Media Review for February 17, 2016

Ugandan Opposition Leader Says Vote Will Not Be Free or Fair
The leading challenger to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Tuesday he had no confidence that elections this week would be free or fair and accused the police of increasing violence ahead of the vote. Kizza Besigye, a long-time opposition leader who has lost three previous elections, told reporters the “overwhelming enthusiasm” for change after three decades of Museveni rule “has caused panic in the no-change camp”. “That is why, yesterday, elements of the Uganda police and other security agencies unleashed violence on our supporters and sabotaged our campaign in Kampala,” he said. “The election has no chance of being free and fair.” Besigye spoke a day after police stormed his rally in the capital Kampala with tear gas, killing one person and injuring 19 others, and briefly held him in custody. Police also said that Besigye’s supporters had been on a “rampage”, looting and damaging property. Reuters

Ahead of Uganda Vote, Facebook Maverick Flourishes Amid Stifled Media
When Ugandan police arrested a bespectacled IT analyst named Robert Shaka last year, it seemed at last the end of an elaborate multi-year game of cat and mouse between the government and one of its most vocal critics. For nearly four years, they claimed, Mr. Shaka had been masquerading as Tom Voltaire Okwalinga (TVO), a viral Facebook poster known for his salacious, all-caps political screeds, which included allegations of high-level government embezzlement, vote-rigging, and fraud – as well as a deluge of colorfully photo-shopped memes about President Yoweri Museveni and his cronies. In that time, TVO had ducked and dodged exposure, all the while racking up tens of thousands of followers from ranks of the young and disaffected, many of whom have lived their whole lives under the rule of Mr. Museveni – in power since 1986 – and greeted the Facebook mole’s critiques with hungry excitement. CS Monitor

The Man Who Overstayed
Once upon a time, when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was hailed as the face of change in African politics, he was scathing of leaders who would not relinquish power. Now, after thirty years in office, he is running for president once again. The president’s main challengers in the February 18 election — his former doctor, Kizza Besigye, and former prime minister, Amama Mbabazi, deride Museveni as the old man who has — to use his own words — “overstayed.” Besigye and Mbababzi are not the president’s only critics. Human rights organizations lament his continued intimidation of opposition politicians. Western governments, who initially lionized Museveni for turning Uganda’s economy around in the 1990s, have more recently begun to fret over his refusal to allow free and fair elections. Even some stalwarts from his own party have begun to whisper that it is time for the old man to go, although they will not say so publicly. But despite the growing pressure and Museveni’s advancing years — he is 71 — there are no signs that he is planning to leave office any time soon. Foreign Policy

Eastern Africa Standby Army Likely to Join AU Peacekeepers
“The EASF will be happy to be part of the MAPROBU as it will be a force deployed to show solidarity with Burundi because the force is meant to be a preventive force to secure the environment for the dialogue to happen and suggest solutions for Burundi,” said Kabisa. The EASF is made up by ten countries including Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. On Dec. 17, 2015, the African Union Peace and Security Council issued a resolution on the deployment of 5,000 troops dubbed the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU) to prevent genocide or massive killings, which the Burundian government strongly opposed. Meanwhile, dialogue with the opposition in exile under the auspices of the Ugandan facilitation has stalled. The Burundian government failed to attend political talks with the opposition on Jan. 6 in Arusha, Tanzania. News Ghana

Kenyan President Vows to Build Prison for Violent Extremists
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed Tuesday to build a special prison that would segregate violent extremists from the country’s regular prison population. The BBC quoted Kenyatta as saying the facility would stop jihadists from spreading extremist ideologies to the rest of society. Since 2011, Kenya has battled militants with Somali terrorist group al-Shabab. The group, which is linked to al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for multiple high-profile attacks inside Kenya, killing more than 60 people in a 2013 assault on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi and nearly 150 people at Garissa University College last year. Late last month, Kenyan troops withdrew from two bases in southern Somalia following al-Shabab attacks that claimed the lives of several Kenyan soldiers. At the time, Kenyatta said his country was “unbowed” and promised al-Shabab would pay a “heavy price” for its actions.  UPI

Dictator’s Shadow Looms over Congo
uesday, Feb. 16, 2016: la journee ville morte, a general strike across the Democratic Republic of Congo called by opposition leaders. Kinshasa, the usually chaotic, traffic-jammed, horn-blasting, music-blaring capital of more than 10 million was still on Tuesday, except for a heavy police presence. The popular Radio France international station was off the air. During political unrest a year ago, broadcasts were cut by the government. “Kinshasa quiet is extraordinary,” says Glenys Babcock, president of Pragmora, a Toronto-based NGO and think-tank that advocates for peaceful conflict resolution, with a particular focus on Congo. “People did not go to work, did not go their shops.” Originally conceived as a mass pro-democracy march against the fisted reign of President Joseph Kabila — who learned all about autocracy and one-man rule at the knee of his father, succeeding him after Laurent-Desire Kabila was assassinated by his own boy soldiers in 2001 — the event’s parameters were changed last month when the powerful Catholic church pulled its support, declaring it had been co-opted by political interests. And the Catholic Church has never gone in for politics, correct? Last January, 36 people were killed by security forces during an opposition protest in Kinshasa, according to Human Rights Watch.  Toronto Star

Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo Could Mean Trouble
[…] Elections in the DRC are one of several national elections taking place in the region in 2016 and 2017. The first elections in DRC since 1960 were held in 2006 with large-scale logistical and financial support from the international community. There were generally considered a monumental success, and there has been a bit of a downhill slide since then. The previous election, in 2011, were nationally led and saw some reports of fraud and violence. Eleven months before the election in 2011, the government changed the electoral law to scrap the second round, which gave the incumbent, President Joseph Kabila, an enormous advantage in a field of 10 other presidential candidates. UN Dispatch

Love and War in Eastern Congo
[…] Over the past decade, the region has fallen victim to an alphabet soup of militant groups — the CNDP, the FDLR, the M23 — that have committed atrocities against civilians, including mass murder, rape, and recruitment of child soldiers. The aim of these groups has sometimes been to capture and hold territory. Other times it has been to destabilize the region for political reasons, often at the behest of neighboring countries like Rwanda and Uganda. Today, the Congolese government says the primary threat is the ADF, or Allied Democratic Forces, a decades-old Islamist group with Ugandan roots. But critics of the government are suspicious of its outsized rhetoric about the ADF. They argue that politicians rile up fear because they prefer to prioritize military operations over basic public needs like paved streets, good schools, or reliable electricity. The result for people like Rebecca, who is unemployed and lives in a neighborhood of dirt roads and dilapidated shops, is a chronic condition of poverty and anxiety. Foreign Policy

Burundi Bans Use of Motorbikes in Parts of Bujumbura
Burundi has banned the use of commercial motorbikes from the centre of the capital, Bujumbura, in a bid to end violence in the city. Motorcycle taxis, a common form of transport in the city, are being used by criminals to carry out attacks, Bujumbura’s mayor Freddy Mbonimpa said. One person was killed on Monday when men on motorbikes threw three grenades. Burundi plunged into crisis last April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his third-term bid. His decision sparked street protests, a failed coup attempt and tit-for-tat killings have become part of daily lives in some parts of the capital. BBC

Burundi’s Cross-Ethnic Opposition Under Threat
Since independence in 1962, Burundi has experienced no fewer than six flare-ups of conflict, which have been triggered by political disputes and turned into ethnic violence. The longest of these conflicts was the 1993-2005 civil war, which pitted a largely Tutsi government and army (Forces Armées du Burundi [FAB]) against largely Hutu rebel groups. During this period, neighbourhoods in Bujumbura became almost entirely ethnically segregated due to targeted violence. This resulted in a Tutsi-dominated city with Hutu enclaves. Extremist Tutsi youth organisations acted as a key driver of anti-Hutu violence, while claiming to be protecting Tutsis against genocide. Meanwhile, Hutu youth formed militant ‘self-defence’ organisations to protect their remaining neighbourhoods. The rebel force which went on to become today’s ruling CNDD-FDD party emerged from some of the latter groups. African Arguments

Libya MPs Postpone Vote on New Unity Government
Libya’s internationally recognized parliament decided Tuesday to postpone for seven days a vote on a government of national unity despite growing international concern over militant expansion. “One hundred and eighteen members of parliament met today and decided to give the government chief until Saturday to present his cabinet line-up” to MPs, parliamentarian Aicha al-Aqouri told AFP. “The new smaller government will then be submitted to a vote of confidence on Tuesday,” she said. Another MP, Abou Bakr Baida, confirmed this timetable to AFP. International attempts to end the chaos in Libya took a step forward on Monday as the new national unity government was proposed to lawmakers. AFP on al Arabiya

Jihadis Used Armored Vehicles in Mali UN Base Attack
Jihadis used armored vehicles in the attack on the United Nations mission in northern Mali that killed at least seven peacekeepers last week, a spokeswoman for the mission said Tuesday. Experts in the investigation say the Islamic extremists used homemade shields to reinforce the truck that drove into the base in the town Kidal last Friday, Radhia Achouri told The Associated Press. She said investigations show that shells fired outside the camp diverted the soldiers as the truck, filled with explosives, entered the camp. The explosion did the majority of the damage, killing seven Guinean peacekeepers, and wounding more than 30 others. “When the truck forced through the front door, the peacekeepers opened fire on the car, but the bullets could not penetrate the truck which continued into the interior of the camp,” she said. Olivier Salgado, a spokesman for the mission, said a woman was among those killed. AP on Stars and Stripes

Samba-Panza: “I Have Accomplished My Mission”
DW: Mrs Samba-Panza, on Sunday the people of the Central African Republic cast their votes for a new president. Parliamentary elections were also repeated due to irregularities in the first round. How do you feel?
Catherine Samba-Panza: I am very satisfied to see that the national electoral authorities and the transitional authorities considered all the irregularities in the first round of the elections on December 30, 2015 and made the necessary corrections. I am also satisfied that the election took place in a calm and peaceful manner. The Central Africans are aware of what is at stake, and they cast their votes without repeating the irregularities we had in the first round. We found out that some people were sent back home because their names could not be found in the register of voters because of a decision by the electoral commission. These people were very disappointed. Do you fear that the turnout is not as high as it was in the previous elections? We realized that there were less voter turnout. From the information I received, the turnout was around 55 to 60 percent, compared to 77 to 80 percent in December.  Deutsche Welle

Boutros Boutros-Ghali Dead: Tributes Paid to the UN’s First African Secretary-General
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the first African Secretary-General of the United Nations, has died at the age of 93. The Egyptian, who served as the head of the UN between 1992 and 1996, passed away in hospital in Cairo. He had been admitted last week after breaking his pelvis. His death was announced by Rafael Ramirez, the Venezuelan ambassador to the UN. His country currently holds the presidency of the 15-member Security Council. A minute’s silence was held before the body debated the humanitarian crisis facing Yemen, where at least half the population faces starvation as a result of the country’s civil war. Mr Boutros-Ghali was the first UN Secretary-General to organise a mass humanitarian relief effort after famine struck the Horn of Africa in the early 1990s. He was also in office at the end of first Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. As an Arab, he won praise for his role in helping to bring the violence to a temporary end. The Independent

Cameroon Claims to Have Liberated Nigerian Boko Haram Stronghold
Cameroon says its soldiers have liberated the northeastern Nigerian town of Goshi from Boko Haram and handed it to the Nigerian government. A spokesman for the government of Cameroon said more than 160 Boko Haram fighters were killed and hundreds of hostages, both Cameroonian and Nigerian, freed. Cameroon Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary said between February 11 and 14, Cameroon’s military launched raids on Goshi, where intelligence reports indicated Boko Haram fighters were running training camps and bomb factories. He said the terrorists were also training teenagers, especially girls, and brainwashing them to be suicide bombers. Cameroon obtained the approval of Nigeria to free Goshi from the insurgents. “During this victorious assault 162 Boko Haram terrorists were neutralized, four artisan mine factories were dismantled, a previously identified training center was set ablaze, war weapons seized. The operation led by Cameroon special forces also led to the release of hundreds of people held hostage by Boko Haram. Several Nigerian hostages were also freed,” said Bakary. VOA

Boko Haram Using Young Girls as Suicide Bombers in Nigeria Attacks
In 2015, the Global Terrorism Index put out by the Institute of Economics and Peace, ranked Boko Haram as the deadliest terror group in the world. It killed more that 6,600 people in 2014, that’s an increase of 300 per cent from the previous year and makes the Boko Haram even more deadly than ISIS. In late Dec. 2015, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared victory over the militant group Boko Haram. His military’s onslaught against the militant group that has terrorized Northern Nigeria for years has reduced it to recruiting young girls to be suicide bombers, instead of executing strategic ground attacks. […] AMT: First of all, you know that line, winning the war and losing the battle. So we have the president saying we have technically, we’ve made progress, but now they’re using little girls. Michael Rettig: Yes, certainly the technical statement rings hollow when there’s hundreds of deaths shortly afterwards. However, Buhari, as a tradition, is a military leader rather than a political one, and you can see what he means in that it is time, really for the challenge to shift towards other parts of security. Boko Haram did have lots of northern Nigeria under occupation, and that’s no longer the case. Again, that rings hollow when there’s hundreds of civilian deaths shortly afterward, but it does show that police, and maybe border patrols and other things like that, are becoming the areas where we need to be concerned. CBC/Radio-Canada

Nigerian Women Freed From Boko Haram Face Rejection at Home
A new crisis is emerging as the Nigerian military liberates droves of women and girls from their Boko Haram captors: Many of the newly freed are being rejected when they return to their communities, according to a report released Tuesday. The women and girls, many of whom were raped by militants, have been labeled “annoba,” which means epidemics, or “Boko Haram wives,” according to the report from International Alert, a peace-building group, and Unicef. Some community members worry that they have been radicalized by Boko Haram and might try to recruit others to fight with the militant group, which has been terrorizing northern Nigeria for years. “There is a fear that if the needs of these survivors and returning populations are not met, these factors could add another dimension to an already complex conflict situation in northeast Nigeria,” said Kimairis Toogood, an adviser for International Alert in Nigeria.  The New York Times

Liberian Opposition Leader Flees
The Liberian government said on Tuesday it was seeking a prominent opposition leader for questioning after he claimed a state-sponsored “death squad” was targeting him. Simeon Freeman, leader of Liberia’s Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), is believed to have left the country around a week ago following a highly-charged press conference in which he said he was on a list of 10 people “to be eliminated”. Freeman was wanted in connection with his public allegation “that the government has set up a death squad to eliminate some opposition figures”, a statement made on government radio station said. A high-ranking party figure confirmed to AFP that Freeman had left the country fearing for his life. Freeman had told journalists: “there is a blacklist of critical persons, 10 people, we also heard that I am one of the persons on that list that are supposed to be eliminated”. News 24

South Sudan: Kiir to Form Interim Government Friday Despite Machar’s Absence
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir will go ahead and announce a transitional government of national unity on Friday despite his rival Riek Machar’s unwillingness to travel to Juba. According to reports, President Kiir is expected to announce a government of 16 ministers, including two former detainees and two additional ones from other political parties other than Dr Machar’s faction if its leader declines to honour a seven-day ultimatum to return to the country. However, the South Sudan-based lobby Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation’s executive director, Mr Edmund Yakani, told a news conference in Juba Monday that an interim administration without Dr Machar poses doubts as to whether the parties to the peace agreement were ready to honour the peace or not. The opposition leader has conditioned his return on the demilitarisation of Juba and integration of police units. This, according to him, was as per the peace deal signed by the two principals. East African on allAfrica

1.8 Million South Sudanese Children out of School -Unicef
More than 1.8 million children and adolescents are out of school in South Sudan, Unicef has said. The agency said in a report on Tuesday that the figure represented respectively, 43 per cent and 93 per cent of primary and secondary school age children. Unicef further explained that the factors that held children from attending school were not only limited to the December 2013 conflict, but also mass poverty. “South Sudan had some of the worst education indicators in the world, with only 69 per cent school enrolment rate and a dire 64 per cent primary completion rate,” the report reads. The Unicef report comes at a time the South Sudan Education ministry was launching; The Back-to-Learning 2 campaign in the country. The campaign is a collaboration between the Juba government and Unicef. The East African

The Tragedy of Darfuri Asylum-Seekers in Uganda
After escaping the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region during which his father and two brothers were killed and his mother and sister displaced, Adam (named changed), began a new chapter. But it was a life “in limbo”. Over a decade later, he remains trapped in a strange country where he struggles to prove his identity; cannot find work or receive financial support. “An egg and a stone cannot fight,” said Adam, quoting an African proverb, adding that “as a refugee or a stateless person you don’t have the power to resist the authorities.” The Darfuri is one of the many “refugees in orbit” created by the “flaws” in Israel’s “voluntary” return procedure, as NGOs have labeled them. About 3,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers have left Israel over the past two years, not to their country of origin, but under a deal shrouded in secrecy for Uganda and Rwanda. These countries cannot guarantee their rights or safety and leaves them further “wandering in search of protection”, stated the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants (HRM), which has released several reports on the issue.  IPS

Senegal’s President Says Will Stick to Seven-Year Mandate
Senegal’s President Macky Sall said on Tuesday he will complete a seven-year mandate that runs until 2019, ditching a promise made during his election campaign to cut the term to five years. Senegal is viewed as a bulwark of democracy in Africa, and that pledge would have brought it into line it with former colonial power France at a time when several other leaders across the continent have sought to extend their rule. Such actions have often triggered unrest, most recently in Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term has triggered months of violence, killing over 400 people. “The mandate currently under way will be completed in 2019,” Sall said in a statement in French on state television that followed a recommendation by the country’s constitutional council. He had told voters in the West African country in 2012 that he would shorten his current term by changing the constitution.  Reuters

Kenya: Salaries and Allowances Eat up Lion’s Share of County Revenue
The high cost of paying county government officials’ salaries and allowances is eroding the gains of devolution. It is also laying the foundation for a future debt burden for the country’s 47 counties, the latest report from the Office of the Controller of Budget for the first quarter of the 2015-16 financial year has shown. This reality check comes as Kenya takes stock of three years of establishing the semi-autonomous county governments in a bid to decentralise political and economic power. A look at spending reports from the 47 counties over the last three years shows a huge chunk of the financial resources sent to run the regions each year is used up in salaries and allowances instead of development projects. The Controller of Budget’s report covering July to September last year shows nothing has changed. Over the reporting period, the Controller of Budget authorised withdrawal of Sh56.48 billion from County Revenue Funds (CRF), representing 15.6 per cent of total county governments’ budget estimates for 2015-16. The Standard

After Mozambique’s Spending, the Reckoning
President Nyusi has inherited a poisoned chalice: he now has to cut spending, deal with the IMF and manage an elite grown fat through patronage politics. In March, Mozambique will have to repay another $100m tranche of an opaque and roundly criticised bond deal. The money could have been used to build four hospitals. Instead, it will repay a wildly overinflated contract for tuna-fishing boats. In the words of the country’s former prime minister Luísa Diogo: “Something has gone wrong.” Back in 2007, Mozambique was feted in ballrooms and boardrooms. Bankers pointed to stellar growth rates and the sound macroeconomic management that had led the fastest turnaround of a post-conflict country since Vietnam. Former president Joaquim Chissano won the inaugural Mo Ibrahim Prize for good governance that year.  Africa Report

Africa’s Energy Revolution Is Almost Here
You can’t create a modern economy without access to energy, and lots of it. Energy to run mills and mines, to grow and process food, to light up markets, to build roads and factories, or to build machines that can build more machines. So it’s no coincidence that the average African (excluding South Africa) earns a per capita income about 88 times lower than the average American, and uses about one-87th the amount of energy. Maybe it’s time for Africans to get more energy? With U.S. President Obama’s launch of the Power Africa initiative in 2013 and the new Electrify Africa bill passed by the U.S. Congress on Feb. 1 (that’s right, Congress got something done, and it was a foreign aid bill, no less), the prospect of electrifying Africa has once again galvanized the development community. Power Africa is an umbrella initiative that has, in the past two years, generated over $30 billion in investment commitments from partners seeking to dramatically increase both the number of megawatts produced (30,000 more by 2020) as well as the number of people who can now access that power to an additional 60 million. What the Electrify Africa Act does: it essentially gives bipartisan support to these goals, and calls for a plan to reach them. It makes the effort a congressionally authorized one. While it doesn’t appropriate any funds directly, it reinforces support for Power Africa in the budget process.  Foreign Policy



Photo: Adam Jones