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War-scarred Sierra Leone picks president

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Sierra Leone voters queued for hours in steamy humidity on Wednesday to elect a new leader they hope will end years of economic crisis caused by twin shocks of a commodities slump and an Ebola epidemic.

President Ernest Bai Koroma is stepping aside, having completed his maximum two terms in office, and sixteen candidates are vying to replace him, of whom four are seen as having a realistic chance.

Adama Sesay, a widow with six children, was so anxious to get to the polling station that she left her house at five.

“I am a single parent and things are not easy for me economically so I’m waiting in line to cast my vote for the future,” she told Reuters at a polling station in Waterloo, a village nestled in palm trees and forest on the outskirts of the West African country’s capital.

“In Sierra Leone we are far behind some other countries in Africa, which are making progress,” Sesay said.

The Ebola crisis starting in 2014 and the global commodities downturn dragged Sierra Leone’s economy into the doldrums. It shrank by a fifth in 2015, after years of double-digit growth during its rebound from a ruinous 1990s civil war in which child soldiers fought and tens of thousands died.

Since then, growth has been sluggish and many hope Koroma’s 10-year stint will be followed by a leader who can do more to improve the lives of citizens on the poverty line. Despite those frustrations, and the long waits, voting went ahead peacefully.

“I see out there people responding to calls we have made, people behaving in a manner that is democratic and I see our people are transforming the country,” Koroma said, casting his vote in Freetown’s Goderich district.

“Sierra Leone has matured, which gives me a sense of satisfaction … that (it) is on the path of development.”

Politics has been dominated by two ruling parties since independence from Britain in 1961: the ruling All People’s Congress, now fielding ex-foreign minister Samura Kamara, and the Sierra Leone People’s Party behind Julius Maada Bio, who briefly ruled as head of a military junta in 1996.

But two candidates from younger parties – former United Nations Under-Secretary Kandeh Yumkella and Samuel Sam-Sumana – are seen as having a strong chance if they can garner enough votes from disaffected younger people tired of the status quo.

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PM Abiy reiterates Ethiopia’s decision over latest clampdown.

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has finally spoken on ongoing anti-corruption and rights abuse clampdown stating that there was not going to be any backing down let alone retreat.

A statement from the Abiy’s office issued in Amharic tasked citizens to rally behind the development as a means of ridding the country of lawlessness and criminal elements.

State-affiliated FBC reported that the statement titled, ‘Let’s Fight (the) Cancer,’ said the government was bent on bringing people behind injustices to book.



The statement said the underlying objective of recent arrests was to get rid of Ethiopia criminals. “… criminals do not care about ethnicity, country, or morality; they only care for themselves.

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“The key to justice is to create a system for innocent citizens to live in freedom and dignity while criminals are held accountable and punished in accordance with the law,” the statement read in part.

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Since early this week, authorities have announced the arrest of over sixty former military and intelligence officials arrested in connection with rights abuse in prisons and gross corruption in the military run business conglomerate, Metals and Engineering Corporation, MetEC.

A former head of MetEC, Kinfe Dagnew; and a former intelligence chiefs, Tekleberhan Woldearegay and Yared Zerihun have all been detained and put before courts in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Head of security at the state monopoly, Ethio Telecom, Gudeta Olana, has also been arrested as has head of the entity and brother of ex-MetEC boss, Essayas Dagnew.

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New Zealand denies refusing refugees with holiday visas entry.

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New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, on Friday, rejected allegations that the country’s government was blocking refugees who wished to travel into the country from Nauru on visitor visas.

Nauru’s president, Baron Waqa, also claimed in an interview with Australian media that he had also personally brokered a deal for New Zealand to accept 80 refugees currently located on the island.



“It’s incorrect to say that there is some kind of agreement for 80 specific individuals to take residence or visit,’’ Ardern told media at the East Asia Summit in Singapore.

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“The request did not ask about whether refugees could visit New Zealand on holiday visas,’’ he added.

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The country assessed all applications for visitor visas on a case-by-case basis. This applies regardless of a person’s country of origin or nationality.

The country is under pressure to transfer the remaining 30 children from the island.

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