Media Review for February 29, 2016

Cameroon Says 92 Boko Haram Militants Killed and 850 Captives Freed
Cameroon’s army has killed 92 members of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram and freed 850 villagers in a joint operation with Nigerian forces, the country’s government has said. The operation in the Nigerian village of Kumshe, close to the border with Cameroon, was conducted under the auspices of a multinational force fighting Boko Haram, according to the statement from Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon’s communications minister. “Two Cameroonian soldiers were killed [during the operation] by an accidental mine explosion. Five other soldiers were wounded,” Bakary said, adding that the army captured weapons and ammunition and found a centre for production of homemade mines. There was no immediate comment from Nigeria or independent confirmation of the operation or death toll.  The Guardian

Twin Suicide Bombings Kill at Least 20 as Shabab Violence Intensifies in Somalia
Two popular restaurants in a regional capital of Somalia were hit by suicide bombings on Sunday afternoon, killing at least 20 people and injuring at least 60 others, witnesses and officials said. The Shabab, an Islamist militant group, claimed responsibility for the attacks in the city of Baidoa, the capital of both Somalia’s Southwest State and the Bay Region. Witnesses said that a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant across from the Hotel Baidoa around 5 p.m., a time when people gather after work. The restaurant’s outdoor cafe, frequented by government workers and business people, was crowded. The bomber was killed in the explosion. As crowds of people fled, a second suicide bomber set off his explosives in a restaurant about 1,000 feet from the first, the authorities and witnesses said. Both restaurants were in the center of the city, near a traffic intersection known as Afar-Irdoodka.  The New York Times

Air Strike Targets Suspected Islamic State Convoy in Libya – Town Official
Aircraft attacked a convoy carrying suspected Islamic State militants near the northwestern Libyan town of Bani Walid early on Sunday, an official said. No group claimed responsibility for the attack though both the United States and Libyan government forces have launched air strikes on jihadists in recent months. Three huge explosions rocked the area around dawn, the member of Bani Walid’s municipal council told Reuters. People living in Ras al-Tbel, about 80 km (50 miles) south-east of Bani Walid, had seen the same convoy of up to 15 vehicles carrying the black flags of Islamic State over the past two days, the official added. It was not immediately clear if the convoy was hit. Jihadist groups have taken advantage of political chaos to expand their presence in Libya and fighters loyal to Islamic State have taken control of the coastal city of Sirte, about 260km (160 miles) east of Bani Walid. Reuters

Burundi Agrees to Accept African Union Human Rights Monitors
Burundi has agreed to accept the deployment of 100 human rights observers and 100 military monitors as months of political violence raises concern the country could fall back into deadly civil war, the African Union said on Saturday. The leaders of South Africa, Gabon, Mauritania, Senegal and Ethiopia have been in Burundi this week meeting with representatives of the opposition and government to prevent escalation of a crisis that has killed more than 400 people and displaced at least a quarter of a million (pictured) in the past 10 months. The AU said in a statement that “the solution to Burundi’s political problems can be attained only through inclusive and peaceful engagement.”  Deutsche Welle

Africa Heavyweights in Burundi Crisis Pow Wow: Lessons from the 2000 Arusha Peace Talks Led by Mandela
On Thursday a meaty delegation of four African presidents arrived in Bujumbura to put their might behind the inter-Burundi political dialogue process. The leaders include South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, Gabon’s Ali Bongo, Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Senegal’s Macky Sall and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. The delegation, was sent by the African Union’s new chairman, Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno, us led by Zuma, a former mediator in the inter-Burundi peace talks that began in 2000 between the then Burundi transition government and rebels. The search for a solution to the Burundi crisis will continue on Feb. 29 during a Heads of State Summit of the East African Community that is comprised of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. The journey so far, has been notably rocky. The December decision by the AU, to deploy the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU) was seen by some as unprecedented and novel, for an institution that is traditionally reluctant to intervene in internal disputes. Over the next several weeks, the AU stayed firm despite the Burundi government’s threat that it would treat the deployment as an invasion. Mail and Guardian

UN Puts Pressure on Juba and Burundi
The week-long visit to eastern Africa and the Great Lakes region by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon produced a mixture of success and challenges. In Burundi, Mr Ban persuaded President Pierre Nkurunziza into holding talks with the opposition to end the political and humanitarian crisis that started last April. After meeting government and opposition representatives separately, they agreed to hold an inclusive dialogue, with President Nkurunziza committing himself for the first time that he will engage in political dialogue. “Nothing prevents them from continuing on this course,” Mr Ban said in the statement. The government also promised to release 2,000 prisoners, which Mr Ban hailed as a “goodwill gesture.”  The East African

The President Versus the Prisoner in Niger’s Presidential Run-off
The second round of voting in Niger on March 20 will pit the incumbent, President Mahamadou Issoufou, against his rival Hama Amadou, who is currently behind bars. FRANCE 24’s Nicolas Germain reports from Niamey. It’s not easy organising an election in one of the world’s poorest nations – many in Niger do not even have ID cards. For this election a biometric system was planned like that successfully used for a vote in neighbouring Nigeria last year, where the population is ten times bigger, at 180 million people. But the new system was not ready in time, so Niger’s authorities allowed those without documentation to vote as long as two other people were willing to vouch for their identities. France 24

Angola Says Proposes U.N. Arms Embargo on South Sudan
Angola said on Friday it has proposed that the United Nations Security Council impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, where more than 10,000 people have been killed in a two year civil war sparked by a political dispute between the country’s leaders. The United Nations said last week that South Sudan’s warring parties are killing, abducting and displacing civilians and destroying property despite conciliatory rhetoric by President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar. “The situation evolves and you have to evolve with the situation. Now what is necessary to do is an arms embargo,” said Angola’s U.N. Ambassador Ismael Abraao Gaspar Martins. “We have proposed, I hope everybody goes with it.” Angola is an elected member of the Security Council. Reuters

‘Thunder of the North’ Military Exercise Begins in Saudi Arabia
Armed forces from 20 countries, including Pakistan, have begun manoeuvres in northeastern Saudi Arabia that the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) described as one of the world’s biggest military exercises. Troops from Malaysia, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Sudan as well as Pakistan are among those participating in the ‘Thunder of the North’ exercise, which began on Saturday and involves ground, air and naval forces, SPA reported. Forces from the other five Gulf Arab states are also taking part in “one of the world’s most important military exercises based on the number of forces participating and the area of territory used,” the news agency added. It said a major goal of the exercise was to improve training in responding to the threat posed by terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia has carried out air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria as part of a US-led coalition fighting the jihadis. The Express Tribune

Nigeria Government’s Audit Removes Nearly 24,000 Non-existent Workers
The Nigerian government has removed nearly 24,000 workers from its payroll after an audit revealed they did not exist, the Finance Ministry has said. The move has enabled a monthly saving of around $11,5m (£8m). The audit is part of an anti-corruption campaign by President Muhammadu Buhari, who took power last year. Corruption and mismanagement have long been a challenge to Nigeria’s growth, and the government has promised to cut costs to face an economic slowdown. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy and the continent’s top oil producer, and its finances are under strain due to the recent collapse in oil prices. The country has also faced rising inflation, a stock market slump and the slowest pace of economic growth in more than a decade.  BBC

Herders Kill 145 in Nigeria’s Benue State as Residents Flee
Many residents of Nigeria’s Benue state have fled their homes following the killing of over 145 people by suspected Fulani marauders in a week-long attack. Reports say the herdsmen attacked 25 villages in Agatu local government area, prompting the state governor, Mr Samuel Ortom, to travel to Abuja to confer with Presidency. The militias were reported to have started their attacks on Monday this week; by Thursday, the casualty figures and the general destruction of property had become staggering. The herdsmen have persistently attacked villages in the area, but the current mayhem has caused a mass exodus of people fleeing villages. The attacks started shortly after the former president of the Nigerian Senate, Mr David Mark, who is a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), was declared winner of the Benue South senatorial district in an election re-run. Africa Review

Oil Prices “Totally Unacceptable”, Nigerian President Tells Qatar’s Ruler
The OPEC cartel needs to take action to stabilise the oil market because crude prices have fallen to “totally unacceptable” levels, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Sunday. Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer which earns around 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings from crude oil exports, has been hit hard by the erosion of vital revenues caused by the global slump in oil prices which has also hammered its currency. “The current market situation in the oil industry is unsustainable and totally unacceptable,” Buhari told Qatar’s ruler during a meeting in Doha, his office said in a statement. Speaking on the second day of his visit, Buhari highlighted the need for cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC producers. “We must cooperate both within and outside our respective organisations to find a common ground to stabilise the market,” said Buhari, who also discussed ways to stabilise prices with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Riyadh last week. Reuters

China Makes Big Inroads Into African Defence Market
China is making increasing inroads into the African defence market with up to two-thirds of militaries on the continent now using its equipment. According to data in the latest annual edition of The Military Balance, produced by the London based International Institute of Security Studies (IISS), and a report this week from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a rapid rise in Chinese military transfers to the continent has been underway since 2005. The value of Chinese defence transfers to Africa rose by over 63 percent in real terms from the total of the years 2006-2010 to 2011-2015, according to data released earlier this week by SIPRI. Recent Chinese defence exports to Africa include naval vessels, combat aircraft, infantry fighting vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). DefenceWeb

Italian Killing Highlights Assault on Academic Freedom in Egypt
When a colleague in Holland asked historian Pascale Ghazaleh this month whether to send a group of students to Egypt, her response was a resounding ‘No’. “I said I don’t think we should because besides all the misunderstandings that can traditionally potentially happen, the harassment which is par for the course… you could also get tortured and murdered in the course of your research,” she said. The killing of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni, who disappeared on January 25, the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-rule, has sent a chill through the academic community in Egypt and beyond. Scholars in Egypt say they have long worked under threat of arrest or deportation, but the gruesome nature of Regeni’s death has raised fears that the pursuit of knowledge will fall victim to the toughest assault on freedom in Egypt’s modern history. The tortured and broken corpse of the 28-year old Cambridge University student, who was researching the rise of independent labor unions following the 2011 revolt, was found at the side of a motorway nine days after he vanished. Human rights groups say Regeni’s killing bears the hallmarks of the security services — an accusation Egypt has rejected. Reuters

Will the Democratic Republic of Congo be Egypt’s Newest Ally in Dam Disputes?
Political and technical negotiations between Cairo and Addis Ababa on Nile River water management remain at a standstill in light of Ethiopia’s insistence on going forward with construction of the Renaissance Dam, which threatens Egyptian Nile water interests. This once again pushed the Egyptian political administration to renew its policy based on mending and strengthening its relationship with other Nile upstream countries in the equatorial lakes region, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been one of Egypt’s political and strategic allies since the beginning of the Nile water dispute. On Feb. 4, Augustin Matata Ponyo, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s prime minister, visited Cairo for three days at the head of a delegation that included the ministers of energy, water and industry. Ponyo held extensive meetings with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail. In addition, a memorandum of understanding was inked between Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo on the Inga Dam project. Al Monitor

Germany Petitions North African States to Take More Migrants Back
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is to visit Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia with the aim of convincing authorities to speed up the repatriation of rejected asylum seekers. “Our goal is to make the procedures more efficient and faster,” de Maiziere said ahead of his departure for Morocco on Sunday. He added that many applicants lacked travel documents or gave false names and other personal details. This made it more difficult to send migrants back to their countries of origin. Biometric identity papers could help, de Maiziere said, in speeding up repatriations. He added “we could imagine offering our support” in this area.  Deutsche Welle

African Migrants Suffering Abuse in Libya Repatriated
The International Organization for Migration said it is scaling up the repatriation of African migrants suffering abuse and exploitation in Libya, mainly at the hands of the police and the militias. Over the past few months, the International Organization for Migration reports it has repatriated thousands of Africans from Libya, mainly to Burkina Faso, Gambia and Senegal. In its latest operation a few days ago, IOM returned 117 migrants to Burkina Faso, including five women and two children. IOM spokesman Itayi Viriri said the migrants told stories of horrific treatment by militias and blatant exploitation at their places of employment. He said many young men spoke about working for weeks on end for no pay.  VOA

South Sudan Government Lauds US Push for Deferral of Sanctions
South Sudanese government has welcomed the latest diplomatic shift by the government of the United States (US) to defer proposed sanctions of arms embargo on South Sudan. United Kingdom (UK) this week proposed an arms embargo to be imposed on the war-ravaged country by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). UK, one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which received a briefing on Thursday on the humanitarian situation in South Sudan, said it was time to impose the sanctions. Ambassador Matthews Rycroft of the UK Mission to the UN told the council on Friday that continuing fighting in South Sudan demonstrated the need for an immediate arms embargo. Sudan Tribune

Mugabe’s Lavish 92nd Birthday Party Angers Critics
Tens of thousands of party loyalists, officials and members of the public are expected to attend a day of concerts, street parades and parties in Masvingo in the south-east of the country. “Organisers have been working flat-out to ensure the celebrations are a success,” Simon Khaya-Moyo, spokesman for the ruling ZANU-PF party told AFP. “Everything is in place and we are looking forward to tremendous events.” Mugabe, who turned 92 last Sunday, has ruled for 36 years during an era marked by vote-rigging, mass emigration, accusations of human rights abuses and economic decline. On his actual birthday, state media poured praise on his leadership since independence from Britain. Times Live

Chad Leader Facing Biggest Protests of His Long Rule
The nationwide strikes which brought Chad’s biggest cities to a halt this week over President Idriss Deby Itno’s planned bid for re-election are some of the most significant protests of the hardliner’s 26-year rule. The strike, which ran under the slogan “That’s Enough”, successfully locked down N’Djamena, leaving classrooms emptied and the capital’s two big markets deserted in a protest mirrored in cities across the country. In the capital, people are still amazed by the sheer scale of the work stoppage during Wednesday’s “dead city” operation, saying they can recall no demonstration as large against their hardline leader. The stoppage was organised by a coalition of civil society organisations grouped under the name “Ca Suffit” – French for “that’s enough’.  News 24

Rape Victims, ‘Peacekeeper Babies’ Suffer Amid Growing UN Sex Abuse Scandal
[…]“Peacekeeper babies,” the United Nations calls such infants. “A horrible thing,” says an elfin 14-year-old girl, who describes how a Burundian soldier dragged her into his barracks and raped her, leaving her pregnant with the baby boy she now cradles uncomfortably. The allegations come amid one of the biggest scandals to plague the United Nations in years. Since the U.N. peacekeeping mission here began in 2014, its employees have been formally accused of sexually abusing or exploiting 42 local civilians, most of them underage girls. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called sexual abuse by peacekeepers “a cancer in our system.” In August, the top U.N. official here was fired for failing to take enough action on abuse cases. Nearly 1,000 troops whose units have been tied to abuses have been expelled, or will be soon. Among them is the entire contingent from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Washington Post

Gambia Strongman Jammeh Eyes Fifth Term in Office: TV
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who has been in power for 21 years, will run for a fifth term in office when the country holds presidential elections in December, public television said. Jammeh, a 50-year-old military officer, has ruled this tiny west African country with an iron fist since seizing power in a coup in 1994. His candidacy was approved at a meeting of his Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party on Friday, public television reported late on Saturday. The presidential election will take place on December 1 and will be followed by general elections on April 6, 2017. Jammeh lashed out at suggestions his term in office should be limited, and pledged to continue serving the people of Gambia. AFP on Yahoo News

Training Exercise off W. Africa Becomes Real-life Navy Drama
It was supposed to be a U.S.-led naval training maneuver off the coast of West Africa when real-life drama intervened, with pirates taking over an oil tanker and turning the exercise into a rescue mission. Navies from the United States, Ghana, Togo and Nigeria tracked the hijacked tanker through waters off five countries before Nigerian naval forces stormed aboard on Feb. 20 amid a shootout that killed one of the pirates. It was the first big success in international maritime cooperation in the pirate-ridden Gulf of Guinea, the commodore in charge of U.S. operations in Africa and Europe told The Associated Press. Capt. Heidi Agle, the commodore, had been directing a training exercise against piracy with maritime agencies of Ghana when the hijacking provided a real-life lesson, she said in a telephone interview Friday from her base in Italy. First word came from the French Embassy, which sent information to Agle’s USNS Spearhead via Ghanaian officials and U.S. diplomats of a possible pirate ship loitering off Abidjan, Ivory Coast.  AP on Yahoo News

Angola Hopes to Turn Steel Into Gold as Oil Hammers Economy
Angola is about to provide a test case of whether diversification can help boost an economy that relies heavily on oil production The brutal global bear market in crude has forced a number of commodity-linked emerging markets to retrench economically, particularly in oil-rich Persian Gulf countries. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for example, are weighing the imposition of new taxes to help plug exploding budget deficits —a solution backed by the International Monetary Fund just last week. Against that backdrop, Angola — a member of OPEC where oil production contributes to half its economic growth and more than 70 percent of government revenues, according to the CIA World Factbook — has moved to broaden its economy to something other than oil.  CNBC

Trade Within Africa Tear Down These Walls
Two of the largest regional trade accords in history were agreed on last year. The Trans-Pacific Partnership involves 12 countries in Asia and the Americas, and was the subject of headlines and heated debate. But most people have never heard of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), which covers 26 African countries. It will create the biggest free-trade area on the continent, “from Cairo to the Cape”, as its supporters boast. Many in the developing world see global trade as rigged in favour of rich countries. But African regional integration is all the rage. The continent features 17 trade blocs. The TFTA aims to join up three of them: the East African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). At a conference on African business on February 20th-21st in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, several leaders called for a united African market. The Economist

Blood Permits – How Cheating Officials Undermine Wildlife Regulations
In 1973 the United Nations drafted an agreement – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) – to protect all non-human living things from cross-border exploitation. If it’s judged by that which it seeks to prevent, the agreement is a failure. After drugs and human trafficking, illicit wildlife trade has become the third most lucrative crime in the world. Yet in the past 20 years not a single ‘kingpin’ trafficker has been arrested and prosecuted – either at the production or consumer end of the supply chain. This year CITES delegates from 180 countries will be meeting on African soil for the first time. The question they urgently need to ask as they gather in Johannesburg is whether failure to curb this trade is because such crime is beyond the reach of any agreement, or because of failings within the CITES regulatory process. If previous such meetings are a gauge, this is a question unlikely to be asked. Daily Maverick

Why an Ebola Body Collector Will Be Watching the Oscars Tonight
Tonight, Garmai Sumo will be holding an Oscar-watching party in her home in Monrovia, Liberia. The 29-year-old nurse is featured in Body Team 12, which is up for Best Short Documentary (and considered a likely winner by some critics). The 13-minute film, by David Darg and Bryn Mooser, follows the team members as they collect the bodies of Ebola victims at the height of the outbreak, carrying the shrouded victims through narrow alleyways while family members wail in sorrow. In this intense documentary, everyone is transformed. The body collectors look as if they’ve stepped out of a sci-fi movie in their protective garb, but they also become unsung heroes because of the dangerous and critical job they take on. The faces of the survivors are distorted by grief, stained by tears. Amid the chaos of Ebola, Sumo is a voice of hope and faith. “The smoke [from the cremation of victims] rises up to the heavens along with the souls of the dead,” she says in the film, sounding as matter-of-fact as if she were discussing the weather. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones