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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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Ringleaders Of Sierra Leone Coup Plot Under Arrest As Calm Returns

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A military armoury in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown came under attack on Sunday, the government said, as it imposed an immediate national curfew. (Photo by Saidu BAH / AFP)

Sierra Leone’s government said it was in full control on Sunday evening after reporting an attack at a military armoury in the capital Freetown that sparked armed clashes, which the president called an attempt to destabilise the state.

Authorities in the English-speaking West African country — which has been going through a political crisis following elections in June this year — have declared a national curfew until further notice.

President Julius Maada Bio said late Sunday that calm had been restored after what he described as an attempt to undermine peace and stability in the country.

“Most of the leaders have been arrested. Security operations and investigations are ongoing,” Bio said on national television, adding that the government would “ensure that those responsible are held accountable”.

An AFP journalist said calm was slowly returning to the capital by Sunday evening, but checkpoints heavily guarded by security forces remained in place.

The “government is in firm control of the security situation in Freetown, the attackers are retreating,” information minister Chernor Bah earlier told AFP.

Videos posted on social media appeared to show men in uniform under arrest in the back or beside a military pick-up truck.

Earlier in the day, witnesses told AFP they heard gunshots and explosions in the city’s Wilberforce district, where the armoury and some embassies are located.

Other witnesses reported exchanges of fire near a barracks in Murray Town district, home to the navy, and outside another military site in Freetown.

The information ministry reported attacks on prisons earlier in the day that obliged the security forces to retreat.

“The prisons were thus overrun” with some detainees released and others “abducted”, it said.

Video posted on social networks suggested numerous prisoners had escaped from the central jail.

One man who was in a group filmed on the street by an AFP correspondent said they had escaped from the prison.

The information ministry said security forces had pushed the attackers to the outskirts of Freetown, with drone video taken by AFP showing empty streets in the capital.

The situation remained unclear with the authorities making no comments on the motives or identity of the attackers.

– ‘Like a war’ –
President Bio wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the government would “continue to protect the peace and security of Sierra Leone against the forces that wish to truncate our much-cherished stability”.

“We remain resolute in our determination to protect democracy in Sierra Leone.”

Regional bloc the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has contended with a series of coups among its members since 2020, issued a statement underlining “its zero-tolerance for unconstitutional change of government”.

Echoing language used to condemn past coup attempts, ECOWAS spoke of its “utter disgust” over a “plot by certain individuals to acquire arms and disturb the peace and constitutional order”.

The US embassy condemned on social media the bid to break into the armoury and offered continued support for those “working for a peaceful, democratic, healthy and prosperous Sierra Leone”.

The European Union’s local representation expressed concern and called for the respect of constitutional order.

Witness Susan Kargbo told AFP by telephone she was woken “by a loud sound of heavy machine gun (fire) and bombs coming from the Wilberforce barracks around 4:30 am.

“I was shocked and… the gunshots continued until this morning, it was like a war,” she said.

– Attackers ‘repelled’ –
The government said those attempting to break into the armoury had been repelled but asked the public to stay at home while security operations continued.

The local representations of the UK and the European Union echoed the authorities’ advice to stay at home.

The civil aviation authority said Sierra Leone’s airspace remained open but asked airlines to reschedule their flights after the lifting of the curfew.

President Bio, who was first elected in 2018, was re-elected in June with 56.17 percent of the vote — just over the 55 percent needed to avoid a run-off.

International observers condemned inconsistencies and a lack of transparency in the count, as well as acts of violence and intimidation.

The main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party disputed the results of the presidential, legislative and local elections on June 24 and boycotted all levels of government.

The APC and the government signed an agreement in October following talks mediated by the Commonwealth, the African Union and ECOWAS.

The APC agreed to end its boycott and begin participating in government in exchange for an end to detentions and court cases it said were politically motivated.
AFP

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Liberian Presidential Election: George Weah Concedes, Congratulates Opponent Boakai

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Liberian President George Weah has called his challenger in the presidential race, Joseph Boakai, to congratulate him on his victory.

In an address to the nation he said “the Liberian people have spoken and we have heard their voice”.

The opposition candidate holds an unassailable lead of 28,000 votes with nearly all ballots counted.

A former world footballer of the year, President Weah has been in power since 2018. He will step down in January.
He came into the job on a wave of enthusiasm, especially from younger voters, having won that election – also against Mr Boakai – by a large margin.

But a perception that he had failed to tackle corruption, rising prices and continued economic difficulties tarnished his image.

Mr Weah was magnanimous in defeat, beginning his five-minute address by saying he had “the utmost respect for the democratic process that has defined our nation”, adding that he had spoken to Mr Boakai who he called the “president-elect”.

Earlier the electoral commission announced that Mr Boakai, a 78-year-old political veteran had 50.89% of the votes, while President Weah had 49.11%.

The president referred to the closeness of the race saying it “reveals a deep division within our country” and called on Liberians to “work together to find common ground… unity is paramount for mama Liberia”.

A long period of civil war in which an estimated 250,000 people died ended just 20 years ago.

When the latest set of results were announced earlier on Friday, they sparked celebrations in the capital, Monrovia.

Mr Boakai’s supporters gathered at his party’s headquarters in the city, convinced that he had won the election.

They called for President Weah to go, and chanted “we beat the Buga dancer” – referring to a song that became associated with his campaign.

The electoral commission says it has announced the results from 99.58% of the polling stations following Tuesday’s run-off election.
Image caption,
Mr Boakai’s supporters gathered at his party’s headquarters in Monrovia

The run-off between Mr Boakai and Mr Weah was triggered after neither candidate got more than 50% of the vote in last month’s first round. There were 18 other candidates.

In that vote, the president got the largest share and was just 7,000 votes ahead of Mr Boakai.

The poll was the tightest presidential contest in Liberia since the civil war.

Mr Boakai’s campaigning focused on the need to rescue the nation from what he called “mismanagement” by Mr Weah’s administration.

The president dismissed Mr Boakai’s allegations, saying he had made significant strides, including introducing free tuition for university students.

This is the fourth time a presidential election has taken place since the war ended.

Observers from the regional bloc, Ecowas, deemed the run-off largely peaceful, AFP news agency reports.

But there were isolated incidents that led to “injuries and hospitalisations” in the provinces of Lofa, Nimba, Bong and Montserrado, it quotes observers as saying.

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Niger Coup: ECOWAS Dumps Military Option, Settle for Dialogue

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The ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, on Thursday in Abuja beat a tactical retreat from the use of military force to restore constitutional governance in the Republic of Niger.

Chairman of the regional bloc, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, while addressing his colleagues, gave the hint saying that the ECOWAS will instead continue to champion diplomacy and dialogue, as well as earnest discussions with all parties involved.

He specifically said that it is the duty of ECOWAS to exhaust all avenues of engagement to ensure a swift return to constitutional governance in Niger.

President Tinubu in his capacity as the Chairman of ECOWAS, said in Abuja at the opening of the 2nd Extraordinary Summit on the socio-political situation in the Republic of Niger, that in reaffirming members’ relentless commitment to democracy, human rights, and the well-being of the people of Niger, it is crucial that that they prioritize diplomatic negotiations and dialogue as the bedrock of their approach.

Tinubu further said; “We must engage all parties involved, including the coup leaders, in earnest discussions to convince them to relinquish power and reinstate President Bazoum”.

ECOWAS Leaders

Underscoring the significance of the meeting, Tinubu stressed the importance of a comprehensive evaluation of progress thus far, adding that more specifically, as leaders of their respective nations, they must recognize that the political crisis in Niger not only poses a threat to the stability of the nation but also has far-reaching implications for the entire West African region.

In his words; “By remaining steadfast in our adherence to the principles of democracy, good governance, and the rule of law, we can restore peace, stability, and prosperity in the Republic of Niger, thereby fostering an environment conducive to growth and development for all”.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, said that building upon commitments from the initial Extraordinary Summit held in Abuja ten days ago, President Tinubu recollected the ECOWAS leaders’ collective condemnation of the military coup that toppled Niger’s democratically elected government.

Highlighting the firm and coordinated efforts already undertaken, the President outlined ECOWAS’ deployment of mediation teams and Special Envoys to engage with key stakeholders within and beyond the region.

Tinubu also pointed to the recent meeting of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defense Staff, the meeting of the Chiefs of Staffs Committee and the ECOWAS Commission’s memorandum on current developments in Niger as crucial sources of insight to guide the decisions of the Heads of State and Government at the meeting.

According to Tinubu; “Today’s Summit provides a significant opportunity to meticulously review and assess the progress made since our last gathering. It is essential to evaluate the effectiveness of our interventions and identify any gaps or challenges that may have hindered progress.

“It is only through this comprehensive assessment that we can collectively chart a new sustainable path towards lasting peace, stability, and prosperity in Niger,” he stressed.

President Tinubu expressed confidence that the 2nd ECOWAS Extraordinary Summit would be a defining moment in the journey towards a stronger, more resilient, and integrated West Africa
President Tinubu expressed confidence that the 2nd ECOWAS Extraordinary Summit would be a defining moment in the journey towards a stronger, more resilient, and integrated West Africa.

He, therefore, rallied fellow leaders to seize this opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of Africans by fostering a future characterized by peace, progress, and prosperity.

The opening ceremony was attended by the Presidents of Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Cote ‘d’Ivoire, Ghana, Benin, Sierra Leone, and Togo, while Liberia and the Gambia were represented by their Foreign Ministers.

Non-ECOWAS leaders, such as the Mauritanian and Burundian presidents, also attended.

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