Polls have closed in Cameroon’s presidential election – where one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders is seeking a seventh term after 36 years in power.
Opposition allegations that the election was rigged to favour President Paul Biya and violence amid the Anglophone rebellion in the country’s west marred election day.
Voters will have to wait a week or more before they know if President Biya will return for another seven years, or if Cameroon will have its third new president since gaining its independence from France.
Cameroon voted on Sunday in a presidential election marked by deadly violence in the country’s English-speaking regions and the cancellation of voting in at least one affected area over security fears.
The country has been rocked by a separatist insurgency from within its anglophone minority, who number around five million, since last October.
They accuse likely election winner President Paul Biya, 85, of oppression and are concentrated in the northwest and southwest of the majority-francophone country.
Poll closed at 1700 GMT with the law stating that final results must be announced within 15 days.
After voting got under way Sunday, security forces shot dead three suspected separatists who had allegedly fired at passersby from a motorcycle in Bamenda, the main city in the northwest region, a local official said.
Nigerian government chases tax dodgers abroad. New policy targets foreign assets
The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has unveiled a new system to ensure that all taxes on foreign assets of Nigerians due the federal government are remitted to the government’s coffers.
The move, the government believes, will strengthen efforts against money laundering and tax evasion.
The new system is captured in a new Executive Order tagged, ‘Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS).’
The Executive Order (008) takes effect from October 8, the day it was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to Buhari’s media aide, Garba Shehu, by the new order, Nigerian taxpayers who hold offshore assets and income are expected to, within a period of 12 months, declare voluntarily those assets and pay taxes on them.
“When they do this, they should expect to derive certain specified benefits,” Shehu said in a statement Wednesday.
He also said that according to the order, “any taxpayer who truthfully and voluntarily complies with the conditions of the scheme, pays a one-time levy of 35 percent on the total offshore assets or pays all outstanding taxes, penalties and interest after forensic audit of their offshore assets and income shall obtain immunity from prosecution for tax offenses and offences related to offshore assets, among others.
“Equally, failure of any defaulting taxpayer to take advantage of this scheme shall, at the expiration of the scheme result in investigation and enforcement procedures concerning offshore assets anywhere in the world pursuant to information now readily available through automatic exchange of information between Nigeria and foreign countries.”
He said in accordance with the new order, the federal government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, will set up a VOARS in Switzerland for all categories of taxpayers who have defaulted in the declaration of their offshore assets, payment of taxes due and collectible subject to the fulfillment of the terms and conditions as stipulated in the order, or any other subsequent complementary regulations that follow.
To avoid the abuse of this process, he said, the federal government makes clear that the “scheme is open to all persons, entities, and their intermediaries holding offshore assets and are in default of their tax obligations in any way, including those who are not already under investigation by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria or any other country and have not been charged with any crimes including theft of public funds or obtaining offshore assets through corrupt practices.”
In signing the order, Shehu said Buhari noted that under Nigerian law, every citizen has the duty to declare his or her income and assets and pay taxes on them but regretted that this, in most instances, had not been the case.
“The sad reality is that efforts to recover these taxes from defaulters through litigation are often frustrated by the complications caused by the change in the character and nature of such assets, insufficient financial intelligence, long delays in courts, among several other reasons,” the presidential aide said.
President Buhari is optimistic that the new scheme will help to facilitate the expedient regularisation of offshore assets connected to Nigeria and lead to “a new expanded tax base for the federal government, and also fund the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund in Switzerland,” he said.
Stealing victory. Cameroon inches toward long-drawn post-election crisis. Who cares?
Cameroon appears headed for a long-drawn crisis with President Paul Biya’s government dismissing an opposition victory claim in the latest presidential elections.
Biya’s governing Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) has termed the opposition acts as a manoeuvre to compromise peace and tranquillity in the country.
The Cameroon Renaissance Movement’s (CRM) candidate, Prof Maurice Kamto, Monday said he had won the vote, sending his supporters into street celebrations.
“I have received a clear mandate from the Cameroonian people which I will firmly defend right to the end and I want the national and international community to bear witness to this historic event that has ushered in a democratic political change in our country,” Prof Kamto said.
However, CPDM Secretary-General Jean Nkuete told a press conference in Yaoundé late Monday that the party was surprised and worried by the declaration which showed disregard for the rules of democracy and institutions.
“We express our surprise, our indignation and worry in the face of such irresponsible declaration that has no foundation. They are doing this in a bid to cause an uprising of the population to defend an imaginary victory,” he said.
No official results have been released yet from the election, in which eight candidates challenged longtime President Paul Biya.
Nkuete accused Kamto of breaking the law by announcing that he won the election.
Kamto is not the only candidate claiming victory. Cabral Libii of the opposition Universe Party announced he is leading the vote count.
Opposition candidate Garga Haman of the Alliance for Democracy and Development says two candidates want to create social unrest to oust President Paul Biya, who has led Cameroon for 36 years.
“Those two candidates are in a hurry to go to Etoudi [to be president]. Not yet my dear friends, not yet. Let us wait for the decision of the constitutional council. There is no reason to go on to the streets. Do not exploit the mentality of the youths,” he said.
Despite the turmoil, Biya, one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, is expected to win in the face of a deeply divided opposition.
In the midst of the crisis, Cameroon’s long time allies and former colonial master, France, seems comfortable observing from the stands. Many believe the latter’s interests, especially security of the country’s international business concerns, are at the centre of its diplomatic posturing on the matter of the Cameroons.
Another Rwandan opposition party leader ‘disappears’. Why it matters
The jailed vice president of Rwanda’s opposition FDU-Inkingi party escaped from prison on Sunday, according to the country’s correctional service.
Boniface Twagirimana was missing from a routine headcount at the prison Monday, local media reported, quoting a Rwanda Correctional Service spokesperson. The spokesperson said that Twagirimana and another prisoner had managed to escape by jumping over the complex’s fence and said that an investigation had been launched.
But members of the FDU — an unregistered political party — are calling “foul play” and fear that Twagirimana’s life could be in danger.
In a statement released Monday, the FDU party questioned how Twagirimana could have escaped out of a high security prison he had been transferred to only five days prior and called on the Rwandan government for answers.
“This information…leaves us to believe that there could be foul play by Rwandan security services,” the statement said.
“We call on the Rwandan government to inform the family, the party FDU-Inkingi and the general prison about the circumstances of the disappearance of Twagirimana. Mr Twagirimana was in the custody of the state which is accountable for his safety,” it added.
In September 2017, Twagirimana and eight other FDU party members were arrested on charges of forming an armed group and seeking to overthrow the government, charges Twagirimana denies.
The FDU members were placed in a Kigali jail where their party leader, Victoire Ingabire, was serving out a sentence for charges related to comments she made about the country’s 1994 genocide and collaborating with a “terrorist organization.”
Ingabire has long said her sentence was a result of her work as a prominent government critic and that the charges effectively criminalized her freedom of expression. International organizations such as Amnesty International and a 2017 African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights ruling have supported those views.
Last month, Ingabire was granted a presidential pardon by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and was released from jail after serving eight years of her 15-year sentence.
Immediately after she was freed, she called on the Rwandan government to open the country’s political landscape to the opposition and asked them to free all other political prisoners, including Twagirimana and other members of her political party.
On October 3, Twagirimana was moved from Kigali’s Mageragere prison to Mpanga prison, in the country’s southern Nyanza District. The authorities did not inform Twagirimana’s family that he was being transferred or give any explanation for the move, according to Twagirimana’s wife.
Rwanda’s National Police and Rwanda’s Correctional Service have not immediately responded to CNN’s request for comment.
Twagirimana is not the first FDU member to go missing.
In May 2017, party member Jean Damascene Habarugira disappeared after he was called to meet an official responsible for the security of his locality. A few days later, Habarugira’s family were called to collect his body from a local hospital.
Twagirimana denounced Habarugira’s murder as an assassination. In a statement, the FDU said that Habarugira was “assassinated in cold blood” because of his opposition to the local authority’s agricultural policies and concerns over police brutality.
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