Media Review for February 4, 2013

By Africa Center Media Review
Updated: 02/04/2013

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

Timbuktu Gives France’s President an Ecstatic Welcome
France’s president, François Hollande, paid a triumphant visit to this ancient city on Saturday, receiving a rapturous welcome from thousands of people who gathered next to a 14th-century mosque to dance, play drums and chant “Vive la France!” The muezzin, whose singing calls residents to pray five times a day, wore a scarf in the colors of the French flag as he shouted, “Vive Hollande!” It had the trappings of a “mission accomplished” moment. But even as people outside the mud-and-wood mosque hailed the French leader as the city’s, and their country’s, savior, questions remain about what France has accomplished aside from chasing Islamic extremists from the cities and into their desert and mountain redoubts. The New York Times

French forces in Mali launch air strikes on Islamist camps
French aircraft struck Islamic militant training camps and arms depots around Kidal and Tessalit in Mali’s far north, defence officials said on Sunday, as the first convoy of food, fuel and parts to eastern Mali headed across the country. The strikes also hit arms and fuel depots from Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday, according to army spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard. “It was an important aerial operation to the north of the town Kidal and in the Tessalit region where we targeted logistical depots and Islamist training camps … some 20 sites,” said Burkhard. He said 30 planes were used in the operation , including Mirage and Rafale jets. The Guardian

Mali’s neighbors take steps to keep al Qaida militants from escaping
[...] The loose coalition of Islamist fighters that held northern Mali for most of last year have fled before a French-led assault on their strongholds. Most have simply disappeared, without offering any resistance. That’s disconcerting news for Mali’s desert neighbors, which now are seeking ways to make sure the Islamists don’t a find a new haven within their borders. For Niger, the process appears thorough but unsophisticated in a world where Westerners are accustomed to airport scanners. For the most part, the effort relies on meticulous hand searches by Nigerien border guards, according to refugees, a local official and a Nigerien security official. McClatchy

France’s Next Move: With Mali’s Islamists on the Run, Time to Talk to the Tuaregs
[...] When Hollande huddles with Mali’s interim president Dioncounda Traoré he is expected to discuss French plans to let troops from neighboring African states take over policing operations of the country with a re-constituted and –trained Malian army, as well as related security, development, and humanitarian concerns. But within that conversation, Hollande is also likely to push a particularly prickly issue with Bamako: reaching out to ethnic Tuareg rebels who joined forces with jihadi militias to declare the independence of northern Mali last year. Time

Interview with Alghabass Ag Intalla, head of the Islamic Movement of Azawad (MIA)
I connducted this interview with Alghabass Ag Intallah over the phone late last Monday night, as he was preparing to bed down in a desert camp somewhere near Kidal. [...] . As he is undoubtedly one of the most important players in the drama that is current unfolding in the far north east of Mali, which involves various factions of the Touareg community, the French army, Chadian soldiers, Mali and the wider international community, who are waiting at a distance with baited breath to see what happens, an opportunity to interview him was one that I couldn’t possibly refuse. Andy Morgan Writes

Meet the unlikely group that saved Timbuktu’s manuscripts
[...] Each time foreign invaders threaten Timbuktu — whether a Moroccan army in the 16th century, European explorers in the 18th, French colonialists in the 19th or Al Qaeda militants in the 21st — the manuscripts disappear beneath mud floors, into cupboards, boxes, sacks and secret rooms, into caves in the desert or upriver to the safety of Mopti or Bamako, Mali’s capital. It is a tried and tested form of conservation in extremes and last year was no different. “The manuscripts are safe,” said Abdel Kader Haidara, the owner of the city’s largest private collection and head of a local association of owners tasked with the protection of the manuscripts. Globalpost

Algeria a Complex Ally in War Against Al Qaeda
David Cameron’s visit to Algiers last week, the first ever by a British Prime Minister, underscores Algeria’s growing importance in the war against al-Qaeda. But it is an extraordinarily complex ally in the war. The generals who run Algeria, the Arab world’s largest remaining police state, were surprised and embarrassed by the al-Qaeda attack on the Amenas gas facility in January. Their worry now is that the attack will raise questions about their one strong competency, providing stability and fighting terror. They are the West’s ally but a difficult and very suspicious partner. Al Monitor

Although splintered, al-Qaeda finds new life in unstable areas
Pushed to the brink of collapse in its traditional strongholds, al-Qaeda has staged an unlikely but limited recovery over the past year through affiliates that have taken root in chaotic environments awash in weapons and beyond the reach of the U.S. military and CIA drones. The groups have taken advantage of political tumult in North Africa and the Middle East, carving out enclaves in Mali, Syria and other locations that have given a previously gasping organization new breathing room. The Washington Post

Opinion: Libyan Instability Feeds Extremist Violence from Timbuktu to Rafah
[...] With such fatigue five months after NATO launched its first air raid on Gaddafi forces on its way to recapture Benghazi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent Gaddafi an offer of safe passage to the Fezzan with two hundred of his supporters, in return for leaving Tripoli.Gaddafi countered by demanding that he instead be joined by 2000 and surprisingly Sarkozy, after consultation with NATO allies, agreed to.[...] Leaked documents suggest that it was the Algerians who provided NATO with Gaddafi’s location coordinates by monitoring his calls to daughter Aisha. The Algerians privy to the Sarkozy offer, were probably alarmed at the prospect of Gaddafi’s presence near their south eastern borders and his alliance to the Touareg separatist movement- otherwise known as the “Lords of the desert”. The Tripoli Post

Pentagon to keep Africa Command headquarters in Europe
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has decided against moving the U.S. military’s headquarters overseeing Africa from Germany to the United States, concluding the benefits of staying in Europe – closer to African hot spots – are worth the extra cost, officials say. The Pentagon notified Congress of its decision this week. Some lawmakers had been pushing for Africa Command to move stateside, with South Carolina and Georgia promoted as possible locations. “The decision was based on the operational needs of the commander,” a U.S. defense official told Reuters, referring to General Carter Ham, the outgoing head of Africa Command. Reuters on the Chicago Tribune

Uganda’s “Bad Politics”: Museveni, the Military and an Assertive Parliament
[...] Recently, however, Museveni seems to be feeling more under threat. Parliament is proving more assertive and Museveni, Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga and Chief of Defence Forces Aronda Nyakairima have all warned that the military could intervene to “refocus the country’s future” if the current “bad politics” in parliament continue. Talk of a military takeover is clearly a flagrant threat to parliamentary independence and constitutional rule. At the same time, however, Museveni has also hinted at reforms to the constitution and budget process. Though less spectacular than the prospect of a coup, these suggestions are far more insidious and, if realised, would increase the NRM’s ability to discipline its members and hugely weaken parliament’s oversight role. Think Africa Press

The cell phone revolutionary
During Uganda’s 2011 presidential election, when activists and poll workers tried to text criticisms of the incumbent or the evidence of polling fraud, they found their messages wouldn’t go through. Yet there was no problem sending innocuous messages about the weather or what they had for lunch. [...] the government was monitoring text messages sent among activists and poll watchers. CNN

Pirates Seize French-Owned Tanker and Hold 17 Aboard
A French-owned oil tanker that went missing off the Ivory Coast is believed to have been hijacked by pirates who are holding the 17 sailors on board, a maritime agency said Monday. The seizure of the tanker, registered in Luxembourg, likely took place Sunday, said Noel Choong, a spokesman for the International Maritime Bureau, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He added that the seizure may be tied to a recent series of attacks by pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea, where patrols, particularly off the Ivory Coast, are scarce. The New York Times

Top Kenyan presidential contender faces trial at Hague
Two prominent Kenyan politicians facing trial this spring at the International Criminal Court in The Hague are also leading candidates in the country’s upcoming presidential elections. That’s a potential international embarrassment for the east African nation since a good showing by deputy prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto, both charged with crimes against humanity, could mean that Kenya’s election run-off and the opening of their ICC trial start the same day. CS Monitor

Poverty, disillusionment drive Egypt’s protests
For over a week, street fighting has raged between Egyptian police officers and demonstrators. Increasingly willing to turn violent, the young protestors are often poor and feel abandoned and oppressed by the state. Deutsche Welle

General Electric to Invest $1 Billion in Nigeria
American energy giant General Electric says it will invest $1 billion in Nigeria, promising to more than triple the country’s electrical output over the next 10 years. This comes as Nigeria seeks to reform its dilapidated and corrupt power sector. Nigeria is a country that runs on generators. Most people don’t have access to electricity and those that do have it sporadically. On CNN last week, President Goodluck Jonathan said by the end of the year, the country’s daily electrical problems will be more or less solved. VOA

CAR peace deal yet to translate into reality
[...] Yet, despite the ceasefire, violence has resurged in parts of the Central African Republic (CAR), signalling the first cracks in the Libreville peace accord. Séléka groups have been accused of a growing number of abuses, including raiding government offices and private homes, holding hostages for ransom and attacking farmers in parts of the north. In the south, rebels reportedly raided and threatened residents in Alindao, before advancing on Dimbi and Kembe last week. The rebels were thought to be moving towards Bangassou, the border town between CAR and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Al Jazeera

AU rejects Ban Ki-moon’s deal to revive Monusco
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, was forced to eat humble pie when his secretly drafted DR Congo “peace pact” was shot down at the just concluded 20th African Union Summit. Officials who attended the Summit that ended on Sunday, January 27, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said the plan failed because it was felt it marginalised some countries and didn’t contain anything new. East African

Canada’s African adventure takes a colonial turn
What do we call the thing Canada is doing in Africa? It involves our largest corporations, the federal government, public- and private-sector aid agencies, and sometimes the military. And their activities are increasingly connected, sometimes by choice, often by force of circumstance. [...] Canada is no longer simply “doing business” or “providing aid” in Africa. What we’re doing is something that bears a striking resemblance to the things Britain and France were doing in Canada two centuries ago. The Globe and Mail

Can South Sudan Survive Without Sudan?
As expected, the summit between presidents Salva Kiir and Omar el-Bashir on January 25 did not produce any results. [...] How long will the South continue attending these summits and how much hope can we attach to Bashir’s Sudan? It is clear that such summits are being used by Sudan to boost its public relations and buy time. The current status of the disputed and claimed border areas and Abyei is in favour of Sudan. In Abyei, Sudan is scooping all the oil revenues from Abyei while South Sudan, [...] The presence of UN forces in Abyei is providing security for oilfields and the Arab nomads and possibly may be used by Sudan to implement its settlement plan of Arab nomads in the area. Also Sudan is in control of all five disputed border areas, except for the 14 miles area, and all the claimed border areas, including Panthou (Heglig). Sudan tribune on allAfrica

African Dreams Of Reaching Europe Rely On Smugglers, Lies And War
The ultimate goal is Europe. But first the immigrants from countries in central Africa are trying to get refugee status in Algeria. “We were told that if we claimed we were fleeing the war, we would be taken care of and handed out IDs,” says Trésor, a Congolese migrant taken in by the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR). [...] About 40 Central Africans from Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, Cameroon, and the Central Africa Republic, pretended to be from Goma. Most of them have actually never even been to this city in the North Kivu region and they don’t speak the local language of Swahili. Worldcrunch – SYFIA

The Philanthrocrats: Doing good at a price

As aid budgets fall, market-minded philanthropists from the West and Africa are moving in with a new agenda. The Africa Report investigates the increasingly blurred lines between business and charity. The Africa Report

New Old Libya
The bronze likeness of Muammar Qaddafi’s nemesis was lying on his back in a wooden crate shrouded in the darkness of a museum warehouse. His name was Septimius Severus. Like Qaddafi, he was from what is now Libya, and for 18 years bridging the second and third centuries A.D. he ruled the Roman Empire. His birthplace, Leptis Magna—a commercial city 80 miles east of what the Phoenicians once called Oea, or present-day Tripoli—became, in every meaningful way, a second Rome. More than 1,700 years after the emperor’s death, Libya’s Italian colonizers honored him by erecting a statue of the imposing, bearded leader with a torch aloft in his right hand. They installed the statue in Tripoli’s main square (now Martyrs’ Square) in 1933—where it remained for a half century, until another Libyan ruler took umbrage. National Geographics

Regional Cooperation Crucial against Transnational Threats, Ugandan & U.S. Officials Say at East Africa Workshop
Increased regional cooperation is crucial for addressing the myriad of irregular security threats facing Eastern Africa, senior officials from the United States and Uganda told participants at the January 28, 2013, launch of a workshop on Improving Regional Responses to Transnational and Irregular Threats in Eastern Africa. Co-hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies and the government of Uganda in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the five-day workshop brought together 35 officials from eastern African governments, regional and international organizations, and international partner nations. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

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

Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden to the Munich Security Conference

[...] Today, across North Africa and in parts of the Middle East, extremists are seeking to exploit the following: increasingly porous borders; a broad swath of ungoverned territory; readily available weapons; new governments that lack the capacity and sometimes the will to contend with extremism; a swelling generation of disaffected young people whose futures are stifled by stagnant economies.
[...] the United States applauds and stands with France and other partners in Mali, and why we are providing intelligence support, transportation for the French and African troops and refueling capability for French aircraft. The fight against AQIM may be far from America’s borders, but it is fundamentally in America’s interest.

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