Media Review for December 2, 2015

UN Experts: Up to 3,000 Islamic State Fighters in Libya
The Islamic State group has between 2,000 and 3,000 fighters in Libya and has demonstrated its intention to control more territory in the strategically located North African country — but it is only one player among multiple warring factions, United Nations experts said in a report Tuesday. The experts monitoring U.N. sanctions against al-Qaida and spinoff groups said in the report to the U.N. Security Council that the Islamic State group is benefiting from its “appeal” and notoriety in Iraq and Syria and poses “an evident short and long-term threat in Libya.” The group’s central command views Libya “as the ‘best’ opportunity to expand its so-called caliphate” from Syria and Iraq, the experts said. The 24-page report cautioned, however, that the group “faces strong resistance from the population, as well as difficulties in building and maintaining local alliances” — and stressed that its threat “needs to be realistically assessed.” AP on ABC News

IS Pushes East in Libya Amid Government Air Strikes
The Islamic State group is pushing eastward from its Libyan stronghold toward an oil hub but the government is trying to prevent this with air strikes, a senior officer said Tuesday. In Paris, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the situation in the North African country will be “the big issue in the coming months”, noting how “terrorism constantly mutates”. IS, which already controls large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, has exploited the chaos that spread across Libya after veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi was toppled and killed in a 2011 uprising. The jihadists control the oil hub of Sirte, Kadhafi’s hometown 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of Tripoli and have been battling both government forces and Islamists in second city Benghazi, a further 550 kilometres to the east.  France 24

Islamic State Targeting Africa: Top Africom Commander Tells VOA
The Syria-based Islamic State group has expanded its reach in Africa, courting Islamist extremists from Nigeria to Somalia while establishing a major nerve center close to Europe, a top leader of U.S. Africa Command told VOA. The militant group has grown to about 2,000 strong in and around the city of Sirte, Libya, according to the U.S. Africa Command’s Deputy for Military Operations, Vice Admiral Michael Franken. Back in February, there were a mere 200 Islamic State fighters in the city. “If Raqqa [Syria] is the nucleus, the nearest thing to the divided nucleus is probably Sirte,“ said Franken, speaking in an interview at Africom headquarters in Stuttgart. “From there they look to export their terror into Europe and elsewhere.” VOA

Tunisian Security Minister Fired after ISIS-Claimed Attacks
Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid has dismissed the country’s security minister after an ISIS-claimed suicide bombing killed 12 members of the presidential guard last week. Secretary of State for Security Affairs Rafik Chelly lost his job Tuesday after the third bombing claimed by ISIS this year, following deadly attacks at the Bardo Museum in Tunis and in the resort of Sousse. A government statement didn’t specify a reason for Chelly’s dismissal, merely noting that he is being “called to other duties.” In recent weeks, Tunisia’s government has said that security forces dismantled several radical jihadi cells planning attacks against tourist sites and public figures. It says that dozens of suspected extremists have been arrested and three weapons depots in the north, central and south were discovered.  AP on Al Arabiya

US Says Kagame Should Go When Term Ends in 2017
Rwandan President Paul Kagame must set an example for his region and step down at the end of his term in 2017, the US ambassador to the United Nations said Tuesday. Samantha Power spoke after Rwanda’s senate last month passed a constitutional amendment that would allow Kagame to run for a third term in 2017, and potentially remain in power for the next two decades. “President Kagame has an opportunity to set an example for a region in which leaders seem too tempted to view themselves as indispensable to their own countries’ trajectories,” Power told a news conference. “Nobody is indispensable,” she added. AFP on Yahoo News

Rights Groups Press for French Army Probe on Rwanda Genocide
Human rights groups are demanding that French soldiers active in Rwanda in 1994 be formally put under investigation on suspicion of complicity in the genocide at that time. More than 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in a three-month rampage by ethnic Hutu extremists in 1994 while the world largely stood by. France, an ally of the Rwandan government that ruled before the genocide, stayed away from last year’s 20-year commemoration after rebel-turned-president Paul Kagame renewed accusations of a direct French role in the killings. In the latest chapter of a long-running French investigation into the mass killing, the rights groups say they have documents showing the French army in late-June 1994 abandoned hundreds of Tutsis who were slain days later in the hills of Bisesero in western Rwanda. The appeal came from the International Federation of Human Rights and other rights organizations. Reuters

Phone Scandal Overshadows Victory of Burkina Faso’s New President
After months of political turmoil, Burkina Faso elected former prime minister Roch Marc Christian Kaboré as its new president on Tuesday. It’s the country’s first free elections since former leader Blaise Compaoré was ousted in a popular uprising in October last year. Kaboré’s victory comes amidst a phone-leak scandal implicating Cote d’Ivoire’s parliamentary president Guillaume Soro, accused of fomenting September’s military coup.  RFI

Is Burkina Faso’s New Leader Too Close to the old Regime?
New Burkinabe President Kabore faces many challenges, including probing crimes committed under longtime leader Blaise Compaore. It won’t be easy. Kabore himself was a member of the old regime, writes Dirke Köpp. Roch Marc Christian Kabore’s win raises a number of questions. It is indeed puzzling that a politician who for years was a member of Compaore’s regime should score such an impressive victory. Was the outcome of this election really not decided in advance? How far and how deep does Compaore’s influence in Burkinabe political life still reach? Kabore never tires of saying that he has cut all ties to the old regime, but is that really true? Are not his old contacts still in place? And what role does “Francafrique” play in all this? This is a term which describes how France played puppet master in its African ex-colonies decades after independence, offering protection for leaders in exchange for lucrative deals. Compaore was a loyal guardian of French interests in Burkina Faso up until the last moment. The answers to these questions won’t be forthcoming for months if not years. Deutsche Welle

After Pope’s Visit, Hard Work Ahead for C. African Republic
The Rev. Justin Nary opened his gate to nearly 800 Muslims threatened with death from the roving gangs of Christian militia fighters who even threatened to burn his church down. Nearly two years later, more than 500 of the displaced are still living there in fear of going home. While Pope Francis’ message of peace and reconciliation during his landmark visit to Central African Republic was warmly received at the cathedral and mosque alike, the hard work of reuniting communities still lies ahead if there is to be lasting change in this country where nearly 1 million people have been forced from their homes. The Muslims who live on the grounds of Nary’s church may now venture out occasionally into town, though they always return at night because of the precarious security that still reigns, he said. “Reconciliation is a process because it requires hearts to change,” Nary said. “It is not automatic but we will take the steps. And it will take time.” AP on Stars and Stripes

France Announces Climate Change Aid for Africa
France announced it will provide $2 billion to help develop renewable energy in Africa as a second day of climate talks got underway outside Paris as negotiators race to reach a climate deal by the end of next week. About $6.4 billion, over the next four years, is the amount French President Francois Hollande has promised to help with electrification in Africa. Of that, one third is to help the continent develop renewable energy. Hollande’s announcement came during a meeting with about a dozen African leaders to discuss climate threats in their countries. He also announced about $1.5 billion for an African Union project called the Great Green Wall to help people plant trees and adapt to an encroaching Sahara desert. VOA

Nigeria Launches Government Efficiency Drive
Replacing a single printer ink cartridge of the same make in different Nigerian government departments can cost $79 or $308; flights to the same destination can vary by as much as 100%. Even the price of simple office stationery such as paper can differ as much as 80%. Nigeria’s new finance minister wants to know why and on Monday launched the country’s first Efficiency Unit as a first step in cutting government waste and helping boost the battered economy. “No amount of fiscal innovation, financial re-engineering or other well-intentioned economic policy will deliver the desired results for as long as the manner in which government money is expended is not carefully controlled,” Kemi Adeosun said at the launch. News 24

Egypt Arrests Prominent Journalist over ‘False Information’
Egyptian authorities have arrested Ismail Alexandrani, a prominent journalist and expert on jihadist movements in Sinai, on charges of publishing false information and belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, his lawyers said Tuesday. Earlier, Alexandrani’s wife, Khadija Gaafar, said the 32-year-old had been arrested in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada on Sunday when he returned from Berlin. Thousands of activists, as well as several journalists, have been detained since then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew his Islamist predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013. “They then took him for interrogation to Cairo,” Gaafar said. “I don’t know what accusations have been made against him. I didn’t meet him, nor have I spoken to him since his arrest. His lawyers are with him.” A security official confirmed Alexandrani’s arrest but refused to comment on any charges. Defence lawyer Ahmed Abdel Nabi said Alexandrani had been ordered held for 15 days. AFP on Yahoo News

US Names Two Boko Haram Leaders for Sanctions
The US Treasury singled out two leaders of the violent Boko Haram Islamist group in Africa for economic sanctions Tuesday, saying both are closely involved in deadly attacks in Nigeria. The Treasury said Mohammed Nur, a Boko Haram commander who has represented the group in negotiations with the Nigerian government, was placed on its financial blacklist for his involvement in suicide bomb attacks, including one on the United Nations headquarters in Abuja in 2011. Nur “is a senior Boko Haram member who supports Boko Haram’s campaign of violence against the government of Nigeria,” the Treasury said. The second Boko Haram figure placed on the sanctions list is Mustapha Chad, a Chadian national who in 2013 directed Boko Haram activities in Yobe state in northern Nigeria, the Treasury said. AFP on Yahoo News

Fierce Clashes Between UN Peacekeepers, Uganda Rebels in DR Congo
Fierce fighting between UN peacekeepers and Ugandan rebels raged in the restive east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, after a weekend attack by the mostly Muslim group left 24 people dead. UN General Jean Baillaud, acting commander of the UN’s MONUSCO force, told AFP the peacekeepers had tracked down the rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and attacked them at dawn using combat helicopters. “We followed the trail of the ADF who attacked the town of Eringeti on Sunday,” he said, adding that “operations were still ongoing at 13:30 (1130GMT).” The general said the fighting took place in the north of Nord-Kivu province, a few kilometres (miles) southeast of Eringeti “in a marshy area where all the population had left.” Eringeti was attacked on Sunday by ADF rebels on several fronts. The rebels withdrew after several hours of fighting with government and UN forces. AFP on Yahoo News

Xi’s African Tour Highlights China’s Expanding Security Role
To see China’s evolving foreign policy, look to Africa, where a desire to protect economic investment is leading to a revision of the country’s hands-off approach to the internal affairs of other nations. Chinese President Xi Jinping begins a five-day African visit on Tuesday that he’ll use to showcase China’s expanding role as a protector of regional security, as well as a provider of infrastructure and consumer of resources. China has pledged $100 million of military aid for the African Union, sent an infantry battalion to support peacekeeping efforts in South Sudan and deployed frigates to fight piracy off the Somali coast, leading the country to consider building its first overseas naval resupply station in Djibouti. Bloomberg

After This Month’s Attack in Bamako, What Do We Know About Fundamentalist Islam in Mali?
[…] Salafists advocate a literal interpretation of the Koran and desire to bring society’s moral code in line with Islamic principles. The academic literature views Salafism as a diverse global movement, which includes the religious establishment of Saudi Arabia but also extremist fighters such as Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. Analysts estimate that 10 to 15 percent of Malians attend Salafist mosques. These relatively small figures underestimate the tangible influence of Salafism in Malian society. Salafists rely on generous financial and other support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Salafists’ theological training in the Middle East and their fluency in Arabic provide their clerics with a high degree of theological legitimacy. Arab financing enables Salafist mosques to provide basic social welfare services such as schools, clinics and jobs — something the Malian state has struggled to do since it gained independence. The Washington Post

In Nigeria, Newly Appointed Officials Signal Shift in Economic Policy
Although he was elected in March of this year, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari did not name his Cabinet ministers until 5 p.m. on Sept. 30 — the day of his self-imposed deadline. The most striking thing about Buhari’s Cabinet appointments is that they demonstrate a shift toward economic diversification away from oil. This has major implications for how neglected sectors like mining may be given a boost, but also how Africa’s largest economy will be run over the next few years. The Washington Post

Iran Denies Involvement in Kenya Terror Plot
The Iranian Embassy has distanced itself from two Kenyans allegedly recruited in an Iranian spy ring aiming to mount terror attacks in the country. In a press briefing on Tuesday, the Ambassador to Kenya Hadi Farajuand said that there is no connection between the two with the Iranian intelligence and security bodies. He further described the release of such news reports as an unconstructive and counterproductive move. “They have no link and relation with Iranian officials or with the security and police forces in Iran. I totally deny that and if there is any information, we are ready to cooperate with the government of Kenya. We care and we do use our good office to promote our relations with Kenya,” he said. He stated that Iran has always attached special importance to its relationship with Kenya and declared that they will cooperate with the government to clarify the issue.  Capital FM

Corruption And ‘Tenderpreneurs’ Bring Kenya’s Economy To Its Knees
Last week, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta publicly declared on television that corruption had become a national security threat. He then proceeded to unveil a string of tough measures to tackle the pervasive graft in the country. Among other things, the President announced that all companies doing business with county and national governments in the future must sign and adhere to a business code of conduct; all customs and revenue officers will be mandated to undergo a vetting exercise, and banks that are discovered to break anti-money-laundering laws will forfeit their banking licenses while their directors will be held culpable for abetting money laundering. President Kenyatta’s latest campaign against corruption comes on the heels of the 2013/2014 Auditor General’s report for Kenya which provided insights into the gross financial impropriety and mismanagement of public funds by government officials. About 98.8% of the money spent by Kenya’s ministries in the 2013/14 financial year could not properly be accounted for, according to several news reports, laying credence to the pitiable state of public financial management in East Africa’s largest economy.  Forbes

Report: 75 Million Africans Paid Bribes in Past Year
Anti-corruption group Transparency International estimates that 75 million Africans paid a bribe in the past year, in a report that says most Africans believe corruption is getting worse. Researchers surveyed more than 43,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa about their experiences and perceptions regarding corruption. Fifty-eight percent said they believe corruption had increased in their country during the previous 12 months. Many African presidents have campaigned on pledges to reduce or eliminate corruption, but the problem appears to persist continent-wide. A majority of respondents in 18 countries surveyed said their government is doing badly at fighting corruption, particularly in regard to public services such as the courts and police. Twenty-eight percent of those who had contact with the courts said they paid a bribe. For the police, the number was 27 percent.  VOA

Guinean Ex-leader Konate Smuggled $64,000 in the US
Sekouba Konate, a former Guinean president and serving African Union general, has pleaded guilty to smuggling money into the US. The 51-year-old tried to sneak in more than $64,000 (£42,400) after arriving on a flight from Ethiopia in 2013. The US Justice Department said he faces a maximum penalty of five years in jail when he is sentenced next February. Known as “El Tigre” for his military prowess, he was in the junta which took power in December 2008. [,,,] According to the Associated Press agency, Gen Konate, who had been due to go on trial on Tuesday, has family in North Carolina and owns property in the state. He testified at a pre-trial hearing that he did not understand the customs process because of language barriers, the agency reports. Prosecutors said he claimed to be carrying $10,000 or less when he arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport in June 2013. He did not declare the other cash he was carrying, much of which was hidden in his luggage. BBC

What China Hopes to Achieve with first Peacekeeping Mission
China started deploying hundreds of troops to South Sudan earlier this year to bolster the UN peace mission in the country – the first ever Chinese infantry battalion to be sent on external peacekeeping operations. As Africa’s biggest trading partner, China is perhaps more associated with deal-making rather than peacekeeping in the continent. The country’s oil interests in South Sudan, the world’s newest state, are vast and largely kept hidden from view. Nevertheless the Chinese presence in the troubled country is developing a distinctly “blue” hue to it. The 1,031 blue-helmeted peacekeepers consist of medics, infantrymen and engineers.  BBC

World Aids Day: How Did Teenagers Slip Through the Cracks of the Global Response?
[…] The undeniable successes of the international HIV/Aids response deserve to be celebrated. But there have been failures too, and it is just as important to remember these, and to learn from them. “HIV continues to shine a harsh light on the inequalities of the world. Aids is unfinished business…significant gaps and shortcomings of the response must be rectified,” said UNAIDS. Here’s one statistic that doesn’t fall into the good news narrative: Since 2000, the number of adolescents (15-19 year olds) dying from AIDS has tripled. Tripled. “Adolescents are outliers in the AIDS response. The picture is not as bright as it is for other age groups. Aids is the number one cause of adolescent deaths in Africa, and the number two cause of adolescent deaths globally. Adolescent deaths have tripled since 2000, while in all other age groups that number has gone down over that period, by an average of 35%,” said Craig McClure, chief of HIV/Aids for Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund. New data commissioned by Unicef show that 26 new infections occur every hour among this age group, and that almost half of adolescents living with HIV comes from just six countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, India, Mozambique and Tanzania. Girls are worse affected. In sub-Saharan Africa, seven out of every ten adolescents infected are girls. So what happened? Why did teenagers fall through the cracks? Daily Maverick

How Much of Africa’s Energy Needs Can Be Met with Renewables?
France’s two billion euro pledge to fund African renewable energy initiatives is only a part of a larger funding package for energy projects on the continent. French President Francois Hollande announced Tuesday on the sidelines of the Cop21 climate summit that a third of France’s six billion euro energy plan would go towards the African Renewable Energy Initiative. “The total installed electricity capacity in Africa is only about 160 gigawatts. This is just half of Japan’s installed capacity,” said Carlos Lopes, the President of the Economic Commission for Africa said at the official launch of the African Renewable Energy Initiative on Tuesday “Given the plentiful renewable energy, Africa has to have an energy mix that has not necessarily to be dominated by fossil fuels.” RFI



Photo: Adam Jones