Media Review for August 13, 2015

Chad Leader: Boko Haram Has New Leader Ready to Negotiate
Boko Haram has a new commander willing to negotiate with Nigeria’s new government, Chad’s President Idriss Deby announced Wednesday, fueling speculation the extremist group’s previous commander has been killed. Rumors of the death of Abubakar Shekau have grown since the leader has not appeared for months in videos broadcast by Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic militant group. “There is somebody apparently called Mahamat Daoud who is said to have replaced Abubakar Shekau, and he wants to negotiate with the Nigerian government,” Deby said in comments broadcast by Chad state radio. He did not say where the information came from. AP on Stars and Stripes

Nigeria to Prosecute Corrupt Former Officials
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari says the prosecution of former public officials who stole public funds and stashed them in overseas accounts will begin in a few weeks. Buhari made the statement after he met with members of the Peace Committee led by former military leader General Abdulsalami Abubakar at the presidential villa in the capital, Abuja. According to one member, the committee advised the president to ensure the legal process is thoroughly followed in the much anticipated trial. Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu says the prosecution of those accused of financial malfeasance forms part of Buhari’s promise ahead of the recent presidential election to weed out graft. VOA

Nigeria’s Addiction to the Death Sentence
As much of the rest of the world geared up to celebrate winter holidays in December last year, a group of 54 soldiers formerly deployed to fight Nigerian Islamists stood in front of a court martial in Abuja. Among them, one young man listened in shock as the court found him guilty of mutiny and sentenced him to death by firing squad. “We did not fire on anybody. And we didn’t threaten anybody. They are just punishing us for an unknown sin,” he explained over the phone from Lagos, where the soldiers are being held in military detention. Their only “rebellion”, he said, was to ask for weapons before undertaking an offensive against Boko Haram fighters who have caused the deaths of nearly 15 000 people during six-years of fighting in Nigeria’s northeast. After almost eight months in custody, their panic is rising. Mail and Guardian

Nigerian Jailed 22 Years in US For Al-Qaeda Support
A 35-year-old Nigerian, who once wrote rap lyrics for Al-Qaeda in Yemen, was sentenced to 22 years in a US prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to terror charges. Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi, who was extradited to New York from Nigeria, was jailed by Judge John Gleeson in a US federal court in Brooklyn, prosecutors announced. He was originally indicted in the United States on four counts but pleaded guilty in April 2014 to providing and conspiring to provide support to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). He traveled to Yemen after “underwear bomber” and fellow Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a US airliner on Christmas Day 2009 with explosives stuffed down his pants. AFP on Yahoo News

Guinea Bissau’s President Dissolves Government in Row With PM
Guinea Bissau’s President Jose Mario Vaz has dissolved the government because of a growing rift with the prime minister, a presidential decree announced late on Wednesday. Tensions, fed by overlapping duties in Guinea Bissau’s semi-presidential system, have grown between the president and Domingos Simoes Pereira since civilian rule was restored to the unstable West African nation last year following a 2012 coup. Former colonial ruler Portugal warned earlier this week that the row risked sparking a serious political crisis that could endanger much needed development assistance. Donors pledged more than 1 billion euros ($1.11 billion) in March to support the country after last June’s elections. Since 1980, Guinea Bissau has undergone nine coups or attempted coups. Reuters

Six Years after Murder, Guinea-Bissau Autocrat Makes a Posthumous Comeback
A mystery has hung over this sweltering West African capital for six years, but not because no one could solve it. Many people have an answer, though they will not say so in public: Who killed Nino? Everyone here knew President João Bernardo Vieira by that nickname, a nom de guerre from his country’s fight for independence from Portugal. He was a tempestuous national hero with a checkered history, both a plotter and a victim of coups d’état in a country that has been a global leader in coups per capita. And on March 2, 2009, he was shot and then hacked to pieces with machetes. Witnesses saw soldiers from a well-known barracks leaving the scene, but with Mr. Vieira’s enemies in the military dominating the country after his death, the assailants were never identified or prosecuted. It swiftly became taboo to talk openly about the brutal killing. The New York Times

U.S. Urges Burundi to Resume Political Dialogue with Opponents
The U.S. has urged Burundi’s opposing parties to restart a political dialogue aimed at preventing months of unrest from escalating. More than 200,000 have been displaced by turmoil that began when the ruling party in April picked President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third mandate, sparking street protests and a failed coup attempt. Talks to end the political crisis broke down before the elections in July that delivered a victory to Nkurunziza. The U.S. says the polls weren’t credible. “We think the political dialogue must be open and inclusive,” Thomas Perriello, a U.S. special envoy for the region, said in a phone briefing on Wednesday. Forming a government of national unity is an important step, he said. Bloomberg

In Burundi, Simmering Violence May Herald New Civil War
It started as street protests three months ago, with furious citizens demonstrating against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza’s now successful bid for a third term in power. But while the demonstrators who blocked city streets in daily protests are now gone, analysts warn the nature of violence has shifted — and some fear they may have already seen the opening shots in a new civil war. In Africa’s troubled Great Lakes region, an area with a grim history of massacres and war, “a new rebellion is being born before our eyes”, a Burundian analyst said. The UN Security Council on Monday expressed “deep concern on the political and security” situation. BD Live

Burundi Undermining Key Pillar of Peace Deal – Envoys
Top envoys warned on Wednesday that Burundi’s government showed a “disturbing intent” on scrapping ethnic quotas in positions of power, a key pillar of a peace deal that ended a 13-year war. The diplomats, from the United Nations, African Union, European Union, Belgium and United States, called on all sides to “recommit to a transparent, inclusive, and comprehensive political dialogue”. Violence began in April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza launched his now successful bid for a third term in power. In mid-May, rebel generals attempted a coup, which failed, but they have since launched a rebellion. News 24

Encouraged By Burundi’s Example, Other African Leaders Plot to Overstay Their Welcome
As the political crisis in Burundi unfolded, doomsday predictions focused on two major dangers. The first was that Burundi would unravel in an orgy of ethnic violence. Comparisons were drawn with the Rwandan genocide. Despite President Pierrre Nkurunziza’s intransigence, and the violence which both preceded and followed his re-election in July, the situation has yet to become that bad – although it remains extremely unstable. The second danger was about precedents. The argument went something like this: if Nkurunziza was allowed to get away with a third term in office – a term deemed unconstitutional by almost everyone except his ruling party and his tame constitutional court – then it would send a strong message to other African leaders that they could do the same. It would, in effect, legitimise leaders seeking to overstay their welcome. Daily Maverick

UN Chief Sacks C.Africa Mission Head over Peacekeeper Sex Abuse Claims
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced Wednesday he had fired the mission chief in the Central African Republic, declaring “enough is enough” after a string of allegations of child sex abuse by peacekeepers. Babacar Gaye of Senegal “tendered his resignation at my request,” Ban told reporters at the global body’s headquarters in New York. The move followed fresh accusations that a peacekeeper from the MINUSCA force had raped a 12-year-old girl, months after similar claims were made against Moroccan and Burundian troops in the unit. AFP on Yahoo News

Islamic State Egypt Affiliate Says Beheads Croatian Hostage: SITE
Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate published a photograph it said showed the beheaded body of a Croatian hostage it had threatened to kill last week, the SITE monitoring service said on Wednesday. Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the picture, which carried a caption that said: “killing of the Croatian hostage, due to his country’s participation in the war against Islamic State, after the deadline expired … “. If confirmed, it would be the first known beheading of a Western hostage held by Sinai Province, the Egyptian group which changed its name from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis after it pledged allegiance to Islamic State. A spokesman at the Egyptian Interior Ministry’s press office said: “We have seen this news on line but are currently making our own checks. If we confirm that it is indeed true, we will inform the media through a statement.” Reuters

Two Militant Groups Make Dueling Claims to Deadly Hotel Siege in Mali
Two different Islamist militant groups have now claimed responsibility for a hotel siege over the weekend in central Mali that killed 13 people, including five UN peacekeepers. On Tuesday, an associate of Sheik Amadou Koufa — a radical Malian preacher who recently formed the Macina Liberation Front (FLM) — told AFP that his group was responsible for the hotel attack in Sevare, as well as a blast on Monday that killed three Malian soldiers when their vehicle hit an IED. “The hand of Allah has guided the mujahedeen of Sevare against the enemies of Islam. Fifteen kafirs [infidels] and their accomplices were killed,” Koufa’s associate Souleyman Mohamed Kennen reportedly said during a phone interview. Kennen said Koufa had given “his blessing for the attack” on the hotel, and warned of further action against “the enemies of Islam.” VICE

Obama to Host Anti-IS Coalition Summit
US President Barack Obama will host a summit in New York next month of leaders of the international coalition fighting Islamic State jihadists in Syria and Iraq, diplomats said. The summit on countering violent extremism on September 29 comes one year after Obama vowed to crush IS during his United Nations speech. Since then, the jihadists have captured territory in Syria and Iraq and gained a foothold in Libya, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, with alliances as far afield as Nigeria’s Boko Haram. On Wednesday, IS released a picture on Twitter of a Croatian hostage abducted in Egypt, who apparently was the latest victim of the group’s horrific beheadings. AFP on Yahoo News

Confusion Surrounds Alleged Resignation of Libyan PM
Libya’s internationally recognised prime minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, said in a live TV interview Tuesday that he would resign, but the move was immediately denied by a government spokesman. Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said in a live televised interview that he would resign after the station’s host confronted him with questions from angry citizens who criticised his government for failing to bring security to the country, which remains riven by rival militias including the Islamic State group. But government spokesman Hatem al-Arabi quickly told Reuters that Thinni would be staying on, adding that the premier had only meant he would be willing to quit if the people demanded it. France 24

S. Sudan’s Top Rival Leaders to Join Peace Talks on Thursday
Top South Sudanese rival leaders in the country’s 20-month long civil war are expected to join direct negotiations between their delegations on Thursday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, opposition’s spokesperson has confirmed. President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, turned armed opposition leader, Riek Machar, have reportedly been called to Addis Ababa by the mediation of the East African regional bloc, IGAD, to join the talks as the 17 August deadline for them to sign a final peace agreement approaches. Sudan Tribune

At Least 20 000 Infected in Southeast DRC Measles Outbreak
A measles outbreak in the copper-mining Katanga province in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed 315 people and infected at least 20 000, the United Nations said on Wednesday. Hundreds more deaths have likely not been documented due to difficulties accessing remote areas, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a draft report on the province’s worst outbreak of the disease since 2010-11. “The measles epidemic in the province of Katanga is only worsening and gaining ground,” said the report seen by Reuters. News 24

Somalia: Scores of Al Shabab Members Killed by Somalia, AU Forces
The African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) claimed in an online statement that at least 98 militants were killed in a military offensive against Al Shabaab. The Somalia army, along with African Union troops launched military offensive that forced Al Shabaab to withdraw its militants from several towns in south and central Somalia The military operation was participated by Ethiopian helicopters, serving under African Union mission for Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers, battling Al Shabaab. The Al Shabaab militants were driven out of several towns and urban areas in Gedo, Bay and Bakool regions during military offensive against its held cities. allAfrica

Afghan Diplomat Named UN Mission Chief in Liberia
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday named Afghan diplomat Farid Zarif to head the UN mission in Liberia, as the West African country struggles to recover from the devastating Ebola crisis. Zarif, who is currently the head of the UN mission in Kosovo, will replace Karin Landgren of Sweden, who was the UN envoy in Liberia for the past three years. Liberia has been the hardest-hit country in the Ebola outbreak that began in Guinea in December 2013 and has claimed nearly 11,300 lives in West Africa. Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May, but six new cases last month raised fears that the virus had not been completely beaten back. AFP

Sudan Minister Says Saudi Made $1 Bn Deposit in Central Bank
Saudi Arabia has deposited $1 billion in the central bank of sanctions-hit Sudan over the past two months, the state minister for finance said Wednesday. “We received a deposit for the amount of $1 billion (893 million euros) from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in two instalments, $500 million this month and $500 million last month,” Abdul Rahman Dirar told a press conference. Dirar did not elaborate. In April, the finance ministry announced that Qatar would make a $1 billion deposit to its central bank to boost its foreign exchange reserves, although no further statements were made about that. France 24

Migrants Rescued by Italy Say Up to 50 Missing after Boat Sinks
Up to 50 migrants went missing after a large rubber dinghy sank in the Mediterranean Sea, Italian rescuers said on Wednesday, while more than 1,500 were picked up from other vessels in the past 24 hours. The Mediterranean has become the world’s most deadly border zone for migrants. More than 2,000 migrants and refugees have died so far this year in attempts to reach Europe by boat, compared with 3,279 deaths during the whole of last year, the International Organization for Migration said last week. An Italian navy helicopter on Tuesday spotted a rubber boat that appeared to be deflating, the navy said, and dropped life rafts to the migrants on board. The boat then sank, it said. Reuters

Moroccan King Set to Seal Submarine Deal During Moscow Visit
Morocco is expected to conclude negotiations to obtain the country’s first submarine from Russia during King Mohammed VI’s upcoming visit to Moscow. According to reports, Morocco and Russia are close to reaching a deal on the price tag of the Russian-made Amur 1650 submarine. Negotiations have been postponed several times since the deal was proposed in 2013. “The forthcoming visit of His Majesty the King has a historical and strategic importance,” said Moroccan ambassador to Russia Abdelkader Lachheb, according to Sputnik. The date of the trip this year has not been announced. “It is designed to give a strong impetus to the development and quality of bilateral relations and to deepen the strategic partnership between Russia and Morocco,” added the Moroccan envoy. World Tribune

GPS Trackers in Fake Elephant Tusks Reveal Ivory Smuggling Route
Some 30,000 African elephants die each year as a result of poaching, and many of their ivory tusks wind up hundreds or thousands of miles away. Investigative journalist Bryan Christy wanted to track the route of the poached tusks, so he commissioned a taxidermist to create two fake ivory tusks, which he embedded with specially designed tracking devices. “These tusks … operate really like additional investigators, like members of our team, and almost like a robocop,” Christy tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. Christy and his team tracked the smugglers as they transported the tusks north from Congo’s Garamba National Park to Sudan. Frequently tusks are traded for arms or medicine in Sudan’s Darfur region, but ultimately, Christy says, much of the ivory winds up in China. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones