Media Review for August 7, 2015

Mali Hotels ‘come Under Attack’ in Sevare
Gunmen on motorbikes have attacked at least two hotels in the central Malian town of Sevare, witnesses have told the BBC. Residents are now hiding in their homes and it is not clear if there have been any casualties. “We heard someone shouting into a loudhailer that everyone should go inside. Then we heard machine guns,” one resident said. Sevare has an air force base and some UN peacekeepers are in the town. BBC

Up To 200 People Still Unaccounted for after Migrant Boat Sinks off Libya
About 200 migrants are still unaccounted after a boat thought to be carrying up to 600 passengers capsized 15 miles off the coast of Libya. Rescue crews were able to save 373 people after the disaster on Wednesday, according to the latest assessment by the Italian coastguard, while 25 were confirmed dead. The search for survivors continued throughout the night, with five vessels patrolling the area of the disaster for signs of life, but none were found, according to Migrant Report, which is closely following the situation. Most of the passengers were believed to be from Syria, though their nationalities have not yet been confirmed. The Guardian

Coffins, Flowers as Shipwreck Survivors and Dead Arrive in Italy
Survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Libya, in which some 200 migrants were feared drowned, arrived in Sicily Thursday, as the Irish crew that rescued them described battling to save lives. Flower-topped coffins containing the bodies of the recovered dead were loaded into black funeral vans. Save the Children said three of those who died were “very young” children. The fishing boat, believed to have been carrying more than 600 people, ran into difficulty about 15 nautical miles off Libya on Wednesday and tipped over when rescuers neared, after frantic migrants rushed to one side in their desperation to be saved. AFP on Yahoo News

EU Not Showing ‘political Will’ over Migration Crisis
One NGO helping to save shipwrecked migrants in the Mediterranean Sea is the medical charity Doctors Without Borders. DW has been talking to the head of their German section, Florian Westphal. DW: What does the tragedy tell us about search and rescue capabilities off the Mediterranean coast? Florian Westphal: It is still not sufficient. There have been improvements since early May, but obviously improvements from a very low level because before May there was virtually nothing in existence dedicated to search and rescue. Now we have a lot more ships operational in the area, but unfortunately and tragically that doesn’t seem to be enough. Deutsche Welle

Libyan Force Was Lesson in Limits of U.S. Power
It was Ali Zeidan’s first official visit to Washington, and the then-Libyan prime minister had an urgent request: Help us build a new military force, he implored American officials, that can solidify a fledgling government’s legitimacy and buy us time to put our country on track. Back home, things were going badly. By early 2013, a year and a half after Libyans poured into the streets and declared an end to Moammar Gaddafi’s 40-year rule, the post-revolution dream had veered violently off course. After widespread looting of Gaddafi’s arsenals, the country was awash in heavy weapons. Militias, reluctant to give up power, had begun to turn their guns on one another. A separatist movement was gaining steam in the country’s east. And in 2012, Islamist militants had killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi. The Washington Post

U.N. To Host Libya Talks On Monday In Push For Unity Government
The United Nations will convene a new round of Libya talks on Monday in Geneva in a push to persuade warring parties to agree on a unity government and end the violence gripping the oil producer, the U.N. said on Thursday. There are many challenges to ending Libya’s armed conflict, four years after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. Last month, some factions signed an initial U.N.-sponsored deal to form a unity government, but delegates from a parliament controlling the capital Tripoli stayed away. An armed alliance known as Libya Dawn took over Tripoli and declared its own government and parliament a year ago, driving out the internationally recognized premier. Reuters

South Sudan’s Warring Sides Resume Talks Under Sanctions Threat
South Sudan’s rival factions resumed peace talks on Thursday to end 20 months of bloodshed, under growing international pressure and the threat of further sanctions if an Aug. 17 deadline is not met. Fighting broke out in the world’s youngest country at the end of 2013 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels allied with his former deputy Riek Machar, reopening ethnic fault lines that pit Kiir’s Dinka people against Machar’s Nuer forces. Several rounds of talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa have failed to break the deadlock, with both sides violating repeated ceasefire deals. Reuters

A Bigger, Better Suez Canal, But Is it Necessary?
AS A feat of brawn it is impressive. In just one year, a third of the time engineers wanted, Egypt has shifted enough sand to allow more and bigger ships to pass more swiftly through a crucial artery of global trade. As a political stunt it is big, too. Since coming to power in July 2013 President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has offered an unspoken bargain: in exchange for shrinking political freedoms he would bring stability and progress. Small wonder his government declared a holiday for the lavish opening on August 6th of the New Suez Canal, as it dubs its project; to bolster pride in the achievement, its religious-affairs ministry instructed mosque sermons to cite the Prophet Muhammad’s digging of a trench to defend Medina from attackers. In economic terms, however, the expansion of the Suez Canal is a questionable endeavour at a time when the government is struggling to provide adequate services to its citizens. True, the channel is a significant source of revenue. Last year it pumped $5.5 billion into an economy weakened by years of turmoil. But both this sum and the number of ships transiting the canal have been flat since 2008. The Economist

Sisi’s Regime is A Gift To the Islamic State
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power on a classic strongman platform. He was no liberal or democrat — and didn’t claim to be but promised stability and security at a time when most Egyptians had grown exhausted from the uncertainties of the Arab Spring. Increasingly, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration seems to accept this premise. In the span of the past week, the United States has delivered eight F-16s to Egypt, relaunched the U.S.-Egypt “strategic dialogue,” and said it would resume “Bright Star,” the joint military exercise suspended after the military coup of July 3, 2013. Sisi’s raison d’être of security and stability, however, has been undermined with each passing month. By any measurable standard, Egypt is more vulnerable to violence and insurgency today than it had been before. On July 1, as many as 64 soldiers were killed in coordinated attacks by Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate, which calls itself the Province of Sinai. It was the worst death toll in decades, and came just days after the country’s chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, was assassinated. Foreign Policy

Shallow 5.6 Magnitude Quake Hits Congo Near Rwanda: USGS
A 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo early on Friday local time at a relatively shallow depth of 6.2 miles (10 km), the U.S. Geological Survey reported on Thursday. The quake struck 24 miles (39 km) north of Bukavu, Congo, not far from the border with Rwanda, at 3:25 a.m. local time on Friday (0125 GMT), USGS said. The USGS initially reported the quake as magnitude 5.8. Reuters

South Sudan Says Split Within Rebel Leadership May Delay Peace Agreement
Leading members of the South Sudan’s governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and government officials on Thursday claimed that an imminent division within the leadership of the rebel group led by former vice president, Riek Machar, could delay signing of a peace agreement to end the more the twenty months old conflict, despite resumption of the talks. Presidential advisor on decentralization and intergovernmental linkage, Tor Deng Mawien, told Sudan Tribune on Thursday that the government was getting reports of imminent division in the leadership of the rebels, warning that such development may undermine regional and the international efforts to bring peace to the country. Sudan Tribune

US Envoy Expresses Concern Over Burundi Crisis
The US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa Thomas Perriello has expressed grave concern about the ongoing political and humanitarian crisis in Burundi. Perriello, who just returned from a trip to the region including a visit to Burundi, says there is a need for both the government and its opponents to be committed to negotiations in a bid to resolve the crisis. He says Burundians feel a high level of tension and anxiety due to the ongoing violence. “We are deeply concerned about the political crisis and the humanitarian crisis,” Perriello said. “We still believe there is a path forward, but it has to be one in which all Burundian leaders agree to a political dialogue, and the important leadership that the region has shown, through the East African Community, resumes with some urgency to address a situation where you’ve seen approximately over 200,000 [refugees] already and ongoing sporadic violence.” VOA

Somalia’s Incredible Shrinking Election
It has been nearly half a century since Somalis voted in a genuine popular election. During that time, the troubled wedge of a nation in East Africa has tried “scientific socialism,” clanism, and radical Islamism as it veered from a model of post-independence democracy to archetypal failed state. Each governing ideology had its own way of disenfranchising the masses, and each added a new layer of animosity to a conflict that, over three decades, triggered two famines and scattered more than a million Somalis across the globe. But when a quiet academic named Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was sworn in as president in 2012, it was taken as a sign that Somalia was finally on the road to peace. Elected by the parliament, which in turn was selected by a group of 135 clan elders, Mohamud vowed to complete the country’s transition to democracy by 2016. The next president of Somalia, he pledged in September 2013, would be elected through a process of “one person, one vote.” Foreign Policy

Ice Cream and ATMs: Hope for Mogadishu
Couples are walking leisurely along the rocky shoreline, bathers splash in the waves, young boys kick a ball in the sand. Under a row of shady umbrellas, beachfront restaurants serve seafood and tea. Only four years ago, Lido Beach was a dangerous no-go zone in Somalia’s war-torn capital, Mogadishu. Islamist militant group al-Shabaab partially controlled the city. Violence and bloodshed confined people to their homes. Today, hundreds of families come to relax on Mogadishu’s coastline each weekend. Hotels are being built along the shore and restaurants have opened, while vendors sell ice cream on the beach. News 24

Sierra Leone Frees 13 on Mutiny Charge
A court-martial in Sierra Leone has found 13 soldiers not guilty on charges of mutiny and plotting to overthrow the government. The soldiers, in detention for nearly 2 years, were acquitted and ordered freed on Thursday. Fourteen soldiers were arrested at the Teko Military Barracks in Makeni in August 2013, and were put in maximum security prison for about eight months. All 14 pleaded not guilty to the charges and were denied bail. Their trial began in April 2014 after civil society groups pressed for a trial. The 14th soldier was acquitted and discharged after the prosecution closed its case. News 24

‘Weapons Everywhere’ As Deadly Post-election Violence Rattles Burundi
By day, the streets of Burundi’s capital Bujumbura are filled with the sounds of market traders and the honking horns of traffic in the lakeside city. By night, they echo instead to the rattle of gunfire as the violence unleashed by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s successful bid for a third term in office rumbles on. While the crushing of anti-government demonstrations has restored a superficial normality to Bujumbura — the barricades are torn down, streets cleaned up and the fires put out — behind the veneer lies an abiding fear. “In the day, everything is normal, but after nightfall, the shooting starts. You never know what will happen,” said Thierry, who lives in Cibitoke, a district that witnessed some of the worst of the street violence that has killed around 100 people. France 24

Burundi: Calm Days, Violent Nights
By day, the streets of Burundi’s capital Bujumbura are filled with the sounds of market traders and the honking horns of traffic in the lakeside city. By night, they echo instead to the rattle of gunfire as the violence unleashed by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s successful bid for a third term in office rumbles on. While the crushing of anti-government demonstrations have restored a superficial normality to Bujumbura — the barricades are torn down, streets cleaned up and the fires put out — behind the veneer lies an abiding fear. “In the day, everything is normal, but after nightfall, the shooting starts. You never know what will happen,” said Thierry, who lives in Cibitoke, a district that witnessed some of the worst of the street violence that has killed around 100 people. The East African

Why The Crisis in Burundi Is Tying the African Union in Knots
[…] Whether by coincidence or design, there’s something ominous about the symmetry of these assassination attempts. It’s hard to escape the feeling that they presage a new and disturbing chapter. “Up until now I’ve been resisting the more alarmist interpretations of what’s been going on, but in the last few days the situation is really spinning out of control. These two dramatic and quite shocking incidents are a sign that the violence is likely to escalate,” says Tertsakian. Her fears are echoed by the International Crisis Group’s Thierry Vircoulon. “The re-election of Nkurunziza has put Burundi on the path of war,” he says. “It sent the signal to the opposition that there is nothing left to negotiate and all they can do is to accept his ‘victory’. As a result, the opposition is trying to unite on the political front (with the creation of an opposition coalition in Addis Ababa) and some parts of the opposition have opted for the armed struggle and decided to strike at the top of the Burundian regime’s power system. The change of the pattern of violence, from street demonstrations to targeted assassinations is a clear sign of things to come.” The Guardian

Forgotten Genocide: Namibia’s Quest for Reparations
On July 6, a delegation of Namibian leaders, lawyers, and heads of civic organisations, arrived in Berlin hoping to meet with German President Joachim Gauck, to present him with a petition signed by over 2,000 German public figures including members of the Bundestag, the German national parliament. The document, titled ” Genocide is Genocide “, called on the German government to accept “historical responsibility” for the genocide perpetrated against the Herero and Nama people over a century ago. Germany ruled Namibia from 1884 to 1915. In January 1904, inhabitants of Namibia, the Herero rose up against German rule, and the colonialists – deploying weaponry that would later be used in World War I – responded mercilessly. Al Jazeera

Kenya’s Rampant Corruption is Eating Away at the Very Fabric of Democracy
Last week, Kenya’s highly respected auditor general, Edward Ouko, released an annual audit of government accounts. An uproar immediately followed as the scale of mismanagement of public funds became clear. Only 1.2% of the country’s 2013-14 $10bn (£6.4bn) budget was correctly accounted for. About $600m could not be accounted for at all. The regime of President Uhuru Kenyatta has allowed the most permissive environment for corruption in Kenya’s history. Following the report’s publication, observers were soon speculating about the possibility that a considerable chunk of the missing funds had been pocketed. This is partly because the economy has grown and there is more to “eat”, as corruption is called in Kenya. More eating is being done than at any time since we started trying to measure graft in the 1990s. The Guardian

Chinese in Africa: Soap Sellers and Bridge Builders
What exactly are we referring to when we talk about Chinese labour in Africa? Are we discussing the Asian men in overalls standing on the side of freshly paved roads in the continent’s remotest crannies? Are we musing about the men and women who sell cigarettes and laundry soap to villagers in those same forgotten places? Or are we talking about the “old Chinese” executives who run logistics companies or restaurants or nail bars in South Africa’s big cities? The category is too broad to be considered as a piece, but nonetheless too many editorials and op-eds insist on jamming all Chinese working in Africa into the same taxonomic box. Daily Maverick



Photo: Adam Jones