Media Review for February 1, 2016

Officials: Boko Haram Burns Kids Alive in Nigeria, 86 Dead
A survivor hidden in a tree says he watched Boko Haram extremists firebomb huts and heard the screams of children burning to death, among 86 people officials say died in the latest attack by Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremists. Scores of charred corpses and bodies with bullet wounds littered the streets from Saturday night’s attack on Dalori village and two nearby camps housing 25,000 refugees, according to survivors and soldiers at the scene just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram and the biggest city in Nigeria’s northeast. The shooting, burning and explosions from three suicide bombers continued for nearly four hours in the unprotected area, survivor Alamin Bakura said, weeping on a telephone call to The Associated Press. He said several of his family members were killed or wounded.  AP on Stars and Stripes

Burundi Government Refusal Blocks African Union Plan to Deploy Troops
African leaders failed on Sunday to authorise a proposed peacekeeping force to stem violence in Burundi in the face of vehement opposition from the government in Bujumbura. Instead, the African Union is to send envoys for more talks, although previous negotiations have done nothing to end months of conflict. The United Nations has warned that Burundi risks a repeat of the 1993-2006 civil war, with hundreds of people killed since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would stand for a controversial third term. At least 230,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries. Burundi has consistently opposed the idea of the AU’s planned 5,000-strong peacekeeping mission, saying the deployment of troops without its express permission would be tantamount to an “invasion force”. France 24

African Union Goes Backwards on Burundi
[…] Several ambassadors emerged from the PSC meeting on Friday saying that things in Burundi weren’t so bad after all; that the severity of the situation had been exaggerated. The PSC also declined to ask the AU’s general assembly to approve its plan for a peacekeeping force, a logical next step. This was interpreted by many observers as a reversal of its December decision, and a marked easing of the pressure on Burundi’s government. “It’s a victory for the Burundian government, there’s no other way to look at it,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, editor of the PSC Report. Instead of a peacekeeping force, the AU will now send an as-yet-unappointed high-level panel at an unspecified date to Bujumbura to promote “inclusive dialogue”, and to, yet again, encourage Nkurunziza to change his mind. But it doesn’t sound like they are going to try too hard. “If Burundi comes back and says they feel they can do the peacekeeping, and do everything else, that is their sovereignty,” said Erastus Mwancha, deputy chair of the AU Commission. Daily Maverick

Some African States Oppose AU Peace Force for Burundi – Gambian Pres.
Some African states oppose sending peacekeepers to Burundi without its consent after it said that would be seen as an invasion, Gambia’s president said on Saturday at the start of an African Union summit. Rifts in Africa about whether to deploy the 5,000-strong force will worry Western powers and others, who fear Burundi will slide into ethnic conflict if there is no intervention. The African Union’s peace and security council announced the plan for the force in December, but Burundi swiftly rejected it. […] Leaders from the 15 members of the council met on Friday in a bid to resolve differences but failed to reach a decision, said Smail Chergui, the AU’s peace and security commissioner. An African diplomat said South Africa and Tanzania, two main brokers of the peace deal that brought Nkurunziza to power in 2005, were among those opposed to sending an unwanted force. Reuters

AU Adopts President Uhuru’s Proposal for Mass Withdrawal from ICC
The African Union Sunday adopted a proposal by President Uhuru Kenyatta for the AU to develop a road map for the withdrawal of African nations from the Rome Statute. The proposal was adopted together with a report by the AU Ministerial Committee of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, that draws a red line for the ICC over how it has been handling the case against Deputy President William Ruto and Joshua arap Sang. The document asks the ICC to terminate the case against the DP and Sang as the case lacks any believable evidence. President Kenyatta said Africa should make a powerful statement that reflects its refusal to be carried along in a system that has no regard for the sovereignty of nations and tramples on the security as well as the dignity of Africans. He said the only option left for Africa was to completely withdraw from the Rome Statute because the utility of the ICC at this time of global turmoil is extremely limited.  The Standard

U.N. Chief Tells African Leaders Not to ‘Cling to Power’
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told African leaders on Saturday they should not use legal loopholes or undemocratic constitutional changes to “cling to power”, and that they should respect term limits. Ban was addressing a two-day summit the African Union, a group of 54 states where several leaders have been in power for decades, some have changed constitutions so they can stay on and others are accused of seeking to remove limits. The debate about term limits has gained momentum after triggering unrest in places such as Burundi and Congo Republic. “Leaders should never use undemocratic constitutional changes and legal loopholes to cling to power. We have all seen the tragic consequences when they do,” Ban told the gathered presidents, including Zimbabwe’s veteran leader Robert Mugabe. It echoed remarks made by U.S. President Barack Obama in the same AU hall on a trip to Ethiopia in July.  Reuters

Chad President Closes AU Summit in Ethiopia
The African Union’s new Chairperson, Chadian President Idriss Deby, urged African leaders on Sunday to engage in dialogue to end violence in Burundi and South Sudan. Deby told delegates at the closing ceremony of this year’s AU summit that they must take action before thousands of people die as a result of the violence in the two eastAfrican nations. He welcomed the resolutions reached by officials at the summit and asked them to continue working on resolving the issues that undermine progress in the continent. CCTV talked to Nii Akuetteh, the Executive Director of The African Immigrant Caucus in Washington DC. CCTV

Libya: ISIS Wants its Own Navy to Attack Cruise Ships, NATO Officer Warns
Islamic State militants want to build their own navy to attack cruise ships in the Mediterranean, a senior NATO naval officer has warned. ISIS is looking to expand its reign of terror to international waters as it grows in influence in Libya, Vice-Admiral Clive Johnstone told the U.K. Telegraph. “We know they have had ambitions to go off shore,” Johnstone said. “We know they would like to have a maritime arm, just as Al-Qaeda had a maritime arm.” The commander of Nato’s maritime command also said there is now the “horrible opportunity” a cruise liner or container ship could be hit as ISIS casts an “uncomfortable shadow” along the Libyan coast.  Time

US Has no Plans Yet to Attack ISIS Forces in Libya: Pentagon
The United States has not decided whether to launch military action in Libya, where the Islamic State group is exploiting political instability to expand its operations, Pentagon chief Ashton Carter said Thursday. Washington is “developing options for what we might do in the future,” Carter told reporters. But he added: “We’re watching the situation very carefully, and there’s a lot going on there right now. But we haven’t made any decisions to take military action there.” “We’re looking to help them (the Libyans) get control over their own country and, of course, the United States will support the Libyan government when it forms,” he said. World powers have urged Libya’s warring factions to endorse the unity government formed last week under a UN-brokered deal aimed at ending the political paralysis that has fueled the rise of IS jihadists. Defense Talk

IS Rebels Swoop on a Divided Libyan State
Islamic state (IS) militants have been exploiting the crisis, with western intelligence officials reporting the organization is building up quickly in Libya. Already, the battle between the internationally recog­nised government in Tobruk and the General National Congress coalition in Tripoli – under the control of sundry Islamist factions – has effectively partitioned the country. The Tobruk government has reached an agreement with the United Arab Emirates to sell Libyan oil independently of Tripoli, and the two sides are battl­ing for control of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, with well over $100bn at stake. More dissident groups have emerged in recent months, complicating the work of the United Nations team trying to negotiate a power­sharing deal. So far, five deadlines for a political agreement have passed without any sub­stantial progress. Without a deal, divisions between the western region of Tripolitania and the east’s Cyrenaica are deepening.  Africa Report

Suspected Militants Hit Crude Pipeline in Nigeria’s Bayelsa State
A crude oil pipeline in Nigeria’s southern state of Bayelsa operated by the local subsidiary of Italy’s Eni was attacked on Thursday night, a state lawmaker told reporters on Saturday. This is the second major attack on the OPEC member’s installations since an arrest warrant was issued this month for former militant leader Government Ekpemupolo, known as Tompolo. The hits follow years of relative calm in the country’s oil-producing region after a 2009 amnesty halted a spate of attacks on oil installations and kidnappings of expatriate workers. “I want to condemn the latest attack on the Agip pipeline at Kpongbokiri. This is a clear sabotage by economic saboteurs,” Israel Sunny-Goli, a member of the Bayelsa state assembly, said after preliminary investigations had been concluded. He said attackers hit a crude pipeline near Brass, a coastal city and site of a crude export terminal. Eni operates in Nigeria through its subsidiary Nigerian Agip Oil Company. A spokesman for Nigeria’s state oil company said he could not yet say whether exports would be affected. Reuters

Nigeria: Buhari’s Southern Dilemma Heating up
There are few moments in which being the president of Nigeria is easy, but over the next six months, Muhammadu Buhari is likely to face some of his toughest tests yet. How his administration deals with these issues could define the government’s relationship with the country over the next four years. The two major challenges coming to a head in the near future are clear to see. On the economic front, low oil prices are squeezing the government budget and undermining the country’s economic prospects. Meanwhile, on the political front, tensions in the Niger Delta and South East continue to simmer as the local economy continues to contract and could heat up further as election re-runs are held over the next few months. What is less clear, however, is how far these two matters could interact with one another to produce an even more troubling mix. African Arguments

Crude Tactics: Cheap Oil is Causing a Currency Crisis in Nigeria. Banning Imports is No Solution
[…] The government’s response to the crisis has been three-pronged. First, it is trying to stimulate the economy with a mildly expansionary budget. At the same time, it is trying to protect its dwindling hard-currency reserves by blocking imports. Third, it is trying to suppress inflation by keeping the currency, the naira, pegged at 197-199 to the dollar. Only the first of these policies seems likely to work. The budget, which includes a plan to spend more on badly needed infrastructure, is a step in the right direction. Although government revenues are under pressure from the falling oil price, Mr Buhari hopes to offset that by plugging “leakages” (a polite term for theft) and taxing people and businesses more. That seems reasonable. At 7%, Nigeria’s tax-to-GDP ratio is pitifully low. Every percentage point increase could yield $5 billion of extra cash for the coffers, reckons Kayode Akindele of TIA Capital, an investment firm. Mr Buhari also plans to save some $5 billion-$7 billion a year by ending fuel subsidies—a crucial reform, if he sticks with it. Even so he will be left with a deficit of $15 billion (3% of GDP) that will have to be filled by domestic and foreign borrowing. Yet his policies on the currency seem likely to stymie that. The central bank has frozen the naira at its current overvalued official rate for almost a year. The various import bans (on everything from soap to ballpoint pens) are supposed to reduce demand for dollars, but have little effect. Businesses that have to import essential supplies to keep their factories running complain that they have been forced into the black market, where the naira currently trades at 300 or more to the dollar.  The Economist

Nigeria Asks for $3.5bn Emergency Loans
Nigeria has asked the World Bank and African Development Bank for $3.5bn in emergency loans to fill a growing gap in its budget in the latest sign of the economic damage being wrought on oil-rich nations by tumbling crude prices. The request from the eight-month-old government of President Muhammadu Buhari is intended to help fund a $15bn state deficit, which has been deepened by a hefty increase in public spending as the west African country attempts to stimulate a slowing economy. It comes as concerns grow over the impact of low oil prices on petroleum exporting economies in the developing world. Azerbaijan, which last month imposed capital controls to try and halt a slide in its currency, is in discussions with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund about emergency assistance.  Financial Times

‘France Hopes to End Military Operations in Central African Republic this Year’
Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said today that France hopes to end its military operation in the Central African Republic this year. Speaking to French media on Sunday, Le Drian said that the aim is to bring the operation to a halt. “I hope this is done during 2016, with small units remaining on the Central African territory as was the case earlier,” he said.  RFI

South Sudan Troops Suffocated 50 People in Container: Monitors
South Sudan government troops killed about 50 people by stuffing them into a shipping container in baking heat, ceasefire monitors said in a report noting the latest atrocities in two years of war. Despite an August peace deal, fighting continues, and the conflict now involves multiple militia forces who pay little heed to paper peace deals, driven by local agendas or revenge attacks. The report, by the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), was submitted to the African Union (AU) summit and made public late Sunday. The atrocity, titled “concerning the killing of civilians in Unity State”, was one of several listed as examples of ceasefire violations carried out by forces on both sides. AFP on Yahoo News

S. Sudan Pushes for AU’s Rejection of Proposed Sanctions
South Sudan government said it was lobbying leaders attending the African Union heads of states summit to include in the final communiqué a text rejecting imposition of sanctions on officials seen as obstacles to its peace process. The country’s foreign affairs minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin said his delegation, comprising of its chief negotiator in talks with the armed opposition, Nhial Deng Nhial met and held talks with several African leaders to explain what South Sudan government was doing on the peace process. Discussions, he told Sudan Tribune, also focused what role Juba expected African leaders to play in their capacities to convince and halt western nations and the United Nations Security Council from imposing sanctions. Sudan Tribune

Uganda General Opposed to Museveni Arrested
A military general who opposes Uganda’s longtime president has been arrested, according to his lawyer. He says General David Sejusa, who has called President Yoweri Museveni a dictator, is being detained at a military barracks in the Ugandan capital Kampala. Sejusa’s arrest is likely to raise tensions before the presidential elections on February 18. Neither the government or military has commented on why Sejusa was detained. Museveni has ruled Uganda since 1986, when he led a group of rebels, including Sejusa, against a government they accused of rigging elections. Sejusa now openly accuses Museveni of violating the ideals for which they waged that guerrilla war. VOA

Ugandan Presidential Candidates Now Plan to Seal Rigging Loopholes
There have been calls against vote rigging on the presidential campaign trail, but the eagerness by the three major candidates — President Yoweri Museveni, Dr Kizza Besigye and Amama Mbabazi — to protect their votes appears to be a key determinant, notes a new study published in the East African Journal of Peace and Human Rights. Vote protection has been drummed up especially by Dr Besigye, the candidate for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), who claims that he has been rigged out in all the past three elections he has been involved in. His insistence is backed by two rulings from the Supreme Court on election fraud, a number of election observer reports about the same and more recently, utterances by a high ranking army official who was involved in the 2006 elections. His party has frequently been faulted for lacking a nationwide network that is present at all the 28,010 polling stations where ballot stuffing reportedly happens.  The East African

US Announces $97 Million for Ethiopia Drought, Famine Relief
The United States aid agency has announced $97 million in emergency assistance for Ethiopia to help address the “ongoing humanitarian crisis resulting from the impacts of the El Niño phenomenon.” “The United States Government is helping Ethiopians cope with the impacts of El Niño, and our additional assistance will build on an ongoing response effort,” said Gayle Smith, USAID Administrator in a statement released Sunday . The agency said the seasonal warming over the Pacific Ocean “has significantly impacted weather patterns, limiting agricultural production, straining livelihoods, and exacerbating food insecurity among poor and vulnerable households.” USAID said the assistance included more than 176,000 metric tons of food that would be distributed to over four million Ethiopians and refugees. VOA

Several Killed in Al Shabab Raid on Kenya’s Lamu County
At least three men were killed in a village in Kenya’s coastal Lamu county in the early hours of Sunday during a raid claimed by Somalia-based armed group al-Shabab. At least five gunmen came to Pandanguo village, searching for men. They interrogated them and killed some of them, a survivor who was shot during the attack said from a local hospital. The village sits about 40 km inland from the Indian Ocean town of Lamu, which is popular with Western tourists, and is 100 km from the border with Somalia. “They asked me questions in the Somali language. When I struggled to respond, they shot me but hit my hand,” said the victim, who asked not to be named. The Al-Qaeda-linked rebel group claimed the early morning raid in a phone call to Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera

EALA Declines to Summon Rwanda over Rebel Claims
The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has said it will not summon Rwanda to respond to allegations that it is supporting insurgents against Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza. Rwanda has frequently denied that it provides arms and logistical support to groups seeking to destabilise Bujumbura. However, the allegations resurfaced at EALA as a delegation from Burundi defended a petition by human-rights groups to have the country suspended from the EAC. EALA Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution Committee chairman Abdullah Mwinyi however told The EastAfrican that it would not summon Rwanda. “Rwanda is free to respond during the parliamentary debate next week on the allegations made by the Burundi government on public hearing but my committee won’t summon it,” Mr Mwinyi said. Last December, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame dismissed as “childish” allegations that Rwanda had stoked instability in Burundi and said Rwandan troops would play no part in any intervention in the neighbouring country. The East African

Mozambique’s Opposition Leader Threatens to Seize Power
Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique’s former rebel movement Renamo, has claimed that last week’s attempted assassination of the Renamo General Secretary, Manuel Bissopo, was an attempt to persuade Renamo to abandon its plans to seize power in six central and northern provinces as from March. In a long interview published in the latest issue of the anti-government weekly “Canal de Mocambique”, Dhlakama declared “all this will finish”, and “Renamo will govern”. He claimed “I am organizing myself” to seize power in his target provinces (Manica, Sofala, Tete, Zambezia, Nampula and Niassa). Without offering any evidence, he claimed that the attack on Bissopo was the work of the ruling Frelimo Party, and returned to his past allegations that Frelimo has repeatedly tried to assassinate him. Since he was now in a bush hideout in the central district of Gorongosa, “where they know it will not be easy to catch me, they went to shoot against the person I left dealing with matters, who is the secretary-general”. allAfrica

Egypt Takes Delivery of More Rafales
The Egyptian Air Force has received a second batch of three Rafale fighter jets from Dassault. On Thursday the aircraft arrived in Cairo from France. The aircraft were all two-seat Rafale DM variants – on 16 February 2015, Egypt ordered 16 two-seat DMs and eight single-seat Rafale EMs. The first three delivered were also two-seaters and arrived in Egypt on 21 July 2015, allowing them to take part in the opening of the expanded Suez Canal in August. The Rafales will be operated by the 203rd Tactical Fighter Wing ‘Storm’/34 Squadron ‘Wild Wolves’. Egyptian Rafales will be armed with Mica air-to-air missiles, Scalp cruise missiles and AASM Hammer guided missiles. DefenceWeb

The Army And Its President:  To Keep the Armed Forces Happy, President Sisi is Giving Them Egypt’s Economy.
A year and half since taking office, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi continues to enjoy a broad base of popular support thanks to his zero-tolerance policy on Islamism, his grandiose nationalist development projects, and his tight grip on public discourse. But popular support can be fickle, and unlike Hosni Mubarak, his predecessor in authoritarianism, Sisi doesn’t have a dominant political party to mobilize on his behalf. In fact, he doesn’t have any formal political institutions behind him at all; his abrupt rise to power through what was essentially a popular military coup never afforded him that opportunity. While the country’s new parliament has an all-star cast of high-profile Sisi supporters, most ran as independents and have yet to assemble into a reliable, lasting coalition, much less a single party with as much political clout as Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. When the going gets tough, Sisi can hardly count on this parliament to sway public opinion in his favor. Only one institution has the strength and legacy of popular support to secure his place in office: the Egyptian Armed Forces (EAF).  Foreign Policy

Helicopter Pilot Killed on Tanzania Anti-Poaching Mission
A British helicopter pilot was fatally shot by elephant poachers while flying an anti-poaching mission in Tanzania, a member of Parliament and a conservation fund said Saturday. Roger Gower was working with Tanzanian wildlife authorities when the poachers fired on his helicopter and fatally wounded him Friday, said Dan Friedkin, chairman of the Texas-based non-profit Friedkin Conservation Fund. “We are profoundly saddened by the loss of our dear friend,” he said. Gower managed to land the chopper but died before he was able to be rescued, said Lazaro Nyalandu, the country’s former tourism minister, who said he flew with Gower many times. CNN



Photo: Adam Jones