Media Review for December 4, 2015

Suspected U.S. Air Strike Targets Islamist Militants in Somalia
Share on Twitter The Somali army said the U.S. carried out an air strike on a southern Somalia town where a resident said Islamist-militant fighters from the al-Shabaab group are active. The town of Kuunyo-Barrow, about 330 kilometers (205 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, was rocked by two explosions in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Sharifo Enow, a resident, said in a phone interview. One blast occured at a gas station used by militants, and another on the outskirts of town, he said. “We believe that a U.S. air strike hit al-Shabaab targets in Kuunyo-Barrow,” Lieutenant-Colonel Mohamed Nur Hiirey said in a phone interview from the nearby town of Barawe. “We do not know exactly who was targeted in the attack. Further details are sketchy because the area is controlled by the militants.”  Bloomberg

Somali Journalist Killed in Car Bombing
A Somali journalist was killed when a bomb exploded under her car in Mogadishu on Thursday, colleagues said. Hindiyo Haji Mohamed, a journalist with the national television station, SNTV, was returning home from university when the bomb detonated. She later died of her wounds. Mohamed’s late husband, also a journalist with the same television station, was killed in a suicide attack on a Mogadishu restaurant in 2012. “Hindiyo died at the hospital of the serious injuries she sustained, we are very sorry about her death,” said Abdirahin Ise Ado, director of Radio Mogadishu. “We condemn the killing… she was dedicated to serving her county and the people,” said Minister for Information Mohamed Abdi Heyr Mareye in a statement. News 24

Egypt’s State of Repression
The Obama administration continues to provide $1.3 billion in annual military aid to the Egyptian regime of Abdel Fatah al-Sissi on the grounds that it is a necessary if unsavory ally in the fight against the Islamic State, which has established an affiliate on the Sinai Peninsula. But the harsh repression pursued by Mr. Sissi, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians in the Sinai, is strengthening rather than weakening terrorist groups and leading to a steady decline in security — as evidenced by the recent downing of a Russian airliner in the region . Now a prominent Egyptian journalist has been arrested for making that point. Ismail Alexandrani , a researcher and writer on the Sinai who has collaborated with think tanks in the United States, France and Germany, was arrested when he returned to Egypt on Sunday. After holding and interrogating him for two days, prosecutors ordered him detained on charges of belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood and “disseminating false news,” a charge the regime uses to silence critical journalists. The Washington Post

Egypt Court Orders Retrial of Brotherhood Head, 36 Others
Egypt’s top court on Thursday ordered a retrial of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, overturning a death sentence for Islamist protest violence, a judicial official and a lawyer said. Thirty-six co-defendants who were condemned to death or life in prison by a lower court will be retried along with Badie, who has also been sentenced to death in a different case. They had been found guilty of plotting unrest from an “operations room” in a Cairo protest camp in the months after the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. The convictions were appealed before the Court of Cassation, which on Thursday overturned them and ordered a retrial. “The ruling concerns all 37 defendants who are behind bars. Twelve of them including Badie had been sentenced to death” by the lower court, defence lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsud told AFP. Badie’s co-defendants include US-Egyptian citizen Mohamed Soltan, who had been sentenced to life in prison.  AFP on Yahoo News

DRC urged to Respect Right to Protest
A vocal human rights group urged the Democratic Republic of Congo government on Thursday to guarantee people’s right to protest, highlighting mounting tension ahead of next year’s presidential elections. “Freedoms of association, of peaceful gathering and of demonstration are fundamental guaranteed rights,” said the Congolese Action for Access to Justice (ACAJ) group. “The exercise of these freedoms … cannot be considered an offence,” an ACAJ statement said. The plea came a day after Dr Congo’s public prosecutor Flory Kabange Numbi warned people “who call on the population to take to the streets” that they face “penalties provided for by the law” under Article 64 of the constitution. News 24

How Congo’s President is Trying to Flout the Constitution and Stay in Power
In November 2016, Congo is scheduled to hold presidential elections — at least, according to the constitution. However, this constitution has increasingly been challenged by incumbent President Joseph Kabila, as it constitutes a stumbling block to his continued efforts to stay in power. Congo’s 2006 constitution limits a president’s tenure to two popularly elected five-year terms. His time in office is supposed to come to an end in November. This struggle is important for more than one reason: the constitution was established after the years-long struggle against the Mobutu dictatorship, and constitutes a check against a return to these practices. It is the result of several decades of efforts to introduce the rule of law against the arbitrariness of personal rule, in tune with a similar movement in other African countries. The Washington Post

Rwandan Bid for Kagame Third Term Undermines Democracy: EU
Rwanda’s push to change the constitution and allow President Paul Kagame to serve a third term in power undermines democratic principles, the European Union warned late Thursday. The Rwandan senate last month passed a constitutional amendment that reduces presidential terms from seven to five years and maintains the two-term limit but makes an exception for Kagame, allowing him to run for a third seven-year term in 2017 at the end of which the new rules come into force. The amendment must still go to a national referendum, but is expected to pass easily. “The adoption of provisions that can apply only to one individual weakens the credibility of the constitutional reform process, as it undermines the principle of democratic change of government,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement. BBC

Regional Mediation Key to Preventing Burundi War: U.S. Envoy
Burundi is on the brink of civil war and will need regional mediation to establish a peace process between the government and opposition to avert a new conflict, a U.S. envoy said on Thursday. Burundi, which emerged from a 12-year civil war a decade ago, began spiraling into chaos in April when Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would seek a third term sparked months of protests in the capital Bujumbura and a failed coup. Nkurunziza won a disputed election in July. Thomas Perriello, the U.S. Special Envoy for Africa’s Great Lakes region, said in an interview that Burundi is “facing a real possibility of civil war,” though there is still “a window, no matter how small, to get a peace process going.” “The most urgent thing is a regionally-mediated dialogue that will deal with the crisis itself,” he said. Reuters

EU Aid to Burundi at Stake in Tuesday Talks
Strife-torn Burundi’s human rights record comes under review in crunch talks with the EU on Tuesday that could see the bloc suspend aid to the impoverished central African nation, a spokeswoman said. The European Union is the top aid donor for Burundi which is in turmoil after President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term in a vote the opposition said was illegal. A European Commission spokeswoman gave no details of the talks but Brussels had said previously it would invoke as invoking the Cotonou agreement if its terms are breached. The Cotonou agreement is the framework for the 28-nation EU’s economic and development ties with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, setting the rules for mutual cooperation including the promotion of human rights. “The objective of the talks is to find a solution acceptable to all the parties and identify the measures to take to redress non-respect of the accord,” it said. AFP on Yahoo News

27 Muslims on Trial for Apostasy in Sudan
Some 27 Sudanese Muslims are standing trial in a Khartoum court accused of apostasy, risking the death penalty if they are convicted, their lawyer told AFP on Thursday. The men are accused of taking the Koran as the sole source of religious legitimacy and rejecting other Islamic texts. “The court in Kalakla in south Khartoum has started the trial of 27 defendants brought before it under Article 126 of Sudanese criminal law, apostasy from Islam,” defence lawyer Ahmed Ali Ahmed told AFP by telephone. If convicted of apostasy, the defendants could face the death penalty under the Sharia Islamic law that has been in place in Sudan since 1983. They are also charged with disturbing the public order, Ahmed said. News 24

Poor in Guinea, but Making a Living From Crisp New Banknotes
The euro is slipping, the American dollar is holding steady and the world’s new digital currency, Bitcoin, is trying to find its foothold. But on a recent sunny afternoon along a main thoroughfare in this busy capital city, the market for stiff new Guinean francs was hopping. “Hello, Madame!” a group of men cried out as they stood along a busy roadway with large stacks of shrink-wrapped Guinean francs tucked under their armpits and stuffed into their back pockets. Guineans like their francs crisp and clean for handing out on special occasions, and that has created demand for new paper money that a cadre of young men, who would otherwise probably be jobless, are eager to serve. Ibrahim Kamera, 29, and his friends make a living selling brand new bills.  The New York Times

Attempts to Muzzle Nigeria’s Social Media
This week, Nigeria’s senators moved a bill designed to muzzle free speech on social media one step closer to becoming law. The proposed law could affect an estimated 15 million plus Nigerians who use social media, not to mention the doubtless high numbers of Nigerians who send text messages. The draft bill to “Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith” specifically targets users of social and electronic media. It passed its second reading in Nigeria’s Senate on Tuesday, and is now due to go to committee, where it will be further studied. If passed into law, it will restrict freedom of expression and a free press, which are protected by Section 39 of Nigeria’s constitution. Human Rights Watch

Displaced Nigerians Prepare to Leave Camps, Go Home, But Fear Violence
More than 100,000 people uprooted by violence and living in camps in northeast Nigeria are set to return home soon, but many fear for their safety and ability to rebuild their lives, aid agency staff said on Thursday. The Nigerian government plans to close in the coming months camps housing 150,000 displaced people in Borno and Adamawa states as security improves in the north, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The army has this year recaptured much of the territory seized by Boko Haram in its six-year campaign to carve out an Islamic state in the northeast, but the militants have since struck back with a surge of deadly raids and suicide bombings. Most people living in camps want to return home but are worried about the threat of attacks and lack confidence in the military’s ability to protect them, said Stéphanie Daviot of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).  Reuters

Ceasefire Violations Cast Shadow on Fragile South Sudan Peace Deal
Fighting continues in South Sudan, casting a shadow on the prospects of the country’s fragile peace deal. Under the accord, signed in August in Juba, a government of national unity should have been agreed in September. Ceasefire violations are a sign the two sides are jockeying for position as the transition slowly and belatedly gets off the mark, the UN was told on Wednesday. “What we are witnessing on the ground is a continuation of the fighting to consolidate positions before the beginning of the transition,” UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council. Ladsous made clear that the peace effort was ultimately in the hands of South Sudan’s leaders.  RFI

Nearly 2,000 Boat Migrants Rescued off Libya
Nearly 2,000 migrants have been rescued off the Libyan coast in 11 separate operations, the Italian navy said Thursday, after a break in bad weather sparked fresh attempts at the perilous Mediterranean crossing. The migrants were plucked from eight dinghies and three boats by the Italian coastguard, the navy, a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) boat and two vessels taking part in the EU’s Operation Sophia, which patrols the sea for people smugglers. The rescue followed a lull in arrivals caused by bad weather, during which only around 400 migrants were picked up in over 10 days — a startlingly low number compared to the summer months, when an average of 760 people a day were rescued. The Italian coastguard said the rescues took place after the command centre in Rome received calls for help by satellite phone from the migrant vessels. AFP on Yahoo News

Algeria Ex-presidential Guards Head Gets 3 years
A military court has sentenced the former head of Algeria’s presidential guard to three years in jail over a shooting at President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s residence, a security source said on Thursday. General Mejdoub Kehal, better known as Djamel, was tried behind closed doors over the incident in July at the residence in Zeralda, 30km west of Algiers. Immediately after the sentencing on Wednesday night, the defence counsel called for the case to be referred to Algeria’s cassation court. The general was released pending the judicial process, as military sentences in Algeria cannot be appealed. A second senior official, a colonel whose identity was not immediately known, was sentenced to three years in prison. News 24

Algeria’s Bouteflika in France for ‘Medical Tests’
Algeria’s ailing veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika travelled to France on Thursday for “regular medical tests”, his office announced. It said in a statement that Bouteflika, 78, was making “a short, private visit during which he will undergo regular medical tests by his doctors”, without specifying the location in France. Bouteflika has ruled the oil-rich North African state since 1999, but concerns have been growing over how much longer he can stay in power. He won re-election last year but appeared only once during the campaign, in a wheelchair after suffering a stroke in 2013 that has affected his movement and speech. Reacting to doubts raised by prominent public figures over the aging head of state’s abilities, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal insisted in November that Bouteflika was in full control of running Algeria. News 24

Ghana’s Prosperity Hinges On Next Year’s Election
Since its transition to multi-party democracy in 1992, Ghana has been a success story, and it has been a natural assumption of those who follow African development that Ghana will continue to prosper. However, Ghanaian prosperity hinges on maintaining a successful democracy, and in the coming year Ghana will face a difficult series of political and economic challenges. Much like other former stars of African development and growth, Ghana risks falling from grace unless some steps are taken. Historically, Ghanaian governance was a strength. A democracy since 1992, Ghana has experienced two strong presidents in Jerry Rawlings and John Kufuor. Rawlings originally came to power in a coup in 1981, but then successfully managed the democratic transition winning two contested elections in 1992 and 1996. President Rawlings of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), a former air force second lieutenant, set a high bar for Ghanaian presidents; in beginning his leadership, he put an end to a series of violent coups that had lasted over a decade. President Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), elected in 2001, participated in the first peaceful transfer of power between democratically elected leaders since 1957. Since Kufuor left office in 2009, two presidents have been elected – John Atta Mills and John Dramani Mahama, both of the NDC. Forbes

China Pledges $60bn to Develop Africa
China has announced $60bn (£40bn) of assistance and loans for Africa to help with the development of the continent. President Xi Jinping said the package would include zero-interest loans as well as scholarships and training for thousands of Africans. The Chinese leader made the announcement at a major summit between China and Africa in Johannesburg. South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma welcomed the deepening partnership with Africa’s biggest trading partner. He said that China and the African continent each made up a third of the world’s population, bringing with it the possibility of new markets and production possibilities. BBC

Morocco Sends 1,500 Soldiers to Participate in Ground Operations in Yemen
According to Moroccan daily Assabah in its Friday issue, Morocco has sent 1,500 elite soldiers to Yemen to participate in the Arab Coalition’s ground military offensive, which will be carried out under the command of Saudi Arabia. “1,500 soldiers who took part in the African Lion 2015, during the Moroccan-American maneuvers held last May in Tan-Tan, will take part in the Arab Coalition’s ground offensive battle against the Houthi rebels,” Assabah said. According to the same source, a contingent of Moroccan military police (gendarmerie) is expected to arrive in the coming days in King Khaled Air Base in Saudi Arabia. “The first contingent expected in Saudi Arabia consists of elite units of the military police. “There are 1,500 of paratroopers who have been specially trained recently in Tan-Tan, for a ground intervention in Yemen,” Assabah added.  Morocco World News

Ethiopia Rail System Reflects Growing Ties with China
Taxis and buses were once the only way to get across this teeming, ancient city of 4 million residents. But recently a light rail system provided by a new financial angel — China — is transforming how Ethiopians commute. “This is a new Ethiopia,” said Mahlet Adem, who owns a jewelry shop at the Shiro Meda textile market in Addis Ababa. “The economy of this country has grown following the completion of two rail lines. Moving goods from one place to another is nowadays very easy.” Ethiopia is only the second sub-Saharan country after South Africa to lay down an electrified rail network. The $475 million joint venture between Ethiopia and China opened in September. Slated for completion in 2019, the planned 22-mile-long system will carry 60,000 passengers per hour to 49 cities and towns across the capital region. At 27 cents per ride, the light rail is already spurring growth. A taxi ride across town costs around $2.50. Bus rides are 90 cents. Stations have become hubs for commerce. The Washington Times

Google Launches Wi-fi Network in Kampala, Uganda
Google has launched its first wi-fi network in Uganda’s capital Kampala, as part of a project to broaden access to affordable high-speed internet. The company is making the broadband wireless network available to local internet providers, who will then charge customers for access. The web giant says the network is now live in 120 key locations in Kampala. Official statistics show Uganda has about 8.5 million internet users, making up 23% of the population.  BBC

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