Media Review for January 14, 2016

How a City in Tanzania Holds the Key to Peace in Burundi
At some stage, both sides in Burundi’s increasingly bloody political crisis are likely to be sitting across the table from one another in Arusha, Tanzania, looking to agree a political settlement. Arusha, a laidback cosmopolitan city in northern Tanzania, has been the traditional venue for negotiating some of East Africa’s most intractable conflicts. It was where the Burundian government and the opposition CNARED were supposed to be heading last week for talks mediated by the African Union and the East African Community, until the government pulled out its representatives on the grounds that they couldn’t meet with “criminals” and “terrorists”. […] According to Paul Nantulya of the Pentagon’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the mediation “sought to balance two extremely complex questions. The first was how to guarantee full political participation by the minority Tutsi population even when its prospects for winning competitive elections would remain slim in the foreseeable future? The second was how to alleviate the deep mistrust of the Hutu majority in the armed forces?” IRIN

In Burundi, Uptick in Ethnic Rhetoric Sparks Anxiety over Genocide Warnings (+video)
Christophe Ndasingwa is well-acquainted with the tactics of the police. As a protester and now a member of the armed opposition movement aimed at removing President Pierre Nkurunziza from power, he has been hiding in Bujumbura after two arrests and more than two months spent in jail since last April. But Mr. Ndasingwa, whose name has been changed for his safety, says that the police force has not only become more violent, but has also ramped up ethnic rhetoric in recent weeks, pitting Hutus and Tutsi against each other. Indeed, since President Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term sparked the spring 2015 protests, there were signs that the regime would seek to reopen the wounds of ethnically-fueled civil wars as a tactic to divide the movement and stoke fear. This comes as Burundi backed out of peace talks with the opposition scheduled for Wednesday in Tanzania because it blames some of the participants for recent violence. CS Monitor

Bid to Prevent Nkurunziza from Taking over EAC Chair
Embattled Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza may be stopped from assuming the chair of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Summit if a petition filed by human rights groups in Africa is given a nod by relevant regional bodies during its hearing which kicks off here today. The Pan African Lawyers Union (Palu) and other petitioners from within and outside the region want the Burundi leader stopped from taking over the rotating chairmanship of EAC until he resolves the political, human rights and humanitarian crisis in his country. The petition was submitted to the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) and is set for hearing at the EAC headquarters beginning this morning at a time the mediation efforts among the warring parties in Burundi are yet to bear fruit and with the humanitarian crisis there worsening. The Citizen

Lord’s Resistance Army Kidnaps Dozens in Central African Republic
Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels killed a villager and abducted dozens of others during two weekend raids in a remote diamond-producing area of Central African Republic, local residents and officials said on Tuesday. The incidents represent the largest kidnapping by the Ugandan rebel group — headed by notorious warlord Joseph Kony — in recent months in the former French colony, which is also reeling from years of inter-religious bloodshed. The LRA, known for massacring and mutilating civilians as well as abducting children to serve as fighters and sex slaves, raided a mine near the village of Diya, around 600 km east of the capital Bangui, on Saturday. “In the first abduction, they kidnapped 10 people. Six were freed. The others are still with them. In the second abduction, around 20 people were taken and are still with the attackers,” said local government official Herve Omere Fei-Omona. He said one person was also killed and a vehicle was burned during the attacks. Daily Nation

Burkina Faso President Takes Defence
Burkina Faso’s new President Roch Marc Christian Kabore took the helm of the defence ministry in a government line-up unveiled on Wednesday for a nation with a history of military trouble and coups. Kabore, only the third civilian president of nine in office since independence in 1960, kept the defence and veterans’ affairs portfolio for himself as had his predecessor Blaise Compaore, who was overthrown by an uprising in 2014. Reform of the army consequently is a key issue for the future in a country with a legacy of military trouble. Headed by Prime Minister Paul Kaba Thieba, a former economist and central banker, the 30-member cabinet has seven women, including Aridjatou Rosine Coulibaly Sori in the key post of Economy and Finance minister. News 24

Malta Helps Secure freedom for Hostages Held in Libya
Two Europeans hostages, kidnapped nine months ago, have been released and were flown to Malta last yesterday before heading home to their respective countries. Austrian Alexander Haas and Serb Babic Radoslav Srja, both of whom worked with Argus Security for the Italian oil and gas company Eni, were said to have been seized west of Tripoli nine months ago by a Misratan militia. Their freedom was secured in part by Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and followed a meeting between him and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić in Belgrade last Saturday. Confirming this, a Maltese government statement said the two were released as a result of collaboration between the Maltese, Libyan, Austrian and Serbian authorities. Muscat met Srja while visiting Vienna today. Libya Herald

#Telema: the Congolese Activists Standing Up to Kabila’s Government
He’s been imprisoned for nearly 10 months, but Fred Bauma’s optimism hasn’t waned. “I don’t know if I’ll be released tomorrow, or the day after or any time soon. I like to think that I’ll eventually be released,” said the 25-year-old activist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as the case against him continues to stall. His crime? Taking part in a pro-democracy event in March last year, in which he and other activists launched a youth movement to boost the involvement of young people in the highly anticipated upcoming elections. But government officials raided the event and arrested Bauma on terrorism charges, accusing him of attempting to destabilise the country. He was eventually taken to Makala prison, which is nearly 1,000 miles from his family’s home in eastern DRC. The Guardian

Congo Edges Towards Crisis as Opposition Digs in Against Kabila
At Kinshasa’s hectic Victoire roundabout, banners urge people to back “dialogue for the good of Congo”, but to many the timing of President Joseph Kabila’s call for political talks less than a year before he is supposed to step down is highly suspicious. “If they thought that we had to have the dialogue, why the dialogue at the end of the mandate?” 38-year-old technician Chine Tshiboko asked, to nods from a crowd of men around him in the capital of one of Africa’s biggest and most chaotic states. Under Democratic Republic of Congo’s constitution the president is allowed only two terms. Kabila will complete his second this year, but has refused to promise to leave power at elections due in November. With little public support for altering the constitution to allow Kabila to run again, his opponents believe he has opted instead for a “glissement”, or “sliding” of the electoral calendar to prolong his days in power. Reuters

Two Central African Presidential Candidates Call for Vote Recount
Two losing candidates in Central African Republic’s presidential race demanded on Tuesday a manual recount of ballots cast in last month’s first-round vote, saying that widespread irregularities undermined the credibility of the results. The election appears set to head to a second round after provisional results showed two ex-prime ministers – Anicet Georges Dologuele and Faustin Archange Touadera – in the lead but neither winning an outright majority. Observers have praised the mainly peaceful nature of the Dec. 30 polls, which many hope will help put an end to years of deadly inter-religious bloodshed. However, Andre Kolingba and Martin Ziguele, who finished third and fourth and are both members of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for Transition (AFDT) political platform, are disputing the result. Reuters

As Economy Crumbles, Sudan Ditches Iran for Saudi Patronage
When Saudi Arabia executed a leading Shi’ite cleric and protesters responded by torching the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Sudan was one of only three countries to sever ties with Iran in solidarity with Riyadh. The Jan. 4 move cemented a dramatic political shift: in the past two years, Sudan has turned its back on a quarter-century alliance with Iran in favour of the Saudis, who have proved more willing to provide the financial support it sorely needs. Saudi Arabia has already invested more than any other country in Sudan — about $11 billion, mostly in agriculture. In the past year, it has deposited $1 billion in Sudan’s central bank, signed deals to finance the construction of power-generating dams on the Nile, and pledged even more investment in farming. Such largesse explains why Sudan, struggling with a collapsing currency and soaring unemployment, has chosen to favour economic ties with Saudi Arabia over a relationship with Iran that was largely based on arms. Reuters

Sudan Announces Date for Darfur Referendum
A referendum on Darfur administrative status will be held on 11 April where only the region’s residents will take part in the vote. The Darfur referendum commission announced Tuesday that the residents of the region will vote during three days from 11 to 13 April on whether or not the region will keep its five states or reunite as one entity with a semi-autonomous administration. The head of Darfur Referendum Commission Omer Ali Jamaa told reporter that the government is determined to hold the plebiscite, saying the referendum is a requirement of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) of July 2011. Sudan Tribune

Zimbabwe Declines Comment on Mugabe Health Rumours
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s spokesman declined to comment on Wednesday on rumours that the 91-year-old leader had suffered a heart attack, saying a response to the latest speculation about his health was “unnecessary”. Spokesman George Charamba’s response was to a text message sent by Reuters asking for an update on Mugabe’s health. The online Zimbabwe news website Zim Eye ( published a letter on Tuesday by an anonymous author saying Mugabe was “reported to have collapsed after suffering a heart attack while on holiday with his family”. The letter, which did not reveal the source of its information, added that Mugabe was in a critical condition and that his family had been told to expect the worst. It did not say where he had suffered the heart attack or where he was being treated. Reuters

West Africa Declared Ebola-Free
Liberia has been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization (WHO), effectively putting an end to the world’s worst outbreak of the disease. The “end of active transmission” was declared, after 42 days without a new case in Liberia. It joins Guinea and Sierra Leone, which earned the status last year. However, the WHO warned that West Africa may see flare-ups of the virus. It has killed more than 11,000 people since December 2013. BBC

Africa-China Exports Fall by 40% After China Slowdown
African exports to China fell by almost 40% in 2015, China’s customs office says. China is Africa’s biggest single trading partner and its demand for African commodities has fuelled the continent’s recent economic growth. The decline in exports reflects the recent slowdown in China’s economy. This has, in turn, put African economies under pressure and in part accounts for the falling value of many African currencies. BBC

‘I Think I May Die Tonight’. The Story of an Ambitious Rwandan Journalist Who Challenged Paul Kagame’s Leadership.
Standing on the porch of our office building, Gibson suddenly said that he wanted to start a magazine. For weeks, he had sat quietly at the back of the classroom during the training program I was running for journalists in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. But now the reporter seemed overcome with determination. He had just quit writing for Umuseso, Rwanda’s most important independent newspaper, after the government had threatened his colleagues and forced many of them to flee their country. Journalism can be deadly in Rwanda, and no one would have blamed Gibson for finding a new career after the threats. But Gibson made it clear he wouldn’t sit idly by as Paul Kagame eroded what was left of the country’s free press. But nor would he take on the Rwandan president directly. The magazine he imagined would employ a clever approach: It would neither flatter Kagame’s government, which took power after the genocide nearly 22 years ago and gradually consolidated almost total control over society, nor publish overtly subversive news. Gibson wanted his magazine to fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of newspapers in Rwanda, where waves of repression have left only the most uncompromising media outlets still standing. He wanted to be a moderating force. Foreign Policy

Suspend Ugandan ‘Crime Preventers’ Program, rights Groups Urge
Five international and local rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Human Rights Network Uganda have called on Ugandan authorities to suspend the crime prevention program which trains and recruits civilians to police local communities. “An unregulated force with no clear mandate is always a problem,” Maria Burnett, HRW’s country coordinator for Uganda told DW. “The cases we documented involve cases of beatings, of torture, of extortion, of being instrumentalized by various politicians, of being there to threaten or intimidate free expression in the districts and in local areas.” All these things, she said, would hinder the conduct of free and fair elections.  Deutsche Welle

EU Asked to Break Silence on Alleged Killing of Oromo Protesters in Ethiopia
Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week alleged that Ethiopian security forces had killed at least 140 protesters and injured many more. Opposition parties and activists asserted thousands of Oromo protesters had been arrested and injured since the protests started in mid-November. In a surprise move on Wednesday (13.01.2016), the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO) party, which is part of the ruling coalition, announced that it wanted to halt the so-called “Addis Ababa Masterplan” which is at the root of the ongoing crisis. The plan involves the expansion of the capital into the surrounding Oromia region. Government spokesman Getachew Reda told reporters that the government would respect this decision, but that they would still prosecute those who had participated in the protests. Deutsche Welle

How Intel Eliminated War From Its Supply Chain
Seven years ago, Carolyn Duran realized the company she worked for had blood on its hands. Intel — the world’s largest semiconductor maker, where Duran led sustainability efforts — was building many of its products with minerals and metals extracted from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten, all crucial components in many electronics, fund an on-again-off-again civil war marked by rape and brutal violence. But getting these conflict minerals out of Intel’s supply chain was not as simple as prohibiting purchases from militant-controlled mines. Intel didn’t actually buy any ore. The raw materials were sold to smelters in places like Russia and China, via buyers in neighboring African countries. Tech firms like Intel wouldn’t buy the minerals until they’d been refined and were ready for use in phones and computers. “In the beginning, we didn’t care, and just got the cheapest material — we could have been funding conflict inadvertently at that time,” Duran told The Huffington Post. “But then Intel and others came there and made a business case.”  The Huffington Post

Rights Lawyers Hope to Outlaw Death Penalty in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court began its year Wednesday with a request from 15 death row prisoners for their sentences to be commuted. Rights lawyers are hoping the death penalty will be outlawed in Zimbabwe this year. The lawyer for the 15 said they have been waiting for their executions for periods ranging between four and 20 years. All have been convicted of murder or treason, which carry capital sentences in Zimbabwe. Their lawyer, former Zimbabwe finance minister Tendai Biti, said after this case is over he wants the death penalty completely outlawed. “When someone has been sentenced to death, he cannot be subjected to death row for so long and wait for so many years on death row.We are saying that is unconstitutional. VOA

E. Africa Launches Program to Prevent, Control Pandemic Threats
Starting in 2014, West Africa experienced the largest Ebola outbreak in history, killing more than 11,000 people and bringing the threat of global pandemic to worldwide consciousness. Scientists believe the outbreak started with a small boy who contracted the virus from a bat. But Ebola is hardly the only disease caused by microbes transferred between animals and humans, and as the global population continues to grow, along with demand for food, similar threats are likely to arise. Tuesday at a hotel in Nairobi, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the U.S. Agency for International Development launched the East African component of FAO’s Emerging Pandemic Threats, or EPT-2 program. The program is designed to help detect, prevent, and control new “zoonotic” diseases, meaning those which can be passed between animals and humans. VOA

Niger Holds 13 over Failed December Coup
Twelve soldiers and a civilian have been arrested so far in connection with last month’s failed coup in Niger, Defence Minister Mahamadou Karidjo said on Wednesday. “Investigators have established the involvement of 13 people, including 10 soldiers from the Niger Armed Forces (FAN), two National Guard members and a civilian,” the minister said on state television, which said the preliminary stage of the inquiry had finished. He said four of the suspects had “admitted they were preparing a coup d’etat” on December 18, 2015 when the former French colony was to mark its 57th anniversary. “The officers whose guilt has been established… will appear before a military tribunal,” he said. News 24

UN Winding Down Ivory Coast Mission
The United Nations is winding down its peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast after peaceful elections were held in the West African country, a UN envoy said on Wednesday. The UN mission in Ivory Coast will be drawn down from its current strength of 5 437 soldiers to 4 000 by March, said Aichatou Mindaoudou. Talks will begin in February on further troop reductions and the future of the mission, she told the UN Security Council. The peacekeeping force was deployed in 2004 to help end a civil war that had left the country split in two, with a Muslim-dominated north and predominantly Christian south. News 24

A Change of Direction for the AU?
Although the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU) emphasises the importance of protecting human rights, the organisation’s efforts in this regard were historically demonstrated in adopting documents, rather than taking concrete steps. In the past two years, however, the issue of human rights has increasingly translated into action on the ground. At the end of 2013, for example, the AU mandated a commission to investigate human rights abuses in South Sudan. The theme of the 26th ordinary session of the Assembly of the AU, to be held in Addis Ababa from 30 to 31 January, is ‘Human rights with a focus on the rights of women’. ISS

Kenya is Run by Mafia-Style Cartels, Says Chief Justice
Kenya is at war with mafia-style cartels run by corrupt politicians and business people, according to the country’s chief justice. Speaking to a Dutch newspaper, Willy Mutunga claimed organised crime stretched across all of Kenyan society and had “never been worse”. “The influence of the cartels is overwhelming,” he said. “They are doing illegal business with politicians. If we do not fight [them], we become their slaves.” As president of Kenya’s supreme court, Mutunga admitted the legal system was ill-equipped to tackle the problem. “You are taking these people into a corrupt investigating system, through a corrupt anti-corruption system, and a corrupt judiciary,” he said. The Guardian

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are Struggling to Share the Nile
When Egyptian politicians discussed sabotaging the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in 2013, they naturally assumed it was a private meeting. But amid all the scheming, and with a big chuckle, Muhammad Morsi, then president, informed his colleagues that their discussion was being broadcast live on a state-owned television channel. Embarrassment apart, it was already no secret that Egypt wanted to stop the largest hydroelectric project in Africa. When Ethiopia completes construction of the dam in 2017, it will stand 170 metres tall (550 feet) and 1.8km (1.1 miles) wide. Its reservoir will be able to hold more than the volume of the entire Blue Nile, the tributary on which it sits (see map). And it will produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity, more than double Ethiopia’s current measly output, which leaves three of four people in the dark. This boon for Ethiopia is the bane of Egypt, which for millennia has seen the Nile as a lifeline snaking across its vast desert. The river still provides nearly all of Egypt’s water. Egypt claims two-thirds of that flow based on a treaty it signed with Sudan in 1959. But even that is no longer enough to satisfy the growing population and sustain thirsty crops. Annual water supply per person has fallen by well over half since 1970. The UN warns of a looming crisis. Officials in Egypt, while loth to fix leaky pipes, moan that the dam will leave them high and dry.  The Economist

Algeria: An Idle, Pricey Presidential Plane
Algeria’s pricey presidential plane has rarely been rolled out of its hangar at the military airport in Algiers since it was bought in 2008. The plane, an Airbus A340-500, was bought for a whopping $312 million, after which it was completely custom-fitted for President Adelaziz Bouteflika. Bouteflika was apparently unsatisfied traveling with the national carrier for his official visits, forcing the government to part with the princely sum for the jet. The plane was officially commissioned in 2010 after over $40 million had gone into fitting a medical unit, sleeping chamber with an en-suite bathroom, offices and anti-missiles. Africa Report