Media Review for January 20, 2016

Burkina Faso Attack: ‘Three Suspects at Large’
Three people involved in last week’s Islamist attack in Burkina Faso are still at large, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said. The assault on a hotel in the capital, Ouagadougou, was claimed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The death toll has risen to 30 after a French-Moroccan photographer died from her injuries. Three gunmen were killed in Friday’s operation, Mr Valls said. AQIM on Monday released their photos and names. AQIM said the assault was carried out by the al-Murabitoun battalion led by Algerian jihadi Mokhtar Belmokhtar. BBC

Video Raises Questions About Burkina Faso Government Response to Attack
[…] Some of the victims openly expressed frustration Tuesday that it had taken authorities so long to find the attackers. Allassane Baguian, an American who was attending a meeting on the fourth floor of the hotel at the time of attack, was shot in the leg four times and another bullet just skimmed his head. “No one was prepared for these attacks,” he said. “So we were under gunfire from 7:45 p.m. until 3 a.m. It’s God who saved us because these people had the time to carry out their crime,” he said. “That three people could challenge a country, it’s incomprehensible.” Witnesses said the assault began around 7:30 p.m. Friday as dozens of people gathered for dinner and drinks at the Cappuccino Cafe and its terrace. The attackers then ambushed the Splendid Hotel next door. Toronto Star

Three Mali Gendarmes Killed in Armed Raid in Central Mali
Gunmen killed three gendarmes in an overnight ambush near a town in central Mali, the defence ministry said on Wednesday, confirming the latest in a growing wave of attacks that risk spilling over into Mali’s West African neighbours. “I can confirm the information (about the attack), but I cannot say more at the moment,” said defence ministry spokesman Colonel Diarran Kone. The identities of the assailants were not immediately known. However a Malian army source, who asked not to be named, said that fighters from the Massina Liberation Front (FLM), an Islamist militant group based in the area, were believed to have been behind the attack near the town of Mopti. He said three or four gendarmes were killed in the raid. Reuters

Libya’s Rivals Declare Unity Cabinet Under UN Plan
Representatives of Libya’s rival factions who are sitting in Tunis and negotiating through a U.N.-brokered process announced on Tuesday that they have formed a unity government aimed at stemming the chaos that has engulfed the country in recent years. In a statement received by The Associated Press, the Unity Presidential Council said it has agreed on a 32-member Cabinet, drawn of representatives from across the country. But whether that government will in fact be able to govern the country remains to be seen. Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 toppling and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Since 2014, its divisions only increased, splitting it into two governments and parliaments — the internationally recognized one in the country’s east, and an Islamist-backed one in the capital, Tripoli. Each side is backed by an array of different militias. Amid the chaos, a Libyan affiliate of the Islamic State group has surged, claiming responsibility for a series of deadly attacks as it tries to expand its territory and take control of oil terminals and fields, the sole source of Libya’s wealth.  AP on ABC News

KDF Hits Al-Shabaab in Air and Land Strikes as Uhuru Sends Stern Warning
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday declared that Kenya would not be cowed by terrorists as Kenya Defence Forces mounted a counter-offensive strike against Al-Shabaab bases in Somalia. Although the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Samson Mwathethe, described the counter-attack as “a delicate operation”, military planes conducted air strikes against Al-Shabaab while on the ground, tactical units used armoured vehicles to hit the terrorists’ camps in retaliation for the Friday dawn raid against a KDF camp in El-Adde, Somalia. “We shall defend our country by all means and we will unite with other countries in the region to defeat these terrorists,” the President warned. “We shall defend our country and we will unite as a region, fight and defeat them to ensure we live in peace.” He asked Kenyans to support the military campaign in Somalia. “We need to give them our full support because it is through their sacrifice and selflessness that we are able to enjoy the current peace and development,” he said.  The East African

UN Security Council Diplomats Push for New Mediation Effort in Burundi
UN Security Council envoys will press Burundi’s government to agree to talks with the opposition under a new mediator when they travel to Bujumbura this week, a UN envoy said Monday. Diplomat Jamal Benomar said the dialogue must be impartially-mediated and have a clear timeline after Uganda’s failed bid to broker a deal to end months of violence in Burundi. On Thursday, the 15 council ambassadors will be making their second trip to Burundi in less than a year, hoping to avert what some fear could be a return to all-out war. “There is a window for the Burundians to come together and work out a way on how they can move forward,” Benomar told reporters. “For them to do this, they would need an inclusive process that is impartially-mediated. “One that has a timeline that is clear, an agenda, an agreement on who will participate, and this is exactly what we don’t have.”  East African

Nigerian Villagers: Cameroon Troops are Killing Civilians
Cameroonian troops pursuing Boko Haram fired rocket-propelled grenades indiscriminately that killed a family of four, then shot and killed two other civilians, trapped Nigerian villagers said Tuesday. It’s the latest of several reports accusing the military of neighboring Cameroon of killing scores of Nigerian civilians and razing villages in an apparent attempt to create a no-go zone along the border. Cameroon’s government has denied previous similar charges, which come amid rising tensions between Nigeria and its neighbors over the Islamic uprising that has spilled over Nigeria’s borders. Muhammad Abba, deputy commander of a civilian self-defense group, said relatives telephoned him Tuesday to describe how one grenade exploded through the grass roof of a hut and killed a family of four in the northeastern village Ashigashiya on Monday. Then Cameroonian soldiers dragged away two elderly men and shot them on the outskirts of the village, Abba said. AP on The Washington Post

Nigeria: Buhari – We’ve Driven Boko Haram Into Fall-Back Positions
President Muhammadu Buhari says the Nigerian Armed Forces have driven the Boko Haram terrorist group from the nation’s territory into “fall-back positions.” President Buhari said that was done in collaboration with the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF). Buhari was speaking in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates yesterday at a meeting with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, on the sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit. The president stated that Nigeria had made very significant progress towards ending the Boko Haram insurgency since his assumption of office on May 29, 2015. He also assured Ban Ki Moon that Nigeria would persistently pursue global action to reverse the drying up of Lake Chad and save the lives of those depending on it for survival.  Daily Trust on allAfrica

Nigerian Army Chief Says Military Acted Appropriately in Shi’ite Sect Raids
Nigeria’s army chief of staff told an inquiry on Tuesday that his soldiers had acted appropriately during a bloody raid last month on a minority Shi’ite sect in which at least 60 people were killed. The army says the Islamic Movement in Nigeria had tried to assassinate its chief of staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, when members of the sect blocked his convoy in the northern city of Zaria in December. The following day the army said it had raided several buildings connected to the sect. The Shi’ite sect said hundreds of its members had been killed. The army took most of the bodies away, making it impossible to verify the claim but the director of a local hospital said at least 60 people had been killed. “I’m here because I was there during the incident. I was involved and my officers and soldiers acted in accordance with the rule of engagement,” Buratai told an inquiry panel of the National Human Rights Commission into the raid.  Reuters

Nigeria’s Contentious Court Rulings Reveal Need for Electoral Reform
Nigeria’s presidential election in March 2015 was widely viewed not just as a historic moment for the country – as an incumbent was defeated for the first time since 1999 – but also as free and fair. The same, however, could not necessarily be said of the governorship and state assemblies elections that followed the next month. In many of those April polls, there were allegations of irregularities. Violence and acts of political subversion were documented in Taraba, Imo and Abia states. Meanwhile, in Rivers State, international observers called for the result’s cancellation and the candidate for the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) declared that “no election took place“. Last month, Nigeria’s Court of Appeal, the final arbitrator in such cases, began making judgments regarding the validity of these disputed elections and ended up annulling many of the outcomes. African Arguments

Nigeria Fraud Case Puts Buhari’s Anti-Graft Drive in the Dock
True to his election promises, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has gone all out on corruption, alleging mind-boggling sums plundered from state coffers and giving investigators licence to pull in big hitters once thought untouchable. Now comes the hard part: making the charges stick. The first test comes on Wednesday with the opening of the trial of former National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki, accused of fraud over $68 million of defence spending, part of a wider $2.1 billion in arms deals under scrutiny. Dasuki will be joined in court by ex-minister of state for finance Bashir Yuguda, an ex-director of finances at the NSA and a former head of the state oil firm, who also face corruption charges. Former defence minister Bello Haliru Mohammed has separately been accused of fraud and colluding with Dasuki. They have all pleaded not guilty. Reuters

Ghana Integrity Initiative: Defence Ministry, Military are High Risk Corrupt Institutions
Ghana’s defence ministry and its military apparatus are hiding behind national security to hide key information from the tax payers, the Ghana Integrity Initiative has suggested. Executive Director of the Initiative Vitus Azeem says the practice could pose a high risk for corruption by officials in the sector. His comments follow a report released by Transparency International which scored Ghana low marks for not doing enough in the area of transparency and accountability in the defence and military sectors. The report rated Ghana D with a mark of 33.3 per cent and described Ghana as a high risk of potential corruption in the defence and military sector. Vitus Azeem agrees entirely with the conclusions of the report. He told Joy News’ Evans Mensah the military for a very long time has been operating in secrecy and that is a major cause for worry. GhanaWeb

Ghana Gets New Interior Minister
Ghana’s President John Mahama on Tuesday appointed a former United Nations official as interior minister to reinforce domestic security after Friday’s militant attacks in Burkina Faso and ahead of elections this year. Prosper Douglas Bani, Mahama’s former chief of staff who once coordinated the UN’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery in Africa, is expected to focus on security in the wake of the Islamist militant attacks that killed 29 people, two government sources told Reuters. Gunmen stormed a restaurant and hotel in the capital Ouagadougou on Friday night, singling out white people for slaughter. Eight Burkinabes, six Canadians, three Ukrainians and two French people were killed, among others. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the assault. IOL News

Ugandan President Ridicules Election Debate
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has ridiculed the country’s first presidential election debate saying it was akin to a high school competition. Museveni, who will be seeing another term in presidential elections, next month, boycotted the debate that featured seven of his opponents on January 15. He described the debate as childish in a press conference in Kampala on Monday. “The debate reminded me days at Ntare high school where we usually visited neighborhood schools […] for debates,” Museveni said. “I wonder how adults go into a debate like students.” The jibe angered opposition leader, including his long-time foe Kizza Besigye of Forum for Democratic Change who said the president had a duty to take part in the debate and respond to questions about his policies.  The Africa Report

Sudan Deploys Troops on Libyan Border to Prevent ISIS Infiltration
Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) said it would deploy troops to the western borders with Libya to prevent infiltration of the Islamic State (ISIS) fighters and combat cross-border crimes. A report to the United Nations Security Council released last November mentioned that the ISIS militants are building a, alternative base in Libya, pointing that several leading members of the Jihadist group moved to the north African country. Since, different western sources officially confirmed the ISIS presence in Libya pointing to the continued political instability and attractive oil crude . Sudan Tribune

UN: Thousands of Newly Displaced in Niger in Need of Shelter, Water
The U.N. refugee agency reports tens of thousands of newly displaced people in Niger are in desperate need of international assistance. The UNHCR says about 100,000 people have fled in recent weeks from attacks launched by Nigerian Boko Haram insurgents. The UNHCR says aid agencies are struggling to help the newly displaced who are living in makeshift shelters along the volatile Niger, Nigeria border. Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the UNHCR, tells VOA the people are a mix of internally displaced from Niger, some of whom have been forced to flee several times, and Nigerian refugees. He says they are scattered along one of the most difficult and remote areas in that part of West Africa. VOA

US Interior Secretary to Help Fight African Wildlife Trafficking
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell arrives in Africa this week to examine the issue of wildlife trafficking. She told journalists Tuesday that Washington had a role to play to end the illegal trading of wildlife and its products. Before her visit to Gabon, Kenya and South Africa, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said the Obama administration is concerned about the rise in cases of wildlife trafficking from Africa to Asia, Europe and the United States. She explains why the United States, last year, banned lion and elephant trophies from Zimbabwe. “The United States Wildlife and Fisheries Services does not believe that sufficient measures are in place in that country (Zimbabwe) to put conservation efforts into local communities. That is the position that we have taken. VOA

African Corruption ‘Pushing’ Recruits to Insurgents
African leaders are using their defence budgets to buy loyalty and build “patronage networks,” which is driving recruits to terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, a Transparency International report said on Tuesday. This kind of corruption is proving to be a “push factor” for insurgent groups such as Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Shabaab in Africa, says the report, which assessed the risk of corruption in the defence institutions of 47 African countries. “While ideological factors have certainly pushed new recruits to these organizations, the role of corruption as a ‘push’ factor cannot be underestimated,” it says. “After all, corruption has undermined states’ perceived legitimacy and led to a sense of disillusionment and abandonment across Africa.” News 24

Ethiopians, Somalis Flooding into Yemen
Nearly 100 000 Ethiopians and Somalis last year travelled by boat to Yemen despite the conflict raging there, the UN said on Tuesday, warning about the dangers of the journey. “Clearly it’s extremely dangerous, both for the journey and for what they meet inside Yemen,” UN refugee agency spokesperson Adrian Edwards told AFP. His warning came less than two weeks after 36 people drowned trying to reach Yemen on January 8. Ninety-five people meanwhile were reported drowned trying to make the journey last year, making it the second deadliest year recorded to date on that route, Edwards said. The high death toll reflects the large numbers still trying to reach Yemen, even as the country has collapsed into a brutal civil war. News 24

South Africa: Yam Takes Over from Masondo as Army Chief
The SA Army has a new chief with now Lieutenant General Lindile Yam taking over command of the largest component of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) from Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo. Yam previously held the rank of major general and was General Officer Commanding (GOC) the SA Army Infantry Formation. Masondo becomes SANDF Chief: Corporate Services and will be based at Defence headquarters in the Armscor building. Former Surgeon General, Lieutenant General Vejay Ramlakan, was the last full-time corporate service chief with flag officers having been acting until this week’s announcement. Masondo was appointed Army Chief following a stint as force preparation chief for the Army. Prior to that he had been, among others, personal staff officer (PSO) to former SANDF Chief, General Siphiwe Nyanda; Director: Human Resource Maintenance and Senior Staff Officer: Personnel. DefenceWeb

IMF Cuts South Africa’s Economic Growth Forecast by Almost Half
The International Monetary Fund cut its economic growth forecast for South Africa by almost half to less than 1 percent as commodity prices slump and global demand remains weak. Gross domestic product in Africa’s most industrialized nation will probably expand 0.7 percent this year, compared with October’s estimate of 1.3 percent, the Washington-based lender said in an update to its World Economic Outlook report on Tuesday. The IMF cut its projection for 2017 by 0.3 percentage points to 1.8 percent.  Bloomberg

Egypt’s Parliament Endorses Controversial Anti-Terrorism Law
Egypt’s Parliament on Sunday overwhelmingly endorsed a controversial anti-terrorism law that sets up special courts and shields its enforcers from legal ramifications. The law is one of roughly 400 that were issued by executive decree during the more than three years in which Egypt was governed without a Parliament after its democratically elected chamber was dissolved in mid-2012. It details sentences for various terrorism-related crimes ranging from five years to the death penalty, and shields the military and police from legal penalties for what it calls proportionate use of force. The law also fines journalists for contradicting the authorities’ version of any militant attack. The original draft was amended last year following a domestic and international outcry after it initially stipulated imprisonment for such an offence. The newly elected legislature is constitutionally obliged to review the executive decrees within 15 days of its first session, which was on January 10, and either approve or reject them. Reuters

Algeria Interested in Su-34s
Algeria is negotiating with Russia over the purchase of Su-34 strike aircraft, with around 12 apparently being considered. Sergei Smirov, the director of the Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association (NAPO) plant, which manufactures the aircraft, told Russian business daily Vedomosti on 30 December that talks have resumed on the export of Su-32 bombers (export designation of the Su-34) to Algeria after eight years of negotiations. He said that recently Rosoboronexport had received an official application to supply the aircraft. The Su-34 has been extensively used in Syria by the Russian Air Force, which has received 83 so far but is expected to sign up for another 100 or so in the next few years. An initial 32 were ordered in 2008, followed by 100 in early 2012. They will eventually replace the Sukhoi Su-24 strike aircraft. At least eight are believed to have been deployed to Syria. DefenceWeb

Liberia: Ivorian President Wants Unmil Mandate Extended
The President of La Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Alassane Ouattara, has vowed to speak with the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon on extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia beyond 2016. President Ouattara stated that when he speaks with the UNSG, he will ask him to extend the presence of UNMIL forces in Liberia until the 2017 elections are over. In a statement issued earlier this month, UNMIL said that it would proceed with the extraction of troops, but would maintain a contingent, 1500 strong, stationed in La Cote d’Ivoire, to be dispatched to Liberia only in the case of extreme need. However, the Ivorian leader emphasized: “I am sure the UNSG will listen to us.” Daily Observer on allAfrica

New Church Laws Spur Debate in Kenya
In Kenya, church leaders have threatened to take government to court. In the first major confrontation with the state in many years, the public in the East-African country is also taking huge interest and are voicing their concern on social media. The laws recently tabled by government will affect all faiths, including mainstream Christian, Hindu and Islamic institutions, as well as numerous small denominations. Many of them have been accused of conning and brainwashing followers or engaging in radicalization. But Christian and Muslim leaders vowed to fight these laws in and out of the houses of worship and even in court. The Roman Catholic Church, the largest denomination in Kenya with more than fourteen million followers, is arguing that the rules are infringing on the right of association and freedom of worship. According to the new legislation that is not yet implemented, Christian preachers in Kenya must hold theological certificates from accredited theological institutions. Religious organizations must also be registered and open to the registrar’s inspection. The rules introduce umbrella bodies that will promote self-regulation and require a declaration of sources of income. Deutsche Welle



Photo: Adam Jones