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Coup in Myanmar, an attack on democracy – World leaders

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…US threatens action over Myanmar coup as Australia calls for release of detained leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

… Myanmar military says carried out the detentions in response to “election fraud” in last November’s general election

Myanmar’s military detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other senior figures from the governing party on Monday, seizing power in a coup less than 10 years after it handed over power to a civilian government.

The military said it carried out the detentions in response to fraud in last November’s general election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won by a landslide.

A statement on military-owned television said Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was now in control of the country and that a state of emergency had been imposed for one year.
“With the situation we see happening now, we have to assume that the military is staging a coup,” Myo Nyunt, a spokesman for the NLD, told the AFP news agency on Monday.
Here is how governments, human rights groups and others are reacting.

Myanmar –

The NLD, in a statement that carried Suu Kyi’s name, called on Myanmar’s public not to accept the military coup.
“The actions of the military are actions to put the country back under a dictatorship,” the statement said. “I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the coup by the military.”
Thant Myint-U, a prominent Myanmar historian and author, said in a tweet that the coup had opened doors to “a very different future”.
“I have a sinking feeling that noone will really be able to control what comes next,” he said. “And remember Myanmar’s a country awash in weapons, with deep divisions across ethnic and religious lines, where millions can barely feed themselves.”

Australia –

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne expressed deep concern “at reports the Myanmar military is once again seeking to seize control of Myanmar and has detained State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint”.
“We call on the military to respect the rule of law, to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms and to release immediately all civilian leaders and others who have been detained unlawfully.”

United States –

A spokeswoman for US President Joe Biden said Washington was “alarmed” by reports of the Myanmar military’s “steps to undermine the country’s democratic transition” as well as the arrest of Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders.
“The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed,” Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The US Secretary of State, Antony J Blinken, also expressed “grave concern” in a statement and urged the military to “reverse” its actions immediately.
“We call on Burmese military leaders to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections on November 8. The United States stands with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy, freedom, peace, and development,” he said.

United Nations –

Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, “strongly condemned” the detention of Myanmar’s civilian leaders on the eve of the opening session of the country’s new parliament.
He also expressed “his grave concern regarding the declaration of the transfer of all legislative, executive and judicial powers to the military,” and added: “These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar.”

India –

India’s foreign ministry said it “noted the developments in Myanmar with deep concern”.
“India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar. We believe that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld. We are monitoring the situation closely.”

Singapore –

Singapore’s foreign ministry urged all sides in Myanmar to show restraint.
“Singapore expresses grave concern about the latest situation in Myanmar. We are monitoring the situation closely and hope all parties involved will exercise restraint, maintain dialogue, and work towards a positive and peaceful outcome,” the ministry said in a statement.

Japan –

Katsunobu Kato, the chief cabinet secretary, said Japan’s government was closely watching the situation in Myanmar and would do everything possible to ensure the safety of its citizens there.
“At this point there are no reports of any clashes, but we’ll update information and take measures as needed,” he told reporters.
“Japan believes it is important for the parties to solve problems peacefully through dialogue in accordance with the democratic process,” he added.

Philippines –

The Philippines is prioritising the safety of its citizens in Myanmar and sees events in the country as “an internal matter that we will not meddle with”, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte said.

Human Rights Watch –

Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, called for the immediate and unconditional release of Suu Kyi and “all others unlawfully detained”.
“The military’s actions show utter disdain for the democratic elections held in November and the right of Myanmar’s people to choose their own government,” he said in a statement.
“We are especially concerned for the safety and security of activists and other critics of the military who may have been taken into custody. The military should recognize that it will be held accountable for its actions, including any mistreatment in custody and excessive use of force. We urge concerned governments to speak out forcefully against the military’s actions and consider targeted sanctions against those responsible.”

Amnesty International

Ming Yu Hah, deputy regional director at Amnesty International, called the arrest of Suu Kyi and others “extremely alarming”.
“Reports of a telecommunications blackout pose a further threat to the population at such a volatile time – especially as Myanmar battles a pandemic, and as internal conflict against armed groups puts civilians at risk in several parts of the country. It is vital that full phone and internet services be resumed immediately.”
(With Agency reports)

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Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema sworn in as President in rare victory for an African opposition leader

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Zambia’s newly-elected president, Hakainde Hichilema, has been sworn into office after pulling off a stunning rare victory for an African opposition leader.

Hichilema was inaugurated Tuesday morning at a ceremony attended by leaders such as Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan and Malawi leader Lazarus Chakwera.

Zambia’s second female Vice President Mutale Nalumango was also sworn in during the ceremony.

Hichilema defeated outgoing President Edgar Lungu in a landslide by almost one million votes in his sixth attempt at becoming ruler of Zambia.

It was a stunning turnaround for the politician known as HH — Hichilema spent several months in prison in 2017 for what were widely seen as politically motivated treason charges. The charges were dropped under intense international pressure.

After initially indicating he may challenge the result, Lungu addressed the nation following the elections, saying: “Based on the revelations issued at final results, I will comply with the constitutional provisions for a peaceful transition of power.

Despite conceding defeat early, Lungu was booed by some of the crowd as he made his way to the stage at the packed Heroes stadium in the capital Lusaka to hand over power.

Hichilema called Tuesday “a new dawn in Zambia,” in a tweet ahead of the ceremony. “As I sit here in our vehicle being driven to Heroes Stadium, I see the love, the joy and the jubilation as people line the streets on our way. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I love you all so much,” he added.

An example for Africa

Opposition leaders from other African countries were also invited to the event.

Nelson Chamisa, opposition leader in Zimbabwe, told CNN: “This is a significant and fantastic for what is possible for the future of Africa. Zambia is an inspiration to stubborn laggards in democracy. Strong institutions are key for effective power transfer and smooth transitions,” he said in a statement when asked about the significance of today’s inauguration.

Chamisa added that Zambia is an excellent example to be emulated on the continent.

“Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular needs leaders not rulers, strong institutions – not strong men. Leaders must lead and leave, serve and go. Zimbabwe must be free and Democratic. Freedom can be delayed but never denied,” he said when asked what the message for Zimbabwe is.

It is the third time that power has shifted peacefully from a ruling party to the opposition since the southern African country’s independence from Britain in 1964.

There was a huge turnout of mostly young people, some who came dressed in their academic robes to protest lack of employment post graduation.

Joseph Kalimbwe, a youth representative of Hichilema’s UPND party told CNN

Young people gave us the vote. Four million young people between the ages of 18 to 24 registered to vote. It was a huge turnout and it was very personal to them. They want to ensure the mistakes of their parents were corrected. They have voted for our leader on basis he has better policies and ideas and can strengthen our state institutions.”

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Zambia’s Opposition Leader Hichilema Wins Presidential Election At 6th Attempt

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Business tycoon and opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema was declared winner of Zambia’s hotly contested presidential election, defeating incumbent Edgar Lungu.

With 155 of 156 constituencies reporting, official results on Monday showed Hichilema had secured 2,810,757 votes against Lungu’s 1,814,201.

“I therefore declare the said Hakainde Hichilema to be president-elect of the Republic of Zambia,” electoral commission chairman Justice Esau Chulu said in a televised address.

The significant win sparked celebrations on the streets after an election marred by sporadic violence.

Hichilema, a former chief executive officer at an accounting firm before he entered politics, faces a daunting task turning around the economic fortunes of one of the world’s poorest countries.

Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from the capital Lusaka, said many of the voters were young people.

“They say this was a protest vote, a protest for hope and a protest for change,” she said.

The election marked the sixth time Hichilema had run for the top job and the third time he had challenged 64-year-old incumbent Lungu.

In 2016, he narrowly lost to Lungu by about 100,000 votes.

Lungu, who has been in office for six years, faced the electorate amid growing resentment about the rising cost of living and crackdowns on dissent in the southern African country.

Hichilema enjoyed the backing of 10 opposition parties at Thursday’s vote under the banner of his United Party for National Development (UPND), the largest opposition in Zambia.

Lungu began crying foul before a winner was declared, claiming the election was neither free nor fair due to incidents of violence reported in what are traditionally Hichilema’s stronghold.

In a statement issued through the president’s office, he alleged that his party’s polling agents were attacked and chased from voting stations.

Officials from Hichilema’s UPND party dismissed Lungu’s statement as emanating from people “trying to throw out the entire election just to cling on to their jobs”.

In terms of the law, if Lungu wants to settle a dispute or nullify elections, he must approach the Constitutional Court within seven days to lodge a complaint after a winner is announced.

International election observers have commended the transparent and peaceful organisation of the polls, but condemned the restrictions on freedom of assembly and movement during the election campaign.

Security forces blocked Hichilema from campaigning in several areas citing breaches of coronavirus measures and a public order act.

Turnout at the polls was estimated at just more than 70 percent.

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IPOB Leader’s Arrest: UK Asks for Clarification, May Provide Support for Kanu

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Kanu
• Respect Kanu’s rights, Abaribe tells FG
• HURIWA asks court to impose gag order against govt officials
The British Government has said it would provide consular assistance for the arrested leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu. This was disclosed yesterday by the Head of Communications, British High Commission in Nigeria, Dean Hurlock.As controversies and speculations raged over where and how Kanu was arrested and extradited to the country on Sunday, the British High Commission had earlier dispelled rumours he was arrested in the United Kingdom (UK), where he was based before his arrest in 2015.

Hurlock had said: “We are aware of reports that Nnamdi Kanu has been detained in Nigeria by the Federal Government. We can confirm that Kanu was not arrested in the UK for extradition purposes.”

Kanu, who was born on September 25, 1967, is a holder of Nigerian and British passports. Upon his arrest and extradition from a foreign country, he was arraigned before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday for terrorism-related charges and has since been remanded in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS).

Hurlock continued: “The British High Commission in Abuja is currently in the process of seeking clarification from the Nigerian government about the circumstances of the arrest.

With regard to any questions about whether the British High Commission are providing assistance in this case, we can confirm that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office stands ready to provide consular assistance,” the British official said, adding that the British Government “expects any trial or legal proceedings to follow due process.”

When prodded on the “consular assistance”, the British official made reference to the UK manual on ‘Support for British nationals abroad: A guide’.

The document reads in part: “We can offer you information about the local prison or remand system, including visiting arrangements, mail and censorship, privileges, work possibilities, and social and welfare services. We can also explain where there are different regulations for remand prisoners and sentenced prisoners. For example, in some countries, prisoners are allowed to send more mail when they are on remand.

“We cannot get you out of prison or detention, nor can we get special treatment for you because you are British. If however you are not treated in line with internationally accepted standards, we will consider approaching local authorities. This may include if your trial does not follow internationally recognised standards for a fair trial or is unreasonably delayed compared to local cases. With your permission, we can consider taking up a complaint about ill treatment, personal safety, or discrimination with the police or prison authorities.

“If you are a dual British national in the country of your other nationality (for example, a dual Nigerian-British national in Nigeria), we would not normally offer you support or get involved in dealings between you and the authorities of that state. We may make an exception to this rule if, having looked at the circumstances of the case, we consider that you are vulnerable and we have humanitarian concerns. We would not normally attend a court case involving a British national, and we cannot influence the outcome of any trial,” it added.

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, on Tuesday said that the IPOB leader was “intercepted through the collaborative efforts of Nigerian intelligence and security services.”

Though he did not state where the separatist leader was arrested, but there had been reports that Kanu was lured to an African country with a promise of cash donations and was then picked up.
Security sources said he was tracked through some IPOB members who were recently arrested following a massive military operation in the Southeast.

However, Kingsley Kanu, brother of Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday said the separatist leader was arrested in Kenya. In a statement, Kingsley said his brother was detained while visiting Kenya and “handed over to the Nigerian authorities who then flew him to Nigeria.”

Kingsley said Kanu has been “subjected to the most serious violations of international law because of his quest for self-determination. My brother has been subject to extraordinary rendition by Kenya and Nigeria. They have violated the most basic principles of the rule of law. Extraordinary rendition is one of the most serious crimes states can commit. Both Nigeria and Kenya must be held to account. I demand justice for my brother,” he said.

Also, IPOB yesterday stated that its leader was “abducted” by the Federal Government, insisting that it would hold the government responsible should anything untoward happen to him. It reaffirmed its commitment to the restoration of Biafra republic, stressing that the arrest and prosecution of Kanu would not end the struggle, even as the group said its members would be mobilised across the globe to attend the next court hearing date on July 26.

Admitting for the first time to the arrest of Kanu in a statement signed by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, IPOB promised to provide details of the said “abduction” of its leader by the Nigerian government and her security agencies.

THE Minority Leader of the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, has advised the Federal Government to apply caution and strict adherence to the rule of law in handling the issue of Kanu. The Senator, who stood surety for Kanu when he was first arraigned in 2015, said this in a statement by his Media Adviser, Uchenna Awom, on Wednesday.

The Senator also advised the Federal Government to be guided by the provisions of Section 31 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. He added that the government should also consider Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights as it detains and re-arraign Kanu in court for the continuation of his trial.

Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently call his aides and officials to order to avoid causing social upheavals over the re-arrest of the IPOB leader.

According to HURIWA’s convener, Emmanuel Onwubiko, right thinking members of the global community see Kanu as a prisoner of conscience. The rights group warned security forces not to put the life of Kanu in danger in the same way that the then political prisoner, MKO Abiola was poisoned.

(The Guardian)

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