Media Review for December 24, 2015

Nigeria Boko Haram: Militants ‘Technically Defeated’ – Buhari
Nigeria has “technically won the war” against Islamist Boko Haram militants, President Muhammadu Buhari says. He told the BBC that the militant group could no longer mount “conventional attacks” against security forces or population centres. It had been reduced to fighting with improvised explosives devices (IED) and remained a force only in its heartland of Borno state, he said. Boko Haram has been described as one of the world’s deadliest terror groups. Critics of the government argue that it has exaggerated the scale of its success against the militants, and that each time the army claims to have wiped out Boko Haram, the militants have quietly rebuilt. BBC

Boko Haram: Cameroon Army Mistakenly Shoots Dead 70 Civilians in Hunt for Isis Insurgents
The Cameroonian army has killed 70 civilians in a Gwoza village as they chased Boko Haram fighters in Borno State, north-east Nigeria. Fleeing residents from Kirawa-Jimni told the Associated Press they had run for their lives from the Cameroon force, claiming troops had fired indiscriminately on villagers believing them to be Boko Haram, and then leaving their corpses lying in the street. “We didn’t know what was going on but the Cameroonian troops suddenly appeared and began to ask us for Boko Haram terrorists,” Muhammed Abba, a resident of the village and deputy commander of a local fighting group opposed to Boko Haram was quoted as saying. “Before we could say a word, they started firing. That scared most of us and we began to run,” he added. International Business Times

Nigeria Soldiers Killed Shi’ite Children, no Provocation – HRW
Nigerian soldiers fired on unarmed Shi’ite children with no provocation before unjustified raids that killed hundreds of the minority group in the West African nation, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday. The charges come as the guardian of Nigeria’s estimated 80 million-plus Muslims, Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar of Sokoto, warned the government against actions that could radicalize other Muslims in a country that already has lost 20 000 lives to the Boko Haram Islamic uprising. Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday it doubts the Nigerian military’s version that raids over three days on three Shiite locations in northern Zaria town followed an attempted assassination of the army chief. Nigeria’s military said raids December 12-14 came after Shi’ites tried to block the convoy of General Tukur Buratai. News 24

Mass Graves for ‘300 Shia Nigerians’ in Zaria
Nigeria’s military killed and quickly buried the bodies of at least 300 Shia Muslims in an unjustified attack in the northern Zaria city earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. The bodies were buried without family members’ permission, it added. Military spokesman Brig General Rabe Abubakar told the BBC the army had not killed anyone. Reports of the deaths sparked outrage among Shia around the world and Iran called for their protection. HRW said Nigeria’s army version of events “does not stack up” and called for an independent judicial investigation into what happened. The Shia have rejected a committee set up by the government to look into the incident, saying it would be biased.  BBC

Burundi: New Rebel Group Formed to Oust President
Burundi’s opposition has come together for the first time with the stated aim of using force to oust President Pierre Nkurunziza, a rebel leader said on Wednesday. The rebels have called themselves the Republican Forces of Burundi – or “Forebu” from its name in French, Les Forces Republicaines du Burundi – said Edward Nshimirimana, a former army colonel. The group has come together “to protect the population” and uphold the Arusha agreement, which ended the 1993-2006 civil war that killed an estimated 300,000 people. “Our goal is to drive out Nkurunziza by force to restore the Arusha accord and democracy,” Nshimirimana told the AFP news agency by phone. The rebel leader condemned the “barbarity of Nkurunziza’s regime” and said the opposition was driven to rebellion in the face of violence from state security forces and the government’s “categorical and arrogant rejection of any dialogue”.  Al Jazeera

Rwanda Will not Contribute Troops to AU Mission in Burundi, Kagame Says
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has stated that the country will not offer troops to an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force proposed to be sent to Burundi, a move that could further dent the bloc’s desire to halt the spiralling violence in the central African country. “Even with the proposed (AU) military contingent sent to Burundi, Rwanda will not be part of that. We have troops absolutely which can be deployed in many parts of the world for peacekeeping, but we are not going to be part of that,” Mr Kagame said Tuesday. His remarks come days after AU’s deployment of peacekeepers was equated to an invasion of Burundi if they contained Rwandan soldiers, according to Burundian government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba. He said, “If they come altogether, they will be coming to attack Burundi with those AU troops and if they (AU troops) are coming to help, they will disarm them (Burundian refugees) and will forbid them to attack Burundi,” Mr Nzobonariba told a local radio station. The East African

Are International Actors Steering the Right Course in Burundi?
Olivier was studying at the University of Burundi in April 2015 when unrest began to escalate in the country following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term. With opponents insisting the president’s move was unconstitutional, both protests and the government’s repressive response intensified. In June, after seeing his father and cousin killed in front of him, Olivier fled Bujumbura. He left with his sister and her small daughter. They travelled through Rwanda, but did not dare stop there. “We feared the violence would follow us,” he says now at a refugee camp in Uganda, traumatised and with no idea of what the future holds. Olivier’s story is far from unique in Burundi. Burundians have lived for years – and in Olivier’s case, all his life – with the presence or threat of war. Prior to his recent arrival in Uganda, for instance, Olivier had already been displaced five times, despite only being in his late-twenties. He has also witnessed many past atrocities. “In 1993, when I was a little boy, I saw people burned to death and I had to hide among the dead,” he recalls. In 1998, he was almost killed, he tells African Arguments, showing the scar on his head from where he was burnt. African Argument

Veteran Algerian Opposition figure Ait-Ahmed Dies
Hocine Ait Ahmed, one of the heroes of Algeria’s war of independence against France and a leading opposition figure, has died in Switzerland at the age of 89, official sources said on Wednesday. One of nine founding members of the resistance to French colonial rule in the 1950s, Ait-Ahmed helped launch the independence war that eventually brought the North African country to freedom in 1962. He died in hospital after a long illness, said his Socialist Forces Front party, known by its acronym FFS, without elaborating. Jailed by the French in 1956, Ait-Ahmed was freed after a ceasefire in 1962. He went into opposition when Ahmed Ben Bella became president, and had been an opposition figure ever since. France 24

Who Runs Algeria? Many Doubt It’s Ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
A power struggle within the closed circle that has ruled Algeria for decades has spilled into the open in recent weeks — with accusations of a soft coup — as questions intensify about the health of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The almost daily revelations have both intrigued and worried Algerians, and have raised fears far beyond this North African country, whose oil reserves and relative stability have made it a critical bulwark against the jihadist movements encroaching in the region. The condition of the 78-year-old Mr. Bouteflika is so uncertain, after two strokes in recent years, that even a prominent group of his closest associates has publicly demanded to see him to make sure he is still making the decisions. The president remains so sequestered that none of them have met with him in more than a year. The New York Times

Libya: No Immediate Call for Foreign Airstrikes Against IS
Libya’s U.N. ambassador said Wednesday his country will hold off asking nations like the United States and Britain to intervene with airstrikes against the growing presence of the Islamic State group in the oil-rich north African nation as a new national unity government tries to establish itself. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told The Associated Press he would rather see a U.N. arms embargo loosened so Libya can defend itself against IS instead. He spoke shortly before the Security Council unanimously endorsed a U.N.-brokered deal to form a unity government that Libya’s rival factions signed last week. The council’s resolution also asks countries to help Libya defeat the Islamic State group. AP on ABC News

Sudan Suspends Leading Paper, Accuses Owner of ‘False News’
The Sudanese authorities suspended one of the country’s leading papers and charged its owner with spreading “false news” and undermining the state, the owner said Wednesday. The development was the latest in the ongoing crackdown on press freedom in the African country. Following the charges, Osman Mirghani, the owner and editor-in-chief of daily al-Tayar, said he was due in court next week, along with journalist Ahmed Youssef al-Tay, the editor-in-chief of another paper, Assayha. Al-Tay is facing the same charges as Mirghani. “We were shown copies of columns and articles published by our newspapers as examples of the articles that they say undermine state security,” Mirghani told The Associated Press over the phone on Wednesday. “We don’t think (the articles are) tantamount to this.” AP on ABC News

President Kiir Ordered Army Chief Malong to Return to Juba
South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir, on Tuesday ordered the army’s chief of general staff, Paul Malong Awan, to return to the national capital, Juba, immediately after boycotting reception of the advance team of the armed Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), sources revealed. The army chief, who deserted the capital on Friday without prior permission from the president and commander-in-chief, left in protest of the return of the opposition group who arrived in Juba on Monday in implementation of the peace agreement Kiir signed in August with his rival and former vice-president, Riek Machar, ending 21 months of deadly conflict since 15 December 2013. Sudan Tribune

Modern-Day Flight to Egypt Brings Fighting Sudanese Factions Together in Church
In a church hall adorned with quotes from the epistles, an impassioned choir dressed in matching black-and-claret ensembles is belting out a hymn. An ebullient man dressed as Santa Claus dances to the lilting rhythms, as audience members stand up and clap along. Occasionally one cranes their head around, grinning, checking that the other onlookers are enjoying the show as much as they are. Most are in their twenties, many of them students from Sudan and South Sudan now in Cairo to try to finish their education. For many, the journey to Egypt has meant fleeing conflict in their home countries, much of which still continues. The rapt expressions on some of their faces as they listen to the hymns is in part because the All Saints Cathedral in the Egyptian capital’s central Zamalek district is a rare example of Sudanese and South Sudanese co-existing alongside Egyptians. A long-running ethnic conflict, both within and between Sudan and South Sudan has displaced almost 2.8 million people internally. Meanwhile, Egypt hosts at least 267,000 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers, who fled across its southern border to join existing communities of migrants. Some estimate the number of Sudanese and South Sudanese people in Egypt as high as 4 million. Nonetheless, there is widespread prejudice against them within Egypt. The Independent

Pentagon Ends 2015 with more African Military Contracts
The US Army Contracting Command has awarded Lockheed Martin a $318 million contract to supply Hellfire II missiles, hardware and components to the armies of eight allies including Tunisia and Egypt. In a contract notification published on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) register, the US Army identified the other foreign military beneficiaries as South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, India, Pakistan and Indonesia. “Work will be performed in Orlando and Ocala, Florida; and Troy, Alabama, with an estimated completion date of Oct. 31, 2018. Fiscal 2015 other procurement (Army) funds in the amount of $56,590,878 were obligated at the time of the award.” Elsewhere in Africa, the US Army has awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a $57 million Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) contract for its MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system in three global locations which include Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. The work, which will also be performed in California, Kuwait and the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, has an estimated completion date of June 15, 2016. DefeceWeb

UN Security Council Approves Libya Unity Accord
The UN Security Council on Wednesday endorsed a UN-brokered agreement among Libya’s warring factions to form a national unity government, a deal Western powers hope will bring stability and help combat a growing Islamic State (IS) group presence. The unanimously adopted resolution, drafted by the UK, made clear that Libya’s future unity government should be the sole representative for the North African country, where competing governments have long vied for power. The 15-nation body gave its support to the deal signed last week in the Moroccan town of Skhirat between representatives of strife-torn Libya’s two competing regimes. France 24

The Piracy Problem
Although piracy in the Gulf of Aden attracted global attention and efforts to combat the threat, a similar and growing problem in the Gulf of Guinea—off the coast of West Africa—is being largely ignored. Dr. Assis Malaquias, the Academic Chair for Defense Economics at the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, explains how this instability is a threat to security and business, and explores how to go about combatting the problem. The Cipher Brief

Central African Republic Goes to the Polls as Transitional Authority Steps Aside
Residents of the Central African Republic (CAR)have witnessed more coups than elections since their country gained independence from France in 1960. Sylvestre, a civil servant from the capital Bangui, hopes that change for the better is just around the corner. “It’s always the same here, the situation in the country has deteriorated badly. Right now we really do need progress, to elect somebody who can do some good for our country,” he said. But with 30 candidates running for the presidency in Sunday’s (27.12.2015) elections, it is difficult to see who that somebody could be. The contents of their manifestoes are virtually unknown and this dearth of information is similar to that which beset the referendum earlier in the month. The electorate had to vote on a new constitution about which they knew very little. They voted for it nonetheless. Deutsche Welle

UN Appoints New Mali Peacekeeping Chief
The United Nations announced Wednesday it has appointed a new peacekeeping chief in Mali, amid criticism of the country’s peace process. Chad’s foreign minister Mahamat Saleh Annadif will replace Tunisia’s Mongi Hamdi, who held the position for just a year. Annadif served as foreign minister from 1997 to 2003, a UN statement said, and has taken part in several peace processes in Africa, including in Niger, the Central African Republic and Sudan. The 59-year-old diplomat also directed the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) between 2012 and 2014. Annadif’s appointment was first announced by diplomatic sources in Bamako. He will begin his new role on January 15. Under Hamdi’s watch, Mali concluded a landmark peace deal between the government and a Tuareg-led rebellion which has launched several uprisings since the 1960s. AFP on Yahoo News

Ethiopia’s Oromos Tread Warily Amid Anti-government Protests
Schools are closed, businesses have just reopened after being closed for almost a week, and there is tension in Ginchi, Ethiopia, one of the first towns where the Oromo people began protesting last month against a plan to expand the capital, Addis Ababa. Police are on the main road in Ginchi, which is about 80 kilometers west of Addis Ababa. Interviews have to be conducted on the basis of anonymity and on the outskirts of the town. A waitress says that despite the reopening of the cafe where she works, life is not back to normal yet: She says that there is not an official curfew, but that young people risk being randomly detained if they are out in the evening.  VOA

Revolt in an African Stasi State
Ethiopia is hailed as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. For the last decade, the East African nation has averaged around 10 percent annual GDP growth, far outpacing most of its neighbors on the continent. It recently launched a new light-rail system in the capital of Addis Ababa, the first of its kind in Africa, and the government is aggressively pushing several Chinese-funded hydroelectric and infrastructure projects to reduce agricultural dependence and accelerate manufacturing growth. Many experts including those at the African Development Bank expect the country’s upward trajectory to continue in 2016. But despite the outward veneer of progress, all is not well in Africa’s second-most populous nation. Weeks of student protests have roiled the Oromia region, which is home to the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group and among its most marginalized. More than 80 people have been killed in a violent crackdown by security forces, according to opposition parties. Coupled with a devastating drought that will leave an estimated 20.3 million people in need of urgent assistance by January of next year, the mounting public discontent in Oromia offers the latest warning signal that the same top-down social and economic model that has powered Ethiopia’s rise could ultimately bring it crashing down. Foreign Policy

Inside Eritrea: Conscription and Poverty Drive Exodus from Secretive African State
The shrill blast of a whistle still makes Almaz Russom wince. “You’re sleeping nicely, dreaming something, then it wakes you at 4.30am,” he said, clenching his teeth and mimicking the pitch. “I still don’t like the sound of that whistle.” Russom, whose name has been changed here for his own protection, was giving a rare account of a military bootcamp in Eritrea, one of Africa’s most secretive totalitarian states. It forms part of a compulsory “national service” for young men and women, an indefinite purgatory that robs them of the best years of their lives and is the key to understanding why so many flee its borders. Eritreans are now the third biggest group of people embarking on the risky Mediterranean crossing to Europe, with an estimated 5,000 leaving every month, behind only Syrians and Afghans. As the first British newspaper for a decade to gain access to this little-understood nation, the Guardian interviewed citizens, diplomats and government ministers about the motivating forces behind the mass exodus. The Guardian

U.S. Pours Millions Into Fighting Poachers in South Africa
And the Obama administration sees national security implications to poaching since it is generally carried out by gangs that also traffic in guns, people and drugs. “The bottom line is the impact of wildlife trafficking isn’t just contained to Africa,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, who has introduced legislation to require the Obama administration to develop a country-by-country strategy on poaching. “The impacts of this rapidly growing crisis are spreading around the world, now even threatening our national security.” Trafficking in wildlife has decimated elephant and rhino populations in Africa. In the first eight months of this year, poachers had killed 749 rhinos in South Africa, up from 716 over the same period in 2014, according to the latest figures from the South African government. The New York Times

Can Tourism in Egypt Bounce Back after Violent Traumas?
The turquoise waters of East Sinai should be an easy sell. Visitors can enjoy a coral reef teeming with wildlife, pick a sunbathing spot from miles of unspoiled beaches, and dine on the catch of the day — all for a fraction of the price of a European resort. But for Khaled, the owner of a long-running holiday camp, this paradise is almost lost. “There are robberies on the road and kidnappings in the area — it’s a kind of Wild West,” says the hotelier, who asked to have his name changed to avoid reprisals. After the 2011 revolution, insurgents established a foothold in Sinai, and the rising tide of violence made it an increasingly dangerous destination for visitors — even before Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed down in nearby Sharm el Sheikh. CNN

Late King Mohammed V of Morocco Honored for Protecting His Country’s Jews
The Late King Mohammed V of Morocco was posthumously honored for protecting his country’s 250,000 Jews during World War II. KIVUNIM: The Institute for World Jewish Studies honored the king with the first The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. – Rabbi Abraham Heschel Award, to mark the organization’s 10th anniversary. […] During World War II, King Mohammed V kept the lives and property of the country’s Jews under his protection, and did not subject them to the Vichy Laws. Later on, in response to anti-Jewish rhetoric in the wake of the creation of the State of Israel, Mohammed V warned Muslims not to hurt Moroccan Jews, reminding them that Jews had always been protected in Morocco.  The Jerusalem Post



Photo: Adam Jones