Media Review for January 11, 2016

Finally, South Sudan to Form Interim Govt
The South Sudan Transitional Government of National Unity will be formed on January 22 after the four partners to the peace deal agreed on sharing ministerial portfolios. The four partners — the government, Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-in Opposition (SPLM-IO), former detainees and other political parties — struck the deal on Thursday in a meeting held under the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) led by the former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae. After four days of haggling, it was finally agreed on January 7 that the government will take 16 ministerial posts and SPLM-IO 10 while the former detainees and other political parties got two posts each. The mood in Juba is that every group is satisfied with the posts they got although there was an earlier attempt by the government to negotiate with other stakeholders outside the cluster given by the Inter-Governmental Authority of Development (Igad)-brokered peace agreement. The East African

Thousands Flee S.Sudan War Despite Political Peace Efforts
Thousands of South Sudanese have fled fighting and extreme hunger in recent weeks, the United Nations says in a report, as leaders struggle to honour a peace deal on the ground. Almost 10,000 civilians have arrived since late December at an already hugely overcrowded UN peacekeeping base in the town of Bentiu in the battleground northern Unity region, according to the report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “People from southern Unity continued to arrive… bringing the total number of people at the site to nearly 115,000,” the report, seen Sunday, part of some 193,000 civilians inside UN bases across the country. UN aid chief in South Sudan, Eugene Owusu, warned the crisis in Unity “is extremely worrying” adding that levels of “malnutrition are extremely high.”  AFP on Globalpost

South Sudan President Sacks Top Police Generals
South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, has sacked several top police generals, including inspector general of police two days after his government lost the ministry of interior to the armed opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) under the leadership of former vice-president, Riek Machar. The purged generals included a long serving police inspector general, Pieng Deng Kuol and his deputy, Andrew Kuol Nyuon, and have been replaced with Makur Arol as new inspector general and Biel Ruot as his deputy. The order was broadcast by the state owned South Sudan Television (SSTV) on Saturday evening and did not elaborate on the motives of the changes at the time the government and armed opposition are expected to form a new transitional government of national unity.  Sudan Tribune

Leaked UN Memo Shows There’s No Plan to Prevent Genocide in Burundi
The UN is woefully unprepared to tackle the possibility of worsening bloodshed in Burundi, according to a confidential memo written by the organization’s peacekeeping office and obtained by VICE News. The document is part of contingency planning underway at both the United Nations and the African Union (AU) for future operations in Burundi, and was sent to Security Council members earlier this week. Signed by Herve Ladsous, head of the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping (DPKO), the memo envisions various scenarios in Burundi, ranging from continued sporadic violence to genocide-type situations, as well as possible UN deployments in the country. None of deployment options appear capable of protecting most Burundians in the event of open war or more widespread killings. “Most importantly,” DPKO wrote, “United Nation’s peacekeeping is limited in its ability to address significant violence against civilians, even violence amounting to genocide, where it lacks a political framework and the strategic consent of the host nation and/or the main parties to the conflict.”  VICE

Many Burundi Attack Victims Unarmed, Suggests Evidence
Hundreds have died in Burundi since the president announced he would be running for a third term last year. But evidence is emerging that many of those who died were unarmed, and that they were shot several hours after the rebel attack. The most deadly attack since the crisis began happened in December, when armed insurgents stormed three army barracks. The government says 87 of them were killed. Maud Jullien reports.  BBC

Is a Pan African Police Force the Answer to Rising Militancy
Although Algeria has had fewer fighters joining the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), and has been less affected by arms trafficking, than its neighbors, the country is increasing its counter-terrorism efforts. The November attack in Bamako, Mali alerted many governments in the region to the fact that they are not immune to terror threats. The creation of Afripol—the Mechanism of African Police Cooperation—is one part of this strategy, with Major General Abdelghani Hamel, Algeria’s chief of national security, announcing that the new body will “bring a police response to the global threats in a changing environment.” By the end of 2015, both the Congress of Arab Police Chiefs and a meeting of the African Police Chiefs had agreed on the need for Afripol. The creation of a police cooperation body adds a new dimension to institutions that seek to enhance peace and security within the continent, not least because it brings together the two groups of police chiefs for a joint purpose.  NewsWeek

Mali Says Note Links Al Qaeda Splinter Group to Hotel Siege
Mali’s chief prosecutor said on Saturday that it has evidence that jihadist group Al Mourabitoun, led by veteran leader veteran militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, was behind a November attack on a luxury hotel that killed 20 people. Two Islamist militants stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako on November 20, killing six Russians, three Chinese and an American among others, in their bloodiest strike in the West African country in years. Boubacar Sidiki Samake said that a scrap of paper with an Arabic inscription was found on the bodies of the two men, later killed by Malian Special Forces. The note sought the release of two prisoners who are members of Al Mourabitoun held in neighboring Niger and Mauritania, he added. “These factors lead us to think that effectively Al Mourabitoun was at the origin of this attack,” Samake said on Malian state television late on Saturday. Reuters

Buhari Urges Unity Among Nigerians, Hails Armed Forces
President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday called on Nigerians to build on things that unite rather than divide the country in spite of diverse cultures and religions. He gave the advice at the Inter-Denominational Church Service to mark the 2016 Armed Forces and Remembrance Day at the National Christian Centre, Abuja.  Sahara Reporters

Why Nigeria Should Think Twice Before Joining Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Military Alliance
On 15 December, Saudi Arabia made a surprising announcement as it unveiled to the world what it said will be a 34-state “Islamic military alliance” to combat terrorism “all over the Islamic world”. This ambitious initiative, said Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman, “emanates from the keenness of the Muslim world to fight this disease, which has harmed the Islamic world’s standing in the international community”. Little is known about how exactly this alliance will operate, but according official statements it seems there will be a military component which includes intelligence sharing, a messaging component to combat ideology, and a sanctions component focused on “stopping the flow of funds” to terror groups. As for the countries involved, there are notable absentees such as Iran, Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, those said to be part of the alliance are drawn from across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It remains to be seen which countries will formally join the Saudi-led coalition, but one of those considering membership is Nigeria. African Arguments

People are Starving in East Africa — Again — As the World Looks Away
Humanitarian groups are growing increasingly concerned about two hunger emergencies unfolding in East Africa — one caused by drought, the other by war. Millions of people in Ethiopia and South Sudan are short on food, international agencies say, and in South Sudan, conflict has made it difficult for outside groups to help. Ethiopia’s emergency unfolded swiftly, as the worst drought in around 60 years saw successive crop failures. Between August and October, the number of people in need of help doubled, and numbers have continued to rise sharply since, with the drought exacerbated by El Niño. Now, 10.2 million Ethiopians are in critical need of food aid. International agencies are trying desperately to raise funds to prevent the food emergency from deteriorating into a full-fledged famine, but so far they say they have raised only a small portion of the cash they need to offer help. LA Times

Algeria Receiving Additional T-90 Tanks
Algeria is receiving additional T-90 tanks from Russia, with deliveries commencing in November. The Algerian People’s National Army has already received over 300 T-90s and signed an agreement to assemble another 200 under license. Last month photographs emerged of a T-90 being offloaded from the Liberian-registered roll-on/off cargo vessel Ocean Pride at the Algerian port of Oran. The vessel set out from Ust-Luga on Russia’s Baltic Sea coast on 12 November and arrived at Oran in Algeria on 25 November, according to IHS Maritime data. It then returned directly to Ust-Luga and left again on 11 December with Algeria listed as its destination. It is not clear if the deliveries are part of a new contract or an existing one, or a modification to the assembly agreement. Assembling the tanks locally works out to be more expensive than buying them complete from Russia. DefenseWeb

Ethnic Somalis are Dying in Kenya, and Some Say the Government is to Blame
A growing number of Kenya’s ethnic Somalis have vanished or turned up dead after being detained amid a crackdown by security forces on Islamist extremists. The authorities have denied involvement, suggesting that many of the deaths are at the hands of al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliate based in neighboring Somalia. “We do everything that happens within the fight against terrorism within the confines of the law,” said Mwenda Njoka, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. But parliamentarians representing the predominantly ethnic-Somali counties of northeast Kenya have said many of the victims are targets of a campaign by security forces. The 2.3 million ethnic Somalis with Kenyan citizenship have been under scrutiny since al-Shabab began staging attacks in 2011 in this country of 44 million. Suspicions have grown more intense since an attack in September 2013 on an upscale Nairobi mall, which left 67 dead, and an assault on Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya in April, which killed 148 people.  The Washington Post

Hundreds of Congolese Troops Withdraw from Central African force
Hundreds of peacekeepers from Democratic Republic of Congo on a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic will withdraw, a spokesman said on Saturday, after they failed an internal assessment. The historically turbulent former French colony suffered an intensification of violence in 2013 when mostly Muslim rebels known as Seleka seized power in a coup. Since then, militias drawn from the Christian majority have launched reprisal attacks and thousands of people have been killed and around a million displaced despite efforts by U.N. and French peacekeepers to restore order. “It is confirmed that the Congolese unit will withdraw from MINUSCA,” said Vladimir Monteiro, spokesman for the U.N. mission in Central African Republic. “The contingent will leave and not be replaced.” Asked about whether the withdrawal could jeopardise security, Monteiro declined to give an immediate comment, saying a further announcement would be made next week.  Reuters

Germany Mulls Sending 100 troops to Train Libyan Army: Media
Germany is considering sending more than 100 troops to train the armed forces of Libya, which is in turmoil due to rival political administrations and ISIS attacks, Der Spiegel magazine reported Saturday. “According to internal (government) plans German soldiers could, along with Italian colleagues, within months begin training the Libyan armed forces,” the news magazine said. “This would involve 150-200 Bundeswehr (German armed forces) troops,” Der Spiegel added. There was no comment from the defence ministry. The oil-rich north African country descended into chaos after the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Libya has had two administrations since August 2014, when an Islamist-backed militia alliance overran Tripoli, forcing the internationally recognized government to take refuge in Tobruk, in the east of the country. AFP on Al Arabiya

Did Zuma Receive Funding from Gaddafi?
The Presidency on Friday strongly rejected a press report that President Jacob Zuma “secretly received money from the late Libya’s president Muammar Gaddafi and that Zuma feared his administration could be toppled”. The Presidency made the statement in response to allegations by the Mail & Guardian newspaper on Friday that Zuma “was in Gaddafi’s pocket” and received funding from him. The report said this information was conveyed to Hillary Clinton when she was US Secretary of State in 2011 by a close confidant, based on Western intelligence sources. Private emails sent and received by Clinton were released as part of a convoluted legal and political fight, according to the report. Xinhua on IOL News

South Africa’s Tumultuous Politics Go Local in 2016
2015 was, by all accounts, an intense year on South Africa’s political scene. The year kicked off with an actual brawl in Parliament, in February, after opposition members yelled at the president, prompting the speaker to call in parliamentary police. And it went downhill from there, as scandals of every possible variety hit the beleaguered president and culminated in a rash of end-of-year marches calling for Jacob Zuma’s removal. In the last 12 months, his critics have protested — among other things — his alleged misuse of government funds, his refusal to arrest Sudan’s visiting president on an international war crimes warrant and his sudden, little-explained recent decision to fire and hire three different finance ministers in one week. VOA

Egypt Holds first Parliament in Three Years
Egypt’s parliament has opened for the first time in more than three years, packed with supporters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The previous Islamist-dominated legislature was dissolved by a court ruling in 2012. The following year, the then General Sisi ousted President Mohammed Morsi following massive protests against him and his Muslim Brotherhood party. Egypt’s new parliament has just 15 days to ratify over 300 new laws issued. Newly elected MPs were sworn in on the first day. They were then due to elect a speaker and two deputies.  BBC

Egyptian Court Upholds Mubarak, Sons Prison Sentence
Egypt’s court of appeals on Saturday rejected an appeal by former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons over a three-year jail sentence for corruption, but the trio is unlikely to be imprisoned again having already served the sentences. In May, an Egyptian court sentenced Mubarak and his sons to three years in jail without parole in a retrial on charges of diverting public funds and using the money to upgrade family properties. The three will have to pay a fine of 125 million Egyptian pounds ($15.96 million) and return 21 million pounds to the state treasury. A court source told Reuters that Mubarak and his sons had paid 104 million during the trial period. France 24

Observers See Several Motives for Eritrean Involvement in Yemen
The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels in Yemen is drawing in participants from across the Red Sea. Eritrea last month officially announced its “readiness to support the initiative without reservations and to extend its contribution to the alliance” of Saudi Arabia and its Gulf state allies. The typically tight-lipped Eritrean government, however, has not publicly elaborated on its military involvement in the Gulf. A report from a U.N. monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea in October cited a former high-ranking Eritrean official who said “400 Eritrean soldiers were embedded with the United Arab Emirates contingent of the forces fighting on Yemeni soil on behalf of the Arab coalition.” The report added that Eritrea was allowing the Gulf countries to use the port of Assab and its airspace to take part in the fight. In exchange for its involvement, Eritrea is receiving money and fuel, the report said. VOA

Zambia Ruling Party Warns Supporters Over Possible Divisions
Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front party has warned its members that it is the prerogative of incumbent President Edgar Lungu to choose his vice presidential running mate before the August 11 presidential and legislative elections. But the Patriotic Front says it is not against party members who aspire to higher position, including becoming the vice presidential nominee to partner with Lungu. Some of the aspiring candidates have met with chiefs and other stakeholders, while a few threatened to quit the party if they are not chosen to be the vice presidential candidate. The Patriotic Front warned members not to engage in acts that could divide the party. VOA

Rwanda Looks East after Changing Term Limits
Rwanda could be looking for new friends in the Middle East and Asia as the country rides out a wave of criticism by Western countries for allowing President Paul Kagame to seek another term in office when his current one expires in 2017. Shortly after announcing that he will run for a third term, President Kagame on Monday visited the United Arab Emirates and held talks with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The two had met in October 2014. Political analysts point out that President Kagame’s frequent visits and growing interest in the Middle East signals Rwanda’s shift from the West as the country sheds its “Darling of the West” tag. Recent events indicate that President Kagame and his government have already sought out new allies in case the old ones decide to act the way they usually do in such circumstances — through sanctions and aid cuts.  The East African

Hope as African Leaders Reduce Terms
As some African leaders are going all out to increase their terms in office, it is gratifying that several are calling for reduced ones. Manoeuvres to prolong presidential terms have included holding referendums aimed at changing constitutions to legalise incumbents’ bids to hold onto power, as happened Congo and Rwanda. Ironically, Rwanda’s constitutional change that allows President Paul Kagame to stand again next year also shortens the presidential term from seven to five years from 2024. It also allows Kagame two more terms, extending his rule to 2034. Gratefully, leaders like Liberia’s President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson have come out strongly calling for laws to cut presidential terms. She wants the term reduced from six to four years, with the presidential terms limited to two. The call by President Sirleaf did not surprise Liberians. Daily Nation

Tale of Journalist Mistakenly Held as al-Qaeda Chief
Mauritanian journalist Cheikh Ould Salek was temporarily detained when he boarded a flight from Senegalese capital Dakar to Dubai on January 3 after he was mistakenly accused of being a terrorist mastermind. Ould Salek, who works for Sky News Arabia in Dubai, told Al Jazeera he boarded a flight from Sengal’s Dakar and was planning to get some sleep on the 10-hour flight to Dubai when he realised he was in a lot of trouble. On board of the Emirates airline, Ould Salek heard his name being called and found three Senegalese police officers come to his seat to escort him off the plane. “I knew then that something had gone wrong,” he said. “When I looked outside the plane, I saw over 30 police cars flashing their lights and tens of police and army officers were awaiting me,” he added. Once on the ground, Ould Salek was handcuffed and placed in one police car and sped off to the police station. Al Jazeera

A Tumultuous Housing Program in Algeria
[…] The government program, one of the most ambitious in the region, is Algeria’s answer to galloping population growth, rapid urbanization and a housing crisis that, many argue, lies at the base of much of the country’s despair. Critics, however, say the housing handouts are creating as many problems as they solve, fueling corruption, violence and a culture of dependency while opportunities to spur growth outside Algeria’s vast oil sector are ignored. Even much of the construction, intended to generate employment and to diversify Algeria’s economy from its dependence on the oil sector, has been outsourced to Chinese companies. Recently, Turkish and Egyptian companies have also joined the building boom. The housing program is nonetheless popular, and vastly oversubscribed. Nearly 70 percent of Algeria’s 39 million people now live in cities along the northern coast, often in slums or in densely packed 1950s tenements rife with drugs and crime. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones