaration said Capt Camara was “willingly taking a period of convalescence”.

According to News Agency, the junta leaders have also agreed to form a unity government followed by polls in six months.

Capt Camara had been receiving treatment in Morocco following an assassination attempt by his former aide-de-camp on 3 December.

When he left hospital on Tuesday, he reportedly thought he was going to Conakry, only to find himself in Burkina Faso.

Both the international community and the Guinean opposition see Capt Camara’s absence as the best hope for an orderly transition to civilian, democratic rule.

Earlier on Friday, Capt Camara’s staunchest supporters were pressing for him to return to Conakry.

But, our correspondent said, this seemed to push Gen Konate to threaten to resign and accuse Capt Camara’s allies of wanting to start a war in Guinea.

Capt Camara seized power in a coup in December 2008 after the death of long-time ruler Lansana Conte.

At first he promised a return to civilian rule, but soon dropped hints that he would stand for president himself.

That led to a pro-democracy rally on 28 September in the capital, Conakry, at which rights groups say more than 150 people were killed when the military opened fire.

A recent UN report on the stadium massacre said Capt Camara should face trial at the International Criminal Court over the brutal suppression.

Gen Konate has offered the post of prime minister to the opposition.

SOURCED FROM BBC

AU peacekeepers warn of military build up in Darfur


REBEL and Sudan government forces have been massing in Sudan’s Darfur region, raising fears of new violence, peacekeepers sREBEL and Sudan government forces have been massing in Sudan’s Darfur region, raising fears of new violence, peacekeepers said a day after the United States demanded concrete moves toward peace in the territory. The joint UN-African Union (UNAMID) force said there were signs of military escalation in the north of the region, where two million people have fled more than six years of conflict. “It is like when you look at the sky and see thunder clouds massing… We have seen a build up in the number of troops, movements of troops, setting up of defensive positions,” UNAMID communications chief, Kemal Saiki, told Reuters yesterday. “There are signs that our military can read and they have concluded that there is a probability that armed confrontation could spring up.” Sudan’s army was not immediately able to comment. The insurgent Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) loyal to Abdel Wahed Mohamed al-Nur, which UNAMID said was also massing troops, denied the report. Washington on Monday announced a new policy to end violence in Darfur and Sudan’s semi-autonomous south before national elections next year. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said one of the main aims of the new package of incentives and penalties was to press Sudan to bring “an end to conflict, gross human rights abuses, war crimes and genocide in Darfur.” The UNAMID warning will raise questions about the willingness of both Khartoum and Darfur’s fractured rebels to stop the fighting, which flared in the western territory in 2003. Nur refuses to take part in talks until there is a return to full security in the region. Negotiations have also been dogged by rebel divisions. Efforts to unify them were set back this week when Nur’s forces told Reuters that one of their senior commanders had been detained by Darfur’s rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Senior JEM official Al-Tahir al-Feki said some SLA commanders had “confronted” JEM forces in North Darfur last week and JEM had “reacted,” but declined to go into further detail. JEM has been holding troubled talks with Khartoum in Qatar this year. But the next round has faced repeated delays and both sides accuse each other of continued military activities. Fighting has declined from the early days of the conflict. But skirmishes have continued, most recently between Khartoum and Nur’s forces in North Darfur in September. Washington accused Khartoum of committing genocide when it launched military and militia strikes to crush the uprising by mostly non-Arab rebels who are demanding better representation and more development. Sudan’s government rejects the term genocide and accuses the Western media of exaggerating the conflict. UNAMID said in a statement that the build-up of forces was around the settlements of Sortony and Kabkabiya in North Darfur. Any new clashes would inevitably lead to civilian and military casualties, it added, urging the parties to return to dialogue. An Irish aid worker who was subject to mock executions during a gruelling 107 days in captivity in Darfur yesterday arrived home to an emotional reunion with her family in Dublin. Sharon Commins and her Ugandan colleague Hilda Kawuki were seized by a gang of armed men on July 3 from a compound run by Irish relief group GOAL in the western Sudanese region. Commins described Monday how they thought they were going to die several times during their captivity on remote mountaintops at the hands of armed men, some of whom she described as “evil.” “We’d be told to kneel on our knees and they would shoot around us,” she said in an interview with Ireland’s RTE state broadcaster. “Obviously the first time that happened we thought we were absolutely going to be shot.” The 33-year-old said they never knew whether it was going to be a mock execution or the real thing. “None of these guys wear glasses so you are not even sure how accurate their sight is, so it was just an extremely dangerous situation to be in. It was extremely scary and we were always anxious,” she added. Commins flew into Baldonnel Aerodrome southwest of Dublin in a government plane just before midnight (2300 GMT Monday), and was met by her parents Mark and Agatha and the rest of her family, a foreign ministry spokesman said. Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, who travelled to Khartoum last month in an effort to secure the release of the two women, also greeted her at the airport and expressed admiration at her courage. We knew from early on that Sharon was a special type of person, a strong person, good mental resilience and it was just incredible that both herself and Hilda held themselves together throughout that three months plus,” he said. aid a day after the United States demanded concrete moves toward peace in the territory. The joint UN-African Union (UNAMID) force said there were signs of military escalation in the north of the region, where two million people have fled more than six years of conflict. “It is like when you look at the sky and see thunder clouds massing… We have seen a build up in the number of troops, movements of troops, setting up of defensive positions,” UNAMID communications chief, Kemal Saiki, told Reuters yesterday. “There are signs that our military can read and they have concluded that there is a probability that armed confrontation could spring up.” Sudan’s army was not immediately able to comment. The insurgent Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) loyal to Abdel Wahed Mohamed al-Nur, which UNAMID said was also massing troops, denied the report. Washington on Monday announced a new policy to end violence in Darfur and Sudan’s semi-autonomous south before national elections next year. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said one of the main aims of the new package of incentives and penalties was to press Sudan to bring “an end to conflict, gross human rights abuses, war crimes and genocide in Darfur.” The UNAMID warning will raise questions about the willingness of both Khartoum and Darfur’s fractured rebels to stop the fighting, which flared in the western territory in 2003. Nur refuses to take part in talks until there is a return to full security in the region. Negotiations have also been dogged by rebel divisions. Efforts to unify them were set back this week when Nur’s forces told Reuters that one of their senior commanders had been detained by Darfur’s rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Senior JEM official Al-Tahir al-Feki said some SLA commanders had “confronted” JEM forces in North Darfur last week and JEM had “reacted,” but declined to go into further detail. JEM has been holding troubled talks with Khartoum in Qatar this year. But the next round has faced repeated delays and both sides accuse each other of continued military activities. Fighting has declined from the early days of the conflict. But skirmishes have continued, most recently between Khartoum and Nur’s forces in North Darfur in September. Washington accused Khartoum of committing genocide when it launched military and militia strikes to crush the uprising by mostly non-Arab rebels who are demanding better representation and more development. Sudan’s government rejects the term genocide and accuses the Western media of exaggerating the conflict. UNAMID said in a statement that the build-up of forces was around the settlements of Sortony and Kabkabiya in North Darfur. Any new clashes would inevitably lead to civilian and military casualties, it added, urging the parties to return to dialogue. An Irish aid worker who was subject to mock executions during a gruelling 107 days in captivity in Darfur yesterday arrived home to an emotional reunion with her family in Dublin. Sharon Commins and her Ugandan colleague Hilda Kawuki were seized by a gang of armed men on July 3 from a compound run by Irish relief group GOAL in the western Sudanese region. Commins described Monday how they thought they were going to die several times during their captivity on remote mountaintops at the hands of armed men, some of whom she described as “evil.” “We’d be told to kneel on our knees and they would shoot around us,” she said in an interview with Ireland’s RTE state broadcaster. “Obviously the first time that happened we thought we were absolutely going to be shot.” The 33-year-old said they never knew whether it was going to be a mock execution or the real thing. “None of these guys wear glasses so you are not even sure how accurate their sight is, so it was just an extremely dangerous situation to be in. It was extremely scary and we were always anxious,” she added. Commins flew into Baldonnel Aerodrome southwest of Dublin in a government plane just before midnight (2300 GMT Monday), and was met by her parents Mark and Agatha and the rest of her family, a foreign ministry spokesman said. Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, who travelled to Khartoum last month in an effort to secure the release of the two women, also greeted her at the airport and expressed admiration at her courage. We knew from early on that Sharon was a special type of person, a strong person, good mental resilience and it was just incredible that both herself and Hilda held themselves together throughout that three months plus,” he said.

Sourced from The Guardian

AU MOVES CLOSER TOWARD UNITED STATES OF AFRICA


African Union (AU) members have agreed a plan to give its executive arm enhanced powers to co-ordinate common-interest policies, officials say.

But the African Authority will not be able to act internationally unless it has a mandate from heads of state.

The compromise on the draft came after hours of heated debate in a closed session in the Libyan town of Sirte.

Correspondents say its creation is regarded as a stepping stone towards a federal government for the continent.

This is of the ambition of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who wants a United States of Africa.

The African Authority proposal had been resisted by South Africa and Nigeria, among others, who objected to giving the body too much power.

It aims to simplify the AU’s structure, allowing more control over diplomatic, trade and defence matters.

The African Authority will “represent the common interests of the member states of the union and speak in their name in international forums on international trade”, Reuters news agency quoted the draft agreement as saying.

The structure will create a president, a vice-president, and a secretary of peace and security and common defence. Other secretaries will replace the current union’s commissioners.

But the BBC’s Rana Jawad in Sirte says the powers of the Authority focus on co-ordination rather than unilateral implementation.

While it will co-ordinate key policies, it will only be able to act with the consent of members, rather than exercising power over them.

Benin’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marie Ehouzou said the final text “reflects everybody’s position”.

“The states are ready to cede a little bit a part of their sovereignty for the benefit of the [union],” he said.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, also the current AU chairman, had pushed hard for the grouping to be given wider regional and defence powers.

But supporters of Col Gaddafi’s proposal faced opposition from the continent’s largest economy, South Africa, and oil-producing nations like Angola and Nigeria.

They were concerned about losing sovereignty over their own defence and foreign policy issues.

One Libyan diplomat criticised the limits placed on the Authority by the final agreement.

“They have introduced the concept of a union government, but the Authority was not meant for that,” he said.

“It was meant to be an inter-governmental organisation.”

The changes to the AU have yet to be ratified by member states, who have also agreed to discuss the financing of the plan at a later date.

SOURCED FROM BBC

AFRICAN LEADERS ENHANCE UNION EXECUTIVE ROLE


African Union (AU) members have agreed a plan to give its executive arm enhanced powers to co-ordinate common-interest policies, officials say. But the African Authority will not be able to act internationally unless it has a mandate from heads of state. The compromise on the draft came after hours of heated debate in a closed session in the Libyan town of Sirte.

UNION ROLEIt had been resisted by South Africa and Nigeria, among others, who objected to giving the authority too much power. The new African Authority aims to simplify the AU’s structure, allowing more control over diplomatic, trade and defence matters.

It will “represent the common interests of the member states of the Union and speak in their name in international forums on international trade”, Reuters news agency quoted the draft agreement as saying. The structure will create a president, a vice-president, and a secretary of peace and security and common defence. Other secretaries will replace the current union’s commissioners.

But the BBC’s Rana Jawad in Sirte says the powers of the Authority focus on co-ordination rather than unilateral implementation. While it will co-ordinate key policies, it will only be able to act with the consent of members, rather than exercising power over them.

Benin’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marie Ehouzou said the final text “reflects everybody’s position”. “The states are ready to cede a little bit a part of their sovereignty for the benefit of the [Union],” he said. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, also the current AU chairman, had pushed hard for the grouping to be given wider regional and defence powers.

SOURCED FROM BBC

AU LIFTS SANCTIONS ON MAURITANIA


The African Union has dropped sanctions on Mauritania and lifted a suspension from the body because of steps it is taking to restore democracy this month, the Union said in a statement on Wednesday.

The African Union suspended Mauritania after the army overthrew the elected president in August last year and froze assets and imposed visa and travel bans on members of the junta and its supporters.

But an election is due on July 18 under a transition administration agreed on by the junta and the civilian opposition in the iron ore-producing northwest African country of 3 million.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council said the decision to lift the measures against Mauritania was taken at a meeting on Monday.

“(The Council) looks forward to the presidential election … and requests that all efforts be deployed for the election to take place in the required conditions of transparency, fairness and freedom,” it said.

It said it would keep watching the situation in Mauritania to make sure it stayed on track and in case other measures needed to be taken, potentially including the re-imposition of sanctions.

Under an agreement that took effect last month, a transition government was set up to allow a presidential election on July 18 in which junta leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and the opposition will take part.

Mauritania’s neighbours were concerned the military takeover could set a precedent in a region that had begun to shed its reputation for coups.

AU sanctions imposed in February this year included travel restrictions and the freezing of assets belonging to individuals whose activities maintained what it called the “unconstitutional status quo”.

SOURCED FROM REUTERS

AU MAINTAINS SANCTIONS ON MAURITANIA


The African Union says it will maintain sanctions on Mauritania despite suggestions from its chairman, Libya’s leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi that they should be dropped.  The head of the AU’s Peace and Security Council says it is compiling a list of those to target in the regime. The sanctions were put in place after Mauritania’s President was overthrown in a military coup last year. But visiting the country earlier this month, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi said they were no longer necessary. Asked about this embarrassing contradiction, the chairman of the PSC offered a charitable explanation to AFP news agency-perhaps Col Gaddafi was engaged in an initiative of his own to restore legality which would then automatically remove the need of sanctions.

SOURCED FROM BBC

AU SUSPENDS MADAGASCAR OVER COUP


The African Union suspended Madagascar on Friday, the strongest condemnation yet by the international community after opposition leader Andry Rajoelina took power with the support of the army.

The AU decision echoed criticism by southern African bloc SADC, the European Union and United States. Weeks of political unrest in Madagascar have killed at least 135 people, devastated the economy and worried foreign investors.

“The council is of the opinion that what occurred in Madagascar enters the definition of unconstitutional change of government,” said Burkina Faso’s Ambassador Bruno Nongoma Zidouemba, chairman of the AU’s peace and security council.

“The council then decided to suspend the participation of Madagascar to the bodies and organs of the AU.”

Madagascar’s elected president, Marc Ravalomanana, was forced out on Tuesday after weeks of opposition protests that won the support of the military. Zidouemba said it amounted to a civilian and military coup on the giant Indian Ocean island.

“It can be interpreted as a coup,” he said. “In this case, we have a case where a civilian and military coup has taken place in Madagascar.”

The AU said the country’s new administration had six months to call an election, as provided for by the Malagasy constitution. Zidouemba said the pan-African body would meet at a later date to discuss possibly imposing sanctions.

SOURCED FROM REUTERS