Media Review for February 4, 2016

Top IS Commanders ‘Taking Refuge’ in Libya
Several senior commanders from the so-called Islamic State have moved to Libya from Iraq and Syria in recent months, according to a top Libyan intelligence official. The official told BBC Newsnight that increasing numbers of foreign fighters had arrived in the city of Sirte. Representatives from 23 countries, including the US and UK, met in Rome on Tuesday to discuss the growing threat from Islamic State (IS) in Libya. IS took control of Sirte last year. Disagreements between rival administrations in the country have hampered efforts to fight IS. BBC

Nigeria President Warns of Libya ‘Time Bomb’
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari urged the international community on Wednesday to help end the turmoil in Libya, warning that it was creating a “strategic time bomb” for Africa and Europe. In a speech to the European Parliament, Buhari said the situation in lawless southern Libya was particularly alarming as it was creating a flow of arms affecting Nigeria and other countries. Buhari is fighting to end a bloody six-year insurgency in Nigeria by Islamist group Boko Haram, which is estimated to have caused the deaths of 17 000 people and forced more than 2.6 million others to flee their homes. In the past year the group has extended its reach beyond the borders of Nigeria, stepping up attacks in Niger, Chad and Cameroon.  News 24

Ansar al Sharia Libya Relies on al Qaeda Ideologues to Guide Followers
Jihadist groups around the globe denounced Saudi Arabia’s execution of more than 40 men in early January. Some of those sentenced to death had taken part in al Qaeda’s first campaign to disrupt the kingdom between 2003 and 2006. It was only natural, therefore, that al Qaeda, its regional branches and other affiliated groups would decry the House of Saud’s decision to follow through on the death sentences. However, Ansar al Sharia Libya’s response was especially noteworthy. In a three-page statement released via Twitter on Jan. 15, the group compared those executed to senior al Qaeda leaders killed in America’s drone campaign. “Al Salul [a derogatory reference to the Saudis] recognizes the importance of the true righteous scholars who control jihad with the correct provisions from the book of Allah Almighty and the sunna of His messenger, peace and blessing be upon him, and the impact of the absence of these scholars on the jihadist arena,” Ansar al Sharia Libya’s officials wrote, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal.  The Long War Journal

Burundi Rebels Say Trained by Rwandan Military: U.N. Experts
A confidential report to the United Nations Security Council accuses Rwanda of recruiting and training Burundian refugees with the goal of ousting Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. The report by experts who monitor sanctions on Democratic Republic of Congo, which was seen by Reuters on Wednesday, contained the strongest testimony yet that Rwanda is meddling in Burundi affairs and comes amid fears that worsening political violence could escalate into mass atrocities. The report cites accounts from several rebel fighters, who told the sanctions monitors the training was done in a forest camp in Rwanda. Nkurunziza’s re-election for a third term last year sparked the country’s crisis and raised concerns that there could be a bloody ethnic conflict in a region where memories of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide are still fresh. The experts said in the report that they had spoken with 18 Burundian combatants in eastern Congo’s South Kivu province. “They all told the group that they had been recruited in the Mahama Refugee Camp in eastern Rwanda in May and June 2015 and were given two months of military training by instructors, who included Rwandan military personnel,” according to the report.  Reuters

Burundi Accuses Kagame of Trying to Stoke Conflict
The ruling party in Burundi has accused Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame of attempting to trigger ethnic violence in Burundi. In a statement on the state broadcaster, CNDD-FDD spokesman Jelase Ndabirabe started off by thanking African leaders for deciding, at their weekend summit in Ethiopia, not to send an African Union force to Burundi. He went on to say that the proposed force was masterminded by Mr Kagame and Burundi’s former President Pierre Buyoya in a plot to get Mr Buyoya back into power. Mr Kagame and Mr Buyoya have not commented on the allegation, but Rwanda has repeatedly denied that it is interfering in Burundi. Daily Trust

Burundi Calls for Arrest of Coup Plotters Living in Exile
Burundi prosecutor on Tuesday urged foreign governments to arrest all exiled Burundians who planned the May 13-14, 2015 coup and hand them over to the country’s judiciary so that they can answer for their crimes. According to Agnes Bangiricenge, the secretary general of Burundi’s Supreme Court, authorities are seeking 34 people who include 21 civilians and 12 security officers. Some of the 21 civilians include the former vice-president of the republic Bernard Busokoza of UPRONA party, former spokesman for the presidency Leonidas Hatungimana of the ruling party CNDD FDD and the ruling party’s former spokesman Onesime Nduwimana. Former journalists are also being sought and they include Nduwimana Patrick who was running Bonesha FM, a private radio station, Bob Rugurika who was running the popular African Public Radio and Innocent Muhozi who was running Renaissance radio-television. Xinhua

“Let Us Be Heard”: Burundi’s Refugees tell Stories of Ethnic Targeting
Since April 2015, at least 240,000 people have fled Burundi as it has descended into a violent political crisis. A large proportion of these refugees have journeyed north into neighbouring Rwanda, and tens of thousands have ended up here at Gashora Reception Centre before being transferred for more permanent stay at Mahama Refugee Camp. Many have been separated from their loved ones back in Burundi, who may or may not still be alive, and each has his or her own unique story of loss, suffering, and violence. According to official records, the camp received around 17,000 people in April and another 19,000 over the subsequent fourth months before numbers dropped to hundreds per month. Approximately 60% of these are under 18. However, the total number of refugees to this area is likely to be significantly higher. Burundians are only taken to Gashora if they indicate at the border office that they are fleeing for political reasons. But with many are afraid to admit being refugees, large numbers say they are crossing into Rwanda for economic motivations or to visit family. Many of these try to assimilate in the nearby town of Nyanza. African Arguments

South Sudan Strikes new Deal with Sudan on Oil Transit Charges
South Sudanese government on Wednesday announced that it has reached an understanding with the government of neighbouring Sudan from which it seceded in 2011 to reduce charges for transporting crude oil to the international markets through Sudanese territory. South Sudanese minister of petroleum and mining, Stephen Dhieu Dau, told reporters after concluding a closed door meeting with his Sudanese counterpart had reached an agreement to review the charges considering the sharp fall in oil prices. “Our meeting has finished. We have discussed and agreed in principle to review the agreement, especially the section related to the oil and now we have resolved to negotiate. And when we negotiate on the transitional financial arrangement in particular, it will not be a fixed $15 per barrel as it was agreed in 2012. It will be fluctuating up and down depending on the prices of the crude globally,” minister Dau told reporters on Wednesday.  Sudan Tribune

South Sudan Rebel Leader Visits Egypt
South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar visits Egypt Wednesday at the invitation of Egyptian leader Abel Fattah El Sissi. Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, secretary for foreign affairs of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition, said talks will center on getting Egypt to support the implementation of last August’s agreement to end the South Sudan conflict. Machar’s visit comes on the heels of last week’s African Union summit, where leaders expressed disappointment in both the rebels and the South Sudan government on the lack of progress in implementing the agreement, particularly the formation of a government of national unity. Implementation has been stalled due to the opposition rejection of President Salva Kiir’s decision to create 28 states. Gatkuoth says Egypt has had historic relations with South Sudan, and Machar will urge Sissi to use those relations to help the peace process. VOA

Bomb Suspected in Deadly Explosion on Somali Jet
merican officials said Wednesday that an explosion on a Somali jetliner that punched a three-foot hole through its fuselage in midair and killed one passenger was most likely caused by a bomb. Their preliminary assessment heightened fears that the Shabab militant group in Somalia, suspected in the explosion, had figured out a way to plant the bomb in the plane. The explosion on Tuesday rocked the Daallo Airlines flight, an Airbus A321, soon after it left Mogadishu, the capital, blasting a hole above the right wing. Two passengers were seriously hurt; another was apparently sucked out of the plane. It was unclear if he had been killed by the blast or by the plunge to the ground. Somali officials said Wednesday that they had recovered the body of an older man who had fallen from the sky several miles outside Mogadishu.  The New York Times

Zuma Blinks Again: Home-Cost Concession Signals Waning Power
South African President Jacob Zuma’s agreement to repay state funds spent on renovating his private home marked his second major climb down in two months and showed his grip on power is weakening. After denying liability for two years, Zuma said on Tuesday he was ready to refund part of the 215.9 million rand ($13.3 million) used to upgrade his private home at Nkandla in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province. He made the announcement before a Feb. 9 hearing by the nation’s highest court to decide whether he was liable to refund some of the costs. In December, Zuma was forced to backtrack on the appointment of a little-known lawmaker as finance minister after the rand and the nation’s bonds dived. […] “The president’s sense of political invincibility seems to have been dented by cumulative events,” Fikeni said by phone from Pretoria. “President Zuma, who is in his mid-term, might be reaching that point of being a lame duck.” The ANC said in an e-mailed statement that Zuma’s move should help bring closure in the matter.    Bloomberg

No Ship Currently on Station for Operation Copper
Operation Copper, the South African Development Community (SADC) counter-piracy tasking led by South Africa, has been on hold maritime-wise since mid-December. The tasking sees South African military assets, airborne and maritime, patrolling the Mozambique Channel. It has its origin in the hijacking of the ship Vega 5 by Somali pirates in the Mozambique Channel and was formally adopted in August 2011 with two components – intelligence gathering and military deterrence. The military deterrence side of the operation has, defenceWeb has reliably been informed, not seen a SA Navy vessel on station since mid-December. Indications are sailing and patrol orders will be forthcoming after Armed Forces Day (February 21). When asked to confirm that no ship was currently patrolling SANDF Corporate Communication said: “The SANDF’s presence in the Mozambican Channel is based on regular patrols depending on the threat assessment”.  DefenceWeb

Analysis: Sliding Rand Has Serious Implications for SANDF
The steady slide in the value of the Rand since 2011 holds serious implications for the Defence Force, with the dramatic slide in December serving to underscore that. That recent slide may yet be reversed in the near term, but the longer-term trend will be more difficult to reverse. The obvious risk is to equipment projects, and that faces the Defence Force with challenges it will find difficult to overcome. Government’s foot-dragging over equipment projects since the ‘Strategic Defence Packages’ has left the Defence Force very patchily-equipped: It has some modern equipment courtesy of those packages (frigates, submarines, Gripen, Hawk, Lynx) and 1990s projects (Rooikat, G6, Rooivalk, Oryx), and the is Badger entering production, but much else is obsolescent at best (Olifant, Casspir, Mamba, Samil, C-130) or totally obsolete (Dakota). There are also critical capability gaps: The Navy has too few ships and half are obsolete; there are no maritime patrol aircraft; and the Army lacks real air defence capability. Assuming South Africa intends to play a regional role, there are also the lack of heavy/long-range airlift, tanker aircraft and sealift to consider. DefenceWeb

Funding Falls Short for Task Force to Fight Nigeria’s Boko Haram
Funding for a multinational force to combat Boko Haram’s deadly Islamist insurgency in West and Central Africa remains well short of its target, an African Union official said on Tuesday. So far donors, including Nigeria, Switzerland and France, have pledged about $250 million to fund the 8,700-strong regional force, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council said after a meeting in Addis Ababa to discuss funding. The talks followed the militia’s latest attack, which killed at least 65 people in northeast Nigeria on Saturday. The $250 million includes both previous pledges and those made during Monday’s conference, said Orlando Bama, communications officer for the African Union’s Peace and Security Council. He did not give further details. Reuters

Benin Navy Guarding Greek Tanker, Hostages Held in Nigeria
The navy of Benin is guarding an oil tanker hijacked by militants who are holding five crew members hostage in Nigeria, Nigeria’s navy and a shipping security expert said Wednesday. The Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned MT Leon Dias is anchored off Cotonou, Benin’s commercial capital, Nigerian navy spokesman Commodore Kabir Aliyu told The Associated Press. He gave no details about the crew and hijackers. The hijackers disembarked from the vessel on Sunday and took five hostages with them – the captain, chief engineer, third engineer, the electrician and a fitter, said Dirk Steffen, maritime security director of Denmark-based Risk Intelligence. The ship then sailed to Cotonou, he told the AP. Owner Leon Shipping and Trading in Athens did not answer requests for comment. AP onStars and Stripes

Pipeline Attack Signals Renewed Niger Delta Tensions
An attack on a petroleum pipeline in Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta region last week sent crude gushing into creeks and raised fears of a renewed insurgency in the country’s oil production heartland. Senator Ben Murray-Bruce says the flow of oil from a ruptured pipeline near the Bayelsa State community of Brass has been stopped. He says he didn’t know how much oil has been spilled. A spokesman for Italian multinational Eni, parent company of pipeline operator Agip, did not respond to an email for comment. Last week’s attack marks the fifth time an oil installation in the delta has been sabotaged since the start of the year, said Mike Karikpo, program manager for Nigerian environmental group Environmental Rights Action. VOA

Nigerian Leader Says Army will Limit Use of Force
Nigeria’s president says his country’s military will only use the minimum force necessary to deal with extremists after calls for an investigation into senior commanders over abuses, including the deaths of more than 8,000 detainees. President Muhammadu Buhari told European Union lawmakers Wednesday that Nigeria’s military has updated its “rules of engagement in fighting terrorism” and that care is being taken in “the treatment of captured terrorists.” He said attention would be paid to civilians caught up in any fighting and protecting property. Amnesty International demanded last year an investigation into nine commanders, including Maj. Gen. Ahmadu Mohammed, over possible war crimes including more than 8,000 detainee deaths since 2011. Buhari promised a probe and to deal with any abuses by the military, but nothing has been done.  AP onStars and Stripes

Algeria Moves Forward with Disputed Constitutional Reforms
Algeria’s parliament meets from Wednesday to consider a package of constitutional reforms that authorities say will strengthen democracy but critics have denounced as window dressing. Analysts say the reforms are meant to address longstanding public grievances in the North African nation, and possibly to prepare for a smooth transition amid concerns for the health of 78-year-old leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The president and his inner circle have held a firm grip on power since 1999 and, as the end of his rule appears to close in, there are fears of instability in the mainly Muslim country of 40 million, a key energy producer. Dominated by Bouteflika supporters, Algeria’s lower and upper houses are expected to adopt the reforms on Sunday, after the full package is presented by Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on Thursday. News 24

Egyptian Court Overturns Death Sentences of Morsi Supporters
An Egyptian appeals court on Wednesday overturned death sentences for 149 pro-Islamists accused of killing policemen in a mob attack on their station, a judicial source said. The court ordered a retrial for the defendants over the attack, which killed 13 policemen near Cairo on August 14, 2013 the day police shot dead hundreds of Islamist demonstrators in the capital. The initial ruling in February 2015 came amid a series of death sentences in mass trials that were criticised internationally, as the government cracked down on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. The court had also sentenced 37 people to death in absentia, but they would have to hand themselves in for a retrial.  France 24

Egypt and Russia: Do They Really Understand Each Other?
Even as the flight ban imposed since the downing of the Russian airplane over Sinai remains in place, and continues to damage the Egyptian economy, Russia’s politicians have landed in Cairo for the first time since the incident. During this first high level of talks since the ban the two sides took off from where the two presidents had left at the beginning of the crisis and tried to establish connections between institutions on both the sides, including enhancing security in the airports of Egypt. The first to visit Cairo was a Russian Parliament delegation led by speaker of the lower chamber, Serguey Naryshkin. Media in both the countries gave a lot of attention to the visit, focusing not only on the significance of the visit itself but also on bilateral relations. Naryshkin was also expected to address the issue of flight ban. Hence reports of ban being lifted soon occupied the headlines.  Al Arabiya

Zambia Shuts Top Universities after Student Riots
Authorities in Zambia on Wednesday closed the country’s top two public universities after students went on the rampage protesting at non-payment of food and book allowances. University of Zambia students burnt tyres and used logs to barricade the main road leading from the airport into the capital city Lusaka in protests that started late on Tuesday, according to police. Their peers at the Copperbelt University in the central city of Kitwe also staged violent protests, prompting the authorities to send students home. “Due to the lack of a conducive environment for learning at the two universities, it has been decided that the two universities close indefinitely,” Higher Education Minister Michael Kaingu said in a statement. Police said they had arrested than two dozen protesters for riotous behaviour. News 24

Mayotte: Island of Death
Against the backdrop of today’s refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, another tragedy has gone almost unreported on the east coast of Africa between Mozambique and Madagascar. Mayotte, one of the four islands in the Comoros archipelago, used to be a French Overseas Territory but now is part of France, the 101st departement of the Republic. But it is also at the centre of a crisis unfolding in the Indian Ocean. Mayotte covers almost 400 square kilometres and has a population of about 214,000, the majority of whom are Muslim. It is surrounded by coral reefs and the ancient Arab sailors whose ships often came to grief on its shores named it the “Island of Death”. Since visas to enter Mayotte were introduced in 1995, thousands of islanders from Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli have drowned trying to get there. They largely travel in small boats known as kwasa-kwasa, which are prone to capsizing on the 70-kilometre journey from Anjouan to Mayotte. Reliable casualty figures are hard to come by. They are also disputed, with the governor of Anjouan once claiming that more than 50,000 had drowned since 1995. French estimates are much lower, between 7,000 and 10,000.  Al Jazeera

China to Start Work Soon on Naval Base in Djibouti, President Says
China is expected to start work in Djibouti soon on a naval base, Djibouti’s president told Reuters, defending Beijing’s right to build what will be its first foreign military outpost on one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. Strategically located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal, Djibouti is already home to US and French bases, while other navies often use its port. China said last year it was in talks to build what it describes as naval “support facilities” in the Horn of Africa nation, which has less than a million people but is striving to become an international shipping hub. “The Chinese government has decided to move to this area,” President Ismail Omar Guelleh said in a weekend interview in Addis Ababa. “They have the right to defend their interests, just like everybody else does.”  East African

Africa: Should African Leaders Reconsider Drone Strikes?
Drone strikes (or unmanned aerial vehicle strikes) have attracted significant media attention for their roles in the American-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in Pakistan. What has received less attention is the increasing frequency with which drone strikes have been carried out in Africa. Africa has seemingly always endured a higher burden of conflict than other parts of the globe, and while drone strikes might be seen as a way to alleviate that, there is growing evidence to the contrary. As Western interests, led by the United States (US), increase their role in counter-terrorism efforts from Libya to Nigeria, leaders across Africa must question the wisdom of allowing weaponised drones on their sovereign territory.  ISS on allAfrica

My Search for Gaddafi’s Golden Gun
On my mobile phone I have a picture I took in Libya on 20 October 2011. It shows a young man in a blue shirt and a New York Yankees baseball cap. He’s smiling, being carried on the shoulders of his comrades through the town of Sirte. These men are rebel fighters from Misrata. Colonel Gaddafi has just been captured and killed. In the photo you can see them passing among themselves a golden pistol. It was Gaddafi’s personal handgun. In that moment it became a totem — a symbol of the rebels’ victory, and of a transfer of power in a new Libya. Just over four years later, the country is in turmoil. Rival governments — backed by their own militias — are vying for control. Libya is fragmenting along ideological and geographical lines – east versus west, Islamist versus secularist. The group that calls itself Islamic State is exploiting the power vacuum and has taken control of Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.  PRI

Paris Climate Deal Could ‘Displace Millions of Forest Dwellers’
The Paris climate agreement could make millions of forest dwellers homeless, according to a new analysis. Many developing countries will try to curb carbon emissions by setting aside forested areas as reserves. But experts are worried that creating national parks often involves removing the people who live in these areas. The study indicated designating forest reserves in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo could displace as many as 1.3 million people. With funding from Norway, Liberia has proposed 30% of their forests become protected areas by 2020. DR Congo, funded by Germany and the Global Environmental Facility, aims to set aside 12-15% of their forested lands. BBC

Guinea Worm Eradication Will Be My Most Gratifying Achievement, Says Jimmy Carter
After a 30-year fight to destroy Guinea worm disease, former US president Jimmy Carter said on Wednesday that only 22 cases of the debilitating disease remain worldwide, all in sub-Saharan Africa. He believes that following control and elimination of dracunculiasis, there is hope for permanent eradication.  RFI



Photo: Adam Jones