President-elect Joe Biden and President Donald Trump will be holding dueling campaign rallies in Georgia on Monday, the eve of a pair of crucial Senate runoff elections in the southern state.
Biden, 78, announced on Wednesday that he would travel to the Georgia capital Atlanta to campaign for Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
Trump, 74, had previously announced that he would be in the town of Dalton on Monday night for a rally in support of the Republican candidates, incumbent senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
Tuesday’s runoff election featuring Ossoff against Perdue and Warnock against Loeffler will determine which party has control of the Senate.
Both races are tight with polls showing the candidates neck and neck.
Republicans currently hold 50 seats in the Senate and a victory in just one of the Georgia races will give them a majority and the ability to hamstring Biden’s agenda after he takes office on January 20.
Voters in the Sahel state of Niger go to the polls on Sunday for an election that could seal the country’s first-ever peaceful handover between elected presidents, despite a bloody jihadist insurgency.
The West African country has been chronically unstable since gaining independence from France 60 years ago and is ranked the world’s poorest country according to the UN’s Human Development Index.
Around 7.4 million people are registered to vote for the ballot for the presidency, which coincides with legislative elections.
President Mahamadou Issoufou, who was elected in 2011 after the country’s last coup in 2010, is voluntarily stepping down after two five-year terms.
The frontrunner in the 30-strong field is his designated successor, Mohamed Bazoum, 60, a former interior and foreign minister.
Other prominent hopefuls are two former heads of state, Mahamane Ousmane, 70, and Salou Djibo, 55.
Bazoum’s main rival, former prime minister Hama Amadou, 70, was last month barred from contesting the vote on the grounds that in 2017 he was handed a 12-month term for alleged baby trafficking — a charge he says was bogus.
Campaigning has been overshadowed by the issue of security.
Niger is being battered by jihadists on two fronts — on its southwestern border with Mali, and its southeastern frontier with Nigeria.
Four thousand people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger died last year from jihadist violence and ethnic bloodshed stirred by Islamists, according to the UN.
In Niger itself, hundreds have died in the past five years, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.
The economy, already fragile, has suffered devastating blows.
Around 42 percent of the population lived last year on under $1.90 (1.56 euros) per day, according to the World Bank, while nearly a fifth of its surging population of 23 million relied on food aid.
On Monday, seven troops and 11 suspected jihadists died in an ambush in the southwestern region of Tillaberi, the government said on Thursday.
On December 12, 34 villagers were massacred in Toumour, in the southeastern region of Diffa, on the eve of municipal and regional elections that had been repeatedly delayed because of poor security.
The army has been massively deployed for Sunday’s vote, the authorities say.
“Sporadic attacks will not prevent the stage of the elections,” a spokesman said on Thursday. The attack in Toumour triggered a three-day period of national mourning, but the elections the following day went ahead smoothly, officials say.
The Central African Republic said Monday that Russia and Rwanda had sent in hundreds of troops after an alleged attempted coup ahead of upcoming elections.
The government in CAR, one of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries, accused former president Francois Bozize on Saturday of fomenting a would-be putsch by three rebel groups.
The groups on Friday started to advance on the capital Bangui along key highways after declaring an alliance, the government said. The UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA announced on Sunday that the rebels had been stopped or pushed back and the situation was “under control”.
“Russia has sent several hundred soldiers and heavy weapons” under a bilateral cooperation agreement, government spokesman Ange Maxime Kazagui said.
“The Rwandans have also sent several hundred men who are on the ground and have started fighting.”
Rwanda’s defence ministry confirmed the deployment.
It said the move was in response to the targeting of its troops in the 11,500-strong MINUSCA by rebels supported by Bozize, who ruled the CAR from 2003 to 2013.
No details were given about the deployment, but the ministry said it would “also contribute to ensure a peaceful and secure general elections scheduled on Sunday”.
MINUSCA’s Rwandan contingent is notably in charge of the security of CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera and the presidential palace.
– Russian role –
There was no immediate confirmation from Moscow about the Russian deployment although the Kremlin said the situation in the country was of “serious concern”.
Moscow has been leading a vast diplomatic and financial offensive in the former French colony since 2018 in return for concessions to Russian firms to exploit minerals, particularly gold and diamonds.
Private security guards employed by Russian companies also provide protection for Touadera and are involved in training of local armed forces.
The alleged coup was mounted by three of the country’s most powerful militias.
They said they had merged into a single entity called “the Coalition for Patriots for Change” and invited all other groups to join.
MINUSCA spokesman Vladimir Monteiro said late Sunday they had been pushed back in several locations or blocked, and “the situation is under control.”
But security and humanitarian sources said some members of the armed groups were still on the ground around Bossembele, around 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Bangui.
The so-called G5+ group — France, Russia, the US, the EU and the World Bank — urged Bozize and allied armed groups to lay down their arms and called for Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections to go ahead.
A source at the French presidency said the priority “in the coming days is to stick to the date” for the elections and avoid fuelling dangerous uncertainty.
The source refused to comment on the dispatch of Russian and Rwandan troops, saying only that MINUSCA “has successfully carried out its mission in the last few days.”
– Shadow of Bozize –
Bozize, 74, who denies the coup plot allegations, has been a major figure in the country’s decades-long history of war and misery.
He slipped back into the country in December 2019 after years in exile, sparking fears of a comeback.
He retains a large following, especially among the Gbaya ethnic group, the country’s largest, and has many supporters in the army.
The former general came to power in a coup in 2003 before he himself was overthrown in 2013 by the Seleka, a rebel coalition drawn largely from the Muslim majority.
Christian and animist groups forged a so-called self-defence force called the anti-Balaka, and the country spiralled into conflict along largely sectarian lines before France intervened militarily.
After a transitional period, elections were staged in 2016 and won by Touadera.
Bozize has been barred from contesting the next elections by the CAR’s top court as he is the target of a 2014 arrest warrant for alleged murder and torture and is under UN sanctions.
– Weak government –
His absence from the poll has left Touadera the clear frontrunner in the 17-strong field of candidates.
But his government holds sway over only around a third of the CAR’s territory.
The rest is in the hands of militia groups that typically claim to defend the interests of a given ethnic group, and often fight with each other over resources.
The CAR has known little stability since gaining independence from France in 1960.
Thousands of people have died since the 2013 coup, and nearly a quarter of the population of 4.7 million have fled their homes.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that some unscrupulous individuals are bent on disrupting some of the bye-elections conducted across eleven states of the country on Saturday, 5th December 2020.
In a communique on Sunday, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, said although the elections went generally well, some unscrupulous persons are still bent on disrupting the processes.
According to Mr Okoye, a number of the Commission’s staff were assaulted during the bye-elections.
“In some areas, the staff of the Commission were assaulted and materials destroyed, while in others there was resistance to the use of the Smart Card Readers.
“In yet other areas, Commission staff were prevented from deploying altogether. In fact, in one area in Lagos State, some people demanded for money from INEC staff before they would be allowed to deploy.
“These acts continue to reflect poorly on our country and denude the spirited efforts of the Commission to improve the electoral process under very difficult circumstances,” Okoye’s communique partly read.
Okoye revealed that one consequence of the lingering problem of election disruption manifested in the declaration of the bye-election for Bakura State Constituency in Zamfara State inconclusive.
“The Returning Officer declared the result inconclusive in line with the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and the Commission’s Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections.
“The election for Bakura State Constituency became inconclusive because the 2,181-vote margin between the two leading candidates – those of the PDP (18,645 votes) and APC (16,464) – is less than the total number of registered voters in 14 Polling Units where elections were cancelled or not held, which stands at 11,429.
“Consequently, by the “margin of lead principle”, the election could not be declared and no winner was returned.
“Voting in the 14 affected Polling Units was marred by over-voting, abduction of staff of the Commission, violence, assault occasioning grievous hurt against INEC officials, burning of INEC materials and snatching and carting away of sensitive electoral materials, resistance to the use of smart cards readers and obstruction of the electoral process,” Okoye revealed.
The Commissioner further stated that the Commission met on Sunday, 6th December 2020 and decided to remobilize and conclude the elections on Wednesday, 9th December 2020.
He stressed that in order to ensure that the Supplementary Election is properly secured, the Commission is considering clustering the affected Polling Units to prevent the disruptions experienced on 5th December 2020.
According to the INEC spokesman, the details for the conclusion of the bye-election in Bakura will be worked out by the INEC State Office in Gusau after consultation with stakeholders.
Mr Okoye said the Commission has commiserated with staff who were assaulted and has also extended its deep condolences to the families of the six policemen who lost their lives when the boat in which they were escorting election staff and materials capsized in Bayelsa State.
The bye-elections on Saturday involved nine State House of Assembly seats and six Senatorial seats.
The results of all the House of Assembly seats have been declared, except for Bakura State Constituency in Zamfara State.
Also, the results of four Senatorial seats have been successfully declared and INEC hopes that the results of the other Senatorial seats would be declared soon.
The Commission through its spokesman assured that as has become part of its practice, the results of the elections will be available on the INEC website during the week.
The Commission warns all those who have no business with the conduct of the Supplementary Election to keep away from the 14 Polling Units as only election staff, security agencies, voters, accredited observers and media, as well as polling agents are entitled to be at the locations. The Commission is determined to conclude the election and will not condone further attacks on its staff and destruction of materials. We urge all the stakeholders to cooperate with the Commission for the successful conclusion of the Bakura State Constituency bye-election.
The right-wing opposition on Monday claimed victory in elections for France’s upper house, underlining the political struggles of the centrist ruling party of President Emmanuel Macron.
The Senate’s members are not directly elected by voters, but instead by tens of thousands of local councillors who are themselves elected by the people.
After Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party performed woefully in local elections earlier this year, it was never expected to make any significant impact in the Senate vote.
While the chamber has some authority, especially over constitutional issues, it lacks the power of the National Assembly lower house, which has been controlled by LREM since 2017.
Nevertheless, the leader of the right-wing Republicans Christian Jacob told France Inter radio: “We have renewed ourselves with this victory.”
The party claimed to have upped its Senate seats by 10 to 154 in the 348-seat chamber.
The election showed that the opposition is not complacent, said Bruno Retailleau, head of the Republicans in the Senate.
However, because of the volatile nature of political affiliation in the Senate, the full breakdown will probably only become clear on Thursday when it meets to elect its speaker.
The poll — held every three years for half the chamber’s seats — was not a disaster for the LREM, which was expected to hold on to its current 23 members.
Meanwhile, the Greens said they expected to return at least 10 senators and the Socialist Party was expected to lose some seats but maintain its status as the second biggest faction.
But the health of LREM, and in particular its failure to put down roots at the local level, is a growing headache for Macron as he prepares to seek re-election in 2022.
Roughly two dozen MPs defected from LREM to other groups earlier this year, robbing the party of its overall majority, although the make-up of the National Assembly means it can still pass legislation.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has lost seats in the legislative and governorship elections as a result of unnecessary disputes among its members.
These were the words of President Muhammadu Buhari at the inauguration of a Tripartite Consultative Committee of the Executive, Legislature and Leadership of the APC at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Monday.
“… The working relationships between the Executive and the Legislative have been excellent so far; our joint responsibility is to keep things that way and see where we can improve our communication and coordination,” the President was quoted as saying in a statement by his media aide, Mr Femi Adesina.
He added, “But we must admit to ourselves that our party has been too often embroiled in bitter and on occasions, totally unnecessary squabbles costing us seats in legislative and gubernatorial elections.
“These never should have happened. We are here to make sure such occurrences do not happen again. We must now ensure regular consultations between the party and the Governments.”
President Buhari stated that enhanced consultation within the ruling political party would strengthen its internal democracy and improve the chances of winning elections.
He also noted that the amicable resolution of conflicts in the party through regular consultations would create more understanding.
A Firm Believer
The President said the APC commands a clear majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives, noting that the Vice-President, the Senate President, and the Speaker of the House, and himself all belong to the party.
He, therefore, urged members of the committee to further align the objectives of the party and be alive to electoral promises, reminding party members of the need to always move the country forward.
“I am a firm believer in the doctrine of the Separation of Powers, which is fundamental to our constitutional democracy, but our practice should be harmonious checks and balances devoid of bitterness and petty rivalry,” he advised.
President Buhari said he had great faith in the Consultative Committee to help improve governance and achievements of the party and assured members of his support.
The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, chairs the committee which has as members Senate President, Ahmed Lawan; Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila; Yobe State Governor and APC Caretaker Committee Chairman, Mai Mala Buni; Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege; Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase; Senate Majority Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi; and House Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa.
Others are Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari; Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; and APC Caretaker Committee Secretary, Akpan Udoedehe.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara called for peace after clashes that have claimed at least eight lives as he filed his candidacy on Monday for elections less than three months away.
Clashes broke out after Ouattara, who initially said he would not stand again, changed his mind following the sudden death of prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, his anointed successor.
“I know I can count on all my fellow citizens to ensure that this election is peaceful and that Ivorians can make their choice in peace, without violence,” Ouattara said as he left the headquarters of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) in Abidjan, flanked by most members of the government.
“We will submit to the verdict of our citizens. The citizens will remember our record, which is an exceptional record over the past nine years… I have a vision of stability, security, peace and happiness for Ivorians,” he said.
The constitution limits presidents to two terms, but 78-year-old Ouattara and his supporters argue that a 2016 constitutional tweak reset the clock, allowing him to seek a third.
Six people were killed and about 100 were injured in demonstrations that erupted after Ouattara announced on August 6 that he would seek re-election following Gon Coulibaly’s death in July from a heart attack.
At least two more were killed at the weekend in clashes at Divo, 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Abidjan, after Ouattara formally accepted his nomination by the ruling RHDP party.
Opposition and civil society groups say Outtara’s move to stand again in the October 31 vote amounts to a “coup”.
The world’s top cocoa grower remains scarred by a brief civil war that erupted after 2010 elections, when then president Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede to the victor, Ouattara. Months of violence claimed around 3,000 lives.
– Gbabgo barred –
Challengers to the incumbent include 86-year-old former president Henri Konan Bedie for the main opposition party PDCI.
Two former ministers and Ouattara allies, ex-foreign minister Marcel Amon-Tanoh and ex-education minister Albert Toikeusse Mabri, are also running.
But election officials have rejected appeals by Gbagbo and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro to be allowed to compete.
Gbagbo was freed conditionally by the International Criminal Court (ICC) after he was cleared in 2019 of crimes against humanity.
His return to Ivory Coast would be sensitive before the presidential election. His Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party urged him to throw his hat in the electoral ring.
Soro, a former rebel leader, has been forced into self-imposed exile in France in the face of a long list of legal problems at home.
He was a leader in a 2002 revolt that sliced the former French colony into the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south and triggered years of unrest.
He was once an ally of Ouattara, helping him to power during the post-election crisis in 2010. The two eventually fell out.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Zenith Labour Party have boycotted the local government elections in Ondo State.
Channels Television learned that the parties believe the election could not be conducted in a credible, free and fair atmosphere.
Meanwhile, the Ondo State High Court, in Akure, the state capital on Friday struck out the interlocutory injunction filed by 15 political parties in the state, seeking to stop the conduct of the election.
The presiding judge, Justice Adegboyega Adebusoye struck out the application on the grounds that it breached Section 58 of the Ondo State Independent Electoral Commission (ODIEC) laws.
The polls commenced on Saturday, as Channels Television observed the early arrival of some electoral officials in some local councils.
In Ward 5, in Akure South LGA, ODIEC officials were seen sorting out voting materials as early as 7 am.
Similarly at Unit 10, Ward 6 in Akure South LGA, voting had commenced with low voter turnout.
The electoral body is conducting local government elections in 18 LGAs and 203 wards in the state.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, has ordered the Commissioners of Police in the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory to identify and arrest any individual(s) or groups(s) in possession of prohibited firearms.
The IGP’s directive comes as part of preparations toward the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, as well as efforts by the Police High Command to curb the proliferation of prohibited firearms in the country.
A statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, Force Headquarters, DCP Frank Mba, says, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, NPM, mni has ordered Commissioners of Police in the thirty-six states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to immediately initiate appropriate actions to identify, isolate, disarm, arrest and prosecute any individual(s) or group(s) in possession of prohibited firearms.
DCP Mba said that the directive has become necessary against the backdrop of the deliberate arming and movement of political thugs and other criminal elements across the country.
“In addition, the directive is targeted at addressing the proliferation and unlawful possession of prohibited firearms in the country which is contrary to the provisions of Chapter F.28 LFN 2004 of the Firearms Act.
“In a similar vein, Commissioners of Police in all the States of the Federation and the FCT have been directed to immediately convene an enlightenment meeting of all vigilante groups and quasi security outfits spread across the country in order to ensure that their activities are in conformity with the extant laws guiding their establishment and operations”.
The statement further added that the IGP, while observing that several civil groups – vigilantes, quasi-states, and regional security outfits under various guises are arming themselves with prohibited firearms and weapons in contravention of the provisions of the Firearms Act, notes that the trend if unchecked will pose a serious threat to national security.
“The IGP enjoins citizens to cooperate with the Police in the enforcement of this order as it is aimed at ensuring the safety of lives and property in the country”.
AHEAD OF EDO AND ONDO GOV ELECTIONS: IGP ORDERS NATIONWIDE CLAMPDOWN ON PROLIFERATION OF PROHIBITED FIREARMS – CPs to identify, isolate, disarm, arrest and prosecute offenders
As part of preparations toward the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo States, as well as efforts by the Police High Command to curb the proliferation of prohibited firearms in the country, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, NPM, mni has ordered Commissioners of Police in the thirty-six States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to immediately initiate appropriate actions to identify, isolate, disarm, arrest and prosecute any individual(s) or group(s) in possession of prohibited firearms.
The directive has become necessary against the backdrop of the deliberate arming and movement of political thugs and other criminal elements across the country. In addition, the directive is targeted at addressing the proliferation and unlawful possession of prohibited firearms in the country which is contrary to the provisions of Chapter F.28 LFN 2004 of the Firearms Act.
In a similar vein, Commissioners of Police in all the States of the Federation and the FCT have been directed to immediately convene an enlightenment meeting of all vigilante groups and quasi security outfits spread across the country in order to ensure that their activities are in conformity with the extant laws guiding their establishment and operations.
The IGP, while observing that several civil groups – vigilantes, quasi states and regional security outfits under various guises are arming themselves with prohibited firearms and weapons in contravention of the provisions of the Firearms Act, notes that the trend if unchecked, will pose serious threat to national security.
The IGP enjoins citizens to cooperate with the Police in the enforcement of this order as it is aimed at ensuring safety of lives and property in the country.
DCP FRANK MBA FORCE PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER FORCE HEADQUARTERS ABUJA
A contestant in the Nigerian Bar Association elections, Mr Babatunde Ajibade, has congratulated Mr Olumide Akpata who emerged as the 30th President of association.
In a statement personally signed by him on Friday, Ajibade said he was proud of the level of debate and the quality of ideas that were brought forth during the elections which held on July 29 and 30, for the improvement of the association, the welfare of its members and the good of the society.
He, however, pointed out that the build-up to the elections and the elections were not been devoid of controversy, and expressed hope that the challenges of conducting free and fair elections in the association will be resolved.
“It is unfortunate that the process leading up to and during the election itself have, once again, not been devoid of controversy. It is my fervent hope that we will get over these repeated challenges with conducting objectively free and fair elections into the leadership positions in the association.
“I remain resolute in my belief that we cannot succeed in addressing the challenges confronting our profession unless we unite and I urge the incoming President and his executive to take deliberate and proactive steps to unite the Bar,” Ajibade said.
Speaking further, he thanked all those who supported his aspiration to be elected President of the association, noting that although they did not achieve the desired goal, the experience was rewarding and fulfilling.
“I say a heartfelt thank you to all the persons too numerous to mention, who supported my aspiration to be elected President of the Nigerian Bar Association.
“Though we did not get the result we wanted, the experience has been rewarding and fulfilling. I have met and established lasting bonds of friendship with colleagues from different parts of our great country Nigeria who share my values and aspirations for a better, stronger and united legal profession.
“To all those who sacrificed their time and resources, both material and otherwise, I owe a lasting debt of gratitude. I pray that God will reward each and every one of you.
“Thank you and God bless,” the statement read in part.