Media Review for December 15, 2015

Burundi Says its Refugees Recruited by Rebels in Rwanda, Kigali Denies
Burundi accused neighbouring Rwanda on Monday of supporting a rebel group that was recruiting Burundian refugees on Rwandan soil, allegations Kigali denied. The comments were prompted by a report published by the charity Refugees International, which said it was “deeply concerned” by claims of Burundian refugees in Rwanda that they were being recruited by “non-state armed groups”. It is the latest sign of tension between the African neighbours, which each have an ethnic Hutu majority and Tutsi minority. Both have also been torn apart by ethnic conflict in the past and experts fear months of violence during a political crisis in Burundi may reopen old ethnic wounds. More than 220,000 have fled Burundi since the crisis erupted in April, sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term. He was re-elected in a disputed July vote. Rwanda says more than 73,000 Burundians are now on its soil.  Reuters

Burundi Is ‘Going to Hell,’ Says US Ambassador to United Nations
A day after the United Nations Security Council received a report from the UN’s special envoy for Burundi on the recent deadly violence in the country, US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power dashed off a distressed note to diplomats at the British and French missions in New York. “Flagging, we are leaving Burundi,” Power wrote on Saturday in the email, which was obtained by VICE News. “Assessment is it is going to hell.” Before her entrance into diplomacy, Power was perhaps best known as the author of “A Problem from Hell,” a book examining American inaction in the face of genocide.Though many consider Burundi’s current crisis largely political, Power’s choice of language on Saturday was an eerie reminder of the holocaust that beset its neighbor Rwanda 21 years ago – a genocide whose ghosts linger in the Great Lakes region. While the UN and African Union are meant to be engaging in “contingency planning,” to prepare for the possible outbreak of open conflict in Burundi, in her note, Power offered a dire assessment of those efforts.  VICE

What Really Happened on Burundi’s Bloody Friday
In the hours after rebel forces launched a pre-dawn assault on three military installations here on Friday, the embattled government claimed to have killed 79 insurgents in a joint military and police security operation. Some insurgents died in the initial clashes with the military, the government said, while others supposedly retreated into neighborhoods known for their staunch opposition to the regime, where they were later shot by security forces and left bleeding in the streets. “The people found in the streets are attackers who have been killed by the security,” government spokesman Karerwa Ndenzako said on Saturday. But as the fog of battle lifts over Bujumbura, the yarn spun by the government is swiftly unraveling. Not only were some of the victims bound and shot execution style, no gun battles took place in the neighborhood where most of the bodies turned up, multiple witnesses said. Both claims contradict the government line that soldiers inflicted additional losses on a retreating rebel force. According to residents, security services conducted door-to-door searches, stole cash and cell phones, and dragged away dozens of young men suspected of working with the rebels — many of whom were later found with bullets in their heads. Foreign Policy

Burundi Army Patrols Capital After Worst Violence of Crisis
Burundi’s army patrolled the streets of the capital Monday as a rights group demanded a probe into the deaths of 87 people last week, the deadliest violence of the East African nation’s eight-month-old political crisis. Attacks by unidentified gunmen on barracks in Bujumbura on Dec. 11 and subsequent violence left dozens dead, including eight army officers, military spokesman Colonel Gaspard Baratuza told reporters the following day. The European Union said security forces had carried out summary executions, while New York-based Human Rights Watch urged a “serious, independent investigation.” The “dramatic worsening of the situation demands a specific reaction,” the EU said Sunday in a statement. It called for the immediate start of talks in Uganda with the support of the African Union. Bloomberg

Trial Begins Over Burundi Generals’ Coup Attempt
More than two dozen senior military and police officials in Burundi have gone on trial for their alleged involvement in a failed coup attempt to oust President Pierre Nkurunziza. The 28 defendants, including former defense minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye and five generals, appeared in a courtroom Friday in the central town of Gitega. Prosecutors say the men are charged with trying to overthrow the government in May, as well as killing soldiers and other acts of violence. Defense attorneys say they have had insufficient access to their clients’ case files. They say the defendants have been mistreated in jail and are living in degrading conditions. VOA

Burundi: Ex-Defense Minister, Generals Charged over Coup Try
A former Burundian defense minister was charged Monday along with 27 ex-security officials for their alleged involvement in a May coup attempt to oust President Pierre Nkurunziza while he was seeking a third term in office. Former Defense Minister Gen. Cyrille Ndayirukiye led the suspects, including five generals, in petitioning the Burundi’s Supreme Court, sitting in the central town of Gitega, to improve the conditions of their detention before trial continues. Ndayirukiye said he and the others must use a bucket as a toilet and are being held in isolation. The court ordered prison authorities to improve the conditions of the suspects’ detention. The trial will continue Tuesday, the court announced. AP on The Stars and Stripes

Crisis in Burundi: From Non-Interference to Non-Indifference, Invoking the Responsibility to Protect
The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a proposed international legal norm that removes sovereignty as an absolute right in cases in which states are no longer able to protect citizens from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. In Burundi there are clear warning signs, and multiple reports that the national government is not only unable to protect its citizens, but is actively carrying out criminal acts against its population. It has become increasingly difficult to ignore the signs that Burundi is slipping into chaos and teeters on the edge of a possible mass atrocity. Last weekend witnessed the death of at least 87 people, most of them in anti-government hotbeds, the majority of whom appear to have been killed execution-style. The government and security services have stated that their actions were in response to an armed attack on two military bases in the capital Bujumbura. This could be the moment Burundi lost its sovereignty in favor of the protection of its population. R2P initially came as a reaction to the failure of the international community to take action in notable mass atrocity situations such as Rwanda, Srebrenica, and Cambodia, two of which occurred despite an active United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country. Daily Maverick

EU Seeks End to Violence in Burundi
Top EU officials called on Monday for action to quell violence in Burundi, after dozens of people were reported to have been killed in the African country in recent days. “We are working in these hours … to help stop the violence,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told journalists in Brussels ahead of a meeting with the bloc’s foreign ministers. “It is urgent that [dialogue in Burundi] starts immediately.” “The events of the last hours are rather catastrophic,” Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders added. “I hope that, with our colleagues, we will be able to send messages to the African Union and the UN Security Council.” “There has to be action, there is much too much violence now in the country,” he added. IOL News

Burundi’s Worsening Crisis ‘Is Political, Not Ethnic’
A deadly burst of violence in troubled Burundi has stoked fears that the country’s political crisis could escalate into a full-blown conflict, barely a decade after the end of a civil war fought largely along ethnic lines. Dozens of people were killed on Friday after coordinated attacks on three military sites prompted a fierce crackdown by security forces in and around the capital, Bujumbura. The army said 87 people died during and after the attacks, including eight soldiers and 79 people it identified as “enemies” of the government. But other sources said the real toll was significantly higher. Several witnesses quoted by AFP and Reuters news agencies accused the security forces of extrajudicial killings, describing officers breaking down doors in search of young men and shooting them at close range. Some of the victims had their arms tied behind their backs, they said. France 24

New Force Commander Named for UN-AU Mission in Darfur
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on Monday announced the appointment of new force commander for UN-AU mission in Darfur. Lieutenant General Frank Mushyo Kamanzi of Rwanda was named as Force Commander of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), Ban’s spokesman told reporters here. Lieutenant General Kamanzi will succeed Lieutenant General Paul Ignace Mella of Tanzania, who will complete his assignment on Dec. 31, the spokesman said, adding that “The secretary-general is grateful to Lieutenant General Mella for his dedication and invaluable service during his tenure in UNAMID.”  Xinhua

S. Sudanese Army to Pursue Rebels in Eastern Equatoria State
The South Sudanese government has ordered the Sudan Peoples Liberation Amy (SPLA) to pursue a new rebel group in Eastern Equatoria state. Speaking to reporters in the capital, Juba on Monday, the country’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth said government had directed the army to pursue those “criminals” carrying out robberies on major highways. “Those criminals, those bandits who are obstructing free movements of our people and goods in eastern Equatoria state must be pursued. They must be given hot pursuit. The SPLA forces have now been directed to pursue them so that they are brought to book to answer the cause of their actions”, said the visibly-angry minister. Sudan Tribune

Lack of Law on Campaign Funding Increases Cost of Uganda Polls
The rise in political competition coupled with the absence of tight restrictions on how much political parties or individuals can spend on soliciting votes are set to make the ongoing campaigns the most expensive yet in Uganda’s history. This is the verdict of a coalition of civil society groups that monitors the financing of political and electoral processes and its influences on campaign outcomes in the country. To mitigate the distortions that especially unrestricted funding causes to the progress of democracy in Uganda, such as aiding outright purchase of influence if not victory itself by people who would otherwise not be elected, the government must, as a matter of necessity, extensively review existing laws or enact new ones, says the Alliance for Campaign Finance Monitoring (ACFIM). The East African

Gunmen Kill UN Employee in Somali Capital Mogadishu
Unidentified gunmen shot dead an employee of the UN refugee agency in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Monday, in an attack that also left another person dead, a UN statement said. “It is with great sadness that UNHCR has learned of the killing of one of our colleagues, Amina Noor Mohamed, this afternoon in Mogadishu, Somalia,” the UNHCR statement said. The Geneva-based agency said Mohammed was killed by “unknown gunmen while travelling in a private vehicle driven by a staff member from a UNHCR partner organization who also lost his life in the attack.” While there was no indication of who was responsible, aid workers including UN staffers have previously been targeted by Shebab Islamist militants battling a weak, internationally-backed government.  AFP on Yahoo News

‘Girl Bombers Killed’ in Cameroon
Security forces armed with guns and arrows killed two young women wearing explosive vests in a north Cameroon town on Monday, the second raid there in days by suspected Boko Haram militants from neighbouring Nigeria, witnesses said. The would-be suicide bombers, described as adolescent girls, entered Kolofata just before dawn, residents and officials told Reuters. “The first kamikaze (suicide bomber) exploded near my house … When she entered, the local vigilance committee fired an arrow at her head and she set off her bomb,” said resident Bahoua, who declined to give his full name. Self-defence groups have sprung up across north Cameroon and are overseen by the army. The other young woman was shot by special forces, known by their French initials BIR, one of the sources said. IOL News

Nigeria’s Sambo Dasuki Charged over ‘$68m Fraud’
Nigeria’s ex-national security adviser has appeared in court, charged over an alleged $68m fraud. Sambo Dasuki was charged on 19 counts of fraud, money laundering and criminal breach of trust at the high court in the capital Abuja. He pleaded not guilty on all counts. Mr Dasuki is accused of illegally transferring $50m from the national security budget to fund election campaigns for members of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s party. President Muhammadu Buhari ordered his arrest two weeks ago, after a government investigation alleged that $2bn (£1.3bn) meant to buy arms to fight Boko Haram had gone missing. BBC

Iran Protests Nigeria Army Crackdown on Shiites
Iran summoned Nigeria’s charge d’affaires to protest over the Nigerian army’s deadly crackdown on pro-Iranian Shiites in the north of the country, the official IRNA news agency reported Tuesday. The diplomat was told the foreign ministry on Monday that Iran “demands the Nigerian government immediately shed light on the incidents, treat the injured, and compensate for damages,” IRNA said. It said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also called for “immediate and serious action to prevent violence” against Shiites in a telephone call to his Nigerian counterpart Geoffrey Onyeama. The Guardian – Nigeria

Roundup: Rome Conference on Libya Sends Message for Stability: Italian Diplomats, Experts
The conference on Libya held here on Sunday has sent a message that major countries in the region working together can foster stability, according to Italian diplomats and experts. “We expect the Libyan process to bring some results in the coming days,” European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was quoted by the Italian press as saying before a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday. “The agreement for the formation of a government of national unity in Libya must be Libyan-led, but the international community and the EU in particular must support it through all channels,” Mogherini said. Representatives of the international community at the Rome conference on Libya endorsed a United Nations (UN)-backed deal aimed at bringing Libyan rival factions to a unity government to ward off the advance of the Islamic State (IS). Xinhua on Globalpost

Islamic State ‘Moving to Access Libya Oil’ – France
The Islamic State group is extending its territory inside Libya, aiming to gain access to the country’s oil wells, France’s defence minister says. The group has started to move inland from its stronghold in the coastal town of Sirte, Jean-Yves Le Drian told France’s RTL radio. Libya’s rival governments are due to sign a UN-backed agreement on Wednesday to form a unity government. Libya has descended into chaos since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. BBC

Lebanon Charges Kadhafi Son in Decades-old Kidnap Case
Lebanese authorities on Monday charged Hannibal Kadhafi, the high-living son of the late Libyan dictator, with withholding information about a missing Lebanese Shiite cleric, judicial sources told AFP. Kadhafi was kidnapped on Friday by an unknown armed group in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa valley, but was freed by police several hours later and taken in for questioning, security sources said. On Monday he was interrogated for more than three hours by judicial investigators, who charged him with “withholding information on the disappearance of Shiite imam Mussa Sadr”. Sadr went missing in 1978 during an official visit to Libya, along with an aide and a journalist. AFP on Yahoo News

Weighing the Cost of Morocco’s Involvement in Europe’s Fight against Terrorism
As alert levels in Brussels ease gradually after weeks of vigilance over potential terrorism in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, Moroccan intelligence agencies are expected to have engaged in more security cooperation with EU countries. Their technical and field experience in tracking down dangerous nationals abroad has pushed the Belgian authorities, for instance, to request more sharing of quality intelligence to pre-empt as well as tackle radical threats. Under the patronage of the monarchs of the two countries, the Belgian request occurred after the Moroccan agencies supplied efficient intelligence to their French counterparts regarding the St-Denis attackers. Though the outcome was to throw the spotlight on Molenbeek as a terrorist abode, the Belgians understood that Moroccan intelligence could be an asset in the war on home-grown terrorism, if not to EU countries generally. However, Morocco’s involvement in the war on terrorism in Europe is not without its own repercussions. The Central Office for Judicial Investigations, Morocco’s version of the FBI, announced on 11 December that a Daesh-related cell was dismantled near the city of Kenitra. The official press release said that the nine-member group was well advanced in a plot to monitor and target some key estates with live ammunition. Middle East Monitor

Zimbabwe Loses Millions in Illicit Financial Flows
At least $500 million could have been spirited out of Zimbabwe through illicit financial flows this year alone, the country’s central bank chief, John Mangudya said. This comes at a time government has been battling to raise revenue to finance critical national needs in the wake a shrinking revenue base and the absence of balance of payments support. “For this year alone, Zimbabwe has lost more than $500 million, which has no authentic, bona fide justification,” he is quoted saying by the state run Herald. Mangudya said the funds, a very significant for a country with a $4 billion budget, are enough to buy about over half of the country’s yearly grain supplies. The Africa Report

2015 South African Person of the Year: The Student
In a society trapped in a leaderless quagmire, where somebody probably stands for something yet nobody stands for anything, a new flame has flickered to life. Thousands of young people rose up, stood together and challenged the establishment – from their campuses, the streets, Parliament and the lawns of the majestic Union Buildings, they made their voices heard. They brought down a symbol of exploitation and privilege, exposed the prevailing racism on their campuses and fought against fee increases in higher education. When all else is being sucked into a bottomless pit, the youth of the nation raised their fists and reminded us what true leadership is. Daily Maverick

African Business in China
Many African entrepreneurs today consider China as the new land of opportunities. One of them is Nathalie Fodderie from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On a reconnaissance trip to Guangzhou, in Southern China, she has three weeks to find equipment for her Kinshasa restaurant that needs complete refurbishment. Fodderie works with an established network of African and Chinese middlemen and traders and haggles with some of the toughest businessmen in the world. Through her journey, we see how African and Chinese traders grapple with geographic and cultural hurdles to make a profit. Al Jazeera

The Rapidly Disappearing Elephants Of Tanzania
Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest wildlife refuges in the world and one of the last great wild places in Africa. The problem is, it’s not a refuge from anything. In the past five years, 60 percent of its iconic elephant herds have been machine-gunned or poisoned by poachers for the value of their tusks. Photographer Robert Ross spent six years traversing the 17,000 square miles of the Selous, from its miombo woodland to its Borassus palm swamps and meandering sand rivers. In his book, The Selous in Africa: A Long Way from Anywhere, Ross chronicled much more than the elephant slaughter. After all, who really wants a coffee table book of pachyderm carcasses? His stunning images inventory the magnificent biodiversity of the continent’s oldest protected wilderness as well as the threats it now faces.  NPR



Photo: Adam Jones