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  • Lawyer of Gabon's Ping safe in 'friendly' embassy

    Libreville (AFP) - A lawyer for opposition leader Jean Ping thought to have gone missing is hiding in a "friendly" country's embassy, the Gabonese politician said on Tuesday.

    Ping's party had said on Sunday that Eric Iga Iga, one of two lawyers who represented Ping in a Constitutional Court challenge to President Ali Bongo's controversial election victory in August, had been missing for three days.

    But Ping said Iga Iga, who fled after feeling "in danger", is safe and well.

    "Late during the night of Thursday, one of my lawyers, Mr Eric Iga Iga, received a visit from elements presenting themselves as belonging to the defence and security services -- more specifically the military police -- in the most completely illegal way," Ping said in a statement.

    "Feeling in danger, Mr Iga Iga chose to hide by going to look for protection from the embassy of a big, friendly country which was happy to host him until now."

    Ping's spokesman, Jean-Gaspard Ntoutoume Ayi told AFP that Iga Iga remains in the embassy, but declined to reveal which country was hosting the lawyer.

    "Mr Iga Iga has deliberately chosen to break the silence to allow this embassy to let his family know where he is," added Ping's statement, which thanked the embassy for offering his lawyer protection.

    "I ask all those around me in this battle to remain vigilant," warned Ping.

    Ping has been calling himself the president-elect of Gabon since contesting the official results of the August 27 election that gave Bongo victory.

    He called for a recount but that was rejected by Gabon's top court.

    On Monday, EU observers questioned the "integrity" of the election results noting the barely credible official figures from Bongo's Haut-Ogooue heartland.

    He took 95 percent of the vote there from a 99 percent turnout, compared to a 54.24 percent turnout across the rest of the country.

    Bongo, whose family has ruled the tiny oil-rich nation since 1967, won the election by a tiny 6,000 votes.

    The election result sparked two days of rioting and protests in which the government said three people died, while the opposition claimed the true toll was 26.

    More than 800 people were arrested following the disorder.

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  • Berlin truck attack suspect killed in Italy shootout

    German prosecutors issued a Europe-wide wanted notice for 24-year-old Anis Amri, offering a 100,000-euro reward for information and warning he "could be violent and armed"

    Italian police on Friday shot dead the prime suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack, ending a frantic four-day hunt for Europe's most wanted man.

    But just as German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed relief that suspected attacker Anis Amri no longer posed a threat, she pledged a "comprehensive" analysis of how he was slipped through the net in the first place.

    Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian, is believed to have hijacked a lorry and used it to mow down holiday revellers at the market on Monday, killing 12 and wounding dozens more.

    "We can be relieved at the end of this week that the acute danger is over," Merkel told reporters.

    AFP / Jean Michel CORNU, Simon MALFATTOBerlin attack suspect killed

    "However the danger of terrorism in general endures, as it has for several years. We all know that."

    The Islamic State jihadist group has claimed responsibility and released a video Friday in which Amri is shown pledging allegiance to IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

    He had been missing since escaping immediately after the attack, but his time on the run was cut short thanks to a combination of luck and the quick reflexes of rookie Italian police officer Luca Scata.

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  • Mali denies agreement on failed EU asylum seekers

    Bamako (AFP) - Mali's foreign minister on Monday denied an agreement had been reached with the European Union to take back migrants failing to get asylum.

    The Dutch foreign ministry signed a joint declaration on the EU's behalf on December 11 which it said would tackle "the root causes of illegal migration" and "enable the return from Europe of Malian migrants".

    But Abdoulaye Diop told a press conference: "At no point was there any question of signing an agreement that would allow the expulsion of countrymen (living) in Europe illegally."

    Mali "does not intend to put a price on its dignity even if the EU is a development partner."

    Expressing "astonishment" at learning via the media he had signed such a document, Diop said the visit of his Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders to Bamako had never been intended as the moment to make a deal.

    The number of migrants from African nations who risk their lives at sea in a desperate bid to reach Europe has increased considerably in recent years.

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  • Ghana TV: President concedes defeat to opposition leader

    Ghana President elect Nana Akufo-Addo, of the New Patriotic Party, smiles on being declared the winner of the presidential election in Accra, Ghana, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Ghana's longtime opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidency late Friday on his third run for the office, a race that was largely seen as a referendum on how the incumbent party had managed the economy in this long stable democracy. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

    Ghana President elect Nana Akufo-Addo, of the New Patriotic Party, smiles on being declared the winner of the presidential election in Accra, Ghana, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Ghana's longtime opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidency late Friday on his third run for the office, a race that was largely seen as a referendum on how the incumbent party had managed the economy in this long stable democracy. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

    ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Ghana's longtime opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidency late Friday on his third run for the office, a race that was largely seen as a referendum on how the incumbent party had managed the economy in this long stable democracy.

    The country's election commission said Akufo-Addo received 53.8 percent of the vote, compared to 44.4 percent for President John Dramani Mahama. It was the largest margin of victory by a presidential candidate since 1996, upending pre-election predictions that the race would be neck and neck.

    After the announcement, thousands of Akufo-Addo's supporters converged on his residence in the capital of Accra to celebrate and listen to the president-elect deliver his victory speech.

    "There's never been a more humbling moment in my life," Akufo-Addo said. "I make this solemn pledge to you tonight: I will not let you down. I will do everything in my power to live up to your hopes and expectations."

    Akufo-Addo went on to commend Ghanaians for the "mature, peaceful and orderly manner" in which they exercised their right to vote.

    "The democratic credentials of our nation have been further enhanced by your conduct," he added, addressing Ghanaians.

    Mahama's concession solidifies Ghana's status as a model of democracy in West Africa, a region historically plagued by coups and strongman rule. Ghana has experienced a peaceful transition of power every time there has been a change in government since the country moved to democratic rule in 1992.

    Sandra Kwakye, a 38-year-old businesswoman in Accra, told The Associated Press that she is hopeful for the future now that there has been a change in government.

    "I'm so happy and grateful because we've all been facing hardships for a long time, but we know now that we will have a good president," she said. "(Akufo-Addo) will make everything better for us. That's what he promised."

    Mahama called Akufo-Addo to concede defeat shortly before the commission's announcement. He also delivered a concession speech in which he congratulated Akufo-Addo and promised to remain committed to the unity and stability of the country.

    "I want to assure the people of Ghana of my commitment to the sustenance of our country's democracy and would work to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition for the incoming administration. As president, I've done my bit," Mahama said as party supporters surrounded him.

    It took almost 72 hours for the commission to declare a winner, leaving many Ghanaians skeptical about the delay and impatient for a verdict. The commission, however, acknowledged that it had performed its duty within the scheduled time frame and that it was on par with previous elections.

    Before Wednesday's election, the opposition had emphasized Ghana's high unemployment levels and underperforming GDP growth rates to appeal to frustrated voters.

    Mahama defended his record, hinging his campaign on plans to boost economic growth and continue modest gains in infrastructure development. A change in government, he said, would reverse the progress made during the last four years.

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  • No deal reached for Gambia impasse

    Banjul (Gambia) (AFP) - Liberia's president said Tuesday no deal has yet been reached by a heavyweight delegation for Yahya Jammeh to transition power to opposition leader Adama Barrow, who was declared the victor of a recent presidential election.

    A day of talks with Jammeh and Barrow yielded constructive conversations but no resolution.

    The situation was further complicated by Jammeh's political party filing a legal challenge to the result in the afternoon.

    "We come to help Gambians find their way through a transition. That's not something that can happen in one day. It's something that one has to work on," said Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, acting as the head of a delegation of four West African heads of state visiting the country.

    Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, Sierra Leone's Ernest Bai Koroma and Ghana's outgoing President John Mahama all flew in with Sirleaf in an attempt to find common ground between the two sides.

    The Liberian leader said Jammeh had "expressed some concerns" on the same day his party filed the petition with the country's Supreme Court.

    "The ECOWAS mission was here to meet with him to understand the status quo a bit better," Sirleaf added, referring to a West African regional bloc.

    The ECOWAS community would now consider the results of the visit on Saturday, she said.

    Nigeria's Buhari had said earlier the longtime ruler had been "receptive" to their pleas, but president-elect Barrow said the talks were in gridlock.

    "There has not been an agreement so far," said Barrow, who also met the delegation.

    The leader of the opposition described a "standoff" with the government. Referring to the court challenge filed by the ruling party, he said Jammeh "doesn't have the authority" to annul the result.

    The lack of a deal will come as a blow to the opposition, who had hoped Jammeh would leave power within a month under international pressure.

    That transition will be all the more complicated given the legal petition, seen by AFP, claimed the country's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had violated the law, that Barrow was not the elected president and the result was void.

    The ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) said it was not present when the IEC issued a recount on December 5, claimed there were irregularities in the process and alleged voter intimidation.

    - Sanctions threat? -

    A top ECOWAS official had said that if Jammeh and the delegation do not reach an agreement, West African states would "contemplate more draconian decisions", but the quartet would not elaborate on this Tuesday.

    Jammeh had surprised observers by initially conceding defeat in the poll but then reversed his stand last Friday, triggering an avalanche of international condemnation and a multitude of calls for him to cede power peacefully.

    His decision was triggered in part by a readjustment of the votes counted in the election was made by the IEC on Monday last week, reducing the number of ballots for all three candidates but ultimately confirming Barrow's victory.

    Earlier on Tuesday, police locked down the offices of the electoral commission, raising fresh fears Jammeh might not leave office without a fight.

    The electoral commission chairman, Alieu Momar Njie, told AFP that when he went to work riot police prevented him from entering the premises.

    Later Tuesday Njie maintained the results still stood, and questioned Jammeh's ability to bring a legal challenge.

    Jammeh in mid-2015 dismissed a string of Supreme Court judges after criticising the court's move to commute several death sentences.

    "The only recourse when you have any problems with the results of the elections, one has to appeal to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court has been dormant since May 2015," Njie said.

    A group of the country's most influential lawyers has said there is "no legitimate legal mechanism available in The Gambia to hear and determine the election petition", as Jammeh would have to stuff the court with his own appointees.

    - Army loyalty -

    Earlier in the day, opposition coalition members had been more confident of a breakthrough.

    "Remember President Buhari is from the military. Jammeh is from the military. I think that will make a difference," said Hamat Bah, a senior coalition official.

     

    Up until now the president of the tiny country of fewer than two million people may have exasperated his regional peers but has never threatened peace in the area.

    The situation has dramatically shifted, however, since Jammeh's move to void the election.

    Gambian army chief Ousman Badjie also seemed to reverse a previous declaration of support for Barrow and arrived at delegation preparation talks wearing a badge that featured Jammeh's face on his uniform.

    Badjie said he supported the "commander in chief, President Yahya Jammeh" in brief comments to journalists.

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