Media Review for February 16, 2016

Counting Under Way in Key CAR Vote
Voters in Central African Republic have cast their votes in a closely watched presidential election that many hope will usher in stability after years of bloodshed. Two ex-prime ministers – Faustin-Archange Touadera and Anicet-Georges Dologuele – contested Sunday’s presidential run-off which will determine who will be charged with the challenge of restoring peace and reuniting the impoverished nation. Central African Republic was pitched into crisis in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters toppled President Francois Bozize. Christian militias responded to Seleka abuses by attacking the Muslim minority community. One in five Central Africans has fled, either internally or abroad, to escape the violence. Touadera portrayed himself as an anti-corruption stalwart, while Dologuele pledged to revive the economy and draw in investors hesitant until now to exploit significant gold, diamond and uranium deposits.  Al Jazeera

Region on the Watch as Tight Uganda Race Enters Last Mile, with Regional Relations at Stake
Uganda goes to the polls on Thursday February 18, with President Yoweri Museveni in a narrow lead according to recent polls, but with opposition candidate Kizza Besigye taking the race down the wire, the region is watching closely for an outcome that could fundamentally alter the geopolitics of East and Central Africa. President Museveni, who marked 30 years in power last month, has, in that time, become not only the region’s longest-serving leader, but also a key player in economic and political integration as well as military conflicts in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Burundi. The Ugandan leader, who signed the Protocol to re-establish the East African Community (EAC) in 1999 with then presidents Daniel arap Moi of Kenya and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, has made the evolution of the regional economic bloc into a political federation the main goal of his presidency.  The East African

Violent Clashes Stir Tensions Ahead of Uganda Elections
At least one person has been killed in Uganda’s capital Kampala as police clashed with opposition supporters after briefly detaining a top presidential candidate twice as he tried to hold campaign ralies days before the country’s general election. Several people were wounded in the clashes as police fired bullets and tear gas while opposition supporters hurled rocks and erected street barricades in the capital’s Wandegeya suburb, witnesses said according to a Reuters news agency report.. Main opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who heads the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, was held on Monday evening, his second brief detention of the day, after marching with thousands of supporters to a rally ground in Kampala. He was released soon afterwards, a party spokesperson said. Al Jazeera

Uganda’s Museveni Looks to a Fourth Decade in Power
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni once said leaders who “overstayed” in power were the root of Africa’s problems, but 30 years later he is aiming for a fifth term. The 71-year old former rebel leader seized power in 1986, ending years of brutal and murderous rule under Idi Amin and Milton Obote. “Those who say, ‘let him go, let him go’, they need to know that this is not the right time,” Museveni said at a recent campaign rally held ahead of the February 18 election he is expected to win. “This old man who has saved the country, how do you want him to go? How can I go out of a banana plantation I have planted that has started bearing fruits?”  AFP on Yahoo News

Burundian Peacekeeping Abroad Can Fuel Conflict At Home
It may not sound like a reward, being a soldier chosen to fight as a peacekeeper in war-torn Somalia or Central African Republic. But for soldiers from one of the poorest countries in the world, Burundi, it’s seen as an opportunity of a lifetime. Soldiers angle to wear the blue helmet — and to pull an international salary and other benefits, covered by the United Nations. But just how far will soldiers go to obtain a peacekeeping post? Some may be going to troubling extremes. The U.N. has ordered three Burundian peacekeepers posted in the Central African Republic to return to Burundi for human rights abuses committed in their home country. It’s lifted the lid on a disturbing incentive system that begins with how coveted these postings are. Yolande Bouka is a researcher for the Institute for Security Studies based in South Africa. She says U.N. peacekeepers earn at least 10 times the salary they would make as soldiers at home in Burundi. “Even more important for some of the soldiers is the premium they get should they die in action,” she says. “These international missions provide a very generous package for the family that’s left behind.”  NPR

Opposition Leader: Burundi Deflecting True Causes of Crisis
The exiled leader of the opposition Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU) said the allegation that Rwanda is involved in destabilizing Burundi is a pretext to turn the political crisis in Burundi into a Hutu versus Tutsi problem. FRODEBU leader Jean Minani said blaming Rwanda is a strategy by Burundian President Nkurunziza to deflect Burundi’s problems. “It is the new pretext of the Burundian government who doesn’t want to go into talks, and now a new pretext to say I can’t go into negotiations because I have nothing to do there. They have no answer for our problems. We have other refugees in Tanzania, in Congo, and in Uganda. Why are only the refuges in Rwanda taking up guns to fight the Burundian government,” he said. VOA

EU Ready to Impose More Sanctions on Burundi
European Union foreign ministers said on Monday they were prepared to strengthen economic sanctions on Burundi following the failure of talks to end a political crisis in the central African country in which more than 440 people have been killed. The United Nations has repeatedly warned of Burundi sliding back into an ethnically charged conflict, more than a decade after a civil war that killed 300,000, and said it has reports of mass graves and gang-rapes by security forces. But President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose decision last April to stand for a third term triggered nine months of violence, has refused to accept an African Union peacekeeping plan, saying it would amount to an invasion.  The East African

How Cheap Oil Handicaps Nigeria’s Fight Against Boko Haram
[…] For one thing, Nigeria is trying to train and equip an under-resourced army used mostly for international peacekeeping missions to become a fighting force capable of engaging the Boko Haram insurgency. Nigeria has increased military spending over the past decade — the total security budget reached almost $6 billion in 2015. But that’s barely making up for years of underinvestment that had been designed to discourage military coups and to minimize losses to corruption, Pham said. For example, Nigeria’s former national security adviser is accused of stealing $2 billion from the security budget. Nigeria’s military needs more investment, as well as better management of its resources, said Raymond Gilpin, dean of the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Nigeria doesn’t release a breakdown of its security budget, and some military spending remains opaque. “There’s no use having all the latest military toys, but not a motivated and capable workforce” Gilpin said.  The Huffington Post

Shake-up as Buhari Sacks 26 Agencies Heads
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the immediate disengagement of 26 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of some Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions. Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal said Monday in Abuja in a statement that the President also approved that the most senior officers in the affected offices should oversee the activities of the organizations pending the appointment of substantive replacements. Daily Trust

Buhari’s Budget Riddled With Errors Puts Graft War in Doubt
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2016 budget proposals are riddled with errors and provisions that may undermine his anti-graft war, civic groups say. In some instances, the same purchase of vehicles, computers and furniture are replicated 24 times, totaling 46.5 billion naira ($234 million), 795 million naira is set aside to update the website of one ministry, while no purpose is assigned to a 10 billion naira provision in the education ministry’s spending plan, according to Oluseun Onigbinde, partner and co-founder of BudgIT, a Nigerian group that campaigns for transparency in public spending. “The key line items you find in the budget are a disservice to the idea that this government has come to represent change,” Onigbinde, whose group first publicly raised the discrepancies, said in a Feb. 9 phone interview. “It would have been better that they took a very good look at every line item and ensured that it was justified.”  Bloomberg

Nigeria: U.S.$2.1 Billion Arms Scam – Army Hands Over Seven Generals, Five Colonels to EFCC for Probe
The army headquarters on Thursday night confirmed that 12 Army officers including serving and retired have been sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for investigation. The Army also said that at the end of the Commission’s investigations those found culpable will be court martialled. A statement signed by Col Sani Usman, Acting Director, Army Public Relations said: “The Nigerian Army wishes to inform the public that 12 Army officers have been sent to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission for investigation. “This comprised of three serving Major Generals, and one retired, three Brigadier Generals, four Colonels and one Lieutenant Colonel. “However, it should be noted that at the end of the Commission’s investigations those found culpable will be tried by a military court martial.” Col Usman, did not however, state in specific term what the officers are being investigated for.  Vanguard on allAfrica

The Country on the Verge of Famine – Where $6bn Has Gone Missing
They are an incongruous sight in a neglected, run-down African capital city. Lines of smart black SUVs with tinted windows can be seen parked outside the handful of smart hotels and restaurants, or driving along the pot-holed roads that lead to grand residences, government ministries and military compounds. The Cadillacs. Mercedes GLs and luxury Hummers would not look out of place in a Belgravia or Knightsbridge square. But this is Juba, in war-torn South Sudan. And these in-your-face symbols of wealth are sharply at odds with the official description of a country that, although oil-rich, is among the 25 economically weakest and least developed in the world. More than four million people, a third of its population, face serious food shortages and tens of thousands are on the cusp of catastrophic famine. South Sudan is on the verge of going bust, its dollar reserves (its only means of buying food and goods from abroad) standing at zero. Now there is an expectation that the International Monetary Fund may be asked to step in. The Independent

Sudan Rebels, Troops Clash in Restive South Kordofan
Sudanese troops and rebels have clashed around an army base in the restive South Kordofan state, both sides said on Monday, but giving conflicting accounts of the fighting. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North has been battling President Omar al-Bashir’s troops in South Kordofan and Blue Nile since 2011, but there has been relatively little fighting there this year. SPLA-N forces on Saturday “repulsed a convoy leaving Abry and heading to Lamray and pushed back the invading forces to the Abry garrison and entered its trenches and the fighting is still going on there,” rebel spokesman Arnu Lodi said in a statement. Abry is a village south of the South Kordofan state capital of Kadugli where the Sudanese military has a base. Most of the territory around Abry is thought to be rebel-controlled.  AFP on al Arabiya

Islamists Kill Somalia’s Former Defence Minister with Car Bomb
Islamist militant group al Shabaab killed Somalia’s former defence minister with a car bomb in capital Mogadishu on Monday, officials said. Al Shabaab, which is aligned to al Qaeda, told Reuters it planted the car bomb that killed Muhayadin Mohamed, who was also an adviser to the speaker of Somalia’s parliament. Pictures taken by a Reuters photographer from the scene showed the passenger seat took the brunt of the damage, with passenger-side doors blown out. “We are behind his killing,” Sheikh Anbdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters. A police official confirmed Mohamed was killed and added a second person in the car survived the blast without any serious injuries. Mohamed was briefly defence minister in 2008 during Somalia’s transitional federal government, which was backed by United Nations and had fought alongside African Union peacekeepers to push al Shabaab out of Mogadishu and other major cities.  Reuters

US Denies Reports that 1 of Its Drones Crashed in Somalia
The U.S. military denies reports from residents and rebels in southwestern Somalia that a suspected U.S. drone with six missiles crashed Monday in a rebel-held village in the Gedo region. Spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command, Chuck Prichard, said all their “assets in this area are accounted for and we have no indication that any were involved in this reported incident.” Al-Shabab, Somalia’s Islamic extremists, claimed on their radio station that their fighters have seized the crashed drone with the missiles. This has not been independently verified. U.S. drones have killed several al-Shabab leaders in airstrikes in Somalia over the past year. In a separate development U, a Somali police officer says a bomb killed a former Somali defense minister in Mogadishu Monday. AP on the Washington Post

Boko Haram Fighters Trained in My Country – Somalia President
By Abdulkareem Haruna Boko Haram is not only backed by the middle east’s ISIL, as it was discovered recently, it is also being trained by the east Africa’s Mujahideen Youth Movement, popularly known as Alshabab, Somalian President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said. Mohamud, who made this revelation to an international security conference in Germany, expressed worry that global terrorism is fast gaining grounds in most part of African because notable terror groups – with roots in the Middle East are spreading their networks in a very disturbing manner. The Somali President, whose country has been beleaguered by political strife and corruption, said increasing attacks by the al-Shabab terrorists has made it difficult for the country to solve its domestic challenges. Leadership on allAfrica

Americans and Dutch Train Senegal Commandos as Fears of Terrorism Grow
On a hazy afternoon last week, two dozen Senegalese commandos dressed in dark green camouflage uniforms landed their black Zodiac boats on a sandy beach and clambered ashore, their M-16 rifles at the ready. Within minutes, they were walking stealthily in small groups through low scrub brush to sneak up on their target several hundred yards away: the village lair of an Algerian terrorist financier they had been hunting for days. Moments later, shots rang out and a hooded, handcuffed man was hustled from his hide-out to the awaiting boats. In truth, the raid was simulated: The shots were blanks, the terrorist an American airman playing the role of a bad guy. But the threat recreated in this training exercise at an abandoned beach resort here has become increasingly and unsettlingly real, Senegalese officials say. Trying to stay a step ahead of terrorist and illicit smuggling networks that are pushing deeper into West Africa, Senegal created a new riverine commando squad last year to help patrol the Senegal River that delineates a 500-mile border with Mauritania to the north. The New York Times

Mali Islamist Group Ansar Dine Claims Attack on U.N. Base
Malian Islamist militant group Ansar Dine said it carried out a suicide and rocket attack on a U.N. base in Kidal, north Mali on Friday that killed six peacekeepers, the SITE Intelligence Group said. Ansar Dine, led by Tuareg commander Iyad Ag Ghali, briefly seized the desert north alongside al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in 2012 and the two groups are involved in an intensifying insurgency that has spilled over Mali’s borders. In its statement, Ansar Dine named the suicide bomber who blew himself up with a truck bomb as Muhammad Abdullah bin Hudhayfa al-Hosni from Mauritania. Heavy weapons fire ensued. It was not immediately clear if Ansar Dine was also responsible for an ambush on Malian soldiers near Timbuktu on Friday that killed three. “The (Kidal) operation is a message to the Crusader invaders and all those who support them and promise to send their soldiers to us, like the German President said in his current visit to Bamako,” according to the statement sent late on Friday.  AFP on al Arabiya

Hopes for Peace in Libya as Make-up of New Unity Government Announced
Libya’s presidential council has named a revised line-up for a unity government under a United Nations-backed plan aimed at ending the conflict in the North African state. One of the council’s members, Fathi al-Majbari, said in a televised statement on Sunday that a list of 13 ministers and five ministers of state had been sent to Libya’s eastern parliament for approval. The parliament, which has been recognised internationally, rejected an initial line-up proposed last month amid complaints that, at 32, the number of ministers named was too high. The UN plan under which the unity government was named is aimed at bringing together Libya’s warring factions and helping tackle a growing threat from Islamic State militants. The Guardian

Libyan Naval Forces in Tripoli Say Have Seized Foreign Tanker
Libyan naval forces have seized a Sierra Leone-flagged oil tanker on suspicion of illegally entering Libyan waters in an attempt to smuggle gasoline, authorities said on Saturday. The vessel, the Captain Khayyam, was stopped in Libyan waters on Friday night 25 miles northwest of Zuwarah city, and was carrying 1.6 million liters of gasoline, said Ayoub Qassem, a spokesman for the naval forces allied to Tripoli’s self-declared government. “The tanker was seized due to illegal entrance to Libyan waters without permission,” Qassem said. He said more details would be announced when the tanker was docked in Tripoli. He said it was a sailing under a Sierre Leone flag with a crew of nine including nationals of Turkey, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan, including one woman. Five years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has two rival governments each backed by competing armed factions, and a U.N.-backed government of national unity that is trying to bring the sides together but faces resistance on the ground.  Reuters

Last flyable Libyan Air Force MiG-23 Shot Down
The last operational Libyan Air Force MiG-23 was shot down over Benghazi on 12 February, following the loss of another MiG-23 on February 8. Libyan Air Force Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Saqr al-Jaroushi, said the two-seat aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery while carrying out air strikes against Islamic militants. The crew were believed to have ejected safely, but their whereabouts were not immediately known. A military spokesman, Nasser el-Hassi, told Agence France Presse (AFP) the MiG-23UB was hit as it was flying over Qaryunes, northwest Benghazi, as it bombed positions of the Mujahideed Shura Council, a coalition of Islamist militias affiliated to al-Qaeda. The MiG-23 is believed to have been the last one operational by the Libyan Air Force, which answers to the internationally recognised government in the east of the country. DefenceWeb

Zimbabwe Impounds US-registered Jet after Body and Cash Found on Board
Zimbabwe aviation authorities have impounded a US-registered cargo jet after a dead body believed to be a stowaway and millions of South African rand were found on board. The Herald, a state-run newspaper, reported that the MD-11 trijet was travelling from Germany to South Africa “with millions of rands”. At the current exchange rate, 1m rand is worth £43,866. Officials learned the money belonged to the South Africa Reserve Bank. Police planned to issue a statement later on Monday. David Chawota, the general manager of Zimbabwe’s Civil Aviation Authority, said the plane had landed in Harare for refuelling. He said the jet, registered with Western Global Airlines, was impounded at Harare international airport on Sunday. Western Global Airlines is reportedly based in Estero, Florida. The Guardian

Markets of Death: The Asian End of a Grisly Business
China’s desire for exotic animals, tastes and products will probably push wild elephants, rhinos, pangolins and many other species to extinction within the next 10 to 15 years. This trade is destabilising many African countries as poachers, armed by organised criminal syndicates, outgun security forces, loot villages and decimate animal populations. Their bloody haul is mostly transported by Asian agents who bribe officials and undermine the security of national states. We begin in the lawless, drug-soaked jungles of Asia’s Golden Triangle.  Daily Maverick



Photo: Adam Jones