Media Review for January 22, 2016

Somali Forces End Mogadishu Restaurant Siege after Deadly Attack
Somali security forces have retaken control of a popular beachside restaurant in Mogadishu after a deadly attack there by Islamist militants. The gunmen had approached the restaurant from Lido beach on Thursday evening, firing on diners. Twenty people were killed. Militants also detonated two car bombs nearby. Al-Shabab said it was behind the attack. The group has carried out frequent assaults on the Somali capital.  Troops then besieged the attackers at the restaurant for eight hours. It was not immediately clear how many of the militants were killed or captured. The Somali authorities said the leader of the attack had been arrested. Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke condemned the killings as “barbaric”. BBC

How KDF Fought 10-Hour Battle to Save Ill-Fated Camp
“They fired as it got closer to the troops position and then detonated themselves. There were KDF soldiers who were still holding their defence positions and fought back to hold ground. The third wave of attack was mounted by an estimated 70-100 terrorists who gained entry into the camp in a lorry. “As some of them fired, others began picking their injured and the killed colleagues loading them in the truck,” the report says. After an hour of heavy fighting, another group of 100 militants arrived on foot and appeared to be on a looting mission from the eastern side of the camp. According to the report, two KDF platoons bravely held fort for about 10 hours as the reinforcement from the elite soldiers arrived in a bid to secure the besieged Kenyan camp. The Standard

Ahead of U.S. Meetings, Top Burundian Official Denies Mass Rape
Willy Nyamitwe, a top advisor to Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, is in Washington this week to rally U.S. support after reports Rwanda is arming Burundian refugees and pressuring them to join opposition rebel groups. But unless Nyamitwe backtracks on his dismissal of other reports — that Burundian government forces have carried out mass rape and extrajudicial killings — as part of a slanderous, anti-government campaign, he might not be received warmly in his meetings at the State Department, currently scheduled for Friday. […] Those who have stayed behind have told human rights groups that clashes are often ethnically motivated. But Nyamitwe told FP that a genocide in Burundi would be “impossible” because the military is evenly divided between Tutsis and Hutus, the two major ethnic groups in Burundi and Rwanda. That policy is the result of the Arusha peace accords, a power-sharing agreement signed by Burundian officials that set quotas to allow the minority Tutsi population significant representation in the military and other ministries. But Joseph Siegle, director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, told FP that although the agreement allowed a multiethnic community to flourish in Burundi, the Nkurunziza administration’s recent targeting of Tutsis could now threaten to dismantle the relative ethnic stability the country has managed since the end of the civil war.  Foreign Policy

UN Mission Arrives to Halt Violence in Burundi
A UN Security Council delegation arrived in Burundi on Thursday in an attempt to halt the spiral of political violence threatening to plunge the east African country into a new civil war, one day after grenade blasts had rocked the capital. The delegation comprised 15 Security Council representatives as well as other UN delegates and journalists, according to UN sources. It was not known if the grenade blasts on Tuesday and Wednesday had led to injuries or casualties. More than 400 Burundians have been killed since April in anti-government protests, attacks by armed groups and police repression, according to the UN.  News 24

UN Security Council Seeks to Stop Burundi Slide Into Ethnic War
The United Nations Security Council travels to Burundi on Thursday in a bid to quell political violence in the tiny African state amid fears it may slide back into ethnic conflict. Some council members hope to persuade President Pierre Nkurunziza to accept a 5,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force to end violence that has rattled a region where memories of the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda are still raw. “There needs to be some kind of international force with a protection of civilians mandate present on the ground in Burundi,” said United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who is leading the trip with France and Angola. But diplomats say its members are divided on how to deal with Burundi and how much pressure to bring to bear. Angola’s UN Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins said it was the state’s responsibility to protect citizens and “we’re not necessarily going to say (AU) troops have to be there.” But he said there needed to be a stronger presence of AU observers on the ground to “convey to the international community what is objectively the situation in Burundi.”  The East African

Burundi: Coup Leader General Godefroid Niyombare Becomes Head of Forebu Rebels
General Godefroid Niyombare, who led the failed coup against Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, has become the head of a newly created armed group, the Republican Forces of Burundi (Forces républicaines du Burundi, Forebu), the rebels have announced. Nkurunziza announced in April 2015 that he would run for a controversial third term, prompting months of protests and a split in the army that lead to a failed coup on 13 May 2015. At least 400 people have been killed and almost 3,500 have been arrested in a campaign of political repression and violent unrest, pitting pro-government forces and a number of opposition groups, including the recently formed Forebu and Resistance to the Rule of Law in Burundi (Résistance pour un Etat de droit au Burundi, RED-Tabara). Four of the leaders of the failed coup were sentenced to life in prison on 15 January, while nine others were jailed for 30 years for their roles in the attempt to overthrow Nkurunziza. Coup leader Niyombare, who was a Major General at the time of the attack, was never arrested.  International Business Times

SA to Play Key Role in Burundi Peace Talks
South Africa seems likely to become involved in the protracted negotiations to resolve the crisis in Burundi. And a special envoy of Burundi’s embattled President Pierre Nkurunziza has also told South African President Jacob Zuma that the Burundian leader might accept an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in the country after all – after firmly rejecting it until now. South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane disclosed these significant and hopeful new developments in the Burundi saga in Pretoria on Thursday. Burundi has been embroiled in a deteriorating crisis, with growing violence, since April last year when Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term as president, despite the two-term limit in the constitution.  IOL News

Burundi’s Economy on Brink as Violent Unrest Persists
At an intersection in this small farmers’ town nestled in the misty mountains surrounding the Burundi capital, traders jostle to sell vegetables to passing motorists. Bujumbura is only 25 miles (40 kilometers) away and yet so far, deemed unsafe to travel to by many here because of the frequent sounds of gunfire and explosions coming from the capital’s volatile neighborhoods. Business in Bujumbura is suffering greatly as a political crisis stemming from the president’s seeking and winning a third term in office forces hundreds of thousands to flee into the countryside or to neighboring countries. “Since the beginning of the crisis no one wants to transport the goods to Bujumbura. People are scared,” said Donatien Ndayirindire, a cabbage trader in Abugarama. So he must sell the vegetables here at half price. VOA

Former Burundian Presidents Appeal for Peacekeeping Force
Two former Burundian presidents have appealed to the U.N. Security Council to press the current government to accept an African Union-led peacekeeping force. Former presidents Domitien Ndayizeye and Jean-Baptiste Bagaza met Thursday with a council delegation, which is on a quick visit to Bujumbura to try to stem the political violence that has killed at least 439 people since April. “We really need this force,” said Ndayizeye, who led the country from 2003 to 2005. “We need to stop this bloodletting in Burundi which is causing our youth to disappear,” Bagaza added. UNICEF reports that 22 children have been killed by gunfire or grenades since April, and more than 200 have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. In both cases, most are boys.  VOA

Overnight Blasts Rock Burundi Capital Hours Before UN Visit
Explosions rocked parts of Burundi’s capital overnight, hours before a United Nations Security Council delegation was due to arrive in an effort to end the East African country’s nine-month political crisis. Blasts were heard in Bujumbura’s districts of Musaga and Kanyosha, local resident Ndayambaje Samson said by phone. Explosions were also heard from Cibitoke, another part of the city that’s seen sporadic violence. Residents in Jabe, a central neighborhood, showed reporters the handcuffed body of a man they said was found early Thursday. The UN delegation, led by France, the U.S. and Angola, is scheduled for Thursday and Friday and will show the council’s concern over escalating violence and human-rights abuses, the Associated Press reported this week, citing France’s UN ambassador, Francois Delattre.  Bloomberg

From Dakar to N’Djamena, Hotels Boost Security After Burkina Attack
West African hotels from Dakar to N’Djamena are strengthening security, adding armed guards and increasing cooperation with local authorities as a pair of high-profile attacks have exposed a growing Islamist threat to foreign travellers. Al Qaeda fighters killed 30 people on Friday at a hotel and restaurant in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. The assault, the country’s first militant attack on such a scale, came just two months after Islamist militants killed 20 people at a Radisson hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako. In both instances the attacks targeted establishments popular with Westerners, dozens of whom were taken hostage. Witnesses to the Ouagadougou attack spoke of gunmen singling out white foreigners for execution. High-end hotels in major cities across the region have been quick to react in the wake of the violence, which diplomats and analysts warn likely marks a new strategy by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its allies. Reuters

Watch: ISIS Sets Sights on Overthrowing Governments of Morocco and Tunisia
In the wake of growing civil unrest in Tunisia and Morocco, ISIS has launched a new media campaign directed at Muslims in the Islamic Maghreb, which focuses mainly on the ‘apostate’ governments of Tunisia and Morocco. The campaign, launched on Thursday, consists of several videos released by different ISIS provinces. The jihadists participating in the campaign call on Muslims to join ISIS strongholds in Tunisia, Libya, Mali and Algeria in order to oust the apostate democratic governments of Tunisia and Morocco and replace them with an Islamic regime based on Sharia law. ISIS jihadists blame the Islamic Maghreb’s governments for striving to ‘westernize’ Muslims by cultivating Western lifestyle which contradicts the Islamic tradition in their state. They also vehemently attack Tunisia for its participation in the international coalition against ISIS, claiming that Tunisia takes part in the killing of Sunnis together with Russia and the US, in the guise of fighting terror. The Jerusalem Post

Hit by Oil Price Drop, Algeria Turns to China for Funds
Algeria is turning to China to finance several infrastructure projects, including a new $3.2 billion port, as the North African OPEC member looks for ways to weather the collapse in global oil prices. Algeria, where oil and gas production account for 60 percent of the state budget, saw energy earnings collapse 40 percent last year, forcing the government to slash spending, raise some subsidized fuel prices and freeze major projects. With little foreign debt and more than $130 billion in reserves, Algeria’s government says its economy can manage the fall in crude prices. Nevertheless, it appears Algiers is willing to move out of its comfort zone to help it cope. The Chinese funding represents the first time it has sought external funding in a decade. VOA

Fires Rage as Jihadists Attack Libya Oil Facilities
Oil facilities in northern Libya were set ablaze Thursday as the Islamic State group launched fresh attacks to seize key export terminals, renewing concerns over the jihadists’ growing influence. Fighting broke out at dawn in the Ras Lanouf region, which along with the nearby Al-Sidra facility is one of the country’s main oil export hubs, said the National Oil Corporation (NOC). “Storage tanks filled with crude have caught fire,” it said, adding that nearby high-voltage power lines and electrical towers had also been downed. “The situation in Ras Lanouf is catastrophic for the enviroment,” it said in a statement. State news agency LANA reported that IS militants were behind the attack and that the storage tankers belonged to Harouge Oil Operations.  AFP on Yahoo News

Mokhtar Belmokhtar: The ‘Uncatchable’ Chief of Africa’s Islamic Extremists
Evrard Somda, the commander of Burkina Faso’s specialist anti-terrorism squad, reached Avenue Kwame Nkrumah in the centre of Ouagadougou, the west African nation’s capital, at about 8.30pm on Friday and realised immediately there was only one course of action. Gunfire and smoke filled the air. A cafe favoured by expatriates was in flames. Around an hour earlier, dozens had died after gunmen opened fire on the crowded terrace with automatic rifles and then moved through the dining room, coolly reloading their weapons and executing survivors. Now the killers were thought to be in the nearby Splendid hotel, holding an unknown number of guests. Somda had been trained to try to contact hostage takers. But the carnage made clear any effort to communicate with these gunmen was useless. “For them it wasn’t a problem to die,” Somda said. The Guardian

Raid on Militant Hide-Out Near Egypt’s Pyramids Ends in Deadly Blast
The Egyptian authorities have struggled for more than two years to contain a violent insurgency by militant Islamists that has endured despite a sweeping security campaign, including thousands of arrests. The attacks have killed hundreds of police and army personnel, mainly in the northern Sinai Peninsula. Among the extremist groups behind the attacks is an affiliate of the Islamic State, which has also claimed responsibility for attacks on civilians, including the destruction of a Russian airliner in October that killed all 224 aboard.  The New York Times

U.N. Finds South Sudan Increasingly in Turmoil
The murderous struggle between the government and opposition forces in South Sudan has already resulted in widespread atrocities and left thousands of people on the brink of starvation, yet in the past year, both sides intensified and spread the conflict, the United Nations said Thursday. A 45-page report produced jointly by the organization’s mission in South Sudan and its human rights office in Geneva said that most of the violence was committed by the army loyal to President Salva Kiir and opposition forces under Riek Machar, the vice president whom Mr. Kiir dismissed in 2013, touching off the civil war. The New York Times

China’s Xi Visits Egypt, Offers Financial, Political Support
China signed investment and aid deals worth billions of dollars with Egypt during a visit by President Xi Jinping on Thursday and expressed support for Cairo’s efforts to maintain stability, which have included a tough crackdown on dissent. Xi arrived in Egypt on Wednesday on the second leg of a Middle East tour that signals China’s push for greater influence in a region that provides vital oil supplies. The visit falls days ahead of the Jan. 25 anniversary of the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule and is seen in Egypt as a vote of confidence in President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s administration, despite widespread criticism of its human rights record. Xi praised Egypt’s efforts to strengthen its economy during talks with Sisi, who has warned his critics not to hold protests to mark the anniversary on Monday of Mubarak’s overthrow.  Reuters

Zimbabwe at Standstill as Mugabe Holidays in Dubai
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s long holiday in Dubai has brought the country to a standstill with his government now blaming the ageing leader’s absence for its failure to pay civil servants their 2015 bonuses. Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira recently told the increasingly impatient civil servants that a position on their outstanding bonuses would only be known after Mugabe returns home. The Africa Report

Tunisia Protest: Clashes as Demonstrations Spread
Protests over youth unemployment have spread to several towns and cities in Tunisia, leading to the death of a policeman in clashes on Thursday. Demonstrations began in the northern Kasserine region after a man was electrocuted while protesting at being rejected for a government job. In the town of Feriana, a policeman died after his car was overturned. Unemployment has worsened since the 2011 revolution, when President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted. The revolution was triggered by struggling market stall owner Mohamed Bouazizi killing himself in Sidi Bouzid. Some of those demonstrating this week said many of the social problems highlighted in 2011 had not been resolved. BBC

To Expand Overseas, Virginia Defense Firms Eye Africa
KOVA Global, a small Virginia Beach defense contractor, recently finished work on a naval training project that wasn’t in the Middle East or the Asia-Pacific, prime areas of focus for the U.S. military. It was in the Republic of Senegal on the west coast of Africa. That could be just the beginning, said Chris Just, who directs the firm’s international training and foreign military sales division. “Because this was a pilot program,” he said, “this opens up the continent to potential business for us.” Gov. Terry McAuliffe is inclined to agree. His administration, which has sought to grow business for Virginia defense contractors hamstrung by Pentagon budget cuts, this week announced an agreement between U.S. Africa Command and the state’s marketing arm, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. The signed memo of understanding won’t give Virginia companies preferred treatment with the U.S. government, Just said. But it eases coordination between AFRICOM and the state, and it gives Virginia defense contractors an added layer of support.  Daily Press Newport News

Mali Instability Casts Long Shadow over Children as Aid Efforts Thwarted
Aid agencies have warned that security issues are harming the health, education and nutrition of children in Mali, where the unchecked spread of Islamic extremist violence has left many schools and health centres beyond the reach of humanitarian programmes. The targeting of hotels has raised international awareness of attacks in the Sahel region by groups affiliated to al-Qaida – last week’s massacre in Burkina Faso, for which al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility, followed an attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in the Malian capital Bamako last November in which 21 people died. But the main obstacle to humanitarian efforts is in rural areas, according to World Food Programme (WFP) country representative Sally Haydock. “In rural northern Mali, criminality is the biggest challenge in terms of reaching beneficiaries,” said Haydock. “Impromptu roadblocks are put up by armed groups where our drivers have to pay bribes or are robbed.  The Guardian

Tensions in the Seychelles after Neck and Neck Elections
Although everyday life in the Seychelles remains as peaceful as ever – living up to the islands’ paradisiacal tourist image – there have been tensions brewing below the surface ever since disputed elections last month. In the presidential election on 3–5 December, President James Michel was officially re-elected, beating his closest rival by a mere 193 votes – a razor sharp margin even in a country with a population of just 90,000 people. The opposition, led by Wavel Ramkalawan, immediately called for a review, intimating that there had been vote rigging and irregularities. The Supreme Court is currently scrutinising the electoral process following petitions from the opposition and will eventually decide whether the poll will be re-run later this year. African Arguments

Gabon’s Naval Purchases Deferred?
The status of Gabon’s order for two patrol vessels from France is now uncertain as deliveries and firm contracts have not yet materialised. Gabon ordered two patrol vessels from French shipbuilder Piriou at the Euronaval exhibition on 29 October 2014. One of the patrol vessels (an OPV 50) that was to be supplied by Piriou was to be built new and delivered in mid-2016 while the other vessel was to be the second hand French Navy P400 patrol vessel Tapageuse, which was being overhauled and refitted and due for delivery in mid-2015. Mer et Marine reports that the P400 was refurbished on time in mid-2015, but has not left the shipyard. Piriou confirmed that work on the vessel has been completed and it is assumed that a lack of payment is the main reason why the vessel has not yet been delivered. DefenceWeb



Photo: Adam Jones