Media Review for February 15, 2012

By Africa Center Media Review
Updated: 02/15/2012

Please note: The following news items are presented here for informational purposes. The views expressed within them are those of the authors and/or individuals quoted, not those of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the National Defense University, or the Department of Defense.

Today’s News

Al Qaeda’s Merger – “Dozens of Americans Join al Qaeda.”
Hundreds of Somalis gathered on the outskirts of Mogadishu on Feb. 13 to celebrate the union of al Qaeda with its Somali cousin, the insurgent-terrorist group al-Shabab. But the mainstream media hasn’t quite figured out what to make of the news, first announced last week, that the two groups had officially merged. Many reporters were already accustomed to thinking of them as the same group. Others grasped at straws to fit the news into the “al Qaeda is losing” narrative — dominant ever since Osama bin Laden was killed last May. Foreign Policy

Kenyan army claims al-Shabaab rebels are crippled
The Kenyan army says it has crippled Somalia’s al-Shabaab rebels four months after launching an offensive to defeat them but its superior firepower alone is unlikely to win the battle, analysts said. Mail and Guardian

Admiral Seeks Freer Hand in Deployment of Elite Forces
As the United States turns increasingly to Special Operations forces to confront developing threats scattered around the world, the nation’s top Special Operations officer, a member of the Navy Seals who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, is seeking new authority to move his forces faster and outside of normal Pentagon deployment channels. [...] The plan would give him more autonomy to position his forces and their war-fighting equipment where intelligence and global events indicate they are most needed. It would also allow the Special Operations forces to expand their presence in regions where they have not operated in large numbers for the past decade, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The New York Times

US, Mali armies kick off Exercise Atlas Accord; postpone Exercise Flintlock
United States and Mali army personnel have kicked off the combed aerial delivery exercise Atlas Accord 12, but have postponed Exercise Flintlock 12 due to the Tuareg rebellion, which broke out last month. DefenceWeb

Al Qaeda And Drought Drive West Africa’s Mauritania Back Into Dire Poverty
A devastating drought has only made matters worse for residents in the northwestern African nation of Mauritania, where Jihadist attacks and kidnappings attributed to Al Qaeda had already killed off the local tourism industry. Worldcrunch – Le Monde

Egyptian authorities look the other way as Bedouin kidnap refugees
Hundreds of African refugees are being held hostage in the Sinai desert of Egypt by smugglers demanding up to $40,000 (£25,000) each for their release, human rights workers have warned. A brutal trafficking industry has flourished over the past year in which Bedouin gangs, emboldened by their apparent impunity, extort higher and higher prices for kidnapped migrants. The Guardian

Libya’s uprising in perspective
A year since protests began in Libya, armed groups still refuse to hand in their weapons or trust the National Transitional Council (NTC), despite progress made on election laws. It was on Libya’s main coastal road that much of the fighting between Muammar Gaddafi’s forces and NTC fighters took place. It is a crucial highway that connects most of the oil-producing areas. Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid returned to find out how people were rebuilding their lives. Al Jazeera

Zim: Morgan agrees to early polls
Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, frustrated by Zimbabwe’s fractious coalition government and the extensive powers it affords President Robert Mugabe, has agreed to hold early elections this year. Times Live

Justice vs reconciliation in Guinea?
Guinea’s fragile but improving democracy got a boost this week when judges investigating the brutal September 2009 crackdown on pro-democracy protests filed charges against Colonel Moussa Tiégboro Camara. [...] Guinea is one of several sub-Saharan African states, including Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Nigeria, and Zambia, to have made progress on democratic governance, according to Africa and the Arab Spring: A New Era of Democratic Expectations, a recent report from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The latest Freedom House annual survey ranks the country as partly free. Democracy Digest

Senegal’s Wade meets critical US envoy
Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade met with the US ambassador to Dakar who last week criticised his third term candidacy and was summoned by government, the presidency said on Tuesday. News 24

Africa’s Imperiled Democracy
[...] Wade has been tinkering with Senegal’s constitution in dangerous ways ever since he was inaugurated in 2000. Of the 15 changes Wade made to the constitution, ten weakened democracy; the others were erratic, if not bizarre. For example, Wade at one point abolished Senegal’s senate, only to reinstate it after realizing that it could be put to use as a place to reward political allies. Likewise, he reduced the length of presidential terms from seven years to five, but later restored it to seven. Turkish Weekly

Book on election management in West Africa launched
Accra, Feb. 14, GNA – A book titled, “Election Dispute Management Practice Guide for West Africa” was on Tuesday launched in Accra by the West African Network for Peace Building (WANEP). The launch forms part of WANEP’s efforts to prevent the eruption of violence and unrest during elections in the sub-region, and to ensure political stability. All Ghana News

Leaked Document on London Somalia Conference
This is a leaked document on the Somalia conference planned for February 23, 2012. It contains a draft communique to be published at the end of the conference: 1. The London Conference on Somalia took place at Lancaster House on 23rd February 2012, attended by around fifty representatives from the international community, and from Somalia itself. Somaliland Sun

AU troops attack Shebab positions in Mogadishu
African Union-backed Somali government forces attacked Islamist Shebab rebel posts on the outskirts of the war-torn capital Mogadishu with tanks and artillery Tuesday, officials and witness said. Burundian troops with the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) launched a pre-dawn attack against holdout positions of the Al-Qaeda allied Shebab, to secure a key road leading from anarchic Mogadishu to the rebel-held town of Afgoye. Defence Talk

Steer Clear Of Nigerian Waters, Maritime Watchdog Warns Ships
An international maritime watchdog on Monday warned ships to steer clear of waters off Nigeria due to a trio of recent piracy attacks including a deadly assault it said was still under way. The master and chief engineer of a cargo vessel were shot and killed by pirates off Nigeria on Monday in the latest attack, one of three to have occurred in the area since Thursday, the International Maritime Bureau said. PM News

Some confusion regarding the continuation of South Africa’s anti-piracy operation in the Mozambique Channel
There appears to be some confusion regarding the continuation of South Africa’s anti-piracy operation in the Mozambique Channel. The South African Navy, with the aid and support of Mozambique, has maintained a forward station at the port of Pemba since early 2011, under Operation Copper. DefenceWeb

600 Ugandan girls victims of human trafficking in Malaysia
At least 600 Ugandan girls have been forced into Malaysia’s sex trade in what has become a human trafficking epidemic, a foreign diplomat has said. Hajah Noraihan, the Malaysian consul to Uganda, said despite an early warning to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2008 when the number of trafficked girls stood at 30, the constant flow of victims has not slowed. Daily Monitor

When trading across a border in Africa, you are 85% likely to pay a bribe
A new report from the World Bank highlights wide-spread opportunities for African countries to trade goods, services and investments across borders. The World Bank

Is ‘blood diamond’ definition about to change?
The newly-appointed U.S. chair of the international diamond watchdog has called for a review of what constitutes a “blood diamond.” [...] Now, Gillian Milovanovic, who was named chair of the Kimberley Process in late January, wants the definition to be broadened. “One of the things which will certainly be looked at and which we certainly support looking at and believe should get a close look is whether that definition is still sufficiently encompassing or appropriate given today’s challenges,” she said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Robyn Curnow. CNN

Police raid Parisian home of son of Equatorial Guinea president Obiang
Police on Tuesday raided the chic Parisian apartment of the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, as part of an investigation into the French property holdings of three African heads of state. RFI

Has the Obiang family finally worn out its welcome in the West?
In France, UNESCO may finally reject the African dictator’s vanity prize; in the United States, his high-spending son fights to keep feds from seizing a Malibu mansion. Foreign Policy

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