Media Review for February 26, 2016

Niger’s Issoufou Projected to Win Poll by Large Margin
Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou enjoyed a strong lead in his bid for a second term as leader of the West African nation, according to partial results. With 3.18 million votes from Sunday’s election counted – representing a little over 40 percent of the 7.5 million-strong electorate – the 63-year-old incumbent had just over 46 percent. The partial result showed that he was well ahead of his closest rival, detained former parliamentary speaker Hama Amadou, whose supporters said the poll was rigged. Amadou is behind bars on baby trafficking charges he says were concocted to thwart his presidential ambitions. The partial count showed that he garnered just over 16 percent, while former prime minister, Seini Oumarou, had about 11 percent, the electoral commission said.  Al Jazeera

EU Mission Urges Uganda Electoral Body to Release Detailed Poll Results for Scrutiny
International poll observers from the European Union have called on Uganda’s Electoral Commission to release election outcomes and scanned copies of declaration results forms online from all polling stations to allow for scrutiny by the public. The European Union Election Observer Mission (EU-EOM), headed by Eduard Kukan, said the publication of the material constituted international best practices in the conduct of democratic elections. Ugandans voted on February 18 in an election that was harshly criticised by international observers from the EU and the Commonwealth group describing it as short of being free and fair and whose results have been disputed by the opposition. “The Electoral Commission’s accountability is very important in the post-electoral environment,” said Kukan in the EU-EOM post-election statement Thursday. The East African

Uganda: An Opposition is Born
[…] Six months ago it had all looked quite different when the early running was made by Amama Mbabazi, the former prime minister and founding member of the NRM. But Mbabazi’s attempt to position himself as the NRM flag-bearer in 2014 precipitated an intra-party split, and led to his independent presidential candidacy. In the end his GoForward campaign only obtained 1.5% of the presidential vote, demonstrating that there are only two serious political positions in Uganda: for or against the NRM. This increasing political polarisation is a dangerous prospect. Besigye’s campaign focused on ousting Museveni and a generation of politicians seen as corrupt and self-serving by the increasingly young urban electorate – notably in the capital Kampala where Besigye won 65.75% of the presidential vote with Museveni a distant second on 31%. Many NRM ministers lost their parliamentary seats – an indictment of a movement that is increasingly failing to deliver on healthcare, education and jobs – an estimated 80% of Uganda’s 15 to 24 year-olds are unemployed. If Besigye is to provide a credible alternative he must now move beyond his confrontational election-time rallies and other stunts and help the FDC build its national infrastructure, currently very thin at the village level, so it can compete with NRM outside of traditional urban strongholds.  The Africa Report

Uganda and Niger: How far Can the US push Allies on Election Irregularities?
For many Ugandans, the aftermath of President Yoweri Museveni’s disputed election win last week followed a wearily familiar script – with the exception of one offstage actor. After police put the two leading opposition candidates under house arrest and violently put down demonstrations – echoing similarly contested elections in 2006 and 2011– the United States broke with tradition by quickly and forcefully decrying the government’s conduct. The US, Uganda’s largest foreign donor, called the elections “deeply inconsistent with international standards and expectations for any democratic process.” Secretary of State John Kerry also personally called Mr. Museveni to voice his concerns. For many in this East African nation, this seems a watershed moment that could force an increasingly dictatorial leader in power since 1986 to change his tune. The US’s condemnation was far stronger than when it meekly decried election “irregularities” in 2006 and 2011 amid widespread complaints of vote rigging and intimidation, and expressed disappointment that voting “did not occur on a more level playing field.” CS Monitor

African Leaders Arrive in Burundi for Political Crisis Talks
Leaders of five African nations arrived in Burundi as part of a continental delegation seeking to quell a 10-month political crisis that’s claimed more than 440 lives. Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and Senegal’s Macky Sall were received by Burundi’s leader, Pierre Nkurunziza, late Wednesday at a ceremony at the airport in the capital, Bujumbura. South African President Jacob Zuma arrived early Thursday, as did Ethiopian premier Hailemariam Desalegn and Gabon’s Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba, Burundian government officials said. The African Union appointed the panel to try and bring an end to unrest that’s forced about 230,000 people to flee Burundi since April, when Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term, a move opponents said was unconstitutional. The landlocked country is home to 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves and a member of the East African Community, a regional bloc with a combined gross domestic product of $147.5 billion.  Bloomberg

Rights Group Reports Deepening Violence in Burundi
Security forces and their allies in Burundi have beaten people with rocks, bricks, gun butts and iron bars; they have abducted suspects and extorted money for holding them; and they have buried victims in mass graves, a leading human rights group said on Thursday. According to a report from Human Rights Watch, the group that made the claims, the violence is deepening and becoming more sinister in Burundi, a small Central African country that has been embroiled in a political crisis for nearly a year.“Government forces and the ruling party are treating suspected opponents with extreme cruelty and viciousness,” said Daniel Bekele, the executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch said that it had recently interviewed more than 60 people in Bujumbura, the capital, and that the findings pointed to “an alarming new pattern of abductions and possible disappearances.”  The New York Times

Burundi: ‘There are No More Rules and no one Cares’ says Bujumbura Resident Amid Abuses
As residents in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura describe how there is not even a pretence of law and order any more, a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has revealed how government forces are killing, abducting, torturing and arbitrarily arresting scored of people at an alarming rate. The bloody crisis that has killed up to 900 people pits supporters of President Pierre Nkurunziza against those who say that his re-election in July 2015 for a third term violated the constitution of a nation still reeling from a civil war that occurred between 1993 and 2005, leaving 300,000 people dead. After a failed coup, the government intensified its crackdown and most of those arrested or disappeared today are young men and women accused of participating in or supporting opposition groups. Describing a shift abuses from the daily occurrence of bodies scattered on the streets in the second half of 2015, Daniel Bekele, Africa director at HRW, pointed to new violations “taking place under the radar, with security forces secretly taking people away and refusing to account for them”. Intrnational Business Times

Traders Feel the Pinch as Political Crisis in Burundi Cripples Economy
The crisis that erupted in Burundi in April 2015 following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a controversial third term has claimed more than 400 lives and caused more than 230,000 people to flee the country, according to the United Nations. But it isn’t just citizens who have suffered — the economy is in a bad way too. Alexandre Nyabenda works as a trader in a shop in Cibitoke, one of the so-called contested areas of the capital Bujumbura, which are really just the hotbeds of opposition to Nkurunziza that have seen most political unrest. Nyabenda, who has been working there for the past six years, said that trade had really suffered as a result of the instability. “Before the crisis … I was taking in around 120,000 francs ($76 dollars) of revenue each day,” he said. “Since April 2015, just to get 40,000 francs ($25) a day has been a real struggle.”  The East African

How Tunisia Became a Top Source of ISIS Recruits
The cradle of the Arab Spring, Tunisia remains the freest Arab democracy. It has one of the region’s most developed economies and highest literacy rates. And it is also by far the largest source of foreign fighters heading to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Between 6,000 and 7,000 Tunisians have left the small North African country to fight for the self-proclaimed caliphate—several times more than from much-more populous Algeria or Egypt. As many as 15,000 others have been barred from international travel because Tunisia’s government suspects them of planning to follow suit. The Tunisian exodus is remarkable because it defies conventional wisdom that has long sought to explain terrorism by evoking “root causes” such as political repression by dictatorial regimes, or the frustrations of poverty. The working-class Hay Ettadhamen suburb of Tunis, a spread of drab concrete buildings that wouldn’t be out of place in parts of Spain or Eastern Europe, is one of the hot spots for such departures to Syria and Iraq.  The Wall Street Journal

UK Special Forces Spearheading ‘Secret War’ Against ISIS in Libya
Special Forces forces are spearheading a multi-national ‘secret war’ against ISIS in Libya as Coalition forces prepare a major drive against the extremist network. ISIS has 5,000 fighters in Libya and has threatened to turn the war-torn North African country into part of their brutal Caliphate beyond Iraq and Syria. It comes as western forces position themselves in North Africa or a major war alongside the Libyan government to stop the spread of Islamic State. Now SAS troops who first deployed to Libya last month at the Gamal Abdel Nasser military base, south of Tobruk are operating with French and US special operations teams against Islamic State. They have escorted MI6 teams in meeting Libyan officials to discuss supplying weapons and training to the regime army and militias to be used against ISIS. The Mirror

Italy Seeks to Keep Allies in Check as Libya Wrangles over Government
Italy is resisting pressure to allow aircraft and armed drones to stage attacks on Islamic State militants in Libya from its territory, saying on Thursday that direct Western military intervention on the ground there was “unthinkable”. While Libya’s rival factions have struggled to agree to a UN-backed national unity government, the Americans have launched air strikes on Islamic State outposts in the country and the French have conducted surveillance flights and sent military advisers. But the U.S. and the EU have both said they agree with Italy that deeper military involvement will need the request of the Libyan government. Italy is concerned that Western military intervention without such a request will stoke IS popularity and turn Libyan militias against the West. It is trying to persuade its allies to limit action until a government is in place. Reuters

French ‘Not Fighting’ in Libya, Says Commander
French military advisers have been helping coordinate Libyan forces fighting ISIS insurgents in the eastern city of Benghazi, a senior Libyan military commander said on Thursday. “The French military group in Benghazi are just military advisers who provide consultations to the Libyan National Army in its battle against terrorism, but they are not fighting with our Libyan forces,” special forces commander Wanis Bukhamada told Reuters. There was no immediate French comment. The French newspaper Le Monde reported on Wednesday that French special forces and intelligence commandos were engaged in “a secret war” against ISIS in anarchy-ridden Libya in conjunction with the United States and Britain. France’s Defence Ministry declined comment on the report. Libyan military forces in Benghazi are under the command of General Khalifa Haftar and loyal to the North African country’s government based in the eastern city of al-Bayda. A rival armed faction took over the capital Tripoli in the far west in 2014 and set up its own self-declared government. Reuters on al Arabiya

Anti-Kabila Activists Face Clampdown in DR Congo
Jonas Tshiombela, resident of Kinshasa, capital of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has become more circumspect. “My life is now restricted. I am no longer free to live my life as in the past. I can no longer hang out in bars or public spaces. I am reduced to going to work,” he said. Tshiombela heads an NGO called Nouvelle Societe Civile Congolaise (New Congolese Civil Society) which has just joined Front Citoyen (Citizens’ Front), a group of political parties and associations opposed to President Joseph Kabila (pictured above). Front Citoyen was formed to try and stop Kabila from clinging to power after his term ends later in 2016. Kabila has called for “national dialogue” to help ensure “peaceful elections” but the opposition says this is a strategy to circumvent the constitution and stand for a third elected five-year term. Deutsche Welle

Boost for Regional Trade Flow as DRC Joins Comesa FTA
The flow of goods on the Mombasa-Malaba corridor is set to ease further after the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) joined the Comesa free trade area (FTA), signalling intention to eliminate time-consuming customs procedures. Comesa secretary-general Sindiso Ngwenya said the DRC was committed to a phased tariff reduction scheme, starting with an instant tariff reduction of 40 per cent which would be followed by two equal cuts of 30 per cent. Kenyan traders rely on the Mombasa-Malaba road (Northern Corridor) to move produce to their key markets in the region. Landlocked states such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC and South Sudan also rely on the highway to receive import orders via Mombasa Port. Kenya has previously reduced administrative barriers on the Northern Corridor in part of efforts to speed up cargo flow to landlocked markets. Under FTA, a designated group of countries agrees to eliminate tariffs, quotas and preferences on most (if not all) goods. The East African

South Africa: Protesting Students Torch University Buildings
Students were ordered on Thursday to abandon a South African university, leaving behind charred, smoldering buildings after protests turned violent. North-West University said protesting students burned an administration building and science center at the campus in Mahikeng (also called Mafikeng) on Wednesday night. Student protests have erupted across South Africa, often aimed at pressing for lower tuition, more student housing and erasing remnants of South Africa’s racist past. “Students have nowhere to go. They are just roaming around the streets of Mahikeng,” said Ofentse Pilane, 24, a final-year political science student. For now, he’ll squat with friends until his parents, who live two hours away, are able to send him some money. “International students are facing severe problems,” he said. AP on ABC News

U.S., Cameroon Work Together to Counter Illicit Trafficking, Improve Maritime Safety
U.S. Marines and sailors are working with Cameroon’s Fusiliers Marins and Compagnie des Palmeurs de Combat to increase their capabilities to combat illicit activity and increase security in the waterways and borders of Cameroon. At the request of the Cameroon government and through coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, are partnering with their military counterparts in infantry tactics in support of their maritime security force capabilities. The small team of Marines are currently attached to Africa Partnership Station, which is an international security cooperation initiative sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and other collaborative activities in order to improve maritime security and safety in Africa. The Marines and sailors are conducting training in combat marksmanship, patrolling, ambush techniques, close-quarters combat, tactical questioning and operations orders.  Marines.mil

Liberia: Beyslow, Several Govt Officials Facing Arrest for U.S.$13 Million
Several former and current officials of the Government of Liberia have been indicted to face prosecution on multiple criminal charges. At least one of the several defendants is spending the night at the Monrovia Central Prison in Monrovia while the court pursues the others. Former Deputy Managing Director for Operations at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) was committed to the prison following a writ of arrest issued by Criminal Court C based on a complaint from the anti-graft Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission of Liberia. The Court in its writ of arrest spotted by FrontPageAfrica at Criminal court C named some of the defendants as former Commerce Minister Miatta Beyslow, Director at Commerce, Steve Flahn-Paye and Aaron Whiegar, amongst others. The three along with others are charged with Economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property for allegedly making the Government of Liberia to lose over US$13 million. At the court Tuesday, defendant Whiegar dressed in an African shirt was seen sitting in the Sheriff’s office for hours as Grand Bassa Senators Nyonblee Kangar-Lawrence, Johnathan Kaipay and lawyers of Sherman and Sherman struggled to secure his temporary release. FPA on allAfrica

Uhuru Kenyatta: Kenyans are ‘Experienced Thieves’
Kenyans are “experienced in stealing and perpetuating other crimes”, the president has said, during a state visit to Israel. Uhuru Kenyatta added that Kenya was “20 times more wonderful” than Israel, but “all we ever do is complain”. Kenyans were also abusers, and promoted tribalism, he said, in an address to Kenyans living in Israel. Mr Kenyatta has been accused of failing to do enough to curb corruption and of stirring up ethnic violence. His comments were seen as an attempt to encourage Kenyans to develop their country, like Israel, says the BBC’s Wanyama Chebusiri in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. BBC

Chad UN Peacekeeper Kills Own Commander
A soldier in the Chadian contingent of the UN’s peacekeeping force in northern Mali killed his own commander and an army doctor on Thursday following weeks of tensions over living conditions, UN sources told AFP. The soldier had started an “insurrection” against the contingent’s top brass the previous evening before shooting the two men dead, said a source within the UN force, known by the acronym MINUSMA. “Dozens of Chadian peacekeepers have been unhappy with their working conditions in northern Mali,” the MINUSMA source said. “The peacekeeper decided he wasn’t going to stand for how his superior spoke to him after being accused of some pretty serious things,” the source added. The man was arrested, along with a dozen other Chadian soldiers accused of “disobedience”, at the contingent’s base north of the city of Kidal.  News 24

Explosion at Police HQ in Northeast Nigeria Kills 4
Bombs retrieved from Boko Haram extremists exploded accidentally Thursday at police headquarters in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Yola, killing four people and driving shattered glass into officers and school children, officials said. Crying kids, screaming parents and panicked market vendors began running for their lives when an officer warned of the possibility of a secondary explosion in Yola’s Jimeta neighborhood. The police station is in a commercial area surrounded by a market, the main prison, a post office, a TV station and two primary schools. The powerful blast shattered windows for blocks and destroyed the office of the Nigerian Police Anti-Bomb Squad along with nearby buildings in the police complex. “The bombs (that exploded) are among those retrieved from Boko Haram,” deputy superintendent Othman Abubakar told The Associated Press, denying suggestions they were planted. Rescue officials recovered four bodies and ferried at least 20 wounded children and people to the hospital, according to PR Nigeria, an agency that disseminates government statements. AP on Stars and Stripes

Boko Haram insurgents shot after Nigeria Attack
At least 26 Boko Haram Islamic insurgents were killed on Thursday after they attacked a camp for displaced people in north-eastern Nigeria. The attack in Dikwa town in Bornu State also claimed the lives of a soldier and a member of a local vigilante group, the Nigerian military said in a statement. “The troops recovered 26 bodies of the Boko Haram terrorists, while others escaped with gunshot wounds,” the statement said. Four residents of the camp, three soldiers and numerous insurgents were injured, many of them critically. Nigeria-based Boko Haram, which seeks to implement its own radical version of Islam, has killed thousands in north-eastern Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad since 2009. News 24

South Sudan president unveils Action Plan to Rescuing War Stricken Nation
South Sudan president Salva Kiir met and held a high profile talk Thursday with the visiting secretary General of the United Nations, resulting in outlining more than a general six -point to rescuing the war stricken country. President Kiir, according to his foreign affairs and international cooperation Minister, has agreed with Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of United Nations to immediately conclude a step by step implementation of the compromise peace agreement which he and the first vice president designate, Riek Machar, had signed in August 2015, to end more than 21 months conflict.  Sudan Tribune

Angola VP Implicated in Portugal Graft Probe
Angolan Vice President Manuel Vicente has been directly implicated in a corruption probe in Portugal which triggered the arrest of a magistrate this week, a source told AFP on Thursday. Public prosecutor Orlando Figueira, 54, is suspected of receiving a bribe of at least €200 000 in return for shelving an investigation into the Angolan politician, according to media reports. A source close to the case confirmed a report by Portuguese news agency Lusa that Vicente is suspected of corruption over the affair. The Portuguese prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the report. On Tuesday officials announced the arrest of Figueira, who has been on unpaid leave since September 2012, in an investigation into corruption and money laundering. News 24

Morocco Suspends Contact with EU over Farm Trade Ruling
Morocco has suspended contact with European Union institutions over a court ruling invalidating the bloc’s farm trade accord with Rabat and saying it should exclude the disputed territory of Western Sahara. The EU lodged an appeal last week against a European Court decision announced on December 10 to void the trade deal with Morocco in response to a suit filed by the separatist Polisario Front movement, which wants independence for the Moroccan-controlled territory. The complaint, brought to the court in 2012, involves trade of agricultural products, processed agricultural products and fisheries. Issued after the Moroccon government’s weekly cabinet meeting, the statement on Thursday said Morocco rejects the court ruling as against international law and UN Security Council resolutions. “Morocco cannot accept to be treated as a subject of a judicial process and to be buffeted between European institutions,” it said. “Continuing in that position would deeply threaten the mutual trust and even the continuation of the partnership between the two sides.” Al Jazeera

UN Chief Ban Ki Moon Visits South Sudan in Bid to Push Peace
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Juba on Thursday to try and revive a shaky peace deal that has so far failed to end South Sudan’s two-year-old civil war. Ban was greeted at Juba’s airport by Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin before being driven to see President Salva Kiir whose dispute with rival Riek Machar triggered civil war in December 2013. The UN chief is expected to visit mainly humanitarian disaster operation areas. Of particular interest to Ban is the UN House in Juba, believed to be hosting large numbers of the displaced populations. He will hold discussions with community leaders representing thousands of civilians sheltering in the protection site. The East African

South Sudan: U.S. to Sanction Kiir and Machar
South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar could face US sanctions for failing to form an interim government and fully implementing the peace agreement. Secretary of State John Kerry said the US would never accept any excuse again by either side to the conflict in South Sudan. A statement issued by the US Department of Foreign Affairs, explained that Washington, as one of the greatest friends of South Sudan, had been instrumental in its political affairs and had injected billions of dollars to finance infrastructural development before and after the country attained its independence four years ago. South Sudan activist and analyst Edmund Yakani welcomed the US plans to hold the two principals individually accountable for unwillingness to commit themselves to implement the peace deal. The East African on allAfrica

Sudan’s Islamist Resurrection – Al-Turabi and the Successor Regime
Known fondly as The Sheikh by his followers and as a cunning demagogue by his detractors, the influential al-Turabi is trying to shape Sudan’s politics once more. The biggest challenge facing Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir since he convened a national dialogue in October 2015 is the growing call for a transitional government. This call is emanating loudest not from the armed groups and secular opposition refusing to engage in the dialogue, but rather from some its participants. Leading those calls is the veteran Islamist thinker and politician Hassan abd Allah al-Turabi, who masterminded the 1989 coup that brought al-Bashir to power. Al-Turabi’s Popular Congress Party (PCP), the only sizeable opposition party actively supporting the dialogue, put forward a vision that The Sheikh (as he is affectionately known by his followers) calls al-Nizaam al-Khaalif, or the ‘Successor Regime’. African Arguments on allAfrica

Blackout Blues: the Lagos Suburbs that Have Been in Darkness for Five Years
When the electric transformer in his neighbourhood was vandalised five years ago, Akinnuoye Olagunju, then 21, didn’t think they would never have power again. Officials from the energy utility demanded that his father, as well as each of the 2,000 or so people in Oreta, pay a communal bribe to repair the damage: 2,000 naira ($10) each, a lot of money in this sleepy and impoverished fishing village. They refused. Five years later, the power is still off. Olagunju eventually moved out of his family house. “The heat was too much,” he says, now 27, and an official of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency. “Everyone was having rashes and the NEPA people [energy officials] refused to come and fix anther one for free.” Oreta sits off the lagoon in Ikorodu, a suburb of Lagos. Distant from the city centre, it receives little government attention or policing. Residents rely on mini generators, rechargeable torches and the lights from their mobile phones. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones