This is the first in a series of features on the South Pacific produced in collaboration with Wansolwara, an independent student newspaper of the University of the South Pacific.

SUVA, Fiji (IDN) - Two women’s rights activists have raised alarm bells about the need to protect Solomon Island children, especially girls, from being exploited by foreigners, who are involved in the South Pacific island nation’s logging industry.

The activists, Sister Doreen Awaiasi and Lynffer Maltungtung, say there are countless incidents in which under-age girls and young women are given to foreigners by their parents, or are lured by riches, but not much is being done to stop these or to educate the locals against engaging in such illegal acts.

- Photo: 2021

Two African Nations Emulate U.S. and Cry Election Fraud

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) – Endangered citizens of the Central African Republic are fleeing the country in the hundreds of thousands as rebel fighters seek to overturn the recent re-election of President Faustin Archange Touadera with familiar cries of fraud and demands for his ouster.

Touadera was re-elected after a vote on December 27, defeating 16 other candidates. The country’s electoral college said he captured 54 per cent of the vote – enough to make a runoff unnecessary.

The mineral-rich nation has vast stockpiles of gold, diamonds, uranium and oil. It has been plagued by competing power-seeking forces since 2013 when a rebellion ousted former president Francois Bozize.

Bozize threw his hat into the ring in 2019 but was barred from running. In a scenario like that foreseen for the U.S., a Constitutional Court ruled that he did not satisfy the “good morality” requirement, over official allegations of torture and assassinations.

Militia leaders have also been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. Fighters targeted civilians, used rape as a weapon of war, forced children into their ranks, and deliberately targeted homes and properties of Muslims, the courts have charged.

UN peacekeepers and local and Rwandan soldiers have been patrolling the streets throughout the capital, according to reporters of the Agence France Press (AFP) and a peacekeeping force, whose mandate the UN Security Council renewed on Nov. 14, 2019, should strengthen civilian protection and maximize its role in securing justice.

Experts and opposition figures are asking what legitimacy the re-elected president and 140 MPs will have, given the obstacles to voting freely by a large proportion of people in internal exile.

“Everyone is fleeing at the moment. I’m holed up at home,” Robert, from Boali, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Bangui told the French-language AFP by phone, over explosions audible in the background.

“How do we vote when we don’t even have our voter cards?” he asked.

“Refugee arrivals into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have reached 92,000 according to local authorities and some 13,240 people have crossed into Cameroon, Chad, and the Republic of Congo, since violence erupted in December 2020 ahead of CAR’s general elections,” the statement said.

The election in Uganda Challenged

Some 1386 kilometres farther from the Central African Republic, Uganda’s contested election went to court with familiar claims of poll rigging.

Lawyers for Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine filed a challenge in the Supreme Court against President Yoweri Museveni’s victory in January election, claiming the poll was rigged.

Medard Sseggona, one of Wine’s lawyers, rejected the vote outcome, saying: “Any election Museveni participates in can never be a free and fair election”.

The 38-year-old singer-turned-lawmaker came a distant second behind veteran leader Museveni in the January 14 vote that followed some of Uganda’s worst pre-election bloodshed in years.

“We want nullification of the election. We do not want (Museveni) participating in any future election,” Sseggona said outside the Kampala courthouse where he filed the petition.

Museveni, 76, has ruled since 1986. He won a sixth term with 58.4 per cent of the vote, according to the latest updated count from the country’s electoral commission.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, captured 35.1 per cent. He slammed the vote as a sham.

According to Sseggona, “soldiers invaded polling stations” and stuffed ballot boxes. Electoral registers were tampered with at other locations, he added.

“Museveni cannot be left to cheat and steal scot-free,” Sseggona said.

Museveni, however, declared the election the cleanest in Uganda’s post-independence history.

Under the constitution, Wine has 15 days from the declaration of results by the electoral commission to challenge the outcome. The Supreme Court must now rule on the petition within 45 days. [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 February 2021]

Photo: A collage of pictures from Wikimedia Commons of CAR President Touadera (left), President Museveni (centre) and (right) opposition leader Bobi Wine.

IDN is flagship agency of the non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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