MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with Onize Ohikere.
Congo elections—We begin today here in Africa, where the Democratic Republic of Congo is looking for its first peaceful transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.
Election officials began counting ballots on Monday, but then cut access to the internet a day after the long-awaited presidential election.
AUDIO: [Sound of vote counting]
The government’s decision to block the internet was widely seen as an attempt to stop social media speculation about the outcome. Official results are not expected until January 15th. But a spokesman for opposition candidate Martin Fayulu claimed to have the lead.
AUDIO: [Man speaking in French]
Election monitors reported an absence of violence. But malfunctioning voting machines and other problems plagued the election. Congressman Ed Royce—chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee—said the election was “neither fair or free.”
Elections in Bangladesh—Next we go to Bangladesh, which also held elections over the weekend. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rejected calls for a new vote after winning a third term in a landslide vote.
HASINA: Election was totally free, I mean independent, no doubt about it.
Hasina’s Awami League party and its allies won 288 seats in the 300-seat parliament. The main opposition party won just six seats and blasted the outcome amid claims of ballot-box stuffing and voter intimidation. Clashes between rival supporters left at least 17 dead.
Kamal Hossain leads the opposition National Unity Front. He called the violence unprecedented.
HOSSAIN: People have been killed, people have been arrested, candidates have been arrested. It is unprecedented, unheard of, could not be dreamt of, I could not even dream of this, even a bad dream, nightmare.
But election officials said they had not received a single complaint against the vote.
The 71-year-old prime minister has led the poor South Asian nation for 10 years. She’s credited with boosting the country’s economy and taking in Rohingya refugees from neighboring Myanmar.
Otto Warmbier settlement—And now to the U.S., where a federal judge has ordered North Korea to pay more than $500 million dollars to the parents of an American college student. Twenty-two-year-old Otto Warmbier died last year, just days after returning from the oppressive country in a coma.
In an interview on CNN, Fred and Cindy Warmbier described the experience of seeing their son for the first time.
CINDY WARMBIER: We weren’t prepared for this at all. No one had any idea going in there what we were going to see. His hands and legs were…
FRED WARMBIER: Totally deformed. Two days after Otto came home, his fever spiked to over 104 degrees. Otto had this huge scar on his right foot. Otto was on his deathbed when he came home to us.
Warmbier traveled to Pyongyang with a tour group in 2016. Officials there arrested him on charges of stealing a propaganda poster. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell concluded Warmbier suffered torture at the hands of his North Korean captors. But the Warmbiers probably won’t see any money from Pyongyang any time soon. U.S. courts have no way to force Kim Jong Un’s regime to pay the fine.
Russian building collapse—We end today in Russia where rescue workers celebrated a New Year’s Day miracle.
AUDIO: [Sound of rescue workers]
Crews pulled a baby boy from the rubble of a 10-story apartment building 35 hours after it collapsed. Emergency officials blamed the accident on a natural gas leak. At least seven people died in the collapse, and dozens more remain missing. Rescuers said the baby boy survived because he was in a crib and wrapped warmly. Temperatures overnight dropped to zero degrees Fahrenheit.
The baby’s mother also survived and was reunited with him at a local hospital.
That’s this week’s World Tour. I’m Onize Ohikere reporting from Abuja, Nigeria.