Media Review for February 8, 2013

By Africa Center Media Review
Updated: 02/08/2013

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: ‘First suicide bombing’ in Gao
A suicide bomber has blown himself up in the northern Mali town of Gao – the country’s first such case, sources say. The attacker approached a group of soldiers on a motorbike before detonating an explosive belt, injuring one of them, a Malian officer told AFP. Gao is the most populous city in northern Mali, which was captured by Islamist militants last year. BBC

Islamist retreat in Mali was orderly, witnesses say, suggesting force will return to fight again
One day in early January from her home in the middle of the Sahara Desert, Rakia Wallet al Hamdou watched as a hoard of Islamist rebels pulled out of the town of Kidal on what would turn out to be a surprise offensive into central Mali. When they returned in a trail of dust more than two weeks later, this time in retreat, their numbers had swelled. Then, they disappeared again. All across northern Mali, residents recount similar sights: pickup trucks packed with Islamist militants snaking north past curious eyes, leaving the shrubby green of central Mali for the austere desert grit from whence they’d come. By the time French or African forces arrived on the ground, there was usually no foe left to fight. McClatchy

French troops attempting to secure Mali’s Gao
A French military operation to secure the northern Malian town of Gao is still under way, nearly two weeks after French and Malian troops moved into the city, a military spokesperson has said. French troops are now searcing out al-Qaeda-linked rebels who may be mixing among the population of the town, after new clashes raised questions about the military’s hold over the north. Al Jazeera

Mali: French troops begin withdrawal from Timbuktu
French troops began to withdraw from Timbuktu Thursday after securing the fabled city as they ramped up their mission in another northern Mali city, searching for Islamic extremists who may be mixing among the local population. French military spokesman Col. Thierry Burkhard said Thursday that the operation to secure Gao is still under way, nearly two weeks after French and Malian troops moved into the area. New clashes nearby raised questions about how solid a hold the French military has on the strategic area. AP on Stars and Stripe

Elections, ethnic tensions, and aid: Mali faces its future after the headlines
The world watched French troops summarily turn back rebel fighters in northern Mali, but the future remains grim for millions of Malians affected by the fighting, writes Alex Thurston. CS Monitor

Looted Libyan Arms in Mali May Have Shifted Conflict’s Path
Since the war that toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi began in 2011, arms-tracking analysts have warned that weapons looted from the colonel’s stockpiles could find their way to militants in sub-Saharan Africa. Although public evidence for transfers has been scarce or not fully verifiable, persistent accounts of smuggled arms reaching Mali have circulated for more than a year, just as reports have repeatedly suggested that weapons formerly in Libya were turning up in Egypt, Gaza, Chad, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere. The new York Times

In Amenas attack magnifies Belmokhtar, AQIM rift
The recent siege at Algeria’s In Amenas gas complex highlights a long-standing rivalry between jihadist leaders in the Sahara. The terror attack was orchestrated by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran militant with a long trail of blood from Afghanistan to his native Algeria. Belmokhtar, also known as Khaled Abou El Abbas or Laaouar, broke away from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) last fall amid incessant leadership disputes and quarrels over smuggling and ransom payments. Magharebia

Uganda rebels trading ivory for supplies
Uganda’s army on Thursday recovered a cache of elephant tusks that it says was hidden by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group in the jungles of the Central African Republic. In a statement the army said that a squad of soldiers that is part of a mission hunting rebel leader Joseph Kony found the small stash of ivory following a tip-off from an LRA defector. News 24

Nigeria’s opposition merges in bid to unseat ruling party
Nigeria’s four main opposition parties have announced a merger, forming a coalition which could pose the biggest threat to President Goodluck Jonathan’s ruling party since the end of military rule in 1999. Previous attempts at opposition alliances have fallen apart due to infighting and regional differences. The president’s party is likely to now target any weaknesses in the merger. If the newly created party holds together it will be sternly tested when trying to agree on a presidential candidate for the 2015 election. Reuters

Iran, Senegal resume diplomatic ties
Iran and Senegal have resumed diplomatic ties severed two years ago after Dakar accused Tehran of supplying weapons to its separatist rebels, the ISNA news agency reported on Thursday. “The declaration for the restart of political ties between Iran and Senegal was signed by the two foreign ministers on the sidelines” of the ongoing Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Cairo, ISNA reported citing an official statement. France 24

DRC rebels ‘offered mining rights’ for weapons: prosecutor
Nineteen alleged members of a Congolese rebel group – including one US citizen – sought help in their effort to overthrow Democratic Reublic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, offering mining rights in their resource-rich country in exchange for weapons and training, a prosecutor said yesterday. The National

US citizen among 19 DRC coup plotters
A US citizen was among 19 people who appeared in a South African court on Thursday to face charges of plotting a coup against the government of DRC. A spokesperson for the US Embassy said the US citizen was identified as James Kazongo, a man with Congolese origins. The other 18 plaintiffs are citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was unclear how he entered South Africa. A US diplomat was able to visit Kazongo this week. News 24

“Drone” a Dirty Word in the U.N. Lexicon
The “drone”, one of the eminently controversial lethal weapons deployed by the United States in its war against terrorism, is obviously a dirty word in the U.N. lexicon. So when Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous was asked about U.N. plans to use drones in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he demurred. [...] Ladsous said the United Nations plans to use “unarmed UAVs” only for surveillance purposes – but with the express permission of the government of DRC and neighbouring countries. IPS

Polio shootings in Nigeria ‘kill 12′
Nine female polio vaccinators have been killed in two shootings at health centres in northern Nigeria, police have told the BBC. In the first attack in Kano the polio vaccinators were shot dead by gunmen who drove up on a motor tricycle. Thirty minutes later gunmen targeted a clinic outside Kano city as the vaccinators prepared to start work. Some Nigerian Muslim leaders have previously opposed polio vaccinations, claiming they could cause infertility. BBC

Cameroon: Is Biya’s 2035 Dream Becoming A Delusion?
In two short decades, Cameroonians will be enjoying the trappings and quality of life that go with living in an emerging economy – at least, that is, according to President Paul Biya’s 2035 vision. But is Biya’s vision more fantasy than prophecy? The status of ‘emerging nation’ is defined as one having achieved industrial capacity, and on the path to becoming a fully industrialised state. For Cameroon to do this in little over two decades would be miraculous – even more so because this Cameroonian miracle has not shown any sign of emerging during the last 30 years of Biya’s presidency. Think Africa Press

Tunisia braces for general strike amid political crisis
Tunisia braced itself for a general strike on Friday as the country found itself deep in political crisis following the assassination of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid earlier this week. France 24

Kenya: US restates stance on Uhuru and Ruto
The top US diplomat for African Affairs on Thursday sent a veiled message that the election of the Jubilee flag bearer as president could be received negatively by the United States. However, US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson did not specifically say that the US-Kenya relations would suffer if the Jubilee team won the presidential election. He also refrained from mentioning the two leaders who are facing charges of crimes against humanity at The Hague. Daily Nation

Kenya set to withdraw Somalia battalion
Kenya will reduce its troop presence in Somalia by about 20 per cent in the coming weeks, according to a report to the United Nations (UN) Security Council. A battalion of 850 Sierra Leone troops is scheduled to be added to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) in February and March, with Kenya reducing its deployment by one battalion, the report says. The East African

Libya ordered to hand over Lockerbie mastermind
The international criminal court has ordered Libya to agree to the immediate surrender of Abdullah al-Senussi, the former Gaddafi intelligence chief accused of orchestrating the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. The Hague-based court has also asked the Libyan authorities to allow Senussi’s British lawyer, Ben Emmerson QC, to visit him in a Tripoli prison so that he can prepare his defence. The ICC insists Senussi, once described as the “world’s most wanted man”, should not be tried in Libya where it is feared he is likely to face summary execution. The Guardian

Changing Channels: The Rise of Chinese Media in Africa
China’s growing role in Africa is no secret. Its expansive resource-backed infrastructural projects are widely reported on and the $200 billion/year trade between China and Africa has been turning heads around the world. Sino-African relations are covered abundantly in Western and African media. But now, China wants to narrate its own stories. Concerned that the loudest stories of China-Africa relations being heard are ones of exploitation, neo-colonialism, and the propping up of dictators, China’s central government has initiated a big media push to offer a counterbalance to Western narratives. Think Africa Presss

China ’smuggles’ Mozambique timber – EIA
Nearly half of the timber exported from Mozambique to China is illegal, a pressure group has said. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said its investigation showed that Mozambican politicians and Chinese traders were systematically involved in timber smuggling and illegal logging. This has caused Mozambique to lose tens of millions of dollars a year in tax revenues, it added. Mozambique is one of the world’s poorest countries. BBC

Twitter Devolutions: How social media is hurting the Arab Spring.

Tahrir Square launched a thousand dissertations on how social media drove the frenetic mobilization of the Arab Spring. Egyptian activists may rage at the notion that the revolution was driven by technology rather than by their determined efforts, but there’s a good case to be made that social media did matter — at least a bit — in shaping the uprisings across the Arab world. But the celebratory narrative about social media needs to be tempered by the reality of the struggles that have befallen most of these countries in transition. Whether or not Twitter made the Arab revolutions, is it now helping to kill them? Foreign Policy

VIDEO: “Priorities for Stabilizing Mali” Panel Discussions at ACSS
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies has posted videos of its two panels Feb. 6, 2013, that examined “Priorities for Stabilizing Mali.” The on-the-record event examined the actors and drivers of instability in northern Mali and the requirements for stabilizing this territory beyond the near-term military intervention. The roundtable, attended by more than 200 people in Washington, D.C., sought to highlight the complexity of the stabilization challenge in northern Mali. 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)

U.S.-Africa Partnership: The Last Four Years and Beyond
U.S. Department of State DipNote Blog
“After more than 40 years of experience in Africa — and the ebbs and flows of hope and conflict — I’ve become ever more optimistic about Africa’s future. As those of you who know me are aware, I like to base my conclusions on analysis and factual observations.. – Johnnie Carson , Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
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