Media Review for December 21, 2012

By Africa Center Media Review
Updated: 12/21/2012

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

UN approves military action to oust al-Qaida in Mali, but not before political progress
The U.N. Security Council on Thursday authorized military action to wrest northern Mali from the control of al-Qaida-linked extremists but demanded progress first on political reconciliation, elections and training African troops and police. A resolution adopted unanimously by the U.N.’s most powerful body stressed that there must be a two-track plan, political and military, to reunify the country, which has been in turmoil since a coup in March. The Washington Post

How the USA Prevented a Rush to War In Mali
For several weeks the French have been pushing for an agressive resolution that would authorize an African led international force to intervene in Mali to root out Islamist rebels in the north and help the Malian army assert control over the area. France would model this mission on the African Union Mission in Somalia, which is African led, but UN supported. Like AMISOM, France wanted to fund the Mali mission through voluntary contributions of member states as opposed to through the regular budget system. US Ambassador Susan Rice famously called this plan “crap.” She had a point. UN Dispatch

Malian militias prepare for war
More and more Malians are calling for a military intervention to liberate the north of their country from Islamist rule. They are also preparing to fight themselves. Deutsche Welle

U.S.- and European-backed force will try to rebuild Mali’s military
[...] The European Union plans to send military experts to Bamako in the coming months to begin training the Malian army to lead a campaign to conquer the north. But the wider African force — which is expected to be made up of several thousand troops from West Africa and the Sahel — is unlikely to be sent to Mali before September or October. The resolution does not specify what role the United States would play in the military campaign against extremists. But it provides wide legal scope for foreign governments to “take all necessary measures” — including the use of lethal force — and to provide “any necessary assistance” in support of the Malian fight. The Washington Post

Obama strips Mali, Guinea-Bissau of trade benefits
US President Barack Obama on Thursday stripped Mali and Guinea-Bissau of their US trade privileges, citing backtracking from democracy in the two countries. In an annual assessment of benefits conferred by the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program, Obama added the fledgling nation of South Sudan to the list of African nations enjoying preferential trade treatment. AFP

Who are the exemplary armies in Africa?
Structural problems within certain sub-Saharan African armies have not obscured the overall quality, or progress in the past 10 years, for a few countries. After successfully contributing to the country’s transition from apartheid to a democracy, the South African army remains a continental force to reckon with, especially in the areas of aviation and transport. The South African army counts about 1,000 men serving in the rank and file of the United Nations Organisation for Stabilisation of Congo (MONUSCO). Kenya is another highly rated African army. Its troops train regularly with their British and American counterparts. The result, as evidenced by the remarkable discipline of Kenyan soldiers whose offensive against al-Shebab by virtue of their collaboration with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), is one of success. The Africa Report

Pirates of the Guinean: How West Africa is replacing Somalia as the new pirate lair
[...] crime on the high seas is now commonplace throughout the Gulf of Guinea — the immense body of water between Gabon and Liberia. And with piracy gradually declining off the coast of Somalia, the Gulf of Guinea is rapidly becoming the world’s most dangerous body of water. Between January and September of this year, pirates have attacked 42 vessels and taken 168 crew members hostage — four of whom ended up dead. Pirates began targeting ships in the oil-rich Niger Delta in the 1980s. These attacks were generally close to shore and in the form of armed robberies, with theft of not only oil but crew valuables and thousands of dollars in cash. In the last three years, however, attacks have grown more frequent and more violent, and they are occurring farther off the coast. Foreign Policy

Kerry Suggests Military Role in Diplomats’ Security
Senator John Kerry said Thursday that the United States needed to re-examine how the military might play a greater role in protecting diplomats in dangerous regions in the wake of the attack on the mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 that led to the death of four Americans. Mr. Kerry said the military’s role needed particular scrutiny after the Benghazi attacks. “It’s something we really need to pay attention to and think about in terms of deployment and preparedness,” he said. The New York Times

Born on the Seventh Floor: John Kerry is about to get the secretary of state job he was always meant to have
[...] Now that it looks like Kerry will be President Obama’s nominee for secretary of state, it’s worth pondering his record to understand his intellectual predisposition and modus operandi. While Hillary Clinton, the current occupant of Foggy Bottom, earned her Senate spurs on the Armed Services Committee, Kerry has been on the Foreign Relations Committee since 1985. His orientation tilts toward the art of diplomacy even as he understands war in personal ways. Foreign Policy

Central African Republic rebels halt advance on capital
Rebels in the Central African Republic said on Thursday they have halted their advance towards the capital and are open to peace talks. A rebel coalition, complaining that President François Bozizé had failed to honour a 2007 peace deal, has marched to within 400km (250 miles) of Bangui, prompting neighbouring Chad to dispatch soldiers to help CAR’s army. “The advance of our troops has been unilaterally halted,” the Seleka rebel alliance said in a statement sent to Reuters. The Guardian

U.S. under pressure over Rwanda involvement in Congo fighting
[...] Analysts say that without Rwandan forces, M23 would not have made its recent territorial gains. In a report leaked this month, the U.N. experts alleged that Rwandan forces took part in M23’s October attack and capture of Goma. “If it was difficult before, now it is almost impossible to justify this belligerence from Kagame’s government,” Congo analyst Jason Stearns said in a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine. Critics and human rights groups have criticized the Obama administration’s support for Rwanda despite evidence of chronic interference in Congo, where conflicts have killed more than 5 million people. However, there are signs of change in Washington’s position. President Obama called Kagame this week and asked him to end support for any rebel groups in Congo, according to a White House statement. LA Times

Analysis of internal workings of Congo’s Kabila regime wins African Argument of the year
The current crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) North and South Kivu provinces is yet another episode in the epic conflict that has engulfed the region since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The Kivu crisis has not only dominated analysis and news reporting on the country since the early months of 2012; it has also absorbed the attention of the President, Joseph Kabila, and proves a distraction from policy matters that are equally important to the country’s future. Kabila and his entourage have not provided effective leadership on a number of essential issues, namely, the revision of the electoral commission, the revision of the mining code, the holding of provincial elections and the implementation of long-awaited projects to improve electricity supply in the country. African Argument

DRC: Africa says it’s ready to conduct own missions – with West’s money
When M23 rebels marched on the eastern Congolese city of Goma last month, the United Nations’ largest peacekeeping mission at first struck back like a force that costs $1.4 billion a year, pounding the advancing columns from the air. But as the Congolese army quickly dissolved, so did the U.N. resistance, and days later the rebels rolled into Goma with barely a fight. Congo’s neighbors proposed a solution: If the United Nations was unwilling to put its 19,000 men more directly in the line of fire, African countries would send in 4,000 troops of their own to comb through the militia-ridden vacuum and eradicate the armed thugs. McClatchy

The Fog Over the Red Sea
Eritrea sits on some of the most important real estate in Africa, occupying a thin sliver of coastline at the mouth of the Red Sea. The country straddles one side of a globally significant shipping lane, and the actions of whoever’s ruling in Asmara affects the stability of every neighboring country, from already troublesome places like Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, which lie just across the sea. Yet Eritrea itself is one of the most opaque places on earth. The Atlantic

While Zuma Sings And Dances, South Africa Pays The Price
[...] the country may face a fate similar to Greece’s, says Stephen Koseff, CEO of Investec Bank. “South Africa can’t go on much longer living the way it has for the last six to nine months – during which relations between economic players, workers and the government have suffered considerably,” Koseff warns. During this period the country experienced brutal strikes in the mining sector. Business leaders were also unsettled by the fact the issue of nationalizing the mines and reforming land reforms were on the agenda of the ANC congress. Worldcrunch – Die Welt

Analysis: Côte d’Ivoire needs top-down reconciliation
Responsibility for reconciling Côte d’Ivoire’s divided society after years of conflict, rebellion and instability rests largely with its leaders, but long-running political rivalries and mutual suspicion are raising tensions and blocking efforts to heal rifts, say analysts. [...] Côte d’Ivoire is home to more than 60 ethnic groups and inter-communal marriages are common. “We are told that we need to have reconciliation, but reconciliation with whom? I don’t have a problem with my neighbours. It’s the politicians who must reconcile with one another,” said Fabrice, a resident of Yopougon District in the commercial capital Abidjan. IRIN

Lessons from Constitution-Making in Tunisia
The Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East is pleased to release a new issue brief, “Lessons from Constitution-Making in Tunisia,”, authored by non-resident fellow Duncan Pickard who examines the challenges and lessons learned from the country’s constitution-writing process. While Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly remains several months away from completing its work and some major issues, notably the system of government, have yet to be resolved, many of the lessons learned, as Pickard makes clear, may prove useful for other constitution-making processes worldwide, especially in neighboring Libya. Atlantic Council

Maghreb countries boost border security
Terrorists in northern Mali are facing new difficulties after a number of Maghreb countries imposed a siege by closing their borders and intensifying efforts to monitor the movement of arms. On Wednesday (December 20th), Libya carried out an airstrike against suspected smugglers near the border with Chad and Sudan. It was the first such action since Libyan legislators on Sunday ordered the closure of the southern border and declared frontier provinces a restricted military zone. Magharebia

Malawi, Tanzania Seek Mediation Over Border Dispute
Tanzania and Malawi plan to seek mediation from former heads of state in Southern Africa to help resolve a long-running border dispute over Lake Malawi. The lake is believed to have rich oil and gas reserves. Foreign ministers of the two countries are scheduled to meet former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, chairman of the forum, on Friday as part of a regional effort to resolve the border impasse. VOA

What does Abdessalam Yassine’s death mean for Morocco?
slamism is often thought to be antithetical to Sufism, but in Morocco, a Sufi-inspired Islamist movement has represented the most potent opposition to the monarchy since the 1980s. The death of its mystical leader, Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine, last Thursday has left many asking what direction Morocco’s informal opposition will take. Tens of thousands of people converged on Morocco’s capital, Rabat, to mourn the passing of Yassine, 84, the founder and spiritual leader of Morocco’s largest Islamic opposition movement, Justice and Spirituality (al Adl wal Ihsan), a nonviolent group committed to the peaceful overthrow of the monarchy. The Guardian

Fifty-five people drowned off Somali coast – UNHCR
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement that the accident on Tuesday was the worst such incident in the Gulf of Aden since February 2011 when 57 Somali migrants perished attempting to reach Yemen. The U.N. agency quoted five of the survivors, all young Somali men, as saying the boat was overcrowded and ran into trouble almost immediately after leaving the port of Bosasso in the northern Somali breakaway region of Puntland. Reuters

UN, AU name new head of Darfur joint peacekeeping mission
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon and Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Thursday announced the appointment of Mohamed Ibn Chambas of Ghana as their Joint Special Representative for Darfur and head of the AU-UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID. The responsibilities of the position will also include acting as Joint Chief Mediator for the AU and the UN. Xinhua

Africa Focus: African youth on the driver’s seat as the continent transform
The rapid economic, social and political transformation witnessed in many African countries this decade is being catalyzed by the continent’s youthful population. Africa is reaping from a youth bulge that has provided abundant supply of skilled labor for the nascent industrial sector alongside creating a huge market niche for luxury goods manufactured locally or abroad. Xinhua

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