Media Review for January 19, 2016


After Deadly Hotel Attack, Burkina Faso Contemplates a Future with Terrorism
Until Friday night, Burkina Faso was a country that appeared to be off the radar of Islamist extremist groups, engrossed in its own coups and counter­-coups, seemingly forgotten by the militants waging attacks to its north and east. Then, after sunset, gunmen stormed the Splendid Hotel in the capital, Ouagadougou, taking more than 100 hostages and forcing the country to rethink the threats it faces as Islamist groups in sub-Saharan Africa seek new high-profile targets. By the time the attack was over Saturday, at least 23 people were dead, according to Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. According to news services, an American, identified Saturday by the U.S. State Department as Michael James Riddering, was killed in the attack. The Associated Press reported that he was a 45-year-old missionary who was meeting a group that was going to volunteer at the orphanage and women’s crisis center he ran with his wife when the attack began. The Washington Post Burkina Faso’s New Nightmare: The Rising Threat of Radical Islam
[…] Burkina Faso has remained a relatively stable country, both in terms of political and security situation, while witnessing minor militant activity, mainly in northern regions along the border with Mali. Little is known about al-Mourabitoun’s operational infrastructures in northern Burkina Faso. That being said, there are strong indications that the group has become increasingly active in Mali’s Mopti region, potentially expanding its theatre of operations along the border with Burkina Faso. The spill-over was likely the result of the ongoing French Operation Barkhane, which inflicted a heavy blow on Jihadists’ ability to operate in Mali’s northern regions and forced them to look for additional sources of funding instead of those lost, including along Mali’s porous southern borders. The protracted security vacuum in the border region between the two countries, coupled with scarce security presence in Burkina Faso’s northern rural and outlying areas, has allowed the underlying Islamist threat to eventually transform into a bloody reality. Daily Maverick Burkina Attacks: Mr Marlboro’s Legacy Lives On
Mali, Algeria and now the tiny West African state of Burkina Faso – they are all paying the price for the collapse of Libya and the end of the regime that held it together. Few may have rued the day that Muammar Gaddafi was toppled – but the day after? That is a different matter. Warehouses the size of airport terminals stuffed to the brim with all manner of stockpiled weapons were emptied into the Sahara and carried on its sand seas across North Africa, fuelling conflict and enriching radical Islamist gangsters. The main beneficiary of this accidental reinforcement of the West’s jihadist enemies has been al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). And most specifically Mokhtar Belmokhtar. Sky News

Is the AU Bold Enough to Tackle Belmokhtar?
[…] Theoretically, the AU is showing an appetite for a co-ordinated military response. In her statement on the Burkina Faso attack, AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma reaffirmed the “vital importance of establishing, quickly, an Intervention Force to be deployed in northern Mali, to fight against the criminal and terrorist groups operating from that region towards other countries of the Sahel”. Maybe the target should be southern Libya and not northern Mali, as Zounmenou suggests. But, in any case, will this African and international intervention force ever come into being? There are other signs that the AU is growing increasingly belligerent – on paper. Last December, its Peace and Security Council approved the establishment of a military force to intervene in Burundi. Its aim would be to check the violence and bloodshed provoked by President Pierre Nkurunzizas’s decision to cling to power, in defiance of the constitution. IOL News

Burundi Ex-Minister, Generals Jailed for Life over Coup: Radio
A former Burundi defense minister and three other generals were sentenced to life in jail on Friday for their role in a coup that was foiled in May, state radio reported. The men were among a group of 28 officers and others on trial for their part in the attempt to topple President Pierre Nkurunziza, who plunged the nation into a crisis last year with his bid for a third term which he secured in a disputed vote. U.N. officials say the crisis has brought the poor nation to the brink of a new civil war, after it emerged from a 12-year, ethnically fueled conflict just a decade ago. As well as sentencing former Defence Minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye and three other generals, the court jailed nine others in the group to 30 years in jail and eight more to five years, state radio reported.  Reuters

Mali and Burkina Faso to Share Counter-Terror Efforts after Islamist Attacks
Burkina Faso and Mali have agreed to work together to counter the growing threat of Islamic militants in west Africa by sharing intelligence and conducting joint security patrols, following two deadly and well-coordinated attacks in the region. The prime ministers of the two countries met on Sunday, two days after al-Qaida militants seized the Splendid hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, opened fire on a restaurant and attacked another hotel nearby. The assault killed at least 29 people from at least 18 countries and left 50 other people injured. The assault, claimed by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), follows a similar raid in November on a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako, which killed 20 people, including citizens of Russia, China and the US. The exact details of the cooperation between Burkina Faso and Mali were not immediately clear, but the patrols and intelligence-sharing mark an intent by the two countries to prevent the spread of militancy as AQIM and others expand operations in the region beyond their usual reach. The Guardian

Burkina Faso Attack: Al-Qaeda ‘Names’ Hotel Attackers
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has named three militants who it says carried out last week’s hotel attack in Burkina Faso, killing 29 people. AQIM’s statement – carried by monitoring group SITE – said Ouagadougou’s four-star Splendid Hotel was a “den of global espionage”. The statement has not been independently verified. AQIM is based in the Sahara Desert between Mali, Niger and Algeria and has attacked West African countries. This was its first attack on Burkina Faso. In its statement, AQIM published photographs of three men wearing military uniforms and holding guns, naming them as Battar al-Ansari, Abu Muhammad al-Buqali al-Ansari and Ahmed al-Fulani al-Ansari.  BBC

Abducted Australians ‘Dedicated Life’ to Burkina Villagers
The family of an Australian doctor and his wife kidnapped in Burkina Faso said on Sunday they did not know why the couple were abducted or where they were taken. Surgeon Ken Elliott and his wife Jocelyn disappeared on Friday night, the family in Western Australia state said in a statement. “Recent news from the country indicates an alleged abduction of Ken and Jocelyn on Friday night, however no reason is yet given for this and their whereabouts is still unknown,” the statement said. Authorities do not know if the abductions are linked to the attack on the country’s capital Ouagadougou by al-Qaida fighters on Friday night that left at least 28 people dead.  France 24

Burkina Faso Starts Three Days of National Mourning after Deadly Hotel Attack
Burkina Faso began three days of national mourning Sunday and the president said security would be stepped up after al-Qaida militants killed at least 28 people in an attack on a hotel and cafe popular with foreigners. In a message to the nation, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said the people of Burkina Faso must unite in the fight against terrorism. He also announced on the national broadcaster, Burkina 24, that security forces would be stepping up their efforts to thwart future attacks and asked people to comply with the new restrictions. “These truly barbaric criminal acts carried out against innocent people, claimed by the criminal organization al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) seek to destabilize our country and its republican institutions, and to undermine efforts to build a democratic, quiet and prosperous nation,” said Kabore.  France 24

In Libya, U.S. Courts Unreliable Allies to Counter ISIS
The American Special Operations forces expected a warm welcome when they landed at the Libyan air base where an allied militia was stationed. Instead, armed men from another militia at the base threatened to detain the commandos, forcing the Americans to evacuate. The episode, on Dec. 14, highlighted the difficulties faced by the Obama administration as it engages in a search across Libya to find armed groups that can act as a ground force against the country’s increasingly potent branch of the Islamic State. American and Libyan officials said that the sudden departure of the group of 20 American commandos from the Al Watiya air base last month was the result of a miscommunication between the militias stationed there. But the episode laid bare the lack of central authority in Libya, with no single government in charge and an army barely able to exert control over groups nominally under its command. Counterterrorism officials regard the Libyan branch as the Islamic State’s most dangerous affiliate, one that is expanding its territory and continuing to mount deadly attacks, including several this month. But to stop its advance, the United States and its European allies have been forced to court unreliable allies from among a patchwork of Libyan militias that remain unaccountable, poorly organized and divided by region and tribe. The New York Times

Could Trouble in Burundi Take Down the Whole Region?
Nine months after President Pierre Nkurunziza upended Burundi’s fragile post-conflict peace by announcing he would stand for a third term in office, all indications are the crisis is getting worse rather than better. New evidence of sexual assault by security forces and growing allegations of mass killings coupled with the staunch unwillingness by Nkurunziza’s government to participate in regional talks aimed at resolving the crisis are leaving many to wonder how bad things will get. At stake is not just peace and stability in Burundi, but potentially the entire Great Lakes region as developments in Burundi threaten to create a domino effect in neighboring countries. With such high stakes, pressure is growing on domestic, regional and international stakeholders to find a solution. Yesterday the UN high commissioner of human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged further independent investigation into the growing violence.  UN Dispatch

UK Team Deploys to Train Nigerian Forces Fighting Boko Haram
A UK military training team will deploy to Nigeria as part of the ongoing efforts to train local forces to combat Boko Haram. More than 35 personnel from the Second Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment (2 R ANGLIAN), will shortly deploy to deliver infantry training to Nigerian military personnel preparing to tackle the extremist group in the north of the country. Last month Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced a step up in training to help Nigerian forces stamp out the threat posed by Boko Haram. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “We stand united with Nigeria in its efforts to defeat the murderous Boko Haram extremists. “Stepping up our training efforts will help support the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) for crucial counter-insurgency operations.”  Defence Talk

Military Victories Over Boko Haram Mean Little to Nigerians
Though the Nigerian military has arrested and killed many fighters — and more crucially, retaken a swath of territory once held by insurgents that is estimated to be as large as Belgium — the gains have come against a backdrop of relentless suicide bombings that, if anything, have escalated. Nigeria’s paradox was highlighted recently when Mr. Buhari told reporters that “technically we have won the war” against the group, a statement that many view as premature. Besides the widespread attacks, the United Nations estimates that more than 2.4 million people in the region — half of them children — have fled their villages in recent years and are afraid to return. The more than 200 secondary schoolgirls from Chibok who were abducted in 2014 are still missing, their whereabouts unknown “To state the obvious, this fight is not over, not in Nigeria or in the neighboring countries,” a senior American State Department official said on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential government assessments. “Our contacts with the Nigerians, both on the military and civilian side, made clear they also share the same basic understanding of the facts on the ground: The suicide bombings will continue.”  The New York Times

Buhari’s Corruption Drive Lays Bare Nigeria’s Political Tensions
When Muhammadu Buhari took over as Nigeria’s president less than a year ago, he vowed to wipe out the corruption he said threatened the very existence of Africa’s largest economy. But as he investigates former ministers and high-ranking officials, members of the opposition People’s Democratic Party accuse him of carrying out a vendetta against them. Buhari ousted the PDP following March elections, ending the party’s monopoly on power that it held since the end of military rule in 1999. The PDP called for Buhari to be impeached last week for “various constitutional” breaches, including the arrest this month of its national spokesman, Olisa Metuh. He was detained as part a probe into whether the previous government stole as much as $5.5 billion meant for fighting Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency in the north. Sambo Dasuki, the national security adviser under the administration of Goodluck Jonathan, was also arrested as part of the same investigation.  Bloomberg

Nigeria: Envoys Absence Grounds Foreign Missions
The federal government has recalled majority of Nigerian ambassadors but is yet to appoint their replacements, Daily Trust reports. Nigeria has envoys in over 100 countries comprising career and non-career diplomats, the latter being mainly political appointees. In July 2015, the government recalled 27 non-career ambassadors and on January 4, all career diplomats, except a few, were asked to return. It was also gathered that at the moment, the chargé d’affaires or, in some cases, counsel-generals have been saddled with the task of overseeing Nigeria’s diplomatic affairs until new envoys are appointed. Daily Trust gathered that career ambassadors were, via a circular dated January 4, 2016, directed to return after completing the usual three-year tour of duty abroad. Daily Trust

Gabon Recalls Paris Ambassador after Election Comments
Gabon has recalled its ambassador to Paris after France’s prime minister appeared to question the legitimacy of President Ali Bongo’s election in 2009, the central African country said. The latest sign of fraying relations between Gabon and its former colonial ruler follows a French investigation into the origins of the wealth of the Bongo family, which has ruled the oil producing nation since 1967. Asked during a television interview on Saturday whether Bongo had been democratically elected, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: “No, not as I understand it.” Gabon’s Interior Minister Pacome Moubelet Boubeya told state television late on Sunday that the government was seeking clarification of Valls’ remark. “We are surprised and shocked by the words of Manuel Valls when our two countries have such excellent relations,” he said. France’s foreign ministry said it was “extremely attached” . Reuters

Can the UN Patch Things up in Congo?
A year ago, the Congolese army and MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, were supposed to launch joint operations to take on Rwandan Hutu rebels. Everything was planned down to the last detail, before a major difference of opinion stopped the effort in its tracks. The Congolese government was already highly irritated by MONUSCO’s criticism of its poor human rights record and its democratic shortcomings when the head of the mission at the time, Germany’s Martin Kobler, demanded that two Congolese generals, Bruno Mandevu and Fall Sikabwe, be replaced before operations began due to suspected human rights violations. Kinshasa refused to change the commanding officers it had selected for the mission and strongly denounced what it decried as an intrusion into Congolese sovereignty.  IRIN

Lord’s Resistance Army Sheltering and Trading on Sudanese Soil
Fighters of the fugitive Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have taken shelter on Sudanese territory near a Sudanese military base and are trafficking in leopard skins and other goods, multiple local sources told Radio Tamazuj this week. LRA, which originated in Uganda, is considered a “terrorist” group by the African Union and the United States, and it is hunted by a multinational African force backed by US special forces. Yusuf al-Samani, the nazir (paramount chief) of the Fallata tribe, told Radio Tamazuj in an interview that LRA forces are deployed inside the Sudanese border in the far southwest of South Darfur State near the border with the Central African Republic and South Sudan. The tribal leader accused LRA troops of kiling several members of his tribe in different incidents over the last two years, which caused mounting tension between the two sides, while also acknowledging that his own tribesmen killed two LRA fighters in a recent incident. Radio Tamazuj

Apple, Samsung and Sony Face Child Labour Claims
Human rights organisation Amnesty has accused Apple, Samsung and Sony, among others, of failing to do basic checks to ensure minerals used in their products are not mined by children. In a report into cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it found children as young as seven working in dangerous conditions. Cobalt is a a vital component of lithium-ion batteries. The firms said that they had a zero tolerance policy towards child labour. The DRC produces at least 50% of the world’s cobalt. Miners working in the area face long-term health problems and the risk of fatal accidents, according to Amnesty. It claimed that at least 80 miners had died underground in southern DRC between September 2014 and December 2015. It also collected the testimonies of children who allegedly work in the mines. BBC

Somali General: Kenyans Were Warned of Al-Shabab Attack
A Kenyan army unit reportedly decimated in an attack by al-Shabab militants last Friday had received warning of the assault, according to a Somali general. The commander of Somali troops in the Gedo region, General Abbas Ibrahim Gurey, tells VOA’s Somali service that the unit’s commander was given word of a possible attack hours before the first bullet was fired. “It was information we knew, the information was received, and they were ready for it,” Gurey said in a telephone interview Sunday. The Gedo region’s deputy governor has said the attack killed at least 40 Kenyan soldiers stationed at an African Union base in El-Adde, a town in southern Somalia, near the border with Kenya. Kenyan soldiers have been in Somalia since 2011, helping the AU mission, known as AMISOM, fight al-Shabab. Kenyan officials are investigating what happened in Friday’s attack. VOA

With Change Unlikely, Ugandans Brace for Elections
On walls, lampposts and entryways, colorful campaign posters are everywhere in Uganda’s capital city Kampala. Newspapers are full of campaign speeches while on radio the elections are being hotly debated. All of this talk and commotion in this small East-African country is about the upcoming parliamentary and presidential election on February 18. Young people are especially hopeful that they will see another president in their lifetime other than President Yoweri Museveni. “This time we need a fair election and a change in power because we have had the same president for the past 30 years,” said Francis Kwizera, an IT administrator. “So many promises were not fulfilled and we do not see him solving these over the next five years. He is now 71 and I am 28 and I have never lived under another president,” he added.  Deutsche Welle

Museveni’s NRM Party Still has Huge Support in Rural Uganda
Uganda’s National Resistance Movement has always claimed to be the party of the rural poor. It is a claim that has its roots in Yoweri Museveni’s early radical politics; and since the 1990s, it has been the standard riposte of the NRM to political challenges — from Paul Ssemogerere’s presidential bid in 1996 to the current election campaigns. Results from a recent survey designed by us suggest that there is some truth to this claim. Of course, most people in Uganda are classified as (rural) according to the country’s population census (the categorisation is based on population density), and so the majority of support for all the candidates is from rural voters. Nevertheless, the survey shows that rural Ugandans are significantly more likely to describe themselves as NRM voters; conversely, they are less likely to describe themselves as supporters of Kizza Besigye, the candidate of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) — who does better in urban areas. And they are even less likely to say that they will vote for Amama Mbabazi, the new challenger, who split off from the ruling party last year. The East African

Burundi Opposition Leader Still Hopeful for Peaceful Settlement
The exiled leader of the Opposition Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU) said efforts toward a peaceful resolution of the Burundian crisis are not dead because the Burundian people want peace. Peace talks that were scheduled to resume on January sixth in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, did not take place because the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza said it would not negotiate with certain opposition figures it considers as “coup plotters” or “sponsors of acts of terrorism.” But FRODEBU leader Jean Minani said the president has said ‘the peace process can’t be dead because all Burundians expect to have peace. So, if the current government of Nkurunziza doesn’t want to negotiate, they will be forced to go into negotiation, he said.” VOA

East Africa: Election Fever, Insecurity Pose Threats to Region’s Economy
Politics and security issues stand in the way of economic growth for East African countries this year in the absence of further integration to allow for free movement of goods, services, people and capital. The World Bank’s 2016 Global Economic Prospects show that the EAC economies will grow by an average of 5.8 per cent this year. According to Scholastica Odhiambo, a senior lecturer at the School of Business and Economics at Maseno University, security concerns and uncertainties over elections in Tanzania last year, Uganda next month; and Rwanda and Kenya in 2017 have dampened prospects for growth this year. In addition, the transitions can send mixed signals to investors especially if new administrations prefer policy tweaks that could sent investors back. She said the economies of the five East African countries would grow faster if they fully opened up their borders to allow free movement of goods, services and people. “The only way that say, Tanzania will improve its education sector by allowing more qualified teachers from Uganda to come into the country and offer their services without any limitations. This will not only improve the education sector but the entire economy of the country,” said Dr Odhiambo.  The East African

UN Peacekeepers in the DRC no Longer Trusted to Protect
Standing beside a graveyard where wooden crosses bear the names of those killed, he gestures towards a cluster of houses, abandoned by their inhabitants. “It was about four in the afternoon when we were told that armed men had captured a girl from here, in the field where she was farming,” he said. “We called the army. They came with us to the field and we thought the rebels had escaped, but later that evening, they encircled the village and started attacking people with machetes.” Six people were killed in that attack in May 2015, including the village chief and his wife. It was reportedly carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, an armed group with ties to Uganda. It has been held responsible for most of the attacks in Beni territory, in which Kalongo is located, over the past year. According to Bekere, the peacekeepers at the nearby UN base, just 3km away in Mavivi, did not come to their aid. “Usually, they come after attacks have taken place,” he said. “We have meetings with them and they use interpreters to talk to us, but we don’t see any results.”  Al Jazeera

Paris Attackers Linked in Morocco Arrest
Morocco says it has arrested a Belgian of Moroccan descent with direct links to the Islamist gunmen and bombers who carried out the Paris attacks. The man was detained near Casablanca on Friday, the interior ministry said, and had travelled from Syria via Turkey, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. He had fought in Syria with al-Nusra front before joining so-called Islamic State, Morocco said. The Paris attacks of 13 November killed 130 people. They are believed to have been at least partly planned in Brussels, and Belgian police have arrested several people as part of their investigation. BBC

Obama’s Goal to Wipe Out Malaria May Be a Dream Too Far
Two days before delivering his last State of the Union address, President Obama called one of his top advisers into the Oval Office and said he had decided to add a major pledge to the speech that his team had neither discussed nor vetted: to rid the world of.  “It was his belief that we were nearing a kind of tipping point when we should set a major goal of eradicating malaria,” said the aide, Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser.Mr. Rhodes was given 48 hours to make sure the president could follow through on his commitment. The result was two sentences about how, in part through American commitment, the world could soon “end the scourge of H.I.V./AIDS.” “And we have the chance to accomplish the same thing with malaria — something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year,” Mr. Obama said. The pledge sent a frisson of excitement through researchers and philanthropic organizations focused on malaria, a disease that remains one of the top killers of children around the world. The New York Times

Missing the Peace for the Trees
It has been more than a decade since warring parties signed a deal to end Liberia’s bloody conflict. Fueled by the pillaging of the country’s rich natural resources — diamonds, gold, iron, and timber — the two civil wars that raged across 14 years left more than 250,000 people dead and displaced more than 1 million others. When the final peace deal was signed in 2003, however, the resources that had sustained the war for so long were not mentioned at all. The oversight, though common, has often proved disastrous for countries trying to break free from years of violence. According to a new report by the international nonprofit Forest Trends, which analyzed more than 800 peace agreements signed since 1945, fewer than 15 percent mentioned natural resources. Even fewer take the necessary steps to prevent these resources from being used to sustain — or even restart — fighting. It is a glaring omission considering that the U.N. Environment Program estimates that at least 40 percent of conflicts have a link to natural resources. About half of all peace agreements fail within five years, often because the warring factions exploit resources in order to fuel the return to conflict. Foreign Policy