Media Review for February 21, 2013

By Africa Center Media Review
Updated: 02/21/2013

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

Debate Night in Kenya
Next month, Kenya will elect a new President, only its fourth since it gained independence from the United Kingdom fifty years ago. And so, last week, the country held its first-ever Presidential debate. Kenyan candidates for office are usually referred to in the British manner, as aspirants, but they study American campaigns, so despite the inexperience it was a slick production. There was an hour’s worth of pre-game commentary, with cutaways to the candidates emerging from chauffeured cars at the auditorium in Nairobi. On the stage, they stood at specially designed curvy, metallic podiums, in front of ceiling-high images of the State House, Kenya’s equivalent of the White House. The moderator interrogated them through a wisp of a headset mic. The debate was broadcast on forty-two television and radio stations and livestreamed on the Internet. The New Yorker

Confusion after reports of French hostages’ liberation in Nigeria
The French family of seven kidnapped in northern Cameroon have been found abandoned in a house in Nigeria, according to reports, although confusion reigned late Thursday morning over the truth of the claim. RFI

French Family’s Cameroon Kidnapping Stokes Fears of a Pan-African Islamist War
[...] There’s good reason why hopes in France are running high that officials will indeed confirm the end to what might turn out to be a bungled or aborted snatch. On Feb. 20, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told TV station France 2 the crime was believed to be the work of the notoriously violent Nigerian radical group Boko Haram. Le Drian speculated the kidnapping of the family marked Boko Haram’s its long record of “terror giving way to horror” as the group “begins kidnapping children.” But even if the the happy news of the hostage recovery is confirmed–and allegations of Boko Haram’s involvement reviewed–the kidnapping raises fears of renewed aggression against French and other Western targets as the on-going push against Islamist fighters in Africa continues. Time

Expat kidnapping in Nigeria fuels questions about rising militant presence
Over the weekend, a radical Islamist group called Ansaru carried out a sophisticated kidnapping operation in Bauchi, a city in northern Nigeria. The seven victims, all expats, were working for Setraco, a Lebanese owned construction and civil engineering company. The kidnapping, which also resulted in the death of a security guard, appears to have been coordinated with an attack on the local police station. Ansaru, which may have links to Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram, claimed responsibility in a statement emailed to state media. CS Monitor

Nigeria secret police say terror group broken up
Nigeria’s secret police said Wednesday they broke up a terrorist group backed by “Iranian handlers” who wanted to assassinate a former military ruler and gather intelligence about locations frequented by Americans and Israelis. The State Security Service, responsible for domestic spying in Africa’s most populous nation, offered no details about who actually controlled and bankrolled the group. However, it said it had arrested three suspected terrorists, including the group’s leader, before they could launch attacks. AP on Stars and Stripes

Hostages trump land for profit : Al-Qaida in Sahara thrives in new business
Saturday’s attack by Islamic militants on a remote construction camp in Nigeria and the kidnapping of seven foreigners is far more likely to be the pattern of al-Qaida-linked operations in North Africa’s Sahara Desert than their unsuccessful occupation of northern Mali. The half-dozen or so groups with varying loyalties to each other and the al-Qaida brand of merciless Islam have thrived and prospered because of their mobility across the ocean of the desert and a highly profitable business gathering many millions of dollars in ransoms paid for kidnapped foreigners. The Vancouver Sun

Mali: French defense minister says troop pullout to start within weeks despite new challenges
France’s defense minister says French troop units will start pulling out of Mali within weeks, despite new clashes and challenges in rooting out armed extremists in the West African country. Extremists linked to al-Qaida seized control of northern Mali last year. France fears the region could become a terrorist haven, and France sent troops Jan. 11 to help Malian forces retake the north. Fox News

Exclusive report: The last Malian city to be freed from jihadists
Our Observer described scenes of joy in the northern Malian town of Bourem following the arrival of the Malian army and its allies. He explains that the military has asked residents to help them identify any terrorists still hidden in the city. Soldiers from the Malian, French, and Nigerian forces arrived Saturday in Bourem. They travelled from the city of Gao, 80 km to the south. France 24

Libyan Weapons Arming Al Qaeda Militias Across North Africa, Officials Say
An unchecked flood of weapons out of Libya, including thousands of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, is providing new firepower to al Qaeda-linked jihadist militias across northern Africa, according to Defense Department officials, accelerating conflict and raising new risks for U.S. and western interests. There has been a continuing flow of weaponry since the fall of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011, said outside experts and Pentagon defense officials, who agreed to brief The Huffington Post on the North African arms trade on the basis of anonymity to protect their identities. The weapons include small arms, anti-tank mines, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, light machine guns, crates of ammunition and rockets, truck-mounted heavy machine guns, anti-aircraft artillery and Russian-made Strela anti-aircraft missiles. The Huffington Post

Mali: Prosecute Soldiers for Abuses
The Malian government should urgently investigate and prosecute soldiers responsible for torture, summary executions, and enforced disappearances of suspected Islamist rebels and alleged collaborators since the fighting in northern Mali resumed in January 2013, Human Rights Watch said today. Mali’s international partners should bolster accountability efforts and civilian protection in the north to help prevent further abuses. Human Rights Watch

State Dept. warns against travel to Algeria
The State Department issued a fresh warning against travel to Algeria on Tuesday, one month after Islamic militants killed dozens of hostages at a natural gas plant, including three Americans, in the North African nation. ”Al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is active and operates throughout Algeria,” the State Department said in the travel warning, which asserts that an “AQIM-linked organization” known as “Those Who Sign in Blood” was responsible for last month’s gas plant attack and hostage killings. The Washington Times

Walking the Line: U.S. Security Policy in East Africa and the Horn
Until the end of the Cold War in the late-1980s, U.S. policy in East Africa and the Horn tried to balance regional security concerns with support for economic development and mitigating food shortages and famines. The primary goal of U.S. policy in the region was to minimize Soviet influence and that of China, Eastern Europe and Cuba. As the Cold War came to an end, the United States added to its policy agenda the objectives of encouraging democratic governance and improving human rights practices. World Politics Review

Rwanda’s Historic Health Recovery: What the U.S. Might Learn
Over the last decade in Rwanda, deaths from HIV, TB, and malaria dropped by 80 percent, maternal mortality dropped by 60 percent, life expectancy doubled — all at an average health care cost of $55 per person per year. The Atlantic

Zimbabwe Police Seize Radios Ahead of Elections
Police in Zimbabwe issued an edict that critics say allows them to seize radios most people depend on to get their news. On Tuesday, a police spokeswoman said it’s against the law to possess what she called illegal communication devices and “specially designed radios.” She accused unnamed groups of distributing the devices to spread hate speech and influence coming elections. VOA

Sudan rebels launch attack to retake border town
Rebels in a Sudanese border state say they have occupied an airport and are fighting with government troops to retake a town that became a flashpoint during the civil war, but the army denied it had lost any territory. Reuters

Zambia seizes control of Chinese-owned mine amid safety fears
The Zambian government has taken over the running of a Chinese-owned coal mine after revoking its licence because of safety lapses. The Zambian mining minister, Yamfwa Mukanga, said that the government had cancelled all three licences held by Collum Coal mine. He said the government would “continue operating them until a suitable investor is found”. China has invested more than $2bn in the Zambian mining industry. BBC

Just another peace-making spasm in DR Congo
African heads of state are due to gather in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Sunday to sign a “comprehensive framework agreement” intended to bring peace to the war-ravaged eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. While the UN hopes the agreement will mark a turning point, critics say it is but the latest in a long line of flawed and expedient deals that have failed to address the root causes of the conflict. Impetus for this latest peace-making spasm derived from renewed violence last autumn that culminated in the capture of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, by the rebels known as the March 23 Movement, or M23. The Guardian

Security deteriorating in Egypt due to political instability
The growing number of carjacking in post-upheaval Egypt does not only afflict car owners and taxi drivers but extends to hit senior officials whose own vehicles have been subjected to armed robbery, such as the Governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), the Governor of Kafr el-Sheikh governorate and ironically a police vehicle that belongs to the head of Giza Police Department. Xinhua

Morocco: In the Arab world’s deepest state, the revolution continues
Ten years ago, in what was the first – and until early 2011 the only – successful youth-led rebellions in the Arab world, Moroccan metalheads launched an unprecedented series of protests against the arrests and prosecution of 14 of musicians and fans on charges of Satanism. The charges were ludicrous, ranging from killing cats to having ash trays shaped like pentagrams (never mind that the pentagram is on the Moroccan flag); but the precedent of similar Satanic metal affairs in Egypt and other Muslim countries gave them a fair degree of valence in a society that, despite its international reputation as a haven for tolerance, remained a conservative society. Yet where their Egyptian counterparts were driven largely underground in the wake of its 1997 “affair”, Morocco proved a very different case. Al Jazeera

Youth apathy fuels Morocco extremism
Educating the population against extremist trends is a job that falls chiefly on the shoulders of politicians and religious leaders. For many Moroccans, it is time for action. Politicians need to encourage young people to embrace a culture of democracy and acceptance of differences, political analyst Salaheddine Mesmoudi said. “Although political parties do not have much credibility among the population, what they say about fighting extremism and tolerance could be of interest to young people,” he said. Magharebia

Marianne in Tunisia: How Delacroix’s famous painting explains the troubled North African revolution
[...] Marianne was attacked at the very moment liberty is defending itself in one of France’s former colonies, Tunisia. While the occurrence of these events is accidental, there is an essential tie between the events behind Delacroix’s painting and Tunisia’s current turmoil — one that gives new meaning to the riots that followed the assassination of Chokri Belaid, a leading critic of the ruling Islamist party. Foreign Policy

EU drops sanctions against leader of Zimbabwe gang that beat up opposition
Baroness Ashton and the Government face anger over a European Union decision to drop sanctions against the leader of a gang which carried out violent attacks against opponents of Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe. Ben Freeth, an evicted white farmer, has protested to the EU after it lifted an asset freeze and travel ban on Monday from Gilbert Moyo, the man who tried to kill him and who was also involved in many attacks against opposition voters during the last elections in 2008. The Telegraph

Kenya’s security operation against al-Shabaab disrupts livelihoods
As Kenyan security forces work to ward off al-Shabaab insurgents, the military operation and the continuing insecurity in Kiunga, a remote border town in the coastal district of Lamu East, are disrupting local livelihoods, residents say. Major economic activity, including tourism, has been restrained following attacks by al-Shabaab insurgents from nearby Somalia. Efforts by the Kenyan security forces to stamp out al-Shabaab activity have, in turn, adversely impacted the local fishing industry. The Guardian

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

State’s Carson Calls for Global Effort to Help DRC

The international community has a “moral imperative” to act more effectively to break the cycle of death and suffering in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.

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