Media Review for April 14, 2016

Months After #BringBackOurGirls, Boko Haram Kidnapped Hundreds More Children. Local Officials Kept it Quiet.
The children had gone off to school and the traders were still arranging their goods at the village market in the remote fishing town of Damasak when the Islamic fighters swept in, shooting as they pushed straight for the schoolhouses. By the time the Boko Haram invaders were done, at least 400 people had vanished, many of them children. The Monday morning invasion in November 2014 was reminiscent of the attack seven months earlier when the terrorist group stormed the village of Chibok, kidnapping hundreds of girls, shooting residents and burning homes. When the savagery of that attack became known, it sparked a sense of global urgency and drew worldwide condemnation. But this time, after the children of Damasak were whisked away and the survivors were left to bury the dead, there was only silence. Now, on the eve of the second anniversary of the attack on Chibok, the raw details of what happened in Damasak, elsewhere in Borno state, are emerging in interviews with survivors, village leaders and government officials, most so afraid of reprisals that they refuse to be named. LA Times

Boko Haram Send ‘Proof of Life Video on Chibok Grls’
Boko Haram has sent a “proof of life” video which shows 15 of the more than 200 girls abducted by Islamist fighters from the northeast Nigerian town of Chibok two years ago, CNN reported on Wednesday. The video showed the girls wearing black hijabs in an unspecified location, stating their names, that they were taken from Chibok and the date of the recording – December 25, 2015, the broadcaster said. Two of the three mothers of the 219 schoolgirls still missing since the mass abduction on April 14, 2014 recognised their daughters on the video but another broke down as hers was not there. All three, however, identified all the girls, as did a classmate, who was at home on the day of the kidnapping. The Telegraph

Some of Boko Haram’s Most Dangerous Fighters are Kids
This city is plastered with the faces of alleged high-level Boko Haram fighters, collages of photos on banners slung across walls and fences and storefronts. Some of the militants are carrying rifles. Others are wearing military fatigues. “Wanted Boko Haram Suspects by Nigerian Army,” the banners read. The pictures of the alleged militants are small. You have to get close to register one of the banners’ most jarring features: A number of those top-tier suspects are actually boys. Some look no older than 14. They smile at the camera or wave scrawny arms at the photographer. They wear ski caps too big for their heads. How did a bunch of teenagers become the most wanted people in Africa’s most populous country? The Washington Post

Following Revelation of Nigeria’s Shiite Muslim Mass Graves, Amnesty International Calls for Independent Investigation
Rights group Amnesty International is calling for an independent investigation into mass graves in northern Nigeria, where the bodies of hundreds of Shiite Muslims were allegedly buried in secret following deadly clashes with the Nigerian military. A local government official acknowledged the killings Monday during an ongoing inquiry into the raids, which took place in Kaduna state in December. “The horrific revelation by the Kaduna state government that hundreds of Shiites were gunned down and dumped in mass graves is an important first step to bringing all those suspected of criminal responsibility for this atrocity to trial,” said M.K. Ibrahim, country director for Amnesty International Nigeria. International Business Times

U.S. Senators Threaten U.N. Over Sex Abuse by Peacekeepers
Lawmakers on Wednesday used a rare hearing in the United States Senate to excoriate the United Nations secretary general for what they called his failure to stanch sexual abuse by his agency’s peacekeepers and threatened to withhold crucial funding not only for the United Nations, but also bilateral aid for countries that fail to hold their soldiers accountable. The United States is the largest single donor to United Nations peacekeeping operations, though its soldiers and police do not, by and large, serve under United Nations command. The congressional scrutiny came as the United Nations has been roiled by allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by its blue-helmeted troops, particularly in the Central African Republic. The allegations emerged a year ago against French soldiers who had been sent to quell the violence in the fragile former French colony. They were accused of sexually abusing children in exchange for food. The New York Times

Burundi Group Blames Police for Rising Disappearances
When security officials in Burundi show up looking for someone, they don’t even have to produce an arrest warrant. And when they take a suspect away, the terrified family members left behind just hope their relative will be held at a known jail. That’s because unofficial cells have reportedly become death chambers in the months since President Pierre Nkurunziza won a disputed third term. Amid the violence, in which more than 400 people have been killed since last April, an online network of Burundian activists is trying to bring international attention to what it says are rising incidents of people being disappeared by local police and intelligence agents, some of whom then return to extort huge sums of money from families desperate to get their loved ones back. The group, iBurundi, has almost 11,000 followers on Twitter. Members are mostly young professionals including journalists, lawyers, economists and policy analysts, and also some students belong, a member told The Associated Press. He insisted on anonymity because of safety concerns. AP on The Washington Post

Burundi: Government Investigations Ignore State Abuses
The findings of a Burundian commission of inquiry into allegations of extrajudicial executions by members of the security forces on December 11, 2015, in the capital, Bujumbura, are misleading and biased. This is one of several official inquiries that have failed to properly investigate security force abuses or hold those responsible to account. The inquiry focused on reports of abuses during the most deadly operation by the Burundian security forces since the country’s crisis began in April. Human Rights Watch found that police and military shot dead scores of people in Nyakabiga and Musaga neighborhoods, apparently in retaliation for opposition attacks on four military installations, and for heavy shooting at security forces by gunmen in these neighborhoods. “This is the latest in a series of commissions of inquiry in Burundi that has ignored widespread abuses by the security forces,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “These inquiries have covered up state abuses and have not led to justice.” Human Rights Watch

US Drones, Sensors to Replace Sinai Troops
The US military says it has formally notified Egypt and Israel that it is reviewing whether to automate aspects of multinational peacekeeping operations in the Sinai, potentially allowing a reduction in American troop deployments. US officials, speaking to Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity on Wednesday, said using remote surveillance technology could eventually allow the US to withdraw hundreds of its roughly 700 peacekeeping troops. Installed to monitor the demilitarisation of the Sinai under the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace accord, the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission has come under increased scrutiny over the past year, particularly after six peacekeepers were wounded by a roadside bomb in September. Four US soldiers were among them. News 24

The West in Africa in The Age of Extremism
Did terrorists inch Africa and Europe closer together last month? An attack by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) at an Ivory Coast beach resort which left 22 dead was followed less than 10 days later by an attack in Brussels claimed by Islamic State (IS) that left 35 dead and injured more than 300. Many analysts believe closer security co-operation between African and European governments is sure to follow.  Daily Maverick

Terrorism in Africa and Why it Matters
Around 60 senior leaders from Africa, Europe and the US are gathering in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to exchange ideas on how they can work together to fight terrorism and prevent crises in northern and eastern Africa. german diplomat, Wolfgang Ischinger, chairs the Munich Security Conference. He told DW that leaders will also discuss the security risks posed by epidemics and climate change with focus on Africa. Why was Addis Ababa chosen as a venue for the conference? Wolfgang Ischinger: It’s the seat of African Union(AU), we believe that it is important that the capacity of the African community of states to act together in order to a functioning security organization. The German government has been actively supporting such efforts, including the Tana Forum, on the eve of which our conference was organized later this week. So, choosing Addis Ababa as our first entry point into Africa was an obvious choice. What are the main critical issues that are going to be addressed in the conference? Let me single out two primary issues. The first one is terrorism – most people in Europe are not aware that the number of victims of Boko Haram in various places in Africa considerably exceeds the number of victims which the “Islamic State” (which has been in the headlines so much for good reasons) has produced in Iraq, Syria and other countries in the region.  Deutsche Welle

Six Killed in Bombing, Clashes with Militants in Western Libya: Officials
A suicide bomber killed a member of the security forces in Libya at a checkpoint south of Misrata on Wednesday, while five people were killed – including three who were beheaded – at a nearby military camp, officials and a hospital spokesman said. Aziz Issa, head of the media office at Misrata’s central hospital, said the suicide car bomb had detonated near the Essdada checkpoint, about 80km (50 miles) south of the western port city. Four members of the security forces were injured, he said. Islamic State militants have staged several attacks on checkpoints on the coastal road south of Misrata, which leads towards the group’s Libyan stronghold of Sirte. A security source said militants also attacked a military camp early on Wednesday between the coastal road and the town of Bani Walid, south-east of Misrata, and seized weapons and ammunition. Reuters

Aid Workers Shot Dead in South Sudan
Gunmen in South Sudan have shot dead two aid workers, colleagues said Wednesday, taking the number killed in over two years of civil war to more than 50. The pair, South Sudanese nationals who worked for the Danish Demining Group (DDG), making safe landmines and unexploded bombs, were killed in the southern Yei region as they went to work. “The vehicle was ambushed and two of the team members were shot,” DDG said in a statement, calling the killings “tragic.” “I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the families of our fallen colleagues, and to the entire South Sudan team,” DDG chief Tammy Hall said. AFP on IOL News

Can South Sudan’s Peace Deal Stick?
South Sudan may finally, perhaps, be on the road to peace. Rebel leader Riek Machar is expected in the capital, Juba, next week in the final step towards a government of national unity that seeks to end the fighting and glue together a country torn apart by more than two years of civil war.  IRIN

Panama Papers: Sitting and Ex Nigerian Senate Presidents Deny Corruption Accusations
Two Nigerian public figures, Bukola Saraki and David Mark last week hit back after their names appeared in a leaked document revealing how the world’s rich use offshore companies to avoid taxes or to hide dirty money. The leaked documents, dubbed the Panama Papers, have implicated prominent political figures in Africa’s biggest economy, including both current and former Senate presidents, Saraki and Mark, respectively. Both have professed their innocence. […] With many government officials implicated in the scandal, Anthony Regha, a Lagos-based legal analyst, told The Africa Report: “There is a disconnect between those that are being governed and those that are governing them.” Other government officials mentioned in the leaked documents include former defence minister, Theophilus Danjuma, former Delta State governor, James Ibori and Toyin Saraki, Bukola Saraki’s wife. Africa Report

Migrant Crisis: EU Says Numbers in Libya are Alarming
Donald Tusk told MEPs that it would not be possible to apply the same approach used for the Balkans to unstable Libya. Italy’s coastguard says 4,000 people were rescued from the Mediterranean between Libya and Sicily on Monday and Tuesday. Meanwhile, Macedonian police again fired teargas at migrants protesting at the border with Greece. About 11,000 migrants and refugees have been camped out at Idomeni on the Greek side of the border since countries on the route to northern Europe through the Balkans closed their borders. In Bulgaria, the interior minister urged the public not to mistreat migrants after footage of a vigilante group tying up several Afghans went viral. BBC

Eritrea: Hundreds of Thousands Have Fled this Country. This Ghastly Massacre is a Reminder Why.
In Eritrea, your last year of high school is also your first year in the army. The nation fought a 30-year war against its much larger neighbor Ethiopia, and because of a continuing land dispute, still considers hostilities active. Although obligatory conscription isn’t exactly unusual around the world, in Eritrea, there are three huge downsides: Your service is indefinite, you’re not allowed to leave the country, and the pay is dismal — about $10 on the black market. The rest of the world doesn’t really hear much about the country, as the foreign press is mostly barred from entry, and Eritrea ranks dead last in Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index (behind North Korea). But last week, unconfirmed reports began filtering through the crevices of the Internet about the possible killing of conscripts who attempted escape while being transported to a labor camp. The most complete report describes a scene of utter chaos and desperation. The Washington Post

Nigeria’s Buhari Vows Crackdown After Pipeline Attacks in Delta
Nigeria will crack down on groups responsible for recent pipeline attacks in the oil-producing Delta region, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Wednesday. Pipeline attacks and violence have been on the rise in the southern swampland since authorities issued an arrest warrant in January for a former militant leader on corruption charges. “We will deal with them the way we dealt with Boko Haram,” Buhari said during a visit to China, referring to jihadists who have been waging an insurgency to set up an Islamic state in the north. The army has recaptured much of the territory Boko Haram had held since Buhari took office in May 2015, though the group still stages suicide bombings.  AFP on Yahoo News

ICC Failure ‘Spells Doom’
Despite this setback, African countries must not quit the International Criminal Court as the continent is “the biggest violator currently of human rights”, the ex-prime minister said. War crimes judges dropped cases against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the end of 2014, and against Deputy President William Ruto last week. More than 1300 people died and about 600000 others were left homeless after disputed elections in 2007 in Kenya’s worst wave of violence since independence from Britain in 1963. But the ICC said it was forced to declare the defendants had no case to answer because of a “relentless” campaign of witness intimidation as well as Nairobi’s refusal to co-operate, a charge that Kenya denies. “This decision spells doom for the international justice system and fight against impunity,” Odinga – who was declared the runner-up in the 2007 vote – said during a visit to Paris. Times Live

Climate Change Hits Hard in Zambia, an African Success Story
Even as drought and the effects of climate change grew visible across this land, the Kariba Dam was always a steady, and seemingly limitless, source of something rare in Africa: electricity so cheap and plentiful that Zambia could export some to its neighbors. The power generated from the Kariba — one of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams, in one of the world’s largest artificial lakes — contributed to Zambia’s political stability and helped turn its economy into one of the fastest growing on the continent. But today, as a severe drought magnified by climate change has cut water levels to record lows, the Kariba is generating so little juice that blackouts have crippled the nation’s already hurting businesses. After a decade of being heralded as a vanguard of African growth, Zambia, in a quick, mortifying letdown, is now struggling to pay its own civil servants and has reached out to the International Monetary Fund for help. The New York Times

Stalking Poachers With High-Tech Cameras and Old-Fashioned Smarts
There’s a stealthy nighttime battle taking place on the African savannah. It’s a place where poachers stalk their prey — the animals that graze there. And they, the poachers, are in turn stalked by rangers trying to bring them in. Now those rangers are trying out some new equipment using the kind of technology pioneered by the military. On an evening ride in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, park ranger Martine Cheruiyot hoists a 20-pound gray tube and screws it on top of a jeep. It looks a bit like an X-ray machine in a dentist’s office. But this giant can read thermal waves — it sees a person’s body heat a mile away.  NPR



Photo: Adam Jones