Media Review for February 9, 2016

West Africa’s Terror Problem Needs a Regional Solution
Terrorism in West Africa is evolving into a more regional phenomenon. In order to hold back wider destabilization, international partners would be wise to emphasize regional cooperation in response. Take the latest attacks. In late November 2015, militants used grenades and assault rifles to take over a popular hotel in Bamako, Mali, holding more than 100 hostages for several hours and killing 19 civilians. A similar incident occurred in neighboring Burkina Faso in January. […] Responsibility for both attacks was claimed by groups within the umbrella al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). These attacks are more regional than before in two ways. First, they reflect an ideology that goes beyond borders. The back-to-back assaults are noteworthy for being directed against Westerners — the “far enemy” — and are seemingly untied to local grievances. Strategically, they are part of an intra-jihadist war ongoing between al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), each seeking the mantle of responsibility for global jihad. But unlike attacks against Malian peacekeepers or the Nigerian military, they do not achieve any tactical objectives. In this sense, they are a striking departure from past terrorism in the region. Indeed, before November 2015, the last major attack directed against Westerners in West Africa occurred in Nigeria in 2011, when Boko Haram bombed the United Nations headquarters in Abuja. Even then, analysts scratched their heads as to why the group attacked an international target. Aside from hostage-taking for ransom (a money-making behavior), targeting foreigners fell outside the norms of the region’s terrorist groups. The Hill

Stronger Regional Coordination Can Counter Africa Extremism
Violent extremist groups and their affiliates are collaborating more in northern Africa, and regional forces must be built up and supported with deeper intelligence sharing to counter the increasing threat of attacks, the head of the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command Africa said Monday. Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc spoke on the sidelines of Flintlock, the U.S. military’s annual counter-extremism training exercise based this year in Senegal. Monday marked the opening of training of African forces as ambassadors, generals and troops gathered on an airfield in Thies, Senegal, holding flags that represented the some 1,700 participants from about 30 countries across Africa, and other Western countries. The training comes as the region battles a growing threat from al-Qaida-linked extremists and Nigeria’s Islamic extremist group Boko Haram which has pledged support to the Islamic State group . Violent extremist organizations have become more collaborative, sharing tactics and procedures, said Bolduc. “They have traded ideas and concepts on how to message and present themselves in public, solidifying their ideology and what they stand for. And we have watched that collaboration manifest itself in becoming more effective in north Africa,” he said. AP on Miami Herald

The Rivers’ Rerun: A crucial Nigerian Local Election Nobody’s Watching
National elections in Nigeria in March 2015 brought Muhammadu Buhari of the newly-created All Progressives’ Congress (APC) to power, despite the fact that failed to win any of the oil-producing states in the Niger Delta. In these states, the the incumbent People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of former President Goodluck Jonathan triumphed.What will this mean for Nigerian democracy? Daily Maverick

Nigeria Is Coming Apart at the Seams
Crowds of Igbo-speaking people barricade streets across southeastern Nigeria, bringing traffic to a standstill. They wave black, green, and red secessionist flags; distribute their own currency and passports; and demand the creation of a new independent country called Biafra. It could be 1967 or 2016. Nearly 50 years after the same region of Nigeria seceded, sparking a devastating civil war, separatists are once again threatening the fragile national unity of Africa’s most populous country. Back in 1967, the federal government deployed a quarter million troops to quash the secessionist movement, while also imposing a land and sea blockade. Over a million civilians died in the nearly three years of fighting that followed, mostly from starvation. Why is the southeast once again considering secession when the region’s last attempt resulted in such horrendous suffering? Part of the answer is that many Igbos, who form the majority in Nigeria’s southeast but a minority in the country as a whole, view the failure of their previous attempt at secession as the great missed opportunity of their time. For three decades after the war, military dictatorships suppressed all secessionist talk, leaving Igbos to wonder silently about what might have been. But after the country transitioned to democracy in 1999, latent separatist inclinations began to resurface once again. Foreign Policy

African Union Official Defends Burundi Force Decision
The deputy chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission said the commission, contrary to Burundi opposition claims, did not abandon the people of Burundi at last week’s AU summit by its failure to send peacekeepers to the country. The exiled leader of the opposition Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU) accused the African Union and the international community of turning their backs on the people of Burundi while people were being killed by the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Unrest in the country began when President Nkurunziza said he wanted a third term in office which is contrary to the two term limit in the country’s constitution.  VOA

SA Urged to Be ‘More Vocal on Rape as a Weapon of War in Burundi’
“The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights‚ Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein‚ has called attention to the high levels of sexual violence engulfing the country‚” the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence (NSP on GBV) said in a joint statement. “A breakdown in law allows those perpetrating these heinous acts to not only continue to do so‚ but also to get away with it. Additionally‚ victims are unable to access justice.” The campaign asked the South African government‚ “given its leading role in mediating and ending the previous civil war” in the country‚ “to be more vocal and to advocate on behalf of those vulnerable and those unable to in Burundi‚ for mechanisms that will restore stability and the rule of law”.  Times Live

The Dictators Who Love America
[…] Yahya Jammeh, launched a bloodless coup in 1994, ousting the Gambia’s democratically elected president and instituting military rule. In the two decades since, as the rest of West Africa has grown more democratic and developed, Jammeh has taken his country in the opposite direction, routinely harassing and detaining political activists. A paramilitary group called the “Junglers,” according to Human Rights Watch, has assassinated Jammeh’s opponents, sometimes dumping their bodies in an abandoned well near the president’s hometown. One alleged target was Deyda Hydara, the editor of an independent newspaper, who was shot dead on his way home from work in 2004. When Jammeh took power, he was a 29-year-old lieutenant, fresh off four months of military-police training at Fort McClellan, Alabama. According to a childhood friend of his, it was there that Jammeh gained an affection for all things American. He befriended an officer at the base, Major Fouad Aide, whom he took to calling his “American father.” The Atlantic

Somalia Plane Bomber Was Meant to Be on Turkish Flight: Airline Executive
A suspected suicide bomber who blew a hole in the fuselage of a Daallo Airlines plane last week and forced it to make an emergency landing in Mogadishu was meant to be on a Turkish Airlines flight, the Daallo chief executive said on Monday. The bomber was sucked out of the plane through the one-metre wide hole when the blast ripped open the pressurised cabin in mid-air, officials said. The pilot landed the plane in the Somali capital, from where it had taken off. No group has so far taken responsibility for the attack but a U.S. government source last week said the United States suspects Islamist militant group al Shabaab, which is aligned to al Qaeda, was responsible for the blast. Mohamed Yassin, Daallo Airlines chief executive, said most of the passengers who were on the bombed flight were scheduled to fly with Turkish Airlines, but were ferried to Djibouti by one of his planes after the Turkish carrier cancelled its flight, citing bad weather. Reuters

Surrounded by Diamonds, Villagers Go Hungry in Drought-Hit Zimbabwe
Shylet Mutsago, a 63-year-old who lives near the diamond fields of Marange, cannot hide her anger over how mining in this gem-rich part of eastern Zimbabwe has failed to improve the lives of local people. From a distance she watches as companies turn the ground over in search of the alluvial diamonds, releasing clouds of red dust into the sky. “Our hopes of benefiting from the diamonds are gone,” she said. “And with this severe drought we are now placing our lives in the hands of God. We are living close to these diamond mines, yet we are starving.” As crops fail due to a lack of rain, some villagers can no longer afford even one proper meal a day, and are surviving on wild fruits like baobab, Mutsago said.  Reuters

SA Will Not Declare National Disaster over Drought
South Africa will not declare a national disaster in response to its worst drought in a century as it hopes ample late rains will continue to improve the situation, deputy minister of agriculture Bheki Cele said on Sunday. “For some reason God has been kind and late rains did come, and we think the 6 million tonnes (of maize) we were looking to import — we have downgraded that to four,” he told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai. The country’s largest grain producer group Grain SA called on the government last week to declare a national disaster — a move that would release emergency relief funds from the National Treasury to eligible farmers. Mr Cele said out of South Africa’s nine provinces, seven had already declared a disaster but a nationwide declaration was not currently warranted. “The only hope is that rains continue — if they do we might be out of the woods … We will not declare a national disaster” said Mr Cele. Mr Cele argued support had already been granted to a lot of farmers and more was on the way. Business Day Live

Zuma Courts CEOs as S. Africa Risks Junk Rating, Recession
With South Africa at risk of falling into recession and having its credit-rating downgraded to junk, President Jacob Zuma is trying to patch up ties with business leaders and seeking their advice on ways to shore up the economy. Zuma, 73, will hold a meeting with business leaders on Tuesday, two days before he delivers his annual state-of-the-nation address. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan held unprecedented talks with about 60 chief executive officers on Jan. 29 to discuss how to boost investor sentiment and canvass their views before his Feb. 24 budget address. Business leaders have repeatedly accused the government of implementing inappropriate policies and undermining private industry. Disgruntlement with Zuma’s management of Africa’s most-industrialized economy peaked in December when he shocked investors by firing the finance minister and appointing a little-known lawmaker in his place. He was forced to backtrack after the nation’s rand and bonds dived and named Gordhan to the post that he held from 2009 to 2014. Bloomberg

Zim’s Farm Grabs Over
Zimbabwe yesterday announced it had no more land for resettlement, signalling the end of a chaotic, 15-year exercise during which 4000 white commercial farmers were forcibly evicted and government treaties violated – leaving many aspirant black landowners high and dry. “We are satisfied with the programme; obviously it hasn’t had a 100% success rate, but we are satisfied,” Lands and Rural Settlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora said yesterday. Since 2000, mostly white commercial farmers have been forcibly and sometimes violently evicted from their land and homes to make way for the settlement of black producers and the members of the power elite. Times Live

Human Rights Watch Praises Tunisia on Judicial Reforms
Human Rights Watch has praised Tunisia on judicial reforms which it said amounted to a “significant breakthrough” in protecting the rights of detainees. Parliament on Tuesday approved amendments to Article 13 of Tunisia’s penal code to fall in line with the new constitution adopted two years ago as part of the country’s political transition from dictatorship to democracy. “Provisions to grant suspects the right to a lawyer from the onset of detention, and to shorten the maximum pre-charge detention are included in a revision of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP),” said the New York-based HRW. “Tunisia’s parliament made a significant breakthrough for human rights by approving proposed changes in detainee rights,” it said. AFP on Al Arabiya

Oil’s Drop Puts Pressure on Algeria’s Government
It withstood the political tumult that felled Arab leaders from Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi to Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Now Algeria’s leadership faces a graver threat from what was once its source of wealth: oil. The global plunge in prices is making it harder to afford expensive subsidies that help fend off discontent, and coincides with mounting concern over the health of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. If either the economy or a political succession is managed badly, the holder of Africa’s largest gas reserves and a key ally of the West in the battle with Islamist militancy could unravel. The Algerian parliament on Sunday approved constitutional changes that offer more political rights to key constituencies, including the indigenous Amazigh community, women and businessmen. Here, four leading analysts give their views on where the OPEC member is heading. Bloomberg

Red Carpet for President Sisi’s Convoy Criticised in Egypt
The use of a red carpet for the motorcade of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has provoked criticism in Egypt. Cars carrying Mr Sisi and other officials drove down the red carpet on Saturday as they were visiting projects in 6 October City, a suburb of Cairo. Several commentators questioned the apparent extravagance, just as the president was making a speech about the need to cut government subsidies. The military said the carpet was meant to give joy to the Egyptian people. Criticism of Mr Sisi, a former military chief who led the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013, is rare in mainstream Egyptian media. But media personalities and activists mocked the fact that pictures of the presidential motorcade driving down a road covered in red carpet were broadcast shortly before Mr Sisi gave a speech in which he warned the state could not continue subsidising water and electricity bills for low-income families. BBC

Egyptian Foreign Minister: Libya Intervention Should Wait
The international community should not intervene against Islamic State expansion in Libya until a Libyan government is formed and requests such assistance, Egypt said Monday. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, in Washington for bilateral talks with the Obama administration, said in an interview that “the Libyan people should undertake the decisions related to the fight against terrorism and how it should be conducted and what form of assistance should be provided to it. This should be a Libyan-led process defined by the Libyan people.” Pressure has been growing for Western military intervention to stem the growth of the Islamic State in Libya, where the militants control the port city of Sirte and have attacked the oil infrastructure. U.S. intelligence has said that the Islamic State’s headquarters in Syria has increasingly directed new recruits to Libya, where it sees enhanced prospects of expanding territory it controls amid political chaos there. The Washington Post

Arab Spring’s Unfulfilled Promises
In January, Tunisia saw a week of protests as people voiced their anger over unemployment and corruption. The country is often held up as an example of one which survived the Arab Spring relatively unscathed, with the Nobel committee honoring the negotiators who organised a largely peaceful transition to democracy culminating in the 2014 election. But many Tunisians feel the political elite does not address the problems affecting their lives. Chris Moore, Mayssa Awad and Georges Yazbeck report.  France 24

East Africa: Egypt Pulls Out of Regional Power Pool as it Protests Use of Nile Waters
Egypt has pulled out of the grand East African regional power pool until its concerns over the use of the Nile waters have been addressed. In the recent Council of Ministers’ meeting in Addis Ababa held by the 10 Eastern African Power Pool (EAPP) countries, Egypt refused to sign and adopt the master plan for the power pool as the hydropower generation projects in Ethiopia and Sudan are on the Nile. The 10 countries are Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Libya and Uganda. According to Lebi Changullah, the secretary-general of the EAPP, the master plan, which has already been adopted by the member states, will be implemented despite Egypt’s protest. “I don’t think Egypt’s refusal to sign the document will affect the implementation of the master plan because it has been approved by the rest of the members,” said Mr Changullah, adding that the countries relying on the Nile are independent and have signed a treaty with Egypt on equitable use of the Nile waters.  East African on allAfrica

Pressure Mounts on South Sudan Rivals
Two years into South Sudan’s civil war, a transitional government was expected to end the conflict which has killed tens of thousands and displaced more than 2.3 million in Africa’s youngest state. Under intense international pressure, the east African regional trade bloc IGAD spearheaded the peace talks and set the terms for the implementation of the deal. But rebel leader Riek Machar opted out of the initial deadline, citing President Salva Kiir’s unilateral decision to divide the country into three regions comprising twenty eight states. International mediators however criticized both Kiir and Machar for not being able to come to an agreement. Former Botswana leader Festus Mogae, who is tasked with overseeing the formation of the transitional government, expressed frustration by the political strategies of both men.  France 24

South Sudan Army Chief Threatens Unrest if Sacked from Office
The South Sudanese army (SPLA) chief, Gen. Paul Malong Awan has warned of possible unrest in the world’s youngest nation, should he and those serving the cabinet and army be removed from posts as part of the formation of the Government of National Unity (TGoNU). “We will see how this country will be stable if the only way is to bring peace is to reward people who have brought the country and the people to this level”, Awan told high-level military officers from his Malual Dinka tribe, whom he ferried to Aweil town for reasons yet to be established. “We will not accept anyone to be victimised for defending the system”, he added. SudanTribune

Senegal Fears Extremism Amid Imam Arrests
Dozens of armed security forces descended on the Quranic school at night, arresting an imam suspected of having links to Islamic extremists in Nigeria. As the forces encircled the home of Imam Alioune Badara Ndao, 300 boys from his boarding school ran into the dirt courtyard, panicked at the sudden appearance of the gendarmes in this peanut-industry town. More arrests were carried out in the weeks that followed, including of three other imams accused of supporting Boko Haram, stoking fears that extremism could be sprouting in this predominantly Muslim, moderate nation that prides itself on its tolerance and co-existence with the Christian minority population.  News 24

Congolese Ex-Army Chief to Run for President
A former Congolese army chief and presidential advisor announced on Monday he plans to run in the March 20 election and challenge President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been in power in Congo-Brazzaville for more than 30 years. “I will be a candidate… I felt called to by the people and I decided to cross the Rubicon,” General Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko told AFP by phone from Bangui. “I know the country well, its challenges and its history,” the ex-officer in his sixties, who wants “to propose projects and a lot of reforms”, said without elaborating. Congo’s military chief from 1987 to 1993, Mokoko is currently special representative of the African Union Commission in Central African Republic.  News 24

Africa: Other African Cases At the ICC
So far, 23 cases in nine situations (countries) have been brought before the International Criminal Court. According to the Rome Statute, the situations can be initiated by the UN Security Council such as the case against President al-Bashir, a referral from any state party such as the Uganda cases, or when the prosecutor takes up a case if the state concerned has no capacity or is unwilling to initiate local mechanism — such as the Kenyan cases.  East African on allAfrica

US–Africa Business Summit Wraps Up, US Plays Catch Up in Africa
That was the signal sent out by the visit of a high-level United States delegation – led by US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Linda Thomas Greenfield – to attend the 10th bi-annual US–Africa business summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from February 2 to 4. Steven Hayes, president of the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), which claims to have been the most active US business association in the continent since 1993, said the World Bank had predicted the vast continent was on the verge of an economic take-off, just as China was 30 years ago and India 20 years ago. However, the business summit, held in Africa for only the second time, was not just about using the continent’s potential, he said. It was also about diversifying US investments in the continent, moving from the extractive sector to the productive sector. Engineering News

Move Over Facebook: WeChat Is Set to Become the Only App African Internet Users Need
As technology hubs from Silicon Valley to Bangalore work hard at devising digital approaches to finance that could alter the global banking landscape, mobile banking penetration in China has already exceeded 390 million people. And for Chinese-owned Tencent Holdings, the world’s fifth largest Internet company, China’s 1.3 billion-strong market is just the beginning. The tech giant’s best-known social network, WeChat, is fast gaining traction in Africa, and mobile banking is one area in which its influence is spreading. Outside China, WeChat is largely misunderstood. Referred to as “Twitter on steroids” as often as WhatsApp’s “rival messaging service,” the mobile app has arguably outgrown even its Chinese name, Weixin, which translates as “tiny message.” Five-year-old WeChat is far more than a social network or messaging service. The mobile app can perhaps be more accurately described as a gamified WhatsApp-Facebook hybrid, with all the social applications of both, along with a Tinder-like dating feature, voice and video calls and a multi-functional digital wallet, all rolled into one.  The Huffington Post



Photo: Adam Jones