Media Review for February 24, 2016

Burundi Rivals Agree to Hold Talks to End Crisis
Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and opposition politicians have agreed to hold talks to end a 10-month-old crisis, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. After meeting with Nkurunziza and opposition politicians, Ban said on Tuesday that all sides had agreed to “inclusive dialogue” and that the president “confirmed that he would engage in political dialogue. “Burundi’s political leaders must be ready to summon the courage and the confidence that will make a credible political process possible.” It remains unclear which of his opponents Nkurunziza will be willing to negotiate with, as some are in exile, some are jailed and some have taken up arms. Ban met both government and opposition politicians on Monday night before holding talks with Nkurunziza on Tuesday morning. He later left for the Democratic Republic of Congo on the second leg of an Africa tour that will also take him to South Sudan, where civil war erupted in December 2013.  Al Jazeera

Burundi’s Nkuruniza Tells UN Chief He Will Free Prisoners
Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has said he will release 2,000 prisoners detained since protests broke out against his rule in April. He made the announcement following talks with UN chief Ban Ki-moon in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura. About 400 people have been killed and 250,000 have fled to neighbouring states since Mr Nkurunziza announced in April that he would seek a third term. He survived a coup attempt in May, and won elections in July. Mr Ban’s visit was the latest in a series of diplomatic initiatives aimed at ending the unrest. BBC

UN: Uganda Poll Marred by Violence, Rights Abuses
The United Nations’ human rights office is condemning violence and alleged human rights abuses that marred last week’s presidential elections in Uganda. U.N. human rights monitors say two people were killed — one as police broke up an opposition rally, and the other as police disrupted a post-election protest. U.N. monitors say military and police forces in the capital, Kampala, have imprisoned several opposition figures, including three presidential candidates. Among those is Kizza Besigye, head of the Forum for Democratic Change, or FDC, who was arrested and released on three different occasions last week, and arrested yet again Monday, according to human rights spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly. “We are also concerned about the intimidating display of force used on Friday by Ugandan police and military forces to evacuate the FDC headquarters in Kampala, with tear gas and live ammunition reportedly used,” Pouilly said, “and by worrying information of journalists being harassed and intimidated by security forces.”  VOA

This Time I Decided to Vote
Last Thursday, I woke up early and set off to my polling station at Mawanga Mosque in Kampala’s Makindye West Division. This is the first time I was determined to vote in an election, and nothing was going to stop me. Having arrived at 6:50 am, I promptly joined a long queue, saddened to see that the voting materials had not yet been delivered. Voting was supposed to start at 7:00, but the materials were only delivered at 11:30. Nevertheless, it was an amazing thing to see the growing number of voters that kept coming to wait in line under the scorching sun. Some went and got chairs from their homes and then returned to wait in line some more. Others went off to buy snacks and water, and returned to still wait in line. I stayed too. Foreign Policy

Niger President Leads Early Election Results
Initial returns from Niger’s presidential election show incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou in the lead, but the opposition is already rejecting the results. The vote count, released Tuesday by Niger’s electoral commission, showed Issoufou winning about 40 percent of the vote, trailed by opposition candidates Hama Amadou and Seyni Oumarou with 29 and 12 percent, respectively. The results count ballots in only 20 of Niger’s 308 voting districts. A coalition of opposition parties is dismissing the official tally as fraudulent. Coalition head Amadou Cisse said Tuesday that the government invented “thousands of polling stations” to skew the outcome. President Issoufou is running for a second five-year term with a promise to crush Islamist militants and develop one of the poorest countries in the world. His critics say Issoufou used political repression in the run-up to the vote, arresting opposition supporters, politicians, journalists and even a singer who released a song critical of him.  VOA

Nigeria’s Budget Fiasco
In our series of letters from African journalists, novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani looks at the trouble Nigeria is having balancing the books. Whatever criticism you may have of President Muhammadu Buhari, his administration cannot be accused of being dull. Week after week, some new action on the government stage causes eyeballs to bulge. Even those newspapers which typically scream front page headlines such as: “Friend Kills Friend Over Girlfriend” now have more than enough government activity to meet their customers’ needs for sensationalism. The budget fiasco was the latest drama to unfold, and it came with a diverse cast of characters. BBC

Nigeria’s Once Mighty PDP is Fighting for its Future
Once hailed as the largest political party in Africa, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has taken what many perceive as a backwards step with the choice of its new chairperson. The PDP is still reeling from its 2015 election defeat and many are sceptical that Ali Modu Sheriff, who formally took over yesterday, is the person to put the party back on the right path. The decision of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) last week to appoint a man who has been accused of sponsoring Boko Haram and recently faced allegations of corruption was met with anger and incredulity by many party members. Several have spoken out strongly against the move, with the PDP’s Board of Trustees yesterday declaring that “Sheriff is not suitable as national chairman of PDP”. Meanwhile, many others have even threatened to leave the party if the new chair does not resign soon. African Arguments

Nigeria Rejects Saudi’s Offer to Join Islamic States’ Coalition Against Terror
Nigeria has told the Saudi government that it will not join the Islamic States’ coalition against terror. President Mohammadu Buhari conveyed the position of the Federal Government to King Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz during bilateral meeting between the two leaders held in Riyadh. Buhari is on a state visit to Saudi Arabia and Qater. On December 15, 2015, Saudi’s Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman had announced Saudi has formed a coalition of 34 countries to coordinate a fight against terrorist organizations across the globe. Nigeria was among the countries listed as a member of the coalition. The statement said: “Arab countries such as Qatar and the UAE will join the coalition, as well as Middle Eastern, Asian and African states including Pakistan, Malaysia, and Nigeria.”  The Sun, Nigeria

Saudi Arabia Gives Sudan $5 Billion in Military Aid
Saudi Arabia has granted five billion dollar military assistance to Sudan initially dedicated to the Lebanese army, multiple sources told Sudan Tribune on Monday. The diversion of military aid to Sudan comes as the Saudi Press Agency announced on Friday 19 February the cancellation of a $3 billion aid package for the Lebanese army and the remainder of $1 billion in aid it had earmarked for Lebanon’s security service. The military aid to Sudan was announced to President Omer al-Bashir by the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, during a two-hour visit to the Sudanese capital Khartoum, seemingly in return to his total political and military support to Saudi Arabia in the regional confrontation against Iran.  Sudan Tribune

History Repeats Itself in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is in the grip of a devastating drought sparked by the worst El Niño in a generation, and aid agencies warn that food aid could run out as soon as May. Unlike in the past, the government and aid groups have kept food shipments flowing to areas ravaged by drought in recent months. But they need more money, at a time when international donors are distracted by a string of humanitarian disasters around the world. Above: In the various pastoralist regions of Ethiopia, the livestock are often the first affected by the drought because of the lack of adequate grazing land. Ethi­o­pia burned itself into the West’s collective memory with the horrific famines of 1973 and 1984, when hundreds of thousands starved to death and images of dying children appeared on the world’s television screens. Since that time, the government has struggled to shed this image of the world’s charity case by turning Ethiopia into Africa’s new economic juggernaut, with a decade of 10 percent annual growth. Barring natural disasters, the country is also practically self-sufficient in food. The Washington Post

What New Evidence from Somalia Tells us About When Civilians Decided to Flee War Zones
The massive scale of the refugee crisis driven by five years of war in Syria highlights the urgency of the much broader challenge posed by population displacement to the international system. Global displacement has now reached a higher level than it has been since World War II. An effective response requires understanding not just why populations become displaced but also when. The experience of Somalia suggests that the expectation of changes of balance of power on the ground, not the actual territorial gains or the entry or exit of foreign powers, is the crucial trigger for population displacement. There are actually very different types of refugee flows, which require quite different policy responses. Sometimes displacement occurs in massive floods, like when more than 200,000 people crossed from Rwanda into Tanzania within a 24-hour period April 29, 1994. In other cases, we see the nature of refugee flows change over time. For instance, Syria saw displacement in relatively small trickles in 2011 and part of 2012, but then a massive flood of refugees later in the conflict. The Washington Post

Kenya: Supreme Court Judge Suspended Over Bribery Claims
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday suspended Supreme Court Judge Justice Philip Tunoi who is facing allegations of receiving a $2 million bribe in an election petition. Kenyatta appointed a seven-member tribunal to investigate Tunoi’s conduct in the election petition lodged by a rival against Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero’s March 2013 election victory. Journalist Benjamin Kiplagat claims he was involved in plans to bribe Tunoi to favor Kidero in the judgment of the case. Tunoi, through his lawyer Fred Ngatia, earlier this month said he was ready to face the tribunal and reiterated his innocence. The case tests the credibility of Kenya’s Supreme Court, which was formed in 2010 when the country adopted a new constitution. AP on The Washington Post

Libyan Islamist Militias ‘Lose Key Territory in Benghazi’
Islamist militias in Libya have lost two major areas in the eastern city of Benghazi, military sources and residents have told the BBC. “People are celebrating on the streets,” a resident said. Fighters loyal to anti-Islamist Gen Khalifa Haftar are reported to have taken over the port, a hospital and have cut off a key weapons supply line. Thousands have fled more than a year of fighting in Benghazi, the birthplace of the 2011 uprising.  BBC

Italy Agrees to Let Anti-Islamic State Drones Depart from Sicily
Italy has agreed to let armed U.S. drones take off from an air base in Sicily on a case-by-case basis for defensive missions against Islamic State militants in North Africa, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Tuesday. “If it is a matter of operations against terrorists, against potential Islamic State attackers, there is a close relationship between us and the other allies, above all the Americans,” Renzi said in an interview with RTL radio. The prime minister, who has repeatedly said Italy would not take part in military strikes in Libya without the express request of a recognised government, said they would be authorised “case by case”. An Italian defence ministry official said late on Monday the agreement would allow defensive missions and not offensive action, such as the attack on a suspected militant training camp in Sabratha, Libya, that killed dozens last week. Reuters

How Serious is the ISIL Threat in Libya?
The recent US air strike on a building in the western Libyan city of Sabrata, which killed more than 40 suspected Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters, highlights the growing expansion and danger of the group in Libya. As ISIL continues to be squeezed in Iraq and Syria, Libya is increasingly becoming a strategic alternative ground. Another US air strike late last year in eastern Libya also reportedly killed Abu Nabil al-Anbari, a veteran Iraqi military officer believed to have been sent to Libya to organise and lead the group there. But how did ISIL come to Libya in the first place? The group gained its first foothold in 2014 in the eastern city of Derna, about 300km west of the Egyptian border. A number of young Libyan fighters who were once members of the al-Battar brigade, which fought against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, became radicalised in an ISIL unit in Syria and were later sent back to Derna to establish an ISIL base there.  Al Jazeera

Former Guantanamo Detainee Among 4 Arrested in Spain, Morocco for Islamic State Ties
Spanish and Moroccan police on Tuesday arrested four suspected members of a jihadi cell that sought to recruit fighters for the Islamic State group, including one described as a former Guantanamo detainee who once fought with militants in Afghanistan. Three people were arrested in Spain’s North African enclave city of Ceuta while a Moroccan was arrested in the Moroccan border town of Farkhana, next to Melilla, Spain’s other North African enclave, statements from the two nations’ interior ministries said. One of those detained in Ceuta was the former Guantanamo detainee who was not named by Spanish authorities but described as “a leader who was trained in handling weapons, explosives and in military tactics.” After being captured in 2002 and held in Guantanamo, he was returned to Spain in 2004, said Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz.  AP on The Stars and Stripes

In Desperation, Struggling Egypt Discovers its African Roots
With its economy in trouble, Egypt is aggressively – and expensively – wooing African business. Having long snubbed the continent, favouring its Arab heritage over its geography, Egypt’s leaders are hoping that it’s not too late to get in on the great African gold rush. And while the booze and the macaroons won’t seal the deal, they’ll certainly help.  Daily Maverick

Gwede Mantashe’s Conspiracy Theories
[…] Mantashe is reported to have said, “As we mobilise our people, we must say, be vigilant. You must see through anarchy and people who are out there in a programme of regime change. “We are aware of the meetings taking place regularly in the American embassy. These meetings in the embassy are about nothing else other than mobilization for regime change. We’re aware of a programme that takes young people to the United States for six weeks, brings them back and plants them everywhere in the campuses and everywhere.” Mantashe also linked this activity to the various non-violent, so-called ‘colour revolutions’ in the past several years. These movements gained their common label because of the way activists in whichever country have fastened upon a particular hue to represent their ideals and activism for greater democratic freedoms, such as Ukraine’s orange revolution. Now, if the secretary-general’s thoughts are taken seriously, the particularly subversive program under his baleful gaze is the Mandela-Washington Fellows program, the local name for the Young African Leader Initiative, launched several years back as part of the Obama administration’s recognition that Africa is a particularly young continent demographically.  Daily Maverick

Defeated CAR Candidate Concedes Poll Results Despite ‘Massive Fraud’
Central African Republic presidential candidate Anicet George Dologuele has said he will accept the results of the presidential election runoff of February 14 despite what he called “massive fraud” in the latest ballot. At a press conference on Saturday night, Mr Dologuele said he will recognise Mr Faustin Archange Touadera as president, although he expressed concern about irregularities. “For the sake of peace I will accept the result and respect Mr Touadera as president of the Republic…I wish him good luck,” Mr Dologuele told a press conference in Bangui. A former prime minister, Mr Dologuele topped the first round of the December 30, 2015 presidential election in the crisis-hit central African nation. But his rival Touadera garnered 62.71 per cent of the ballots cast in the runoff of February 14, according to results by the National Elections Authority (ANE). Africa Review

U.N. Apologizes for Failing to Protect S. Sudan Civilians in Attack that Killed 18
After a sustained armed attack at a camp for displaced people in South Sudan killed at least 18, a United Nations spokesman apologized for failing to protect the civilians. The violence at the camp in Malakal, which is managed by the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, erupted on Feb. 17. The U.N. has heard alarming reports of soldiers in government uniforms “entering the UNMISS camp and firing on civilians, and the looting and burning of tents.” NPR’s Jason Beaubien in Juba reported to our Newscast unit that the U.N. spokesman gave the apology over a local radio station. Here’s more from Jason: “A spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan said ‘We are really sorry and sorry is an understatement’ about the incident.  NPR

UN Chief Visits DRC Camp for Displaced People
UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited on Tuesday a camp for displaced people in the restive east of Democratic Republic of Congo where several shelters for people fleeing conflict are under threat of closure by the authorities. Following a trip to neighbouring Burundi, Ban travelled about 80km northeast of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province to the Mungote camp, an AFP photographer reported. The camp located in Kitchanga, a town of 80 000 inhabitants, is home to around 15 000 people, according to the United Nations. The UN secretary-general met with some of the women in the camp and visited a school where he shared a hot lunch with children.  News 24

Italian Navy Rescues 700 migrants Near Libyan Coast
Italy’s navy and coastguard said on Tuesday they had rescued more than 700 migrants from six boats off the coast of Libya, and found four bodies. The navy ship Cigala Fulgosi helped in the rescue of three boats, taking in 403 people. It also recovered the four corpses. A second ship, the Bettica, picked up 219 migrants from two boats, while a third, the Scirocco, recovered 105 migrants from a rubber dinghy, the navy said in a statement. Last week the coastguard recovered two bodies from the sea off Italy after about 40 migrants landed in Sicily. Since the start of the year, 6,736 people have arrived in Italy via Libya, compared with 7,257 people during the same period in 2015, according to the Italian interior ministry. The Guardian

African Arms Imports Grew by 19% over the Last Decade – SIPRI
Between 2006–10 and 2011–15, major arms imports by states in Africa increased by 19 per cent, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which noted that Algeria and Morocco remained the two largest arms importers in the region with a combined total of 56 per cent of African imports. This is according to new data on international arms transfers published by SIPRI, which noted that the three largest importers in Africa in 2011–15 were Algeria (30 per cent of imports), Morocco (26 per cent) and Uganda (6.2 per cent). Russia accounted for 34 per cent of arms exports to the region, France for 13 per cent, China for 13 per cent and the USA for 11 per cent. States in sub-Saharan Africa received 41 per cent of total African imports. Uganda, Sudan and Nigeria were the largest importers in the subregion, accounting for 15, 12 and 11 per cent of the subregional total respectively. Russia accounted for 27 per cent of arms exports to the subregion and China for 22 per cent. DefenseWeb



Photo: Adam Jones