Daily Archives: March 10, 2018

No Clear Leader in Sierra Leone Vote With Quarter of Ballots Counted

Partial results released Saturday in the race for Sierra Leone’s new president show no one has a strong enough majority so far to win Wednesday’s polls as election observers criticized the country’s police for intimidating opposition members before and after the vote.

With results in from 25 percent of polling stations from each of the country’s 15 districts, the ruling All People’s Congress party candidate, Samura Kamara, is in the lead with 44.6 percent of the vote, trailed by the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party’s Julius Maada Bio, who garnered 42 percent so far, according to the country’s independent National Electoral Commission (NEC).

Third-party candidate Kandeh Yumkella of the newly formed National Grand Coalition, which had hoped to break decades of dominance by the country’s two leading parties, earned just 6.6 percent of votes counted. There are 16 total presidential candidates.

A presidential candidate needs to garner more than 55 percent of the vote to win in the first round, or else there will be a run-off between the top two candidates. The NEC will release another round of partial results once ballots from 50 percent of polling stations are counted.

Analysts say this year’s election is one of the most hotly contested polls in the West African country’s recent history. Over three million Sierra Leonians were registered to cast ballots for a new president, parliament, mayors, and local councils.

The APC ran on a track record of completing new roads and other infrastructure during the tenure of outgoing President Ernest Bai Komora, who must step down after serving two terms.

But opposition groups have criticized the government for corruption and its handling of the 2014 ebola crisis and a 2017 mudslide in the capital, Freetown, twin disasters which together claimed thousands of lives.

While Wednesday’s voting took place mostly smoothly, two observer missions accused the police of misconduct before and after the vote.

“Voters were able to exercise their democratic rights peacefully, however intimidation and instances of violence marred the election,” said a preliminary report from the European Union observer mission, which deployed around 100 observers to the country, pointing to arrests of dozens of candidates and party campaigners in the run up to the vote.

Another mission from the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) led by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan expressed concern over an incident on Wednesday evening when police attempted to enter an SLPP headquarters, leading to a brief skirmish between officers and opposition supporters.

The EISA mission termed the police’s action as an act of “aggression” which threatened peace and security.

Meanwhile, opposition groups have complained about flaws in the vote count.

The NGC party said there were “blatant irregularities” and demanded a review of results from some polling stations. SLPP Secretary General Umaru Napoleon Komora said his party presented evidence to NEC of other alleged problems, including that their party agents at some polling stations were not supplied with copies of vote count forms for inspection.

Source: Voice of America

The Secretary’s Meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

The following is attributable to Spokesperson Heather Nauert:

Secretary Tillerson met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday in Nairobi and highlighted long-standing U.S.-Kenya cooperation on counterterrorism, regional security, and trade. He welcomed the joint announcement between President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga as a positive step toward healing Kenya’s ethnic and political divisions. The Secretary emphasized strong U.S. support for democratic institutions, including the judiciary, civil society, and the media, and expressed concern about restrictions to political space. Secretary Tillerson and President Kenyatta also discussed the shared goal of defeating al-Shabaab in Somalia, strengthening AMISOM, and the need for a viable political process on South Sudan. They also agreed to identify opportunities to expand commercial and business ties.

Source: U.S. State Department

The Secretary’s Meeting with Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf

The following is attributable to Spokesperson Heather Nauert:

Secretary Tillerson met with Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf in Djibouti on March 9 to discuss the U.S.-Djiboutian partnership, and exchanged views on bilateral concerns, security threats, and economic reforms. The Secretary expressed appreciation for the Djiboutian government’s support for refugees fleeing regional conflicts, and its role in providing humanitarian relief. The Secretary thanked Foreign Minister Youssouf for Djibouti’s troop contributions to the AU Mission in Somalia, which advances regional peace and stability. The Secretary conveyed the United States’ appreciation to Djibouti for hosting U.S. military personnel.

Source: U.S. State Department

Trump Expects North Korea to Honor Pledge on Missile Tests

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed faith Saturday that North Korea would keep its promise to halt missile tests, days after his surprise acceptance of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation to discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

The president tweeted:

It was not immediately clear whether the president was referring to his planned meeting with Kim or other meetings.

Trump said earlier Saturday that he had spoken with the leaders of China and Japan about his acceptance of Kim’s invitation and that they were supportive of his unprecedented diplomatic mission.

The White House announced Thursday that Trump had accepted Kim’s invitation, which was delivered to him verbally that day by visiting South Korean officials. The move revived hopes that a nearly decadelong diplomatic stalemate between the U.S. and North Korea could be broken.

But Trump faces complex, unresolved issues, according to former U.S. officials and analysts who have dealt with North Korea extensively.

Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at the Center for Naval Analyses, welcomed the announcement, calling it “extraordinary and historical.”

Alexander Vershbow, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Seoul during the George W. Bush administration, said the acceptance of the invitation was “the right thing for President Trump to do.”

The invitation to meet by May established a time frame that raised concern among some analysts in Washington.

“I am concerned by President Trump’s response to the invitation that he meet with Kim Jong Un � not that he agreed to meet, but that he agreed to meet by May,” said Robert Einhorn, a special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control in former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Einhorn said he thought Trump should have agreed to lower-level exploratory talks that “could test North Korea’s seriousness.”

A senior Trump administration official defended the president’s decision, however, arguing previous lower-level talks had failed.

Some experts cautioned against overoptimism about the prospects for a breakthrough, questioning the North’s sincerity toward denuclearization.

“I fear Trump is walking onto a North Korea trap,” said Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. “A summit should be at the end of a process of denuclearization, not be based on good faith that Kim will actually denuclearize.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is on the other side of the world on a weeklong Africa tour, said Friday that Trump’s decision had come from Trump himself, and he downplayed any suggestion that the State Department was blindsided by the announcement.

Trump’s decision to talk with Kim came as no surprise to top U.S. military officials, though they were wary of setting any expectations. The Pentagon said Friday that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had been in contact with the White House and involved in the decision to accept the North Korean leader’s offer.

As part of the agreement to meet, Kim agreed that routine U.S.-South Korea military drills would continue as scheduled next month. The North usually protests the drills, which Pyongyang views as preparations for an invasion.

Despite that apparent concession, there were questions as to whether the sanctions targeting the North had made enough of an impact on its government to make Kim want to start negotiations in earnest.

“Obviously, we’re cautiously optimistic that there is some forward progress here,” Mattis told reporters earlier this week, following a meeting with Estonia’s defense minister at the Pentagon.

“But we’ve been optimistic before, so we’re going to have to watch actions and see if they match words,” he said.

The White House on Friday emphasized that the United States had made “zero concessions” in agreeing to the talks.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “The president will not have the meeting without seeing concrete steps and concrete actions” by Pyongyang regarding its promises to stop nuclear and missile testing

It was not clear what Kim will want in exchange for abandoning a nuclear weapons program that has been a focus since he became supreme leader in late 2011.

Jeff Prescott, a senior national security aide to former President Obama, told VOA on Friday that the Trump administration must do all it can to turn this potential opening into an opportunity to advance U.S. interests, not Kim’s.

“That objective has been made all the more difficult because this administration confronts today’s news with one hand tied behind its back,” Prescott said. “We have no ambassador in Seoul � not even a nominee �and no senior State Department official charged with overseeing the North Korean nuclear challenge.”

Source: Voice of America


NAIROBI– Cabinet Secretary (Minister) for Trade Adan Mohamed, who is leading the Kenyan delegation to the African Ministers of Trade Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, is optimistic of a positive decision emerging for the creation of the single continental market for goods and services.

The meeting being held on Friday and Saturday has brought together African trade ministers to consider and adopt the legal instruments to set up the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which will be considered at the summit of Heads of State and Government later this month.

This follows the decision by the African leaders to hold an extraordinary summit on March 21 in Kigali where the agreement establishing the African Continental FTA is expected to be signed.

The AfCFTA will bring together 55 African countries with a combined population of more than 1.2 billion people, with a vibrant and growing middle class, and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than 3.4 trillion US dollars,” said Mohamed.

The main outcome of the AfCFTA is expected to be the creation a single continental market for goods and services, through tariff liberalization and improving the regulatory framework, with free movement of business persons and investments, harmonization of the policies and instruments that facilitate across the RECs and across Africa and member countries.

The ultimate objective, apart from creating a single liberalized market, is to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level, enhance value addition of products and exploit economies of scale and optimum utilization of resource.

The AfCFTA negotiation has developed the Framework Text establishing the AfCFTA and protocols and annexes covering all these areas such as the Protocol on Trade in Goods, Protocol on Trade in Services, Protocol on Dispute Settlement, among others.