Media Review for January 16, 2013

By Africa Center Media Review
Updated: 01/16/2013

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

Foreigners ‘abducted’ by Islamist militants in Algeria
A number of foreigners are reported to have been abducted in Algeria, diplomatic sources say. News agencies report that five Japanese nationals and a French citizen were taken by Islamic militants from the town of In Amenas. The oil giant BP operates a production facility in the town and it said there had been an incident but did not confirm the kidnapping. BBC

France deploys armoured tanks towards northern Mali
France deployed a convoy of armoured tanks towards Mali’s restive north from the capital Bamako on Tuesday, as part of an expanding joint Malian-French offensive to retake the region from Islamist rebels. France 24

Opinion. Is France Battling Nationalists or Islamists in Mali?
Western powers were taken by surprise by the sudden emergence of an Islamist regime in northern Mali, and are scrambling to understand what has transpired there. Increasingly, the narrative is one of militant Islam. But the core of the conflict is the nationalist secession movement of the Tuareg people — one that in recent months has been hijacked by Islamist radicals. The New York Times

U.S. has no plans to send troops to Mali: Panetta
The United States is still assessing what military aid to give France in its fight against al Qaeda-affiliated militants in Mali but has no plans to send U.S. troops, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday. Reuters

War in Mali: France Can Bomb Militants, but Not Arms Routes
To fight a war, you need three essentials: weapons, fighters and cash. And the al-Qaeda-linked groups in northern Mali now being bombed by France have enjoyed a rich supply of all three ingredients, thanks to the downfall of Libya’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi, as well as, ironically, Western governments themselves, which have paid Islamic groups millions of dollars over the past few years to free European hostages in the vast Sahara Desert. “The jihadi groups were flush with cash, and were in a position to buy whatever was within reach,” says François Heisbourg, a security expert and chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “How many arms depots did Gaddafi have? Well over a thousand. So there is still a lot of stuff sloshing its way in all directions.” Time

French action in Mali exposes absence of African neighbors, Western allies
After trying for months to organize an international coalition to intervene in Mali, France has suddenly started the job on its own, with Western allies offering support only from a distance and Mali’s African neighbors yet to show up on the battlefield. The decision to send in French air and ground forces to combat Islamist militias in northern Mali without African or other international partners marked a bold departure for French President Francois Hollande. Since taking over in May, the Socialist leader had been criticized as indecisive and untutored in foreign affairs and had vowed to end France’s role as policeman in tumultuous African countries. The Washington Post

Isolated in Europe, France appeals to Gulf for help with Mali mission
[...]As France braced for a lengthy and possibly arduous conflict, Paris appealed for more logistical help from its allies and for financial support from the Gulf. President François Hollande used a visit to the United Arab Emirates to urge Gulf states to contribute cash to military and humanitarian operations in France’s former colony. A French minister, Alain Vidalies, complained logistical aid from other European countries had been “somewhat minimal… with some regrettable absences” – thought to be a reference to Germany. The Independant

Mali — A Double Tale of Unintended Consequences
[...] Tuareg commanders of three of the four Malian units in the north decided to change sides and join the insurrection, taking weapons, valuable equipment and their American training with them. They were also followed by 1,600 additional army defectors, demolishing the government’s hope of resisting the rebel attack. In other words, it’s very likely that the French and their allies-to-come in Mali will be battling rebel troops trained by the U.S. Special Forces. Caught totally by surprise by the whole ghastly mess, the American officials involved with the training program were reportedly flabbergasted. There are obvious questions: How was it possible for the Special Forces and their Pentagon bosses and the CIA to have had such a total lack of understanding of the Malian officers they’d trained and the country they’d been operating in for over five years? The Huffington Post

House GOP lining up behind US effort in Mali
A number of top House Republicans are voicing their support for the Obama administration’s decision to support counterterror operations by French forces in the West African country of Mali. GOP lawmakers agree the Pentagon’s participation in the French-led offensive should stop short of U.S. troop deployments. But ongoing counterterrorism efforts in northern Mali will be critical in ensuring the country does not become a safe haven for extremist groups to attack the United States and its allies. The Hill

In Mali’s Capital, Where France Is Now Revered — And Al Qaeda Is The Enemy
They all came out at once, in the early afternoon of Sunday, in the center of Mali’s capital, Bamako – the little French flags, being sold by street vendors. Down the road, a truck drives by with a huge blue-white-red banner flying in the wind, its loud speakers playing the 19th century French Sambre and Meuse Regiment military anthem full blast. In this African capital, which is not known for its love of all-things French, these are unexpected sights and sounds. Today, though, is all about the French intervention. Worldcrunch – Le Monde

Mali: who is doing what?
France and UK are among several countries involved in operation against rebels in northern Mali. The Guardian

Al Qaeda Country: Why Mali matters
[...] If Mali feels somewhat far away or less than important, consider this: Northern Mali is currently the largest al Qaeda-controlled space in the world, an area a little larger than France itself. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned that Mali could become a “permanent haven for terrorists and organized criminal networks.” In December, Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of the U.S. Africa Command, warned that al Qaeda was using northern Mali as a training center and base for recruiting across Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Foreign Policy

The Lessons and Limits of DDR in Africa
With organized DDR initiatives in 10 African states, there is widespread recognition of the importance of these programs to advancing stability on the continent. Even so, these initiatives are often under-prioritized and -conceptualized, contributing to the high rates of conflict relapse observed in Africa. DDR efforts across Africa over the past decade indicate that DDR cannot substitute for measures that address core conflict drivers and is often hobbled by expedient but fragile efforts to integrate nonstate militias with a national defense force. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Ambassador Rice at U.N. Security Council on Counterterrorism
Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, At a Security Council Briefing on Counterterrorism, January 15, 2013.

US expands terror informant rewards program
President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed into law a measure expanding a cash rewards program for informants designed to thwart terror attacks to also target organized crime and human rights abuses. He said the new law would help bring individuals like the Lord’s Resistance Army chief Joseph Kony and commanders of the M23 and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda group to justice. AFP

U.S. urges Mursi to repudiate anti-Semitic remarks
The United States on Tuesday condemned anti-Semitic remarks attributed to Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi in 2010 before he was elected to office, and urged him to make clear his views. “The language that we’ve seen is deeply offensive,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, adding “we think that these comments should be repudiated, and they should be repudiated firmly.” Al Arabiya

Terror And Crisis In Sudan’s Blue Nile State
People in Sudan’s Blue Nile State face a stark choice: remain at home, suffering terrifying routine aerial bombardment and brutal counter-insurgency tactics or flee to the safety of camps in neighboring countries, enduring miserable living conditions with limited humanitarian assistance. The Huffington Post

French newspaper tries to unravel the secret behind Rwandan deaths

A front page splash in the French newspaper Libération last week about one of France’s festering political scandals would usually have caused a stir of controversy but the timing was unfortunate. The French military intervention in Mali put paid to any extensive coverage and the exclusive was effectively buried. It certainly deserved wider attention. The Guardian

U.S., Liberia launch partnership dialogue
The United States and Liberia on Tuesday launched a Partnership Dialogue with a view to pursuing high-level diplomatic and economic cooperation between them, APA reports quoting Xinhua. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed a statement of intent at the State Department establishing the dialogue. Apa

Madagascar: President Opts Out of Race
President Andry Rajoelina said Tuesday he would not run in May elections, bowing to international pressure to give the nation a fresh start after the coup that brought him to power in 2009. Mr. Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, ousted Marc Ravalomanana in an uprising. Regional powers have since pressed Mr. Rajoelina to stand aside to prevent more turmoil during this year’s vote. Reuters on the NYT

Libyans file suit against French tech firm over torture
Five Libyans tortured under Moamer Kadhafi have filed legal complaints against a French technology firm that provided his regime with surveillance equipment, a rights group said on Tuesday. An appeals court has meanwhile given the green light to a judicial probe into accusations of complicity against Amesys, said Patrick Baudouin, a lawyer for the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). France 24

Ugandan, US Forces Hunting LRA Welcome CAR Truce
Ugandan soldiers and U.S forces who are pursuing the leader of the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army in the jungles of the Central African Republic say a recent rebellion has not affected their operations, but officials said they welcome a peace deal signed with rebels anyway. The peace deal signed last week puts an end to any fears that a flare-up in violence in the landlocked country would influence the hunt for LRA leader Joseph Kony and his deputies. President Obama sent 100 U.S. special forces to help advise in the hunt about a year ago. AP on abc News

Kenya: Tobacco’s Immigrant Child Labour
The Kenyan government has tried to curtail tobacco production, but its policies have indirectly led remaining tobacco farms to increasingly draw on immigrant child labour. Think Africa press

Ethiopia’s Controversial Gibe III Mega-Dam
There are concerns that more than half a million people’s livelihoods along the Lower Omo Valley in Ethiopia and Kenya could be threatened by the construction of the Gibe III Dam project. The work, which has been ongoing since 2006 and is now over halfway to completion, faces overwhelming pressure from environmentalists who have raised concerns over dangers associated with the dam. Often compared to China’s Three Gorges, the Gibe III Dam is to be the world’s fourth largest hydropower project and will generate over 1,800 megawatts of power. The Ethiopian government expects to earn over $400 million annually from power exports. Think Africa Press

Playing ‘Wolfenstein’ in Tripoli
[...] There are many ways to help bring countries like Libya out of isolation: trade, educational exchanges, and tourism, for example. There is the world of fine arts. And there is competitive online gaming. This notion is being pushed by two young Libyan gamers named Alameen A. Layas and Hassan Drebika, who founded TESCA and organized the tournament. “Most young people here don’t have the opportunity to interact with other nationalities,” says Layas, who is also a medical student. “Gaming can be a bridge.” The Atlantic

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