Media Review for December 14, 2015

Death Toll from Day of Clashes in Burundi Capital Rises to Nearly 90
Nearly 90 people were killed during Friday’s clashes in the Burundian capital, the army said, the worst outbreak of violence in Burundi since a failed coup in May. Blasts and gunfire echoed around Bujumbura for most of Friday and residents said officials spent the day collecting bullet-riddled bodies from city streets. Army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza said on Saturday gunmen had attacked three military sites in Bujumbura, kindling a day of clashes across the city. He said 79 attackers were killed and 45 others captured. Four police officers and four soldiers also died. “Sweep operations have finished now,” Baratuza said, adding that officials confiscated weapons and ammunition. Unrest erupted in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans for a third term in office. A 12-year civil war, which ended in 2005, pitted rebel groups of the Hutu majority, including one led by Nkurunziza, against an army then led by the Tutsi minority. The latest turmoil has unnerved a region still volatile two decades after the genocide in neighboring Rwanda, which has the same ethnic mix. Reuters

US Warns Citizens to Leave Burundi after Fighting Flares
The United States on Sunday ordered non-emergency US government personnel and dependents to leave violence-torn Burundi and warned other Americans to get out “as soon as it is feasible to do so”. The State Department warning followed some of the worst violence in months of political unrest in the capital Bujumbura on Friday that left nearly 90 people dead. “The US Department of State warns US citizens against all travel to Burundi and recommends that US citizens currently in Burundi depart as soon as it is feasible to do so,” it said in a statement. The Burundi army said 87 people were killed — with the breakdown given by Colonel Gaspard Baratuza as 79 “enemies” and eight soldiers — during and after coordinated assaults on three military installations early on Friday morning.  AFP on Yahoo News

Political Violence in Burundi Exacts Growing Toll
“They were shot down by security forces,” said Karerwa Ndenzako, a government spokesman. “The people found in the streets are attackers who have been killed by the security. Even now, security forces are collecting the bodies.” The bodies were left out in the streets overnight, Mr. Ndenzako said, because the authorities had been awaiting the “proper vehicles” needed to move them. It was not clear whether the bodies were taken to city morgues, or possibly collected elsewhere.Ever since April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term, which many people viewed as unconstitutional, the country has been racked by violence. The first wave seemed to be government-sponsored killings of opposition members and civilians who were protesting Mr. Nkurunziza’s attempts to retain power as violating a peace agreement that limited him to two terms. A coup attempt in May, government crackdowns and protests sent refugees fleeing to neighboring Rwanda. In recent weeks, opposition elements have stepped up armed attacks, possibly as a strategy to make Burundi appear ungovernable. Several analysts have said that the opposition is using the specter of chaos as leverage to force the government into a power-sharing arrangement.  The New York Times

Burundi to Slash 2016 Spending, Braces for Aid Cuts after Unrest
Burundi plans to slash public spending by 16 percent next year and expects foreign aid to almost halve as relations with donors have soured during recent political turmoil, according to a draft 2016 budget passed by the cabinet. More than 300 people have been killed in Burundi since April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans for a third term in office. Ensuing street protests and a coup attempt in May were quashed but the capital Bujumbura has been riven by almost daily skirmishes. Western powers fear aid-dependent Burundi could slide back into civil war and some donors like Belgium have already suspended their financial support in protest at crimes and human rights violations committed by state security forces. The draft budget passed by the cabinet on Friday showed state spending will drop to 1.2 trillion francs ($777 million) in 2016 from 1.5 trillion francs this year, while expected aid grants will decline 44 percent to 382.2 billion francs. The government also predicts domestic tax revenues will fall about 5 percent to 675.8 billion francs.  VOA

Senegal, a Peaceful Islamic Democracy, Is Jarred by Fears of Militancy
“The Paris attacks, that’s not the Islam we believe in,” a waiter at a boozy seaside restaurant offered, unsolicited. This month, major cities emptied out as many Muslims made an annual pilgrimage to Touba, the capital city of the Mouride brotherhood, where hundreds of police officers were on hand to keep security tight. Mr. Sall visited too, reiterating a pledge to build a modern hospital and “continue work for the holy city.” But even in a country that is known for a practice of spiritual, peaceful Islam — where accusations of human rights violations are infrequent, where corruption is relatively low, and where ethnic tensions have rarely escalated — the same societal forces are at work that have allowed extremism to flourish in other countries. Chief among them is Senegal’s already high unemployment rate, which continues to rise, especially for the young adults who make up a fast-growing segment of the population. Its agricultural industry is suffering, prompting villagers to move to urban areas or emigrate to look for work. The New York Times

The Gambia Now an Islamic Republic, Says President Yahya Jammeh
Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh on Friday declared the formerly secular country an Islamic republic in a move he said was designed to distance the West African state further from its colonial past. The tiny sliver of a country, named after the river from which British ships once allegedly fired cannonballs to fix its borders, joins the ranks of other Islamic Republics such as Iran and Afghanistan. “In line with the country’s religious identity and values, I proclaim Gambia as an Islamic state,” said Jammeh on state television. “As Muslims are the majority in the country, the Gambia cannot afford to continue the colonial legacy,” he added. Gambia’s population of 1.8 million people is 95 percent Muslim. He said that other citizens of other faiths would still be able to practice.  Reuters

Death Toll Rises to Five as Unrest Mars CAfrica Vote
The death toll from clashes sparked by a referendum in the Central African Republic capital Bangui rose to five on Monday as the Red Cross reported another three lives lost in the weekend unrest. The clashes involving rocket launchers and machine guns disrupted the polling Sunday in the Muslim-majority PK-5 district of Bangui. UN peacekeepers and French soldiers were massed in the flashpoint district on Monday to allow its voters to complete polling in the referendum aimed at ending years of sectarian strife. Some factions of the mainly Muslim Seleka force had threatened to block the vote, as had some supporters of the mainly Christian militia known as the “anti-balaka” (anti-machete). AFp on Yahoo Mail

Will the Central African Republic’s Elections Create More Problems than They Solve?
In early May of this year, following more than two years of intercommunal violence in the Central African Republic, positive news was finally coming out of Bangui, the riverside capital. Nearly 700 delegates, representing the interim government, political parties, civil society, traditional chiefs, religious communities and armed groups, had just concluded a peace and reconciliation forum. The gathering yielded several key agreements designed to deliver the CAR from a hellish cycle of tit for tat slaughter and mass displacement. Ten factions of the Seleka – the largely Muslim coalition which seized power in March 2013 – and the anti-balaka – the militias, predominantly Christian and of indigenous religions, which subsequently chased away their new rulers before turning on the country’s Muslim minority – consented to a disarmament programme. Following that, the forum had determined, parliamentary and presidential elections would be held before the end of 2015. No-one was offering this beleaguered country a panacea, but Central Africans could perhaps look towards 2016 buoyed by the hope of living in a country run by accountable politicians rather than an unelected government and heavily armed militias. African Arguments

Why Donors Demand Immediate Elections after Unrest in Developing Countries
On Dec. 1, it was announced that Roch Marc Christian Kaboré won the election with more than 50 percent of the vote and that Kaboré’s party — the People’s Movement for Progress (known by its French abbreviation MPP) — […]  Throughout the transition period and despite the September coup attempt, international donors have consistently and vocally pushed for elections to take place as quickly as possible. The United States, for example, issued a news release Sept. 30, 2015, arguing that, “It is of utmost importance that the transitional government continues its efforts to hold transparent, free, and credible national elections as soon as possible.” International donors also poured millions of dollars into supporting the election. In July, for example, the European Union signed a €120 million budget support agreement with the transitional government, which was intended to keep the government afloat and support the organization the forthcoming elections. Other donors supported the government via NGOs, such as the National Democratic Institute (NDI); a pooled funding envelope organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP); and through material goods, such as pickup trucks from Nigeria and computers from Taiwan. The Washington Post

No Foreign Aid, No Peace in South Sudan
South Sudan’s leaders spent the last two years locked in a brutal war for power that has killed tens of thousands of people. Their forces stand accused of war crimes, including the rape and massacre of civilians, and the economy is near collapse. But now that President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar have struck a political bargain that brings them back where they started, with Machar retaking his previous vice presidential post, the rest of the world may have to pick up the tab. The peace deal, signed under intense international pressure back in August, is supposed to put the two men in a power-sharing transitional government for three years before fresh elections can be held. It also spells out steps to reunite and reform the country’s fractured army. But so far the two sides have done little to put the deal into practice. Fighting has continued in the northeast of the country, and the rebels have not yet returned to the capital. The deadline to form a transitional government passed on Nov. 26 with no result. Now an advance team of rebels, not including Machar, is due in Juba on Friday for talks aimed at implementing the deal, but it’s anyone’s guess if they’ll show. With the economy failing in the meantime, the current government says it needs a bailout to meet its current obligations and to rebuild after the war. In a speech to parliament on Nov.  Foreign Policy

Tribal Clashes Kill at Least 17, Injure 30 in Sudan’s Darfur
At least 17 people were killed and around 30 others injured in bloody tribal clashes in Sudan’s South Darfur State, Sudan Tribune reported Sunday. “Violent clashes broke out between Rizeigat and Miseria tribes in South Darfur state which resulted in the killing of at least 17 people and injuring of around 30 others, some of them in serious conditions,” the report said. The main hospital in Nyala, the capital city of South Darfur state, has received people injured in the clashes which took place at Um Zi’aifa area of the state’s Bilail locality, according to the report. “The security authorities have sent military reinforcements to Bilail locality to prevent renewal of the clashes, particularly after the two tribes mobilized their fighters for a probable battle,” the report added.  Xinhua

With Eye on Islamic State, Western Powers Push Libyans to Accord
The United States and Italy on Sunday led an international diplomatic push to get Libya’s warring factions to sign a deal to form a unity government, hoping it will stop the spread of Islamic State militancy in the North African country. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Italian counterpart, Paolo Gentiloni, flanked by United Nation’s envoy Martin Kobler and 18 delegates began a meeting to press the Libyan camps to move forward after a year of U.N. talks. Delegations from Libya’s two rival governments last week agreed to Dec. 16 as a date to sign the deal, but opponents are resisting. Past deadlines have slipped while wide areas of the large oil-producing country splintered into fiefs of rival armed factions. A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the one-day meeting would endorse the Libyan agreement, hoping it would give Libyans confidence to move ahead knowing they had the support of the international community.  Reuters

Gaddafi’s Son Hannibal Freed after Kidnap in Lebanon
Late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son Hannibal has been freed after being briefly kidnapped by an armed group in Lebanon, security sources say. In a video shown on Lebanese TV, the captive businessman was seen appealing for more information concerning the 1978 disappearance of the prominent Lebanese Shia cleric Musa al-Sadr. He was freed in the city of Baalbek and dispatched to Beirut, police told AP. The 40-year-old former playboy was given sanctuary in Oman in 2012. His father Muammar was overthrown by rebels in a 2011 uprising. Al-Sadr, one of the most prominent Shia clerics of the 20th Century, disappeared along with two others during a trip to Libya in 1978. Muammar Gaddafi denied any involvement in his disappearance, but many suspect him of having orchestrated it. BBC

Deciphering Algeria: the Stirrings of Reform?
Algeria is making tentative steps towards opening up its economy and confronting political transition, despite widespread speculation that it is a crisis waiting to happen, according to a new report from ECFR. “Deciphering Algeria: The stirrings of reform?” by ECFR Visiting Fellow Andrew Lebovich explores the economic and security challenges facing Africa’s largest country. It challenges the widely held perception of Algeria as stable but stagnant, pointing out that the country has gradually begun to open up. On security, Algeria has increased its cooperation with neighbours and reinforced its own internal security apparatus to respond to threats of terrorism and instability coming from outside Algeria’s borders. The threat of this kind of terrorism was exemplified by the 2013 In Amenas attack that was reportedly organized in northern Mali and Libya. European Council on Foreign Relations

Just How Vulnerable Is South Africa President Zuma’s Position?
South African President Jacob Zuma’s decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister and appoint little-known lawmaker David van Rooyen in his place sent shock waves through the financial markets, driving the rand to record lows. #ZumaMustFall was the top trending Twitter hashtag in South Africa after the announcement. But, is it even possible? According to Steven Friedman, director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, the president is unlikely to be deposed anytime soon.  Under the country’s constitution, the president is elected by the 400 members of the National Assembly and can serve a maximum of two five-year terms. The ruling African National Congress currently holds 62 percent of the seats in the legislature, giving it the ultimate say in who gets the post. The party’s rules state that its leader is also its presidential candidate.  Bloomberg

Egypt Postpones Trial of 739 Murderers Because their Courtroom Cage is Too Small
An Egyptian judge has postponed the trial of 739 people accused of murder and staging an armed sit-in because they would not fit inside the courtroom cage. Judge Hassan Farid said he received a letter from the Cairo security directorate stating police would be unable to move the defendants from prison to the courthouse after cage expansion works had stalled. The trial was adjourned until 6 February. The defendants are among thousands rounded up at a protest site in August 2013. Supporters of former President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood staged two Cairo sit-ins in June that year just before the military ousted him. They are charged with planning and participating in an armed gathering, the murder of police forces tasked with breaking up the gathering and the possession of weapons without a licence, among other charges. The Independent

17 Killed in Fresh Tribal Clashes in South Darfur
Seventeen people were killed and twenty nine others injured Saturday in violent clashes between Rizeigat and Misseriya tribes in Al-Ziaifa area in the locality of Baleel, South Darfur state. Clashes have renewed between the two tribes after Rizeigat herders encroached into farms of the Misseriya killing 17 people and injuring 29 from both sides. Sudan Tribune correspondent in South Darfur said the major hospital in the state’s capital, Nyala has received more than 20 wounded tribesmen. An official source told Sudan Tribune that security organs have sent military reinforcement to the headquarters of the locality in Baleela in prelude to deploy it in the area to prevent further clashes particularly as tribesmen from both sides have been mobilized in preparation for a potential battle.  Sudan Tribune

Nigeria: Army Chief, Buratai, Escapes Assassination
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, on Saturday escaped an attempt on his life when members of the Shiite Islamic Sect attacked his convoy in Zaria, Kaduna State. The attack, which was repelled by his security detail, may have left at least three people dead with over 20 others injured. Disclosing the news of the assassination attempt, Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman, said the attack on Buratai by the sect led to exchange of fire between the military and members of the sect. “The Shiite Sect on the orders of their leader, Ibrahim Alzak-zaky today afternoon in Zaria attacked the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff while on his way to pay homage on the Emir of Zazzau and attend the Passing Out Parade of 73 Regular Recruits Intake of Depot Nigerian Army, Zaria. This Day on allAfrica

Shi’ites: Nigerian Soldiers Kill 12, Besiege Islamic Movement
Soldiers besieging the home of the leader of a Shi’ite movement accused of trying to assassinate Nigeria’s army chief have shot and killed at least 12 people, the Islamic group said early Sunday. About 30 people have been wounded in the ongoing attack that began late Saturday in the city of Zaria in northern Nigeria and continued into early Sunday, Zeenah Ibrahim, the wife of the group’s leader, told The Associated Press in a phone call interrupted by the sounds of gunfire. Army spokesman Col. Sani Usman said the Shiites on Saturday afternoon attacked the convoy of Gen. Tukur Buratai. “The sect numbering hundreds, carrying dangerous weapons, barricaded the roads with bonfires, heavy stones and tires,” Usman said in a statement. “They refused all entreaties to disperse and then started firing and pelting the convoy with dangerous objects … in a deliberate attempt to assassinate” the army chief. VOA

Burkina Faso Indicts, Jails 3 in Killing of Journalist
A lawyer says that three former presidential guard members have been indicted and jailed for the killing of an investigative journalist nearly 20 years ago. Journalist Norbert Zongo was killed along with three others in 1998. Zongo had been investigating the death of the chauffeur who drove the brother of ex-President Blaise Compaore. Zongo’s family’s lawyer Stanislas Benewinde Sankara said Saturday he expects investigators will eventually find the main person behind the murder. Compaore stepped down in October 2014 after a popular uprising. The presidential guard loyal to him was also disbanded this year after a failed coup.  News 24

Togo Condemned by Amnesty for Deadly Crackdown on Demonstrations
Amnesty International accused security forces in Togo on Friday of a brutal crackdown on opponents of a conservation project in the country’s north following deadly demonstrations last month in which several people were killed. Eight people were killed in the west African nation during several days of clashes between police and protesters in Mango, around 600 kilometres (370 miles) north of the capital Lome, Amnesty said in a report. A further 117 people were injured, some of them by gunshots, in the unrest sparked by the police’s use of force to disperse demonstrators opposed to plans to rehabilitate several protected wildlife areas, the report said. Five people were killed during the first unauthorised marches on November 6-7 which were “severely repressed”, London-based Amnesty said, corroborating the government’s toll for the first bout of unrest.  AFP on Globalpost

At Least 10 Dead as Rival Clans Clash in Central Somalia
At least 10 people were killed on Sunday in fighting between rival clans in central Somalia, a local police official said. More than 20 people, among them women and children, were injured in the fighting which broke out in the town of Beledwayne early on Sunday, Mohamed Ali told dpa by phone. “There are ongoing brutal killings and heavy fighting between two clan militias in the western neighbourhood of the Beledwayne town, the provincial capital of the Hiiraan region,” Ali said. Several houses and business places were damaged by heavy shelling and bullets from the warring militias, residents say. The Somali population is divided into clans and sub-clans that often engage in territorial disputes and political arguments. News 24

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Says Military Caught up in Succession Rift
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on Friday his country’s military and other security services were supporting different candidates to succeed him, warning that this could ruin the ruling party. Speaking at an annual conference of his ruling ZANU-PF party in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Mugabe, 91, said one of the major problems confronting the party was ambitious officials angling for positions, which was destabilizing the organization. One of the last from a political generation that included the late South African president Nelson Mandela, Mugabe is expected to be confirmed at the conference as ZANU-PF candidate for the next presidential election in 2018, when he will be 94. The next ZANU-PF elective conference is in 2019, when a new leader will be chosen.  Reuters

Soldiers, Secret Police Involved in Zim Ruling Party Fights
Infighting within Zimbabwe’s ruling party has reached such a peak that soldiers, police and intelligence agents are now taking sides, President Robert Mugabe said on Friday. Mugabe, 91, made an impassioned plea for unity in Zanu-PF at the opening of a party conference in Victoria Falls. Up to 6 000 party delegates are packed into a tent in the sweltering heat of Zimbabwe’s best-known tourist resort for this key event. Speaking in Shona and English, Mugabe said that it was “not right” that soldiers and police were involved in the factional fights. His quotes were translated by the official Chronicle newspaper. “They should stop it,” Mugabe added. “Stop it” is one of the phrases Mugabe’s wife has become famous for. Flanked by Grace, 50, the longtime Zimbabwean leader said there were “ambitious people” who wanted power in Zanu-PF. That did not seem to be a reference to his wife, who denies claims that she is angling for the presidency. Not everyone believes her. News 24



Photo: Adam Jones