Mali Records First Coronavirus Death Hours Before Election

A street vendor sells sunglasses and masks in front of a supermarket of Bamako on March 26, 2020.
A street vendor sells sunglasses and masks in front of a supermarket of Bamako on March 26, 2020. – The price of masks, gloves and sanitising gel has increased as supplies have dropped significantly after the first positive cases of COVID-19 coronavirus was reported this week in Mali. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

 

Mali recorded its first coronavirus death on Saturday, a day before the West African country voted in a long-delayed parliamentary election threatened by both the pandemic and security concerns.

The kidnapping of the leader of the main opposition party earlier in the week has also cast a pall over the vote, with a security source saying he is “likely” in the hands of a jihadist group.

Several opposition parties on Saturday called for the vote to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen 18 people test positive since the country’s first case was diagnosed on Wednesday.

Health Minister Michel Sidibe said late Saturday — just hours before polls opened the following day — that a patient who had tested positive had died earlier in the day.

“We have a death today,” he said, “because the virus was in his lungs.”

Though sub-Saharan Mali has had relatively few cases so far compared to other continents, the impoverished nation of some 19 million people — where large swathes of territory lie outside state control — is just the kind of state experts fear is particularly vulnerable.

– Jihadist recordings claim abduction –
In an unprecedented and shocking twist just days before the vote, veteran opposition leader Soumaila Cisse was kidnapped while campaigning in the conflict-ravaged centre of the country.

Cisse, 70, who has come second in three presidential elections, and six members of his team were abducted on Wednesday in an attack in which his bodyguard was killed.

“According to our information, the opposition leader was likely kidnapped by jihadists from central Mali claiming to be from Amadou Koufa,” a security source said.

Fulani preacher Amadou Koufa leads the Katiba Macina jihadist militia, a branch of the al-Qaeda-aligned Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) group active in central Mali.

Cisse and his entourage are probably now “far from where they were abducted,” the security source told AFP.

A source close to Cisse also said the opposition leader was in the hands of the Koufa’s Katiba Macina.

“Not only do we have clear indications from our own sources, but there are also recordings broadcast by the jihadists,” the source said.

Since the abduction, recordings seen by an AFP reporter have circulated on social media in the Fulani and Songhai languages spoken in central and northern Mali of men declaring loyalty to Koufa claiming Cisse’s abduction.

– ‘Difficult times’ –
Despite the deepening COVID-19 crisis, Cisse’s Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) urged its supporters to turn out in even greater numbers.

“In these difficult times our country is going through, more than ever, the party’s activists are resolutely urged to redouble their efforts for a massive participation in the March 29, 2020 elections,” the country’s main opposition party said Saturday.

But other opposition parties — the National Congress of Democratic Initiative (CNID), Patriotic Movement for Renewal (MRP) and the CMAS movement of influential imam Mahmoud Dicko — called for the vote to be postponed due to the coronavirus emergency.

Three candidates also withdrew from the poll, which will see new MPs elected to the 147-seat National Assembly for the first time since 2013.

The current parliament, which is dominated by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s party — Cisse’s URD has 18 MPs — was supposed to wrap up in late 2018, but subsequent elections were postponed, mostly over security concerns.

Voters will be supplied with hand-washing kits and masks at Sunday’s elections, as well being made to keep separate from each other, the government has said.

After Sunday’s first round vote, a second round is scheduled for April 19.

In neighbouring Mauritania, the government announced Saturday that travel between regions would be banned from noon on Sunday. The vast Sahel country also confirmed two more coronavirus cases, bringing its total to five.

-AFP

Togo Court Confirms President’s Election Victory

A police Armoured Personnel Carrier is parked in front of a campaign billboard for President Faure Gnassingbe, candidate of the ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) party, and winner of the just concluded presidential election in Lome, on February 24, 2020. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
A police Armoured Personnel Carrier is parked in front of a campaign billboard for President Faure Gnassingbe, candidate of the ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) party, and winner of the just concluded presidential election in Lome, on February 24, 2020. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Togo’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday rejected opposition claims of electoral fraud and declared Faure Gnassingbe the winner with more than 70 percent of the February vote and president for a fourth term.

In the final tally, the incumbent garnered 70.78 percent of the ballots while opposition leader and former prime minister Agbeyome Kodjodes took 19.46 percent, the court said

“Having obtained the absolute majority of votes in the first round of the ballot, Mr Faure Gnassingbe has to be declared elected president of the Republic,” announced Aboudou Assouma, president of the court.

A petition filed by Kodjo, who heads the Movement of Patriots for Democracy and Development, was annulled by the court which found it “lacked evidence likely to support the allegations.”

“I dispute with all my strength these results,” Kodjo, who had declared himself the winner before provisional results were released, told AFP.

“I consider that I am the legitimate victor in this election. I will continue to claim my victory,” he added.

The former prime minister, alleged “serious irregularities” in voting, including ballot stuffing and the use of fake polling stations.

Togo’s bishops, who back Kodjo’s movement, on Monday put out a statement critical of the election noting it took place “in a relatively calm climate” but “as far as transparency and fairness go the same cannot be said”.

Neither colonial power France nor the European Union has commented on the outcome of the ballot which keeps the Gnassingbe dynasty in power for more than half a century.

The United States voiced concern over the limited checks on voting and urged the Electoral Commission to publish results polling station by polling station for greater transparency.

Some 300 international observers were deployed, mainly from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, with many African states supporting the incumbent.

Gnassingbe, 53, has led the country of eight million people since taking over in 2005 following the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled with an iron fist for 38 years.

The electoral commission said turnout was over 76 percent. Gnassingbe’s tally was by far the biggest of all the successive elections he has won.

The president has insisted his continuing rule for five more years was central to ensuring security in Togo and preventing jihadist violence spilling over from Burkina Faso to the north.

 

AFP

Two Sides Claim Victory In Togo Presidential Election

President of the Togolese Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) Tchambakou Ayassor (2nd R), flanked by other members of the commission, announces the results of the presidential election at the CENI headquarters in Lome, February 24, 2020.  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
President of the Togolese Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) Tchambakou Ayassor (2nd R), flanked by other members of the commission, announces the results of the presidential election at the CENI headquarters in Lome, February 24, 2020. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Two sides have claimed victory in Togo’s presidential election as the main challenger to incumbent Faure Gnassingbe cried foul, citing “revelations of fraud”.

The national electoral commission Ceni has yet to announce results from Saturday’s election, which passed off peacefully in the West African nation.

But Gilbert Bawara, minister of public functions and a strong supporter of the president, told AFP Sunday: “The lead of President Faure Gnassingbe is well above 50 percent, and even more than 60 percent.

“Victory is assured but it is up to the Ceni to independently proclaim the results,” he added. “We are optimistic and anticipate a clear victory in the first round” of voting.

A source in the president’s office added that “UNIR (the ruling party) has held on to all its traditional strongholds and has even done better everywhere, including in difficult areas in the south and in Lome.”

A widely expected win by the incumbent would extend more than a half century of dynastic rule over the former French colony by Gnassingbe’s family despite broad disillusionment over its failure to drag many out of poverty.

Agbeyome Kodjo, who was prime minister under Gnassingbe’s father, had emerged as a dark horse challenger looking to stop Gnassingbe’s bid for a fourth term in office, after winning the backing of an influential former Catholic archbishop.

He invited journalists to his home late Saturday to claim a thumping victory for himself while alleging fraud.

“Considering the revelations of fraud which marked this ballot, it is impossible for the outgoing candidate to be elected in the first round,” Kodjo said, adding that he based his assertion on 60 percent of the results.

“I have the conviction that in the coming week, I will lead this country,” he said, describing the vote as a “veritable tsunami” in his favour.

After voting ended on Saturday, troops briefly surrounded Kodjo’s home and that of the former Lome archbishop, Monsignor Philippe Kpodzro, a move the authorities said was for their “own safety”.

Bawara played down Internet cuts and disruption to social media networks since vote counting began on Saturday, laying blame on mobile telephone operators Togocel and Moov and remarking: “These things happen.”

Kodjo claimed the authorities had used ballot stuffing to skew the results in the incumbent’s favour.

He said figures from various polling stations showed he was in the lead in the capital Lome and the coastal region and had “good scores” in other areas.

The election commission has promised to release the official results on Monday.

Situation calm

Gnassingbe has led the country of eight million people since taking over in 2005 following the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled with an iron fist for 38 years.

The situation around Lome was calm Sunday morning, an AFP journalist reported. Internet connections appeared to be sporadically interrupted however.

The authorities banned hundreds of local observers from monitoring the election and cancelled the system of electronic security at the last moment.

Some 300 international observers were deployed, mainly from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, with many African states supporting the incumbent.

Six opposition challengers have suggested they will unite against Gnassingbe if he fails to win an outright majority and the election goes to a second round.

In 2017 and 2018, Togolese authorities faced major protests demanding an end to the family’s five-decade rule.

Despite economic growth of around five percent, around half of Togo lives on less than $1.90 per day.

But the demonstrations faded in the face of government repression and squabbles among the opposition.

In May, Gnassingbe oversaw an overhaul of the constitution that allowed him to run this year — and potentially remain in office until 2030.

Stability and security are central to the president’s message as jihadist violence rocks northern neighbour Burkina Faso.

Togo has so far managed to prevent the bloodshed spilling over and its army and intelligence service are considered to be among the most effective in the region.

 

AFP

Togo Begins To Count Votes As Key Contestant Alleges Fraud

An electoral officer sorts ballot papers at a polling station in Lome on February 22, 2020, following a day of voting in presidential elections. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
An electoral officer sorts ballot papers at a polling station in Lome on February 22, 2020, following a day of voting in presidential elections. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Togo tallied ballots Sunday after a key challenger insisted he could cause a shock upset despite what he claimed was “fraud” in an election President Faure Gnassingbe was widely expected to win.  

Troops briefly surrounded the homes of opposition candidate Agbeyome Kodjo and one of his main allies shortly after voting ended on Saturday in a move the authorities said was for their “own safety”.

Kodjo has emerged as a dark house challenger looking to stop Gnassingbe’s bid for a fourth term in office that would extend his family’s half-century domination over the West African nation.

The president and his supporters had been confident of a resounding victory in the first round, despite widespread disillusionment after 53 years of dynastic rule that has failed to drag many out of poverty.

“I have the conviction that in the coming week, I will lead this country,” Kodjo told journalists at a press conference in his house after the security forces left.

“Considering the revelations of fraud which marked this ballot, it is impossible for the outgoing candidate to be elected in the first round.”

Kodjo claimed the authorities had used ballot stuffing, fake polling stations and people casting multiple votes to skew the results in the incumbent’s favour.

The challenger said figures gathered from various polling stations showed he was in the lead in the capital Lome and the coastal region and had “good scores” in other areas.

The election commission is expected to release the official provisional results early next week.

Situation calm

The situation around Lome was calm Sunday morning, an AFP journalist reported.

Internet connections appeared to be sporadically interrupted.

Gnassingbe has led the West African country of eight million people since taking over in 2005 following the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled with an iron fist for 38 years.

Kodjo, a former prime minister under Gnassingbe’s father, gained ground during the campaign after winning the backing of an influential former Catholic archbishop.

The authorities banned hundreds of local observers from monitoring the election and cancelled the system of electronic security at the last moment.

Some 300 international observers were deployed, mainly from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, with many African states supporting the incumbent.

The six opposition challengers have suggested they will unite against the president if he fails to win an outright majority and the election goes to a second round.

That vote would be held 15 days after the announcement of the final results.

The authorities faced major protests in 2017 and 2018 demanding an end to the Gnassingbe family’s five-decade stranglehold.

But the demonstrations petered out in the face of government repression and squabbles among the opposition.

Last May, Gnassingbe oversaw an overhaul of the constitution that allowed him to run this year — and potentially remain in office until 2030.

Despite economic growth of around five percent, around half of Togo lives on less than $1.90 per day.

Stability and security are central to Gnassingbe’s message as jihadist violence rocks its northern neighbour Burkina Faso.

Togo has so far managed to prevent the bloodshed spilling over and its army and intelligence service are among the most effective in the region.

 

AFP

Guinea Postpones Elections Again, As Protests Continue

Guinean police patrol in Conakry on January 14, 2020, on the second day of open-ended protests against the president's suspected bid to prolong his rule. CELLOU BINANI / AFP
Guinean police patrol in Conakry on January 14, 2020, on the second day of open-ended protests against the president’s suspected bid to prolong his rule. CELLOU BINANI / AFP

 

Guinea’s president announced Monday that parliamentary elections initially due in late 2018 would once again be postponed, as the country grapples with long-running opposition protests.

President Alpha Conde said parliamentary elections would be pushed back by two weeks — from February 16 to March 1 — but offered no explanation.

The current parliament continues to sit despite beginning a five-year term in January 2014.

READ ALSO: Army Deploys 185 Troops To Guinea Bissau On Peacekeeping Operation

Anti-Conde demonstrators have been taking to the streets since last October in protests marked by violence in which 26 people have died, according to an AFP count.

Opposition parties see the elections as a manoeuvre by Conde to strengthen his power and have promised to boycott the poll and try to stop it taking place.

Last month, Conde’s government floated the idea of holding a referendum on constitutional reform in February.

Jailed under previous hardline regimes, Conde became Guinea’s first democratically- elected president in 2010 and was returned to office by voters in 2015 for his second and final five-year term under the current constitution.

His critics suspect he wants to use the installation of a new constitution as a way of continuing in office for a third term.

AFP

YouTube To Ban Doctored Videos That Could Manipulate Voters

 

YouTube said Monday it would remove election-related videos that are “manipulated or doctored” to mislead voters, in the latest effort to stem online misinformation.

The Google-owned video service said it was taking the measures as part of an effort to be a “more reliable source” for news and to promote a “healthy political discourse.”

Leslie Miller, YouTube’s vice president of government affairs and public policy, said in a blog post that the service’s community standards will ban “content that has been technically manipulated or doctored in a way that misleads users … and may pose a serious risk of egregious harm.”

The policy also bans content which aims to mislead people about voting or the census processes.

AFP

Burundi’s Ruling Party Picks Presidential Candidate

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza gives a speech as he inaugurates the new state house constructed by the Chinese aid in Bujumbura, during its inauguration on September 27, 2019.  AFP

 

Burundi’s ruling party said Sunday that party leader General Evariste Ndayishimiye would stand as its candidate in a presidential election in May.

Ndayishimiye is an ally of current President Pierre Nkurunziza who will not seek a new mandate after his controversial election to a third term in 2015 plunged the country into crisis.

“Gen Evariste Ndayishimiye chosen to represent the CNDD-FDD at the 2020 presidential election,” the party tweeted during an extraordinary congress at which Nkurunziza was present.

Nkurunziza’s tenure has been marked by allegations of grave rights abuses and a crackdown on political freedoms.

Constitutional changes would have allowed him to stay in office until 2034, but he said in 2018 that he would not stand for re-election again.

Ahead of Sunday’s congress, Nkurunziza had announced “the beginning of a new page in the history of Burundi and the CNDD-FDD party”.

The violent aftermath of the last presidential election in 2015 made Burundi a focus of an investigation by the International Criminal Court for alleged murders, rapes, tortures, and disappearances.

Civil unrest left 1,200 people dead and drove 400,000 from their homes.

Ndayishimiye, 52, is already a key member of Burundi’s ruling elite.

He has served as interior and security minister and chief of the president’s military and civilian cabinet.

Like the current president, Ndayishimiye emerged from rebellion movement against the ruling Tutsi community by ethnic Hutus who gained power after the country’s civil war, and was a key signatory of the 2003 ceasefire that ended the conflict.

“He’s an approachable, easygoing man, who likes to joke and laugh with his friends,” a friend who declined to be identified said of Ndayishimiye.

“But unlike Nkurunziza who is a composed, cold-blooded animal, Evariste Ndayishimiye is rather quick to anger and can lose his temper, with a risk of escalation,” the friend said.

A diplomatic source told AFP that Ndayishimiye had a reputation for “openness and honesty, unlike the other generals” having emerge from the civil war.

“He’s the best choice, but he will have a hard time prompting change and openness towards the opposition in a party that’s dominated by an extremist and sectarian current,” the diplomat said.

According to a newly-adopted law, Nkurunziza meanwhile is to stay in a newly-built luxury villa after he steps down, receive a one-off payment of close to $550,000 and a salary for the rest of his life.

It is unclear whether he will stay out of politics, but experts say he is likely to remain influential.

str-fal/jh/har

Re-Run Elections: Police Will Be Professional, Apolitical – IGP

Police To Establish National Crime Analysis Centre, Warn Personnel Against Misconduct
A file photo of the IGP, Mr Mohammed Adamu.

 

 

The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has given an assurance that police personnel deployed for the re-run elections would carry out their duties without prejudice.

He gave the assurance in a statement on Friday by the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, ahead of the elections scheduled to hold on Saturday in 11 states.

“The Inspector-General of Police has reiterated that police personnel deployed for the elections will be professional and apolitical in the discharge of their responsibilities,” Mba said.

He added, “He (the IGP), therefore, enjoins politicians and candidates standing in for the elections as well as the electorates, to ensure strict conformity to the rule of law.”

The exercise will take place in 28 Federal and State Constituencies – covering one senatorial district, 12 House of Representatives, and 15 State Houses of Assembly.

The states are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Cross River, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Niger, Ogun, and Sokoto.

In view of this, the police boss ordered a comprehensive security arrangement for all offices and facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the affected states.

He also ordered the Commissioners of Police in the state to put in place adequate security arrangements towards ensuring hitch-free elections and a level playing ground for all the candidates and parties in the elections.

Adamu also warned police personnel deployed to abide strictly by the laws guiding the conduct of officers on election duty.

China Slams US For Congratulating Tsai On Taiwan Poll Win

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (C) waves to supporters outside her campaign headquarters in Taipei on January 11, 2020.  Sam Yeh / AFP

 

China on Sunday slammed officials from the US and other countries for congratulating Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen after she was re-elected with a landslide victory in a stunning rebuke of Beijing’s campaign to isolate the self-ruled island.

Tsai, who had pitched herself as a defender of liberal democratic values against an increasingly authoritarian China, secured a record-breaking win in Saturday’s presidential election.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as top diplomats from Britain and Japan, issued statements congratulating Tsai and the island’s democratic elections.

But Beijing, which views Taiwan as part of its territory, denounced their actions as violating the one-China principle.

“The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to this,” said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“We oppose any form of official exchange between Taiwan and countries that have established diplomatic relations with China,” he said in a statement.

Chinese state media also sought to downplay Tsai’s victory and cast doubt on the legitimacy of her campaign by accusing the Taiwanese leader of “dirty tactics” and cheating.

Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) used “dirty tactics such as cheating, repression and intimidation to get votes, fully exposing their selfish, greedy and evil nature”, said official news agency Xinhua in an op-ed Sunday.

Xinhua also accused Tsai of buying votes, and said “external dark forces” were partly responsible for the election results.

Beijing, which has vowed to one day take Taiwan — by force if necessary — loathes Tsai because she refuses to acknowledge the idea that Taiwan is part of “one China”.

China doubled down on its “one-China principle” after Tsai’s victory, with Geng emphasising Sunday that “regardless of what happens in Taiwan, the basic facts won’t change: there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China”.

“The Chinese government’s position won’t change,” he added in a statement.

‘Orchestrating tensions’

Over the last four years, Beijing has ramped up economic, military and diplomatic pressure on the island, hoping it would scare voters into supporting Tsai’s opposition.

But the strong-arm tactics have backfired and voters flocked to Tsai’s DPP, fuelled in part by China’s hardline response to months of huge and violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Chinese state media have accused Tsai, who frequently invokes Hong Kong’s protests as a warning about a Beijing-controlled Taiwan, of fear-mongering.

Tsai and her party are “orchestrating tensions”, wrote the nationalistic Global Times on Saturday.

At the end of 2019, the Taiwanese leader “wantonly hyped up the so-called threat from the Chinese mainland while slandering Han Kuo-yu’s mainland connections”, it said, referring to her Beijing-friendly main opponent from the Kuomintang party.

Chinese state media also dismissed Saturday’s election results as an anomaly in long-term ties between Taiwan and the mainland, with Xinhua describing Tsai’s win as a “fluke”.

“The fact that the Chinese mainland is getting increasingly stronger and the Taiwan island is getting weaker is an inevitable reality,” added the Global Times.

“Recognising and complying with the reality is the only feasible option for Taiwan’s peaceful development.”

AFP

Over 16,000 Complaints Filed In Afghan Presidential Polls

 

More than 16,000 complaints have been filed to Afghan election authorities over the handling of this year’s presidential polls, officials said Thursday, days after preliminary results put President Ashraf Ghani in place to secure a second term.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced earlier this week that Ghani had won a slim 50.64 percent majority in the September 28 poll.

The final results are expected to be announced in the coming weeks after the complaints have been reviewed.

“(Officials) have 15 days to finalise its investigation into the complaints and release the results to the candidates,” said Zuhra Bayan Shinwari, head of the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), adding that 16,500 complaints were received in total.

If the numbers hold following these investigations, the result is enough for Ghani to avoid a run-off, after he easily beat his long-time rival Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who scored 39.52 percent.

According to Shinwari, Abdullah’s team filed around 8,000 complaints to the ECC and Ghani handed in over 3,000, while the rest were submitted by other candidates.

Preliminary results originally due October 19 were repeatedly delayed for what the IEC said were technical issues. Various candidates, particularly Abdullah, alleged fraud.

Observers and candidates have blasted the IEC over its handling of the count and its repeated disregard of the electoral calendar.

The election was meant to be the cleanest yet in Afghanistan’s young democracy.

A German firm supplied biometric machines to stop people from voting more than once.

But allegations of vote stuffing, illegal balloting and other fraud came almost as soon as the polls had closed.

Nearly one million of the initial 2.7 million votes were purged owing to irregularities, meaning the election saw by far the lowest turnout of any Afghan poll.

Ultimately, only 1.8 million votes were counted — a tiny number given Afghanistan’s estimated population of 37 million and a total of 9.6 million registered voters.

Abdullah lost to Ghani in 2014 in a divisive election that saw the US intervene to broker an awkward power-sharing deal between the two rivals.

Protesters Storm Polling Station In Algeria

Algerian security forces surround protesters staging an anti-government demonstration in the capital Algiers on December 12, 2019 on the day of the presidential election.  AFP

 

Algerian anti-government protesters stormed a polling station in central Algiers on Thursday, forcing a half-hour suspension of voting there, an AFP journalist witnessed.

The North African country is holding a presidential election meant to end a months-long political crisis, but the poll has been marred by new mass protests and attempts to disrupt voting.

AFP

Cameroon Opposition Says Party To Boycott Legislative Poll

In this file photo taken on October 5, 2019, Cameroonian opposition leader Maurice Kamto is greeted and acclaimed by hundreds of supporters in Yaounde after his release from prison. The United States on November 19, 2019, urged Cameroon to devolve power in its troubled anglophone region, saying the government’s military response was only strengthening separatists. Nagy told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee. STRINGER / AFP

 

Cameroon’s main opposition figure, Maurice Kamto, on Monday said his party would boycott the country’s legislative and municipal elections on February 9.

Kamto said the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) would not take part in the vote.

“The MRC,” he added, “calls on Cameroonians not to go out and vote and to stay at home on February 9, 2020, to avoid giving credibility to elections which will not restore peace in our country.”

Kamto, 65, was arrested in late January after months of peaceful protests over the disputed results of an October 2018 presidential election.

The ballot was won by President Paul Biya, who has ruled the Central African state with an iron fist for 37 years.

Kamto went on trial with dozens of others in a military court in September on charges of insurrection, hostility to the motherland and rebellion.

He was freed in October after a military court ordered his release at Biya’s behest, a move seen as a surprise conciliatory gesture by the veteran president.