West African leaders are still pursuing mediation to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in Gambia where President Yahya Jammeh refused to accept defeat in an election last month, Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said on Saturday.
Sirleaf told reporters after a meeting among regional leaders in Ghana's capital Accra that regional bloc ECOWAS did not yet intend to deploy its standby military force in Gambia.
"We are committed to a peaceful mediation and a peaceful transfer of power in the Gambia.. we will continue to pursue that for now," said Sirleaf who chairs the 15-member body said.
Asked if the regional group would deploy a standby force soon, she said "no", adding that ECOWAS was closely monitoring proceedings in Gambia's Supreme Court where Jammeh is challenging the poll result.
Jammeh, a former coup leader who has ruled Gambia for 22 years, initially accepted his defeat by opposition figure Adama Barrow in the Dec. 1 election. But a week later reversed his position, vowing to hang onto power despite a wave of regional and international condemnation.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the United Nations' top official in West Africa, also attended the special closed-door meeting, which was the first official engagement by Ghana's new President Nana Akufo-Addo who was sworn in on Saturday.
(AFP) - At least three people were killed and buried in rubble and two others fatally wounded onThursday when a building under construction collapsed in Benin, AFP has reported.
Residents of Dekagon, the economic hub of Cotonu where the incident reportedly took place said the collapse happened early in the morning as workers were pouring the concrete of the third floor of the four-story building.
"This is a building site and as you now see we are looking for people still in the rubble," Arlette Saizonou, a local mayor, told AFP.
"We already have three dead bodies out of the rubble and two wounded," she added.
Building collapses happen frequently in West Africa where poor workmanship and materials coupled with a lack of official oversight often result in accidents.
One of the most notorious collapses in the region happened in 2014, when a building owned by Nigerian pastor TB Joshua collapsed and killed more than one hundred people, most of them South Africans.
A Nigerian coroner found that the six-story guesthouse had more floors than the foundation could hold, but the pastor said a mysterious "hovering" aircraft seen over the building before the collapse was to blame for the accident.
PARIS, OCTOBER 7, 2016: The Army has again suffered heavy casualties as no fewer than twenty-two soldiers have been reportedly killed in an attack probably carried out by jihadists, on a camp in Niger, a security official told AFP on Friday.
“Some 30 to 40 heavily armed men speaking in Tuareg carried out the attack (on Thursday), killing 22 soldiers in a camp where Malian refugees are being sheltered,” the official said. The UN refugee agency confirmed the death toll.
“Some 30 to 40 heavily armed men speaking in Tuareg carried out the attack, killing 22 soldiers,” the official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
He said the attack was “probably carried out by jihadists.”
Confirming the incident , a security official said assailants “headed directly to the camp’s security post and machine-gunned the soldiers who were having lunch,” the security official added.
They left two hours later after seizing three vehicles, including an ambulance, as well as weapons, food and clothing.
The Gambia’s press is set to win unprecedented freedom when its new government overhauls the constitution of former leader Yahya Jammeh, its freshly appointed justice minister has said.
Abubacarr Tambadou, a former UN assistant prosecutor, said Tuesday on being sworn in that he hoped to remove restrictive laws on the media.
“We will be starting a constitutional review process with a view to ensuring that our constitution is relevant and serves the purpose for which Gambians adopted it,” Tambadou said.
Reform “particularly in the criminal justice sector and media law reform,” were priorities, he said.
Journalists were regularly slapped with crimes including sedition, slander and publication of false news under Jammeh, offences described as “catch-all” by Amnesty International, and many served jail time.
At least 38 people have been killed and more than 92,000 left homeless since June in disastrous floods in Niger, the United Nations said Wednesday.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the deaths, up from a previous government toll of 14, followed torrential rains in August.
More than 26,000 livestock have been lost and more than 9,000 homes destroyed, the UN said, citing government figures.
Authorities and NGOs have already given out aid to more than 50,000 people, the UN added, with many of the homeless sheltering in schools and public buildings.
Despite being in the middle of the desert, Agadez in the north and Tahoua to the west are among the worst hit regions, along with Maradi in the south.
Niger is in the midst of its annual rainy season, having struggled to overcome a severe food crisis caused by drought.
One of the poorest countries on the planet, its authorities are also struggling with 300,000 refugees and internally displaced people who have fled the Boko Haram insurgency in Niger’s southeast and in neighbouring Nigeria.
He said that member states were expected to implement the common tariff within five years, adding that the remaining five countries would begin implementation of the CET soon.
“The CET came into force in January 2016; coming into force means all our member states are expected to implement it.
“However, in the CET like every other policy, there must be some transition period; if you consider the fact that we have a five-year transition all of the countries are still within the five years.
“The UEMOA countries already had a CET so when ECOWAS CET came on board, it was very easy for them because they were already practicing it and they took off immediately.
“For some time now, we had nine countries, of which eight countries of UEMOA, Nigeria now Ghana, recently implemented the CET and we have five counties left.
“Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea had the Ebola crisis that is why they could not come on board but now the crisis has been resolved and we are expecting them to come on board.
“The Gambia also had some issues that affected the country’s customs administration which caused a delay in the enforcement of the CET and Cape Verde is also yet to implement the CET,” he said.
Obideyi said that enactment of the common tariff by member states had so far demonstrated willingness to implement the common tariff in their countries.
He explained that the CET would ensure transparency and facilitate the ease of doing business both within the sub-region and with third party countries.
“Before the enforcement of the CET, at every border the goods are checked to know the tariff rates.
“But now once it is done in one country movement of such goods become easy across borders of member states; it is one single tariff rate that applies, and with that business is quick.”
He also said that the implementation of the common tariff would boost sub-regional trade which he said was between 10 to 14 per cent.
“We are trying to double the trade with a number of programmes and support,”he said.
He further said that the impact of the CET on trade within member states would be evaluated in the second year of its implementation.
The CET is one of the instruments of harmonising ECOWAS member states and strengthening its Common Market.
The ECOWAS CET has provision for temporary Import Adjustment Tax which was accommodated to allow countries to adjust to the scheme during the five-year transitional period ending in 2019.
The CET is being implemented by member countries in phases.
The first phase covers a period of five years, from 2015 to 2019, after which the scheme is expected to enter a more advanced phase. (NAN)
Nana Akufo-Addo has defeated John Mahama, the incumbent president, in the Ghanaian presidential elections, according to media reports in the country.
According to Joy News, one of the leading television stations in Ghana, Akufo-Addo maintains a lead of nearly one million votes, over Mahama, who has led the country for four years.
Of 275 constituencies in the country, results have been collated from 251, and Akufo-Addo is leading with 5.268 million votes, while Mahama polled 4.367 million votes.
“The John Mahama I know is somebody I believe is capable of rising to the occasion,” Akufo-Addo said, projecting that Mahama will concede the elections.
Mahama on the otherhand has called on his supporters to respect the constitution and keep at peace till the results are in, adding that he would take the outcome of the polls in good fate.
“Let us respect the Constitution. The EC is doing its work. Don’t let your spirit be down at all, we are a great party,” Mahama said.
Kwesi Nduom, a presidential aspirant, who conceded to Akufo-Addo, said the electoral commission must not hold the nation to ransom, but must let the results out as soon as possible.
The official results are expected to come in before Friday midnight.
President Muhammadu Buhari will today host four West African leaders to a meeting aimed at avoiding violence and preserving democracy in The Gambia.
The meeting is in line with his mandate as the mediator picked by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
According to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari, those to attend are the immediate past President of Ghana, John Mahama as, who is co-mediator, Liberian President Ellen Jphnson-Sirleaf, Senagalese President Macky Sall and the Sierra Leone vice president.
The team is expected to ensure the safety of President-elect Adama Barrow and ensure a peaceful handover of power on January 19.
The statement added: “The meeting in Abuja is following the one in Accra on the sidelines of the inauguration of that country’s President which expressed the readiness of the leaders of the sub-region to continue the pursuit of dialogue with the leaders of The Gambia.”
DAKAR, Senegal — International rights organizations urged Gambia's government on Wednesday to free an ailing journalist and drop all charges against him.
Taranga FM Managing Director Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay has been arbitrarily detained since July without access to a lawyer or his family, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.
Ceesay was charged in August with six counts of sedition and publication of false news.
Gambia Information Minister Sheriff Bojang told The Associated Press that by law he could not comment on the statement or case, as it is before the court.
Authorities with the National Intelligence Agency arrested Ceesay on July 2 after he had used his phone to privately share a picture showing a gun pointed toward a photograph of President Yahya Jammeh, the groups said. Ceesay was not the author of the photo, which had been circulating on the internet, they said, adding that his station has been closed down several times.
Ceesay was released on July 13 and rearrested July 17, the groups said.
Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said Ceesay should not have been locked up, and "The deterioration in his health only underscores the urgent need to release him."
Ceesay was hospitalized and diagnosed with an enlarged liver in January. In February, he was readmitted briefly for an asthma attack, the groups said.
The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last week called for his release and enforceable right to compensation. It also urged investigations into whether torture has been used.
The rights groups Wednesday called on Gambia to amend laws that give authorities sweeping powers to arrest and detain critics.
President Jammeh's rule since 1994 has been marked by accusations of rights violations.