Media Review for April 12, 2016

Boko Haram Crisis: ‘Huge Rise’ in Child Suicide Bombers
Boko Haram’s use of child bombers has increased over the last year with one in five suicide attacks now carried out done by children, the UN says. Girls, who are often drugged, were behind three-quarters of such attacks committed by the militant Islamist group in Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad. It is an 11-fold increase with four attacks in 2014 compared to 44 the next year, including January 2016. The change in tactics reflects the loss of territory in Nigeria by the group. The seven-year insurgency, which has mainly affected north-eastern Nigeria as well as its neighbours around Lake Chad, has left some 17,000 people dead. BBC

Boko Haram Violence, Climate Change Drive Hunger in North Cameroon
Harvesting a crop in Cameroon’s Far North Region is becoming an increasingly uncertain proposition. Armed conflict between Boko Haram militants and Cameroon’s armed forces in the region has made it difficult for some farmers to access their fields, deepening food security, said Felix Gomez, the World Food Programme’s country director. At the same time, the region is hosting 75,000 Nigerians who have fled that country’s Boko Haram insurgency and 82,000 internally displaced people affected by the spillover of the conflict to Cameroon since 2013, officials say. That has helped feed a food deficit in Cameroon’s Far North Region of 132,000 tons, according to a government assessment issued last June. Just as problematic, climate change is gradually rendering the traditional agricultural calendar unreliable, making just getting in a crop hard work, farmers in the region say. Reuters

Boko Haram ‘Traps’ Entrepreneurs with Loans
Boko Haram has lured young entrepreneurs and business owners in northeast Nigeria to join the Islamist militant group by providing or promising capital and loans to boost their businesses, aid agency Mercy Corps said on Monday. Seeing successful business ownership as a way to escape poverty, many Nigerian youths – ranging from butchers and beauticians to tailors and traders – accepted loans for their businesses in return for joining Boko Haram, Mercy Corps said. Yet the lure of business support is often a trap, as those who cannot repay their loans are forced to join the militants or be killed, said the report from the US-based aid agency. “Boko Haram is tapping into the yearning of Nigerian youth to get ahead in an environment of massive inequality,” said report author and Mercy Corps peacebuilding adviser Lisa Inks. IOL News

Nigeria Grapples With Abrupt End to Rapid Growth
In Africa’s top economy, the oil bust is beginning to hit the streets. With 187 million people, and trillions of dollars in untapped crude oil, Nigeria was meant to power Africa’s rise. Instead, it is becoming—for the moment—a symbol of how fast and far low oil prices have dragged emerging markets down. Months of dwindling oil revenue have prompted a scarcity of dollars here, as the government hoards foreign currency to safeguard shrinking reserves. That is starting to hit Nigerians rich and poor alike: On Monday, the country’s stock market fell almost 3% on news that MSCI is considering removing the country from its benchmark frontier markets index. Meanwhile, the World Bank said Nigeria’s economic growth slid to 2.8% in 2015 from 6.3% the year before, and the International Monetary Fund says this year’s growth will slip to 2.3%, slower than the population, which adds 13,000 people daily. Factories are closing because they can’t find dollars to import parts. Supermarkets are struggling to keep shelves stocked. The Wall Street Journal

Pirates Take Break in SE Asia, but Busy in Gulf of Guinea
A “remarkable” decline in maritime piracy in Southeast Asia has been recorded for the first quarter of this year; however, attacks have significantly escalated in the northernmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Africa. During the first three months of the year, only 13 maritime crime cases were reported in Southeast Asia, compared to 35 for the same period last year, according to a global report by Dryad Maritime, released early Tuesday in London. It is the lowest number recorded in 10 years by Dryad, which provides information and analysis on attacks and incidents. “Primarily, we believe that this is because the criminal gangs have come under a lot of pressure. They’ve been subject to a proactive effort in law enforcement and also in deterrence,” said the consultancy’s chief operating officer, Ian Millen. VOA

Pirates Abduct Six Turkish Crew off Nigeria
Pirates off the coast of Nigeria have attacked a Turkish cargo ship, kidnapping six crew members in a region which has seen increasing piracy in recent years, a Turkish maritime news agency reported Monday. The Deniz News Agency said pirates abducted the ship’s mechanical engineer, electrician, navigator and three captains. The ship is owned by Kaptanogul Shipping, which told the news agency that both the kidnapped crew, and those who remained on the ship, were “in good health”. It was unclear how many crew members were aboard the M/T Puli, which was carrying chemicals, when it was attacked. Company officials said the pirates have not contacted them. Vanguard

US Condemns South Sudan Army’s Attacks on Opposition Site
The United States said on Monday that it “condemns” attacks by South Sudan government forces on a site where opposition troops had assembled in accordance with a ceasefire agreement. The recent operation by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) destroyed the designated cantonment area, the State Department said. It did not offer an estimate of casualties. This action is in clear violation of the permanent ceasefire provisions that apply nationwide and were agreed to by all peace agreement signatories,” added department deputy spokesman Mark Toner. South Sudan government leaders may regard US condemnation of SPLA actions as a serious matter. Daily Nation

South Sudan Rebel Troops Flown to Juba for Riek Machar Security
Rebel troops in South Sudan have completed their return to the capital Juba as part of a peace deal, days ahead of the expected arrival of their commander, ceasefire monitors said Monday. The 1,370-strong force of soldiers and police were flown to Juba to ensure security for rebel chief Riek Machar — named as vice-president in February — who is due to arrive in Juba next week. The rebels were brought to Juba on United Nations and chartered airplanes “as required by phase one of the transitional security arrangements plan,” the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) said. JMEC was set up by the regional IGAD bloc to ensure a repeatedly broken and delayed August 2015 peace deal is implemented. Machar has said he will arrive in Juba on April 18 to form a unity government with President Salva Kiir, returning for the first time since he fled the capital in December 2013 when civil war broke out. The East African

Darfur Votes on Status in Referendum Boycotted by Rebels
Despite ongoing unrest in areas, President Omar al-Bashir — wanted on war crimes charges related to the 13-year conflict — has insisted voting go ahead on whether to unite Darfur’s five states into a single region or maintain the status quo. A united Darfur with greater autonomy has long been a demand of ethnic minority insurgents battling the Sudanese government since 2003, but they have boycotted the referendum, saying it is unfair. The United States has also voiced concerns, warning that “if held under current rules and conditions, a referendum on Darfur cannot be considered a credible expression of the will of the people”. Voting got underway at 9:00 am (0600 GMT), with a slow early trickle of people coming to cast their ballots at polling stations guarded by armed police and decorated with posters urging a strong showing. AFP on Times Live

Internet Cut in Chad After Tense Polls
The internet remained mysteriously cut in Chad’s capital on Monday a day after elections held amid tight security, which are expected to see President Idriss Deby extend his 26-year rule. Some foreign television media, who had worked until Sunday evening, were meanwhile unable to cover the post-election situation because they had not received authorisation from the communications ministry, by the middle of the day. Mobile Internet was suspended from Sunday morning, while fixed internet went out in the evening in N’Djamena, and text messages could not be sent over the local phone network. The online blackout, which occurred without official explanation, was preventing discussion about how the election had gone. News 24

Mogadishu Car Bomb Kills 5 at Local Government HQ
A car bomb at local government headquarters in Mogadishu killed five people and wounded five, an official said, in an attack claimed by Somali Islamist group al Shabaab. Al Shabaab has frequently attacked government targets, hotels and restaurants in the capital since being pushed out by African Union peacekeeping forces in 2011 and rebasing in the country’s south. “We are behind the governor HQ attack,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman, said. On Saturday, another bomb killed three and wounded five in Mogadishu. A police spokesman said that in Monday’s attack a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into the entrance of the headquarters. But mayoral spokesman Abdifatah Omar blamed a car parked at the rear of the heavily fortified compound. Reuters

Ex al-Shabab Official Executed for Journalists’ Killings
Somalia’s government on Monday executed a former journalist accused of helping al-Shabab militants kill at least five other journalists in Mogadishu between 2007 and 2011. Officials and witnesses say a firing squad executed Hassan Hanafi Haji at a police academy in Mogadishu. Haji was extradited from Kenya last year at the request of the Somali government. Abdulahi Hussein Mohamed, deputy judge of the military court, talked to the media after the execution and said the former journalist had a fair trial and finally faced justice. “He has been going under court process since earlier 2015. So, now with all the evidences and his confession the justice had been done,” Mohamed said. VOA

France PM Visits Algeria Amid French Media Boycott
France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Saturday he had “deep regrets” over Algeria’s refusal to issue visas to two French journalists in a row over the so-called Panama Papers revelations. “I will bring up this point with friendship and frankness” while feeling “deep regrets” over the decision, Valls tweeted before arriving in Algiers accompanied by several cabinet ministers. “We share a common vision on many subjects, including Libya,” Valls told reporters after being welcomed by Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal. “We will work together in the next few hours. We are here because friendship between Algeria and France is above minor problems,” he added in an apparent reference to the visa row. AFP on Yahoo News

Niger’s Issoufou Tightens Grip After Polls with Loyalist Cabinet
Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou reinforced his control over the West African nation in the wake of a disputed election, naming loyalists to key cabinet positions on Monday while making no concessions to the opposition. In line with traditional practice, the government resigned earlier this month following his re-election in March polls boycotted by the opposition, but Issoufou immediately reappointed Prime Minister Brigi Raffini. Having served in several different posts in previous cabinets, Mohamed Bazoum, head of the president’s Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, was named minister of the interior, according to a list of ministers announced on state television. Hassoumi Massaoudou, who previously served as interior minister, will take over the defence portfolio, an important supporting role for Issoufou, who is a crucial ally of the West in the fight against Islamist militants in the region.  Reuters

U.N. Experts Decry Egypt’s Crackdown on NGOs and Human Rights
Egypt is closing down domestic non-governmental organisations and putting travel bans on their staff in order to obstruct scrutiny of human rights issues, three independent U.N. human rights investigators said on Monday. U.N. experts Michel Forst, David Kaye and Maina Kiai accused Egypt’s government of clamping down on NGOs so that human rights violations such as the use of torture did not come to light. “Egypt is failing to provide a safe and enabling environment for civil society in the country,” the three said in a statement. They specialise in human rights defence, freedom of expression and freedom of association. The statement cited the Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, which was issued with a closing order on Feb. 17 for carrying out a “medical activity” for which it was not licensed. The centre had published reports on torture. Reuters

South Africa’s Ruling ANC on a Path to ‘Polarization’
A growing number of top South African officials were calling for President Jacob Zuma’s resignation last week following a decision by the African National Congress (ANC) majority in parliament to keep their scandal-prone leader. “I think they are taking a very substantial risk and the risk is particularly acute as we move into a four month long election campaign,” said Daniel Silke, an independent political analyst in Cape Town, referring to the ANC. The decision by the national assembly did not come much as a surprise thanks to the overwhelming support from the ruling Africa National Congress (ANC). The Nelson Mandela Foundation and a number of prominent leaders joined the campaign dubbed “ZumaMustFall” requesting an urgent meeting with ANC leaders to discuss parliamentary decision. Anti-apartheid veteran Ahmed Kathrada also called on Zuma to resign. Deutsche Welle

South Africa Can’t Rise Under Zuma’s Cloud
Unlike the 25 percent of his fellow citizens who are without one, South African President Jacob Zuma doesn’t have to worry about finding a new job – for now, at least. But South Africa will not prosper until it roots out the corruption and impunity that mark both his administration and the party that he represents. The ruling African National Congress blocked an effort last Tuesday to impeach Zuma after the country’s highest court found he had violated South Africa’s constitution. Zuma has presided over not only a series of political and legal scandals, but also a precipitous decline in South Africa’s economic fortunes. The country’s economy will grow this year by less than 1 percent, which lags the rate of population growth. Inflation has hit a seven-year high. Government debt has almost doubled since Zuma took office in 2009, rising to more than 50 percent of gross domestic product for the first time in more than two decades. South Africa’s credit rating hovers near junk status. Bloomberg

Under Fire Guptas Leave South Africa
The beleaguered Gupta family has left South Africa for Dubai following weeks of pressure over their relationship with President Jacob Zuma. The Gupta brothers were recently fingered in state capture allegations in which they were accused of influencing President Zuma on appointing key Cabinet ministers. The wealthy Indian family was also accused of having unduly benefitted from government business because of their close ties with the president. Some employees of their company, Oakbay Investments, were notified by management on Sunday about their departure. A memo sent out to all employees read: “We have come to the conclusion that it is time for the Gupta family to step down from all executive and non-executive positions. In doing this, the family hopes to end the campaign against Oakbay and save all of our jobs.” According to reports, the Gupta brothers, Atul and Ajay, left with enough luggage for 20 people. The East African

The World Looks Away as Blood Flows in Burundi
Thierry wants to talk, but chokes on memories of blows and stabs punctuated by the sound of his father pleading for his life before masked men hacked him to death. He shrinks into himself, cold and small on a damp wooden bench just inside Tanzania. Hell is just a couple of kilometres and a river crossing away, in the country he called home until two hours ago. “Blood flows everywhere in Burundi, that’s how things are,” said the young farmer, rolling up his trouser legs and a shirt sleeve to show cuts and bruises almost as raw as his anguish. He asked that his name be changed to protect family still inside Burundi. A refugee at 27, he is just one victim of a crisis that has pushed more than a quarter of a million people into exile, and now threatens the tenuous stability of a region with a grim history of genocide. Torture, assault, abduction and murder fill the stories of those who have fled. “I want to forget everything about Burundi, even our names,” said another young man, who has collapsed at a refugee registration post after carrying his 16-year-old sister, pregnant after rape, across a river to safety. They left behind the grave of another sister, killed last year by a government bullet. The Guardian

UN Urged to Step Away from Peacekeeping Rape Probe
The United Nations is not in a position to investigate claims of sexual abuse committed by its own peacekeepers and must step aside to allow the law to take it course, a lobby group has said. The call by Paula Donovan, co-director of the Code Blue Campaign to end impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers on Monday, comes as pressure mounts on the global body following a series of allegations pitted against its troops in the Central African Republic. Donovan described the UN’s ability to probe itself on such sensitive matters as untenable. “We are saying that the UN should recuse itself in the law inforcement in assessing the crimes and in determining who should hold responsibility and be accountable for those crimes. “This is a conflict of interest and they need to remove itself from the criminal side and focus entirely on the care of victims and allow the appropriate law enforcement officials to do their job,” Donovan, a director at the AIDS-Free World NGO, said in a media briefing broadcast over the internet. Al Jazeera

Ethiopia’s Clampdown on Dissent Tests Ethnic Federal Structure
Nothing seemed amiss when an Ethiopian government vehicle arrived to collect the traditional leader of the Konso people for a meeting in March. But instead of being taken to discuss his community’s requests for more autonomy, Kala Gezahegn was arrested. Kala’s detention marked a low point in fraught relations between the Konso in southern Ethiopia and the regional authorities in the state capital, Hawassa. Five years ago, the Konso lost their right to self-govern, and growing tensions since then mirror discontent in other parts of Ethiopia. The 1995 constitution in Africa’s second most populous country allows different ethnic groups to self-govern and protects their languages and culture under a system called ethnic federalism. The largest ethnicities – such as the approximately 35 million-strong Oromo – have their own regional states, while some smaller groups administer zones within regions, as the Konso effectively used to do. The Guardian

Zimbabwe Cracks Down on Online Dissent
The Zimbabwean government has ordered a blogger who wrote a report critical of President Robert Mugabe to report to police Tuesday. Press freedom advocates says the summons is just the latest action in a broader government campaign to silence dissent in online media. The head of the Zimbabwe Media Center, Ernest Mudzengi, and two of his colleagues were summoned by police on Thursday and Friday. The Media Center provides facilities to freelance reporters and runs the web site for the Zimbabwe Sentinel newspaper. Police questioned Mudzengi for nine hours over a Sentinel article on an alleged plot to bomb a dairy plant owned by the first family. Police have summoned the blogger, Mlondozi Ndlovu, who wrote the piece. Nhlanhla Ngwenya runs the Zimbabwe office of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, known by its acronym MISA. VOA

The Untouchables. Why it’s Getting Harder to Stop Multinational Corporations.
[…] When you think of the worst abuses in poor countries — land grabs, sweatshops, cash-filled envelopes passed to politicians — you probably think they’re committed by companies based in rich ones: Nike in Indonesia, Shell in Nigeria, Dow in Bhopal, India. These are the cases you’re most likely to hear about, but they are no longer representative of how these abuses actually take place — or who commits them. These days, the worst multinational corporations have names you’ve never heard. They come from places like China and South Africa and Russia. The countries where they are headquartered are unable to regulate them, and the countries where they operate are unwilling to. […] The Green Fuel ethanol plant was Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s idea. He called it a “sanctions buster” and told his country that it would shame the West into lifting the sanctions it imposed after his sketchy re-election in 2002. Needless to say, it didn’t work. The poor-quality ethanol couldn’t be sold on the international market. Instead of pushing for higher standards, the Zimbabwean government passed a law requiring all domestic fuel to be blended 5 percent with Green Fuel ethanol, a low enough percentage to be used in normal cars. Since then, the requirement has risen to 15 percent. Foreign Policy

How Africa Tweets: 10 Surprising Trends and Insights
How Africa Tweets is perhaps one of the most intriguing reports published every year on the Twitter trends, hashtags and online habits on the continent. Its 2015 findings revealed that Africans are increasingly using Twitter to talk about politics, with discussions on politics accounting for 10% of tweets in this latest report, which is published by Portland Communications. That’s more than in the US and UK, where political conversations make up 1-2% of hashtags, about the same as Africa in the previous reports. Mark Flanagan, Portland’s senior partner for content and digital strategy, highlighted that in the past two reports, Twitter in Africa was “much more of a space for social interaction and frivolous banter. This study, our third, demonstrates that the platform is coming of age with the prevalence of serious debate about politics and government,” he said. Mail and Guardian

 



Photo: Adam Jones