Voters in Niger went to the polls yesterday for an election that could seal the country’s first-ever peaceful handover between elected presidents, despite a bloody militant insurgency.
The West African country has been chronically unstable since gaining independence from France 60 years ago, and is ranked the world’s poorest country according to the UN’s Human Development Index.
About 7.4 million people are registered to vote for the ballot for presidency, which coincides with legislative elections.
Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou, who was elected in 2011 after the country’s latest coup in 2010, is voluntarily stepping down after two five-year terms.
The frontrunner in the 30-strong field is his designated successor, Mohamed Bazoum, 60, a former Nigerien minister of foreign affairs.
Bazoum’s main rival, former prime minister Hama Amadou, 70, was last month barred from contesting the vote on the grounds that in 2017 he was handed a 12-month term for alleged baby trafficking — a charge he says was fictitious. Campaigning has been overshadowed by the issue of security.
Niger is being battered by militants on two fronts — on its southwestern border with Mali and its southeastern frontier with Nigeria.
In the country, hundreds have died in the past five years and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.
The economy, already fragile, has suffered devastating blows. About 42 percent of the population last year lived on less than US$1.90 per day, according to the World Bank, while nearly one-fifth of its surging population of 23 million relied on food aid.
On Monday, seven troops and 11 suspected jihadists died in an ambush in the southwestern region of Tillaberi, the government said on Thursday, adding that the Nigerien army has been massively deployed for Sunday’s vote.
Some say that the third time’s a charm. Not so for SpaceX, whose unmanned rocket on Wednesday exploded on the ground after carrying out what had seemed to be a successful flight and landing — fresh on the heels of two fiery crashes. It was yet another flub involving a prototype of the Starship rocket, which SpaceX hopes one day to send to Mars. “A beautiful soft landing,” a SpaceX commentator said on a live broadcast of the test flight, although flames were coming out at the bottom and crews were trying to put them out. The rocket exploded a few minutes later,
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China, under growing global pressure over its treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, is mounting an unprecedented and aggressive campaign to push back, including explicit attacks on women who have made claims of abuse. As allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang mount, with a growing number of Western lawmakers accusing China of genocide, Beijing is focusing on discrediting the female Uighur witnesses behind reports of abuse. Chinese officials have named women, disclosed medical data and information on their fertility, and accused some of having affairs and one of having a sexually transmitted disease. Officials said that the information was evidence of bad character,