Biden Faces US Voters At Town Hall, Trump Heads Back To Wisconsin

WILMINGTON, DE – SEPTEMBER 16: Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden waves as he leaves the Hotel Dupont after having internal campaign meetings on September 16, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Earlier in the day, Biden participated in a briefing with medical professionals about the coronavirus vaccine. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

White House hopeful Joe Biden on Thursday holds his first extended face-to-face with voters since winning the Democratic nomination, a town hall where he will likely savage President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

With less than seven weeks before Election Day, Biden has ramped up his public appearances after spending large chunks of time at his Delaware home, even as Trump repeatedly barnstorms swing states.

Now both candidates are hitting the physical campaign trail in earnest, although still in very different ways.

Trump returns to Wisconsin Thursday for a public rally fueled by his signature bravado — a contrast to Biden’s quieter style of connecting with blue collar and everyday voters.

Ahead of his departure, Trump railed on Twitter against the move by many states to encourage voters to mail in their ballots, thereby avoiding possible coronavirus risks in polling stations.

The shift, which is popular with Democrats, will promote “ELECTION MAYHEM,” he tweeted, claiming that the results of the November 3 vote “may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED.”

He offered no evidence for his claims, and mail-in voting, which has been regularly used in previous elections, has never been tied to any wide-scale fraud.

Biden is attempting to project a calming alternative to Trump’s fury.

At the CNN town hall, he will take questions from a live, socially distanced audience on what could be described as his home turf — Scranton, the scrappy Pennsylvania city where he was born.

But the town hall event carries risks for a candidate who has done few unscripted encounters in the last months.

The 77-year-old former vice president has largely kept close to his home in Delaware during the pandemic, which has so far killed nearly 200,000 Americans. His go-to events have been speeches, with reporters rarely able to ask questions.

He has traveled to swing states like Wisconsin, Florida and Pennsylvania, but has dodged crowds and engages with voters only in small, controlled settings.

Trump has badgered his rival for remaining cloistered in his “basement” and declining to engage in more traditional campaign events.

Local officials briefed on the town hall plans told US media that it will take place in a stadium parking lot, and that pre-approved attendees will drive in and park near the stage.

CNN said it will adhere to Pennsylvania pandemic guidelines, which limit gatherings to less than 250 people.

– Growing animosity –

The dueling events come one day after each candidate homed in on the pandemic as a campaign issue — and offered dramatically different views of how the Trump administration has responded.

Biden delivered a scathing speech in which he said “I don’t trust Donald Trump” to provide a vaccine free from any political interference.

The Republican incumbent meanwhile insisted a vaccine could be ready this year, directly contradicting the timeline offered by a top government health official.

Trump said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield, one of the most prominent experts overseeing US pandemic response, “made a mistake” and “was confused” when he testified to lawmakers Wednesday that a safe and effective vaccine would not be widely available until mid-2021.

Trump also criticized Redfield for renewing his call for Americans to wear face masks as their best defense against spreading Covid-19.

Biden routinely appears at functions wearing a mask. Trump almost never does, and he mocks Biden for doing so.

Biden’s town hall comes two days after Trump appeared in a similar setting, also in Pennsylvania — in Philadelphia.

Critics panned the president’s performance, including his insistence that he had not downplayed the coronavirus threat, even though he acknowledged doing just that in a taped interview with journalist Bob Woodward.

The animosity has ramped up between Trump and Biden ahead of their first debate, scheduled for September 29 in Ohio.

Biden has consistently led Trump in national polls.

He is also ahead in several key battlegrounds like Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — all states won by Trump in his shock 2016 election victory — although by dwindling margins.

AFP

Iran Says UAE, Bahrain Will Bear ‘Consequences’ Of Israel Deals

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on January 22, 2020 shows President Hassan Rouhani chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran. HO / Iranian Presidency / AFP
A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on January 22, 2020 shows President Hassan Rouhani chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran. HO / Iranian Presidency / AFP.

 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain will be responsible for any “consequences” resulting from their normalisation of relations with Tehran’s arch-foe Israel.

The remarks came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed agreements establishing full diplomatic ties at a ceremony at the White House.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Rouhani said Israel was “committing more crimes in Palestine every day”.

“Some of the region’s countries, their people are pious Muslims but their rulers neither understand religion nor (their) debt… to the nation of Palestine, to their brothers speaking their language,” he said in televised remarks.

“How could you reach out your hands to Israel? And then you want to give them bases in the region? All the severe consequences that would arise from this are on you.”

US President Donald Trump said similar Washington-brokered deals were close between Israel and several Arab countries, including Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia.

“After decades of division and conflict we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” Trump said.

An aide to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that some Gulf states had become “puppets” of the US and Israel in the “vain hope” of getting their support.

“They have pinned their hopes on nothing and built a house on water, and they will pay for this cowardly act,” foreign affairs adviser Ali Akbar Velayati was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.

The remarks were made during a meeting of the council of the “International Society for the Islamic Awakening”, Tasnim said.

Iran had previously warned Bahrain that its deal made it a partner to Israel’s “crimes” and accused the UAE of betraying the Muslim world.

In 2016, Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Iran and the UAE downgraded relations amid rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic republic.

Sunni-ruled Bahrain has faced long-running unrest among its large Shiite community that it has consistently blamed on Iran.

AFP

Venezuela President Behind Crimes Against Humanity – UN Probe

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 04, 2018 The “Palais des Nations”, which houses the United Nations Offices, is seen at the end of the flag-lined front lawn in Geneva. – The United Nations said on June 18, 2020, it was resuming resettlement travel for refugees, which was suspended in March due to the coronavirus crisis, delaying departures for some 10,000 refugees. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

 

Venezuela’s president and top ministers are responsible for probable crimes against humanity including extrajudicial killings and the systematic use of torture, UN investigators said on Wednesday.

In their first report, a team of investigators tasked with probing a slew of alleged violations in Venezuela said they had found evidence that state actors, including President Nicolas Maduro, were behind serious international crimes.

The International Fact-Finding Mission, created by the UN Human Rights Council a year ago, “found reasonable grounds to believe that Venezuelan authorities and security forces have since 2014 planned and executed serious human rights violations,” Marta Valinas, the mission’s chairperson, said in a statement.

Some of those violations, “including arbitrary killings and the systematic use of torture, amount to crimes against humanity,” she said.

“Far from being isolated acts, these crimes were coordinated and committed pursuant to state policies, with the knowledge or direct support of commanding officers and senior government officials.”

The 411-page report spelled out which Venezuelan officials it deemed responsible, citing “reasonable grounds to believe that both the President and the Ministers of People’s Power for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace, and for Defence, ordered or contributed to the commission of the crimes documented in this report.”

– International ‘legal action’ –

The investigators demanded that Venezuelan authorities immediately carry out “independent, impartial and transparent investigations” into the violations, and ensure victims receive “full redress”.

Other jurisdictions, including the International Criminal Court, “should also consider legal actions against individuals responsible for violations and crimes the mission identified,” Valinas said.

The three-person team was unable to visit Venezuela, but based their findings on 274 remote interviews with victims, witnesses, former state officials and others, and analysis of confidential documents, including legal case files.

Maduro faces mounting pressure from world powers who accuse him of violently cracking down on dissent over Venezuela’s economic collapse and on opponents in a harsh political stand-off in recent years.

Wednesday’s report decried a vast array of abuses committed amid a gradual breakdown of democratic institutions and the rule of law in the country.

They highlighted soaring numbers of extrajudicial killings in Venezuela, lamenting that the vast majority of such killings by security forces had resulted in no prosecutions.

The mission reviewed over 2,500 incidents since 2014 that led to more than 5,000 killings by security forces, many of them arbitrary.

And it probed 140 so-called Operations for People’s Liberation, established purportedly to fight crime, but which between 2015 and 2017 resulted in 413 people being killed, shot “sometimes at point blank range”.

The report pointed out that government officials had repeatedly praised such operations.

– ‘Systematic’ torture –

“These extrajudicial executions cannot be attributed to a lack of discipline among the security forces,” Valinas said, pointing out that “high-ranking officials had effective command and control over the perpetrators and knowledge of their actions but failed to prevent or repress the violations.

“The killings appear part of a policy to eliminate unwanted members of society under the cover of combatting crime.”

The investigators called for the dismantlement of Venezuela’s Special Action Forces, which along with the national police agency was responsible for well over half of the killings.

The investigators also decried the “systematic practice of torture” against people detained during anti-government protests, and against people accused of rebellion or coup attempts.

It pointed to techniques including rape, asphyxiation, beatings, electric shocks and death threats to extract confessions or as punishment.

At least three people had died after being subjected to torture while in the custody of Venezuela’s military counter-intelligence directorate and its national intelligence service, the report found.

Investigator Francisco Cox stressed in a statement that commanding officers and high-level officials “had full knowledge of this pattern of crimes,” adding that the investigators had drawn up a list of 45 officials within the two agencies “who should be investigated and prosecuted”.

AFP

Philippines President Pardons US Marine In Transgender Killing

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 1, 2015, US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton (C) is escorted by Philippine policemen shortly after arriving at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, from Olongapor city where a court convicted him of homicide for the killing of Jennifer Laude in a motel in October 2014. – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has granted an absolute pardon to a US marine convicted of killing a transgender woman, officials said on September 7, 2020, drawing condemnation from rights groups. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / POOL / AFP)

 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has granted an absolute pardon to a US marine convicted of killing a transgender woman, officials said Monday, drawing condemnation from rights groups.

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton has been in prison since the October 2014 killing of Jennifer Laude, whom he met at a bar while on a break from military exercises in the northern city of Olongapo.

A local court ruled last week that Pemberton qualified for early release due to good behaviour, but was still being held due to an appeal.

Duterte’s pardon clears all legal obstacles to his release, despite him serving just half his 10-year sentence.

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque, a lawyer who represented the Laude family during the trial, confirmed Duterte’s decision.

“The president has erased the remaining punishment against Pemberton… He can now go home because of the pardon,” Roque told reporters.

The Laude family lawyer condemned the decision, calling it a “mockery” of the country’s justice system.

“This is another injustice — not only to Jennifer Laude and family but a grave injustice to the Filipino people,” Virginia Suarez said in a statement.

“This is a travesty of Philippine sovereignty and democracy.”

The pardon has renewed anti-American sentiment in the Southeast Asian nation, where groups have long called for removal of US military presence.

Edre Olalia, of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, called the pardon “a brazen and shameless sell-out” of country’s sovereignty.

The pardon came despite Duterte shifting away from the US to seek closer relations with China since assuming power in 2016.

He will address the nation on Monday night after meeting his Cabinet and he is expected to speak on the issue, Roque said.

AFP

French Ex-President Sarkozy To Face Campaign Finance Trial In March

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 21, 2019 Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech as he attends the conference marking the fiftieth anniversary of the election of Georges Pompidou to the Presidency of the French Republic: “With Georges Pompidou, think France: inheritances and perspectives” in Paris. Thomas SAMSON / AFP.

 

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy will stand trial in March on charges of campaign finance violations during his failed 2012 re-election bid, prosecutors said Thursday.

Sarkozy, who already faces a separate trial for corruption involving a judge, is accused of spending nearly double the legal campaign spending limit of 22.5 million euros ($26.6 million).

The trial was ordered last year after his lawyers failed with legal manoeuvres to avoid prosecution. If convicted he risks a one-year prison sentence.

Investigators claim that Sarkozy’s campaign used fake invoices to get around the campaign spending limits.

But Sarkozy, 65, has claimed he was unaware of a fraud he says was orchestrated by executives at the public relations firm Bygmalion.

Thirteen other people, including a number of Bygmalion executives, have also been charged in the case, scheduled to run from March 17 to April 15.

In October, Sarkozy will become the country’s first former head of state to stand trial on corruption charges, in a case where he is accused of trying to secure classified information from a judge.

Prosecutors say he offered to help the judge obtain a cushy post in Monaco in exchange for the information, leading to charges of corruption and influence peddling.

Sarkozy has been charged over accusations by former members of Moamer Kadhafi’s regime that he accepted millions from the slain Libyan dictator, some of it delivered in cash-stuffed suitcases, for his first presidential campaign in 2007.

He is appealing the charge, and a hearing is expected this month.

Despite his legal woes, Sarkozy is currently enjoying a surge in sales for his latest memoirs, “The Time of Storms,” which recounts the first two years of his presidency.

AFP

Macron To Meet Embattled Ivory Coast Leader Friday

French President Emmanuel Macron makes a statement as he arrives for a European Union Council in Brussels on July 17, 2020, as the leaders of the European Union hold their first face-to-face summit over a post-virus economic rescue plan. Francisco Seco / POOL / AFP.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron will meet in Paris on Friday with his Ivory Coast counterpart Alassane Ouattara, whose surprise decision last month to seek a third term has thrown his country into turmoil.

France had welcomed the “historic decision” last March by Ouattara, 78, not to run for re-election, hoping the move would encourage other longstanding African leaders to embrace more democratic regimes.

But the death of his prime minister, who many say was poised to succeed him, prompted a reversal that has sparked weeks of deadly clashes between supporters of rival parties.

Macron has not commented publicly on Ouattara’s move, but a source in the French presidency said Thursday that his hope for a generational change in Ivory Coast remains firm.

On Monday, supporters of the country’s former president Laurent Gbagbo as well as Ouattara’s former ally Guillaume Soro both filed their candidacies in what will likely be tense elections next month.

The move came even though both Gbagbo and Soro had been barred by the electoral commission from running due to convictions in the country’s courts.

The crisis has revived fears of the fierce post-election violence that saw some 3,000 people killed ten years ago, when Gbagbo refused to recognise Ouattara’s election victory.

AFP

Macron In High-Stakes Lebanon Reform Drive

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on August 31, 2020 shows Lebanese President Michel Aoun (C-R) and French President Emmanuel Macron (C-L), both wearing face masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, during a welcome ceremony at Beirut International airport. DALATI AND NOHRA / AFP.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron pressed his “risky” drive for political change in Lebanon Tuesday, as the former French mandate marked its centenary while teetering on the brink of the abyss.

Macron has set an ambitious goal for his second visit since a deadly August 4 explosion ravaged Beirut: to press for change without being seen as a meddler.

He kicked off his trip on Monday, not by visiting political leaders, but by spending more than an hour with singing legend Fairuz, who at 85 is a rare unifying figure in Lebanon.

Macron ticked off more symbols to mark 100 years Tuesday since French mandate authorities proclaimed the creation of Greater Lebanon.

In the Jaj forest northeast of Beirut, he planted a cedar tree — Lebanon’s national symbol — to express “confidence in the future of the country,” his office said in a statement.

The French air force flew overhead leaving a trail of red, white and green smoke — the colours of the country’s flag.

Macron then returned for a second visit to Beirut port, ground zero of the colossal blast that killed more than 180 people, wounded at least 6,500 others and laid waste to entire districts of the capital.

He oversaw the distribution of aid from the French helicopter carrier Tonnerre which arrived in Beirut on August 14.

Macron also met with some 400 French soldiers working with the Lebanese army to clear thousands of tonnes of debris from the port, vital for a country whose food is 85 percent imported.

– ‘Demanding without interfering’ –

Macron will then begin the most sensitive and anticipated leg of his visit: difficult discussions with under-fire political leaders widely blamed for the explosion, which was caused by a stockpile of ammonium nitrate fertiliser that had languished in the port for years.

Upon his arrival on Monday, Macron said his position towards Lebanon’s political establishment “is unchanged: demanding without interfering”.

For this position to be deemed credible by disenchanted Lebanese as well as by the rest of the international community, Macron must obtain swift results.

This is why on Monday evening he called for a so-called “mission government” to spearhead reforms just hours after Lebanese President Michel Aoun designated Mustapha Adib as the country’s new prime minister.

The French president said it was not his place to “approve” of the designation of Adib — a little known 48-year-old diplomat who since 2013 had served as Lebanon’s ambassador to Germany.

But if Lebanon hopes to unlock desperately needed international assistance, political leaders must enact “real reforms” long demanded by donors, Macron said.

“If we do not do this, the Lebanese economy will collapse” and “the only victim will be the Lebanese people (…) who cannot go into exile”, he warned on Friday.

– ‘Risky’ –

Adib was named on Monday by political leaders widely seen as inept and corrupt by demonstrators who have taken to the streets in mass protests since October 17 against the entire political class.

The protest camp has already rejected the choice of Adib as premier, charging that he is too close to established political circles.

“No cabinet by or with the murderers” said posters brandished by demonstrators who waited for Macron outside Fairouz’s home.

Late on Monday, Macron also met with former prime minister Saad Hariri at the Ottoman-era residence of the French ambassador, from whose porch 100 years ago Greater Lebanon was proclaimed.

After a lunch with Aoun in the presidential palace on Tuesday, he will meet with representatives of the country’s top nine political blocs in the second such talks since the blast.

Representatives of the powerful Hezbollah movement, designated by the US as a terrorist group, will be among those meeting Macron.

The French president has justified his openness to “talk with everyone”, including Hezbollah, by saying the Iran-backed group is “a political force that is represented in parliament”.

With the protest camp warning against giving another lease of life to a hereditary ruling class that will only pay lip service to reform, Macron admitted in an interview that his brokering drive was a gamble.

“It’s a risky bet I’m making, I am aware of it… I am putting the only thing I have on the table: my political capital,” he told Politico.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday his movement was “open” to a proposal made by Macron on his previous visit for a new political pact for the country.

Aoun and parliament speaker Nabih Berri have followed suit by backing calls for the formation of a “secular” state.

AFP

Trump Presses Law And Order Message As Protest Turns Deadly

File photo: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event about citizens positively impacted by law enforcement, in the East Room of the White House on July 13, 2020 in Washington, DC. The president highlighted life-saving actions by law enforcement officers and cited these examples as a potential negative effect that defunding the police would have on the lives of Americans. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden traded pre-election barbs Sunday as violent clashes continued to roil the US city of Portland following the fatal shooting of a protestor.

While the US leader tried to characterize Biden as weak on crime, his opponent accused Trump of fanning the flames of violence in a polarized and tense nation.

Saturday’s shooting during a pro-Trump rally in the Oregon city followed a week of country-wide protests — including the cancellation of numerous sporting events — over the police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin of African American Jacob Blake.

The violence in Portland erupted during a rally involving hundreds of vehicles “caravaning throughout downtown Portland,” police said. OregonLive reported “clashes” and “tense moments” between demonstrators and counter-protestors.

Photographs from the scene showed the victim wearing a hat with a logo for “Patriot Prayer,” described by local media as a far-right group at the center of multiple Portland demonstrations that have ended in violence.

By 10 pm Sunday, about 100 to 150 anti-racism protestors had gathered outside a police building to the east of the city centre, waving signs and occasionally throwing projectiles.

Police declared the gathering an illegal assembly and in a tweet ordered people to leave the scene, warning of arrests and the use of tear gas.

Videos posted online showed about 20 officers rushing from the building to clear the area, and arresting a handful or protestors.

The Portland clashes followed unrest in Kenosha, where prosecutors accused 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of shooting dead two men and wounding another who were protesting against Blake’s shooting.

Trump is due to travel on Tuesday to the Midwestern city to meet law enforcement officials and view damage from unrest triggered by Blake’s shooting last weekend.

Wisconsin’s governor Tony Evers sent the president a letter asking him to reconsider the visit as it “will only hinder our healing,” according to US media reports.

– ‘Law and order’ –

Violence connected to anti-racism protests has become a major issue in the campaign for November’s presidential election, with Trump presenting himself as the “law and order” choice and arguing that a Biden presidency would allow left-wing mob rule.

Biden condemned the violence and argued that Trump had played a role in spurring the clashes.

“He is recklessly encouraging violence,” the Democratic nominee said in a statement.

“He may believe tweeting about law and order makes him strong – but his failure to call on his supporters to stop seeking conflict shows just how weak he is.”

Biden’s campaign said he will give a speech Monday to address what it called a key question facing voters in November “Are you safe in Donald Trump’s America?”

Trump spent Sunday morning tweeting and retweeting dozens of posts purporting to show violence in Democratic-run cities, and especially Portland.

The president has repeatedly threatened to send federal government forces into the west coast city if Mayor Ted Wheeler does not crack down.

Trump attacked Wheeler, a Democrat, for refusing help from the National Guard, which he said “could solve these problems in less than 1 hour.”

“Wheeler is incompetent, much like Sleepy Joe Biden,” Trump tweeted. “This is not what our great Country wants. They want Safety & Security, and do NOT want to Defund our Police!”

Wheeler blasted Trump in a press conference Sunday, saying that for nearly four years Americans have had to tolerate what the mayor called Trump’s racist attacks on blacks, sexist talk about women, insults toward immigrants and journalists, and now, toward mayors of major US cities.

“Do you seriously wonder, Mr. President, why this is the first time in decades that America has seen this level of violence?,” Wheeler said. “It’s you who have created the hate and the division.”

Wheeler said the convoy that rode through Portland Saturday night was inspired by Trump. “They were supported and energized by the president himself,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler had shared an open letter to Trump on Friday in which he said “we know you’ve reached the conclusion that images of violence or vandalism are your only ticket to re-election.”

Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, said the violence and loss of life would not stop until law enforcement reasserted control.

“But… when you encourage the disdain for the police you encourage criminals,” he told CNN.

“When you do little or nothing to stop rioting, you encourage anarchy. People’s lives are lost.”

AFP

Akpata Sworn In As 30th NBA President

NBA president-elect, Olumide Akpata. Photo: [email protected] Akpata

 

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has sworn in its 30th President, Mr Olumide Akpata.

He was sworn-in at a short ceremony held at the NBA National Secretariat in Abuja.

The ceremony which was streamed live online marked the end of the tenure of the Paul Usoro administration.

Mr. Akpata immediately thanked the past executive for ensuring that the Association was held together after which he swore in members of his executives.

In his inaugural address after his swearing-in, Mr Akpata called on lawyers to unite as the work ahead of the Association is enormous

Akpata, said he considers it a great honour and privilege on the epochal 60th anniversary of the NBA, “to be sworn in as the 30th President of the foremost professional membership association in Nigeria and the most influential network of legal practitioners in Africa.”

READ ALSO: Nigeria Will No Longer Tolerate Harassment Of Citizens In Ghana – FG

Akpata who was declared the winner of the keenly contested poll by NBA Electoral Committee on July 31, will lead the Affairs of the bar for the next two years.

The inaugural speech reads in part:

“It is apposite to begin the formal part of the address by tackling two major issues arising from the 2020 NBA election – the seeds of discord that were sown during the election campaigns and the issues pertaining to the election process itself.

The Need for Unity at the Bar

“I am not oblivious of the cleavages that emerged during the campaign and the attempt to pitch senior members of the bar against their younger counterparts. We were all witnesses to the widespread agitations against the holders of the enviable rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria to the extent that some people were eagerly anticipating a revolution. In some ways, this was understandable, having regard to the issues that characterised the election and the uniqueness of my candidacy, being the first non-Senior Advocate of Nigeria to win an election as NBA President in thirty years. However, the elections are now over, and we must, of necessity, retrace our steps.

“One of the cardinal pillars of my campaign and on the basis of which I made myself available to run for this high office, was the promise to run an all-inclusive Bar. There is no gainsaying the fact that this necessarily includes giving due recognition and deference to the senior members of the Bar who are the builders of, and significant contributors to, our noble Association. Even as a candidate, I never saw myself as a harbinger of division between senior and young members of the Bar, but as bridge candidate to build better rapport between young and senior lawyers. This is a role I will approach will all seriousness.

“One of the first things I did after the result declaration was to call on my supporters to desist from joining issues or otherwise attacking other lawyers, especially senior members of the Bar, but instead to be magnanimous in victory. Permit me to repeat what I said in that publication. Ours is a noble profession that prides itself on a high sense of discipline, learning, respect for seniority and character for which its members are reputed. Let us therefore join hands to move the NBA forward. The mandate that I have from Nigerian lawyers is to work for all members of the Bar irrespective of who they voted for. There is so much work to be done to revitalise our Bar and make it work for everyone without discrimination.

“I am also not unaware of very recent events and agitations that have tended to divide our Bar along regional and religious lines. This is rather unfortunate for an egalitarian Association like ours. The Bar that I want to lead henceforth is one that is united on all fronts and that recognises that our diversity is, perhaps, our greatest strength. I plead with all Nigerian lawyers to bear this philosophy of unity in mind as we commence a new journey together today.

“This enormous task cannot be achieved if we continue to fan the embers of division at a time when we desperately need to unite and speak with one firm voice. We must be kind, magnanimous, respectful, and sensitive in our words and actions, as doing otherwise would be a great disservice to our vision of building a stronger and formidable Bar. Now is the time to come together because a divided Bar is a defeated Bar.

Electoral Reform

“It is pertinent to state categorically that, in my view, the 2020 Election – the voting and result of which were monitored live by a significant proportion of Nigerian lawyers and non-lawyers alike – was ultimately free and fair, and the result was, by all estimation, truly reflective of the will of Nigerian lawyers. The above notwithstanding, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that there were several glitches in the build up to the Election. As Nigeria’s foremost professional Association, our electoral process ought to be the standard for others to follow and should, to the extent humanly possible, be devoid of the glitches that we witnessed. It was with this in mind that I personally wrote two separate letters to the ECNBA Chairman on 20th July 2020 and 29th July 2020 to highlight the issues that threatened the conduct of a credible election and to recommend measures to immediately address those concerns.

“The consensus is that there is need to urgently review the 2020 elections and to institute urgent reforms of our electoral systems. Indeed, the Board of Trustees of the NBA in their letter of 19 August 2020 to Deacon Dele Adesina, SAN called for a major transformation of our electoral process and framework. Let me repeat what I said to the Board of Trustees in my letter to them in response to the petition of Deacon Dele Adesina, SAN; “as an Association that prides itself as Nigeria’s foremost and oldest professional membership organisation, we need to manage our electoral processes better. I pledged during the electioneering period to introduce an efficient data management system for the NBA and to follow that up with other institutional and structural reforms that would enable NBA to serve the benefit of its members and the Society. In the wake of the criticisms that trailed the Election, this is now a top priority issue for me.”

“One major complaint about the last election was the issue of the database of lawyers and resultant difficulties in coming up with a credible voters’ register. To address this, my administration will improve upon the membership portal introduced by the President Paul Usoro administration. Additionally, I am immediately constituting an Electoral Audit and Reforms Committee, comprising distinguished practitioners of the highest standards to audit our 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections and recommend reforms for our electoral systems and processes.

Canada FM Offers Help In Lebanon Port Blast Probe

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on August 27, 2020 shows Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne speaking to reporters after his meeting with the Lebanese president at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. DALATI AND NOHRA / AFP.

 

Canada’s foreign minister Thursday offered help in investigating the cause of the colossal port explosion that ravaged Beirut on August 4.

During a tour of the capital, Francois-Philippe Champagne stressed the need for a “credible investigation” into the blast that killed more than 180 people including two Canadians and wounded thousands.

“Canada would like, under the right circumstances, to contribute to the investigation,” he told Lebanese press.

The United States has already sent FBI investigators to assist at the request of Lebanese authorities, and France has opened its own probe.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun accepted the Canadian offer.

“We welcome the help that Canada wants to provide in the ongoing investigations over the explosion at the Beirut port,” Aoun told Champagne, according to the presidency.

The blast came after hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been left unsecured for several years at the port, despite repeated warnings of the dangers it posed.

Western powers, international bodies and Lebanese at home and abroad have called for an international probe into the blast, but Lebanese authorities have rejected this.

Champagne also called for “economic and political reforms” as he met Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister Charbel Wehbe.

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on August 27, 2020 shows Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun (R) meeting with Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. DALATI AND NOHRA / AFP.

 

The Canadian minister toured Beirut neighbourhoods devastated by the blast, and met the families of the two Canadians who were killed in the disaster.

He said Canada would contribute an additional 8 million Canadian dollars ($6 million) to aid efforts to match the contribution of Canadians via a fund launched earlier this month.

Canada, which is home to a large Lebanese community, previously pledged 30 million Canadians dollars (more than $22 million) to help after the blast.

In Lebanon’s ongoing probe, Judge Fadi Sawan has so far issued arrest warrants for 16 people.

He is next week due to start questioning six others, including the director-general of land and maritime transport and four senior security officers responsible for the port.

AFP

Turkey Says ‘No Concessions’ In East Mediterranean Row

AFP Photo

 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday warned Turkey would make “no concessions” in the eastern Mediterranean and told Greece to avoid taking steps that could lead to its “ruin”.

His remarks come just hours after Athens said it would launch military exercises Wednesday with France, Italy and Cyprus in the region, where tensions between the two neighbours have escalated in recent weeks.

“In the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Sea, Turkey will get what is rightfully ours,” Erdogan said in the eastern province of Mus on the anniversary of the 1071 Battle of Malazgirt where pre-Ottoman tribes defeated the Byzantines.

The victory has been celebrated with increasing fervour in modern Turkey in recent years, and this year was no different with a socially-distanced audience listening to Erdogan.

“We don’t have our eye on someone else’s territory, sovereignty and interests, but we will make no concessions on that which is ours,” he said in the televised speech.

“We invite our counterparts to change their ways and avoid wrongs that will be the path to ruin,” Erdogan added in pointed remarks to NATO ally Greece.

“We want everyone to see Turkey is no longer a country whose patience, determination, means and courage will be tested. If we say we will do something, we will do it, and we will pay the price,” he said.

Greece and Turkey are already divided on significant issues including migration and Byzantine heritage in Istanbul, formerly Constantinople.

But the discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has further strained relations, with Turkey rejecting calls from the EU and Athens to immediately stop energy exploration in the region.

Turkey sent the Oruc Reis research vessel accompanied by warships to disputed waters on August 10. Its activities were meant to end on last Sunday but were extended to Thursday.

Germany has led the charge in Europe to defuse tensions, dispatching its foreign minister to Ankara and Athens on Tuesday to resolve the issue through dialogue.

Both sides said they were open to dialogue after talks with the German minister, and there will be an informal EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Berlin on Thursday and Friday.

AFP

Ivory Coast President Urges Peace As He Files Candidacy For Elections

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara wearing a protective mask attends a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the country Independance from France on August 7, 2020 at the presidential palace in Abidjan. SIA KAMBOU / AFP
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara wearing a protective mask attends a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the country Independance from France on August 7, 2020 at the presidential palace in Abidjan. SIA KAMBOU / AFP.

 

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.

AFP