Media Review for January 24, 2013

By Africa Center Media Review
Updated: 01/24/2013

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

Clinton at Senate Hearing on Benghazi Terrorist Attack
On January 23, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testified on Capitol Hill regarding the September 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi. Following is her opening statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This statement closely matched her opening statement to the House Foreign Affairs Committee later in the day.

Amid Political Barbs, Realization of Africa-Based Threats Emerges
Senior U.S. officials and lawmakers are coming to grips with the emerging reality that the U.S. military and intelligence agencies must increase their efforts in a region where Washington has been reluctant to do so: Africa. Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee members and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Jan. 23 traded testy barbs over the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya. But beneath the politics of the 90-minute hearing were repeated signs that the Obama administration and lawmakers now believe — somewhat reluctantly — that America’s light footprint in Africa simply is no longer good enough. Defense News

Clinton takes on Benghazi critics, warns of more security threats
At times angry and choked with emotion, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday took on Republican critics of her department’s handling of the September terrorist attack in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, but repeatedly distanced herself from a direct role in specific situations. “As I have said many times since September 11, I take responsibility,” Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the first of two long-anticipated congressional hearings on the attack that became a major issue in the November presidential election. CNN

The Al Qaeda Menace in Africa
France has taken up the challenge of defeating Al Qaeda’s new stronghold in northern Mali, its largest since the fall of Afghanistan in 2001. Paris has taken on a well-armed and well-funded group, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which poses a serious threat to Africa and the West. The US has a backseat role in this fight, but a big stake in the outcome. AQIM has already demonstrated it can strike back by taking hostages at an oil installation in Algeria; it may be capable of attacks in Europe as well. The Brookings

One-Eyed Terror Leader’s Government Connections
The Jihadist mastermind of last week’s deadly raid on a natural gas facility in the Sahara Desert may once have worked as an agent for Algeria’s secretive internal security agency (Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité or DRS), according to current and former U.S. intelligence officers. The jihadist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar made a name for himself as far back as the 1990s as a successful smuggler earning him the nickname in some circles as “Marlboro Man” for his exploits as a cigarette smuggler. Last year, Belmokhtar broke away from al Qaeda’s North Africa affiliate after being passed over for promotion, and formed a new group called the “Signed in Blood” battalion. On Monday in a video posted to the Internet, he claimed responsibility for the assault on the gas facility. The Daily Beast

Algerian Gas Plant Seizure May Mark New Stage In Al-Qaida Evolution
The man who says he masterminded last week’s attack on a BP-operated gas facility in Algeria claimed responsibility in a video. “We are behind the blessed daring operation in Algeria,” says Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a former member of al-Qaida’s arm in North Africa. “Forty men from Muslim and Western countries took part in the operation,” he continues. “We did it for al-Qaida.” NPR

Algeria militants played shrewd media game
As wildly contradictory accounts trickled out about a terror attack at an Algerian gas plant, one source of information proved to be the most reliable: announcements by the al-Qaida-linked militants themselves. The hostage-takers phoned in regularly with up-to-the-minute reports, offered eerily accurate numbers of hostages taken and killed, and clearly laid out their goals. Stars and Stripes

Mali’s Ansar Dine Islamists ’split and want talks’
One of the Islamist groups fighting in northern Mali has split and wants dialogue, a statement from the faction seen by the AFP news agency says. Islamic Movement for Azawad said it was splitting from Ansar Dine, and “rejects all forms of extremism and terrorism”. According to the statement, the group is headed by Alghabass Ag Intalla, an important Ansar Dine leader and influential figure in Kidal. BBC

French insist African soldiers must take the lead in Mali
It was not easy to seize back this small town in central Mali from the rebels who stormed it last week. But far tougher battles may lie ahead as French officials insist that it must be African soldiers who take the lead in the push toward the country’s northern area held by rebels for more than nine months. Questions loom over whether the Malian army, in particular, has the training, equipment and, crucially, popular support to go it alone. The National

African Force for Mali Could Double in Size
U.N. officials say an African intervention force now deploying in Mali could double from its envisioned 3,300 troops, as more soldiers are needed to help regain control from Islamist militants holding the country’s north. ​​Ivory Coast U.N. Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba, who represents the Economic Community of West African States at the United Nations, says nearly 1,000 troops already are in Mali. He urged the Security Council Tuesday to provide emergency financial and logistical support for the operation. VOA

Summary executions may have taken place in Mali offensive, French minister admits
Malian troops may have carried out summary executions during the offensive against Islamist rebels, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RFI Wednesday. Human rights groups say that atrocities have been perpetrated in several towns as the joint French-Malian operation heads north. RFI

The war in Mali: an ‘Afghanistan’ nobody can afford
Nobody could have probably better expressed the declared intent by the West to meet the ongoing challenges in the Sahel and Sahara regions than UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Speaking to the Commons, on Monday, he talked of a “generational struggle” against terrorism, which required the same type of resolve it took to defeat Nazi Germany. “What we face is an extremist, Islamist, al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group. Just as we had to deal with that in Pakistan and in Afghanistan so the world needs to come together to deal with this threat in North Africa,” he added. Al Arabiya

The French Mess in Mali and Libya
If you want an illustration of the law of unintended consequences, look no further than Mali. The drama that’s been unfolding there over the past nine months, and that has taken a new turn in the past week, is a perfect illustration. Here’s the background. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime began to crumble under the combined onslaught of NATO airstrikes—which began with the then-president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, launching his jets even though the other participating NATO states had planned to act in unison—and the increasingly effective ground operations of the Libyan opposition. Ethnic Tuaregs, whom the Libyan dictator had long used as mercenaries, feared that they would face reprisals and fled to neighboring Mali. The National Interest

Crises in Mali and Algeria: Disastrous Outcome for the Jihadists in North Africa/Sahel
The Jihadist movement in the Greater North Africa is in bad shape and the ongoing crises are pushing it toward extinction. Poor strategic decisions and bad executions are driving these extremist militants toward complete destruction. The North Africa Journal

‘Beheadings’ in Nigerian city
Suspected militant Islamists have beheaded five people in Nigeria’s north-eastern city of Maiduguri, a resident has told the BBC. The men were attacked during raids on three homes overnight, he said in an account confirmed by a local reporter. However, the military told the BBC only three people had been killed. BBC

Nigeria battles to stop spread of al Qaeda chaos in Africa
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan agreed that Boko Haram could pose an existential threat to his country. “If Boko Haram is not contained, it would be a threat not only to Nigeria, but to West Africa, Central Africa and of course to North Africa,” he said. “Elements of Boko Haram link up with some of al Qaeda in northern Mali and other North African countries.” CNN

Nigerian troops in Mali may boost Islamist attacks at home
Nigerian authorities are tightening security in expectation of increased attacks by militants after the country sent troops to help expel Islamists from northern Mali, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Tuesday. The government is investigating links between Islamists in control of almost two-thirds of Mali and the Islamist group Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, Col. Mohammed Yerima, director of information at Nigeria’s Defense Ministry, said in an interview in the capital, Abuja. Stars and Stripes

Kenya Power-Sharing Plan Sparks Conflict
When Kenyans go to vote in March general elections, they will, for the first time, be selecting candidates for newly-created positions including governor, senator and women’s representatives. The new positions were created as part of a process of “devolution” laid out in the new constitution to distribute power and resources from the central government to local constituencies. VOA

Kenya Orders Somali Refugees to Go Home
Somali refugees living in Kenya are returning to Somalia by the hundreds after the Kenyan government ordered them to go back home. The Kenyan government says the presence of Somali refugees has led to the deterioration of security in the country. The Somalis themselves fear a government crackdown. This week, the Kenyan government began relocating more than 50,000 Somalis living in Kenyan cities back to overcrowded and under-serviced refugee camps near the border, citing security concerns. Thousands are also being flown back to Somalia. VOA

South Sudan president relieves senior army officers
South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir on Monday announced new reforms to the national army, dismissing a number of senior army officers from their duty, as well as removing them from active service. The deputies to the General Chief of Staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) who were dismissed include Lt. Gen. Obuto Mamur, Lt. Gen. Biar Atem Ajang, Lt. Gen. Pieng Deng Kuol, Lt. Gen. Ayuen Alier Jongror, Lt. Gen. Wilson Deng Kuoirot and Lt. Gen. Kuol Deim Kuol. The generals were also removed from the active membership of the army and put on reserve. In a separate decree, Kiir also promoted a number of officers from the rank of Major General to the rank of Lieutenant General and appointed them as new deputies to the General Chief-of-Staff, Lt. Gen. James Hoth Mai. Sudan Tribune

Central African Republic: CAR Rebels Dissatisfied with Peace Accord
Less than two weeks after the signing in Libreville, Gabon of a series of peace and power-sharing deals by Central African Republic stakeholders, Sèléka rebel field commanders have expressed dismay at the terms of the accords, RFI reported yesterday, January 22, 2013. According to Col. Hamadine Guidam, a former member of UFDR rebels, his men are not satisfied with the recent agreement because several of such deals had been signed in the past with no apparent results. He said the last agreement allowed President François Bozizé to continue in power for six years, but the people had continued to “live like monkeys with no roads, running water or schools.” allAfrica

Latest crisis in Congo DRC underlines link between hunger and conflict
On the outskirts of Goma, the dusty and scruffy regional capital in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, a flare-up in fighting between underpaid and ill-disciplined government troops and rebels, allegedly backed by neighbouring Rwanda, has exacerbated the problem of hunger. Last November’s surprise advance by M23 rebels into the city disrupted the planting season as soldiers from both sides seized food from fields or people’s homes. The lost harvest and fear of renewed fighting prompted many to flee their homes, adding to the already large number of people displaced by previous conflicts. The Guardian

‘No Glimmers of Hope’: Two Years After Egypt’s Revolution, an Economic Crisis Looms
With the two-year anniversary of the revolt approaching, Egypt’s economy is struggling, and the new Muslim Brotherhood–backed government is far from resolving the manifold problems of poverty and urban deprivation that bubbled beneath the 2011 revolt. If anything, a rapidly dropping currency combined with austerity measures mandated by international lenders means that life is only going to get harder for the middle class and the poor in the coming months. Time

The Need for Legal and Institutional Reforms Ahead of Zimbabwe’s Elections
This report assesses the legislative and electoral reforms undertaken by the unity government, which was established in 2009 after the 2008 elections resulted in violence. The unity government consists of the former ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the two factions of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Human Rights Watch stated the deeply fractured unity government has failed to reform key laws or the justice system, which remains extremely partisan toward ZANU-PF. It has also failed to hold accountable those responsible for past human rights abuses, including during the 2008 electoral violence. Human Rights Watch

As Obama Inaugurated for 2nd Term, Many Nations in Africa also Marking Peaceful Transitions of Political Power
As the world watched President Obama take the oath of office for his second term January 20 and 21, 2013 – the 57th presidential inauguration in U.S. history — numerous nations in Africa also marked peaceful transitions of power over the past year, including Lesotho, Malawi, Senegal, and Somalia, as well as historic elections in Egypt and Libya. Several more African nations, including Kenya, are preparing for landmark elections in 2013. Africa center For Strategic Studies

Why 2012 Was a Watershed Year for African Women
You may have missed it, but 2012 was a very a big year for African women. African women have a long history of influence in continental politics and leadership. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s 2005 election to the presidency of Liberia, in which she became the first African female head of state since decolonization, was but the first in a string of high profile political victories for African women in the 21st century. UN Dispatch

For the Record-President Obama: “We Will Support Democracy”

“We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom,” President Barack Obama said after taking the Oath of Office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol before an estimated crowd of close to 1 million onlookers. “And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice-not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.”

To read President Obama’s inaugural address other U.S. government events, statements, and articles on Africa, please visit For the Record Africa, a weekly compilation by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS).

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