Media Review for February 2, 2016

Has African Union Let Down Burundi?
African solutions to African problems is the mantra, but when it came to trying to sort out the situation in Burundi, heads of state have pulled back from taking decisive action. In December the African Union’s Peace and Security Council was unequivocal in its condemnation of the violence in Burundi and pledged to send a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force, regardless of what the government thought. But just over a month later, AU leaders at this weekend’s meeting in Addis Ababa abandoned those plans and instead opted to send a delegation to hold talks. Commissioner for Peace and Security Council Smail Chergui explained why. “We want dialogue with the government, and the summit decided to dispatch a high-level delegation,” he said. BBC

UN Rights Chief Alarmed by Deepening Crisis in Burundi
United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he is alarmed by the deepening crisis in Burundi and warns action must be taken to stop the country’s descent toward a possible bloodbath. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed regret Monday at the African Union’s decision not to send a peacekeeping force of 5,000 to Burundi. He said the AU plan has been placed in the freezer for the time being, while further negotiations with Burundian authorities take place. “We remain deeply concerned about the trajectories and the vectors that…still point to the deepening of the crisis. And, of course, we are very fearful of a precipitous event that may trigger a slide into the abyss,” Zeid said. VOA

‘I’ll Rule Until I Die’ an Insult to Zimbaweans
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has come under attack from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for saying during the just ended African Union summit in Ethiopia that he would rule the country until he dies. In a statement on Monday, PDP Youth Assembly Chairperson, Moses Manyengavana said Mugabe’s utterances were irresponsible and an insult to the suffering masses. “It is detestable that a leader who has been at the helm of this country for 36 years still harbours ambitions to continue as the country’s chief executive. What is more appalling to Mugabe’s assertions is that the 36 years of his rule have been 36 long years of suffering which saw more than 20 000 people massacred in a genocide in the early 80s, the economy completely destroyed and unemployment rising to a shocking 91%,” he said. IOL News

Mugabe Speaks His Mind to Rapturous Applause at African Union
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe handed over the chairmanship of the African Union to the Chad President Idriss Déby at the 26th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. Pomp and fanfare marked the atmosphere at the African Union hall on Saturday, as Mugabe gave his final speech as chairman before African leaders. The speech lasted for nearly an hour amid incessant interruptions with rounds of applause. His inauguration, a year before, had attracted equal fervour from African leaders. In his final speech as AU chairperson, Mugabe told United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, in attendance, to advise the West to “shut their mouths” in voicing its opposition to his 35-year rule. Africa Report

Uganda Explains Arrest of Former Intelligence Chief
The government of Uganda says the country’s former intelligence chief, General David Sejusa, who has called President Yoweri Museveni a dictator, was arrested Sunday in Kampala by the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) following a 2½-hour search of his home by the military. This comes as the country prepares for presidential elections on February 18. President Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, is seeking re-election. Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said Sejusa was arrested because he has been actively involved in partisan political activities. “First of all as you know, General Sejusa ran out of Uganda. Then he was given clemency on his return,” Opondo said. VOA

Arms Flows to South Sudan Rivals Revealed in UN Report
South Sudan’s government has purchased three attack helicopters from a company in Ukraine and is seeking to obtain another four through a Kampala-based company “closely connected to the Ugandan security establishment,” a United Nations panel of experts says in a report published on Friday. Sudan, meanwhile, has been “the default arms supplier to the opposition” led by Riek Machar, the panel further reports. But those supplies have fallen short of what is needed by opposition fighters, leading Mr Machar to seek arms from numerous sources, “albeit with comparatively limited success,” the UN experts add. “Former opposition members speculated that the Sudan intended to supply sufficient ammunition to keep the opposition fighting while not providing it with either sufficient materiel or the kind of equipment (in particular, surface-to-air missiles) required to defeat the government,” the report states. Africa Review

Bishop Slams South Sudan Leaders
A Catholic clergy has hit out at the South Sudan politicians for failing to ease the suffering of their people. Speaking at the St. Theresa Cathedral Church in Juba on Sunday, the Auxiliary Bishop Santo Loku Pio said the politicians were collectively responsible for dragging the nation into war. He challenged both the government and the SPLM-in-Opposition to fully commit to resolving the crisis and restore stability. Overcome hatred “The situation in the country requires our Christian stand to overcome hatred and division through love and forgiveness. All South Sudanese leaders must cultivate in their hearts the spirit of love to create a safe and free nation,” said Bishop Pio. He said it was sad to see the people suffering in the hands of their own brothers and sisters and advised the political leaders to avoid the use of the military to seize power. The East African

Donors Pledge $250m to Fight Boko Haram
Donors at the African Union summit pledged on Monday $250m for the fight against Boko Haram insurgents, AU Peace and Security Council chief Smail Chergui said. Boko Haram, facing the heat of a military onslaught in Nigeria, has in the past year stepped up cross-border attacks in Niger, Chad and Cameroon, while continuing shooting and suicide assaults on markets, mosques and other mostly civilian targets within Nigeria itself. Despite offensives by the regional force with troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, the Islamist jihadists maintain strongholds in areas that are difficult to access. But Chergui praised the success of the force at the close of an AU summit on Sunday, saying territory had been wrested back.  News 24

Boko Haram Crisis: Amnesty Condemns Reinstatement of Nigeria General
Amnesty International has criticised the reinstatement of a Nigerian general it accuses of war crimes in the fight against Boko Haram. The campaign group named Maj Gen Ahmadu Mohammed and eight other officers in a report last year, accusing the military of killing more than 8,000 detainees. “It is unthinkable” to recall the officer, who was sacked in 2014, before an inquiry had even begun, it said. The military is investigating the allegations, a spokesman told the BBC. “These are just allegations – until proven, no-one should be punished unnecessarily,” military spokesman General Rabe Abubakar said, confirming that Gen Mohammed had been reinstated.  BBC

Boko Haram Exposes Nigerian President’s Empty Promises to Defeat Islamist Terror Group
He [Buhari] came to power on a promise of ending the endemic corruption that had become rife under his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, and offering his own guarantee as a military man that Boko Haram’s days were numbered. He has largely over-promised and under-delivered. “There is a difference between what he would like to do and what he is able to do,” said Richard Dowden, director of the Royal African Society. “He made a promise to tackle corruption, in a country where the only way to get something done is to bribe somebody. Nigeria is almost ungovernable, but he has also been slow to make reforms.” If Mr Buhari, “a straight talking military man” according to Mr Dowden, has had little time to cement changes in Nigerian society, he has been quick to laud apparent successes against Boko Haram. In an interview at the end of last year, he said that the Nigerian army, criticised in some quarters for its ineffective performance against the insurgents, had “technically defeated” Boko Haram.  The Independent

Nigeria is Running Out of Cash
Nigeria is considering asking the World Bank, the African Development Bank and other international organizations for help to plug a hole in this year’s budget created by the collapse in crude oil prices. The government said it is looking to borrow as much as $9 billion to fund its cash-starved economy. The 75% plunge in crude prices to around $33 per barrel means Nigeria is now losing money on some of the oil it pumps. Nigeria is the second major oil producing country, after Azerbaijan, to admit it might need emergency financing because of low crude prices. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is also the continent’s biggest oil producer. The sector accounts for about 35% of GDP, 75% of government revenue and 90% of export earnings. CNN Money

As Trading in Nigerian Stocks Plunges, Kenya Closes Gap: Chart
The value of trading in Nigerian stocks fell to $860 million in the last three months of 2015 — the lowest level in dollar terms since the third quarter of 2011 and almost half of what it was at the beginning of 2013 — as foreign investors flee a weakening economy and to avoid losses from a currency devaluation they see as all but inevitable. Turnover on the main index in Kenya, which has an economy barely a 10th the size of Nigeria’s, is catching up, climbing to $411 million in the final three months of 2015 from $90 million in the first-quarter of 2013. Bloomberg

Despite Intelligence Shake-Ups, It’s Politics as Usual in Algeria
[…] The agency’s dissolution seems to indicate that such a grip is loosening, but whether or not it will drastically change civil-military relations in Algeria is unclear. John Entelis, a professor of political science at Fordham University and a leading scholar of Algeria, says that even with the DRS’ dissolution, the army will remain an important factor in Algerian politics. The move was more of a “redefining and reconfiguration of the what the intelligence service should be doing,” he says, particularly in relation to its previous role, which evolved in the context of the brutal civil war and terrorist attacks that wracked the country in the 1990s. That domestic focus shifted after the In Amenas attack, as the Algerian government increasingly acknowledged regional threats, particularly in Mali and Niger. “Part of the move has to do with that shift from internal to external terrorist threats,” Entelis explains. “There’s some logic to what’s been happening.” What’s less apparent, however, is if the decision in fact came from Bouteflika or from other regime figures, signaling deeper institutional changes within what Algerians refer to simply as “le pouvoir,” or the power—the dark network of military, financial and political players ruling the country. World Politics Review

Who Are the Senegalese Men Joining the Islamic State Group?
One of the young Senegalese men who left to wage jihad under the banner of the Islamic State (IS) organisation in Libya was a promising young medical student named Sadio Gassama. Now he and his fellow fighters proudly post on Facebook about their new lives as members of the jihadist group. This comes as a shock to Sadio’s former classmate, who remembers Sadio as pious, but not as someone who’d wage jihad.  France 24

Isil Recruiting Migrant ‘Army of the Poor’ with $1,000 Sign-up Bonuses
The Islamic State is building an “army of the poor” in its new haven in Libya by recruiting footsoldiers from Africa’s poorest nations, Libyan intelligence chiefs say. The terror group’s Libyan chapter is swelling its ranks by offering cash bounties of up to $1,000 to people from impoverished neighbouring countries such as Chad, Mali and Sudan. In countries where many earn barely $1 a day, even a few hundred dollars is the equivalent of a year’s salary. Libyan officials admit that they are almost powerless to stop the incomers, many of whom reach Libya using existing people-smuggling routes used by African migrants heading to Europe. Isil (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is copying a strategy first used by Libya’s late dictator, Colonel Gaddafi, who recruited thousands of mercenaries from black Africa to serve in his armies and to suppress the revolution that overthrew him five years ago. The Telegraph

Kikwete Appointed AU Special Envoy to Libya
The African Union Sunday appointed former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete its new special envoy to Libya. Mr Kikwete replaces Mr Dileita Mohamed Dileita of Djibouti, who has occupied the post since 2014. The appointment of Mr Kikwete gives a high profile to the AU’s attempts to restore peace in the North African country that has been rocked by violence since the ouster of long time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Mr Kikwete’s appointment was announced by the AU’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, Mr Smail Chergui, during a briefing that touched on many subjects among them Burundi, Somalia and South Sudan. The East African

Talk of Gbagbo Trial Banned in EGuinea
TV reports on the crimes against humanity trial of former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo in The Hague have been banned on Equatorial Guinea’s state broadcaster. “We’ve been forbidden from airing Laurent Gbagbo’s trial due to his friendship with our president,” a ranking state media official told AFP, referring to President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. The RTNGE network in Spanish is watched by around 85% of the population. The charges against Gbagbo are linked to post-election violence in Ivory Coast in 2010-2011, which also was ordered kept off screens in Equatorial Guinea because of what authorities said was the principle of “non-intervention in another country’s internal affairs.”  News 24

Gbagbo Accuses France of Helping Ouattara Topple Him by Force at ICC Trial
Lawyers for deposed Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo accused current President Alassane Ouattara of seizing power by force with the help of France, Côte d’Ivoire’s former colonial ruler, at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on Monday. Gbagbo and codefendant Charles Blé Goudé face four charges of crimes against humanity relating to the violence that followed disputed elections in 2010. RFI

DRC: Who is Moise Katumbi, the Congo’s Most Popular Man?
Moise Katumbi is one of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) most powerful men and viewed by many as a symbol for change in a country two-thirds the size of Western Europe, but with fewer paved roads than Luxembourg. The former governor of the mineral-rich Katanga province (which is roughly the size of Spain), owner of highly successful football club and current African champions, TP Mazembe and a politician with unrivalled popularity is intent on democratic progress in a country which has never experienced a peaceful transition of power. He was formerly part of the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) and once a supporter of current president, Joseph Kabila, but resigned in September 2015 over the incumbent’s attempts to unconstitutionally hold on to power. Explaining his decision to quit the PPRD in 2015, he said: “As we enter the final stretch of the President of the Republic’s last constitutional mandate, facts show that for the last year, everything seems to have been done to bypass the constitution, with delays, vagueness and illegibility of the electoral cycle and a strategy of shift of the election dates.” International Business Times

UN, DRC Forces to Resume Joint fight Against FDLR Rebels
The United Nations military force has joined forces with the Democratic Republic of Congo government to conduct joint operations against the FDLR rebel group. The initiative announced by the UN last week on Thursday puts an end to a nearly year-long stalemate between the UN forces, known as MONUSCO, and the DRC army. Disagreement over human rights issues had prevented the two forces from carrying out a long-planned offensive intended to defeat the FDLR, which has been terrorising the eastern DRC for 20 years. The group comprises mainly of Rwandan Hutu rebels believed responsible for a rampage earlier this week that left 14 Congolese villagers dead and drove 20,000 others from their homes. That attack continues the “cycle of misery” experienced by millions of Congolese victimised by the FDLR and other rebel groups, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday. The anti-FDLR partnership between MONUSCO and the DRC army broke last year over human rights violation claims. Daily Nation

Somali President Palace Targeted by Mortars; One Person Dies
Mortar rounds hit the vicinity of Somalia’s presidential palace in the capital, Mogadishu, killing at least one person in an attack claimed by al-Qaeda-linked militants. Six mortars were fired at Villa Somalia in the south of the city on Monday. There was one fatality and six other people were injured when shells struck their homes, Shire Salad, a local police officer, said by phone. Al-Shabaab, the Islamist group that’s been fighting the Somali government for the past decade, claimed responsibility in an announcement on Radio Andalus, a broadcaster that backs their insurgency. While the militants have lost territory since being driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 by government and African Union forces, they continue to stage deadly gun and bomb attacks. At least 25 people died when suspected al-Shabaab militants attacked a beach-front restaurant and hotel in the city last month. Bloomberg

Exercise Cutlass Express 2016 Commences
Maritime forces from eastern Africa, western Indian Ocean island nations, Europe and the United States, as well as several international organizations began the fifth iteration of the multinational maritime exercise Cutlass Express on January 30. Cutlass Express 2016, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness (MDA) and information sharing practices to increase capabilities of participating nations to counter sea-based illicit activity. “Cutlass Express is another great example of the global network of Navies. During this exercise, partner nations will come together and increase maritime security,” said Vice Adm. James Foggo III, Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet. DefenceWeb

Oxfam: $1.9B in Ebola Aid Not Delivered by Donors
International donors have failed to deliver $1.9 billion in promised funds to help West African countries recover from the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people and decimated already weak health care systems, the U.K.-based charity Oxfam said Sunday. The remaining $3.9 billion pledged has been difficult to track because of “scant information” and a lack of transparency, the group said. “We’re finding it hard to understand which donors have given what money, to whom and for what purpose,” said Aboubacry Tall, Oxfam’s regional director for West Africa. Oxfam called on donors and the governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – the three hardest-hit countries – to provide detailed information on how aid is being provided. AP on Stars and Stripes

Mauritania’s Depleted Seas Highlight Need for Fishing Transparency
Mauritania has some of West Africa’s richest fishing waters yet overfishing by foreign trawlers means that hundreds of pirogues, or wooden canoes used by small-scale fishermen, must go further out to sea to net ever smaller catches. Fishing is an important part of the mostly desert country’s economy, accounting for 7 percent of gross domestic product and providing about 40,000 jobs, according to the World Bank. Last week, Mauritania’s minister for economic affairs, Sid’Ahmed Raïss, warned that as West Africa’s chronic food insecurity forces more people to try their hand at fishing, “overfishing by foreign boats is threatening our way of life”. “Other countries in the Sahel show us, for example, how poverty and unemployment make fertile ground for organised crime and terror. Take fisheries away from our people, and they will have little else to lose,” he said in a statement.  Reuters

How the British Empire’s Gay Rights Legacy is Still Killing People to this Day
Homosexuality is illegal in 34 of Africa’s 56 states. In Mauritania and parts of Nigeria it’s a crime punishable by death and in states such as Gambia, Sierra Leone and Tanzania it could mean up to life imprisonment. Only a handful of states have in place anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people. Same-sex marriage, legal only in South Africa, has been constitutionally banned by eight states. For the most part, the criminalisation of homosexuality in Africa is a direct result of colonialism, with much of the anti-homosexual legislation introduced by European states still in place. But recently, political pandering and religious influence have seen countries such as Gambia and Nigeria introduce laws which further restrict the human rights of their LGBT populations. The Independent

Uganda’s Zika Forest, where the Virus Was First Discovered
The Zika virus is named after the Zika Forest of Uganda, where it was first detected more than 70 years ago by scientists researching yellow fever. And both the virus and the forest remain little known in Uganda, according to the BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga, who recently visited the forest. “When you ask Ugandans where the Zika Forest is, most wouldn’t know,” she says. “It’s quite forgotten. It’s your average woodland — green, lush vegetation, trees and some monkeys.” The word Zika, in fact, means overgrown in the local language. In 1947, however, the forest was a focal point for global disease research, with scientists testing wildlife and insects for signs of yellow fever. By accident, they came across a different and apparently harmless virus transmitted by mosquitoes to monkeys. They named it Zika. PRI



Photo: Adam Jones