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Gambia's Jammeh headed for landslide poll win
by Staff Writers
Banjul (AFP) Nov 25, 2011

New armed forces chief named in Central African Republic
Bangui (AFP) Nov 25, 2011 - Brigadier General Guillaume Lapo, a former government minister and treasury chief, was on Friday named chief of general staff of the armed forces in Central African Republic, by presidential decree.

Lapo replaces General Andre Mazi, who died on October 16 in the Gabonese capital Libreville.

Gambia's long-serving President Yayha Jammeh headed for a landslide victory Friday in an election criticised by observers as flawed due to voter intimidation and state control of the media.

Polling officials were hard at work tallying the glass marbles used to vote due to a high-rate of illiteracy in the tiny tropical African state.

With 49 percent of votes counted, results showed Jammeh far ahead of his main rival with 75.56 percent.

Challenger Ousimanou Darboe, 63, had 16.22 percent, and third placed independent candidate Hamat Bah, 51 had 10.10 percent.

Jammeh, 46, who has ruled the smallest state on mainland Africa since seizing power in a 1994 military coup, has said his win is a foregone conclusion. He won 2006 polls with 67.33 percent of the votes.

"Do I look like a loser? There is no way that I can lose unless you tell me that Gambians are mad," Jammeh told journalists after voting on Thursday.

"Gambians are development-oriented people and they know I can deliver. In 17 years I have delivered more than the British were able to deliver in 400 years."

Observers from the main west African bloc boycotted the polls, saying Jammeh's control of the media and intimidation of voters meant the election could not be free, fair and transparent.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) reported "an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the party in power ... and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation."

The regime of the man who says he can cure AIDS is often pilloried for human rights abuses, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, torture and the muzzling of journalists -- many of whom have fled the country fearing for their lives.

Jammeh has woven an aura of mysticism around himself. He dresses in billowing white robes, never lets go of his Koran and brooks no dissent, heaping derision on criticism from the West.

"No Western country can tell me anything about democracy. In this country, we fear only God and I don't care what anybody says."

Rights bodies have documented the deaths and disappearances of high-profile journalists in the country. Jammeh said Thursday journalists are "free to write what you like, but you should be ready to be accountable.

"Somebody said that this country is a hell for journalists, well there are freedoms and there are responsibilities. Being a journalist does not mean license to kill. Character assassination will not be accepted."

He has also threatened to "cut off the head" of homosexuals and has threatened the lives of human rights defenders.

Despite the criticism, Jammeh has overseen strong economic growth, which is set to reach 5.5 percent in 2011, and construction of roads, schools and hospitals.

"School, no teachers. Hospitals, no doctors," laughed a young electrician bitterly after voting closed. "What use is that?"

Poverty is widespread, with 67 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day and regions shown not to vote for Jammeh are often isolated, and cut out of development efforts.

A snake-shaped sliver of land wedged into Senegal, Gambia survives mostly off tourism, luring sun-worshipping Europeans to its sweeping, palm-fringed coastline.

Gambians voted with clear glass marbles which they cast into a coloured drum representing their chosen candidate. Polling officials pour the marbles into wooden counting trays with either 200 or 500 holes to tally results.

Final results were due later Friday.

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Gunfire forces closure of Cameroon, Centr.Africa border
Bangui (AFP) Nov 25, 2011 - The main border crossing between Cameroon and the Central African Republic was closed after an exchange of fire erupted between troops on either side, military sources said Friday.

"After the incident between soldiers from Cameroon and the Central African Republic on Thursday morning in Garoua-Boulai, the border is closed at Garoua-Boulai," said a Central African source in the nearby town of Beloko.

Shots were fired after a dispute between a Cameroonian moto taxi driver and a soldier from the Central African Republic escalated, the official said, adding that two Central African soldiers had been arrested.

Cameroonian authorities confirmed the incident and the border closure.

Nobody was injured in the skirmish.


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French soldiers join hunt for hostages seized in Mali
Hombori, Mali (AFP) Nov 25, 2011
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