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Jamaica opposition leader Peter Phillips resigns after party lost election

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Jamaican opposition leader Peter Phillips on Friday announced his resignation, after preliminary results gave Prime Minister Andrew Holness a landslide victory in legislative elections, according to daily newspaper The Gleaner.

Phillips said he had written to the Chairman of his People’s National Party (PNP) and asked for arrangements to be made to select a new head, according to the daily.

Holness’ Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) scored 49 of the 63 parliamentary seats up for grabs in Thursday’s elections, with the preliminary count almost complete, the electoral commission said late on Thursday.

The PNP lagged far behind, with only 14 seats.

The result would give Holness another five-year term in office.

The Gleaner called it “a shocking defeat for the PNP, which saw a surprising upset for several of its top stalwarts and popular names.”

About 1.9 million people were eligible to elect members of the House of Representatives on the largest island in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Voter turnout was given as 37 percent, down from 48.4 percent in 2016.

Campaign rallies and door-to-door campaigning had been restricted after the number of new coronavirus cases surged.

Jamaica has recorded nearly 3,000 infections and almost 30 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The incumbent was nevertheless seen as having done a relatively good job in handling the pandemic, including by quickly closing the borders in March.

The government has also received praise for its economic policies, with unemployment falling to a historic low of 7 percent in October 2019, according to World Bank figures.

But the pandemic left hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans without jobs or with low incomes, leading to the government reopening the tourism-reliant island’s borders in mid-June.

The opposition criticized Holness for calling elections during the pandemic, accused the government of corruption, and pointed to high crime levels.

The elections took place under safety measures, including temperature checks and the wearing of face masks.

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Mali’s ex-defense minister Ba N’Daou named transition president

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Mali’s former defence minister Ba N’Daou has been announced as president of a new transition government, the leader of the Sahel state’s ruling military junta said on national television Monday.

According to a roadmap backed by the junta, the new president is meant to lead the country for several months before staging elections and returning Mali to civilian rule.

The African Union had called on the military junta in Mali to quickly appoint civilian leaders to manage an 18-month transition towards elections after last month’s coup.

The AU’s 15-member security body late Thursday echoed the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which imposed sanctions on landlocked Mali after the coup toppled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita met with West African leaders this week in Ghana but failed to resolve a critical sticking point — whether soldiers or civilians will lead the transition.

ECOWAS called for a civilian-led transition government to be installed “in days” and said the bloc would lift its sanctions — which include closed borders and a ban on trade and financial flows — once the change has been made.

Smail Chergui, the AU’s peace and security commissioner, said on Twitter Thursday night that he was calling “for a return to constitutional order and early civilian-led transition in Mali”.

A separate Twitter post from the official AU Peace and Security Department account said it backed ECOWAS’ call for an 18-month civilian transition.

It also “welcomed” the putschists’ decision to release Keita — who was detained for more than a week — but said they should also free prime minister Boubou Cisse and “other dignitaries”.

The AU announced the day after the coup that it was suspending Mali “until restoration of constitutional order”, and it is unclear what additional leverage it has.

But a spokesman for the junta, Colonel Ismael Wague, said after this week’s talks in Ghana that Mali could face a “total embargo” from ECOWAS if it does not quickly appoint civilian leaders.

The sanctions could bite in the poor country already facing a severe economic downturn as well as a simmering jihadist insurgency and chronic inter-ethnic violence.

Wague nevertheless made clear the junta would prefer the transition be run by the military, and claimed that was also the preference of the majority of Malians.

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Four Cameroonian soldiers jailed 10 years for murder

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Four Cameroonian soldiers were sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison and another to two years for the execution-style killings of two women and their two children in a region where the army is fighting jihadists.

A video was broadcast on social media in July 2018 showing soldiers shooting two kneeling blindfolded women as well as a baby on one of their backs and a girl.

The government initially denied the involvement of its army, but later arrested seven suspects. Two were acquitted.

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7 killed, 4 injured in ‘massacre’ in south-western Colombia

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Seven people were killed and four others injured in an attack in south-western Colombia on Sunday, local media reported.

“Seven young people … were massacred with grenades and gunshots,” Senator Temistocles Ortega told broadcaster Caracol.

The attack happened in Munchique, in the south-western state of Cauca.

“You have no alternatives in Cauca,” Ortega said, adding that those who live there are “exposed to criminals of all types.”

Army spokesman Marco Vinicio Mayorga told the broadcaster that the crime was “preliminarily attributed” to the Jaime Martinez column, which emerged from the 2016 demobilization of the guerrilla movement FARC and operates in the area.

The country’s ombudsman for human rights condemned the Cauca events on Twitter, saying: “We urgently need to eradicate the … violence which affects rights and constantly endanger the lives of Colombians.”

More than 240 people have died in 60 massacres – defined as killings of at least three people – in the country so far this year, according to the NGO Indepaz, which monitors the violence.

According to the NGO, the Monchique attack was the eleventh this month alone.

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