Media Review for February 5, 2016

U.N. Experts Find Bid to Smuggle Congo Arms Via Rwanda to Burundi Rebels
A confidential report to the United Nations Security Council found there have been attempts to smuggle weapons from Democratic Republic of Congo through Rwanda to rebels in Burundi where a political crisis threatens to spiral out of control. The report by experts who monitor sanctions on Democratic Republic of Congo said Congolese authorities arrested Rwandan and Congolese civilians and two Congolese army officers in October and November on suspicion of arms smuggling. They were caught at a border post between Congo and Rwanda with weapons, some of which “were hidden in bags of green beans or manioc, and others were hidden in the chassis of a car,” the group of U.N. experts wrote in the report, seen by Reuters this week. Reuters

Burundi Crisis: Allegations Against Rwanda ‘Unfounded’
Rwanda has dismissed allegations in a leaked UN report that it is training Burundian refugees who want to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza. The report, which has been seen by the Reuters news agency, is based on evidence from 18 Burundian fighters. Similar allegations have been made by Burundi’s government. A political crisis in the country, sparked by President Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term last April, has led thousands to flee. Seventy thousand of the 240,000 Burundians who have left the country since the crisis began are living in Rwanda.  BBC

Life after Al Shabbab’s Attack on El-Adde: How Will Kenya Respond?
According to Kenya’s Defence Chief General Samson Mwathethe, a massive vehicle-borne improvised explosive device triggered the Al-Shabaab attack on the El-Adde KDF camp. While the exact number of Kenyan troops involved has not been divulged, it is estimated to have been a company strength base, around 150 men. Given the size of the initial explosion, General Mwathethe has called for patience in identifying the victims. Al-Shabaab’s haul from the attack appears to include Armoured Personnel Carriers, Land Rovers, trucks, as well as weapons and ammunition, suggesting that the camp was completely overrun. It is a tragic event for Kenya, for the armed forces and particularly for the families of the soldiers involved. In war such hard knocks are not uncommon, they are the price of conflict; to prevail it is important that lessons are learnt and reforms made. Daily Maverick

Al-Shabab Suspected in Mid-Flight Somali Plane Blast
Somali officials investigating an apparent bomb blast that forced a passenger jet to make an emergency landing in Mogadishu say the explosion was likely the work of militant group al-Shabab. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior security official told VOA’s Somali Service that investigators have evidence that al-Shabab was behind the blast and that they will present their conclusions soon. Somalia’s former national intelligence director, Ahmed Moallim Fiqi, said the nature of the incident and the evidence available so far both indicate it was “a planned bomb attack.” Local authorities in the Balad District north of Mogadishu found the dismembered body of a man believed to have fallen from the plane soon after it landed at Mogadishu International Airport on Tuesday. One of the passengers was missing and there was a hole on the right side of the fuselage. VOA

The New Jihadist Strategy in the Sahel
Security has been intense over the last few weeks in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, with police and soldiers on the streets, vehicle searches, and round-ups of alleged Islamist militants. It’s the response to the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) attack in Burkina Faso on 15 January that left 30 people dead. Until the assault on the Cappuccino restaurant and the Splendid Hotel, next door on Ouagadougou’s trendy Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, Burkina Faso, like Senegal, felt safe from the jihadist violence that has destabilised other countries in the region. “We thought we were not really concerned by terrorism, that we were shielded by our armed forces and our diplomacy,” Ousmane Ouedraogo told IRIN outside his cellphone shop on Kwame Nkrumah Avenue. “But now we know we are vulnerable.” That vulnerability stems from the political instability in Burkina Faso following the youth-led toppling of Blaise Campaore after nearly three decades in power. But there is a more fundamental fragility that has its roots in the legitimacy and authority of governments across the Sahel region, which AQIM, AQIM-linked groups, and, more recently, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) are seeking to exploit.  IRIN

Congolese Army Attacked Peacekeepers Meeting Islamist Rebels -UN
Congolese troops killed two United Nations peacekeepers after civilians accused the Tanzanian UN troops of providing supplies to Islamist Ugandan rebels in east DR Congo, according to a confidential UN Security Council report. UN experts who monitor sanctions on Democratic Republic of Congo said the UN peacekeeping force Monusco initially blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Ugandan rebels operating in Congo since the 1990s, for a May 5 ambush that killed two peacekeepers and several civilians and injured 26 UN troops. The East African

The African Peer Review Mechanism: An idea Whose Time Has Come – Again?
African solutions to African problems is a mantra hip as a Che Guevara T-shirt, but the contents of this ideal can feel more revolutionary than a civil servant trying to batho pele -put people first. Take the African Peer Review Mechanism, which was quite a buzz word amongst governance nerds in the Thabo Mbeki era. But nowadays it’s the president’s alleged aloofness that people remember best. Yet this issue is far more important than that. The APRM, a system of peer review for African governments, was supposed to help the continent’s leaders help each other to improve governance – instead of being patronized by the west. It also, perhaps slightly unintentionally, brought civil society organisations onboard to provide input in an era when many African governments would ban them if they could. Daily Maverick

Cameroon Sees Surge in Bombings as Nigeria Chases Boko Haram
Nigeria’s campaign to quash the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has triggered a surge of bombings in neighboring Cameroon, where the army says it’s making headway in stopping attacks on military targets. Cameroon’s Far North region has been hit by as many as 19 militant attacks since the beginning of the year, mostly bombings by teenagers with explosive devices strapped to their bodies. At least 74 people were killed, in addition to almost 1,100 civilians who died in extremist violence since 2013, according to government data. “Increased military pressure in Nigeria has forced militants across the border,” Malte Liewerscheidt, senior Africa analyst at Bath, England-based risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said in e-mailed comments. “Boko Haram operates rear bases in remote border areas, which are supported by networks based on ethnic kinship in Cameroon’s Far North region. These factors enable Boko Haram to operate with a degree of impunity.”  Bloomberg

Support Countries in Conflict, Buhari Tells Global Community
President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the global community to give greater support to countries whose populace are suffering humanitarian crises caused by terrorism and civil strife. He made the call in awhile speaking at the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in London on Thursday, saying that without collective support and assistance from all well-meaning countries, companies and organisations, the humanitarian catastrophe affecting millions of people in countries like Nigeria and Syria cannot be successfully addressed. The President noted that the increasingly complex and inter-connected security challenges faced by the global community necessitate increased international cooperation in pursuit of effective solutions. He strongly condemned the continuing violence by terrorists against innocent civilians, abuse of human rights and destruction of public and private assets and cultural heritages in Nigeria, Syria and other countries of the world. Nigerian Tribune

Somali Central Bank Chief Seeks New Currency to Rebuild Nation
Few central bank chiefs have been jailed by a dictator or hide a loaded pistol in their desk draw, should Islamist militants decide to call. Bashir Issa Ali has done all that, and now he wants to recreate Somalia’s currency from scratch. Serving his third term in a long career interrupted by exile, disputes with the government, and the spell in prison, Ali wants Somalia to print its first banknotes since the 1980s to help rebuild an economy emerging from decades of chaos at the hands of Islamist and clan militias. The tattered shilling notes still in circulation – worth about 4 U.S. cents – are emblematic of Somalia’s descent since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled by warlords who carved up the country into personal fiefdoms. “We absolutely need a new currency,” said Ali, who this time became central bank governor in 2013, adding that the existing notes “are old, they’re torn, they’re dirty and they’re fake”. Ali needs to do more than just print new banknotes. Most urban Somalis have given up on the shilling and do their daily business using a mobile phone payment system, with transactions denominated in dollars. Reuters

Africa’s Big Men Are Reverting to Type
When then-President Bill Clinton visited Africa in 1998, he praised “a new generation of leaders” as champions of a dawning “African Renaissance.” Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni was one of them: Two years before, he’d been elected president after a decade as a military ruler. Museveni is again running for president — at the age of 71, after abolishing constitutional limits on presidential terms. He refers to the East African nation’s oil reserves as his own, holds a public holiday to mark when he seized power in a coup 30 years ago and is expected to easily win a fifth term in the Feb. 18 elections. Over the past few months, long-serving leaders in Rwanda, the Republic of Congo and Djibouti also have demonstrated their resolve to cling to power. All are favorites to secure re-election this year or next. Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term last year, spurring violence that’s claimed more than 440 lives. That led another U.S. president to deliver a much sterner message.  Bloomberg

Obama Is Pressed to Open Military Front Against ISIS in Libya
President Obama is being pressed by some of his national security aides, including his top military advisers, to approve the use of American forces in Libya to open another front against the Islamic State. But Mr. Obama, wary of embarking on an intervention in another strife-torn country, has told his aides to redouble their efforts to help form a unity government in Libya at the same time the Pentagon refines its options. Those include airstrikes, commando raids or advising vetted Libyan militias on the ground, as Special Operations forces are doing now in eastern Syria. Covert C.I.A. paramilitary missions are also being considered, but the use of large numbers of American ground troops is not on the table. The New York Times

German UN Envoy on Islamic State’s Rise: ‘We Simply Can’t Give Up on Libya’
With the situation rapidly deteriorating in Libya, the UN’s special representative to the country, Martin Kobler of Germany, is pushing for a unity government in a last-ditch effort to halt the Islamic State’s march there. He warns that time is running out. Martin Kobler is one of Germany’s top officials dealing with crisis zones around the world. He’s also one of the country’s leading diplomats at the United Nations. The 62-year-old has led UN missions in Afghanistan, in Iraq and most recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The UN appointed him in November to lead its support mission for civil war-torn Libya, where he is seeking to bring the country’s divided factions together into a unity government. December’s Skhirat agreement aimed at establishing that government of national unity marked his first success in the position. So far, however, it has done nothing to stop the spread of the Islamic State (IS) in the country. Spiegle

Central African Republic Peacekeepers to be Sent Home over ‘Sex Abuse’
More than 100 UN peacekeepers will be sent home from the Central African Republic after an investigation into sex abuse allegations, the UN says. The UN says it is investigating eight new reports of sex abuse, following more than 20 previous allegations. One 14 year-old says she was raped by an armed soldier near the airport. The 120 soldiers who will be repatriated are from Congo-Brazzaville. During the investigation, they will be confined to barracks.  BBC

Tensions Rise in Central African Republic as Elections Draw Near
As presidential elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) draw closer, renewed fighting between communities has sparked tensions. With approximately 20% of the country’s population having been displaced due to the conflict, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has stepped up its operations in the central African nation in order to provide much-needed healthcare. Several health centres in the capital of Bangui have suspended their services due to insecurity in the area, leading to many more citizens seeking out MSF’s assistance. News 24

Tunisia Lifts Nationwide Curfew after Unemployment Unrest
Tunisia said on Thursday it is lifting a nationwide night-time curfew imposed last month following violent demonstrations against unemployment, the worst social unrest witnessed in the country since its 2011 revolution. “In light of the improvement in the security situation, it was decided that from Thursday … the curfew on all Tunisian territory will be lifted,” the interior ministry said in a statement. The curfew was imposed after protests that started in the central town of Kasserine, where an unemployed man was electrocuted during a January 16 demonstration over the lack of economic prospects. France 24

South Sudan Parliament Passes Bill Restricting Foreign Aid Workers
Despite a growing food shortage that is threatening 30,000 South Sudanese with imminent starvation, the country’s parliament has passed a bill restricting the number of foreign aid workers. Aid organizations fear the new bill, which still has to be signed into law by the president, will hamper efforts to aid more than 3.6 million residents more who are also facing food shortages, albeit less severe ones. The Non-Governmental Organizations bill prohibits aid organizations from hiring more than 20 percent of its employees from abroad, including “all managerial, middle and junior level positions.”  Deutsche Welle

President Bashir Announces Resumption of River Transport with South Sudan
Sudan’s President Omer Hassan al-Bashir Thursday announced the resumption of river transport with the landlocked South Sudan ending a four-year halt decided by Khartoum over security concerns and accusations of support to rebel groups . In a speech delivered in the capital of White Nile state, Rabak, al-Bashir announced the resumption of transport by river between Kosti and Juba. The river transport was very active between North Sudan and South Sudan before and after the secession. Goods were transported by river barges to Juba or shipped by barge from Juba to Mongalla, Bor, Adok, Shambe, Malakal and Renk.  Sudan Tribune

Italy Summons Egyptian Ambassador over Student’s Death
Italy’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Rome to express concern after the body of an Italian man showing signs of torture was dumped on the side of a Cairo highway. On Thursday, the ministry’s director-general, Michele Valensise, “urgently” summoned Egyptian Ambassador Amr Mostafa Kamal Helmy after the body of Giulio Regeni, 28, a graduate student at Cambridge University in the UK, was found a day earlier. Regeni, a PhD student, disappeared on January 25. Late on Thursday, Il Manifesto, an Italian newspaper, revealed Regeni worked as a freelance writer for the publication, and was writing from Egypt using a pseudonym. The editor of the paper said Regeni told him he feared for his life.  Al Jazeera

Museveni to Skip Presidential Debate Again
President Yoweri Museveni, the NRM presidential flag bearer, will not participate in the second presidential debate slated for February 14, crushing Ugandans’ hopes of seeing him debating the other seven candidates. The NRM taskforce deputy spokesperson, Ms Maria Mutesi said Museveni will be making final touches to market his manifesto before campaigns close on February 16, 2016. The General Election will be held on February 18. “President Museveni made it clear that he can’t participate in the debate because of his tight campaign schedule and he has confirmed that he will not attend the second one because we are trying to beat the deadline. For example, people he hasn’t addressed are yearning to hear from him and he can’t disappoint them. So, he won’t be attending the debate,” Mutesi said.  The East African

Morocco Unveils A Massive Solar Power Plant In The Sahara
Morocco has officially turned on a massive solar power plant in the Sahara Desert, kicking off the first phase of a planned project to provide renewable energy to more than a million Moroccans. The Noor I power plant is located near the town of Ouarzazate, on the edge of the Sahara. It’s capable of generating up to 160 megawatts of power and covers thousands of acres of desert, making the first stage alone one of the world’s biggest solar thermal power plants. When the next two phases, Noor II and Noor III, are finished, the plant will be the single largest solar power production facility in the world, The Guardian says. Morocco currently relies on imported sources for 97 percent of its energy consumption, according to the World Bank, which helped fund the Noor power plant project. Investing in renewable energy will make Morocco less reliant on those imports as well as reduce the nation’s long-term carbon emissions by millions of tons. NPR

Timbuktu Marks Rebuilding of Mausoleums Destroyed by Islamists
Timbuktu has celebrated the recovery of its historic mausoleums, destroyed during an Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and rebuilt thanks to the UN cultural agency, Unesco. The desert city formally received the keys to the shrines to Muslim saints at a ceremony on Thursday in the Djingareyber mosque. Five head of cattle were ritually sacrificed just after dawn before a reading of the entire Qur’an and the handing of the keys to the families in charge of the shrines’ care. Al-Qaida-linked insurgents wrecked 14 of the city’s earthen shrines, which were built during Timbuktu’s 15th- and 16th-century golden age as an economic, intellectual and spiritual centre.  The Guardian

IMF Says Ready to Lend to African Oil Producers; no Requests Yet
Feb 2 The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday it stands ready to help sub-Saharan Africa’s oil exporters cope with plunging crude prices and growing fiscal pressures but has not received any new funding requests from the region. Nigeria and Angola instead have turned to the World Bank for assistance, even though the IMF is typically viewed as the world’s go-to crisis lender. Facing an estimated $15 billion budget deficit in 2016, Nigeria’s finance ministry has said it is looking to borrow as much as $5 billion. It has held discussions with the World Bank, African Development Bank and China’s Export-Import Bank due to their “concessionary rates of interest.” Reuters

Number of FGM Victims Found to be 70 Million Higher than Thought
The huge global scale of female genital mutilation has been revealed in disturbing new statistics, which show at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone ritual cutting, half of them living in just three countries. The latest worldwide figures, compiled by Unicef, include nearly 70 million more girls and women than estimated in 2014 because of a raft of new data collected in Indonesia, one of the countries where FGM is most prevalent despite the practice being banned since 2006. In the analysis of 30 countries, published to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, statistics showed women in Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia account for half of all FGM victims worldwide. Somalia has the highest prevalence of women and girls who have been cut – 98% of the female population between the ages of 15 and 49.  The Guardian

Elephants are Being Killed on a Massive Scale. There is a Way to Stop this
The death of the British helicopter pilot Roger Gower, shot down by elephant poachers over a game reserve in Tanzania, shows the dangers faced by the heroes attempting to save our most charismatic mammals from extinction. We are in the midst of a crazy killing spree, the slaughtering of elephants, rhinos and lions on a scale never before witnessed on Earth. The 1989 ban on the international trade in ivory and conservation efforts that helped populations of big African animals recover in the 1990s now looks like a golden age. In 2007, 13 rhinos were poached in South Africa. In 2014, 1,215 were poached. Last year, numbers fell for the first time since 2007 – to 1,175. More than 129,000 elephants have been killed for their ivory since 2012. In this climate, it is hard to regard good news with anything other than pessimism. Africa’s lion population is estimated to have halved since 1990 but scientists at Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) have discovered a previously overlooked population of up to 200 lions in national parks in Ethiopia and Sudan. These beasts won’t survive unless those countries can be helped to protect them.  The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones