Media Review for December 23, 2015

Mediation: Undervalued, Yet Vital to African Security
[…] Arriving at this Agreement was no easy feat. In all, 16 years of tortuous negotiations, involving numerous international partners, including the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD). Crucially, both the SPLA and the Sudanese government army recognized that they had reached a “mutually hurting military stalemate.” A negotiated settlement, however fragile, would be an outlet where the battle could take on a political form. It was not the first time mediation was being used in this way. In Burundi, the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement of August 2000 mediated by former Tanzanian president Dr. Julius Nyerere and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, ended a civil war that erupted in 1993 and was preceded by cycles of deadly violence, including genocide. Neither the rebels nor the Burundian government could impose a decisive military solution. While some rebel groups stayed outside the process, those who negotiated the Arusha Accords believed that their minimum goals, if not their chances at national leadership, could be secured through active participation in the process.  Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Burundi Parliament Slams ‘Invasion’ Peacekeeper Force
Burundi’s parliament criticised Monday a proposed African Union peacekeeping mission already dismissed by the government as an “invasion force”. Lawmakers rejected the planned force, which was proposed by the African Union last week amid growing international alarm over spiralling violence in the tiny central African nation. In a final declaration, the parliament urged the government “not to mortgage the sovereignty” of Burundi to the AU. “Burundi is at peace,” said Pascal Nyabenda, chairman of the National Assembly and the ruling CNDD-FDD party whose supporters dominate parliament. “There are troubles in just a few areas of Bujumbura,” the capital, Nyabenda said, adding that AU troops were not needed.  News 24

Burundi Security Forces Accused of Violent Repression
The security forces in Burundi systematically killed dozens of people during violent repression that took place in the capital Bujumbura on 11 December, Amnesty International says. It says that some of the scores of people who died during the single bloodiest day of Burundi’s “escalating crisis” were killed extra-judicially. At least 87 people were killed, including eight security force members. The government has not yet responded to the Amnesty report. But it said soon after the violence on 11 December that those killed were responsible for attacks on government installations. BBC

Boko Haramh Has Grown Stronger, More Lethal and Even Less Compromising
In  a year packed with terrorist attacks, the world’s deadliest militant group has carried out massacres the size of the San Bernardino killings once or twice a week. And over time, it has undertaken dozens of attacks that dwarf November’s deadly rampage in Paris, sometimes shooting down several hundred civilians at a time. Boko Haram, the northeastern Nigerian Islamist group, has been even more deadly than Islamic State. And each time Nigeria’s army seems to have made substantial inroads toward wiping it out, the group has quietly rebuilt. Its members cut the throats of schoolboys, casting them aside to bleed to death in the sandy dust. And they behead victims, like Islamic State, videotaping the atrocities. Although Boko Haram has at times issued threats to the West, it has largely focused on poor Nigerian villagers, far from the media spotlight. LA Times

Nigerian Army Raids Hospital, Arrests Wounded Civilians
Nine people were killed and more than 20 people wounded on Thursday when cheering supporters took to the streets of Onitsha in Anambra state to celebrate a high court decision ruling ordering the release of Nnamdi Kanu, the charismatic but controversial leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a separatist group. The army acted in self-defense when they used live ammunition to disperse an “irate mob”, Col. Hamza Gambo, an army spokesman, told This Day newspaper. Soldiers initially fired warning shots into the air, but the crowd was “undeterred”, he said, adding that “three criminals were shot.” According to rights defenders, five demonstrators were killed at the busy Niger River Bridge, where some 200 demonstration had gathered. The death toll rose to nine when four other people died from their wounds. RFI

Nigeria Government Says Islamic State Exaggerated Boko Haram Attacks
Nigeria’s information ministry says the Islamic State group has overstated the number of attacks and people killed by Boko Haram. Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed said in a statement Tuesday that the figures given in an infographic Saturday were fake and part of a strategy to shore up morale of Boko Haram fighters who he said are dispersed, defeated, hungry and sick. SITE Intelligence Group said the IS group published an infographic on Twitter saying its West Africa division has launched more than 100 attacks, killing more than 1,000 people between Oct. 14 and Dec. 12. Boko Haram joined the IS group in March. Mohammed said more propaganda is expected to coincide with a Dec. 31 deadline to stamp out the extremists, and to impress fellow terrorists. AP on Stars and Stripes

Nigerian Troops Killed Shiites in Unjustified Attack, Group Says
Nigerian troops killed more than 300 members of a Shiite Muslim group in the northern city of Zaria over two days from Dec. 12 in a series of unjustified attacks, Human Rights Watch said. The army accused members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria led by Ibrahim El-Zakzaky of setting up an illegal roadblock and attempting to kill the nation’s chief of army staff, Tukur Buratai, while his convoy was passing by. Troops attacked three of the group’s compounds in Zaria, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Wednesday, citing accounts by eye witnesses and local officials. “It is almost impossible to see how a roadblock by angry young men could justify the killings of hundreds of people,” Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. “At best it was a brutal overreaction and at worst it was a planned attack on the minority Shia group.” After the violence, soldiers buried the bodies in mass graves without family members’ permission, complicating efforts to determine an accurate death toll, Human Rights Watch said.  Bloomberg

Buhari Presents Record Budget to Revive Nigeria’s Economy
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari asked lawmakers to approve the country’s biggest ever budget on Tuesday as he looks to revive an economy hit by collapsing oil prices. Buhari outlined plans for the government to spend 6.08 trillion naira ($30.8 billion) in 2016, an increase of about 20 percent from this year. The deficit will more than double to 2.2 trillion naira, or 2.16 percent of gross domestic product. “The 2016 budget is designed to ensure we’ll drive our economy, deliver inclusive growth and create a significant number of jobs,” Buhari, a 73-year-old former general who last ruled Nigeria in the mid-1980s, told lawmakers in Abuja, the capital. It “seeks to stimulate the economy, making it more competitive by focusing on infrastructure.” Bloomberg

Fate of Ousted Leader May Test Ties Between Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast has so far declined to give a substantive response to an international arrest warrant issued by Burkina Faso for former President Blaise Compaore (pictured above). “The government has been notified. We have nothing official and no comment to make,” Ivory Coast’s government spokesman, Bruno Kone said. Compaore fled to Ivory Coast when he was forced from office in Burkina Faso by a popular uprising in October 2014 after 27 years in power. The arrest warrant relates to his suspected role in the murder of Thomas Sankara, a left-wing revolutionary and president of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987, the year of his death. Sankara and 12 of his supporters were killed in a coup which brought Compaore to power. Compaore has always denied involvement in Sankara’s killing.  Deutsche Welle

Algeria: Eight Algerians Still Detained in Guantanamo, Says Louh
Eight Algerians are still detained without trial in the US detention camp of Guantanamo, Minister of Justice Tayeb Louh said Monday in Algiers. “Algeria is carrying on efforts with the United States and the legal procedures to transfer those eight prisoners are under way,” SAID Louh said at a news conference he held jointly with his French counterpart, Christiane Taubira, who is on a working visit to Algeria. “Algeria sent, some years ago, a Justice ministry’s delegation in relation to the case of those (Algerian) detainees without trial in Guantanamo, whose number reached then 26, most of whom arrested in Afghanistan for links with terrorism.” “Negotiations with the American side had, then, allowed the transfer of 18 prisoners, all of whom were brought before Algerian courts, which acquitted some of them and convicted others,” Louh concluded.  Algerie Press Service on allAfrica

DR Congo President Unlikely to Give up Power
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the presidential election is set for November 2016. Political opponents and activists say that everything is in place for President Joseph Kabila to extend his stay in power, thus violating the constitution and potentially precipitating the continent-sized central African country into chaos. “What we need is to have a specific action plan for the elections,” says Serge Syvia, a doctor and activist. “Because theirs (the government’s) is already being implemented.” In a small wooden house that was built, like much of the eastern city of Goma, on dried lava rocks, members of a youth group called Lucha (struggle for change) are holding a meeting. Lucha has a core of about 50 members and a few hundred sympathisers. BBC

Armed with New Constitution, Congo Leader in Hurry for Re-election
Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso said Tuesday he wants a presidential election to be held several months early, after a new constitution removed age and term limits obstructing his bid to extend his rule. Under the controversial new charter adopted after a referendum in October, an election was due to be held in the Republic of Congo next July, but he said he wanted to bring it forward to the first quarter of 2016 to usher in a “new dynamic” following the referendum. “Speeding up Congo’s march on the path of its development is a concern for all,” he said, adding that he had instructed the interior ministry to draft legislation to bring the vote forward. The former Marxist soldier, now 71, has so far not actually announced his intention to run for re-election. AFP on Yahoo News

Egypt: Interior Minister Appoints New Head of National Security in Ministry Reshuffle
Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar appointed a new chief for the National Security Agency on Saturday as part of a reshuffle that has affected several leading positions within the ministry. The new head of the National Security Agency (formerly known as State Security Investigation Services) is Mohamed Shaarawy, who previously occupied the agency’s post of deputy chief of the department of extremist activity. According to a detailed report published by the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA), this reshuffle is attributed to the fact that five of its department chiefs had reached the age of retirement: 60 years. The ministry’s top media spokesperson, Brigadier General Abdel Karim Abu Bakr, told MENA on Sunday that this latest reshuffle came about due to the need to fill vacant positions in the upper echelons of the ministry’s various departments. Mada Masr

Mali Declares 10-Day State of Emergency Following ‘Jihadist Threats’
Mali’s government on Monday declared a ten-day state of emergency from midnight after what security sources say follows a series of threats from unnamed jihadist groups. An Islamist insurgency simmering in the West African country since French forces drove the militants out of key northern towns two years ago has intensified in recent months. Unknown jihadists attacked a luxury hotel in November, killing 20 people including many foreigners, in the latest strike on the country’s once stable southern capital Bamako. Mali’s government then declared a state of emergency but it has since expired. RFI

French forces Kill or Capture ‘About 10′ Jihadists in Mali
French forces killed or captured around 10 members of a jihadist movement in heavy fighting at the weekend in northern Mali, the French defence ministry said Tuesday. The troops of France’s Barkhane force engaged in a four-hour firefight overnight Saturday near Menaka against the Al-Qaeda-linked group Al-Murabitoun, the ministry said in a statement issued in Paris. “Around 10 terrorists were neutralised,” the statement said, adding that the French soldiers seized two pick-up trucks, a dozen motorbikes and “a large quantity of arms and explosives”. In military jargon, “neutralised” means killed or captured. The statement said Al-Murabitoun had been “responsible for many attacks on civilians of Mali and Niger, as well as local army forces and international forces”. AFP on Yahoo News

Stark Warning over Rising Political Repression in Zambia from Opposition Candidate Hakainde Hichilema
For decades Zambia has enjoyed a reputation as one of southern Africa’s most stable nations.But now the leading opposition presidential candidate has delivered a stark warning about the danger posed by growing political repression. There is a real risk, says Hakainde Hichilema, that the government’s tough line will lead to violence of the kind that has engulfed other countries in the region, including nearby Burundi. Mr Hichilema, 53, a wealthy businessman who heads the opposition United Party for National Development, says he has been arrested for political reasons on 14 occasions since 2011. “The world thinks of Zambia as a peaceful country. But the writing’s on the wall,” he told The Independent. “Freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of speech, are taken away.” The Independent

Central African Republic Approves New Constitution
Voters in the Central African Republic have overwhelmingly backed a constitutional referendum aimed at ending nearly three years of political instability. Election officials Monday said provisional results show that 93 percent of voters were in favor of the new constitution, which would limit the president to two five-year terms, cut the power of the military and ensure religious freedom. Election officials, however, said that turnout was only 38 percent in the December 13 vote. The election was marred by sporadic violence, with the Red Cross reporting that five people were killed and at least 20 others injured on election day as supporters and opponents of the referendum traded gunfire in the capital, Bangui. The violence prompted United Nations peacekeepers to intervene and bolster security. VOA

UN Official: Somalia is No Longer a Failed State
The top UN official for war-torn Somalia says the country is no longer a failed state but a recovering fragile country. Nicholas Kay, the outgoing representative for the UN Secretary General in Somalia, says in the last three years the country has stabilised, but there is still a lot of work to do. Kay said Somalia’s Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab will not succeed in undermining the progress being made, but the prospect of al-Shabaab elements pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group is a real concern. Somalia has been torn by decades of conflict since the 1991 ouster of long-time dictator Siad Barre. Somalia had transitional administrations since 2004, but until the 2012 election of President Hassan Sheik Mohammud, it had not had a functioning central government since 1991.  News 24

Somalia Bans Christmas Celebrations
Somalia’s government has banned the celebration of Christmas, warning that such Christian festivities could threaten the nation’s Muslim faith. “Those celebrations are not in any way related to Islam,” an official at the religious affairs ministry said. Security agencies have been directed to stay alert to stop any gatherings. Foreigners are free to mark the Christian holiday in their own homes, but hotels and other public places have been prohibited from marking the day.  BBC

Tunisia Extends State of Emergency
Tunisia extended for another two months on Tuesday a state of emergency imposed after a deadly November bus bombing claimed by the Islamic State group, the presidency said. President Beji Caid Essebsi has “decided on an extension of the state of emergency over all the territory” of the country “until February 21 2016″, a statement said. It had been due to expire on Wednesday. It was imposed on November 24 following a suicide attack in the capital that killed 12 presidential guards. The measure gives authorities the power to prohibit strikes by workers and meetings that might stoke unrest, as well as to close entertainment venues and bars and to censor the press.  News 24

Blood and Terror on the Streets as Protests Grip Ethiopia, Govt Vows to ‘Act Without Mercy’
Two lifeless bodies lay on the ground as the terrified crowd, armed only with sticks against gun-toting Ethiopian security forces, fled the fierce crackdown on protesters. Blood seeped through a sheet covering one of the bodies on the road outside Wolenkomi, a town just 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the capital Addis Ababa. “That was my only son,” a woman sobbed. “They have killed me.” Back at the family home of 20-year-old Kumsa Tafa, his younger sister Ababetch shook as she spoke. “He was a student. No one was violent. I do not understand why he is dead,” she said. Human Rights Watch says at least 75 people have been killed in a bloody crackdown on protests by the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. The East African

León The Professional: Is the Man Behind Libya’s Peace Deal Entangled in the Same Networks of Money and Power that Bedevil the War-Torn Country he Tried to Save?
[…] León’s new job presented yet another obstacle to a long-term agreement. Leaked emails in November revealed that the U.N. envoy was in the process of being hired to a more than $50,000-per-month position as head of the UAE’s new Emirates Diplomatic Academy, which is charged with professionalizing the country’s diplomatic corps, even as the negotiations over a Libyan power-sharing agreement dragged on. The UAE is one of the key supporters of the Dignity bloc, even reportedly shipping arms to its Libyan allies in defiance of a U.N. Security Council-endorsed arms embargo there. The revelation has undermined some Libyans’ confidence that León was a neutral arbitrator. The GNC demanded an explanation from the United Nations, while the head of the Islamist-backed body said the timing of the appointment “represents a disregard for the Libyan people’s blood.” Mohamed ElJarh, a Libyan writer and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center, said that he believes current U.N. envoy Martin Kobler and the international community worked so hard to quickly push through the agreement in Skhirat in order not to allow those opposed to the deal to exploit the controversy. Foreign Policy

Ghana President Bans First Class Travel for Public Officials
Ghana’s President John Mahama has banned public officials from first class air travel in a renewed effort to cut wasteful spending as the West African nation implements an IMF aid deal to revive state finances, the government said on Tuesday. Ghana is preparing to hold presidential and parliamentary elections next year and, with the opposition accusing government ministers of inflating contract sums, inappropriate spending will likely be a top campaign issue. The presidency issued the directive this week asking all ministers and other top officials to avoid “unwarranted” foreign trips on the public purse, Communications Minister Edward Omane Boamah told Reuters. Ghana, a major producer of cocoa, gold and oil, began a three-year programme with the International Monetary Fund in April to fix its economy, which has been dogged by high deficits, a widening public debt and unstable local currency. The East African

China Pledges $800 mln for I.Coast Electricity Project
China will provide Ivory Coast with over $800 million (730 million euros) for a major expansion of its electrical grid which would bring power to 500 towns, officials announced Tuesday. The money is to come in the form of a $778 million loan and a donation of $35 million for the three-year project, said Ivorian Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan at a signing ceremony. “This makes abundant, high-quality energy accessible to everyone at a lower cost,” Duncan said. Hundreds of millions of Africans live without access to electricity, which analysts see as a significant brake on economic growth and raising standards of living. The funding, which will include an additional $41 million from Ivory Coast’s government, is to pay for installing 1,955 kilometres (1,214 miles) of high-tension lines as well as the electrification of 500 towns. AFP on Yahoo News