Media Review for December 21, 2015

At Least 75 Killed in Protests in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region, Says Human Rights Watch
At least 75 people have been killed during weeks of protests in Ethiopia which have seen soldiers and police firing on demonstrators, Human Rights Watch said on Saturday. “Police and military forces have fired on demonstrations, killing at least 75 protesters and wounding many others, according to activists,” HRW said in a statement. There was no immediate response from Addis Ababa, but it has previously put the toll at five dead. Government spokesman Getachew Reda said the “peaceful demonstrations” that began last month had escalated into violence, accusing protesters of “terrorising the civilians.” AFP on Daily Nation

Rwanda’s Leader Joins the African Autocrats who Rewrite the Law to Hold Power
One of Africa’s longest-serving leaders prolonged his dominance for decades on Saturday when 98 per cent of Rwandans were said to have voted “yes” to rewriting the constitution. President Paul Kagame introduced a two-term limit on the head of state’s rule when Rwanda adopted a new constitution in 2003. But he decided to drop this provision as soon it applied to him. Rwandans were invited to endorse amendments that will allow Mr Kagame, 58, to seek another seven-year term as president in 2017 – and then two more terms of five years from 2024, thereby extending his rule until 2034. Mr Kagame, who has already been in power as president or vice-president for 21 years, would then have ruled Rwanda for 40 years. The referendum on constitutional change was called at 10-days notice in an authoritarian state where the media is tightly controlled and the opposition suppressed.  The Telegraph

US Urges Kagame to Respect Term Limits as Rwandans Vote to Change Constitution
The White House on Saturday urged Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame to respect existing limits on his term in office, after a voters in a national referendum approved sweeping them aside. “The United States is disappointed that a referendum was called on short notice to amend the Rwandan constitution and introduce exceptions to term limits,” a White House statement said. “While we commend the people of Rwanda for peacefully exercising their civic rights, we regret that the arrangements for the referendum failed to provide sufficient time and opportunity for political debate on the merits of the proposed provisions.” Election officials citing national referendum results said Rwandans had overwhelmingly voted to change the constitution to allow Kagame, 58, to potentially rule until 2034. AFP on Daily Nation

U.S. Embassy Warns Citizens over Possible Tunisia Mall Attack
The United States embassy in Tunisia has warned its citizens to avoid a major shopping mall in the capital Tunis on Sunday because of a reported threat of a potential militant attack there. Tunisia is under a state of emergency following a suicide bomb attack on a presidential guard bus in Tunis last month. That followed two major militant gun attacks on a Tunis museum and a beach hotel targeting foreign tourists. A statement late on Saturday advised U.S. citizens to stay away from the Tunisia Mall in Berges du Lac area in the capital on Sunday because a “report of unknown credibility indicates the possibility of a terrorist attack.” Reuters

Burundi Rejects African Union Peacekeepers as ‘Invasion Force’
Burundi’s government said Sunday it would not agree to the deployment of African Union (AU) peacekeepers, warning that they would be seen as “an invasion force”. The announcement came a day after the 54-member bloc said it would send a 5,000-strong force to halt spiralling violence in the tiny central African country as fears grow that it is rapidly sliding towards civil war. It gave the government in Bujumbura a four-day deadline to agree to the offer, but warned it would send troops anyway. “Burundi is clear on the matter: it is not ready to accept an AU force on its territory,” deputy presidential spokesman Jean-Claude Karerwa told AFP. AFP on Yahoo News

US Sanctions Burundi Nationals for ‘Fueling Violence’
The US Treasury Department on Friday sanctioned four Burundi nationals for allegedly “fueling violence” in the strife-torn African country. 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. More than 300 people have died in the violence and 20,000 have fled their homes across borders to neighboring countries. AFP on Daily Mail

Burundi Fighting Sides to Resume Talks to End Political Unrest
Uganda announced Saturday that it would mediate peace talks between government and opposition groups in Burundi in an effort to end Burundi’s deadly political unrest. Speaking to reporters in Kampala, Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga said 14 groups including Burundi’s ruling party, opposition parties and civil society organizations are to attend the talks scheduled for December 28. He said Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will moderate the discussions. Both Burundi’s government and the largest opposition coalition welcomed the move to resume peace talks to address the deterioration of the security situation in the country, where hundreds of people have been killed. VOA

Tanzania: President Magufuli Moves to Initiate Fresh Peace Talks on Burundi
In view of the escalating violence in Burundi, which has driven hordes of refugees to camps in western Tanzania, President John Magufuli has directed his newly appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Cooperation, East African and International Cooperation, Dr Augustine Mahiga, to revive peace talks with counterpart ministers of the East African Community (EAC) on the Burundi crisis. “President Magufuli has directed me to start arranging for the peace talks on the thorny issue of Burundi crisis,” Mahiga said, according to a report carried on Thursday by the state-owned Daily News. Tanzania is the current chair of the EAC. Previously, the Community entrusted Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni with the task of facilitating the peace talks in Burundi but no political solution has been found. According to Mahiga, a political solution remains the only best means of ending the crisis in Burundi and not through the barrel of the gun. That is why, he said, “we still search for peace in Burundi through peaceful political dialogue”.  PANA

‘Islamic State’ Holds Libyan Town in Grip of Terror
Since conquering the Libyan town of Sirte, “Islamic State” has imposed a severe regime on the remaining locals as foreign fighters and their families have moved into abandoned homes. Nancy Porsia reports from Libya. […] “Since then Ansar al-Shariah has controlled the city. You could recognize them because they did not raise the Libyan flag,” the deputy mayor of Sirte, Makhlouf Ramadan Salem, now resettled in Misrata, told DW. IS succeeded in exploiting the deep divisions in Libya – which had resulted in the existence of two rival governments – and took control of Ansar al-Shariah. In February hundreds of fighters pledged loyalty to the so-called caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  Deutsche Welle

Secret US Mission in Libya Revealed after Air Force Posted Pictures
A secret US commando mission to Libya has been revealed after photographs of a special forces unit were posted on the Facebook page of the country’s air force. Libya’s air force said 20 US soldiers arrived at Libya’s Wattiya airbase on Monday, but left soon after local commanders asked them to go because they had no permission to be at the base. It was unclear if another branch of the Libyan military had authorized the mission. Pentagon sources confirmed to US media that the special forces unit was part of a mission sent this week, but it was unclear if the soldiers had left the country. The Guardian

The Hospital at the Center of a Muslim-Christian War in Africa
When he awoke after the surgery, the bullets had been removed from his legs, and Saddam Abdul Rahman was lying in a hospital bed, surrounded by men from the other side of the war. He scanned the room and saw the faces of five Christian men in adjacent beds. For a Muslim living in the center of a sectarian conflict, where your throat could be slit if you were of the wrong religion, it was a startling sight. It was early November, and Abdul Rahman had been taken to the Hôpital Général — one of the last institutions in this city where Muslims and Christians could be found in the same room. Since 2013, at least a fifth of the country’s half-million Muslims had fled their homes. Tens of thousands of Christians had been forced out of the remaining Muslim enclaves. It was one of the most dramatic explosions of religious violence in recent African history, with the United Nations concluding there was “ethnic cleansing” of the country’s Muslim minority.  The Washington Post

ICC Transfers War Criminals to Serve Sentences in the DRC
Two former Congolese militia leaders have been transferred from the Netherlands to a prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Thomas Lubanga and Germain Katanga are the first ICC convicts to be allowed to serve sentences in their home country. Former warlord Lubanga is serving 14 years for his crimes, while militia chief Katanga is due to be released in 2016. The ICC says it will help supervise their imprisonment in the DRC. Lubanga and Katanga “have both expressed a preference to serve their respective prison terms in DRC, their country of origin”, the court said in a statement. Their detention in the DRC must conform to international norms on the treatment of prisoners, it said. BBC

27 Congo Figures Form Coalition to Stop Kabila Third Term
More than 27 high-profile Congolese figures, including Moise Katumbi, considered a main opposition candidate in next year’s presidential polls, have formed a coalition aimed at preventing a bid from Joseph Kabila for a third term, their statement said. “We have decided to combine our forces, our human and material resources, our strategies and our actions, to create a citizen coalition named ‘Citizen Front 2016′,” the statement reads. Kabila, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term in office, has not commented publicly on his political ambitions despite critics’ accusations that he is attempting to cling to power. Reuters

Niger Arrests Nine Military Officers for Coup Plot
Niger’s government has arrested nine military officers for planning a coup, the interior minister said on Saturday, more than doubling the number of arrests reported earlier this week. President Mahamadou Issoufou said in a televised address on Thursday the alleged coup-plotters had planned to use aerial firepower and had prevented the movement of military assets from the capital Niamey to the southern region of Diffa. [nL8N14651D] Issoufou was elected in 2011, a year after a coup, and is running for a second term in polls scheduled for Feb. 21. Political tension is already high, with critics accusing him of repression and expressing doubts about the latest claims. “Nine officers identified as responsible for the attempted coup have been arrested and will be presented before a military court,” Hassoumi Massaoudou, Niger’s interior minister, told reporters. Reuters

Nigeria: Boko Haram Planning Mass Kidnapping
Nigerian officials warned on Friday that Boko Haram jihadists were planning a Chibok-style mass abduction of students in the weeks before President Muhammadu Buhari’s deadline to eradicate the group expires. Warning that foreigners are also at risk, the country’s minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, said Boko Haram was planning to stage a similar attack to the 2014 kidnapping of 276 girls from the northeastern town of Chibok. “The kidnap of the Chibok girls in 2014, which attracted global attention to the terrorist group, is what it is now trying to repeat,” said Mohammed in a statement, urging schools to “upgrade security”.  News 24

Boko Haram Crisis: Reprieve for Nigeria Troops Facing Death Sentence
Nigeria’s military has announced a reprieve for 66 soldiers who had been sentenced to death for refusing to fight Boko Haram. The soldiers, who were to be killed by a firing squad, will each serve 10 years in prison. They were convicted by court martial over their refusal to drive down a road at night after dozens of colleagues died in a Boko Haram ambush. The sentences were commuted following a review of court martials. The review was ordered by General Tukur Buratai, the country’s army chief of staff. Nearly 600 other cases are also being considered.  BBC

SPLM-IO Advance Team to Finally Arrive in Juba on Monday
The long-awaited arrival to the South Sudanese capital, Juba, of the advance team of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) under the leadership of former vice-president, Riek Machar, will happen on Monday, officials have confirmed. The first group of the advance team will leave Pagak to Juba through the airport in Gambella town, the regional capital of the western Gambella region of the neighbouring Ethiopia, from where they will be airlifted. Sudan Tribune

Seychelles Leader Sworn In
Seychelles President James Michel was sworn back in for a third term on Sunday, despite calls from the opposition for a recount after he won a second-round vote by the slimmest of margins. Michel, in power since 2004, officially began a new five-year term in a ceremony at the presidential residence in Victoria, the capital on the Indian Ocean archipelago’s main island of Mahe, alongside his vice-president Danny Faure. The Seychelles’ electoral commission said on Saturday that Michel, 71, had won the second round of the election by just 193 votes – with 50.15% support against 49.85% for his rival Wavel Ramkalawan. News 24

UN Replaces Mali Peacekeeping Chief
The United Nations peacekeeping chief in Mali is to be replaced after just one year in the role, diplomatic sources said on Friday, amid criticism of the country’s peace process. Former Chadian foreign minister Mahamat Saleh Annadif takes over from Tunisian Mongi Hamdi in January, a source in the incumbent’s office told AFP. Hamdi, a former foreign minister in Tunisia who took up the peacekeeping role in January, is expected to return to a government position in his own country. “We are aware. Hamdi is going and Mahamat Saleh Annadif is coming,” an official in Mali’s foreign ministry said on condition of anonymity. News 24

Fake Bomb Diverts Air France Flight en Route to Paris
Kenyan authorities are questioning several suspects who were on an Air France flight from Mauritius to Paris that was forced to land early Sunday in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa after a device suspected to be a bomb was found in a lavatory. The CEO of Air France said hours after the plane had been grounded that the device discovered in the bathroom was a fake bomb. The Boeing 777 was heading to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris from Mauritius when its pilots requested an emergency landing at early Sunday in the Kenyan city of Mombasa. Frederic Gagey, the head of the airline, said the device was made of cardboard, paper and a household timer, and had been found in a little cupboard that is behind a mirror. In a news conference in Paris, Gagey congratulated the crew for their cool-headed reaction to divert the plane. He insisted “this object did not contain explosives.”  AP on CBS News

Has the World Trade Organisation Failed Poor Countries?
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has come under renewed criticism for failing poor and developing countries in their 14-year-long battle to achieve a breakthrough in key agricultural trade talks. Several countries, including Kenya, India and Pakistan, have been calling the WTO to force developed countries to phase out subsidies paid to farmers whose overproduction threatens the livelihoods of farmers in the developing world. Many analysts argue that negotiations at the WTO have remained largely dominated by traditional economic powers, such as the US and EU, with discussions failing to deliver promised change. Some point to the failure of western governments to conclude what’s known as the “Doha Development Agenda” which has kept agricultural economies in Africa trapped in poverty.  Al Jazeera

Will Benin Get Another ‘International’ President in 2016?
After several declarations and denials, Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou was nominated by Benin’s ruling coalition, the Forces Cauris pour un Bénin Emergent (FCBE), as the only candidate to succeed President Thomas Boni Yayi when the first round of elections are held on 28 February 2016. Zinsou’s nomination on 26 November puts an end to widespread speculation about who would suceed Boni Yayi. But it raises several questions about Beninese politics and specifically the choice of leadership for the country’s top job. Zinsou is a Franco-Beninese whose career spans being an advisor to former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, an investment banker at Rothschild, and later head of PAI Partners in Paris. It was just six months ago that he was appointed Benin’s Prime Minister. ISS

Nicki Minaj Joins New Squad: Celebs who Perform Overseas for Human Rights Abusers
When Nicki Minaj sings at a Christmas party in Angola this weekend, an Angolan rapper named Luaty Beirão will be in prison recovering from a hunger strike. Minaj is due to perform Dec. 19 at a holiday party for Unitel, a mobile phone company controlled by the family of José Eduardo dos Santos, who has been president of Angola for 36 years.  Unitel is majority-owned by Isabel dos Santos, the president’s daughter, who has denied she became the richest woman in Africa because of her father’s connections to the Angolan oil industry. […] A New York-based group, Human Rights Foundation, wrote to Minaj and her manager Brian Sher this week telling them about the human rights situation in Angola, as well as the Dos Santos family’s exploitation of the country’s diamond and oil wealth. Globalpost