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Ukraine: Popular Ukraine comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy emerges victorious in the presidential poll.

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Source: Reuters

Ukraine entered uncharted political waters on Monday after near final results showed a comedian with no political experience and few detailed policies had dramatically up-ended the status quo and won the country’s presidential election by a landslide.

The emphatic victory of Volodymyr Zelenskiy, 41, is a bitter blow for incumbent Petro Poroshenko who tried to rally Ukrainians around the flag by casting himself as a bulwark against Russian aggression and a champion of Ukrainian identity.

With over 90 percent of the vote counted, Zelenskiy had won 73 percent of the vote with Poroshenko winning just under 25 percent.

Zelenskiy, who plays a fictitious president in a popular TV series, is now poised to take over the leadership of a country on the frontline of the West’s standoff with Russia following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

“I’m not yet officially the president, but as a citizen of Ukraine, I can say to all countries in the post-Soviet Union look at us. Anything is possible!”

Zelenskiy, whose victory fits a pattern of anti-establishment figures unseating incumbents in Europe and further afield, has promised to end the war in the eastern Donbass region and to root out corruption amid widespread dismay over rising prices and sliding living standards.

But he has been coy about exactly how he plans to achieve all that and investors want reassurances that he will accelerate reforms needed to attract foreign investment and keep the country in an International Monetary Fund program.

“Since there is complete uncertainty about the economic policy of the person who will become president, we simply don’t know what is going to happen and that worries the financial community,” said Serhiy Fursa, an investment banker at Dragon Capital in Kiev.

“We need to see what the first decisions are, the first appointments. We probably won’t understand how big these risks are earlier than June. Perhaps nothing will change.”

The United States, the European Union and Russia will be closely watching Zelenskiy’s foreign policy pronouncements to see if and how he might try to end the war against pro-Russian separatists that has killed some 13,000 people.

U.S. President Donald Trump phoned Zelenskiy and pledged to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity, while European Council President Donald Tusk congratulated the Ukrainian people on what he called a show of democratic maturity.

Zelenskiy said on Sunday he planned to continue European-backed talks with Russia on a so far largely unimplemented peace deal and would try to free Ukrainians imprisoned in Russia, which is holding 24 Ukrainian sailors among others.

Viktor Medvedchuk, the Kremlin’s closest ally in Ukraine, last week outlined ways in which Ukraine and Russia could mend ties, though Zelenskiy has given no indication of being open to the prospect.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Ukraine now had a chance to “reset” and unite its people.

Zelenskiy has pledged to keep Ukraine on a pro-Western course, but has sounded less emphatic than Poroshenko about possible plans for the country of 42 million people to one day join the European Union and NATO.

Poroshenko, who conceded defeat but said he planned to stay in politics, said on social media he thought Zelenskiy’s win would spark celebrations in the Kremlin.

“They believe that with a new inexperienced Ukrainian President, Ukraine could be quickly returned to Russia’s orbit of influence,” he wrote.

Critics accuse Zelenskiy of having an unhealthily close working relationship with a powerful oligarch called Ihor Kolomoisky, whose TV channel broadcasts his comedy shows.

Zelenskiy has rejected those accusations.

One of the most important and early tests of that promise will be the fate of PrivatBank, Ukraine’s largest lender, which was nationalized in 2016.

The government wrested PrivatBank from Kolomoisky as part of a banking system clean-up backed by the IMF, which supports Ukraine with a multi-billion dollar loan program.

But its fate hangs in the balance after a Kiev court ruled days before the election that the change of PrivatBank’s ownership was illegal, delighting Kolomoisky but rocking the central bank which said it would appeal.

Zelenskiy has repeatedly denied he would seek to hand PrivatBank back to Kolomoisky if elected or help the businessman win compensation for the ownership change.

The IMF will be watching closely too to see if Zelenskiy will allow gas prices to rise to market levels, an IMF demand but a politically sensitive issue and one Zelenskiy has been vague about.

Zelenskiy gave few new policy details on Sunday, but said he wanted a new general prosecutor to replace incumbent Yuriy Lutsenko, and spoke of wanting new generals to work in the army.

His unorthodox campaign traded on the character he plays in the TV show, a scrupulously honest schoolteacher who becomes president by accident after an expletive-ridden rant about corruption goes viral.

 Zelenskiy has promised to fight corruption, a message that has resonated with Ukrainians fed up with the status quo in a country that is one of Europe’s poorest nearly three decades after breaking away from the Soviet Union

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24 Hours Across Africa

Rwanda ban Burundi,s music star ahead of annual festival

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Burundian musician Jean Pierre Nimbona, popularly known as Kidum, has told the BBC he is confused by Rwanda’s decision to ban him from playing at the upcoming Kigali Jazz Fusion festival.

Kidum is one of Burundi’s biggest music stars and has performed in Rwanda for the past 16 years.

But a police official phoned the musician’s manager to warn that he would only be allowed to make private visits to Rwanda.

“[My manager was told] Kidum is not supposed to perform, tell him to leave. If he comes for private visits fine, but no performances,” the musician told BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.

The mayor of Rwanda’s capital said that in this instance permission had not been sought from the authorities for him to perform at the festival in Kigali.

Kidum was a leading peace activist during Burundi’s civil war between 1993 and 2003 and used his songs to call for reconciliation.

The 44-year-old musician said he had never had problems with Rwandan authorities until recently when three of his shows were cancelled at the last minute – including one in December 2018.

That month Burundi had banned Meddy, a musician who is half-Burundian, half-Rwandan, from performing in the main city of Bujumbura.

Kidum said he was unsure if the diplomatic tensions between Burundi and Rwanda had influenced his ban.

“I don’t know, I don’t have any evidence about that. And if there was politics, I’m not a player in politics, I’m just a freelance musician based in Nairobi,” he said.

He said he would not challenge the ban: “There’s nothing I can do, I just wait until maybe the decision is changed some day.

“It’s similar to a family house and you are denied entry… so you just have to wait maybe until the head of the family decides otherwise.”

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24 Hours Across Africa

Zimbawe’s doctor goes missing after masterminding strike

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Fearless Zimbabwe’s minister of health has called on the government to address insecurity lapses that has lead to the disappearance Peter Magombeyi, the head of a doctor’s union, who disappeared on Saturday.

Fears are rising over the fate of Zimbabwe medical doctor Dr Peter Magombeyi after he sent a message to say he had been abducted in that country by unknown persons – apparently for demanding a “living wage”.

An AFP report earlier on Sunday quoted the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctor’s Association (ZHDA) as saying Magombeyi had not been heard from since he sent a WhatsApp message on Saturday night saying he had been “kidnapped by three men”.

Zimbabwe doctors, who earn a miserly equivalent of about R3 000 are on strike to press for better wages, equipment and medicines in state hospitals.

The ZHDA has reportedly accused state security forces of abducting the doctor because of his role in organising work stoppages.

This week some doctors said the death of deposed Robert Mugabe, 95, in a Singapore hospital on 6 September was an indication of how bad health services in Zimbabwe

“Dr Magombeyi’s crime is only to ask for a living wage for his profession. This is a reflection of the troubles born out of refusal to implement Political Reforms.”

The Zimbabwe government led by Emmerson Mnangagwa has not publicly commented on the doctor’s disappearance

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