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Tunisia: Voters Called To The Polls For A New Constitution

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Tunisians were called to the polls on July 25 to decide whether they endorsed a new Consitution that would give extensive powers to the president. Many activists rejected this referendum saying it is part of Kais Saied’s authoritarian, anti-democratic drift.

According to the head of the electoral authority, 12% of voters had cast their ballots at midday, claiming it was a good turnout.

This referendum took place a year after the Tunisian leader ousted the elected parliament. After voting, Saied defended his stance saying it would end economic and political stagnation.

There is no dictatorship, said the leader, as I said in the explanatory document on rights and freedoms: this constitution protects them and the revolution is defended by people who stand up to those who undermine it”.

Some however say this text could put a halt to the democratic movement which emerged after the Arab Spring in 2011. As the new Constitution would allow the president to name judges, revoke members of the government as he pleases and his bills would be given priority treatment.

The first results should be announced on Wednesday and the final ones on August 28.

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Activists Warn Of Violence Against Women During Kenya’s Elections

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On August 6, three days before the August 9 election, two human rights organizations issued a warning against women’s victimisation. They said that violence had occurred in Kenya during the election campaign, including verbal assaults, harassment, and even rape.

Despite government warnings and promises to address the issue, the campaign “has been marred by violence against women”. This’s according to a joint statement from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC).

The “several” rape incidents that took place during the campaign are mentioned. Four of the incidents took place outside of a June 19 meeting that was ultimately canceled.

Tuesday will see Kenya’s general elections, during which 22.1 million voters will select the country’s president. They will also be members of parliament, governors, and approximately 1,500 local elected officials.

The two organizations claim that female candidates, three of whom are running as presidential candidates’ running mates, have been “confronted with sexist and aggressive language, (…) gender stereotyping, online gender abuse, and sexual harassment.”

They contend that “these strategies are used consciously to bar female politicians or female candidates from entering the political arena.”

In Kenya, elections frequently lead to violent incidents, including sexual and gender-based violence.

Human rights organizations claim that at least 900 people experienced sexual assault, including gang rape and castration. This they said occurred during the 2007–2008 post-election crisis, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,100 people.

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) Statement

According to KHRC, which recorded 201 cases of election-related sexual and gender-based violence, sexual violence against women and girls was pervasive during the unrest that followed the 2017 election.

Security forces were used in more than half of the attacks. However, the statement claimed that “to date, no action has been taken by the government to ensure justice for victims.”

Sheila Muwanga, vice president of FIDH, stated that “the government’s failure to stop the targeting of women in politics and to hold perpetrators accountable (…) has allowed the violence to recur.”

UN experts pleaded with Kenyan officials last month to “ensure that women can freely participate in the electoral process without discrimination, harassment, or fear of a possible recurrence of sexual and gender-based violence.”

A Nairobi court mandated that the government compensate four women who were assaulted following the 2007 election in 2020.

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Somalia: Parliament Approves Cabinet As Mortar Fire Hits Mogadishu

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In Somalia, Sunday, a majority of members of parliament approved the country’s appointed cabinet by a show of hands.

Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre’s 75-member government was confirmed moments after mortar shells struck residential neighborhoods near the presidential palace in Mogadishu.

” The quorum is 237 MPs, seven MPs refused, one MP abstained while some 229 MPs endorsed the approval the new cabinet ministers, therefore it is approved “, the speaker of the house,  Adan Mohamed Nuur Madobe, said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.  ” We have no recorded casualties so far as investigations are ongoing ,” district security official Mohamed Abdifatah said.  Security challenges will remain top of the agenda of the newly appointed cabinet.

The cabinet, which includes a former Al-Shabaab deputy leader and spokesman, Mukhtar Robow, is also known as Abu Mansur. He is sworn in as Religious affairs minister. The now  53-year-old, publicly defected from the Al-Qaeda-linked militants in August 2017.

” I thank Allah. And I am very pleased that MPs unanimously approved my government and its programme to perform, Allah Willing “,  PM Hamza Abdi Barre told.

In addition to the Al-Shabaab insurgents who have been waging a bloody war against the government and the people of Somalia for 15 years, a looming famine will also be one of the new cabinet s priority.

Prior to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Somalia imported 90% of its wheat from both countries. In Mogadishu, food stocks provided by international donors have been depleting.

Regarding security, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud said ending the violent insurgency required more than a military approach.

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Chad Military Government Agrees To Launch Peace Talks With Opposition

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A picture taken on August 8, 2022 in the Qatari captial Doha shows the signing ceremony between Chad's military authority and more than 40 opposition groups

Chad’s military government Monday signed a deal with more than 40 opposition groups to launch national peace talks later this month, although the main rebel outfit refused to take part.

Ater five months of mediation efforts by Qatar, the main rebel Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) announced hours before the ceremony at a Doha hotel that it would not sign the deal.

Under the agreement, Mahamat Idriss Deby’s Transitional Military Council and hundreds of opposition representatives will launch a national peace dialogue in the capital N’Djamena on August 20.

The dialogue aims to agree the schedule and rules for a presidential election that Deby has promised by October.

FACT and other opposition groups have demanded that he announce that he will not stand in the election. Deby has said this can only be negotiated in N’Djamena.

Forty-three of the 47 groups who remained at the end of the mediation signed the accord to start national talks.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the African Union urged the junta and opposition to seize the latest opportunity to stabilise a country considered key to international efforts to stamp out Islamic extremists in the Sahel region.

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