Media Review for December 16, 2015

3 Steps Congress Can Take to End Violence in Burundi Before it’s Too Late
This past weekend marked a troubling escalation in the crisis in Burundi, propelling the country ever closer to civil war. On Friday, an attack by rebels on six military bases was noteworthy for its scale and coordination. While the rebels soon pulled back, the attacks were embarrassing to the government. In what many see as a reprisal, the government launched a cordon-and-search operation in neighborhoods of the capital, Bujumbura, known to be opposition strongholds. Since then, up to 200 bodies have appeared on the streets, many in civilian clothes and some with their hands bound. This weekend was the deadliest in Burundi, the small central African country just south of Rwanda, since the current unrest began in April. While exact figures are difficult to corroborate, over the past nine months attacks by government-aligned youth militias on communities sympathetic to the opposition, and subsequent targeted assassinations by rebel and pro-government groups, have led to upward of 500 people being killed, and at least another 240,000 — 60 percent of whom are children — fleeing to neighboring countries.  The Hill

Burundi Defends Security Forces, Sees no Need for Peacekeepers
Burundi has dismissed criticism of its security forces, saying they acted professionally after insurgents attacked military bases in the capital, and also said there was no need to send foreign peacekeepers to the African nation. The U.N. Security Council has considered actions that include sending a peacekeeping force to deal with Burundi’s crisis, which pits supporters of President Pierre Nkurunziza against those opposed to his third term in office. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council last month that Burundi was on the brink of war but said there was no immediate need to deploy a U.N. peacekeeping force, encouraging the council to choose other options. In the latest flare-up, gunmen attacked military bases on Friday. The U.N. human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said on Tuesday the authorities had responded with house searches, arrests and alleged summary executions. The fighting killed almost 90 people.  Reuters

African Union: Crisis in Burundi Is of Great Concern
A team sent to investigate the ongoing crisis in Burundi received reports of torture, arbitrary killings, targeted assassinations, arbitrary arrests and detentions which are of “great concern,” the African Union said Tuesday. Friday’s attack of three military facilities by an unidentified group that left at least 87 people dead, has led to an escalation of violence and human rights violations, a delegation of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights said in a statement. Burundi has been in turmoil since President Pierre Nkurunziza sought re-election in April despite a two- term limit imposed by the constitution. The April announcement of Nkurunziza’s candidacy sparked street protests that boiled over into an attempted coup in May. Nkurunziza was re-elected in July, but the violence has since increased. The AU urged in its statement that all state and non-state actors should put an immediate end to the ongoing violence and the human rights violations, saying that the current crisis cannot be solved through fighting.  AP on the The New York Times

Ugandan Mediators Organizing Burundi Crisis Meeting for ‘All stakeholders’, Says Regional Cooperation Minister
Uganda-led mediation on the crisis in Burundi will continue “shortly” with a meeting of all stakeholders, Philemon Mateke, Uganda’s minister of state for regional affairs told RFI on Tuesday. Violence has escalated in recent weeks since unrest sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial decision to stand for a third term in office earlier this year.  RFI

Shiite Muslim Sect Alleges Massacre by Nigeria’s Military
Representatives of a Shiite Muslim sect in northwestern Nigeria said on Tuesday that hundreds of its members were killed by the military in a massacre over the weekend. The government has disputed the death toll, acknowledging that at least seven members of the sect were killed but refusing to provide updated casualty figures. Still, the killings appeared to add a dangerous new dimension to the sectarian violence that has long bedeviled Nigeria. The government has been battling an insurgency in northeastern Nigeria by Boko Haram, a Sunni Muslim extremist group, for years. Shiites, by contrast, are a tiny minority of the country’s Muslims. On Tuesday, a leading human rights advocate called the killings of members of the Shiite sect a “massacre,” while the Iranian news media reported that Iran’s government, which sees itself as a protector of Shiites worldwide, had demanded an explanation.  The New York Times

Nigeria, Chad at Odds Over Joint Task Force Contributions
Nearly six months after Heads of State and government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) agreed to set up a joint military task force to crush the terrorist group, Boko Haram, the Chadian government’s refusal to contribute its military troops to the joint task force is aiding Boko Haram’s onslaught against innocent Nigerians, a senior intelligence officer at the Defence Headquarters told THISDAY in Abuja. Consequently, the source said the Nigerian Army is considering “tougher option” in dealing with the allegation of the Chadian government’s complicity in the act of terrorism by Boko Haram. At the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari two weeks after he was inaugurated, Nigeria and its neighbours: Chad, Niger, Cameroun and later Benin Republic, had agreed to set up a joint military force to counter Boko Haram, a move many military analysts said was a sign of President Buhari’s resolve to crush the deadly Islamist terrorist group early in his tenure.  African Defense

30 Dead in Boko Haram Attack on Three Nigeria Villages: Vigilante
Brutal attacks on three villages by Boko Haram Islamists in the restive northeast of Nigeria have left 30 dead and 20 others wounded, a vigilante told AFP. “Most of the victims were slaughtered and most of the wounded (had suffered) machete cuts,” Mustapha Karimbe, a civilian helping the Nigerian military fight Boko Haram, said of Saturday’s attacks in the villages of Warwara, Mangari and Bura-Shika in Borno state. News of the attacks was slow to emerge due to poor communication ‎as a result of the destruction of telecom masts in the area in previous Boko Haram raids. The Islamists invaded the villages, hacking and slaughtering their victims before setting the villages on fire. The villages are near Buratai, the hometown of Nigeria’s highest military chief Tukur Yusuf Buratai. AFP on Yahoo News

Cameroon Calls for More Vigilantes Against Boko Haram
Cameroonian authorities are urging more northerners to join self-defense groups to fight Boko Haram. The call comes after several recent successes scored by the self-defense groups working in collaboration with the military, including reports that vigilantes intercepted and killed two young female suicide bombers in a border town this week. Boubakarri Alioum lives in the town of Amchide that straddles the border of Cameroon and Nigeria. VOA

UN Accused of ‘Shocking’ Lack of Action over Murder and Rape in South Sudan
The UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has been accused of a “complete and utter failure” to protect civilians in one of the most dangerous and volatile parts of the war-ravaged country. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says that although civilians in southern Unity state – an oil-rich area and key battleground in the civil war – have been subjected to murder, rape and abduction for many months, there has been a “shocking” lack of action from the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (Unmiss). “There has been a complete and utter protection failure on Unmiss’ part in southern Unity,” said Pete Buth, deputy operations director of MSF Holland and manager of MSF’s activities in Unity state.  The Guardian

UN Peacekeepers in South Sudan: Protecting Some of the People Some of the Time
Two years ago, war broke out in South Sudan. What started off as a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar was quickly manipulated into ethnically-aligned violence that spread with extraordinary speed and intensity. Civilians quickly became the prime target. As violence escalated, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) took the unprecedented decision to open its gates to thousands of civilians fleeing violence. While the opening of a number of Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites across the country did not prevent mass violence, there is no doubt that it reduced the number of people killed or injured. As one man living in a PoC site in Juba said: “If it was not because of peacekeepers, all of us would have been killed.” The speed with which the decision was taken to open the gates was crucial in saving lives. It was also a direct response to the shadow that fell over peacekeeping missions during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, when the gates stayed closed and thousands were killed as a result. African Arguments

South Sudan Marks Two Years of Civil War
South Sudan descended into war in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his previous deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of killings that split the country along ethnic lines. The hopes to bring the country back to normalcy waned a month ago after Riek Machar’s delegation failed to turn-up for peace negotiations. South Sudan’s government warned that inviting a large number of armed opposition to the capital, Juba, for the negotiatons, would be a security risk, preferring a smaller delegation. The spokesman for President Salva Kiir, Ateny Wek Ateny, said the power sharing will never see the light of day, blaming the rebels for sending a delegation of 600 people to Juba. “Signing a peace agreement is not enough, it will never materialize unless it is implemented by both sides, and the implementation is not a one-way traffic.” Ateny told DW.  Deutsche Welle

South Sudan: The Many Barriers to Aid
Aid organisations are unable to reach hundreds of thousands of people, and thousands more are at risk of starvation as civil war in South Sudan reaches the end of its second year, according to aid officials speaking to Al Jazeera. Despite a peace agreement signed in August, ongoing fighting has put the lives of thousands at risk. The worst-affected areas are in the central and southern districts of Unity State and the west bank of the Nile in the Upper Nile State, where the conflict has displaced more than 2.2 million people and left 3.9 million others “severely food insecure”, according to the latest humanitarian report published by the UN on December 1. Tens of thousands have lost their lives. “It’s Unity State … [that] we’re most worried about,” says Joyce Luma, the country director of the World Food Programme (WFP) in South Sudan. Al Jazeera

C African Republic Rebels Declare Autonomous State in North
A Muslim rebel leader in Central African Republic proclaimed an autonomous state in the country’s north Tuesday just days after threatening violence against those voting on a constitutional referendum meant to usher in stability. The declaration by rebel leader Noureddine Adam comes only two weeks after Pope Francis visited the troubled nation of 4.8 million and called for reconciliation among its rival Muslim and Christian militias, who have been warring since Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the Christian president in 2013. The declaration calling the new territory the Republic of Logone was signed Monday. AP on Yahoo News

Can Zambia’s Opposition Unseat President Lungu in the 2016 Elections?
With less than a year to go before Zambia’s presidential and general elections, President Edgar Lungu and his governing Patriotic Front (PF) face a stern electoral challenge from the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) led by Hakainde Hichilema. Lungu narrowly defeated Hichilema, 53, in the January 2015 presidential by-election occasioned by the death of then president Michael Sata. The 59-year-old lawyer obtained 48.3% of the 1,671,662 total votes cast, ahead of Hichilema who polled 46.7% and the nine other opposition leaders who shared the remaining 5%. Out of Zambia’s ten provinces, Lungu won six: Eastern, his home area; the five provinces from which the populist and Bemba-speaking Sata drew most of his support; Lusaka, the capital; Copperbelt; and three Bemba-speaking rural communities of Luapula, Muchinga and Northern provinces. In addition to Southern province, where he comes from, Hichilema secured the neighbouring Western, North-Western and Central provinces. At 32%, the national voter turnout was the lowest recorded for a presidential election in Zambia’s history. African Arguments

Last Days for U.N. Court Trying Suspects in Rwanda Genocide
his special court, set up by the United Nations in 1994 in response to a genocide of nearly one million people in Rwanda that year, was intended to bring to justice the orchestrators of the mass killings. All of those on the tribunal’s suspect list had fled Rwanda, and most were hunted down and arrested elsewhere. The tribunal’s prosecutor deployed a team to Rwanda in the 1990s to speak to victims and witnesses. The tribunal’s early years were tainted by missteps. Critics said it was too slow, too expensive and too biased, failing to try any crimes committed by the side that ended the genocide and won the war — the side that now governs Rwanda. In the past few months, as the last cases have wrapped up, courtrooms and floors of office space have gradually been rented back to the conference center’s landlord. “A liquidation team is in place to sell all that is remaining behind, be it furniture, vehicles and computers,” said Danford Mpumilwa, a tribunal spokesman. “Naturally some of the items have been donated to schools and other local institutions, which desperately need them.” The United Nations is building a much smaller facility that will house the tribunal’s archive — a point of contention with the Rwandan government, which is demanding that the archive be brought to Rwanda. The New York Times

Libya: Reconciliation at Last?
Most likely some Libyan factions will sign a peace deal today, Wednesday, in Morocco. Representatives from the General National Congress in Tripoli and the Council of Deputies in Tubruk — the latter enjoys international recognition — have declared that they will sign the deal even though there are still dissenting voices on both sides. On Sunday, representatives of 18 countries and agencies, including the EU, the United States, Russia and the UN, met in Rome to convince the two sides to embrace the agreement, which was brokered by the UN after months of grueling negotiations. The immediate goal of the agreement is to form a national unity government, which will take it upon itself to bring Libyans together and end years of divisions and chaos that have made Libya a failed state. But what is important for the West is that this government will legitimize international intervention to fight and defeat Daesh, which has made spectacular territorial gains recently in Libya recently. The French now believe Daesh is moving to control oil fields in Libya’s heartland. Arab News

Chiefs of Rival Libya Parliaments Meet for First Time
The heads of Libya’s rival parliaments met for the first time Tuesday ahead of the expected signing of a U.N. plan for a national unity government, Libyan television reported. Aqila Salah, who heads the internationally recognized parliament sitting in the east, met Nuri Abu Sahmein of the Tripoli-based General National Congress, the report said. The Annaba channel showed the two men meeting in Malta in the presence of representatives of both chambers ahead of the expected signing of the agreement in Morocco Thursday. It followed a gathering in Rome of a U.S.- and Italian-led group of world powers and regional players that urged Libya’s warring factions Sunday to lay down their arms and back the new unity government. The North African state has been mired in chaos since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi. ISIS has exploited the lawlessness to expanding its presence there. AFP on Al Arabiya

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

U.N. Bases Turn into Cities for Desperate and Displaced in South Sudan
Two years ago today, thousands of desperate South Sudanese came rushing to the gates of United Nations peacekeeper bases in the country, fleeing villages torn by ethnic conflict and begging for sanctuary. The civil war, which started when a political rivalry between South Sudan’s president and his former deputy spiraled into ethnic conflict, took the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) by surprise. Their military bases were not equipped to shelter thousands of displaced people. But with surprising rapidity, UNMISS leadership came to a decision. They decided to do in South Sudan what they had not done in 1994 during the genocide in Rwanda, when civilians were left outside to die. This time, they would offer protection. They boldly opened their gates, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.  NPR

Ghana Arrests ‘Burkina Faso Arms Dealer’ in Kumasi
A suspected arms dealer from Burkina Faso has been arrested in Ghana after officers found weapons capable of shooting down an aircraft in his bedroom, a police commander has said. The 72-year-old man was detained in the city of Kumasi along with four other people suspected of buying weapons. He confessed to smuggling in arms from Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger, police in Kumasi said. Machine guns and anti-aircraft ammunition were among the arms found. BBC

Egypt Jails Record Number of Journalists
There are more journalists imprisoned in Egypt this year than ever before as the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi continues to “use the pretext of national security to clamp down on dissent”, according to analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists. The number of journalists imprisoned in Egypt at the start of December was 23 – up from 12 a year ago – making it the second worst country for jailing journalists in the world. It is the highest figure for Egypt since the CPJ began recording the number of journalists jailed and as recently as 2012 the country did not imprison any. Turkey also dramatically increased the number of journalists it locked up during the year, doubling those in prison to 14. The Guardian

Why are Children Fighting in Conflicts?
The people of South Sudan have not had it easy since they won independence four years ago. A dispute that began between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar two years ago has turned into a full-blown conflict. And Human Rights Watch is now calling on all sides to stop using child soldiers. It has documented the recruitment, trauma and abuse of child soldiers in the conflict and named 15 commanders and officials, from both sides, who are said to have recruited children as fighters. But it’s not just in South Sudan – kids are fighting in conflicts around the world. So, what can be done to stop it?  Al Jazeera

Obiang’s Son Must Face Embezzlement Charges
A French appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Teodorin Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea’s long-running dictator also known for his love of Michael Jackson memorabilia, does not have immunity for prosecution on embezzlement charges. Obiang, one of the country’s vice presidents, is accused of looting the coffers in his desperately poor country to fund his lavish tastes, including the purchase of Jackson’s famous white glove. French prosecutors ordered the seizure of the Obiang family’s six-storey mansion on the chic Avenue Foch in Paris as well as several luxury cars after charging him with money laundering and misappropriation in March 2014. They also took away van-loads of possessions including paintings by famous artists, a $4.2m clock and wines worth thousands a bottle.  News 24

Arab Spring ‘Cost Affected Countries $830 Billion’, Report Claims
The Arab Spring and following events including war, the refugee crisis, and an economic downturn in some nations has cost affected countries more than $830 billion (£550 billion), a new report has claimed. Findings presented to the Arab Strategy Forum (ASF) in Dubai analysed the financial impact of the revolutions that spread through the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. While the government of some nations, like Tunisia, underwent peaceful transition, political instability in Egypt and other countries has continued and authorities’ crackdown on protesters sparked several conflicts, including the ongoing Syrian civil war. The Independent

Deep Divisions Ahead of Global Trade Talks in Nairobi
World Trade Organisation member countries remain deeply divided ahead of a key conference in Nairobi, with some urging the organisation to abandon talks deadlocked since 2001 and start fresh. The four days of global trade talks, being held for the first time in Africa, will kick off in Nairobi on Tuesday amid predictions that chances of reaching even a limited trade deal are “gloomy”. On the eve of the conference, US Trade Representative Michael Froman warned that talks that started in Doha in 2001 aimed at lowering global barriers to trade had little prospect of success. “It is time for the world to free itself from the strictures of Doha,” he wrote in an opinion piece published in the Financial Times. News 24

Zuma Scared Markets So Much, South Africa Yields Matched Nigeria
For a moment last week, bond traders judged South Africa almost as risky as Nigeria. As South African assets plunged in the wake of President Jacob Zuma’s shock decision to fire his finance minister on Dec. 9, the nation’s bond yields only just avoided rising above those of the West African country, which has a credit rating four levels lower and a reputation for corruption and political upheaval. The chart below shows how average yields on rand-denominated government bonds soared to a record 10.46 percent on Dec. 11, less than one basis point from being above those of Nigeria’s local-currency government bonds for the first time ever, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Zuma roiled markets when he dismissed Nhlanhla Nene from the finance portfolio and replaced him with little-known lawmaker David van Rooyen, before changing his mind four days later.  Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones