Media Review for December 28, 2015

At least 14 Killed in Boko Haram Christmas Day Gun Attack in Nigeria
At least 14 people were killed and several others injured by Boko Haram gunmen in a Christmas Day attack on a village in northeastern Nigeria, vigilantes said on Saturday. Attacking astride bicycles, the jihadists invaded Kimba village in flashpoint Borno state around 10:00pm on Friday, opening fire on residents and torching their homes. “The gunmen killed 14 people and burnt the whole village before they fled,” Mustapha Karimbe, a civilian assisting the military in fighting Boko Haram, told AFP. “Not a single house was spared in the arson,” another vigilante, Musa Suleiman, said after visiting the razed village. Hundreds of Kimba residents fled to Biu nearby, where they were put up in a refugee camp already brimming with people running from Boko Haram. The Telegraph

Did Corruption In Nigeria Hamper Its Fight Against Boko Haram?
Nigeria’s former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, is on trial for money laundering and breaching the public trust. President Muhammadu Buhari, elected in March, alleges that Dasuki stole staggering sums, and, in doing so, crippled the Nigerian military in its fight against Boko Haram — the Islamist insurgents notorious for their violence and for kidnapping hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls. The trial of Dasuki is a cornerstone of President Buhari’s campaign against high-level corruption. Armed soldiers arrived at Dasuki’s home earlier this month and took away five bulletproof cars and seven assault rifles, and arrested the former national security adviser for having them. Dasuki, who served as national security adviser to Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan, isn’t only accused of hoarding his own weapons. He is also accused of stealing more than $2 billion from the military when he was supposed to be supplying it with weapons. NPR

‘Tens of People’ Killed in Nigerian Gas Plant Blast
A huge explosion hit an industrial gas plant in southeastern Nigeria on Christmas Eve, razing nearby buildings. The Nigerian presidency said Friday “tens of people” had died in the blast, while a local reporter spoke of more than one hundred dead. The blast at the Inter Corp Oil Limited gas plant, a subsidiary of Nigerian conglomerate Chicason Group, started at 1pm on Thursday, swallowing the plant in a fire that gutted surrounding buildings and vehicles in Nnewi city. Reports of fatalities varied widely from relatively low numbers to more than one hundred. The office of President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement that “tens of people” had died in the blast.  France 24

Algerian Troops Kill 109 Militants in 2015
Algerian army troops killed as many as 109 militants and arrested 36 others in 2015, according to an annual report released by Defense Ministry on Sunday. “As part of the fight against terrorism, the National People’s Army eliminated 109 terrorists and arrested 36 others,” the report said, adding that 18 quintals of explosives, a large quantity of ammunition, 182 bombs, and 123 land mines were also retrieved. The anti-terrorism troops also retrieved 105 Kalashnikov submachine guns, 21 automatic pistols, 237 riffles, 23 FMPK guns and 13 rocket launchers, and 5 missiles, the report said. A violent civil war between security forces and Islamist insurgents hit Algeria in the nineties after the army canceled parliamentary elections in 1992 which the dissolved Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was poised to win.  Xinhua on Globalpost

Three Killed and 11 Injured in Egypt Explosion
A senior Egyptian judge died on Sunday of wounds he sustained in an explosion that also killed two people and injured 11 others in the city of Giza, Al Arabiya News Channel and local media reported. Vice president of the Egyptian State Lawsuit Authority Rashwan Hussein Rashwan was passing by in Giza’s Faisal neighborhood when the explosion, believed to have been caused by a gas leak in an unused apartment, occurred Authorities say an investigation into the blast to confirm the preliminary findings of a gas leak is under way.  Al Arabiya

Daesh Strength in Libya Grows to Nearly 5,000 Fighters
Libya, which is undergoing its second civil war in less than half a decade, has become the next country after Iraq and Syria to be targeted by Daesh terrorists for expansion. Around 5,000 Daesh (also known as ISIL/ISIS) militants are now thought to be fighting in Libya, the country’s interior minister said on Saturday, as cited by the Iranian news agency FARS. After a civil war in which NATO-backed rebels ousted long-time leader Muammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya failed to transition to another stable government, which led to another civil war in 2014, although negotiations are underway which may bring an end to the conflict. Daesh has taken advantage of the situation, capturing territory around the coastal town of Sirte, between the territories held by the conflict’s two main warring sides. Sputnik News

As Central Africans Prepare to Vote, Major Challenges Still Loom
As General Bala Keita, the military head of Central African Republic’s U.N. peacekeeping mission, fended off militia attacks on a polling station in a besieged Muslim enclave in the capital Bangui earlier this month, he was surprisingly optimistic. It certainly wasn’t an auspicious start to a constitutional referendum meant to pave the way for pivotal general elections. But amid the machinegun fire and incoming rocket-propelled grenades, the battle-tested Senegalese officer saw hope. “What’s extraordinary is that people are here. And we’re trying to provide security,” he shouted down a crackling phone line during the Dec. 13 referendum. “The population is saying ‘We need to vote.’” Less than three weeks later, Central African Republic’s beleaguered people are preparing to head to the polls again on Wednesday for presidential and legislative elections to restore democratic rule under the newly approved constitution.  Reuters

Official: 200 Al-Shabab Fighters Pledge Allegiance to Islamic State
About 200 Islamic extremist fighters have split from Somalia’s al-Shabab rebels, who are allied to al-Qaida, and have instead pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, Kenya’s police chief said Thursday. The splinter group is operating around the Somali border in Kenya’s north, and has carried out at least two attacks in the last two weeks, killing one soldier and two civilians in Mandera County, Joseph Boinett told The Associated Press. The split in al-Shabab poses an extra challenge for Kenya’s security forces, Boinnet said. Among those who have joined the pro-IS faction of al-Shabab is Mohamed Kuno, alias Gamadhere, who is wanted for the April 2 attack by al-Shabab gunmen on a Kenya’s Garissa University in the country’s east, in which 148 people were killed, Boinnet said.  AP on Stars and Stripes

2,000 Miles from Syria, ISIS is Trying to Lure Recruits in Somalia
Two thousand miles from Syria, the Islamic State is trying to expand its territory by establishing a branch in what its fighters call the “little emirate”: the war-torn country of Somalia. Winning ground there won’t be easy. Al-Shabab, a Somali group linked to al-Qaeda, has a long-standing presence in the country at Africa’s eastern edge and has threatened those who join the Islamic State with death. But that hasn’t stopped a trickle of fighters — likely a few dozen — from switching sides, raising concerns among U.S. officials, who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars of aid in a new Somali government and a regional military campaign against Islamist extremists. Somalia holds potentially huge rewards for the extremist group: It is a marginally governed nation with the continent’s longest coastline and borders three U.S. allies — Ethi­o­pia, Djibouti and Kenya. The Washington Post

How a Breakaway Region of Somalia Hopes to Build a New Country
[…] While Somalia descended into chaos after its government collapsed in 1991 and was racked by famine, clan warfare, piracy and later the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab insurgency, the northern half split off and formed its own country. Although no nation officially recognizes it, Somaliland has its own police, army, flag and currency, and for the past 24 years has held regular elections for parliament and a president. Somaliland has survived on money sent from its diaspora and livestock sales to Arab countries. It has a relatively weak government with a tiny budget that rules in consensus with the local clans. Many in the country, however, feel that model has run its course. With high unemployment and a great deal of outward migration, Somaliland needs more income to survive and develop, they say — and the answer is to link its future to the far stronger economy next door, Ethi­o­pia.  The New York Times

Islamic Extremists Kill at least 15 Tuaregs in Mali’s North
Islamic extremist in Mali’s north have killed at least 15 people in two attacks in the Kidal region near the border with Algeria, a jihadi group and resident said. Militants with the Ansar Dine extremist group killed 11 people in an attack on Tuareg rebels near the Algerian border in Kidal, the militants said in a statement on a jihadi website Saturday. “The attack resulted in the release of mujahedeen prisoners and the recovery of vehicles and weapons,” it said. Four people were killed Friday during an ambush by Ansar Dine on a Tuareg separatist vehicle, including the younger brother of the secretary-general of the separatist group that signed a peace deal with the government in late June, said a Kidal resident who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his security. AP on Stars and Stripes

Mali: French Troops Accused of Killing Allied Militamen in Anti-Terror Operation
French troops in Mali have been accused of mistakenly killing fighters with an allied militia during an anti-Islamist operation. An armed group fighting alongside government forces against Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists in the restive north of the country said four of its fighters were killed by friendly fire on the night of 19 December. The French authorities said its forces carried out a raid against radicals with the al-Mourabitoun group in the northeastern Menaka region near the Niger border on 19 and 20 December. The defence ministry said about 10 extremists were killed or captured by the military that also seized weapons, explosives and numerous vehicles, including pick-up trucks and motorcycles, after hours of heavy fighting with the insurgents. International Business Times

Benin Prime Minister Survives Helicopter Crash
Benin’s Interior Ministry said the helicopter crashed Saturday while attempting to land at a stadium in Djougou in the northwest of the country. No one was hurt in the incident, spokesperson Leonce Houngbadji added. “The prime minister was on board at the time of the crash-landing … happily he emerged safe and sound,” an unnamed source in the Beninese presidency told news agency AFP. The prime minister’s daughter, Marie-Cecile Zinsou, also confirmed her father is alive. “My father is well. There are no victims of the helicopter crash in Djougou. Thank you for your messages,” she wrote in French on Twitter.  Deutsche Welle

Thousands Protest AU Peace Plan for Burundi
Thousands of supporters of Burundi’s president are protesting against the African Union’s plan to deploy 5 000 peacekeepers to quell the country’s escalating unrest. The demonstration in Bujumbura on Saturday was led by Vice President Gaston Sindimwo who insisted Burundi’s army is capable of halting violence and protecting all Burundians. Burundi has been rocked by turmoil since April when it was announced that President Pierre Nkurunziza would run for a third term. Nkurunziza won re-election in July but the violence has since escalated. Earlier this month 87 people died when three military installations were attacked by rebels who said this week they are fighting to topple Nkurunziza. News 24

AU Assures Burundi No Hidden Motive in Troop Deployment Plan
The African Union sought to reassure Burundi on Friday that a plan to send peacekeepers there is meant to bring a peaceful end to eight months of violence, and is not part of any “other agenda.” Earlier this month, the AU said it was ready to send 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi to protect civilians caught up in the country’s worst crisis since it emerged from civil war a decade ago. It would be the first time the bloc has invoked powers to deploy troops to a member country against its will. Burundi has said the proposed force is a violation of its sovereignty and that no troops will enter the country without its permission. The AU said its head, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, had contacted President Pierre Nkurunziza to make clear that “the AU has no other agenda than to assist the government and people of Burundi at their hour of need, consistent with its commitment to promote African solutions to African problems”.  Reuters

Rwandan President Kagame Tells off Law Amendment Critics
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has told off his critics, saying only Rwandans have the right to choose their leaders. “For foreign critics, they can continue being unhappy with what Rwandans chose to do. We have the right to choose how we live as a nation, society and individuals,” President Kagame said at the National Dialogue Council, locally known as Umushyikirano. He added: “Some of the things you hear out there are okay. They raise our blood pressure a little but we take control of ourselves.” He said critics who call him a dictator are “undermining the voice of Rwandans.” “If producing security, stability, women empowerment, peace, progress and food security amounts to dictatorship, what can I say?” said President Kagame. On whether he would be worried about sanctions or withdrawal of aid by Rwanda’s donors in case he stands for another term, President Kagame argued that bowing to pressure from the West does not always solve problems. “We have to live our lives in spite of what they do. The East African

In Retrospective, Rwanda Genocide Tribunal Mostly Hailed
At the end of this month, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will be closing its doors. The United Nations Security Council established the court in 1994 after the genocide in which Hutu militants killed some 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutu. Twenty years later, the ICTR has indicted 93 people, convicted 61 and acquitted 14. Observers say the tribunal’s mission – to apprehend and prosecute those behind the Rwandan genocide – represented a historic change in thinking and in international law. Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, the international justice advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, said for most of history, genocide, mass killings and what today are called crimes against humanity went unpunished. The term genocide didn’t even exist until it was coined to describe the Nazi slaughter of Jews during World War Two. VOA

Guinea President Names New Prime Minister
Guinea’s president has appointed mining executive Mamady Youla as the West African country’s new prime minister. A government statement says President Alpha Conde made the appointment 0n Saturday to support the country’s economic recovery. Youla had been the managing director of Guinea Alumina Corporation from 2004. Mineral-rich Guinea has one of the world’s largest repositories of bauxite but its economy has been hit by the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 2 500 people in the country. The government said the appointment shows Conde’s dedication to support job creation and training, especially for young women and men, and to strengthen companies. Conde was re-elected for second term in October. The former government resigned this week for the change of Cabinet.  News 24

Hopeful Security Signs in CAR
The new commander of the UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic (CAR) is a Senegalese general with a no-nonsense reputation. Bela Keita arrived in Bangui about a month ago. At the time, he said, PK5 – the Muslim enclave in the capital – was very tense and the streets almost deserted. However, now people felt more confident about trying to go about their daily business, he said. “It’s like Dakar now, nice and busy.” That might be a bit of an exaggeration but the general consensus here is that in recent weeks security has improved. CAR has been rocked by sectarian violence since the mostly Muslim Seleka seized power from President Francois Bozize in 2013, prompting revenge killings by a mostly Christian militia that spilled over into civilian communities. Muslims are a minority group here, although they are among the majority who have fled their homes for camps both inside and outside CAR. Al Jazeera

Ethiopia Arrests Second Journalist in a Week, Rights Body Says
Ethiopian authorities arrested two journalists in the span of one week, the Committee to Protect Journalists said, asking the East African nation to allow for greater openness. Getachew Shiferaw, editor in chief of Negere Ethiopia online newspaper, was arrested on Dec. 25, following the Dec. 19 detention of Fikadu Mirkana, an anchor at state-run broadcaster Oromia Radio and TV. An Ethiopian court granted permission to hold him for 28 days for interrogation after which he is likely to be charged under the nation’s anti-terrorism law, according to the CPJ. The rules criminalize any reporting that authorities might consider encouraging to causes or groups the government labels as terrorist. “Ethiopia prides itself on development, but economic growth is a hollow achievement if the public does not enjoy fundamental human rights such as the right to receive and share information and divergent viewpoints,” Sue Valentine, the CPJ’s Africa coordinator, said in an e-mailed statement.  Bloomberg

15 Senior South Sudanese Officers Named in Recruitment of Child Soldiers
Fifteen commanders in the South Sudanese army and the rebel movement have been named by a human-rights watchdog for using child soldiers in the country’s civil war. International civil society and humanitarian organisations are now lobbying the United Nations to push for the trials of the named commanders at the hybrid court for South Sudan to be established by the African Union Commission as part of the implementation of the peace agreement. Some 16,000 child soldiers have been forcibly conscripted into the civil war. The latest report the Human Rights Watch names, among others, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) commander Matthew Puljang, and his forces who fought in Unity State and Johnson Olony, who first defended the government in Malakal in Upper Nile but later defected to fight with the rebels. Boys also fought under opposition commanders, including James Koang, Peter Gadet and Makal Kuol. They took hundreds of boys from two schools in Rubkona, Unity State, in the first days of the conflict. The East African

Sudan’s New Gold Rush: Miners Risk Their Lives in Search of Riches
It’s a little before 7am on a bright, airless morning, and already Abdullah Idriss Isaac has been hard at work for hours. Swishing his aluminium pan back and forth through a waist-deep pool of brackish water, he wearily scrutinises its contents for glimmers of gold. With the sun beginning to beat down, the young miner splashes handfuls of the liquid – laced with mercury and cyanide to separate gold from unwanted rock – on his face to stay alert. Around him is a scene like something out of Mad Max. Overseers set truck tyres alight to soften ground that’s been baked solid by the fierce Sahara sun. As the flames relent, newly arrived workers step in to blast away chunks of the weakened turf with homemade explosives. A series of muffled bangs ring out across the desert encampment. “Watch out!” the miners shout at one another. The Guardian

The Unraveling of Jacob Zuma
As Jacob Zuma retreats to his rural home in the green hills of KwaZulu-Natal for the holidays, a growing number of South Africans, including some of his own comrades in the ruling African National Congress (ANC), are wishing he would just stay there for good. It has been an astonishing few weeks for the South African presidency. On Dec. 10, Zuma shocked the country and even his own cabinet by firing Nhlanhla Nene, a respected finance minister who had pushed back against gross overspending, appointing an unknown backbencher in his place. Days later, and clearly under pressure, Zuma reversed course and announced that Pravin Gordhan, who had previously served as finance minister in 2009-2014, would be returning to the post. But the damage was already done: The episode had sunk the rand, South Africa’s currency, to record lows, shaking investors’ faith in the economy and the ANC’s faith in Zuma. The populist Zuma has never been loved by urban, middle class  and in particular, white South Africans, but for the first time since he took office in 2009 thousands of them took to the streets to showcase their discontent. In Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Pretoria, anti-Zuma demonstrators marched on Dec. 16 as part of a campaign dubbed #ZumaMustFall on social media (the name echoed earlier student-led protests over the rising cost of university tuition that were organized under the #FeesMustFall hashtag.) “Thanks for your service, Mr. Zuma. Foreign Policy

Drought Deepens South Africa’s Malaise
Under a midmorning sun that augured punishing heat later in the day, a handful of cows stood still inside a small pen, their ribs protruding. Too weak to reach the nearest grassy field some miles away, some munched on tall grass that their owner had cut from a strip of land along the highway, in a desperate attempt to save his cattle from the drought afflicting the land. The owner, T. J. Koee — a former miner and a full-time cattle farmer for the past 16 years — listed the drought’s toll this year: 19 dead cows, 38 left, none sold. Last year, he sold 17 calves, earning enough to support his family and send two of his children to college. The New York Times

Ghana’s Textile Trade Unravels Due to Cheap Chinese Imports
Isaac Eshun watches closely as reams of newly printed fabrics flow down from the giant rollers overhead, vast sheets of cloth with intricate orange and blue designs tumbling from the factory’s whirring machines. The 53-year-old technician has spent almost half his life working at this textile company in Tema, a coastal town around 10 miles from the capital of Accra, yet such a career is increasingly rare in Ghana’s once thriving textile industry. Counterfeit goods, border inefficiencies and rising costs have hit the industry hard, and last month it emerged the government had replaced a local company as the provider of school uniforms for public schools with a Chinese fabric producer.  The Independent



Photo: Adam Jones