Media Review for March 29, 2016

UN ‘Alarm’ at Spreading Mali Insecurity: Report

Insecurity is spreading in Mali, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned, expressing alarm at the myriad challenges facing the UN peacekeeping force in large parts of the African country. “The northern and central parts of Mali remain under the threat of criminal, violent extremist and terrorist groups, which take advantage of the limited presence of Malian law enforcement institutions,” Ban said in his latest report on the country. “The spread of insecurity in Mali and the security threat posed by actors outside of the peace process remain alarming,” he added in the confidential report sent to the Security Council, which was seen Monday by AFP. Ban in particular raised fears about “persistent operational difficulties” faced by the MINUSMA force, the UN mission in Mali, and called for the government to step up security in the north of the country with more forces. AFP

Libya Unity Gov’t Blames Rival Faction for Tripoli Airspace Closure

Libya’s UN-backed unity government has accused authorities in Tripoli of closing down the capital’s airspace to prevent it from travelling from Tunisia to start work. The unity government’s Presidential Council released a statement on Monday after two days of swirling rumours that it was on its way to Libya and several flight stoppages at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport. The Presidential Council said a minority led by the Tripoli-based prime minister was “terrorising the safe population of Tripoli and obstructing the unity government by closing the airspace”. Flights were suspended at Mitiga Airport for periods on both Sunday and Monday. A civil aviation official said this was for “safety and security reasons”, though a security source at Mitiga said on Sunday that an armed group had closed the airspace to block a flight intended to bring in the unity government’s Prime Minister Fayez Seraj. Reuters

Egypt Forces 32 Judges to Retire over Morsi Ouster

Egypt’s Supreme Judicial Council on Monday forced 32 judges into retirement for having opposed the army’s ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, officials said. Morsi was deposed by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and since then the authorities have cracked down on all forms of dissent, including secularists and liberals. “Today, the Supreme Judicial Council took a decision to force 32 judges into retirement for intervening in politics and supporting a certain party” after the ouster of Morsi, a senior official from the council said on condition of anonymity. Last week the council had taken similar action against 15 other judges for the same reason. These judges have been suspended since March 2015 after a lower panel of the council ordered they be sent into retirement. On Monday the council upheld that order. The judges had refused to recognise the legality of the ouster of Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president who was ousted after mass street protests against his sole year of divisive rule. News 24

Egypt Dismisses Top Auditor after Estimating Corruption

Egypt’s state-run news agency says the president has dismissed the country’s top auditor who earlier had said corruption has cost the country billions of dollars. The MENA news agency said Monday that President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had dismissed Hesham Genena, head of the Central Auditing Organization, and appointed Genena’s top deputy, Hesham Badawi, to run the agency. Genena was quoted in December by the newspaper Youm 7 as saying that corruption had siphoned off 600 billion Egyptian pounds ($67.6 billion) in 2015 alone. He later said that the figure covered four years and was arrived at following an exhaustive study. El-Sissi then appointed a commission which accused the auditor of misleading the public with support from unnamed “foreign” parties. AP

1,300 Ivorians Seek Refuge in Burkina Faso after Farming Clashes

A thousand people have fled Ivory Coast to seek refuge in neighbouring Burkina Faso after clashes between farmers and herdsmen that left at least 17 people dead, officials said on Monday. A senior official in the Burkinabe province of Noumbiel, on the border with Ivory Coast, said that as of Sunday 1 316 people had sought refuge in the region following the deadly clashes in Bouna, the main town in northeast Ivory Coast. “Most of them are women and children,” added the official, who was reached by telephone. “We have put in place a crisis cell formed of local authorities and emergency services. We have received emergency goods from Ouagadougou – bedding and food – but it will not be enough to support these people, who continue to arrive.” News 24

Niger Opposition Ready ‘for Dialogue’ with President after Disputed Vote

Niger’s opposition said on Monday it was ready to open a dialogue with President Mahamadou Issoufou after boycotting his contested re-election. “We reiterated the willingness of the opposition to open a dialogue that is wide-ranging, sincere and inclusive,” said Mahamane Malam Sani, secretary general of Moden, the party of opposition candidate Hama Amadou. “It is not a question of sorting out some technical questions” but finding “lasting solutions” to the country’s “extremely difficult situation,” he said following talks with Prime Minister Brigi Rafini. News 24

Three Reporters Covering Rep. of Congo Polls Assaulted, Passports Seized

Three international journalists who had been accredited to cover elections in the Republic of Congo were assaulted and their passports and equipment seized, according to reports. The French paper Le Monde reported that its correspondent Christophe Châtelot and two journalists from Agence France-Presse, were attacked by four men who identified themselves as police, as they left a news conference in the capital, Brazzaville. The press conference was being held by General Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, an opposition candidate who announced he would challenge the election results. Earlier, initial election results showed the incumbent, President Denis Sassou Nguesso, had won in the first round, extending his 32-year-rule. “Not content with merely making it difficult for journalists to file by shutting down communications, the authorities have now resorted to violence to deter independent reporting,” said deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Robert Mahoney. East African

115 Al Shabab Members Killed and Other 110 Captured

The Somali armed forces killed 115 Al Shabab members and captured other 110 in clashes in the central state of Galmudug, reported today its governor, Abdikarim Hussein Guled. Abdikarim Hussein Guled said in a statement that the soldiers were decided to eliminate the anti government armed group, but some of the members managed to flee to rural areas. The statement lacked official numerical data on possible casualties among government forces, according to the digital site Galmudug troops defeated Al Shabab after four days of fighting, according to the source. Bar-Kulan

Gunmen Attack Army Base in Northern Mogadishu

Armed men believed to Al shabaab members have attacked a Somali army base in northern Mogadishu on Monday night, the latest in series of assaults on Government troops and AMISOM in the capital. The attack began after the assailants using machine guns and rocket propelled grenades launchers stormed the military base located in Suqa Holaha, a volatile area in Mogadishu’s Huriwa district. There were no immediate official details about the casualty figures as result of the night-time attack on military base in Suqa Holaha village in Huriwa district. Shabelle News

French Warship Seizes Somalia-Bound Weapons

French Navy frigate FS Provence has intercepted a large weapons cache from a small boat (dhow) sailing towards Somalia. Several hundred machine guns, anti-tank weapons and AK47 assault riffles were among the weapons seized from the dhow. The weapons smugglers were spotted heading toward Somalia by Provence’s Caïman helicopter whilst it was undertaking routine surveillance in the Northern Indian Ocean. Provence boarded the vessel and determined that it was not registered in any country. The ship’s boarding team then searched it and discovered the weapons. … The FREMM frigate is currently part of the Combined Task Force 150 within Combined Maritime Forces, an international maritime security and counter terrorism group. Bar-Kulan

Sudanese Security Bans Rights Activists from Travelling to Geneva

National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) agents at Khartoum airport Monday have prevented civil society activists from travelling to Geneva to attend the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). NISS agents at Khartoum airport at dawn on Monday have prevented rights activists Sawsan al-Shiwaya and Muawia Shadad from travelling to Geneva and seized their passports. Al-Shiwaya said the security agents told her that she was banned from travel, pointing the security agents seized her passport before asking her to report to the NISS headquarters in Khartoum on Tuesday. It is noteworthy that al-Shiwaya and Shadad were heading to Geneva to take part in meetings in preparation for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Under the UPR mechanism of the UNHRC, the human rights situation of all UN member states is reviewed every four and a half years. Civil society organisations are invited to submit information in contribution to each review. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan Inches Closer to Unity Government

About 1,400 rebel personnel arrived in Juba over the weekend ahead of the planned formation of a transitional government of national unity. Previous attempts to end the chaos and bloodshed have failed. After more than two years of fighting and the deaths of tens of thousands of people, the formation of a government of national unity, which it is hoped will bring peace to South Sudan is now in sight. “With the help of Britain and Norway, we will be transporting Riek Machar’s personal bodyguards and others from the northern city of Malakal to Juba,” said Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana and head of a commission overseeing the formation of the transitional government. Security and logistical problems had stalled the implementation of the peace agreement signed in August 2015 for several months. But on Thursday of last week, the commission was able to arrange transport for 25 South Sudanese rebel generals to the capital Juba. Rebel leader Riek Machar is expected to further deploy a 3,000-strong-force in Juba prior to his arrival. DW

CAR Elected President Asks Sudan Support to Restore Stability

The newly elected Central African Republic (CAR)’s President Faustin Archange Touadéra, was in a visit to Khartoum where he demanded Sudan to support his effort to bring peace and stability in the neighbouring country. ouadéra who was elected on February 14, will take office on 30 March. He will replace a transitional government that has been facing sectarian violence during the last two years. The would be president who arrived to Khartoum on a Sudanese government aircraft on Sunday held talks on security matters with President al-Bashir on the same day. “Al-Bashir reiterated that CAR’s security and stability are part of Sudan’s peace and stability,” said Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour in statements to the official SUNA following the meeting. Sudan Tribune

Burundi, Morocco Troops Accused of Central African Republic Abuse: U.N.

The United Nations said on Monday it had received new allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against U.N. peacekeepers from Morocco and Burundi in Central African Republic, including one that involved a 14-year-old girl. There have been dozens of such accusations against peacekeepers in Central African Republic, where the U.N. peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSCA, assumed authority from African Union troops in September 2014. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Burundian peacekeepers had been accused of raping a 14-year-old girl earlier this month, while a Moroccan soldier had been accused of engaging in an exploitative sexual relationship with a woman in February. Dujarric said Morocco and Burundi had been notified of the allegations. Once notified, a state has 10 days to tell the United Nations if it intends to investigate the accusations. If it does not, the world body will conduct its own inquiry. “The Moroccans so far have indicated that they will investigate,” Dujarric said. A U.N. peacekeeping spokesman said Burundi had until the end of the week to report back on whether it could conduct an inquiry. Reuters

EU Takes Aim Where it Hurts Burundi: Peacekeeper Funding

The European Union plans to cut back its funding for Burundi’s lucrative peacekeeping contingent in Somalia to try to force President Pierre Nkurunziza into talks with opponents and away from the brink of ethnic conflict, diplomatic sources said. Nkurunziza’s government has brushed off other cuts in aid from Western donors seeking a way to pressure the government to stop a year-long political crisis exploding into a new war in Africa’s volatile Great Lakes region. Bujumbura’s 5,400-strong contingent in Somalia’s AMISOM force — which earns the state roughly $13 million a year and its soldiers a combined $52 million — may be the Achilles heel of a government that wants to keep its fractious army happy with the extra pay its troops earn from peacekeeping. Top Burundi officers attempted, and failed, to stage a coup in May, but the rank-and-file army has broadly stayed above the political fray. “Support for Burundi’s contingent of AMISOM cannot continue as it is,” a European diplomat said. Bar-Kulan

Uganda’s Besigye House Arrest Reaches 40th Day

It has been 40 days since Ugandan police placed presidential candidate Kizza Besigye of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change under house arrest following that country’s February 18 presidential election. The Ugandan Electoral Commission announced that the election had been won by the 30 year incumbent President Yoweri Museveni with 60 percent of the vote to Besigye’s 35 percent. However, the results have been challenged in court by one of the other losing candidates. Besigye says he has not been able to launch a challenge because he has been under house arrest. Ugandan police spokesperson Fred Enanga told VOA earlier this month that Besigye is being held under section 24 of the Police Act which empowers the police to carry out what they call “preventive arrest and detention” of anyone whose unrestrictive movement the police may deem a threat to public order. VOA

South Africa Selling Arms to Conflict Regions – Report

The arms industry in South Africa has seen the sale of arms to other countries soaring to R2.7-billion last year, including to countries in conflict. The National Conventional Arms Control Committee has said in a report, tabled in Parliament recently, that South Africa sold arms to countries including Iraq, Azerbaijan, Kenya, Nigeria and Burundi. Burundi is in the midst of a civil war after President Pierre Nkurunziza extended his term in office by another five years. This has sparked civil unrest in his country, leading to what human right groups say is a clampdown on the opposition. South Africa sold armoured combat vehicles to the value of R44-million to troubled Burundi last year. IOL

Angola: ‘A Sad Day for Freedom of Expression’

A court in Luanda on Monday found 17 pro-democracy activists guilty of attempting to topple President José Eduardo dos Santos. Rights activists however said the trial was politically motivated. Journalist and activist Domingos da Cruz was handed an eight-year-six-month jail term for allegedly planning a coup and for criminal association. A well-known Portuguese-Angolan rapper and poet Luaty Beirao was sentenced to five-years-three-months for “rebellion against the president of the republic, criminal association and falsifying documents.” Ana Monteiro from Amnesty International in Portugal said “there should never have been a trial, much less a sentencing.” Monteiro added that “the process was highly irregular. This is a very sad day for freedom of expression and association.” DW