Media Review for December 17, 2015

African Union Warns Will Not Allow ‘Genocide’ in Burundi
“Africa will not allow another genocide to take place on its soil,” the AU’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) said in messages posted on its Twitter account as it discussed the crisis in Burundi, adding there was “an urgent need for action to stop the killings.” Burundi descended into bloodshed in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a controversial third term, which he went on to win in July. AU security council chief Smail Chergui said there was “a very clear message coming out of the ongoing PSC meeting: the killings in Burundi must stop immediately.” Ministers were briefed on the AU’s military capabilities of its regional East African Standby Force for its “possible” deployment to Burundi, without giving further details. On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that Burundi “is on the brink of a civil war that risks engulfing the entire region.”  AFP on Times Live

UN Sends Envoy to Burundi Amid Warnings Time is Running Out to Avoid Ethnic Conflict
Ban Ki-moon, United Nations secretary-general, called on Wednesday for urgent talks to avert civil war in Burundi as the central African country defended the actions of its security forces and rejected any idea of stationing foreign troops on its soil. Mr Ban said he would send his special adviser Jamal Benomar to the region for talks with the Burundi government, other countries and the African Union on ways to defuse a crisis that has spurred fears of a return to full-scale ethnic conflict. Meanwhile, the US criticised the UN, saying there was not enough urgency in contingency planning as the security deteriorated.  The Telegraph

US says UN not Doing Enough on Burundi Crisis
Washington’s envoy to the United Nations complained Wednesday that the international body was not doing enough to address the worsening crisis in Burundi. Ambassador Samantha Power said there was “insufficient contingency planning” on Burundi, nearly five weeks after the Security Council adopted a resolution calling for such measures. “Many council members are eager to see the pace of contingency planning accelerated,” Power told reporters. UN officials have said they are drawing up plans including possibly rushing peacekeepers to Burundi from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo if the violence gets worse. Burundi descended into bloodshed in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a controversial third term, which he went on to win in July. AFP on Yahoo News

U.S. Calls for Investigation of Shiite Deaths in Nigeria
The State Department urged the Nigerian government on Wednesday to investigate reports of a large number of deaths over the weekend in clashes between the military and a Shiite Muslim sect. The American Embassy in Nigeria said in a statement that the United States was “deeply concerned” about reports of the clashes, which began on Saturday afternoon in the northern city of Zaria. “While many details of the incidents that reportedly began on Dec. 12 remain unclear, we are dismayed to learn of multiple civilian deaths,” the embassy said in the statement. “It is essential that all sides refrain from actions that further destabilize the situation. The United States calls on the government of Nigeria to quickly, credibly and transparently investigate these events in Zaria and hold to account any individuals found to have committed crimes.” Representatives of the sect, known as the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, say that up to 1,000 of its members were killed by the military.  The New York Times

E.U. Launches $2 Billion Plan to Keep Africans from Migrating
The European Union on Wednesday announced the start of a $2 billion initiative to curb illegal migration from Africa, an ambitious program that aims to tackle the root causes of a historic flight of Africans to Europe. The first $325 million in projects introduced Wednesday include efforts to increase employment in the migrants’ home countries and to tackle human trafficking in places such as Ethiopia and Somalia. Much of Europe’s attention has been focused on the nearly 800,000 Syrian, Iraqi and other asylum-seekers who have entered Europe this year via Greece. But the number of people from sub-Saharan Africa crossing the Mediterranean has jumped, too: About 130,000 made the journey in 2015, compared with about 70,000 last year, according to the International Organization for Migration. They were driven from their homes by poverty and conflict, and attracted by the opportunities to reach Italy from nearby Libya, whose Mediterranean coast has been virtually unpatrolled since the 2011 overthrow of Moammar Gaddafi’s government. The Washington Post

Don’t Call It a Jihadist Insurgency — Yet
On Friday, November 20, two gunmen attacked the Radisson Blu hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako, taking 170 hostages and killing 19 before security forces stormed the building. […] But two days later, a third group — the Macina Liberation Front (known by its French acronym, FLM) — declared that it had carried out the attack. Based in Mali’s central region, east of Mopti, this little-known group has been conducting small-scale raids on police stations and assassinating local officials since early 2015. It is believed that most of its fighters are disadvantaged Fulani, a mostly nomadic, cattle-herding people spread across west and central Africa. There were good reasons to doubt the FLM’s claim. The group said there were five gunmen rather than two, and hostages described the attackers as speaking English — more likely for foreign jihadists than for impoverished Fulani. Nevertheless, Mali’s President announced the following Monday that “it is the FLM who are behind this,” pledging to defeat terrorism. Foreign Policy

Islamic State Looks to North Africa for Oil, Recruits
Libya and the Sinai are “vulnerable” areas that the Islamic State group would like to exploit for potential oil revenue and recruits, officials say, as oil production and moving fighters have become more difficult in Syria and Iraq. “They are looking at the oil assets in Libya and elsewhere, but we’ll be prepared,” a senior U.S. official told reporters. The official said the U.S. is taking a “very hard look” at what’s going on at every part of the oil pipeline system in Libya, Sinai and elsewhere, from the wells to the trucking routes. Oil production in Libya has fallen from 1.5 million barrels of oil per day at the beginning of the Moammar Gadhafi-era civil war in 2011 to less than 400,000 barrels of oil per day today. VOA

Rival Libyan Parliament Chiefs Meet, Reject UN Peace Deal
The leaders of Libya’s rival parliaments rejected a UN peace deal a day before moderates from both sides were due to sign it, highlighting the deep splits challenging international efforts to end the fighting. The two parties met on Tuesday for the first time since the latest fighting broke out more than a year ago, a development they said showed progress. But they both said the pact had been imposed by world powers and asked for more time to work out a Libyan initiative. Moderates from the rival parliaments and independents were scheduled to sign the agreement on Wednesday, a deal that calls for a unity government and a ceasefire.  France 24

Niger’s Agadez, a Smugglers’ Haven
[…] Since the beginning of the war in Mali, in 2012, and due to tighter controls at Mali’s border with Algeria, the flow of migrants has risen to such an extent that Agadez, Niger’s largest northern town, has become almost an official departure point for convoys of people headed for Libya. Its economy – previously based on trade, crafts and tourism – has been rebuilt around the needs of these travellers. “Nearly every young person who has a vehicle is involved in this activity,” explains Mohamed Anacko, president of the Conseil Régional d’Agadez and a former leader in the Touareg community. Whether involved in people smuggling or in providing ‘guest housing’ – alternatively described locally as ‘ghettoes’ – in which residents house large numbers of those seeking to leave the country, immigration has become the city’s main business activity. Africa Reports

Ethiopia: Amnesty Warns Against ‘Brutal Crackdown’ on Protesters
Anti-terror rhetoric by Ethiopia’s government could escalate into a brutal crackdown on protesters, human rights group Amnesty International has warned. A plan to expand the capital’s administrative control into the Oromia region has sparked deadly protests. The government has accused Oromo protestors of links with terrorist groups and trying to topple the state. Amnesty says the claims aim to justify repression of those protesting against feared land seizures. The Oromo make up Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, at about 27 million people. Oromia is the country’s largest region, surrounding the capital Addis Ababa.  BBC

Result in Little Doubt Ahead of Rwanda Vote on Kagame Third Term
There’s little doubt about the outcome of Rwanda’s referendum Friday to amend the constitution allowing President Paul Kagame to rule until 2034 — lawmakers say the vote is by popular demand and crowds are clamouring their support. “Paul Kagame, Oyee!,” an MC shouted to a crowd in a suburb of the capital Kigali this week, cheering the president’s name. “Oyee, Oyee, Oyee!” the crowd chorused back. The United States and European Union have slammed the proposed consitutional changes, warning they undermine democracy in the central African country. But Kagame responded that “other nations” should not interfere with the country’s internal affairs, or his people’s wishes. “People asked us to revise the constitution,” senator Tito Rutaremara, a heavyweight in the ruling RPF party, told a rally in Kigali. AFP on Yahoo News

Rwanda’s Not-So-Improbable Ambition To Be a Startup Hub of Africa
[…] Rwanda is one of the most stunning — and fervently debated — turnarounds of the last two decades. Now the 12 million-person country is positioning itself as a Singaporean-like knowledge and technology hub of the African continent. The thing is, it’s not unreasonable that this plan could work. The country is at the forefront of a broader story of economic growth across Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the potential to repeat the trajectory that pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in both East Asia and Latin America. The government has built at least 4,500 kilometers of fiber-optic cable to bring broadband access to Rwandans across the country and aims to produce 100 technology companies valued at more than $50 million by 2030 with a new $100 million venture fund. Earlier this fall, an e-government portal called Irembo opened, allowing Rwandans to apply and pay for driver’s licenses through their mobile phones. (Take that, DMV.)  TechCrunch

Tanzania Sacks Top Anti-Corruption Official
Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Wednesday sacked the head of the country’s anti-corruption bureau Edward Hoseah for “poor performance and irresponsibility”, the government said. It follows the sacking earlier this month of several top transport ministry and port officials, amid a crackdown on graft in the east African nation. Some of them have been charged by police. “The decision follows the president’s concern over poor performance of the bureau in fighting graft, including recent massive incidents of theft and graft atDar es Salaam port,” chief secretary Ombeni Sefue said in a statement. Surprise inspections found some 2,400 shipping containers had transited through Dar es Salaam port without any tax being paid. Magufuli, who took power last month after winning October 25 elections, has introduced a swathe of austerity cuts and crackdowns on public corruption.  Vanguard

Somali Leaders Reach Agreement on Election Framework
National and regional leaders in Somalia have ended three days of talks in the capital Mogadishu on how best to hold elections in 2016. The leaders decided to dissolve the government next September but are not prohibiting President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the 275 members of parliament from seeking re-election. The assembly also decided the next election model will be based on a combination of district and clan process, a comprise that emerged because the country’s main regions are split on whether to task responsibility of electing the lawmakers to clan elders or district representatives. Somalia’s first government, after a prolonged civil war, was chosen by 135 clan leaders who met in Mogadishu in 2012. The United Nations Envoy to Somalia, Nick Kay, told the Somali leaders that this time the process must include “an element of choice.” VOA

Five Years Since the Famine, Somali Children are Still Stalked by the Menace of Hunger
With so much the world focused on war, terrorism and the plight of a seemingly endless stream of refugees, it is no surprise that Somalia has been forgotten. The last time the country was featured in news headlines was nearly five years ago, when failed rains and failed politics led to famine. By the time the famine was declared over, months later, hundreds of thousands had perished and millions more had been uprooted. Since then, Somalia has been largely ignored by the news media. Many consider the information void a sign of progress. But does “no news” really mean “good news” in the case of Somalia?  Daily Maverick

Opposition: More Than 40 Killed in Ethiopia Protests
Opposition leaders in central Ethiopia said security forces have killed more than 40 people in recent weeks, amid protests against a government development plan. Demonstrators began holding rallies late last month over a plan to expand the city limits of Addis Ababa, the capital. Critics in Ethiopia’s Oromia region said the plan would displace local farmers and rob the area of its autonomy. Oromo Federalist Congress leader Bekele Nega told VOA’s Horn of Africa service the government is trying to crush the protests. He said troops have broken into innocent people’s homes, while other Oromia residents tell VOA they have seen soldiers shoot civilians. The government put the death toll from the protests at five, not including four police officers it said were killed Tuesday in Oromia. VOA

South Sudan: The Complex Factors of Famine
After two months of dipping and diving in the shallows of South Sudan’s swamps, surviving on water lily roots and fish, James Gul is hungry and desperate. He hasn’t eaten in two days and doesn’t know when he will get his next meal. The small patches of land that dot the world’s biggest wetlands have shielded his family from violent attacks on his village but the islands cannot protect them from another threat: hunger. “I don’t know what I will do. Before the war, there was no food issue. We would harvest the crops when they were ready.” In September, James and three of his six children fled Thongok in Unity state, melted into the marshes and paddled down to the island of Kok. Hundreds of scared civilians are already living on the island, and as its population grows, so too does the need for food. Al Jazeera

Seychelles Presidential Election – Second-Round Vote Begins
Seychellois voters began casting ballots Wednesday in the run-off of the island nation’s presidential election. Incumbent President James Michel of the Parti Lepep and former parliamentarian Wavel Ramkalawan of the Seychelles National Party are vying for the nation’s highest office. The first round of voting earlier this month saw six candidates running for president. None received 50 percent of the vote, setting up this week’s three-day run-off. The country’s three main islands vote on Friday. Michel got 47.75 percent in the first round; Ramkalawan got 35.33 percent. If Michel wins the second round he will earn a third elected term as president. He has been in power since 2004. Three other candidates who contested the first-round vote, Patrick Pillay who obtained 14.19 percent, Philippe Boullé who obtained 0.68 percent and Alexcia Amesbury who got 1.33 percent are now rallying behind Ramkalawan in the run-off. Seychelles News Agency in allAfrica

AU Calls for Further Joint Efforts to Fight Terrorism
African nations have to further coordinate their counterterrorism effort, which remains one of the main challenges facing the continent, African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, said on Wednesday. “Terrorism and violent extremism remain major sources of concern to the African Union, and all African nations have to combine their efforts to countering these phenomena, and eradicate the factors favoring their spread,” Chergui said in his remarks at the opening of the 9th annual meeting of the Focal Points of the African Center for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT). He said that the African Commission and ACSRT continue supporting the member states in their efforts meant to prevent the terrorist groups from recruiting new elements and obtaining funds to execute their attacks.  Xinhua

Jordan Repatriates 800 Sudanese Asylum Seekers
Jordan Wednesday repatriated 800 Sudanese who had sought asylum in the kingdom, Information Minister Mohammed Momani said, adding that they were not refugees but in the country for medical treatment. Momani said the 800 were all flown back to Sudan after they had applied for refugee status. “The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Amman does not consider them to be refugees,” he added. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said deporting refugees “violates the customary international law principle of nonrefoulement, which forbids governments from returning people to places where they risk being persecuted, tortured, or exposed to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. AFP on Yahoo News

Disillusion Rife Five Years after Tunisia Uprising
A giant portrait of the Tunisian street vendor who started a revolution watches over the town where he set himself alight in a desperate act of protest. But five years later, pride has been replaced by disillusion. “The revolution? This is what it brought me,” said Nessim, showing his empty pockets to laughter from friends in Sidi Bouzid, epicentre of the revolt that touched off the so-called Arab Spring regional uprisings. “Studying doesn’t get you anywhere. So you have a choice between vocational training or construction work. In both cases you will still be despised by society,” said the 20-year-old, who is taking a course in refrigeration and air conditioning. On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old university graduate who eked out a living as a fruit seller, torched himself to protest police harassment and unemployment. AFP on Yahoo News

DR Congo: Kidnappings Skyrocket in East
At least 175 people have been kidnapped for ransom during 2015 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Human Rights Watch said today. Former and current members of armed groups appear responsible for many of the kidnappings. The vast majority of the cases documented by Human Rights Watch were in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province, in the eastern part of the country. At least three hostages were killed while another was fatally shot in a kidnapping attempt. One remains missing. Nearly all hostages were released after relatives or employers paid ransom. Twenty of the victims were Congolese and international aid workers. “The alarming increase in kidnappings is a grave threat to the people of eastern Congo,” said Ida Sawyer, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Congolese authorities should urgently establish a special police unit to help rescue hostages and investigate and prosecute those responsible.” AFP on Yahoo News

In Rallies Against President, S. Africans Reveal Deep Grievances over Corruption
As thousands of South Africans across the country marched Wednesday morning in protest of the administration of President Jacob Zuma, their banners targeted, in a hundred different ways, a single grievance. “We need leaders, not looters,” read one sign. “Corruption must fall, Zuma must fall,” read another. The march capped a year of official scandals – including President Zuma’s refusal to pay back $20 million in public money used to upgrade his personal home, and government officials’ purchase of $43 million worth of train cars that didn’t fit on the country’s tracks.  CS Monitor

Zimbabwe’s Media Under Siege Again
In 2013, there was a brief but bright window in which Zimbabwe’s media were filled with cautious optimism that a more open environment might be beckoning. A new constitution with an expanded bill of rights had been approved by Parliament earlier in the year, and the Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo − newly re-appointed after the ruling ZANU-PF’s convincing victory in general elections − made a point of visiting newsrooms to meet with journalists and publishers. An Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) was established to gather a wide range of views on how to improve the operations of the media. However, this new chapter and new hope has not lasted long. Just two years on, media houses are alarmed at the rate journalists have been arrested recently and are growing more concerned as the rhetoric coming from members of the government intensifies. African Argument



Photo: Adam Jones