Media Review for January 21, 2016

West Africa Braces for More Attacks After Burkina Faso Siege
At the entrance to the King Fahd Palace hotel in Dakar, security guards inspect the trunks of every taxi at the gate, long before the vehicles get anywhere near the building itself. After the recent attacks on upscale hotels and restaurants in two other West African capitals, no one here in the Senegalese capital is taking any chances. The violence in Bamako and Ouagadougou underscores how danger has moved from jihadist strongholds far in the desert to the very places where Westerners stay and eat while working in the region. In Senegal, there is a growing sense of vulnerability and an acknowledgement that security forces can only do so much. “The terrorists have hit Mali and Burkina Faso — Senegal is no stronger than these countries,” said Joseph Mendy, a bank employee in Dakar. “If they had the chance, the terrorists would not hesitate to attack the country. Senegal must be extra vigilant.” AP on ABC News

Burundi Civil Society Urges UN Security Council to Take Strong Stance during Two-Day Visit
Members from the UN Security Council are expected to arrive in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura on Thursday as part of a diplomatic effort to help solve the crisis in the country. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial decision to stand for a third term in office has sparked violence resulting in more than 400 deaths since April last year and thousands having fled to neighbouring countries. RFI spoke to Vital Nshimirimana, head of the Forum for Strengthening Civil Society. RFI

Burundian Opposition Boycotts Dialogue with Government
The first talks of the inter-Burundian dialogue have started in the Northern Province in Kirundo. Although President Nkurunziza’s government followed the calls for such talks made by US President Barack Obama and the United Nations (UN) recently, the sincerity of these consultations is in question. Burundi’s opposition is boycotting the dialogue calling it a farce. “It is a big spectacle and only organized for the delegation of the United Nations that is due to arrive in the capital Bujumbura,” said Pancrace Cimpaye, spokesperson of the coalition Council for the Observance of the Constitution, Human Rights and the Arusha Peace Accord (CNARED). “It is also taking place before a planned meeting of the African Union at the end of the month in Addis Abeba”, said Cimpaye. He believes it is an attempt to consolidate more power for the third term of President Nkurunziza ignorning the fact that many Burundians are being killed in that process. Deutsche Welle

UN Security Council on Peace Mission to Burundi
A United Nations Security Council delegation headed to Burundi Wednesday with a message for the government and opposition to start substantive dialogue and avert catastrophe before it is too late. “This is a critical crossroads for Burundi,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told VOA ahead of the trip. “They cannot let it become business as usual that you wake up in the morning and there is a corpse on the street as you try to get to work, and that is what is starting to happen in Burundi.” It is the second time the Council has visited the country in less than a year a clear indication of its growing concern about the escalating bloodshed. VOA

Three Things We Learned from Last Week’s al-Shabaab Attack in Somalia
On Jan. 15, al-Shabaab’s Saleh Nabhan brigade claimed responsibility for overrunning a forward operating base of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) at El Adde in Somalia’s Gedo region, near the border with Kenya. Al-Shabaab claimed that it killed “more than 100” of the company of Kenyan soldiers deployed in El Adde and took additional hostages. It kept silent about its own losses. The Kenyan government and AMISOM acknowledged there were fatalities on both sides but have not provided further details. AMISOM is the African Union’s longest running and largest-ever peace support operation. AMISOM was deployed in March 2007 to help protect the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu from its opponents, most notably al-Shabaab militants. AMISOM is now mandated to reduce the threat posed by al-Shabaab and assist the Somali government to expand its control throughout Somalia Al-Shabaab emerged in 2005 as a violent Islamist group intent on enforcing its brand of justice across Somalia. In late 2006, it focused on expelling the Ethiopian forces that had intervened in Somalia and later aligned itself with al-Qa’ida. The Washington Post

Kenya Rattled as Shabab Turns Sights on Somalia Military Targets
The attackers burst into the Kenyan military base in Somalia before dawn, blasting through the gate with a truckload of explosives. Scores of Shabab militants then flooded through the flames, on foot and in trucks, firing heavy guns into the plastic-covered shelters where the Kenyan soldiers were sleeping. “That battle was over before it started,” said one official in Nairobi with detailed knowledge of the attack. “The Shabab did their homework and completely wiped them out.”Somali and Western officials now say that 80 to 100 Kenyan soldiers — and possibly more — were massacred during the attack, which took place on Friday at the El-Adde forward operating base. The Shabab overran the base, held it for several hours and made off with sensitive communications equipment, artillery pieces that can fire 10 miles and several American-made armored Humvees. But since then, Kenya’s leaders have refused to disclose the number of dead or other details, trying to soften the blow of what may be the worst military disaster in this country’s history. The New York Times

Kenyan Police Kill ‘Four Terror Suspects’ in Malindi
Four terror suspects in Kenya have been killed during a dawn raid on a safe house in the coastal town of Malindi, police in the East African nation say. The officers recovered arms, ammunition and a map of the area detailing future targets for attack, regional police commissioner Nelson Marwa said. Suleiman Awadh, on Kenya’s most-wanted list, was among those killed, he said. The Somalia-based al-Shabab Islamist militant group has launched a number of deadly high-profile attacks in Kenya. These include storming a shopping centre the capital, Nairobi, in 2013 and raiding a university in the north-eastern town of Garissa last year. In the aftermath of the Garissa attack, the police released photographs of those suspects on their most-wanted list. BBC

Somalia Fails to Agree on System for President’s Election
Somalia is running out of time to choose a system for the election of the president after a meeting to agree on the model, between a geographical and clan-based one, ended in a stalemate. After three days of haggling in Kismayu last week, the Somalia National Consultative Forum (NCF) failed to pick a model which now poses a major challenge to the United Nations that had given the country up to end of January to reach a consensus before it can start to mobilise resources to help the country conduct elections in September this year. In December, an NCF meeting in Mogadishu resolved under the “Mogadishu Declaration” for a collegiate system combining the traditional clan-based system and geographical voting (five regional assemblies). However, the meeting in Kismayu saw the emergence a third option which would involve electing MPs who would later vote for the president. The East African

Here’s What Special Operators Want To Do In Libya
U.S. Special Operations Command is spending more time and attention on Libya, trying to keep the Islamic State from growing more powerful there, its commander said Wednesday. “There is a concern about Libya,” said Gen. Joseph Votel, the special ops chief, who has been nominated to take over U.S. Central Command. “It can’t all be about Iraq and Syria.” The Islamic State’s presence in Libya has been a growing concern for some time. In October, a Defense Intelligence Agency expert called the country “the hub that they use to project themselves across all of North Africa.” More recently, ISIS has reportedly sent Abu Omar, a key leader in Iraq, to Libya, where he “has been tasked with tightening the terror group’s grip on [the town of] Sirte and preparing it as a possible bolt hole for Isil’s leaders in Syria and Iraq,” the Telegraph reported. Speaking at the SOLIC conference in Washington, D.C, Votel didn’t get into operational detail, but spoke broadly about what American special operators can do against ISIS there — or in other countries threatened by the group. Defense One

U.N. Seeks $1.3 Billion in Humanitarian Funding for South Sudan
The United Nations is seeking $1.3 billion in humanitarian aid for South Sudan, where two in ten of the population have been driven from their homes during two years of conflict. More than 10,000 people have been killed and 2.3 million displaced since the country’s civil war broke out in December 2013, when soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir first clashed with troops who backed his deputy, Riek Machar. Eugene Owusu, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, said $1.3 billion would be the “bare minimum” needed to support 5.1 million people in the country facing life-threatening circumstances. “The challenge we face is unprecedented,” he said. The U.N. said more than 680,000 children below the age of five are believed to be acutely malnourished. Much of the fighting has been along ethnic lines between Kiir’s Dinka community and Machar’s Nuer people. Reuters

Sudan Vows to Tackle Islamic State
The head of Sudan’s powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) vowed Islamic State group jihadists would not be allowed to use the country to cross into Libya, a media source reported on Tuesday. “Sudan will not be a crossing for Daesh and extremists,” said NISS chief Mohamed Atta al-Mawla Abbas according to the Sudan Media Centre (SMC). Daesh is one of the names used for Islamic State, which is also called IS. “We will not tolerate any organised or cross-border crime Sudanese territory is used in,” he said. The SMC, seen as close to the security forces, said he was speaking at the graduation of new members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a controversial counter-insurgency unit. There have been reports in Khartoum-based media that young Sudanese have travelled to Libya to fight with radical Islamist groups, with some reported to have been killed. Last year students from a private university in Khartoum travelled to Turkey, from where they are believed to have joined the IS group in Syria. Some of the students held western passports. IOL News

Sudan Openly Mulling Ties with Israel
In yet another sign of shifting ground in the region, Sudan this week openly discussed the possibility of normalizing ties with Israel. The Sudan News Agency reported that the committee for external relations of the National Dialogue Conference discussed the issue at a meeting on Monday. The report quoted one member of the committee, Ibrahim Suleiman, as saying that the majority of the committee called for the establishment of “normal and conditioned” relations with Israel. The National Dialogue Conference is a forum initiated by Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir – with the participation of a wide array of opposition elements – aimed at mapping out the future of the war-torn state. Just three years ago, Bashir – following an attack on a military factory in Khartoum that Sudan blamed on Israel – vowed that his country would never normalize relations with the “Zionist enemy.” At that time, Sudan was firmly in Iran’s camp, and was seen as a key link in smuggling arms to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. The Jerusalem Post

Sudan wants land Disputed with Egypt
Sudan’s president says that a stretch of land disputed with Egypt is Sudanese and that his government “will never relinquish any part of the national territories.” At a speech on Tuesday, Omar Bashir highlighted Sudan’s strong ties with its Egyptian “brothers” but said that documents and history prove that the Halayeb triangle, administered by Egypt since the 1990s, is indeed Sudanese. The dispute over the land, which juts inward from the Red Sea, dates back to the end of colonial times. At a news conference in Cairo earlier this month, Sudan’s foreign minister said his country continues to raise the issue annually at the UN Security Council, though he agreed with his Egyptian counterpart that the dispute should be resolved peacefully. News 24

Egypt: Who’s Afraid of January 25?
Egyptian activists Ali al-Khouly and Mohamed Ali had just sat down at a Cairo coffeeshop when plainclothes officers grabbed them and hauled them off to a police station. What they most wanted to know was: what are your plans next Monday? As the fifth anniversary of January 25 protests that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule approaches, the toughest security crackdown in Egypt’s history is a clear sign that authorities are worried. “They are employing scare tactics because they themselves are frightened,” Khouly told Reuters a day after his release. “I honestly have no idea why I was taken or why I was released but there is no justification for this horror.” With thousands of government opponents behind bars, the likelihood of massive protests is slim. However, analysts and activists say, the crackdown reveals an insecurity that has grown since general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power two years ago. IOL News

UN Cuts Ivory Coast Peacekeepers
The UN Security Council decided on Wednesday to reduce the size of the UN peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast in light of an improved security situation and last October’s successful presidential elections. The number of troops authorized for the UN Operation in the Ivory Coast was reduced from 5 437 to 4 000 soldiers, according to the resolution, which was adopted by unanimity. The mission also includes 1 500 police officers. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was asked to report at the end of March on the drawdown and his recommendations on the mission’s future. The government of the Ivory Coast wants all the UN peacekeepers out by the end of 2017 or early 2018. In the resolution, the council commends the government’s role in staging transparent elections in October and congratulates Ivorians for displaying “their strong commitment to peace and democracy.”  News 24

‘Inadequate’ Response by Peacekeepers to DR Congo Massacre: UN General
South African peacekeepers in restive eastern Democratic Republic of Congo responded inadequately to an ethnically-motivated attack by Hutu rebels in early January that left more than a dozen people dead, the head of the UN force said Wednesday. “A slow response was noted that I, as head of the force, consider to be inadequate,” General Jean Baillaud told a press conference in the provincial capital Goma, referring to an attack in Miriki village, where peacekeepers stationed about one kilometre (mile) away failed to intervene. DR congo armed forces also failed to step in to stop the killings. The overnight attack January 6 to 7 blamed on Hutu rebels from Rwanda — grouped in the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda — was the latest assault on civilian members of the local Nande people, who are rivals of the local Hutu. It left 16 or 17 Nande people dead. AFP on Yahoo News

DRC Opposition Chief Barred from Visiting Stronghold
Security services in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday prevented an opposition leader and harsh critic of the president from travelling to his regional stronghold, forcing him off a plane about to take off, security sources said. Charles Mwando Nsimba is head of the G7 opposition coalition of parties that withdrew support for the government in September accusing President Joseph Kabila of seeking to cling to power beyond his constitutionally mandated limit. Officers of the national intelligence agency (ANR) took him off a regularly scheduled flight in Lubumbashi in the southeast of the country as it was about to take off for Kalemie, in the southeastern province of Tanganyika, a security source and a witness at the airport said. “There has been an order,” the security source said, without giving further details. News 24

The South African Heartland is Burning
Student and worker protests in Gauteng suggest the ruling ANC may be losing its grip on the country’s richest province ahead of next year’s local elections. It is the year of the student revolt. First, in Cape Town the students took to the streets with one aim and one slogan: “Rhodes must fall.” And fall, Rhodes did – at least the statue of the arch-imperialist was finally dragged off by a crane in April. It had perched somewhat incongruously in the grounds of the University of Cape Town, which had prided itself as a bastion of liberal and progressive thinking. This victory whetted the appetite of the students. Six months later, they launched a much more politically significant campaign against the government’s plan to raise tuition fees at universities and the universities’ treatment of workers. The Africa Report

South Africa: The Cost of the Rand’s Decline
South Africa’s currency, the rand, has touched record levels. It fell to its lowest levels against the dollar in more than seven years. Consumers have been told they have to limit spending, as the prices of basic foods and household products – especially imported items – will increase. Economists warn that things will get harder, especially for the poor. Some also blame President Jacob Zuma’s decision to fire the finance minister last year, which made the markets nervous. They point out that the currency’s slide – as well as the increasing cost of basic imports – reflects faltering confidence in how the economy is being managed. “Here in South Africa we are suffering. We are really suffering. I don’t know where this is coming from. People on the top are playing with people’s [lives]. We don’t know what’s going on,” Zandile Sambo, a resident, told Al Jazeera.  Al Jazeera

Tanzania’s New Reform-Minded Government Has Banned a Tabloid for “Inflammatory” Journalism
Recently-elected Tanzanian president John Magufuli has garnered regional praise for his reformist proposals aimed at rooting out government corruption and incompetence. But his administration is facing its first real test of that agenda following a decision to ban a tabloid for producing journalism it says could threaten the country’s stability. On Monday (Jan. 18), Nape Nnauye, Tanzania’s new information minister, told reporters that the government will invoke the 1976 Newspaper Act to de-register the weekly tabloid Mawio and restrict the publication from operating entirely, even through online platforms. “The government regrets taking this decision but it was compelled to act due to the newspaper’s continuous writing and publication of content that is inciteful and threatening to the peace, stability and security of our country,” Nnauye said (in Kiswahili).  Quartz

Regional Ports Conference Cancelled after Sacking of Tanzanian Officials
A regional conference for port managers in eastern and southern Africa scheduled for next month in Dar es salaam has been cancelled following a shake-up of the management of Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) by President John Magufuli. The meeting was set for February 15-17 and was organised by the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa (PMAESA) and TPA. “The conference cancellation followed a move by the newly elected Tanzania President John Magufuli’s to relieve several TPA top managers including the director-general, of their duties and to dissolve the authority’s entire board of directors” George Sunguh, a communication officer at PMAESA said. This will be the first time for the annual PMAESA conference will fail to take place since its inception in 2007 in Seychelles. President Magufuli late last year sacked director-general of the TPA, Awadhi Massawe, and the permanent secretary in the Transport ministry, Shaaban Mwinjaka as part of a campaign to root out corruption and inefficiency in the East African nation. They were shown the door following the disappearance of over 2,700 shipping containers at the port. The East African

Corruption Could Have Undermined Boko Haram Fight
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has blamed thieving politicians for undermining the military’s fight against Boko Haram militants. But some analysts think the army’s struggles result from more than just corruption. A number of prominent figures connected to the administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan have been accused of corruption in recent weeks, including ex-national security adviser Sambo Dasuki and Alisa Metuh, the spokesman for Jonathan’s party. Both are accused of diverting money meant to equip soldiers. Dasuki, perhaps the highest-profile case, is said to have approved over $2 billion in fictitious arms contracts, a charge he denies. Boko Haram’s six-year long insurgency has killed about 20,000 people and forced more than two million Nigerians to flee their homes. Buhari campaigned on defeating the group and cracking down on corruption. VOA

Nigerian Show of Naval Force
Chiemelie Ezeobi who was part of the recent Exercise Treasure Guard, a show of force by the Nigerian Navy at the Bight of Benin, writes that it was targeted at among other things, reinforcing a zero tolerance for maritime illegalities in the country’s territorial domain For a show of force, it was long overdue given the industrial scale at which Nigeria keeps losing its scarce oil resources to crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism. According to a Chatham House report, an estimate of about 100,000 barrels per day, valued at N1.18 billion are stolen daily, which when translated amounts to N433.62 billion annually. It is also pertinent to note that the statistics did not include the amount of oil suspected to have been stolen from export pipelines, cost of oil spillage cleanup, loss of income to fishing communities and environmental degradation. The report blamed the alarming scale of oil theft to poor law enforcement presence in the waterways. African Defense

Kasserine: Protests Enter their Fourth Day
After a brief respite overnight, protests have resumed in Kasserine with unrest spreading through the small towns that litter the governate. So far this morning, protests have been reported to have resumed in Majel ben Abess and Foussana, with Jawhara FM reporting that approximately 800 protesters are currently surrounding the regional headquarters of the Kasserine Governate demanding development and jobs. The regional Delegate of education has also reported that classes have been suspended within Ezzouhour and Thala after secondary students have organized protests of their own. Tunisia Live

Anti-Slavery Activists in Mauritania Face Violent Clampdown, Rights Groups Warn
Protestors marking the one-year anniversary of the conviction and imprisonment of Mauritania’s leading anti-slavery activists are facing an increasingly violent clampdown by security forces, according to human rights groups. Biram Ould Abeid, runner-up in the 2014 presidential elections and head of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), and his assistant Brahim Bilal Ramdane, were jailed last January with two other activists for belonging to an illegal organisation and for violence against the police. Seven anti-slavery activists were reportedly arrested last week at protests arranged to mark the anniversary of the conviction. All were later released. Abidine Merzough, head of IRA-Europe, said the arrests are part of a wider programme of intimidation of anti-slavery activists in the country. The Guardian

Has the World Learned the Wrong Lessons From the Ebola Outbreak?
Last Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the end to two horrific years of the West African Ebola epidemic. Later on the same day, the Ministry of Health in Sierra Leone announced that a patient with Ebola died in the Tonkilli region of that country. Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of the new case in Sierra Leone was not that it occurred so soon after WHO’s proclamation, but that Ebola wasn’t diagnosed until after the patient died. The patient was a young woman who developed symptoms at the beginning of the year after traveling to an area in that country that was one of the last hotspots to be declared disease-free. When she came to a local hospital for care, she had classic symptoms of Ebola, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Yet she was not diagnosed with the disease. What’s more, the health care worker who drew her blood did not wear the appropriate personal protective equipment and the woman’s blood sample may not even have been tested for Ebola. She was eventually discharged to die at home rather than being isolated, and dozens of other people have been exposed. Currently, some 100 people who may have had contact with her are under quarantine.  NPR



Photo: Adam Jones