Media Review for January 14, 2013

By Africa Center Media Review
Updated: 01/14/2013

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

Media Review Special on the situation in Mali
French ground forces intervened Friday to help the sagging Malian army as it battles advancing Islamist fighters, opening a new and unexpectedly direct front in the confrontation between the West and al-Qaeda-allied guerrillas. On Saturday, France’s defense minister said hundreds of French troops were involved in an operation that destroyed a command center of Islamic rebels in Mali overnight. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Failed French Rescue Attempt Leaves Several Dead In Somalia
A raid to free a French intelligence agent held captive in Somalia for three years went horribly wrong, leaving 17 Islamists and at least one French commando dead in a mud-caked farming town deep in militant territory. In the chaotic aftermath of the firefight, the hostage’s fate was unclear Saturday. The Islamists denied French claims that he was killed and said they had a new prisoner — a wounded French soldier. The botched rescue in East Africa came the same day French airstrikes in the West African nation of Mali targeted resurgent rebel Islamists. French officials said the two operations were unrelated, but stepped up domestic counter-terror measures to protect public places and transportation networks. AP on NPR

Obama says U.S. warplanes involved in Somali rescue mission
U.S. military fighter jets provided backup support to a failed French hostage rescue mission in Somalia, the White House announced Sunday in a rare public acknowledgment of American combat operations in the Horn of Africa. In a letter to Congress, President Obama said U.S. combat aircraft “provided limited technical support” to French forces late Friday as they attempted to rescue a French spy who had been held captive for more than three years. The Washington Post

Somalia Governor tells RFI he knew of French hostage rescue attempt
An attempt by French forces early on Saturday morning to free an intelligence agent in Somalia early on Saturday morning come to a bloody end. The agent, and a number of civilians, have been killed. RFI

A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa’s Wars Back to Iran
The first clues appeared in Kenya, Uganda and what is now South Sudan. A British arms researcher surveying ammunition used by government forces and civilian militias in 2006 found Kalashnikov rifle cartridges he had not seen before. The ammunition bore no factory code, suggesting that its manufacturer hoped to avoid detection. [...] For six years, a group of independent arms-trafficking researchers worked to pin down the source of the mystery cartridges. Exchanging information from four continents, they concluded that someone had been quietly funneling rifle and machine-gun ammunition into regions of protracted conflict, and had managed to elude exposure for years. Their only goal was to solve the mystery, not implicate any specific nation. When the investigators’ breakthrough came, it carried a surprise. The manufacturer was not one of Africa’s usual suspects. It was Iran. The New York Times

Marines Deploy in Support of U.S. Africa Command
Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa deployed from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 8, 2013. Scheduled for a six-month deployment, the approximately 150 Marines and sailors are tasked with conducting theater security cooperation and limited crisis response missions in support of U.S. Africa Command.

Somalia: President Hassan flies to the U.S. for first visit
The president of Somalia ’s federal government Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has traveled to the United States on a trip to boost relations with the U.S. Government, Garowe Online reports. Garowe Online

Somalia: A failed state is back from the dead
Eighteen months ago, central Mogadishu was like an African Stalingrad. The heat may have been equatorial but everything else seemed strangely familiar: a dirty cat-and-mouse war, often fought hand to hand among the spectacularly bombed-out ruins of a once-thriving city centre. The Independant

The Case Against Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame
When Rwandan-backed rebels recently took Goma, the biggest city in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Paul Kagame had every reason to think the world would give him a pass. That, after all, has been the pattern for years. The Daily Beast

Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes
You might have heard about the “kill list.” You’ve certainly heard about drones. But the details of the U.S. campaign against militants in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia — a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s national security approach – remain shrouded in secrecy. Here’s our guide to what we know—and what we don’t know. Propublica

Bangui Begins Move Toward Unity Government
The Central African Republic’s president has begun implementing a peace agreement with rebels that calls for a unity government in Bangui. President Francois Bozize said he has dissolved the current government, effective immediately, and that a new prime minister will be nominated by the political opposition. VOA

War and Hunger in the Central African Republic
As a rebel coalition gains more control over the Central African Republic, a hunger crisis is also escalating in the country. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said yesterday, “The current situation is limiting WFP’s ability to provide country wide support”. WFP also said that towns it distributed food to in December have now been occupied by rebel forces. Currently, food aid is suspended in areas held by the rebels. Think Africa Press

Libya plans diplomatic security force after attacks
Libya plans to create a special force to protect diplomats, government sources said, after a gun attack on an Italian consul exposed the precarious security situation in the North African state. Reuters

In Libya: Why the Benghazi Investigation Is Going Nowhere
Four months after a brutal assault on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi killed the ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, politicians in Washington are still railing over how diplomats were left vulnerable to attack. Yet the political furor, which now threatens to hold up President Obama’s national-security nominations, stands in stark contrast to the response in Libya itself. There, Libyans say, the investigation is nonoperational, if not effectively dead, with witnesses too fearful to talk and key police officers targeted for violent retribution. “There is no Libyan investigation. No, no, no,” says Mohamed Buisier, a political activist in Benghazi, who returned home in 2011 after decades in the U.S. .Time

Famed Tunisia mausoleum ravaged by fire
The mausoleum in Sidi Bou Said, a prime Tunisian tourism destination, has been ravaged by fire in what is thought to have been an arson attack which the presidency on Sunday denounced as a criminal act. “This crime against our culture and history must not go unpunished,” a presidency statement said, urging police to “spare no efforts in arresting the criminals” who set alight the mausoleum on the outskirts of Tunis on Saturday. AFP on Al Arabiya

Algeria denies any Morocco border dispute
Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said Tuesday (January 8th) that his country had “no problem with Morocco”. “The two countries could open in the future, the issue of maritime borders,” Medelci added during parliamentary session where the National People’s Assembly ratified a maritime border agreement with Tunisia. Medelci also denied any conflict with Morocco over the land frontier. “The land border with that country is not facing any problems,” he noted. However, the minister did not mention any possibility of opening the land border between the two countries, which has been closed since 1994. Magharebia

Iran’s foreign minister works to woo Egypt in Cairo visit
Iran’s foreign minister on Thursday met with top Egyptian officials during a visit to the Egyptian capital that raises questions about how Egypt, the United States’ biggest Arab ally, might recalibrate its formerly standoffish relationship with Iran, America’s biggest regional foe. Ali Akbar Salehi met with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. envoy to Syria, and top officials at al Azhar University, the pre-eminent source of Sunni Islamic thought – a major event, given that Iran is governed by a Shiite Muslim theocracy. McClatchy

Egypt’s Coptic Christians fleeing country after Islamist takeover
Tens of thousands of Egyptian Christians are leaving the country in the wake of the Egyptian revolution and subsequent Islamist takeover of politics, priests and community leaders say. The Telegraph

U.S. consulate worker stabbed to death in Johannesburg
An unidentified attacker stabbed to death a U.S. consulate worker in Johannesburg early Sunday, the U.S. embassy confirmed. “I can confirm that a U.S. government employee was killed in Johannesburg this morning. He worked at our U.S. consulate in Johannesburg,” said embassy spokesperson Jack Hillmeyer. Xinhua

Senegal rebels alienate those they fight for
During the early years of the Casamance independence movement in the 1980s, the MFDC capitalised on the grievances of the local population, who largely supported the movement. But over the years, the MFDC has altered its tactics and objectives. The movement has escalated the violence not only against the state – but also against locals. Now many civilians in Casamance, whom the MFDC is claiming to fight for, are suffering more from the rebels than from the Senegalese state. Al Jazeera

Nigeria: How Party Mergers Will Shape 2015 Elections
The merger talks among key opposition political parties in Nigeria seem to have reached an advanced stage, going by the recent comments emanating from concerned stakeholders involved in the plan to oust the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015. Daily Trust on allAfrica

Tunisia’s ousted clans: where are they now?
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi are exiled in Jeddah, two years after the uprising in Tunis and despite a welter of charges against them. Tunis accepts that Saudi Arabia will probably never hand them over. Other members of the Ben Ali clan have been less fortunate – some are on the run, others in prison. The National

South Africa Downgraded by Fitch as Strikes Hurt Growth
South Africa’s credit rating was cut to the second-lowest investment grade by Fitch Ratings because of slowing economic growth, a widening budget deficit and rising joblessness. The rating was lowered to BBB from BBB+, while the outlook was raised to stable from negative, Fitch said in a statement from London yesterday. That followed downgrades by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service last year. Bloomberg

Africa: Harsh truths and high growth
As Western bankers and traders cheer higher growth rates, Africa’s economists sound alarms about the lack of investment in manufacturing and new jobs. [...] Joining in the commendation are the banks: the United States’ Merrill Lynch calls Africa the ‘final frontier’ where ‘opportunities abound’. Russia’s Renaissance Capital, which has invested heavily in Nigeria, last year published a tome explaining how ‘the bottom billion has become the fastest billion’. Two international news magazines chimed in with similar collections of upbeat economic data and used the same headline: ‘Africa Rising’. But is it really? Africa Confidential

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