Media Review for February 19, 2016

U.S. Strikes ISIS Camp in Libya, Killing More Than 30
American warplanes struck an Islamic State camp in Libya early Friday, targeting a senior Tunisian operative linked to two major terrorist attacks in Tunisia last year, according to a Western official. The airstrike, on a camp near Sabratha west of Tripoli, also killed more than 30 Islamic State recruits at the site, many of whom were believed to be from Tunisia, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss military operations. Intelligence officials were trying to determine whether the operative, Noureddine Chouchane, was killed in the strike, the official said. The official said that Mr. Chouchane was a major facilitator for the Islamic State and had been linked to two major attacks in Tunisia last year: one in March that killed 22 people in an attack on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis and one in June that killed 38 people at a beach in the coastal resort in Sousse, south of the capital. Jamal Naji Zubia, the head of the foreign news media office in Tripoli, said the airstrikes targeted a farmhouse about six to nine miles outside Sabratha that had been seized by Islamic State militants. Most of those killed were Tunisian, he said, although one man, who died from his wounds at a hospital, was Jordanian.  The New York Times

Libya’s North African Neighbors Brace for Any Western Strikes
Libya’s neighbors are again preparing for possible Western intervention in Libya, tightening border security and sending diplomatic warnings about the risk from hurried action against Islamic State that could force thousands refugees to flee. As Islamic State has expanded in Libya — taking over the city of Sirte and attacking oil ports — so too have calls increased for a swift Western response to stop the group establishing a base outside its Iraq and Syria territory. For Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria, sharing borders with Libya was already a security challenge as the country slipped into war between rival factions and allowed Islamic State to thrive five years after NATO strikes helped defeat Moammar Gadhafi. Exactly what Western intervention is possible is still under discussion. But President Barack Obama has ordered security advisers to look to halt Islamic State, and U.S. officials say airstrikes and special forces operations are options. VOA

How Much of Libya Does the Islamic State Control?
The world is waking up to the threat posed by the Islamic State’s expansion in Libya over the past year. The renewed Western focus on combating the group is related to the Nov. 13 Paris attacks — although they had nothing to do with Libya — and the increasing recognition that the U.N.-brokered Libyan Political Agreement signed on Dec. 17 is, for the moment at least, unimplementable. Therefore, a national unity government able to take on the Islamic State will not be in place any time soon. But the urge to act, or to be seen acting, against the Islamic State should not be a reason to embark on a new large-scale military adventure in Libya — one that would have unpredictable results and likely worsen the situation on the ground by making the Libyan conflict harder to resolve. The first step to a more nuanced approach is to accurately assess the challenge the Islamic State poses in Libya. Only after understanding its spread, size, and tactics can the international community develop a proper strategy for rolling back its recent gains. Foreign Policy

2.6 Million Libyans are in Tunisia
Tunisian official statistics revealed on Wednesday that 2.6 million Libyans are currently present in the country. The Tunisian Ministry of Interior issued a statement which placed the number of Libyans in Tunisia at 2,671,188. Around 3,053 Libyans came into Tunisia across the Libyan border on Tuesday, while 2,253 left Tunisia through the country’s various crossing points, according to the statement. The Tunisian government announced an emergency plan to deal with a potential refugee influx amid speculations regarding a possible military intervention targeting Daesh in Libya. Tunisia’s government has formed committees in the border areas with Libya in preparation for any emergency arising from the possible intervention and an influx of refugees similar to what happened during the 2011 revolution in Libya. Middle East Monitor

Libya’s Quiet War: The Tuareg of South Libya (video)
In remote southwest Sahara, the indigenous Tuareg tribe — variously used and discriminated against by former strongman Muammar Qaddafi — fight for their place in a post-revolutionary Libya. Living deep in Libya’s desert near large oil fields and lucrative smuggling routes, hundreds of miles from Libya’s capital, the Tuareg find themselves impoverished and isolated on this prized land. Nowhere is this felt more than in the oasis town of Ubari. Here the Tuareg are pitted against former neighbors in a proxy battle for assets and power, backed by government and international interests. VICE News travels to meet the Tuareg on the front lines of Ubari and the border town of Ghat, to find out what is really happening in this rarely visited land. VICE

U.S. Demands Visas for Libyans, Somalis and Yemenis
Citizens of Libya, Somalia, and Yemen and anyone who traveled through those countries since 2011 will need a visa to enter the USA, the Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday. The new additions expand to seven the list of countries in the Middle East and North Africa under closer scrutiny since December when Congress ordered new restrictions for citizens of Syria, Iran, Iraq and Sudan, or travelers who recently visited those countries. The restrictions apply to travelers to the U.S. who transit through the 38 countries – mostly in Europe – where the U.S. does not require visas.  Congress intended the requirements to prevent citizens of terror hot-spots, or people who had traveled to those countries recently, from unfettered travel to the U.S. USA Today

Uganda Elections: Police Raid Main Opposition Headquarters
Police have raided the headquarters of Uganda’s main opposition party in the capital Kampala, a day after tightly contested presidential elections. Tear gas has also been fired outside the offices of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). The reason for the security force action is still unclear. FDC leader Kizza Besigye is President Yoweri Museveni’s main challenger in the election. Mr Museveni is running for a fifth term, after 30 years in power. Official results show he is in the lead with 62% of the vote, while Mr Beisgye has 33%, with around a quarter of the votes counted.  BBC

Uganda Temporarily Blocks Social Media, Mobile Money over ‘National Security’
Ugandan authorities blocked social media platforms and mobile money networks on Thursday as voting in the General Election got underway. The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) said access to social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook via mobile phones and the popular mobile money network had been temporarily blocked over “national security” concerns during the election period. UCC’s director of corporate affairs Fred Otunnu said “we have switched off but only temporarily because as you know this is a very sensitive period.” WhatsApp, a popular instant messaging service owned by Facebook, was shut down as early as 9am (0600 GMT) and was closely followed by mobile Facebook. Sources, however, indicated the shutdown was ordered by top officials in the ruling party NRM and the military over they said was to control the avalanche of negative messages — word, audio and video — circulating on the platforms campaigning against President Yoweri Museveni. Sources also intimated that Museveni himself, the incumbent seeking a fifth elective term in office after 30 years in power, had also raised an alarm. The East African

As Uganda Votes, Polling Stations Open Hours Late and a Candidate Is Arrested
Thursday’s vote in Uganda had been billed as the “D-Day” of presidential elections, the fifth under President Yoweri Museveni, 71, who has led Uganda for 30 years, longer than 75 percent of Ugandans have been alive. Ugandan law prohibits presidential candidates older than 75, so unless the law is changed, this is the last year Mr. Museveni can run. Mr. Museveni is perceived by many Ugandans to be trying to groom his son — Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, 41, the head of Uganda’s special forces — to succeed him, and the political jockeying in response created the strongest field of opposition candidates yet. Amama Mbabazi, Mr. Museveni’s former second in command, defected last year after a reported falling out and joined Mr. Besigye in challenging the president on Thursday. Uganda’s police recruited more than 100,000 volunteer Crime Preventers, who were given paramilitary training to help control crowds, arrest suspects, guard ballot boxes and gather intelligence. Many openly say they are working for the incumbent.  The New York Times

I Have Been Arrested 43 Times in 5 Years – Besigye
Dr Kizza Besigye yesterday invoked the numerous times he has been arrested over the years to urge his supporters to toughen ahead of the coming elections. Speaking at a rally in Kibuku Town Council on the third day of his tour of eastern Uganda, the FDC presidential candidate stuck to his three-pronged message of “empowerment to liberate the country” through elections, restructuring State institutions and pursuing inclusive development. “I have been arrested 43 times since the 2011 elections but every time they release me, I declare that they are thieves,” Dr Besigye said, “But am I not alive?” He urged his supporters to register in groups of 10 for purposes of receiving “empowering” information, which he said they will use during elections and afterwards. Through this system, Power 10 (P10), Dr Besigye said vote-rigging will be curtailed. He has on three previous occasions lost to President Museveni, blaming each of the losses on rigging. Daily Monitor

Commonwealth: Uganda Poll Delays Inexcusable
International election observers warned Thursday that hours-long delays in delivering ballot papers in Uganda’s national elections would not “inspire trust” in the polling. “A delay of an hour or two is excusable. Delays of three, four, five and even six hours, especially in Kampala, are absolutely inexcusable and will not inspire trust and confidence in the system and the process,” Olusegun Obasanjo, the head of the Commonwealth Observer Group in Uganda, told AFP. Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president, is leading a 13-member team from across the Commonwealth. Voting in Uganda was due to begin at 07:00 am (0400 GMT) but was stalled for several hours in some polling stations in parts of the city and the surrounding Wakiso district, where ballot boxes and papers did not arrive on time. Support for the opposition is traditionally strong in the capital. Some frustrated voters accused the authorities of deliberately stalling the vote, and police fired tear gas in the capital to disperse angry voters. As ballot counting began, others were still queuing to vote in the capital.  The East African

Why Second Place Matters in Uganda’s Stacked Election (+video)
Growing up, Grace Kyandiru adored Yoweri Museveni, the decisive former rebel commander whose presidency had brought her country stability. His ascension in 1986 was a chance to end a grinding post-independence cycle of war and coups so that Uganda could develop and prosper. But thirty years later, Ms. Kyandiru has given up on her former hero, for reasons that read like a laundry list of social ills: rampant corruption, poverty, crumbling infrastructure. Like most of Uganda’s extraordinarily young population, she has never known another leader, and as the country votes in Thursday’s presidential election, she’s desperate to see that change. “I’m hopeful for an [opposition] victory because many people have turned out to vote this time,” she says, after casting her vote for Kizza Besigye, a four-time contender for the presidency who was once Museveni’s personal physician. Al Jazeera

Exclusive: UN Camp in South Sudan Burned to the Ground
Smoke billowed high into the air, and small fires raged where homes used to be. A group of women in colorful South Sudanese garb picked through what was left of their burned-down houses. The midday heat was ferocious. In the near distance, perhaps 100 yards away, came the sound of gunfire. “This used to be my sister’s home,” one of the women told me, pointing to one pile of ash that was nearly impossible to distinguish from all the others. According to United Nations security staff, humanitarian workers, and civilians inside the Malakal Protection of Civilians site, on Wednesday night or Thursday morning around 50 soldiers from the South Sudanese government, known as the SPLA, breached the walls of the camp with weapons. The attack had grown out of tribal feuds within the UN-run camp, and when it came it started a wild gunfight. At least five people were killed and 30 injured. In the midst of a civil war that has raged for more than two years, it has appeared in recent days that President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machaar were close to forming a unity government that could end the country’s civil war. The Daily Beast

Tracing the Source of Ethnic Clashes in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region
Ethiopia is facing renewed ethnic conflict along its Western border. Since late January, what began as a dispute over land rights between the Nuer and Anyuak ethnic groups has spread, claiming dozens of lives. The clash is, in part, a result of the influx of thousands of ethnic Nuer who have been displaced in the civil war in South Sudan and were forced to move into the Gambella region of Ethiopia. Some of the displaced Nuer allegedly brought arms across the border, destabilizing an already tense region. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are about 280,000 South Sudanese refugees in the region. About 84 percent live in six refugee camps, and 16 percent live in host communities within the Gambella region. VOA

Does Zimbabwe Have a Heavyweight Opposition Again?
It wasn’t so long ago – December 2014 – that Joice Mujuru was First Vice-President of Zimbabwe. As a stalwart of the ruling party, and leader of an influential faction, she was close to President Robert Mugabe, and a favourite to succeed him. Then it all fell apart. With Mugabe wary of her growing support base, Mujuru was slowly forced out, with Mugabe’s wife Grace leading the attack. Accused of everything from plotting regime change to colluding with the enemy, she was removed from office and expelled from the party. After decades in the front lines, Mujuru suddenly found herself consigned to the wilderness. Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) is her attempt to escape that wilderness. The new party, which was officially announced on Wednesday, will compete in the 2018 elections. “We are People First. We don’t lead the people, but people lead themselves,” Mujuru told AFP. Daily Maverick

Burundi is in a Tailspin
Burundi is inching ever closer to disaster.  The crisis began last year, when President Pierre Nkurinziza decided to run for a constitutionally dubious third term in office. That set off protests, a violent suppression of those protests, and a short lived coup. Now, Nkurinziza is consolidating his hold on power, there is great fear that the situation may devolve into a full blown civil war, and given the history of the region, perhaps even genocide. The world is pretty aware of this. But the international community seems unable to stop Burundi from sliding into deeper conflict. Why?  UN Dispatch

Presidential Elections in the Comoros: Whose Turn is it Anyway?
When voters head to the polls on 21 February to elect a new president, they may well do with the past 5 years under President Ikililou Dhoinine in mind. In the top job since 2011, Dhoinine’s economic record is unremarkable. GDP growth has slumped from 3.5% in 2013 to 1% in 2015. Unemployment remains high. And there are frequent shortages of food, water, fuel and power. Yet in comparison to his predecessors, the absence of serious political unrest during Dhoinine’s time in office marks his term as a success. Political stability has long been in short supply in a country whose post-independence history has been riven by coups, mutinies and attempted secessions. However, regardless of any popularity amongst the electorate, the incumbent will have at best an indirect effect on the decision facing voters come Sunday. According to the Union’s unique Constitution, Dhoinine is required to step down after his single term in office. African Arguments

`Dead Cities’ Strike Hits Congo as Kabila Foes Protest
A strike on Tuesday shut some schools and businesses in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in an attempt to increase pressure on President Joseph Kabila to leave when his mandate expires at the end of this year. Students and workers were called to participate by groups including La Dynamique, a coalition known as the G7 and the Union for Democracy and Social Progress. Most of Congo’s opposition parties backed the action, known as “villes-mortes,” or dead cities, including the UDPS, the largest group opposed to Kabila’s rule, which joined at the last minute. In the capital, Kinshasa, police in riot gear were stationed at major intersections. Roads were quiet throughout the day and some shops were closed or opened later in the morning. There were no reported major incidents of violence. “The message has been delivered — now we must wait for Kabila’s reaction,” UDPS member Jacquemain Shabani said late Tuesday. Bloomberg

Zuma’s Friends the Guptas Have Business Link to Mines Minister
Three months after he was appointed South African Mines Minister, Mosebenzi Zwane helped the Gupta family acquire Glencore Plc’s Optimum colliery. Now it’s emerged that his political adviser has a business connection with the family, who are friends of President Jacob Zuma. After Zuma promoted Zwane from provincial politics to run the mines ministry in September, Malcolm Mabaso, 33, became his political adviser. Mabaso and Salim Essa, a business partner of the Guptas, are both directors of a company called Premium Security and Cleaning Services, according to publicly available company filings. Essa is a director at a company called VR Laser Services, in which the Gupta family investment vehicle holds a minority stake. Last month VR Laser entered a partnership with state defense company Denel SOC Ltd. to market its products in Asia, Gary Naidoo, a spokesman for the Gupta family, said on Feb. 6.  Bloomberg

Guinea-Bissau’s Political Stalemate Taking Toll on Development – UN Envoy
The political impasse in Guinea-Bissau could delay implementation of critical reforms and erode progress in the West African country’s development, the United Nations envoy there warned the Security Council today. The drawn-out political crisis in Guinea-Bissau is taking a toll on development and the situation could get worse in the absence of “a frank and sincere dialogue” involving all parties concerned, Miguel Trovoada, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), said in a briefing to the 15-nation body. “The more that State institutions and the main political actors remain divided, the more the current political situation will become more complex, delaying the implementation of critical reforms,” he said as he presented the report of the Secretary-General on developments in the country and the activities of UNIOGBIS.  UN

Sudan Receives 100 Million Euros from EU to Stem Irregular Migrants
The European Commission Wednesday announced a 100 million euro package to support Sudan to address root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons. It also pledged to continue its humanitarian aid for the east African nation. The announcement was made after a meeting Tuesday between Sudanese foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour and his EU counterpart Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission. Sudan Tribune

No More Asylum Seekers from Morocco, Says Germany’s Most Populous State Citing Crime
Germany’s most populous state has said it will not accept any more asylum seekers from Morocco, after migrants from the country were identified among suspects in the Cologne sex attacks. The government of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Cologne lies, said federal authorities had agreed not to send any more Moroccans to refugee accommodation in the state. There is no suggestion that Moroccans will be blocked from entering the state if they enter. “Immigrants from the North African region appear disproportionately as offenders,” Ralf Jäger, the state interior minister, said. “Frequently the suspects are young men travelling alone.” Mr Jäger said the state had already taken more than its share of Moroccan asylum seekers. The Telegraph

Malawi’s Hunger Season
It’s mid-morning on a dusty road to Lisungwi market in Neno, southern Malawi, and Bertha Cham’bwinja is sitting under the shade of an acacia tree resting from the scorching sun, a 20-kg bag of maize by her side. “It has been extremely hot this January,” she says. The rains should have begun around December, but this is an El Niño year and the skies have been alarmingly clear. […] As a result of last season’s failed crop across much of Malawi, Cham’bwinja is among 431,000 people benefitting from a cash-to-buy food initiative run by the World Food Programme. Overall, 2.86 million Malawians are “food insecure” (they lack access to sufficient food to lead healthy and active lives), the result of a double-blow of floods and drought last year. IRIN

China’s Africa Dream Isn’t Dead
Jeff Kiarie was guarding a Chinese mine back in early 2014 near Arusha, Tanzania when Chinese managers and investors picked up and left, leaving their excavators, tractors, and wheel loaders behind, offering no explanation. “They couldn’t just leave so many machines here,” Kiarie, the lone Tanzanian now guarding thousands of tons of Chinese mining equipment, says he reasoned. But that’s exactly what seems to have happened; Kiarie’s mine remains abandoned, and other Chinese operations on the African continent seem to be in peril. For years, Western media has covered Chinese trade and investment with the continent somewhat breathlessly; a November 2006 New York Times report declared that Chinese development “looks more like Africa’s future than its past,” and a February 2011 article for the BBC proclaimed that “the Chinese are coming” to Africa. Now, with the recent drop in Chinese investment and trade with the continent, it might seem appropriate to declare that the Chinese are going. But as some are leaving, others are innovating, exploring, and digging in. Since the turn of the 21st century, Chinese state-owned and private enterprises have poured into African countries, seeking natural resources, new markets, and other business opportunities. China’s trade with the continent has skyrocketed; in 2009, China surpassed the United States to become Africa’s largest trading partner, and by 2014 flows exceeded U.S. trade with the continent by more than $120 billion.  Foreign Policy



Photo: Adam Jones