Media Review for February 3, 2016

The Burundi Intervention That Wasn’t
[…] Led by aging and unaccountable strongmen like Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who came out publicly against MAPROBU at the summit, the AU Assembly, the organization’s highest decision-making authority comprising heads of state, decided not to deploy the proposed peacekeeping mission and walked back the AU’s threat to force it on the Burundian government. “It has been, I think, bad communication. It was never the intention of the African Union to deploy a mission to Burundi without the consent of Burundian authorities,” Ibrahima Fall, the AU special representative for the Great Lakes region, told French radio RFI on Sunday. “This is unimaginable.” Established in 2001 to replace the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the original pan-African association of the postcolonial era, the African Union has played a much more aggressive role than its predecessor in solving the continent’s myriad armed conflicts. In the words of Alpha Oumar Konaré, former chairman of the AU Commission, it has replaced the OAU’s doctrine of “non-interference” in the affairs of member states with one of “non-indifference.” Foreign Policy

US Ambassador Samantha Power: ‘The Match Could be Laid’ to Ignite Burundi Conflict
Many warn it’s reminiscent of the early days of the holocaust that engulfed neighboring Rwanda in 1994. “A match could be laid down, lighting up whole communities that have so far stayed peaceful,” US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power says. “Right now we are in a world of trying to prevent a small fire from becoming a large one,” she adds. Power blames a Burundian president “in denial,” and an opposition aided by Rwanda that has “radicalized over time.” Her fears are bolstered by reports over the weekend, that the African Union has abandoned plans to send peacekeepers to Burundi. That’s on the heels of satellite imagery released on Friday, showing what appear to be mass graves on the outskirts of the capital, Bujumbura. Burundi’s most recent troubles began in April, when its President Pierre Nkurunziza insisted on running for a third term, ignoring a constitution that barred him from doing so. The clashes that followed have taken hundreds of lives, and displaced hundreds of thousands.  PRI

New Commander of UN Mission in DR Congo Takes Office
The new commander of the UN Mission for Stabilisation of Congo (MONUSCO), Gen. Derrick Mgwebi, on Tuesday, officially took over his office at the mission’s headquarters in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo). MONUSCO’s Spokesman, Felix Bass, said the 59-year-old South African officer replaces Brazilian Carlos Dos- Santos-Cruz, who ended his mission towards the end of last year after serving for two years. He said Mgwebi who has a military experience of 35 years, would himself define his priorities at the helm of MONUSCO. The spokesman said the commander would continue with the work that has already been achieved, by Gen. Dos- Santos-Cruz, with the support and advise his deputy, Gen. Jean Baillaud. The Sun

Explosion Forces Plane to Make Emergency Landing in Somalia
An explosion and fire blew a gaping hole in a commercial airliner forcing it to make an emergency landing at Mogadishu’s international airport late Tuesday, officials and witnesses said. The pilot said he thinks it was a bomb. An aviation expert who looked at photographs of the hole in the fuselage said the damage was consistent with an explosive device. Two people were slightly injured as 74 passengers and crew of the plane were evacuated after the plane made a safe landing, Somali aviation official Ali Mohamoud said. It was not certain if all the passengers were accounted for. The plane, operated by Daallo Airlines and headed to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, was forced to land minutes after taking off from the Mogadishu airport, said Mohamoud. “I think it was a bomb,” said the Serbian pilot, Vladimir Vodopivec, who was quoted by Belgrade daily Blic. “Luckily, the flight controls were not damaged so I could return and land at the airport. Something like this has never happened in my flight career. We lost pressure in the cabin. Thank god it ended well,” the 64-year-old pilot said. USA Today

US Court Clears Way for Torture Lawsuit Against Alleged Somali War Criminal
An appeals court ruling which denied an alleged war criminal from Somalia immunity from prosecution in a US courtroom is only a partial success, a human rights group said on Monday. The decision by the fourth circuit court of appeals in Virginia has opened a path for an individual lawsuit for torture and attempted murder against Colonel Yusuf Abdi Ali, who was head of the Somali army’s Fifth Brigade during the brutal Siad Barre dictatorship of the 1980s and who fled to Canada before settling in the US. The California-based Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), which represents Ali’s alleged victim, Farhan Warfaa, said the three-judge panel’s ruling that stripped specific war crimes and crimes against humanity elements from the case was disappointing.  The Guardian

Algeria Set to Approve New Constitution
For the second time since he came to power nearly two decades ago, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will amend the country’s constitution. After five years of consultations, which mostly took place behind closed doors, the long-awaited constitutional reforms package is likely to be passed this week by Algeria’s Assembly and Senate. Both legislative chambers are controlled by the ruling National Front for Liberation (FLN). Because of Bouteflika’s poor health, the long-serving Algerian president has not actively campaigned for these changes. The 78-year-old suffered a stroke in April 2013 and has since been bound to a wheelchair, making only brief appearances in public and meeting foreign leaders at his private residence in the west of Algiers. Al Jazeera

S. Sudan Rebels Accuse Gov’t Forces of Using Chemical Weapons
South Sudan’s armed opposition group, (SPLM-IO) on Monday accused forces loyal to the Juba government of allegedly using chemical weapons on their forces in Lanyi and Mundri in East county of western equatoria state. Colonel Nyarji Roman, the deputy spokesperson in the office of the SPLM-IO chairman told Sudan Tribune there was a heavy fighting between government forces and opposition forces loyal to Riek Machar in Lanyi and Mundri areas Sunday. Nyarji said he had received a report from the ground that government forces left their base in Lanyi and entered towards the SPLM-IO site where the fighting took place. Sudan Tribune

Civilians Starving in South Sudan War Zones
South Sudanese civilians are dying of starvation as warring forces flout a peace deal, the chief ceasefire monitor said on Tuesday, adding he was “staggered” at conditions after two years of war. The United Nations say thousands have fled recent fighting in the previously peaceful southern farming region around Mundri in Western Equatoria, close to the border with Uganda. “I am staggered that things have been allowed to get this bad, and I continue to urge you, the leaders of South Sudan, to do whatever you can to ensure the humanitarian effort is successful,” said Festus Mogae, a former Botswana president, who is pushing efforts to form a unity government. Mogae heads the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), set up as part of a stalled August peace deal by the regional bloc IGAD. News 24

Interview. Riek Machar on the Future Peace in South Sudan
Setting up a unity government in South Sudan has been further delayed, a setback in efforts to end a brutal conflict that has killed thousands of people over the past two years. Despite missing key deadlines, warring parties were scheduled to establish a transitional government after a peace deal was signed by President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar in August. But the progress has been slow. Al Jazeera spoke to Riek Machar of the armed opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM/A IO) about the efforts to implement the signed peace deal.  Al Jazeera

IS Pushed Back in Iraq, Syria, but a Threat in Libya: Kerry
An international coalition is pushing back Islamic State militants in their Syrian and Iraqi strongholds but the group is threatening Libya and could seize the nation’s oil wealth, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday. Officials from 23 countries are in Rome to review the fight against Islamic State militants, who have created a self-proclaimed Caliphate across swathes of Syria and Iraq, and are spreading into other countries, notably Libya. Islamic State forces have attacked Libya’s oil infrastructure and established a foothold in the city of Sirte, exploiting a power vacuum in the North African country where two rival governments have been battling for supremacy. “In Libya, we are on the brink of getting a government of national unity,” Kerry told the Rome conference. “That country has resources. The last thing in the world you want is a false caliphate with access to billions of dollars of oil revenue.” Reuters

Libyan Lawmakers Sacked for Signing UN-Backed Unity Deal
Libya’s unrecognised Islamist-backed parliament on Tuesday dismissed 10 lawmakers who signed a UN-brokered deal to set up a national unity government, members said. First deputy head of the Tripoli-based General National Congress, Awad Mohammed Abdul-Sadiq, told a news conference the GNC “sacked some of the members who signed” the December agreement in Morocco. Those parliamentarians were not “authorised” to ratify the deal and were excluded from the GNC because they “violated the (2011) constitution” and their pledge to respect the charter, he added. A spokesman told AFP the decision affected 10 parliamentarians, including GNC vice president Saleh el-Makhzoum. Libya has had two rival administrations, with the recognised authorities based in the country’s far east and a militia-backed authority in Tripoli since the summer of 2014. In mid-December, only a minority of lawmakers from both sides signed the UN-backed deal to unify the government in the oil-rich North African nation. Ahram

Egypt’s Tourism Collapse Stretches From the Pyramids to the Beach
Suspicions that a bomb sent a Russian passenger plane crashing into the Sinai Peninsula are damaging Egyptian tourism in ways that five years of political upheaval did not. About 1 million tourists visited Egypt in November and December, down 41 percent from last year and the lowest number during these peak months since at least 2005, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Tourism wasn’t that weak even in November and December 2013, when deadly confrontations between security forces and Islamist supporters were a near-daily occurrence. “You cannot call what’s happening a drop, it’s a collapse,” said Amani El-Torgoman, board member of the Egyptian Tourism Federation. “There is definitely an overreaction to the plane crash, and it is devastating.”  Bloomberg

Zimbabwe Chief Prosecutor Charged over Mugabe Bomb Plot Case
Zimbabwe’s chief prosecutor has been charged with obstructing the course of justice after allegedly dropping charges against people accused of plotting to bomb the president’s dairy. Four army officers also appeared at the magistrates court in the capital Harare charged with treason. Attorney General Johannes Tomana denies the charges. He was brought to court in the back of a police pick-up truck. The milk production plant is run by President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace. BBC

Ship Hijackings Down in 2015, Piracy Mostly Low-Level Theft
A global maritime watchdog said Tuesday that ship hijackings declined in 2015 from a year earlier, while sea piracy incidents increased slightly but consisted mostly of low-level theft. The International Maritime Bureau said in its annual piracy report that 246 piracy incidents were recorded worldwide, one up from 2014. It said pirates hijacked 15 vessels and held 271 hostages, down from 21 ships and 442 hostages in 2014. It attributed the drop in hijackings to a fall in attacks against small fuel tankers around Southeast Asia’s coasts, the last of which occurred in August. It praised Malaysian and Indonesian authorities for taking swift action to arrest and prosecute two gangs that hijacked tankers, including the arrest of some alleged masterminds. The bureau, whose piracy reporting center is based in Kuala Lumpur, said Southeast Asia accounted for most of the world’s incidents. It said almost 55 percent of the attacks were against vessels that were underway, mostly involving low-level theft, but that this was a worrying trend because it increased the potential risks to the vessels and their crews. AP on Stars and Stripes

Nigeria and Angola May Have to Devalue Currency
The Nigerian and Angolan governments’ decision to approach the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB) for concessionary loans could lead to a devaluation of the countries’ currencies. Both countries, Africa’s biggest oil producers, desperately require support to help survive the regime of low crude oil prices and strained public finances. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is seeking to spend its way out of an economic crisis triggered by a collapse in oil prices. Mr Buhari has proposed boosting this year’s budget to a record 6.1-trillion naira ($30.6bn). Nigerian Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said last month the authorities would borrow about $5bn in external debt from multilateral agencies and the Eurobond market to plug a budget gap of 3-trillion naira. Legislators in Nigeria’s parliament would begin deliberations this week on the 2016 spending plan, Ms Adeosun said at the weekend. Authorities would begin nondeal roadshow meetings with investors to sound out a potential sale of $1bn of Eurobonds this month, she said. Business Day Live

ICC: What Next for Africa and the Tribunal in Quest for Justice?
At this weekend’s AU summit Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta took the lead in accusing the court for unfairly targeting Africans. Until his case was dropped by the court, he had been accused alongside his deputy William Ruto of masterminding post-election violence in the East African country in 2007-2008 in which some 1,200 people died. In a strongly worded statement Kenyatta said, “We refuse to be carried along in a vehicle that has strayed off course to the detriment of our sovereignty, security and dignity as Africans”. However, no legally binding decision was made, and the decision to leave the ICC founding Rome Statute is up to each individual nation. Deutsche Welle

Bottled Water is ‘the New Gold’ in Harare
Harare has developed a huge appetite for bottled water. An estimated 300000 litres change hands daily in this city of just over 1.6million inhabitants, with Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, saying that imports have reached “crazy” proportions. Buyers include poor families as well as rich, and such is the upswing in demand that bottled water now outsells alcohol and soft drinks in some desperately thirsty neighbourhoods. The reason for the boom is simple: what’s coming out of the tap in many homes and businesses is increasingly undrinkable. “Municipal water is smelly. Often we see visible dirty particles floating,” Precious Shumba, chair of the Harare Residents’ Trust, the biggest civic pressure group in the city, said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation. As water quality declines, in part the result of worsening drought, some families who drink or bathe in what comes out of the tap are becoming sick, with problems from rashes to typhoid, health authorities say. Times Live

Dozens Killed in Suspected Boko Haram Attack in Northeast Nigeria
Suspected Boko Haram fighters attacked a village in Nigeria’s volatile northeast over the weekend, burning huts and detonating a suicide bomb. An emergency services spokesman says around 40 people are dead. The attack started late Saturday, when fighters stormed Dalori, a village on the outskirts of the Borno State capital Maiduguri. Northeastern coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency Alhaji Muhammed Kanar said villagers fled as the fighters approached. “They scared the people and then they rushed outside. They run out of the village, almost all of them, and [the attackers] set the whole village at a blaze,” said Kanar. The villagers regrouped, thinking they were safe. That is when the suicide bomber struck. “The suicide bomber detonated his explosives, thereby killing, he killed so many people in there,” he said. VOA

Thousands Turn Out in Niger to Back Jailed Presidential Hopeful
Around 10 000 people shouting “Hama for president!” packed a Niger rally in support of jailed opposition figure Hama Amadou, who is running for president in elections this month despite being in detention. TV images aired on Tuesday showed cheering supporters wearing T-shirts and caps bearing Amadou’s name at a rally on Monday organised by his party, the Democratic Movement of Niger (Moden), in Dosso, about 100km south of the capital, Niamey. Amadou, a former premier and parliament speaker, was arrested in November on his return from exile in France and jailed for his alleged role in a baby trafficking scandal. He left the west African country in August 2014 after losing his parliamentary immunity over the allegations of baby trafficking between Nigeria, Benin and Niger. News 24

Uganda’s General Sejusa Charged with Insubordination, Remanded in Prison
Former Ugandan intelligence chief and outspoken critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been charged and remanded in Luzira prison in Kampala’s suburb as tensions mount ahead of a presidential poll this month. General David Sejusa, 61, was in military court Tuesday charged with absence without official leave, participating in partisan political activities and insubordination. However, he denied all the charges before being remanded to Luzira prison until February 9 when he will return to court. In the first count, court chaired by Maj Gen Levi Karuhanga heard that Gen Sejusa in April 2013 while a representative of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in parliament was given permission of absence for three weeks but upon expiry of the said leave, he did not return to the August House. The East African

Africa, Asia Vulnerable to Spread of Zika Virus – WHO
The Zika virus linked to a microcephaly outbreak in Latin America could spread to Africa and Asia, with the world’s highest birth rates, the World Health Organisation warned as it launched a global response unit against the new emergency. The WHO on Monday declared an international public health emergency due to Zika’s link to thousands of recent birth defects in Brazil. “We’ve now set up a global response unit which brings together all people across WHO, in headquarters, in the regions, to deal with a formal response using all the lessons we’ve learned from the Ebola crisis,” said Anthony Costello, WHO director for maternal, child and adolescent health. “The reason it’s a global concern is that we are worried that this could also spread back to other areas of the world where the population may not be immune,” he told a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday. The East African

The Ebola Rape Epidemic No One’s Talking About
When the Ebola epidemic reached its peak in Liberia in September 2014, Tina Williams was 14 years old, five months pregnant, and feverish. She had been raped and abandoned by her boyfriend. Now she lay in bed shivering and praying that she was sick with malaria, not Ebola. Williams and her baby girl later tested negative for Ebola, but they were Ebola survivors of a different kind. As the virus swept across West Africa infecting nearly 30,000 people, so did another contagion: outbreaks of rape, sexual assault, and violence against women and girls. While public health workers tallied the number of Ebola-infected patients, girls like Williams who were victims of gender-based violence went uncounted. Only now are we learning that Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone saw a surge in teenage pregnancy likely caused by an increase in the incidence of rape during the epidemic. In parts of Sierra Leone, the teenage pregnancy rate increased 65 percent during the Ebola epidemic, according to a study by the United Nations Development Program. Data on rape and teenage pregnancy in the region is hard to obtain because of under-reporting. But studies by Plan International and Save the Children documented increases in teenage pregnancy ranging from 10 to 65 percent in Ebola-affected countries. Foreign Policy

An Insight into South Africa’s Counter-Piracy Operation
In a candid assessment of South Africa’s commitment to a continued presence in the Mozambique Channel as a deterrent to piracy, an SA Navy Commander maintains it is not necessary for South Africa to be actively fighting the piracy threat. Commander Dieter Jones, now Officer Commanding Naval Base Durban and formerly Officer Commanding SAS Isaac Dyobha, adds the pertinent rider that “given the transnational nature of the crime (piracy) and the non-discriminatory nature of its effect, it is of utmost importance that all States, littoral and landlocked, become involved, acknowledge a shared responsibility and tackle the crime as a collective”. He was addressing a Military Attaches Advisory Group (MAAG) meeting in Pretoria and told those present that “combined maritime forces must continue to conduct joint counter-piracy operations, improve inter-agency efforts and foster multi-national co-operation to remove the threat of maritime insecurity and reinforce regional stability and security”. DefenceWeb

South Africa’s Zuma to Pay Back Money for Home Upgrade
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma will pay back some of the public funds used to upgrade his private home, his office said Wednesday, attempting to end a two-year scandal that has plagued his government. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, the country’s ombudswoman, ruled in 2014 that Zuma and his family had “benefited unduly” from the work on Zuma’s rural residence of Nkandla. Among the supposed security upgrades were a swimming pool described as a fire-fighting facility, a chicken run, a cattle enclosure, an amphitheatre and a visitors’ centre. “To achieve an end to the drawn-out dispute… the president proposes that the determination of the amount he is to pay should be independently and impartially determined,” said a presidential statement. The exact sum will be determined by the treasury and police ministry, it added. AFP on Yahoo News

Israel’s Unwanted African Migrants
For nearly a year Israel has been offering African migrants cash and the chance to go and live in what is supposed to be a safe haven in a third country – but the BBC has spoken to two men who say that they were abandoned as soon as they got off the plane. One was immediately trafficked, the other left to fend for himself without papers. Adam was 18 when he arrived in Israel in 2011. Attackers had burned down his home in Darfur at the height of the genocide, and he had spent his teenage years in a UN refugee camp in another part of Sudan. With no prospects in the camp and no sign of an end to the conflict in Darfur, he made his way north through Egypt and the lawless Sinai peninsula to Israel. BBC

African Leaders, Top American CEOs Explore Opportunities at Business Summit
The US-Africa Business Summit is underway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Tuesday as African Heads of State and American business leaders meet with the objective of boosting trade and investment between the region and the US. Underlining that the current volume of trade and investment between the two sides was not enough, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn highlighted the need to increase economic interaction especially in productive sectors. “Today Africa is rising. Africa’s future is very bright. I believe the summit will help you to discover the potential for investment and doing business in Africa,” the Premier told US business representatives at the opening of the summit. Organised by the Corporate Council on Africa and held every two years, the 2016 summit is being attended by around 1,200 participants including CEOs of major US and African companies. Reports show that challenges such as poor infrastructure and corruption have kept American companies away despite the continent being an investment magnet for other emerging economies such as China. The East African

18 Elephants on a Plane: Move from Swaziland to U.S. is Criticized
More than a dozen elephants from southern Africa are being moved to American zoos, a plan that critics say will imperil the animals. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service last month approved the transfer of the 18 African elephants from Swaziland to three destinations: the Dallas Zoo; the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas; and the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha. A statement from the wildlife service said the animals were threatened by habitat destruction and drought in Swaziland — and were scheduled to be culled. The three zoos have formed a partnership to import the animals, saying that dozens of elephants are confined to fenced enclosures in two privately managed parks in Swaziland, a small, landlocked country bordering South Africa and Mozambique. The zoos said they had not bought the animals but instead would donate money to the country’s rhino-conservation efforts. The wildlife service approved the permit, saying in a statement on Jan. 21 that several conditions had been met to import of the elephants, including: the move would not be detrimental to them; they would be suitably cared for; and they would not be used for primarily commercial purposes. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones