Media Review for January 5, 2016

What Next for the Burundi Peace Process?
Talks aimed at a settlement to Burundi’s violent political divide are due to start in neighbouring Tanzania on Wednesday, but the government is taking a hard line over what it considers interference in its internal affairs. It insists it will not open dialogue with members of the opposition involved in an attempted coup in May, and has rejected plans by the African Union to deploy 5,000 peacekeepers to protect civilians, threatening to attack the force should it deploy. An initial meeting in Uganda under AU-appointed mediator President Yoweri Museveni was designed to clear away the hurdles, but it failed to make serious headway. It left the AU threatening unspecified sanctions should any of the sides fail to turn up in Arusha, Tanzania, on 6 January. “The Burundian government’s responses so far are disappointing, but those facilitating the talks should not give up. Sustained regional and international pressure is essential to persuade the government, as well as the opposition, to adopt measures to end the killings in Burundi,” Carina Tertsakian, Human Rights Watch senior researcher on Burundi, told IRIN.  IRIN

Burundi Hit by More Violence Ahead of Peace Talks
Unidentified assailants fired three shells toward the center of Burundi’s capital Monday, two days before peace talks between Burundi’s government and opposition are set to start in Tanzania this week. One of the shells landed a few meters from the offices of Bujumbura’s mayor, injuring three people, including a woman who was seriously wounded. Brief panic ensued after the attack. Over the weekend, at least three people were killed. Eyewitnesses say that one of them was a young musician murdered by a police officer. Police officials said he was criminal fleeing arrest when he was accidentally gunned down. Authorities have opened an investigation into the incident. Bujumbura saw dozens of shootings and bombings during 2015, amid the protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term. The United Nations says at least 400 people have died. VOA

Rwanda’s Kagame Rejects U.S. Criticism of Plan to Extend Rule
Rwandan President Paul Kagame rejected U.S. criticism of his decision to seek a third term as leader of the East African nation. Kagame, 58, announced on Dec. 31 he will run for office again in elections in 2017 after voters approved a change to the constitution. The U.S. State Department said Sunday it was “deeply disappointed” with Kagame for “ignoring an historic opportunity to reinforce and solidify the democratic institutions the Rwandan people have for more than 20 years labored so hard to establish.” African issues including poverty, disease and governance “will not easily be solved by what is behind this” attitude, Kagame said in statements on his Twitter account Monday. “There are quite many very disappointing things happening across the globe. We hope to carry our own burden and not be others’ burden.”  Bloomberg

DRC President Grants Amnesty to Jailed Dissidents
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) president has granted an amnesty for prisoners convicted of belonging to a banned movement, the Bundu dia Kongo (BDK), and to prisoners over age 70, with some exceptions. He also reiterated his call for a national political dialogue. The BDK describes itself as a religious movement campaigning for greater autonomy for the Bas Congo region in southwestern DRC. Its leader, Ne Muanda Nsemi, claims to have been guided by visions. Some of his followers, armed with stones and sticks, clashed with security forces in early 2008. The human rights organization Freedom House said around 100 BDK members died at that time, and 150 were arrested. Recently, Ne Muanda Nsemi backed DRC President Joseph Kabila’s plan for a political dialogue and appealed for an amnesty for BDK prisoners, which has now been granted. Kabila also has amnestied prisoners over age 70, except those convicted of offenses such as war crimes, corruption, sexual violence and threatening state security. VOA

Boko Haram Threat Hangs Heavy Over Nigeria in 2016
As Nigeria rings in 2016, the ever-present threat of violence by Boko Haram hangs heavy over Africa’s most populous country, despite official claims that the battle against the Islamist group has been “technically” won. After setting a December 31 deadline to rid his country of Boko Haram, President Muhammadu Buhari told the BBC: “I think technically we have won the war because people are going back into their neighbourhoods.” In his New Year message to the nation, Buhari commended the military for “significantly curtailing the insurgency” but acknowledged there was “still a lot of work to be done in the area of security”. “This government will not consider the matter concluded until the terrorists have been completely routed and normality restored to all parts of the country that have been adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgency,” he said. Capital FM

Al-Shabaab Takes Village in Somalia
The Islamist group al-Shabaab on Monday took a village in southern Somalia following an attack on a military base that killed at least 10 people, officials and witnesses said. “Our troops retreated from the army base in Warmahan village in Lower Shebelle region after a heavy attack from … al-Shabaab,” local government spokesperson Mohamed Hussein Shine said. He said four militants were killed, without giving a death toll for the army. Witness Mustafa Ismail said he saw at least six bodies of government soldiers. Al-Shabaab said it had killed 15 soldiers. It also took equipment from the army, the group said on the pro-insurgent website Times Live

IS Group Claims Capture of Libyan Town Amid Clashes at Oil Terminal
The Islamic State (IS) group has captured the Libyan town of Ben Jawad, close to the country’s vital oil ports, the militants said Monday. The ultra-hardline group, which has taken advantage of years of chaos to grab territory in Libya, made the claim in an online statement. There was no one from Libya’s authorities immediately available to comment on the town’s capture. IS group fighters also clashed with a force guarding the nearby Es Sider oil export terminal on Libya’s coast Monday, according to witnesses, while the IS group said they had set off a suicide car bomb during the fighting, causing casualties. Es Sider and nearby Ras Lanuf oil ports, between Sirte and Benghazi on the Mediterranean coast, have been closed for more than a year amid fighting between rival factions for control of the North African state and its lucrative energy reserves. France 24

Senegal’s President Unilaterally Reduces Presidential Term from 7 to 5 Years
Senegalese President Macky Sall has unilaterally announced the reduction of his presidential term from seven to five years. A statement from the Presidency at the weekend said the reduction of the presidential term takes effect immediately. This means there will be no referendum on the issue, which was previously slated for April 2016. The statement said the president’s decision was intended to end the confusion among politicians over the holding of the referendum. President Sall said the decision was among the 15-point constitutional development ‘action plan’ he is pushing. For months, the opposition had been arguing that the referendum would not be held due to cost concerns. At the same time, opposition leaders charged that the government was exaggerating the cost of the exercise. Daily Nation

Leading Benin Businessman Says to Run for President in Feb Election
A prominent Benin businessman, Sebestien Ajavon, announced on Sunday he would run for president in an election scheduled for February in the tiny West African state that borders Nigeria. President Thomas Boni Yayi has led the cotton-producing country since 2006. He is barred under the country’s constitution from standing for a third term and the election is considered wide open. “I dream of a Benin that smiles and that’s why I invite us to turn resolutely toward a clear future,” he told a rally at Mathieu Kerekou stadium, which holds 35,000 and was nearly filled to capacity. Ajavon, who made his fortune through a food product company, will run as an independent supported by various political parties. He called for a reduction in youth unemployment, improved access to energy and less corruption. Reuters

Uganda Activists Demand Action Against Corrupt Police Officers in Drugs Scandal
Some Ugandan police officers have been selling cocaine and other drugs confiscated from arrested drug dealers, a story run by government newspaper, New Vision claimed last Saturday said. The paper said the police officers, in charge of exhibit stores at Entebbe International Airport, replaced 80kg of cocaine pellets with maize flour pellets and sold the drugs. Preliminary investigations by a special team put in place by the head of Ugandan police, Kale Kayihura, have indicated that a longstanding racket – involving aviation police, counterterrorism and intelligence – had been siphoning off confiscated exhibits.  Africa Report

C.A.R. Presidential Hopefuls Urge Halt in Vote Counting
Twenty of the 30 candidates seeking the presidency in the Central African Republic are demanding that authorities immediately stop vote counting from December 30 polls, which they allege were marred by ballot irregularities and voter intimidation. In a joint statement seen by French news agency reporters Monday, the dissenting candidates called the polls “an electoral masquerade” and called for “the whole process to be purely and simply stopped.” They also called for all parties to negotiate procedures “for safeguarding the nation” of 5 million residents. The statement came as partial vote tallies released Sunday showed independent candidate Faustin Archange Touadera, a former prime minister, winning with 23 percent of the vote, a tally of 139,498 ballots. The most prominent candidate to contest the results was Desire Kolingba, the son of a former president in fourth place with just under 35 percent of the vote in the former French colony. VOA

Experienced Politician Touadera ‘Has What the Central African Republic Needs’
A quarter of the votes in the Central African Republic’s elections have already been counted, with Faustin Archange Touadera, who served as prime minister under long-running President Francois Bozize, the current favorite of thirty candidates. The top two presidential hopefuls are likely to go head to head in a run-off election on January 31. DW asked Ayo Johnson, director of Viewpoint Africa, a media organization based in the UK, why Touadera is proving so popular. DW: What do we know about Faustin Archange Touadera and why people are voting for him? Ayo Johnson: He is a 58-year-old former math teacher who has had extensive experience in government and governance and is highly respected. It would seem that the people of the Central African Republic have gone for experience, which he clearly has, but also for security. He has led in government, has shown that he understands the elements of governance and he may be able to garner international support and above all donors who are required to help the Central African Republic get back on its feet.  Deutsche Welle

Kenya’s Garissa University Reopens
Officials say the Kenyan university where Islamic extremists killed 148 people nine months ago has reopened amid high security. Many Kenyans are praising the reopening of Garissa University College as showing that Kenya will not surrender to extremist violence. Registrar Isaack Mohammed Noor said on Monday that at least 150 of 200 staff had reported for work at the college, a branch of Eldoret’s Moi University. Noor said that he had been living at the school during the April 2 attack and had vivid memories of the rampage in which 142 students died, many of whom he knew. Six security officers were also killed.  News 24

South Sudan Armed Opposition Faction Says Forces May Deploy in Juba by Mid-January
Thousands of components of the would-be joint integrated forces from the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) may deploy in the national capital, Juba, by mid-January, says opposition’s spokesperson. In accordance with the peace agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan which President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Machar, signed in August to end 21 months of violent conflict in the world’s youngest nation, joint police and military forces including national security and presidential guards were to be deployed within the 90 days of pre-transitional period. Sudan Tribune

Sudan Cuts Diplomatic Relations with Iran
Sudan has announced the cutting off of diplomatic relations with Iran, joining the Saudi-led camp amid the current high tension in the Middle East following the execution of a prominent Shi’ite religious leader in Saudi Arabia. The Sudanese ministry of foreign affairs said in an official statement passed on to Africa Review on Monday that it had severed relations with Iran to protest the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran following the execution of Shi’ite leader Nimr al-Nimr. ”Sudan is strongly condemning the brutal attack on the Saudi Arabia embassy in Tehran and the Saudi consulate there; Iran has violated the international laws,” the statement said. ”We therefore decided to immediately cut diplomatic relations with Iran,” it said. The East African

South Sudan Malaria Outbreak
[…] Malaria is endemic to South Sudan and is the leading cause of death and illness, but this year Doctors Without Borders say the malaria outbreak is shaping up to be the most severe it has seen. The United Nations has described it as “unprecedented”. Nearly 1.6 million malaria cases have been reported so far, according to the UN Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs. The number of cases in most areas has doubled, and in some quadrupled, compared with the same period last year. The state of Northern Bahr el Ghazar is one of the worst affected. “For sure the malaria season has been huge this year,” Claire Nicolet, the project manager for Doctors Without Borders in Aweil, told Al Jazeera. “Last year was huge already, but this year has been even worse.” “Usually around December we would be reaching the end of the malaria season but we are still treating about 130 patients a week who have severe Malaria,” she said. “So this season is extending well into next year.”  Al Jazeera

Former Top US official Proposes Africa Agenda for Obama in 2016
Inviting Tanzania’s new president to the White House, opening a US embassy in Somalia and resetting relations with Sudan are among the Africa initiatives President Barack Obama should take in his final year in office, a retired State Department official suggested on January 3, 2014. Johnnie Carson, former assistant secretary of state for Africa, also advised the American president to dispatch John Kerry, the top US diplomat, on “an extended visit” to Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo-Brazzaville. Writing on the website, Mr Carson pointed to “daily political and ethnic violence in Burundi” as one reason for Secretary of State Kerry to travel to the Great Lakes. That region is following “a negative political and security trajectory,” Mr Carson warned. President Obama’s highest-ranking emissary could also seek to prevent “further democratic backsliding” in direct talks with the leaders of Rwanda, the DRC and Congo-Brazzaville, the former official added. These heads of state are “threatening to extend themselves in office in violation of their constitutions,” Mr Carson observed.  The East African

Uganda Elections: Whoever Wins in February Will Face a Huge Bill
Elections can be transformative, but they can also be costly. Costs include the vast amounts of money that candidates spend on their campaigns, as well as the promises made and expectations raised. Evidence suggests that Uganda’s presidential election in February could be particularly costly, ensuring that whoever wins faces a number of significant challenges. Uganda’s last presidential election in 2011 was characterised by less violence and intimidation than the previous one in 2006, but by a significant increase in the use of money. As a consequence, after the election, inflationary pressures exacerbated popular frustration with socio-economic problems such as underemployment and corruption, while depleted state coffers constrained the government’s capacity to respond. This culminated in months of popular protest and clashes between “Walk to Work” campaigners and state security services. The East African

Tanzania Public Officials Sign Integrity Document
Tanzania President John Magufuli’s newly appointed permanent secretaries have signed a “beefed up” integrity commitment document as part of a move to ensure seriousness towards rooting out graft and injecting accountability among public sector workers, according to government spokesman Assah Mwambene. Mwambene said the newly appointed officials were then made to read the signed document one after another at the state house in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. President Magufuli was on hand to supervise the signing. “If there is anyone who feels he cannot work under the integrity commitment, he should dismiss himself and vacate the State House premises right now… It is possible that there are some of you who frown at the integrity declaration. Therefore, just stand aside so that we may establish those who do not agree with the declaration,” said President Magufuli during the signing in ceremony. This is the first time that newly appointed government officials have signed this document in public. VOA

Gambia Orders Female Workers ‘to Cover Hair’
The Gambia’s government has banned its female employees from leaving their hair uncovered at work, a leaked memo quoted by private newspapers says. Women should use a “head tie and neatly wrap their hair”, the memo said, without giving reasons for the ban. Last month, The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh declared the Muslim-majority country an Islamic republic. He added that no dress code would be imposed and citizens of other faiths would be allowed to practise freely. The Gambia is popular with Western tourists because of its beaches. Mr Jammeh withdrew the former British colony from the Commonwealth in 2013, describing the organisation as neo-colonial.  BBC

Zimbabwe ‘Will Export More Elephants to China’ – Environment Minister
Zimbabwe will increase its export of wildlife including elephants to Chinese wildlife parks as it struggles to deal with a weak economy and intense drought, its environment minister has said. Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told Chinese journalists during a visit to the Chimelong Safari Park near Guangzhou where 24 young elephants were sent last July, that Zimbabwe struggled with an oversized population of the pachyderms. She said she would not apologise for the export – which is believed to have raised around £600,000 for government coffers – and added that the Chinese authorities had treated the elephants well. Her comments are likely to provoke outrage from some wildlife experts and public figures however, who opposed the original export amid concerns about the conditions the animals would be kept in. The Telegraph

South Africa Still Working on US Trade Conditions as Deadline Expires
South Africa still hopes to solve a dispute with the United States over farm exports, despite the expiry of a U.S.-set deadline that could penalize exports of agricultural goods to the world’s top economy. U.S. President Barack Obama said on Nov. 5 that he would revoke the duty-free status of South African agricultural produce, including oranges and macadamia nuts, unless Pretoria took action by the end of the year to loosen restrictions on U.S. farm exports. South Africa did sign an agreement with the United States on Nov. 17 to resume importing 65,000 tons of chicken each year, which had become bogged down over health concerns. However, South African Trade and Industry minister Rob Davies said on Monday his government was keen to meet outstanding requirements on beef exports to South Africa, and that discussions between Pretoria and Washington were ongoing. VOA

Ethiopia’s Drought Overlooked as Aid Funneled to More Desperate Crises
Inside a health clinic in northern Ethiopia a nurse wraps a special tape measure around the upper arm of 9-month-old Aixiet, cradled in her mother’s arms. It reads red — “severely” malnourished, according to Elsa Aduma, a nurse at the center run by the Catholic Daughters of Saint Anne. “I can’t produce enough milk as there’s not enough food for me to eat at home,” says Aixiet’s mother, 32-year-old Amete Kahsay, gesturing to her breasts. “Can I get something here for my baby?” “We can’t do anything,” Aduma says, adding the mother might be able to find Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a fortified peanut butter-like nutritional supplement with a high vitamin and mineral content, at a nearby government-run clinic — though she can’t be sure. Al Jazeera

3 Charts that Explain the State of Foreign Aid
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, better known as the OECD, is an international institution with 34 member states, mostly from advanced economies in North America, Europe, the Commonwealth, a few countries in Latin America plus Japan. Every year, the OECD compiles data from its member states about their foreign aid spending: how much it is, and where it goes? Today, they released their compilations from 2014 (it takes about a full year to collect and analyze all the data). The top line finding: foreign aid from OECD members reached an all time high in 2014, totaling $137 billion. This is equivalent of 0.3% of these donors collective gross national income. To put this in perspective, $137 billion is about one-sixth of the US Department of Defense Budget for FY 2016. UN Dispatch