Media Review for February 5, 2013

By Africa Center Media Review
Updated: 02/05/2013

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

U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa defined by a decade of missteps
The U.S. military was closely tracking a one-eyed bandit across the Sahara in 2003 when it confronted a hard choice that is still reverberating a decade later. Should it try to kill or capture the target, an Algerian jihadist named Mokhtar Belmokhtar, or let him go? [...] U.S. military commanders planned airstrikes against Belmokhtar and a band of Arab militants they had under surveillance in the Malian desert, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the episode. But the then-U.S. ambassador to Mali vetoed the plan, saying that a strike was too risky and could stir a backlash against Americans. The Washington Post

Gen. Carter Ham: Members of al Qaida group among Benghazi attackers
The attackers who killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans last September in Benghazi, Libya, represented a variety of Islamist groups and were motivated by a myriad of factors, the top Libyan official investigating the case has told McClatchy. They almost certainly included members of al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the North Africa affiliate of al Qaida, which the French now are confronting in northern Mali, Army Gen. Carter Ham, the head of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, said in a separate interview. McClatchy

Should we still fear al Qaeda?
British Prime Minister David Cameron described a “large and existential threat” emanating from North Africa. Tony Blair, his predecessor as prime minister, agreed saying, “David Cameron is right to warn that this is a battle for our values and way of life which will take years, even decades.” Hang on chaps! Before we all get our knickers in a tremendous twist: How exactly does an attack on an undefended gas facility in the remotest depths of the Algerian desert become an “existential threat” to our “way of life”? Across the Atlantic, American politicians also got into sky-is-falling mode. Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, who heads the House Intelligence Committee, fulminated, “This is going to get worse. You cannot allow this to become a national security issue for the United States. And I argue it’s already crossed that threshold.” CNN

U.S., France agree on need to set up U.N. Mali force
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden hailed France’s “decisive” intervention in Mali on Monday and joined President Francois Hollande in calling for U.N. peacekeepers to be quickly deployed to the country. On the first visit by a top U.S. official since President Barack Obama’s inauguration last month, Biden also joined Hollande in vowing to keep up pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. Al Arabiya

Mali Rebels, Now Aiding French, Say They’re Holding Militants
[...] The M.N.L.A. — the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, the Tuareg name for northern Mali — now controls the northern city of Kidal, while French forces remain at the city’s airport. The French are reluctant to move into Kidal with Malian soldiers, whom the Tuaregs regard as interlopers and who have been accused of human-rights abuses against Tuaregs. But French special forces are operating in the area, French officials said on Monday. The French are also pressing the government in the capital, Bamako, to open political negotiations with the M.N.L.A. to provide stronger autonomy to the north — but within a united Mali. The New York Times

Mali Intervention: Tanks Or Talks? (VIDEO)
The U.S., E.U. and Japan are giving millions to fund weapons, troops and air strikes in Mali. France launched a military intervention to help the Malian army drive radical Islamists out of the north of the African country. But is statesmanship, more than a call to arms, needed for a ceasefire? Boubacar Keita, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Karima Bennoune and Matteo Fraschini Koffi join HuffPost Live’s Ahmed to share there thoughts. Watch the discussion in the video above. The Huffington Post

Land mines offer fresh danger in Mali
In a new phase of the Mali conflict, French airstrikes targeted the fuel depots and desert hideouts of Islamic extremists in northern Mali overnight Monday, as French forces planned to hand control of Timbuktu to the Malian army this week. However, Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, who is in Paris to discuss the three-week-old French-led military intervention against al-Qaeda-linked fighters in the vast West African nation, urged international co-operation to root out extremists who have littered the north of his country with land mines and who pose “a global threat.” Canadian Press

Algeria beefs up army presence on Mali border
The Algerian army has beefed up its positions on the border with war-torn Mali to prevent incursions by armed rebels fleeing north, an official in the southern town of Tamanrasset said. “The army has been deployed on the border for a while, but reinforcements have been sent since the beginning of the war [in Mali]. It’s about preventing the infiltration of terrorist groups,” Mohamed Baba Ali, a member of parliament in the garrison town told the AFP news agency on Monday. “Without these reinforcements, there would have been terrorist incursions from northern Mali.” Al Jazeera

The Crisis in the Sahel: An End to Algeria’s Strategic Ambivalence?
The hostage crisis at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria illustrates the transnational nature of the security threats posed by militant Islamist groups in the Sahel and underscores the importance of increased regional security cooperation, according to Laurence Aida Ammour, Research Fellow Associate at the Barcelona Center for International Affairs (CIDOB) and at the Bordeaux Institute for Political Science. Ms. Ammour, who served as facilitator and guest speaker at a recent ACSS Workshop on Improving Regional Responses to Transnational and Irregular Threats in Eastern Africa, is author of an Africa Security Brief titled, “Regional Security Cooperation in the Maghreb and Sahel: Algeria’s Pivotal Ambivalence,” published in February 2012 by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS). In a January 23, 2013, interview with ACSS, she commented on the unfolding situation. Her comments reflect her own professional opinions, not those of the Africa Center. ACSS

Maghreb economies confront terror fallout
The gas field attack in Algeria and the war against terrorism in northern Mali are leading the countries to take a new look at economic policies. The January siege by a former al-Qaeda emir on the In Anemas gas complex was aimed directly at the financial heart of Algeria. For some in the business community, the attack should be seen as wake-up call. There will be “a pre-In Amenas and a post-In Amenas”, the head of Algeria juice giant NCA Rouiba told El Watan. Magharebia

“Arabellion” In Ruins – The Wishful Thinking That Undermined The Arab Spring
Two years after the spectacular start of popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, theocratic-tinted dictatorships are now in the process of emerging. Not only Syria, but Egypt – on the threshold of bankruptcy and economic collapse – also threatens to become a failed state, as well as a shelter and hub for Jihadist terrorists from North and West Africa. And instead of seeing an end to the tragic Syrian bloodbath we are seeing, how it may well throw the whole region into an even greater state of conflict. Worldcrunch – Die Welt

Will Nigeria Overtake South Africa as Africa’s Powerhouse?
[...] There is little doubt that the Nigerian economy, simply in terms of size, will reach the top rung by 2020, if not earlier. By some measures, it could already be seen as the biggest economy in Africa. Its massive population has seen its economy grow at speeds unimaginable not long ago. But does that mean Nigeria will automatically become a more dynamic and important regional economy than that of South Africa? Think Africa Press

South Sudan fails to withdraw troops from Sudan border
South Sudan is not withdrawing troops from the border with Sudan to set up a buffer zone as it pledged it was last month, South Sudan’s army said on Monday, in a setback to efforts to resume the oil exports vital to both economies. The two countries came close to war last April in the worst border clashes since South Sudan seceded in 2011 under a peace deal that ended one of Africa’s longest civil wars. Times Live

Islamic Jihad leader meets Omar Al Bashir in Khartoum
The head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, accused by Israel of receiving arms which transit through Sudan, has met President Omar Al Bashir in Sudan’s capital, official media reported. Mr Al Bashir discussed “issues of mutual concern” with Ramadan Abdullah Shallah during talks on Sunday at the presidential guesthouse, the state SUNA news agency said. It gave no further details. A top Israeli defence official, Amos Gilad, said last October that Sudan “serves as a route for the transfer, via Egyptian territory, of Iranian weapons to Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists”. The National

Problematic Peacekeeping in the DRC: From MONUC to MONUSCO
Negotiations between the M23 rebels and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continue to move at a painfully slow pace. Attempts to end one of the region’s worst conflicts in recent years appear to be faltering somewhat in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, with M23 being accused of heaping “capricious extra demands” on Joseph Kabila’s government. Similarly, little progress was made at the recent African Union summit in Ethiopia, with UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s proposed peace pact being rejected by certain key countries. Think Africa Press

Group tracking LRA sees defections weakening rebel force
There have been a series of defections from the Lord’s Resistance Army since U.S. military advisers were dispatched to provide support to African troops fighting the rebel group, according to a report released Monday by the LRA Crisis Tracker project. “In the last nine months, two senior LRA commanders have been captured or killed, and at least 19 Ugandan fighters have left the LRA,” said Adam Finck, a program manager at Invisible Children, one of two advocacy groups behind the LRA Crisis Tracker initiative. “Only 150-250 fighters are thought to remain in the LRA, so we are hopeful that this progress will help prevent future attacks on civilians.” Stars and Stripes

UN’s special genocide tribunal for Rwanda ‘a waste of time’
The UN’s special genocide tribunal for Rwanda was accused of being a waste of time and money on Monday night after two former government ministers were freed by the court – 14 years after first being arrested. The Telegraph

Activist to Petition ICC Over Alleged Uganda Atrocities
A prominent Ugandan political activist says he plans to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged human rights abuses in the East African country. “There are widespread crimes and atrocities that have been committed and the important thing is that the criminal justice system in the country presently is incapable of handling these cases because of the compromised [state] of the criminal justice system,” said Dr. Kizza Besigye. VOA

Guinea says mining review to include all producers
Guinea’s review of all mining contracts will include an effort to integrate a 2011 settlement struck with global miner Rio Tinto with an original agreement signed with the company, Mines Minister Mohamed Lamine Fofana said on Monday. Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest iron ore miner, initially controlled all of Guinea’s Simandou deposit, one of the largest untapped iron ore deposits in the world. Reuters

Somali army recruits to be trained in Somalia
Somalia will soon start training its military recruits in its own territory after years of them being trained in Uganda. European Union head of delegation in Uganda, Roberto Ridolfi, said with effect from this year the training will be conducted in Somalia. “The mission will progressively move to Mogadishu to have a greater impact on the security sector. The mission will also advise Somali authorities within the ministry of defence and contribute to capacity and institutional building” Ridolfi said. The Africa Report

Robert Mugabe: A man of many faces
Welshman Ncube, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Commerce and Industry and leader of one of the factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), lost his grandfather in the 1980s Gukurahundi. The Gukurahundi was a violent campaign in which thousands of opposition Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (Zapu) party supporters were killed and beaten by a brigade owing allegiance to President Robert Mugabe’s government. Ncube shares his experience working with Mugabe in a unity government since 2009: “Ninety percent of the time, I cannot recognise the Mugabe I sit with in cabinet with the Mugabe who has ruled this country through violence. The Guardian

Kenya tracks Facebook, Twitter for election “hate speech”
Every day, Kagonya Awori and her tech-savvy team trawl through Facebook and Twitter for warning signs that Kenya’s elections in March may unleash the same ethnic violence that took the country to the brink of civil war five years ago. Sifting through blogs and social media sites, the group of six search for hate speech and inflammatory postings – or any early indications that inter-tribal tensions are escalating. Awori and her colleagues have reason to be worried. Reuters

Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative launched
The Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, a new effort through which the company will actively engage in Africa’s economic development to improve its global competitiveness, will be launched in five locations across the continent today. By 2016, the 4Afrika Initiative plans to help place tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youth, bring 1 million African small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) online, upskill 100,000 members of Africa’s existing workforce, and help an additional 100,000 recent graduates develop employability skills, 75 percent of whom Microsoft will help place in jobs. IT News Africa

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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