Media Review for December 11, 2015

Dozens Dead in Burundi as Gunmen Attack Army Bases
Heavily-armed gunmen launched coordinated assaults on two army barracks in the Burundi capital on Friday leaving dozens dead, mostly attackers, in the worst unrest since a failed May coup, a senior military officer said. The fighting began at around 4:00 am (0600 GMT) when “heavily armed men” attacked a base at Ngagara in the north of Bujumbura as well as a military training college in the south, according to the officer, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity. “After more than two hours of clashes, the army repulsed the southern attack, while virtually all the attackers were killed in Ngagara base,” the officer said. “There are dozens of deaths among the attackers, and we also have losses,” he said, adding the situation would soon be brought “completely” under control.  AFP on Yahoo News

Burundi Troops Battle Gunmen in Southwest
Troops in Burundi battled a nearly 100-strong force of fighters, a local governor said Thursday, amid fears that violence is spreading in the troubled nation. Two gunmen have been killed and 11 captured in clashes since Tuesday in the southwestern Rumonge district, said governor Juvenal Bigirimana after a gang of 80 to 100 men entered the town of Burambi, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of the capital Bujumbura. “The security forces went to meet them, there were clashes that left two dead,” Bigirimana said, adding that troops had seized mortars, rifles and machine-guns. Burundi descended into violence in April after President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a successful bid for a third consecutive term in office, despite concerns over the legality of such a move. AFP on Yahoo News

Independent South Sudan: A Failure of Leadership
U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy

South Sudan President Warns of Inevitable Split of Ruling SPLM Party
South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has warned of further inevitable split of his faction of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), saying there are those “behaving like dogs” who want to take over leadership from him in Juba. President Kiir made the remarks while planning for the upcoming extraordinary convention of the SPLM scheduled for Saturday, 12 December, even after accepting to reconcile and reunite the party in compliance with the Arusha intra-party peace deal. The deal, which is yet to be implemented, involved the three rival factions of the SPLM, namely SPLM-in-government, SPLM-in-opposition and SPLM of former detainees. Sudan Tribune

EU Slams S. Sudan over Media Freedom Restrictions
Diplomats from Canada and nine other European countries have strongly condemned the government of South Sudan for restricting press freedoms and creating limited political space as a ploy to promote monolithic and a single-view nation, despite constitutional provisions depicting the country as a democratic state. The Heads of Mission are gravely concerned by the shrinking space in South Sudan for freedom of expression, the rule of law and democratic practice reflected by the many cases of arbitrary detention, especially on the part of the National Security Service,” the diplomats said Thursday as the world marked International Human Rights.  Sudan Tribune

Sudan Court Charges 25 with Apostasy
A Sudanese judge charged 25 Muslims with apostasy on Thursday after hearing investigators’ case against them, which could incur the death penalty if they are convicted. The men are accused of taking the Qur’an as the sole source of religious legitimacy and rejecting other Islamic texts. They allegedly belong to a group that adheres strictly to the Qur’an and rejects the authority of the sunnah, traditions attributed to the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. Both Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims rely on the sunnah as a source of Islamic law. Judge Abdallah Abdelbagi said they would be charged for “holding ideas contrary to Islamic beliefs and speaking out about them in public places”.  News 24

Suspected Boko Haram Suicide Bombers Kill Eight in Cameroon
Eight people were killed and 21 wounded in a suspected suicide bombing by Boko Haram early on Friday morning in Cameroon’s Far North region, local officials said. The Islamist militant group wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in northeastern Nigeria, and its attacks have spilled across the borders of neighboring countries. “There were two suicide bombers,” said a local official. “Only the first bomb exploded.” Along with Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Benin, Cameroon has contributed troops to an 8,700-strong regional task force dedicated to fighting Boko Haram. The United States has also sent troops to supply intelligence and other assistance. Last week, Cameroon’s army said it had killed 100 members of the group and freed 900 hostages.   Reuters

Kerry to Co-chair Libya Talks in Rome Sunday
US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Rome this weekend for high-level talks aimed at helping conflict-torn Libya form a unified government, Washington said Thursday. Kerry will co-chair the talks on Sunday with his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni, State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said. The meeting “will demonstrate the commitment of the international community to helping Libyans move forward rapidly to form a unified Libya government, a government of national accord,” he said. Italy, a former colonial power in Libya, called the conference along with the United States, which will also include representatives from Russia, Britain, China and France. Gentiloni said last week that the one-day meeting aims to give “a decisive push for the conclusion of a deal for a national government in Libya”, where the Islamic State group is exploiting the chaos and taking root.  AFP on Yahoo News

Tony Blair ‘Tried to Save Colonel Gaddafi’ Just Before Bombing of Libya
Tony Blair may be asked to take part in a government inquiry after allegations the former prime minister attempted to save Colonel Gaddafi before the allied bombing of Libya. A forthcoming biography of David Cameron claims Mr Blair was contacted by “a key individual close to Gaddafi” during the 2011 military campaign to topple the Libyan dictator, and subsequently telephoned Number 10 on his behalf. Mr Blair purportedly called Downing Street to say the Libyan leader wanted “a deal with the British”. David Cameron, however, did not take up the offer. The foreign affairs committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the Government’s foreign policy with Libya, which includes British military action in the country.  The Independent

To Defeat ISIS In Libya, The West Needs Egypt — And Russia
The “other” front line in the war against ISIS is in Libya. An ongoing civil war has created fertile ground for the Islamist terror group to expand four years after the fall of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Settling differences between two rival governments in the capital of Tripoli and the eastern city of Tobruk is key to shutting down the rapid expansion of ISIS in the North African country. A lasting solution to the conflict between the internationally recognized government in the east — supported by Egypt — and the Qatar-backed parliament in Tripoli is critical to tackling the increasing terror threat. Along with the United States, Italy is pushing a new diplomatic strategy that will be put to the test Sunday at an international conference in Rome on the Libyan crisis. Diplomats have made it a priority to bring Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi into the fold. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Italian Foreign Minister. Worldcrunch – La Stampa

As It Fights ISIS, Pentagon Seeks String of Bases Overseas
As American intelligence agencies grapple with the expansion of the Islamic State beyond its headquarters in Syria, the Pentagon has proposed a new plan to the White House to build up a string of military bases in Africa, Southwest Asia and the Middle East. The bases could be used for collecting intelligence and carrying out strikes against the terrorist group’s far-flung affiliates. […] The military already has much of the basing in place to carry out an expansion. Over the past dozen years, the Pentagon has turned what was once a decrepit French Foreign Legion base in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, into a sprawling headquarters housing 2,000 American troops for military operations in East Africa and Yemen. Similarly, the American military has been using a constellation of airstrips in Africa, including Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, for surveillance missions flown by drones or turboprop planes designed to look like civilian aircraft, to collect intelligence about militant groups across the northern part of the continent.  The New York Times

With Regional Security Unraveling, Algeria Re-Engages With Africa
In recent years, Algeria has focused more of its foreign policy on its immediate neighborhood, both in North Africa and farther south in the Sahel. Its busy foreign minister, Ramtane Lamamra, has been active in mediation efforts in Mali, Libya and Tunisia, earning plaudits from Western partners. Some officials and observers have seized on this foreign policy outreach as a purported “awakening” of Algerian diplomacy in Africa, a revitalization of the country’s historically strong role in continental affairs. Lamamra himself highlighted Algeria’s important regional efforts in an interview in October with the French daily Le Monde. But has Algeria’s Africa policy actually changed that much? On the one hand, Algerian diplomacy in Africa has certainly become more public and active under Lamamra, who was appointed in September 2013 after a Cabinet shakeup following the return of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from hospitalization in France. Regional specialists like the International Crisis Group’s Hannah Armstrong have noted that the dramatic changes to regional security in the Maghreb and Sahel, stemming from the revolution in Tunisia and the NATO-led intervention in Libya, pushed Algeria to assume a more active regional role.  World Politics Review

As Hate Speech Fears Grow, Kenya Sets 2017 Elections Date
A rise in ethnically charged “hate speech” threatens the electoral process in Kenya, but the country still plans to hold the 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections on Aug. 8, the electoral commission said on Thursday. The results of the last two presidential elections in Kenya were disputed. In 2007, more than 1,200 people were killed in weeks of ethnic bloodshed. In 2013, voting passed off relatively peacefully, but the outcome was challenged in court. Kenyan parliament has passed strict laws banning hate speech to prevent a repeat of the 2007 post-election violence, but politicians are often blamed for stirring ethnic animosity in a nation where tribal loyalties trump political ideology. “Free and fair elections cannot be held in an insecure environment. The commission therefore regrets the growing prevalence of hate speech that is polarising the country,” Ahmed Issack Hassan, chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), said in a statement. Hassan, who also announced the date for the vote, urged the security agencies to “move with speed to arrest this potential threat to the electoral process”. Reuters

Court Annuls EU Trade Accord With Morocco, Cites Western Sahara Issue
A top European Union court on Thursday ordered a 2012 trade pact between the EU and Morocco annulled, saying the agreement shouldn’t apply to Western Sahara, a disputed territory claimed by Morocco. The case brought by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front independence movement threatens a deal that had expanded duty-free status to dozens of Moroccan agricultural and fisheries products imported to the EU. However, officials said the judgment should have no immediate impact on commerce between the two sides, which totaled close to €30 billion ($32.8 billion) last year. The EU has over two months to appeal the ruling if it wishes to.  The Wall Street Journal

Moroccan Government and Critics Vie for Online Audiences
The newest entrant to Morocco’s media scene has already reported on a disgraced former foreign minister and a scandal about blackmailing the king. The investigative website Le Desk is the latest example of the accelerating migration of Moroccan journalism away from heavily restricted print and broadcast outlets toward the less-regulated online media scene. The shift started with government critics whose print publications were shut down and who went online instead to express their views. But the powerful royal palace has also gotten in on the game, with a news site of its own attracting readers with a ready supply of scoops. And Moroccan authorities, who prize the country’s reputation as a model for stability in the region, are eyeing ways to better control the sector, which has become an increasingly spirited battleground of ideas. AP

Who’s Who in the Battle for Zanu-PF Leadership
Ahead of the official opening of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF conference on Friday, President Robert Mugabe has admitted that jostling for positions “threatens to split the party”. It’s a key admission: Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba recently denied there were factions within the party. There have also been threats to media houses daring to report on the bitter infighting within Zanu-PF. So who exactly are the “ambitious ones” Mugabe said were angling for positions ahead of the next elections, which are still officially a good two years away? Here is a run-down of some of the important individuals and groupings within Zimbabwe’s ruling party. News 24

Mugabe’s Cash Strapped Government Secures R58 Million Mansion for VP Mphoko
The cash-strapped Zimbabwean government has reportedly secured a R58 million mansion for Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko in Harare’s leafy Grange suburb, a year after he checked into a five star hotel.  Mphoko, one of Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents appointed by President Robert Mugabe last year, checked into the executive suite of the five-star Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare on December 14, 2014 and had continued to stay there at the taxpayers expense, according to reports. Mphoko said he was waiting for government to find a “suitable home” for him. The vice president’s hotel stay had infuriated many, with human rights activists saying the money used for his accommodation could be channelled towards underfunded sectors such as health and education. NewsDay quoted a government insider on Wednesday as saying Mphoko had finally agreed to leave the hotel. Times Live

Mozambique’s Gem Wars
Six years ago local hunters stumbled on one of the world’s largest deposit of rubies in the northern province of Mozambique, a potential source of riches for a country in which much of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. The deposits are now being mined by a local company, Mwriti, in partnership with a British company, Gemfields, which owns the luxury Fabergé brand and prides itself on the ethical sourcing of precious stones – “completely traceable from mine to market”. Their joint venture, 75 percent owned by Gemfields, controls a concession that covers 340 square kilometres of land and promises to be hugely profitable. But disturbing allegations have emerged that threaten to cast a dark shadow over the project. For this episode of Africa Investigates, Mozambican journalist Estacio Valoi joined forces with award-winning filmmaker Callum Macrae to find out more.  Al Jazeera

What’s Behind South Africa’s Economic Troubles?
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was regarded by businessmen and investors as a competent steward of South Africa’s economy, the second largest in Africa. His departure – after being fired by President Jazob Zuma – has spooked stock markets, triggering the biggest drop in the value of the rand currency for four years. The shock removal comes a week after the Fitch credit rating agency downgraded South Africa to just one step above junk status. Nene’s sacking also follows growing disillusionment and protests against South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). So, how will the ANC cope with the latest blow to the battered economy? Al Jazeera

Magufuli ‘Fails’ to Get 4 Credible Names in 18-Member Cabinet
Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has named 6 women in his 18-member cabinet, but said he could not find credible candidates for four other slots. In a departure from the previous government, the Head of State nearly halved the number of top government officials from 60 to 34. The president said he decided to merge some ministries in line with his cost cutting philosophy, settling for 18 ministries with 19 ministers and 15 deputies. New faces also dominate Magufuli’s cabinet, with only 7 ministers who served in Jakaya Kikwete administration. The new ministers and their deputies will be sworn in Friday at State House in Dar es Salaam. The four ministries left vacant include Finance and Planning; Education, Science and Technology; Works, Transport and Communication; and Natural Resources and Tourism ministry. However, the president named the deputy ministers for the four. The East African

Corruption, Armed Gangs Outlawed in New C.Africa Constitution
If adopted in a referendum Sunday, the Central African Republic’s new constitution will usher in the country’s sixth republic since independence from France in 1960, but mark its 13th political regime in as many years. In just over half a century, the strife-torn country of 4.6 million people has had a particularly rocky political history. It has gone through five republics and one empire and witnessed six transitional regimes, some of them set up following coups, some themselves overthrown. AFP on Globalpost

Climate Change: Coastal Erosion Threatens Senegal, West African Tourism
The European winter is the high season for tourism in Senegal as visitors flock to its sea and sun to escape the cold, yet since last year the doors of the luxury Hotel Espadon have been closed. Its swimming pool has turned a swampy green. The skeletons of old parasols poke out from the sand and the sea gnaws at the foundations of its pretty beachfront rooms. The problem is not high prices or mismanagement but coastal erosion that is blighting the West African country’s coast. The Atlantic has washed away beaches, forcing hotels to make a drastic choice: save their property by building sea walls that block the view or let the water rise and risk losing everything. The Africa Report

Rhino Killing Continues in Kruger
With year-end three weeks away the Department of Environmental Affairs has not updated national rhino kill statistics since August but the figure for the Kruger National Park is this week just 42 short of the 827 killed in the iconic game reserve last year. Mario Scholtz, head of SANParks anti-poaching unit, apparently let this information slip while attending a wildlife crime discussion at Unisa on Wednesday. “We are 42 rhino short of last year’s 827 killed in the park,” he is reported as saying after being informed of the killing of four more rhino. In August Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa told a briefing in Cape Town the national kill figure was 749 with Kruger as has become the norm the epicentre of rhino poaching activities losing 544. Last year there were 1,213 rhino killed in South Africa. DefenceWeb



Photo: Adam Jones