Media Review for February 23, 2016

Besigye Arrested for Fourth Time in 8 Days
Forum for Democratic Change’s Dr Kizza Besigye spent the whole of yesterday in a cell at Naggalama Police Station in Mukono District, after he was arrested in the morning as he attempted to leave his home to go to the Electoral Commission offices. Dr Besigye said he wanted to collect results declaration that he could use in a possible election petition. He has now been arrested four times in a space of only one week. He was first arrested two days to the elections, then again at a secret police facility in Naguru shortly after the counting of votes had started at polling stations countrywide. He claimed that pre-ticking of ballot papers in favour of Mr Museveni was going on at a house on Naguru Hill Road, and that an illegal tally centre had been set up there to change results from districts before they reached the national tally centre.  The East African

Uganda’s Chemical Elections and Politics of Tear Gas
[…] “Tear gas” is now an everyday term in Kampala, and its chemical formula a semi-permanent climatic feature in the capital. Residents exchange advice on prevailing winds prior to planning their journeys through town. Customers leave online reviews of local businesses that read: “safe place, [no] tear gas or rioting”. The women’s police rugby team in nearby Jinja are called the Teargas Rangers. And Uganda’s Finance Minister even cited the government’s decision to import rather than manufacture tear gas as a reason for the poor performance of the Ugandan shilling. If there’s one thing that connects opposition politicians to the population of downtown Kampala, it’s their experience of airborne chemicals. And Besigye is widely thought to be the most tear-gassed man in the capital. Countless of his demonstrations and marches have been ended by heavy deployments of state security services. In 2011, police officers fired a tear gas canister into his car during the Walk to Work protests against the rising costs of food and fuel.  African Argument

Uganda: Living In Fear
Many Ugandans have lived through fear over the decades – either because of the actions of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army or from the campaign of an Islamist insurgency known as the ADF. But today Ugandan Muslims face a different anxiety. Over the past two years, unknown assailants have ambushed and killed a dozen of the country’s leading Muslim clerics. Others survived and now live in fear. The attacks have occurred across the country, from the capital, Kampala, to border towns such as Mbale. The government and police say that ADF insurgents, among others, are responsible for the killings. Others blame them on an ideological struggle within the Muslim community or a result of a fight over property and money. Many, though, are pointing fingers at Ugandan government security forces themselves, accusing them of using violence and the “threat of terrorism”  to engender reasons for suppressing  political opposition. In the middle of all this is a so-called hit list with the names of Muslim clerics who have, apparently, been marked for murder. More than half of those on the list have now been killed and the rest now live under armed protection, but they remain under threat, increasing tensions between the different Muslim denominations, the public and the authorities.  Al Jazeera

Uganda’s Museveni Tells Foreign Observers Not to Lecture Him
President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday dismissed European Union and U.S. criticism of Uganda’s presidential election, telling foreign observers not to lecture him. Museveni, in power since 1986, was declared the winner on Saturday but Kizza Besigye, his main challenger, who was under house arrest on Sunday, called the election a sham. Another candidate, Amama Mbabazi, said it was “fundamentally flawed”. The EU observer mission said Thursday’s vote had been conducted in an “intimidating” atmosphere. Chief observer Eduard Kukan said it had been undermined by a “lack of transparency and independence” at the electoral commission. But Museveni, 71, dismissed the idea that the commission had favoured him and his National Resistance Movement (NRM). “They are wrong, they are not serious,” Museveni told reporters in his country home in Kiruhura, southwestern Uganda. “I told those Europeans … I don’t need lectures from anybody.”  SABC

Issoufou Promises ‘Knockout’ Win as Votes Counted in Niger Presidential Election
An estimated 7.5 million were eligible to vote in Sunday’s elections. “We expect Issoufou to be elected quite comfortably, probably even within the first round,” said Vincent Rouget, a security analyst who specialises in west Africa for the London-based consulting group Control Risks. “He has a well-funded campaign with large media coverage and will benefit from large rural support that should allow him to be reelected quite comfortably.” Issoufou’s 14 opponents include the controversial 66-year-old Hama Amadou, who is currently in jail for his alleged role in a baby-trafficking scandal. Niger’s first ever democratically elected president Mahamane Ousmane is also running. The opposition has accused Issoufou of attempting to rig the elections, stating there had been an issue with duplicate voter cards and missing ballots. While more than 25,000 voting centres were made available throughout the country, many still persist fairness in reporting will be a large issue over the coming days. RFI

Four Killed in Burundi Attacks Ahead of Ban Ki-moon Visit
At least four people were killed in fresh grenade and gun attacks in Burundi ahead of a visit Monday by UN chief Ban Ki-moon aimed at ending months of deadly unrest. Ban is due to arrive in the capital Bujumbura from New York at 4:30pm (1430 GMT) for talks with Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza on Tuesday, after meeting with leaders of political parties and civil society. “This is a very important visit because we hope the UN Secretary-General will bring his weight to bear on President Pierre Nkurunziza so he finally accepts an inclusive and unconditional dialogue with his opponents,” a UN official told AFP. Hours before the UN chief’s arrival at least two people were killed and nine hurt in two separate grenade attacks in the capital early Monday by assailants on motorbikes, the latest in a string of such attacks, the city’s mayor said. “After the grenade thrown in the Kwa Siyoni market in the Ngagara district that left one dead and seven hurt, a second grenade exploded later in Kamenge market, leaving one person dead and two hurt,” Bujumbura mayor Freddy Mbonimpa told AFP.  The East African

UN Chief Arrives in Burundi for Crisis Talks
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is in Burundi for a visit aimed at calming a political crisis that has embroiled the country for almost a year. Ban arrived in the capital Bujumbura, Monday, ahead of scheduled meeting with the country’s politicians and civil society groups. His visit comes a month after a U.N. Security Council delegation traveled to the country to press for negotiations among President Pierre Nkurunziza and his opponents. Ahead of the visit, four people were killed in two separate grenade attacks in the capital over the past 24-hours. Burundi has been mired in a sometimes violent political crisis since April of last year, when Nkurunziza sought and won what is widely seen as an unconstitutional third term. VOA

Zuma to Head Burundi Crisis Task Team
President Jacob Zuma has been appointed chair of the Africa Union (AU) High level panel tasked with helping to resolve the Burundi crisis. He was appointed by new AU chair Chad President, Idriss Déby, to lead the panel of heads of states that are due to visit the country on Thursday. President Zuma says he was appointed for his previous role as mediator in the Burundi Peace talks that ended a debilitating civil war. Zuma says United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, called him on Monday morning ahead of his visit to the troubled country. Zuma says he will also speak with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who was chief mediator after violence broke out when Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third time. The AU abandoned the initial decision to send a peace keeping mission to the country but instead appointed a heads of state committee to engage the government. Burundi rejected the peace keeping mission. SABC

Why the U.S. Strike in Libya Wasn’t Just About Libya
[…] U.S. intelligence officials and senior military officers have become increasingly concerned that the Islamic State’s rapid advances in Libya could lead to new waves of strikes inside Tunisia that could decimate its fragile economy and derail Tunisia’s fledgling experiment with democracy. From its bastion in Libya, the Islamic State has already taken aim at Tunisia’s vital tourist industry. The group claimed responsibility for an assault on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis in March, which left 23 dead, and an attack on the seaside resort of Sousse in June, which killed 38. And in November, the Islamic State said it bombed a bus carrying Tunisian presidential guards, killing 12 people. Chouchane has been linked to the first two deadly attacks and Tunisian authorities issued a warrant for his arrest. The Islamic State’s branch in Libya “poses a proven threat to Tunisia and a potential threat to Algeria,” said author Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and now an analyst at the Brookings Institution. ”This is a targeted strike to eliminate a specific dangerous problem not the larger problem of Islamic State in Libya.”  Foreign Policy

Libyan Troops Claim Gains in Benghazi
A Libyan military spokesperson says troops loyal to the internationally-backed government have made major advances against Islamic extremists and cleared a strategic port in the eastern city of Benghazi. Khalifa al-Obeidi told The Associated Press on Monday that the port of Mraissa, which served as the largest “supply line for the terrorists” is now under the control of the army, led by General Khalifa Hifter. He says the army also cleared militants from a hospital in southern Benghazi. Benghazi is Libya’s second largest city and was the birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Muammar Gaddafi. It has endured more than two years of heavy battles between Hifter’s forces and a coalition of militias, including Islamic State (ISIS) loyalists.  News 24

Niger’s President: Foreign Intervention in Libya a Must
This week, more than seven million people in Niger, one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, are going to the polls to elect a president and a new parliament. It is the second election after Niger’s military coup in 2010. The sitting President Mahamadou Issoufou is intent on winning a second term. But among the other 14 presidential candidates Issoufou has some serious rivals, including former prime minister Seyni Oumarou and the controversial Hama Amadou, who is currently in jail, accused of complicity in a baby trafficking scandal. His supporters say those allegations are false, giving this election an added controversy in addition to a long list of divisive issues the political leadership here is already facing. The landlocked country is confronting severe threats to its stability as a result of armed conflicts in the region. Boko Haram is in Nigeria to the southeast and other groups such as ISIL in Mali and Libya in the north. The Nigeria conflict, which has killed thousands, has already spilled over to Niger. Up to 130,000 have fled across the border. In the Diffa region, large areas are unstable, and more than 170 villages are deserted. Al Jazeera

U.S. Scrambles to Contain Growing ISIS Threat in Libya
Even as American intelligence agencies say the number of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria has dropped to about 25,000 from a high of about 31,500, partly because of the United States-led air campaign there, the group’s ranks in Libya have roughly doubled in the same period, to about 6,500 fighters. More than a dozen American and allied officials spoke of their growing concern about the militant organization’s expanding reach from Libya and across Africa on rules of anonymity because the discussions involved intelligence and military planning. Islamic State leaders in Syria are telling recruits traveling north from West African nations like Senegal and Chad, as well as others streaming up through Sudan in eastern Africa, not to press on to the Middle East. Instead, they are being told to stay put in Libya. American intelligence officials, who described the recent orders from Islamic State leaders, say the organization’s immediate goal is to carve out a new caliphate in Libya, and there are signs the affiliate is trying to establish statelike institutions there.  The New York Times

Libya’s NOC Warns of More Islamic State Attacks on Oil Facilities
Libya’s oil facilities are likely to suffer further attacks unless a United Nations-backed unity government is approved, the head of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) told Reuters in an interview on Monday. Mustafa Sanalla also said suspected Islamic State militants had staged their latest attack against Libya’s oil infrastructure last Thursday or Friday, setting fire to one production tank and damaging another at the Fida oil field. Fida lies south-west of the oil terminals of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, where militants launched repeated assaults and inflicted major damage last month. “If there is no new government I think the situation will get worse. I believe there will be more attacks on the oil facilities,” Sanalla said. Libya has been mired in conflict following an uprising that toppled veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi five years ago. Two rival governments, backed by loose alliances of armed groups, are now vying for power and a share of the OPEC member’s oil wealth. Reuters

US Trains West Africans to Respond to Extremist Threats
Deep in the desert a loud explosion blows the roof off a Chevy Suburban, scattering car parts amid flames and black smoke. Earlier, a Mercedes Benz was blown up, its doors flying open. The recent explosions mimicked attacks by Islamic extremists, and are part of U.S.-led training of West African forces aimed at improving intelligence-gathering, cross-border communication and coordination between military forces and first responders. The emphasis on explosives comes as extremist groups in the region are increasingly using them and their attacks are becoming more sophisticated. In Mali earlier this month, Islamic extremists detonated explosives that killed seven peacekeepers and wounded 30 at a U.N. base in the northern city of Kidal. Boko Haram, the Nigerian extremist group, recently killed two Cameroonian soldiers with a land mine. Earlier, Cameroonian forces dismantled Boko Haram bomb factories in Goshi, Nigeria. The recent training witnessed by an Associated Press reporter for 50 Senegalese police, gendarmes, customs and judicial officials is part of the annual U.S.-led Flintlock exercises, a more than decade-old effort to help Africans counter threats from extremist militants. Held in Senegal and Mauritania this year, the training for the first time included African law enforcement officials. AP on The Washington Post

Algeria, Morocco Largest Importers of Arms in Africa
With 6.2 percent of the continent’s arms imports between 2011 to 2015, Uganda trailed at third place behind Algeria (30 percent) and Morocco (26 percent). The report said that though Algeria’s arms imports in the 2011-2015 period have decreased by 18 percent when compared to the 2006-2010 period, several major deliveries are scheduled in the next five years that may derail this trend. The deliveries include two frigates, also known as warships, from China, two frigates from Germany, and 190 tanks, 42 combat helicopters, 14 combat aircrafts, and two submarines from Russia. Arms imports for Morocco increased by 528 percent in the 2011-2015 period when compared to the 2006-2011 period, but remained lower than Algeria’s levels. In contrast to Algeria’s pattern of increasing arms purchases, at the end of 2015, Morocco’s only scheduled delivery consisted of 150 tanks from the United States. Exporting a third of the world’s weapons, the USA was the world’s largest provider of arms in the examined years. The presence of American arms was limited in Africa, however, where 34 percent of weapons imports come from Russia, 13 percent from China, another 13 percent from France, and 11 percent from the USA. Morocco World News

What Does Nigeria’s Use of Private Military Companies Against Boko Haram Mean for the World?
Over 2015 and early 2016, there have been reports, ranging from staid to hyperbolic, about the Nigerian government’s decision to hire private military companies (PMCs—or mercenaries to many) to bolster its armed forces’ efforts to deal with Boko Haram. In spite of the ubiquitous if underexposed presence of PMCs in the world’s conflict zones, where they regularly provide security and logistics for the US and British military, this recent action raised some uncomfortable questions about the future of conflict in the region and on a global scale. We spoke to Sean McFate, a former mercenary with firsthand experience of PMC operations in Liberia and Burundi, about why this deployment matters. McFate is a professor at the National Defense University and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is the author of Modern Mercenary : Private Armies and What They Mean for the World Order, and his first fictional title, Shadow War: A Tom Locke Novel, a thriller based on his real-life experiences in the private military industry, comes out in May. Vice

Zimbabwe Shuts 7 Diamond Companies
The Zimbabwe government has ordered seven diamond companies in the Marange area of eastern Zimbabwe to immediately stop all mining activities, a month after complaining about their opaque operations. Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa said the firms were operating illegally after the expiry of their joint-venture permits with the state. “It has since come to our attention that the joint venture companies have been operating illegally, as the permits which had been granted expired and were not renewed over the last four to five years,” Chidhakwa announced in Harare on Monday. He added: “This pertains to all the companies in the Marange area. In terms of conditions 6 and 8 of the special grant, the Secretary (of Mines) is empowered to cancel the special grant for various reasons including the economic interests of Zimbabwe.”  ANA on IOL News

US Ambassador to South Africa: ‘If I Tried to Organise a Coup it Would Look Like Mardi Gras’
The American ambassador to South Africa has poked fun at suggestions by the ruling African National Congress that he is pushing for regime change in the country, saying if he ever tried to organise a coup “it would look like Mardi Gras”. Patrick Gaspard took to Twitter to debunk the claims by the ANC’s secretary general, which were backed up by its spokesman. […] Mr Gaspard, a former White House aide who was hand-picked by President Barack Obama for the South African job, responded with a series of tongue-in-cheek tweets. “I wish that someone would invite me to these meetings,” he started. “Let’s not blame others for our own challenges.” He said Mr Mantashe should be aware of the Mandela Washington Fellowship launched by in 2014 by Barack Obama, since he had asked him to recommend candidates for it. “Hundreds of brilliant young South Africans have been in,” he wrote. “It ain’t a secret.”  The Telegraph

Survivors of Violence in Malakal Face New Crisis
A new humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Malakal, South Sudan, just days after an attack on a Protection of Civilians camp by government soldiers – the challenge of caring for tens of thousands of survivors. Around 18 people died in the violence that began on Wednesday night following growing ethnic tensions between Dinka and Shilluk communities in the camp. Government soldiers broke into the PoC and were involved in the fighting that intensified on Thursday, sending people fleeing the wild gun battles and a fire that destroyed half the camp. Some 15,000 people, mostly Nuer and Shilluk, have taken shelter in a small, narrow strip of land near the UN Mission in South Sudan peacekeeping base, 500 meters from the PoC. Around 5,000 mainly Dinka have fled into nearby Malakal town and the protection of the largely Dinka army. Around 25,000 people are still living in parts of the PoC that escaped destruction. IRIN

Sending Sudanese Troops to Syria is “Possible”: FM
Sudan may take part in any joint Islamic and Arab military action in Syria, Sudan foreign minister alluded in statement he made on Monday as his Saudi counterpart met with President Omer al-Bashir. Following a meeting with the Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir Monday, the visiting Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters that they discussed the “situation in the Arab region particularly in Yemen, Syria, Libya and Somalia”. Al-Jubeir underscored that the two sides held identical views on the Arabic and Islamic issues under discussion, praising Sudan’s participation in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and the Islamic military alliance to combat terrorism. For his part, Sudan’s foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour told reporters that it is premature to speak about sending Sudanese ground troops to Syria, but added that “everything is possible as long as Sudan is part of the Saudi-led coalition”. “However, this issue is not under discussion at this particular time,” he stressed. Sudan Tribune

Kenyan Police Boost Effort Against Al-Shabab
Kenyan police have received 30 armored personnel carriers to be used in areas of the country worst hit by terrorism. Security analysts say that is a good step, but Kenya needs to do more to win the war against al-Shabab. In an effort to protect and equip police officers, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta authorized 30 armored personnel carriers to be deployed to the northeastern and coastal regions to fight militants crossing into the country. The president has said he expects police to be able to work without the help of the military and other security sectors. Analyst Yan St. Pierre, who runs the Berlin-based security firm MOSECON, said Kenya has realized it is fighting a war inside its territory and all security sectors needed to be involved and equipped to counter the threat. VOA

Ethiopia Accused of Bloody Crackdown on Protesters
Ethiopian security forces are carrying out a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests in the country’s Oromia region and thousands of people are being held without charge, a human rights group has said. The demonstrations began in November due to a government plan to expand the boundaries of Addis Ababa into Oromia, which surrounds the capital, raising fears among Oromo people that their farms would be expropriated. Addis Ababa, which has accused the protesters of having links with “terror groups”, dropped the plan on January 12 and announced the situation in Oromia was largely under control. The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), however, said the protests were continuing.  Ethiopia’s information minister, Getachew Reda, told Al Jazeera that he had not yet read the report and so could not comment on it. HRW noted that researchers were unable to determine how many people have been killed or arrested because access to Oromia is restricted.  Al Jazeera

Egyptian Mass Trials Are a Bad Idea: Four-Year-Olds Get Life in Prison
Four-year-old Ahmed Mansour Karni did not bother appearing in an Egyptian military court last week to hear that he was being sentenced to life in prison for murder, attempted murder, vandalization, and threatening the police. That’s because the crimes the court said he committed took place in early 2013 — around nine months before the child’s second birthday. But despite repeated appeals from his family, the child’s name somehow still ended up on the list of some 115 defendants sentenced all at once in the West Cairo court last Tuesday.  His father, Mansour, explained on Egyptian television Saturday that security forces came to his family’s door in 2014 asking for his son. When he showed them the toddler, they realized they must have made a mistake, and arrested him instead. Mansour said that he then spent four months in prison waiting to appear before a judge who quickly realized there had been a name mix-up and released him without charges.  That administrative error was somehow not effectively communicated to the military court that handled last week’s trial, and ultimately sentenced his son in absentia for crimes he could not possibly have committed. Foreign Policy

Nigerian Navy Rescues Hijacked Oil Tanker, 1 Pirate Killed
Nigerian sailors rescued a hijacked oil tanker in a dramatic night-time rescue in which they killed one pirate, the Nigerian navy announced as it escorted the ship into Lagos harbor Monday. The Panama-flagged Maximus, owned by a company in the United Arab Emirates and on lease to a South Korean shipping company, steamed in with four captured hijackers from Nigeria and Ghana and the crew of 18 from India, Pakistan, China, South Korea, Sudan and Ghana, said Rear Admiral Henry Babalola. He said the navy is still searching for two crew taken hostage by two hijackers who escaped in a pirate vessel. The Indian defense attache, Capt. Gautam Marwaha, said one hostage is Indian and the other is believed to be Pakistani. He said they have received no ransom demand. The bandits were after the ship’s 4,700 tons of diesel fuel when they seized it Feb. 11 off the coast of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, the navy said. The ship was rescued Saturday night about 310 miles (500 kilometers) southwest of Lagos. AP on Stars and Stripes

African Assets Fall Out of Favour as Investors Reassess Risk
Investors are yanking their cash from African assets, until recently a popular play for the adventurous, as a toxic confluence of factors overhangs the continent. Crashing commodity prices, a Chinese slowdown and a string of policy failures are forcing investors to reassess the risk of investing in Africa after years of optimism about its growth prospects. Stock markets and currencies have been selling off across the continent, especially in commodity-dependent economies. Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy and longtime investor darling, has one of the world’s worst-performing stock indices this year, down 14% since the start of 2016. The S&P Nigeria BMI index lost more than one-quarter of its value last year as measured in dollars, 10 percentage points more than the average frontier-market index the company tracks. The Wall Street Journal on Business Day Live

Tipping Point Looms for Despairing South Africa
Not since Nelson Mandela walked out of Victor Verster prison 26 years ago have investors been gloomier about South Africa’s economy. Money is pouring out at a record pace as inflows dwindle. The rand has plunged and unemployment is the highest among almost 40 developing nations tracked by Bloomberg. Drought is driving up food costs. Hanging in the balance is the investment-grade credit rating South Africa sweated to achieve in 2000, shortly after Mandela left office. South Africans are paying the price not just for a collapse in commodities prices — metals and mining contribute more than 50 percent of exports — but for growing questions over whether President Jacob Zuma is up to the task. Stoking doubts were the antics at the finance ministry in December, when Zuma removed Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with little-known lawmaker David van Rooyen. As bond yields soared and the rand crashed, he changed his mind four days later and installed Pravin Gordhan, Nene’s predecessor. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones