Media Review for December 29, 2015

Boko Haram Attacks Northeast Nigerian City, Town, 80 Killed
Boko Haram Islamic extremists struck a city and a town in northeastern Nigeria with rocket-propelled grenades and multiple suicide bombers Monday, killing at least 80 people, witnesses said. In Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, at least 30 were killed and more than 90 wounded in overnight blasts and shootouts, and another 20 died in a bombing outside a mosque at dawn Monday, said Muhammed Kanar, area coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency. A twin suicide bombing also killed at least 30 people in Madagali, a town 150 kilometers (95 miles) southeast of Maiduguri, witnesses said. Danladi Buba said two women blew themselves up at a market near a busy bus station at about 9 a.m. Brig. Gen. Victor Ezugwu, the officer commanding in northeast Adamawa State, confirmed the attack but said casualties have yet to be established. AP on Stars and Stripes

Attacks by Boko Haram Challenge Nigeria’s Claim of ‘Winning the War’
[…] as seen in both the Sunday and Monday attacks, Boko Haram has increasingly used suicide bombers to target civilians, a  strategy that the Nigerian military says shows the group’s desperation. Militants, according to a Council on Foreign Relations analysis, have also become more strategic with their targets, focusing on major cities like the capital, Abuja; Maiduguri, which serves as the headquarters of the counterinsurgency effort and the birthplace of Boko Haram; and even refugee camps. “The blasts are among those that would be the last in this issue,” Chief of Army Staff Gen. Tukur Buruta said at a conference in September, as The Christian Science Monitor reported.  “We will start counting very few before we get to the end of this [campaign].” However, Boko Haram remains vigilant. The self-declared Islamic State, with whom Boko Haram is affiliated, claimed earlier this month that its West Africa division had launched more than 100 attacks over the past two months, the Site Intelligence Group, with monitors extremist websites, reported. They also claimed to have killed more than a thousand people, which is difficult to confirm. CS Monitor

Burundi Issues Peace Talks Terms as Dialogue Kicks Off
The Burundi government has said failed May coup plotters should not be allowed to participate in talks aimed at ending months of violence. The negotiations resumed at Entebbe State House in Uganda Monday mediated by President Yoweri Museveni. The first meeting to draw the agenda for the peace talks, and attended by four former Burundian presidents – Pierre Buyoya, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, Domitien Ndayizeye and Jean Baptiste Bagaza –, appeared to move towards a rocky path when the Burundi government delegation said the coup plotters should not be involved in the dialogue. Victor Burikukikiye, the first deputy chairperson of the ruling party CNDD-FDD, told the meeting also attended by opposition members, representatives of regional countries and international agencies that it was “wrong to meet people who participated in the failed coup.” “Before we start the negotiations, there are things that must be addressed. Those who participated in the coup attempt should not participate,” he said, adding that the talks’ agenda must be agreeable and should reflect recent events in Burundi.  The East African

Burundi Sides Split on Peacekeepers at Start of Talks
Burundi’s government negotiator and the opposition came out of the first session of peace talks in Uganda divided over the question of international peacekeepers. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni gave the opening remarks, saying that while he recognized the sovereignty of Burundi, it could not be a reason for inaction on the part of the international community. “One million people dead just here in Rwanda. And we watched, what could we do. Because if we come in we are invading a sovereign country… in Kenya here people died. Here in Uganda Idi Amin killed 800,000 people. Nobody could come in. We were dying under sovereignty,” he said. The Burundi government delegates say they are fighting insurgents who had attempted a coup. They also say the government is within its rights to look for those perpetrating violence.  VOA

Burundi Crackdown Puts Hutus and Tutsis, and the West, on Edge
A little more than a week ago, Benny Uwamahoro went out for a beer. He met up with some friends, listened to some music and then received a mysterious call around 8:30 p.m. asking him to go to a neighborhood shop. The next morning, Mr. Uwamahoro, a minibus driver with soft, hooded eyes, was found dead on his back on a dirt path, a bullet hole in his head, his tongue sawed out. “Was he targeted because he joined a couple of protests?” his distraught sister asked. “Or was it because he was a Tutsi? ”In Burundi, dangerous times lie ahead if that question is being asked, and right now a lot of people are asking it. Ethnic rivalries have set off several devastating wars in this part of Africa, but none come near the deadly legacy of the Hutu-Tutsi divide, which plunged Rwanda into genocide in 1994, wiping out nearly a million lives.  The New York Times

Violence Must Stop, Museveni Tells Burundi Rivals
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has asked warring parties in Burundi to end the violence in the country that has seen more than 300 killed since April. President Museveni also said he would personally investigate alleged extrajudicial killings. “Africans must stop being clowns. These extrajudicial killings must stop. I will send a team privately as a mediator to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings [in Burundi],” he said. President Museveni said Monday while opening the Burundi peace talks at State House Entebbe, Uganda. READ: Burundi talks to resume in Entebbe amid calls to UNSC to veto AU plan He said he was reluctant to mediate the Burundi crisis after being disappointed with earlier role in the DR Congo crisis. “I didn’t want to mediate because I had been annoyed with the handling of DR Congo where the parties involved went and did things contrary to what we had agreed upon and now the crisis there has persisted. But then I said if God has given me health, why not help people there. I had wanted to see these negotiations concluded before the election. Unfortunately, the election took place before the negotiations were over,” he said. The East African

Inside Egypt’s Blacked-Out War With ISIS-Affiliated Militants
Residents in the country’s restive Sinai region are suffering Internet and communications cuts in a battle against Islamist militants. As part of an ongoing war with Islamist militants now affiliated with ISIS, Egyptian authorities have been periodically shutting off phone and Internet service to portions of the country’s north Sinai region for over two years, sometimes severing entire towns from contact with the outside world. The communications blackouts are one of the best illustrations of the intensity of Egypt’s ongoing military campaign in Sinai, in which hundreds of people have been killed over the past two and a half years in attacks by both insurgents and the Egyptian security forces.  Time

IS Relying on Untrained Recruits in Libya, But Poised for Expansion
An anti-Islamic State Islamist group in the Libyan capital released a propaganda video detailing the confessions of five captured militants who say they took part in a half-dozen attacks in Tripoli. Their testimonies suggest IS is relying on inexperienced fighters for the bulk of its operations in the North African country, and that it is facing manpower challenges. Even so, European governments remain highly alarmed at the quick rise of the terror group in Libya, and say that in the last six months IS may have nearly doubled the number of fighters there to 5,000. The nearly hour-long video was released by the so-called Special Deterrence Force, a controversial 700-member Islamist militia under the command of 35-year-old Abd al-Rauf Kara, a Tripoli native. Its narrator condemns the terror group, saying, “Islam has never been a terrorist religion.”  VOA

Congo-Brazzaville: Polls – Opposition Gives Pre-Conditions
The leaders want consensus on universal criteria such as preparation, organization, conduct of polls and proclamation of results. Leaders of radical opposition parties in Congo on Saturday, December 26, 2015 denounced President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s intention to organize anticipated elections in the country and insisted that any election organized in the first quarter of 2016 in contravention of the July 2016 previewed period will be illegal. The opposition leaders grouped under the umbrella organizations Initiative for Democracy in Congo (IDC) and Republic Front for the Respect of Constitutional Order and Democratic Change (FROCAD) met in the capital Brazzaville. They said that to guarantee peace in the country, they would only participate in the election in case there is consensus on universal criteria such as preparation, organization, conduct of the polls and the proclamation of results. The leaders further insisted that the participation conditions include an electoral commission whose independence is acknowledged by all. Cameroon Tribune on allAfrica

Burkina Troops Arrested ‘over Plot to Free Coup Chief’
Around 20 soldiers in an elite Burkina unit have been arrested in a plot to free comrades detained after trying to grab power in September, including coup leader General Gilbert Diendere, a security source said on Monday. The troops – one of whom is “a foreign national” – were seized at a meeting where they planned to carry out “an attack on several barracks in the capital”, the source said. In the ensuing chaos, they would free their detained colleagues, as well as Diendere and General Djibrill Bassole, another alleged putschist leader, the source said. The soldiers seized in the operation “are being held at Guillaume Bassole”, a military camp in the centre of the capital Ouagadougou, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. News 24

Zambia Deports Two Rwandan ‘Genocide’ Suspects
Zambian authorities at the weekend deported to Kigali two Rwandan refugees for suspected involvement in the 1994 genocide, their lawyer told AFP on Monday. “We don’t know what they have done, but one of our clients was told that he was involved in genocide and wanted back home,” said lawyer Dickson Jere. The two are Egibe Rwasibo, who works as a medical officer at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, and businessman Innocent Habumugisha who operates shops in the capital city. Jere said he was making efforts to challenge the deportation in court while the duo were still at Kigali airport. “They are currently stranded at the airport in Kigali,” he said.  News 24

Is CAR Ready to Hold a Free and Fair Election?
After enduring a series of delays, this time the elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) may actually take place. Despite the lack of resources and ongoing insecurity, voters in the CAR will be heading to the polls on Wednesday, in a closely watched election that is seen by some as the country’s best chance to end its ongoing political crisis. The presidential and parliamentary vote comes two weeks after people in the CAR successfully voted for a new constitution – even if critics say that most citizens were unlikely to have known what the reforms stood for. Since the coup in March 2013, thousands of people have been killed and around a million forced to flee their homes – be it internally or into neighbouring DR Congo, Chad and Cameroon. The new government will be tasked with reuniting a nation scarred by severe communal violence between Muslims and Christians, rebuilding its economy and disarming rival armed groups who still rule large swathes of the country. Al Jazeera

South Sudan Rebels Urge President to Rescind New States Decree
An official with South Sudan’s rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar said South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s decree creating 28 new states violates the spirit of the August peace accord. In his Christmas Eve decree, Kiir also appointed 28 new governors, all of them loyal to him. The president’s announcement came as rebel advance teams are in Juba to work with their government counterparts on modalities for the joint implementation of the August peace agreement. Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth is the secretary for foreign affairs of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition. He said the rebels are urging President Kiir to rescind his Christmas Eve decree. VOA

Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan Meet over Renaissance Dam
The Ethiopian, Egyptian, and Sudanese Foreign Affairs and Water Resources Ministers will meet today in Khartoum over the Grand Renaissance Dam. The second round of talks this month on the Ethiopian power project aims at ironing out differences on the dam project particularly as it relates to technical aspects and impact on the downstream countries, Sudan Tribune reported on Sunday. Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour told the press that the preparatory meeting earlier this month discussed the status of the consultancy firms assigned to probe the effects of the dam on Sudan and Egypt. The FM said the talks were also meant to put in effect the declaration of principles signed by the leaders of the three countries in Khartoum last March. Though the declaration tacitly approves the dam construction, it calls for technical studies aimed at safeguarding the water quotas of the three riparian states. Radio Dabanga

A Tale of Two Alis
Of the roughly one million migrants who arrived in Europe by sea this year roughly a quarter, according to the UN refugee agency, were children. British barrister Hashi Mohamed, once a child refugee himself, went to Italy to meet some new arrivals – and with one in particular he made an immediate connection. On an Air France flight from Nairobi to London, 10-year-old Ali is excitedly marking a piece of paper with crayons. He feels a little panic when the flight arrives in London – he wants to return the materials, but where is the flight attendant? When she finally appears she assures him that he can keep them. “Take them with you,” she says. That was my elder brother, Ali, and his most enduring memory of our arrival to the United Kingdom. It was July 1993.  BBC

Sudan Is a Waypoint on East Africans’ Trek to Europe
[…] Thousands of migrants and refugees, especially from neighboring Eritrea and Ethiopia, come to Sudan every year. Many arrive with plans to earn some money and to connect with smuggling networks, making Khartoum a major launching pad for migrants heading to the Mediterranean and, ultimately, to Europe.  “There are people who come here with the sole purpose of moving, stay for a few months, work, gather money and go,” said Renata Bernardo, project coordinator at the International Organization for Migration in Khartoum.  The migrants and refugees say they are escaping harsh political and economic realities in their own countries, and sometimes both. In Eritrea, torture, extrajudicial executions, disappearances, forced labor and sexual violence are widespread and systematic, according to the United Nations, along with an indefinite military conscription system. The New York Times

UN Commander Brings Hope to 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 feel 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.  News 24

How Long Can Angola Hold on with Low Oil Prices?
After petroleum prices started to fall in the late summer of 2014, oil-exporting countries worldwide have been facing difficulties. Oil-dependent Angola is no exception. The remarkable economic growth that helped promote Angola to upper middle-income status has lost its momentum. And the country’s macroeconomic improvements, applauded by the International Monetary Fund and others alike, are proving inadequate for dealing with the difficulties Angola is now facing. Oil production has a long history in the country. During the country’s 27-year-long civil war, which ended in 2002, the oil sector continued to thrive even as infrastructure and human resources were devastated. Furthermore, after the end of the civil war, new deep-water discoveries helped transform Angola into the second largest petroleum producer on the continent.  African Arguments

WHO Declares Guinea Free of Ebola
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Guinea free of Ebola, two years after the epidemic began there. Guineans are expected to celebrate the landmark with concerts and fireworks. The disease killed more than 2,500 people in the West African state, and a further 9,000 in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia. Sierra Leone was declared free of Ebola in November, but new cases have emerged in Liberia, which had been declared Ebola-free in September.  BBC

On Streets of Harare, Few Takers for China’s Yuan
Zimbabwe abandoned its worthless dollar in 2009, and the southern African nation started using almost all major currencies such as the U.S. dollar, South African rand and British pound. But now, following the recent visit of Chinese leader Shee Jeen-peeng Xi Jinping, China’s yuan will become Zimbabwe’s reserve currency. Former high school teacher Edward Chara now drives a taxi in Zimbabwe and imports goods for sale in the country. He says no to the yuan. Zimbabwe imports most of its goods from other countries, he says. He predicts problems for people who want to go to other countries and will have to exchange U.S. dollars with yuan. Spiwe Sibanda shares his opinion. She imports computers and parts from South Africa to sell in Harare. VOA

A Disease So Neglected it’s Not Even on ‘Most-Neglected’ Lists
[…] Mycetoma is as disabling as it is putrid. This much has been known for centuries. When the English physician Philip Manson described mycetoma in his seminal textbook from the 1950s, Manson’s Tropical Diseases, he wrote that patients’ limbs sprout “warty outgrowths resembling barnacles,” and those tumors, dissected, contain strands “resembling the excrement of earthworms.” But almost nothing has been learned about the disease since then because there is virtually zero funding for it — outside of the small amounts of money that Fahal raises for work at the Mycetoma Research Center, with help from the Sudanese American Medical Association. Though the worldwide incidence of mycetoma is not known, in a 2013 report in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, researchers documented cases from 23 countries. Since the Mycetoma Research Center’s clinic opened in Khartoum in 1991, 7,210 people have been diagnosed there. NPR

Africa in 2015, The Optimist’s Take: Bye Bye Ebola, Hello Democracy
There was a moment in September when it looked like Burkina Faso’s popular revolution was in tatters. General Gilbert Diendéré, head of the presidential guard and right-hand-man to exiled president Blaise Compaoré, had thrown the interim government into jail and seized power for himself. But Burkinabés were having none of it. Within days, it was Diendéré and his henchmen who found themselves in detention, unable to resist a potent combination of popular protests, firm regional diplomacy and an army that remembered its first duty was to the people, not politicians. There was no doubt, in this case, that the people had spoken. They would speak again, in the postponed ballot which was eventually held in November. This was a joyous, cathartic affair. The winner, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, may not have represented a huge change from Compaoré but what really mattered was that for the first time in their history, the Burkinabé got to choose a leader for themselves.  The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones