Media Review for January 28, 2013

By Africa Center Media Review
Updated: 01/28/2013

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

Mali conflict: French and Malian troops begin restoring control in Timbuktu
French and Malian troops have begun restoring government control over Timbuktu, the latest gain in a fast-moving offensive against Islamist fighters allied to al-Qaida who have occupied northern Mali. The rebels have retreated northwards to avoid relentless French air strikes that have destroyed their bases, vehicles and weapons, allowing ground troops to advance rapidly with armoured vehicles and air support. A Malian military source told Reuters that the French and Malian forces reached the gates of Timbuktu late on Saturday without resistance from the insurgents who had held the town since last year. The Guardian

France Literally Went All the Way to Timbuktu to Stop the Malian Rebels
[...] The French forces entered the town with little resistance, however, but expect it will take some time to clear out the town completely. “Timbuktu is delicate, you can’t just go in like that,” said one local. For now, the French have control over the airport and plan to start securing the labyrinth of streets on Monday morning. Taking Timbuktu might’ve been cause enough for celebration, but the French made progress on a number of fronts over the weekend, most significantly in the city of Gao. The Atlantic Wire

French Capture Strategic Airport in Move to Retake North Mali
French special forces took control of the airport in the Islamic rebel stronghold of Gao, the French government said Saturday, meeting “serious resistance” from militants even as they pressed northward. Gao is one of three main northern cities in Mali that has been under rebel control for months, and the capture of the main strategic points in Gao represents the biggest prize yet in the battle to retake the northern half of the country. The New York Times

Inside Gao – motorbikes, celebrations and ‘liberté’
We drove into Gao on the back of a military pick up. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Thousands of residents of the town came out onto the streets. Shouting praise for France and Francois Hollande and then the motorbikes came up. Thousands of men and women on motorbikes honking their horns and screaming. Weeping in hysterics and disbelief that this day had come. They rallied around us as we sped through the streets throwing Malian flags around our necks. Grabbing our hands shouting “thank you, thank you.” Chanel 4 news

For French troops nearing rebel ground, Mali fight is no ordinary mission
On the road in central Mali: French soldiers say they are ‘doing their duty,’ while watching soccer and eating cassoulet. But they know Islamist fighters have advantage with terrain. CS Monitor

US military sending air tankers to refuel French jets over Mali
The United States has agreed to fly tankers to refuel French jet fighters and bombers attacking al-Qaida-affiliated militants who have established a foothold in northern Mali, US defence officials have confirmed. The decision, in response to an earlier French request, expands US involvement, which so far has been limited to sharing intelligence and providing airlift support to carry a French mechanized infantry unit to Mali. Defence secretary Leon Panetta told his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, about the US decision to provide aerial refueling support during a phone call on Saturday, Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement. The Guardian

US may give $32m to train troops in Mali
The Obama administration is seeking an additional $32 million to train African troops to fight Islamic extremists in Mali. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters on Friday the request had been made to Congress. The United States is not providing any direct aid to the Malian government because the democratically elected president was overthrown in a coup last year. News 24

Thank the French, Don’t Bill Them
The French deserve our thanks for repelling Islamist advances in northern Mali. What they do not deserve is a Pentagon bill for the limited military support we have provided in recent days. Indeed, if it is true, as reported in the French media, that United States has withheld larger deliveries of military assistance until assured of payment, then Washington ought to be ashamed of itself. The National Interest

More signs al Qaeda in Mali orchestrated Algeria attack
The Obama Administration now believes the attack and hostage-taking at a natural gas plant in Algeria last week is the work of al Qaeda operatives based out of northern Mali.[...] One U.S. official told CNN that American intelligence gatherers are trying to determine if the two factions had reunited for the attack. If so, that would indicate greater communications among North African elements of al Qaeda affiliates and splinter groups than previously thought. CNN

Algeria’s secrets obscure the ‘war on terror’ in the Sahara
Which is the biggest country in Africa? And which is Europe’s third largest gas supplier, after Russia and Norway? The answer to both is Algeria, although not many people in the English-speaking world – the French are better informed about their former colony – would know. [...] For much of the outside world, Algeria has become a blank space on the map. This is exactly how Algiers wants it to be. The military-led government has defied the wave of Arab revolutions and might claim to be the last of the old Arab security states. At the time of greatest world interest in his country, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika remained out of sight and unwilling to talk to foreign leaders. The National

Ethiopia’s PM takes new leadership of AU
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has been elected the chairperson of the African Union for the next one year, inheriting the leadership when member countries are engaged in improving response to security threats, maintaining economic growth and organizing credible national elections. Prime Minister Desalegn has taken over from Boni Yayi, the President of Benin. Xinhua on GlobalTimes

AU talks break down over DR Congo crisis
Talks have broken down at the African Union summit in Ethiopia on plans to solve the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as the United Nations had not consulted regional players on their efforts to mend the crisis, according to a South African official. A spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, announced on Monday at the summit room that the signing ceremony in Addis Ababa had been cancelled. Aljazeera

British cocaine users helping fund Islamic terror groups behind Algerian siege and Mali conflict
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and allied terrorist groups are thought to be raking in millions of dollars every year by providing armed “escorts” for traffickers smuggling the drug across the Sahara. The militants are profiting from a trade that is exploding as South American cartels channel their product to European markets through Africa. With old routes via the Caribbean now heavily policed, cocaine is increasingly being smuggled by boat and plane to poverty-stricken West Africa, where entire governments are now effectively on the drug barons’ payrolls. The Telegraph

AFRICOM Commander Addresses Concerns, Potential Solutions in Mali
The commander of U.S. Africa Command today shared lessons learned from what he called shortcomings in the U.S.-Malian training program which have contributed to turmoil in the African nation. Army General Carter F. Ham spoke to students and faculty here at the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University, home to the nation’s oldest Africa Studies program. “We have had a U.S. training effort with the Malian armed forces for some number of years,” he said. “Some of that has occurred in Mali, and some of that was Malian officers coming to the U.S. for training, to include, Captain [Amadou] Sanogo, who led the military coup which overthrew the constitutionally-elected government.” “[This is] very worrisome for us,” Ham said.

Opinion: James Carafano: Out of Africa

[...] From the start, AFRICOM has been a maligned flag. Critics complained its presence presaged a wave of Yankee imperialism, a resource war with China or militarization of American policy toward countries from the Cape of Good Hope to the Sahara. All of that rhetoric was either misinformed or intentionally overhyped. AFRICOM was created to accomplish the exact opposite of what detractors alleged. Rather than grow the U.S. military footprint on the continent, the goal was to increase situational awareness so Washington could identify sensible, practical and feasible alternatives for addressing U.S. security concerns without direct intervention. It is also charged with ensuring that any military activities we might undertake would be consonant with our nonmilitary efforts to promote safety, freedom and prosperity in this part of the world. The Washington Examiner

The Hillary Doctrine
The partisan political theater, of course, was top-notch. Rand Paul’s declaration that he would have fired Hillary Clinton; her angry rebuttal of Ron Johnson’s insistence that the administration misled the American people about the Benghazi attack; John McCain’s continued – and legitimate – outrage at the slapdash security the State Department provided for its employees. Amid the posturing, though, ran a separate question: what strategy, if any, does the United States have to counter the militant groups running rampant across North and West Africa? Clinton herself summed up the sad state of play during her tense exchange with McCain. “We’ve got to get our act together,” she said. The Atlantic

The perils of identity politics in Tunisia
The increasing attacks on saints (awliya’) and shrines (zawaya) up and down the country, defacing and burning over 20 such sites so far, reached its climax in the burning of Sidi Bou Said’s shrine on the eve of the second anniversary of the revolution. The picturesque Sidi Bou Said that drew Paul Klee and Kandinsky in the early part of the twentieth century continues to attract millions of tourists every year, and boasts high profile residents, including the American ambassador and a raft of businessmen, artists and old aristocracy. It is also Tunisians’ favourite place to visit by far. Al Jazeera

On North Africa’s western flank, long-simmering conflict causes unease
Morocco has strengthened its hold on the contested – and resource-rich – Western Sahara. But efforts to maintain the status quo could renew unrest, adding to the current instability across North Africa. CS Monitor

Egypt: Mohammed Morsi imposes state of emergency
Mr Morsi spoke on Egyptian state television to impose curfews and military control reminiscent of the Mubarak era on Port Said, Suez and Ismailiya. Earlier, six people died in fighting in Port Said between mourners, protesters and the police at funerals for some of the 31 people killed in clashes on Saturday, when protests against death sentences handed down to football rioters were met with live fire and tear gas. In a worrying development, protesters were armed and fired shots at police lines. The Telegraph

Back to Mubarak Two years after Egypt’s revolution, U.S. diplomacy comes full circle
[...] President Mohamed Morsi’s blatant power grab in November, coupled with his ramming through an Islamist constitution in December, has dampened the optimism regarding the Brotherhood’s commitment to democracy. But in its place, a new conventional wisdom has taken hold: that even if Morsi and his Brotherhood colleagues aren’t democrats, they can be partners in advancing U.S. interests in the Middle East. And with this new conventional wisdom comes a new conventional policy approach: that the U.S. shouldn’t criticize Morsi for his dictatorial ways, because doing so will jeopardize our strategic relationship with the new Egyptian regime. The New Republic

The Tahrir Square Legacy: Egyptians Want Democracy, a Better Economy, and a Major Role for Islam
Two years after Egyptians first poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square chanting “Down with Mubarak” the legacy of the Arab Spring remains uncertain. Elections have been held and a new constitution is in place, but Egyptian politics are still very much in flux, with fundamental political issues unresolved. Still, polling since the uprising shows that Egyptians have some clear – and ambitious – priorities. They want democratic rights and institutions, a major role for Islam in political life, and an improved economy – a challenging set of demands for President Mohamed Morsi and the new cadre of Egyptian leaders. Pew Research Center

UK: Specific threat to Westerners in Somaliland; immediate evacuation urged
British citizens should immediately leave the breakaway Somaliland region of Somalia because of a specific threat to Westerners, British diplomats said Sunday. It was the second such warning issued for an African region in just days and comes amid growing turbulence across the continent’s north. The Washington Post

Hope, and Lessons, in Somalia
Somalia has been the paradigm of failed states since before 1993, when militants shot down two Black Hawk helicopters and killed 18 American soldiers in Mogadishu. One of the world’s poorest, most violent countries, it has been pummeled by warring militias, famine and pirates. But the country recently has shown enough positive movement that the Obama administration last week hosted President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Washington and recognized Somalia’s government for the first time in more than two decades. The evolution is worth examining as the West tries to grapple with militants in Mali. The New York Times

Is a military coup Museveni’s last line of defence against NRM rebels?
As President Yoweri Museveni begins his 27th year in power, his warning that the army will take over his own elected government has added a new dimension to growing speculation about the deep internal rifts within both his ruling NRM party and the army. Observers and political actors alike say this complex web of political jostling, grandstanding and now the army openly sniffing at power is directly linked to his long stay in power and his fear of transition. The East African

The Future of Sudan: One State or Several?
Sudan’s President, General Ahmed Al-Bashir and South Sudan’s President Silva Kiir met in Addis Ababa on 4th January for talks aimed at resolving their on-going conflict. But this has all happened before, and is likely to happen again, until they come to address the underlying causes of the conflict. Sudan is a country of extreme ethno-cultural diversity with some 80 or more ethnic groups, mostly, territorially-based, whose interests have long been subordinated to those of Khartoum-based elites. Sudan’s internal wars appear to be increasing rather than decreasing. The new wars in the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions are expanding, while the long-standing Darfur conflict continues unabated. A key question is how long can Khartoum manage to continue fighting in three regions ranging from its western to eastern borders? African Arguments

FOR THE RECORD – AFRICA – U.S. Government Events, Statements, and Articles
A weekly compilation by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) .

“American foreign policy is also defined by food security and energy security, humanitarian assistance, the fight against disease and the push for development, as much as it is by any single counter terrorism initiative. It is defined by leadership on life threatening issues like climate change, or fighting to lift up millions of lives by promoting freedom and democracy from Africa to the Americas or speaking out for the prisoners of gulags in North Korea or millions of refugees and displaced persons and victims of human trafficking.”

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