Media Review for February 25, 2016

Somalia’s al-Shabab Killed ‘180 Kenyan Troops’ in el-Ade
At least 180 Kenyan troops were killed when al-Shabab attacked their base last month, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has said. Kenya has still not given casualty figures for the assault in the southern Somali base of el-Ade. The Islamist militant group said it had killed about 100 Kenyan troops. If it is confirmed that 180 troops were killed, it would be al-Shabab’s deadliest assault since it was formed nearly a decade ago. President Mohamud gave the death toll of 180 in an interview with a Somali television station, while defending his attendance at a memorial for the soldiers in Kenya. Some Somalis accused him on social media of showing greater concern for the killing of Kenyans than his own nationals.  BBC

France Special Forces Waging ‘Secret War’ Against Isil in Libya
France has secretly attacked Islamic State bases in Libya, carrying out air strikes and ground operations involving special forces and intelligence agents, French military sources revealed on Wednesday. The sources disclosed no details of the precise targets hit but told Le Monde newspaper that the strikes were directed at senior IS commanders with the aim of preventing the terrorist group from strengthening its forces in Libya. London and Washington would have been informed of the actions, according to an intelligence source. The United States bombed an IS training camp in Libya last week, reportedly killing dozens of fighters including one of the extremist group’s leaders.  The Telegraph

A Radical Idea to Rebuild a Shattered Libya: Restore the Monarchy
The deserted royal palace here, hidden behind locked gates and an overgrown garden, stands as a monument to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s virulent rejection of Libya’s monarchy. Colonel Qaddafi overthrew King Idris, the country’s founding leader, in a 1969 coup, but that was not all. He also abolished the monarchy; scrapped the royal flag; banished or jailed the king’s relatives; and turned the gold-domed palace into office space, a library, and after 2009, a lavish private museum for classical antiquities. Yet the popular memory of King Idris, who died in Cairo in 1983, has quietly endured in Libya. And now, after Colonel Qaddafi’s own fall and the years of violent turmoil that have followed, the country’s closet royalists have emerged with a radical suggestion: Restore a form of monarchy, at least temporarily, to let Libyans rally behind a respected father figure and begin to rebuild their splintered nation. The splinters are jagged ones, with rival militias continually scrambling for dominance. In fierce fighting on Tuesday in the eastern city of Benghazi, several crucial neighborhoods changed hands. In the west, Islamic State fighters beheaded 12 officials in the town of Sabratha, where American warplanes bombed an extremist camp last week. The New York Times

Uganda Opposition Gathers Evidence to Challenge Election Outcome
Uganda’s main opposition party says it’s working hard to gather evidence to legally challenge the outcome of the February 18 general election. Uganda’s electoral law says challenges can be filed up to 10 days after results are announced. Mugisha Muntu, chairman of the Forum for Democratic Change, said the party was doing everything possible to meet the deadline, despite what he said had been continuous harassment and intimidation by state security operatives. Muntu noted that the intimidation followed the frequent arrests and subsequent release of Kizza Besigye, the FDC presidential candidate. “We started gathering evidence on Saturday, right after we found out that there were huge discrepancies between what was being announced and what we’ve been gathering from our own polling stations,” he said. Since then, he added, “our presidential candidate … has been taken to the police cells several times.” VOA

Uganda’s Elections Show that Democratic Gains are Slowing in Much of Africa
Ugandans voted last week in national elections for president, parliament and local government positions. Unsurprisingly, on Saturday the Electoral Commission declared incumbent President Yoweri Museveni the winner of the presidential election with 60 percent of the vote. It marks the start of Museveni’s fifth elected term in office after seizing power following a civil war in 1986. But adding to concerns of voting irregularities and a climate of intimidation leading up to the election, the re-election of Uganda’s longtime president also highlights fears of a region backslide in democracy. There was once a time when Museveni was seen as part of a new generation of African leaders that would help sweep aside the old political vanguard and establish democratic rule as the Cold War ended. But the abolishment of term limits in 2005 and growing authoritarianism, including targeting of media outlets critical of the president and heavy handed tactics during the 2011 Walk to Work protests, left many wondering whether Museveni’s rule was just another failed attempt at democracy for Uganda. UN Dispatch

The Queen of Uganda’s Museveni Dynasty
There were no spontaneous parties or ululations. No drumming and drinking until the sun came up. After President Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner on Saturday of an election marred by accusations of intimidation and vote-rigging, Ugandans neither celebrated nor took to the streets to protest. Instead, the country seemed to breathe a disillusioned sigh of relief. Relief that all had been relatively peaceful, disillusionment because it had never really been a contest. Museveni, for his part, can’t afford to be so resigned. Constitutional term limits bar the populist former guerrilla leader from running again in 2021, and at 71 years old, he may not be capable of presiding over a government for much longer, in any case. Museveni, in other words, is at the stage when he must consider who can ensure the survival of his regime, and the distinctive coalition between civilian and military elites that undergirds it, after he is gone. The answer he seems to have settled on is his own immediate family — and, increasingly, it’s his wife who seems the most likely successor. Foreign Policy

‘Fed up’ Chadians Shut Down N’Djamena
Chad’s opposition brought the country to a standstill on Wednesday in an act of defiance against the government. President Idriss Deby Itno is feeling the heat over his fifth term bid in office, but also his handling of the brutal rape of a teenage girl by the sons of senior officials. “That’s Enough!” was the rallying cry of opposition and civil society groups in Chad, who called for a nationwide shutdown on Wednesday, and largely succeeded. The protest emptied the capital N’Djamena of shoppers and cleared traffic. It’s the sixth major demonstration since January, and not a good sign for the Chadian president, who is seeking a fifth term in office on April 10. RFI

Burkina Faso Ex-leader Blaise Compaore Becomes Ivorian
Burkina Faso’s ousted leader Blaise Compaore has been granted Ivorian citizenship, effectively ending the prospect of his extradition to face murder charges back home. The order was signed by Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara in November 2014, but has only just come to light. Mr Compaore is wanted over his alleged role in the murder of iconic ex-leader Thomas Sankara in 1987. Mr Compaore, whose wife is Ivorian, has been in exile in Ivory Coast since his overthrow in October 2014. An international arrest warrant was issued for him in December. The BBC’s Valerie Bony in Abidjan says Ivory Coast does not extradite its citizens. Mr Sankara, a left-wing radical seen as “Africa’s Che Guevara”, is considered a hero for many Africans and was succeeded by Mr Compaore, who had served as his deputy. The exact circumstances of his death have remained a mystery, but Mr Compaore has always denied any involvement.  BBC

When Algeria’s Sleeping President Attempts to Awaken
Amid the overall apathy that has characterised Algerian President Abdelaziz Boutefika’s controversial fourth term in office came a decision to breathe new life into a clearly moribund administration. The decision, a classic in Algerian politics, has been to introduce a raft of amendments to the constitution. While in the early days of Algerian nation-building writing new constitutions was standard practice with every new president, Bouteflika has opted for the more subtle approach of merely changing the body of text. In 2008, he was credited for his first nuanced change when he ran for a third term in office despite being limited by law to only two consecutive mandates. At the peak of his popularity and with high oil prices lending him support, public opinion applauded the decision and the 2008 election was once again comfortably won by Bouteflika. A massive overhaul of the country’s infrastructure was launched and on one of many visits to a building site the ageing president was cheered to appeals to run for yet another term. Midlle East Eye

Morocco’s ‘Spring’ and the Failure of the Protest Movement
Five Years after Morocco’s “Spring” moment, the North African kingdom remains a carefully engineered political edifice where the regime is, for now, virtually uncontested. When the tsunami of the Arab uprisings reached Morocco on February 20, 2011, there was much jubilation and optimism as the February 20 protest movement launched massive demonstrations in Rabat against corruption, economic, and political stagnation. The movement’s undeniable feature was that it was born out of several tech savvy youth activists. Using the social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the activists released the movement’s founding document calling for a democratic constitution, the recognition of Amazigh as an official language, and the release of prisoners of conscience. In the first protests in Rabat, an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets chanting: “Down with autocracy” and “The people want to change the constitution,” and other slogans against the government, corruption and state television.  The Huffington Post

In DRC, Armed Groups Dwindle but Still Aggravate Troubled Region
Since 2002, more than 30,000 foreign ex-combatants operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been repatriated, the majority of them to Rwanda. But while their numbers have been reduced, their impact in the DRC is still substantial, especially on the environment. In Rwanda, reintegration efforts have faced their own challenges. This is the first in a three-part series looking at ex-combatants, the environment and the complexities of repatriation and reintegration. Al Jazeera America

Comoros: 3 Candidates to Contest in April 10 Run-off
Provisional results of the presidential elections in Comoros show the vice president and candidate of the ruling party, Mohamed Ali Soilih, won the first round of Sunday’s election with 17.61 per cent of votes. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), Mouigni Baraka, governor of the island of Grande Comore, garnered 15.09 per cent of the vote and Colonel Azali Assoumani obtained 14.96 per cent. These three candidates qualified for the second round of the presidential election scheduled for April 10. About 159, 000 voters cast their ballots on the Grande Comore Island on Sunday in an election that saw 25 candidates competing for the next round. Election observers commended the electoral process in the country with no major incidences recorded. Security forces were however deployed around major towns amid fears of violence. The candidates have five days to appeal the results at the country’s Constitutional Court. Africa News

South Africa’s Zuma Withdraws Troops from Darfur
South Africa will withdraw its troops from peacekeeping operations in Sudan’s Darfur region, President Jacob Zuma’s office said on Wednesday. “Members of the South African National Defence Force were employed in Darfur in 2008 as part of the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). The termination will take effect from 01 April 2016,” the president’s office said in a statement.  The East African

SA Doing its Part for Peacekeeping in Africa
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and South African Police Service (SAPS) continue to participate in conflict prevention and peacekeeping in the continent, the government has said, with anti-piracy operations and peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan. Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele said there has been a drastic reduction of piracy in the Mozambique Channel following SANDF operations in the area since 2011. “SANDF successfully deployed two ships, SAS Spioenkop and SAS Galeshewe, on Operation Copper in the Mozambique Channel, alternating times during the reporting period,” Minister Cwele said. On Tuesday, he chaired the International Cooperation, Trade and Security cluster media briefing, which was held in Cape Town. DefenceWeb

South Sudan’s Man-made Hunger Crisis
[…] An estimated 40,000 people in Unity State, which has seen some of the worst violence and abuses since the armed conflict broke out in 2013, are facing catastrophic shortages in basic supplies. But it is not drought or environmental factors that have brought on their hunger. Their hunger is instead the consequence of regular and intentional attacks by government soldiers and allied militias, not only on food supplies – the cattle and crops that civilians rely on – but also on humanitarian agencies working in the country. In southern Unity State, cattle raids by warring parties have left civilians without staples such as milk. Many subsist on water lilies and fish, but as flood waters have receded, even those food sources have become scarcer. Although the fighting was supposed to have ended when the government and the political opposition signed a peace agreement last August, people say that attacks by state forces and allied militia continued into December. They describe killings, systematic and widespread abductions, rape, looting and the intentional destruction of civilian property.  African Arguments

President Kiir’s Office Aides Stole over $14m in Forged Signatures: State Attorney
Senior aides of the South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, have been charged in court for using their positions to steal 14 million United States (US) dollars and another amount of 30 million South Sudanese pounds (SSP), according to a state attorney charge sheet read in high court on Tuesday in Juba. Deng Achuil, a senior legal counsel and the government prosecutor, said the top suspects, Yel Luol Kur – the former chief executive director and Mayen Wol Jong, the ex-chief administrator in the office of President Kiir, signed documents authorizing payment of millions of dollars and SSP by central bank without the president’s knowledge.  Sudan Tribune

‘Catastrophic’ Fighting in South Sudan’s Pibor
Fighting raged for a second day Wednesday in the eastern South Sudan town of Pibor, injuring at least 35 people and forcing some 1 000 others to shelter in a UN base, medical charity MSF said. The violence erupted on Tuesday in the town in Jonglei state, one of the flashpoints in the civil war which has torn the world’s youngest nation since December 2013. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) said its medical compound had been looted and the staff were also forced to shelter in a nearby compound of UNIMSS, the United Nations mission to the war-ravaged country. UNMISS has deployed more than 12 000 peacekeepers across the country. “As of 13:00 today, MSF was supporting treatment for 35 patients but there is a lack of surgical capacity to provide the level of treatment that is urgently required,” a statement said.  News 24

Nigerian Navy Rescues Second Hijacked Ship in a Week
The Nigerian Navy says it has rescued a hijacked offshore oil supply ship but pirates escaped with two crew members from Russia and Nigeria. It’s the second rescue in a week. On Saturday, the navy recovered an oil tanker in a high seas shoot-out that killed one of the pirates. Six hijackers were arrested but two got away with two crew members, believed to be from India and Pakistani. The navy said it rescued the French-owned MV Bourbon on Wednesday, hours after receiving a distress call. The rescue occurred in the Gulf of Guinea, which in 2013 overtook Somalia to become the world’s most hijack-prone area. The gulf is a major route for shipping oil, which is generally what pirates are after though some kidnap for ransom.  News 24

Nigeria Forcibly Resettles Refugees to Allow Schools to Open
Nigeria’s government is forcibly resettling hundreds of people who lost their homes to Boko Haram’s carnage, some to a refugee camp where the extremists recently killed dozens, even though U.N. officers urged officials to consider the security fears of already traumatized people. Some people wailed that they were being sent to their deaths. “They attacked and forced us … even humiliating us,” Ilya Ibrahim, a 39-year-old father of three, said of the military. Camp managers ordered people onto trucks as armed soldiers stood by Monday in northeastern Maiduguri, birthplace of Boko Haram and a city of 1 million overrun by more than 1 million refugees. Security forces deployed after attempts to move the refugees last week failed. Some refugees were manhandled and camp managers locked gates to prevent the departure of refugees who wanted to find other accommodation in the city.  AP on ABC News

How Nigeria’s Budget Became a Farce in Five Steps
Nigeria’s budget for 2016 has not had an easy ride since it was first proposed, amid great fanfare, by President Muhammadu Buhari in December 2015. The West African giant is facing a number of economic challenges, including a slump in global oil prices and calls for its currency—the Nigerian naira—to be devalued to deal with falling foreign exchange revenues. Buhari was elected partly on an anti-corruption ticket and has made tackling graft a key priority of his administration, with a number of high-profile arrests taking place during his tenure. Yet two months into 2016, Nigeria is yet to approve its fiscal plan for the year and the budget issue risks undermining the president’s battle against corruption.  NewsWeek

Isis Plane Attack: Egypt Admits ‘Terrorists’ Downed Russian Metrojet Flight
Egyptian authorities has said terrorists downed a Russian passenger plane from Sharm el-Sheikh to damage the country’s tourist industry after months of denying Isis claims of responsibility. Metrojet flight 9268 was just 23 minutes into its journey to St Petersburg when it crashed on 31 October, killing all 224 passengers and crew on board. An Egyptian faction of the so-called Islamic State, Wilayat Sinai, immediately claimed responsibility but local authorities initially maintaining a technical problem was to blame for the disaster. Weeks later, an Isis propaganda magazine published photos claiming to show the improvised explosive device that had brought the plane down after being hidden inside a can of Schweppes Gold pineapple juice.  The Independent

Sisi Tells Egyptians: Don’t Listen to Anyone But Me
Egypt’s president says he will “remove from the face of the Earth” anyone plotting to bring down the state. Egypt’s president has said that unfair criticism of the government is contributing to attempts to bring down the state, telling Egyptians not to listen to anyone but him. On Wednesday, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi did not go into specifics in an address broadcast live, saying only that he would “remove from the face of the Earth” anyone plotting to bring down the state. Sisi’s government has faced a wave of criticism in recent weeks over alleged police brutality and other rights abuses, as well as its handling of the economy. The recently elected parliament, a 596-seat chamber, has been widely dismissed by critics as a rubber-stamp legislature.  Al Jazeera

How Burundi’s Activist Journalists Fill a News Void Using Facebook and Whatsapp
[…] The bruising crackdown on local media gave way to a culture of rumor and fear, two men and their teams of out-of-work journalists and street-level informants have taken to social media, at huge risk to their personal safety, in order to keep Burundians—at-home and in-exile—and the international community informed. The founders of SOS Medias Burundi—originally more of an underground radio broadcaster—quickly realized they needed to combat the misinformation on social media with a Facebook-based outlet offering verified news. “All of us were discouraged by this, asking ‘Is this the end of true journalism in Burundi?’” says W.K., 35. SOS Medias operates in a social media environment with old-school news principles. They host editorial meetings on WhatsApp, dole out assignments, and tirelessly verify information before posting on Facebook and Twitter. For them, providing an alternative to the rumor mill is paramount.  Quartz

Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah: Visionary, Authoritarian Ruler and National Hero
“Circle, Circle, Circle,” calls a young man from a minibus at passersby. Four passengers climb hastily aboard and the vehicle rejoins the stream of traffic heading along the four-lane highway in the direction of Circle. Circle is an abbreviation for Kwame Nkrumah Circle, the biggest roundabout in Ghana’s capital Accra and named after Ghana’s first president. Half a century has passed since he was ousted in a military coup, but he remains a popular figure in Ghana and beyond to this day. Nkrumah was born the son of a goldsmith on 21 September, 1909 in what was then the Gold Coast, a British colony. He was sent to an elementary school run by a Catholic mission and later worked as a teacher himself. Pursuing his dream of studying in the United States, this young man, of humble origins, crossed the Atlantic on a steamship as a stowaway. He lived and studied in the US for 10 years.  Deutsche Welle

Ebola ‘Devastates Long-Term Health’
Most people who survive an Ebola infection will have long-lasting health problems, say doctors from the US National Institutes of Health. Their studies on survivors in Liberia showed large numbers had developed weakness, memory loss and depressive symptoms in the six months after being discharged from an Ebola unit. Other patients were “actively suicidal” or still having hallucinations. More than 17,000 people in West Africa have survived Ebola infection. The evidence, being presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Neurology, is an early glimpse at a much wider study of long-term health problems after Ebola. The initial analysis, on 82 survivors, showed most had had severe neurological problems at the height of the infection, including meningitis, hallucinations or falling into a coma. BBC

Corruption in Sports Could Kill Kenyan Heritage – Report
Kenya could be banned from the 2016 Rio Olympics if it doesn’t convince the World Anti-doping Agency (Wada) within two months that it has enhanced checks against doping. A banned athlete recently accused Athletics Kenya CEO Isaac Mwangi of demanding a bribe so the length of the ban could be reduced. Mr Mwangi denied the claims but stepped aside for investigations.  The East African



Photo: Adam Jones