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Zimbabwe Election: Businesses Shut, Army Patrols ‘Ghost Town’ Harare As Nation Awaits For Results

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Businesses have shut in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, as the nation awaits results from the heavily disputed presidential election.
Armed soldiers and police are on patrol, ordering people to “behave”. Three people were killed in the city on Wednesday in clashes between the security forces and supporters of opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
He says Monday’s polls were being rigged to give President Emmerson Mnangagwa victory.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) said there was “absolutely no skulduggery”, and it would begin releasing presidential results. Mr Chamisa insists he has won, and has called on his supporters to await “mass celebrations”.
The elections were the first since long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, 94, was ousted in November.
The polls were intended to set Zimbabwe on a new path following Mr Mugabe’s repressive rule.
However, Mr Chamisa’s MDC Alliance has accused the military of using excessive force to quell Wednesday’s protests.
Mr Mnangagwa said the government was in talks with Mr Chamisa to defuse the crisis and proposed an independent investigation to bring those who were behind the violence to justice. “This land is home to all of us, and we will sink or swim together,” Mr Mnangagwa said in a series of tweets.
No violence was reported on Thursday. A truckload of armed policemen and soldiers were driving around the city shouting, “Behave yourself, people of Zimbabwe.”
A BBC reporter in Harare says the city centre is like a “ghost town”.
Riot police also surrounded the headquarters of the MDC Alliance.
Zanu-PF, in power since the country gained its independence 38 years ago, has won a two-thirds parliamentary majority – and denies allegations of rigging.

How have foreign powers responded?
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged Zimbabwe’s politicians to exercise restraint, while UK foreign office minister Harriett Baldwin said she was “deeply concerned” by the violence.
The US embassy in Harare advised its citizens to avoid the city centre, following Wednesday’s unrest.
In a message to Zimbabwe’s politicians, the embassy said there was a “historic opportunity to move the country towards a brighter future”. “Violence cannot be part of that process,” it added.
China, Zimbabwe’s main international ally, said it hoped all sides would put the country’s interests first following a “generally peaceful and orderly” election.

The main candidates Chamisa (L) and Mnangagwa (R)

What happened after the vote?
The day after the election, the MDC Alliance said Mr Chamisa had won the presidential election, pre-empting an official announcement and prompting its supporters to celebrate in some areas of Harare
When Zec announced that Zanu-PF had won the parliamentary vote by a landslide on Wednesday, things turned nasty.
The opposition supporters were are also angered by the delay in announcing the presidential results.
Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu said the government would not tolerate such protests.
The opposition “are testing our resolve, and I think they are making a big mistake”, he said.
A spokesman for Mr Chamisa condemned the deployment of soldiers and the subsequent loss of life.
“Soldiers are trained to kill during war. Are civilians enemies of the state?” he asked.
“There is no explanation whatsoever for the brutality that we saw.”Zec said the verification of the presidential election result was “going very well”.
There had been a delay because of the need for party agents to verify the result, it said.
The electoral commission confirmed on Thursday that its website had been hacked, saying it took it down “within 11 minutes” of the attack.
In terms of the law, Zec has until Saturday to announce the result.
A presidential candidate needs more than 50% of the vote to win outright. Otherwise, a run-off election will be held on 8 September.

What are election observers saying?
The European Union and Commonwealth missions criticised the delay in announcing the presidential results.

Which results have been declared?
Zec has announced all parliamentary results. Although Zanu-PF won by a landslide, it gained fewer seats than in the 2013 election.
More than five million people were registered to vote, and there was a turnout of 70%.
This is the first time in 16 years that the government has allowed EU, Commonwealth and US election monitors into the country.
The Commonwealth said parties should use “all available conflict resolution mechanisms” to resolve differences.
“The electoral process is yet to be concluded. The greatest test of leadership is called for now,” its mission said.

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Rwanda Government Critic Diane Rwigara Acquitted

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Diane Rwigara is a prominent critic of Rwanda's President Paul Kagame

A Rwandan court in the capital, Kigali, has acquitted government critic Diane Rwigara and her mother of charges of inciting insurrection and forgery.

Ms Rwigara was imprisoned for over a year, after being barred from running in presidential elections against the long-standing incumbent Paul Kagame and the 37-year-old opposition leader faced up to 22 years in prison for charges she said were politically motivated.

A three-judge panel told a packed room all the charges were “baseless”. Since her arrest, Ms Rwigara’s family have been subject to interrogations and their family assets forcibly auctioned. “I am very happy with the verdict,” said Ms Rwigara,who has been out on bail since October. “I am continuing with my political journey because there’s still a lot that needs to be done in our country.”

During the hearings, the businesswoman asserted that Rwanda’s economy was mainly controlled by the governing party’s elite. “Everything I talked about in the past has not been resolved. There are still many political prisoners in the country,” she told journalists after the high court ruling.

Ms Rwigara has repeatedly accused President Kagame of stifling dissent and criticised his party’s unyielding grip on power since it assumed control after the country’s civil war and it’s a big win for the young opposition leader. Diane Rwigara always maintained that the accusations against her were politically motivated.US politicians and human rights advocates urged the court to drop the charges and it did, citing lack of evidence.

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War Is Wasteful, You Can’t Develop – Museveni Lectures Kiir And Machar On New Peace Agreement

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President Museveni has thanked South Sudan president Salva Kiir and his colleague Riek Machar for leading the people of South Sudan into a new journey of peace by signing a peace deal.

The President, through his Facebook page this morning said that the grinding stone that the people of south Sudan carried for over five years has now been put down.

“Attended the Peace day celebrations in Juba, South Sudan yesterday and like to thank you very much for attending to logic in the end and signing. The grinding stone that the people of South Sudan have been carrying has now been put down. I am sure this is the end of the conflict in South Sudan. War is wasteful. South Sudan has lost a lot of development time. In 2005 during the interim period, Juba was a very small town near the river. Now it has grown wide. If we had not had this war between 2013 – 2015, there would have been even greater development.

Make covenant like the one Israel made with God. War should never be used again to solve political arguments between brothers and sisters. Political arguments can be solved by discussions or free and fair elections. It is ideologically incorrect to use war for an argument. Also make sure state institutions are national to build people’s confidence,” the President said.

He added, “Uganda will continue to support South Sudan as we look forward to the concretization of the truly powerful ceremony as witnessed in Juba yesterday and want on to thank President Bashir who took the last initiative in peace making. I am glad we have done it. I am happy you shunned foreigners who want to establish hegemony over Africa by using weak enemies to divide us. Foreigners wanted South Sudan to become a vacuum like Libya and Somalia. Somalia is now coming up.”

By Remmy Atugonza

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Return Home And Rebuild Your Country – Museveni Tells South Sudanese

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President Museveni has urged South Sudanese in Uganda and abroad to return to their country and embark on the process of rebuilding it.
Mr. Museveni arrived in South Sudan Capital-Juba, ahead of the peace day celebrations following a new peace deal signed between former Vice President Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir last month to end conflict. Immediately after landing at the Juba international airport, Mr. Museveni told media that he believes with this peace process, the refugees can return home and participate in rebuilding their country.
“The long South Sudan conflict has had a huge effect on trade and people at large, for our country specifically, export revenue to South Sudan reduced by $500m, while more than a million South Sudanese have sought refuge in Uganda,” he said.

Riek Machar after stepping on South Sudan soil

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar returned to the capital Juba today after more than two years after he fled to the neighbouring Congo when the 2016 peace deal collapsed and invoked fierce fighting that left hundreds of people dead.

He later traveled to South Africa until September this year when him and President Salva Kiir signed a new peace deal in the latest attempt to end the five-year war. Machar is set to be reinstated as vice president under the terms of a recently signed peace agreement.

This will be the first time President Salva Kiir meets former ally turned bitter enemy.

President Museveni being welcomed by South Sudan president Salva Kiir

The two South Sudanese leaders were set to join regional leaders for the ceremony, including the presidents of Sudan and Ethiopia who helped bring about the peace agreement and it was not clear how long Machar would remain in Juba following the peace ceremony as his aides are worried about his safety in the city.

South Sudan’s civil war began in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar then his deputy of plotting a coup and the conflict has split the country along ethnic lines and seen mass rape, the forced recruitment of child soldiers and attacks on civilians. It has caused one of the world’s deepest humanitarian crises.Several ceasefires and peace agreements have so far failed to end the fighting that has killed an estimated 380,000 people, uprooted a third of the population, forced nearly two-and-a-half million into exile as refugees and triggered bouts of deadly famine.

By Remmy Atugonza

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