Media Review for January 27, 2016

UN Panel Recommends Arms Embargo for South Sudan, Says Leaders Killing Civilians
The United Nations Security Council should place an arms embargo on South Sudan, while the oil-rich country’s President Salva Kiir and a rebel leader qualify to be sanctioned over atrocities in a two-year civil war, UN sanctions monitors said in an annual report. The confidential report by a UN panel that monitors the conflict in South Sudan for the Security Council stated that Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar are still completely in charge of their forces and are therefore directly to blame for killing civilians and other actions that warrant sanctions. A copy of the report was seen by Reuters on Monday. The 15-member Security Council has long-threatened to impose an arms embargo, but veto power Russia, backed by council member Angola, has been reluctant to support such an action. Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Monday he was concerned that an arms embargo would be one-sided because it would be easier to enforce on the government. The panel asked the council to blacklist “high-level decision makers responsible for the actions and policies that threaten the peace, security and stability of the country.”  The East African

Kiir Orders South Sudan Military to Retreat from Sudan border
President Salva Kiir has ordered withdrawal of South Sudanese national army soldiers from the border with Sudan. The decision comes two days after Khartoum agreed to re-negotiate oil transit fees with Juba. In an official statement seen by The East African, President Kiir also ordered the revival of joint committees between the two countries to implement the cooperation agreement signed between Khartoum and Juba in September 2012. According to the order, the Southern Sudanese forces will retreat five miles from the border as demarcated in 1956. ”We need to work together with our brothers and sisters in Khartoum to normalise relations,” President Kiir pointed out. ”I’m confident that my brother president [Omar] Bashir will positively responded to my message, which aims to normalise the relations and to open the common border to allow the flow of trade and transportation for the interests of the two nations,” he added. The East African

South Sudan Rebel Leader and Uganda Agree on New Ties
Leader of main armed opposition faction in South Sudan, Riek Machar, has concluded his two-day visit to Uganda during which he held a closed door meeting with President Yoweri Museveni over a host of issues affecting South Sudan and the region.  The visit to Uganda by the leader of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) is the first of its kind in two years following the outbreak of violence in South Sudan in which President Museveni’s forces involved. His official spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, has confirmed to Sudan Tribune that Machar returned to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Tuesday evening. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan Rebel Leader Says He is Not Going Back Home
A rebel leader in South Sudan said Tuesday he would not return to his country because the government has violated a peace accord signed last August. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni should use his influence with South Sudan’s government to ensure the agreement is implemented, rebel leader Riek Machar told reporters in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Machar is currently in Uganda to consult with Museveni, who deployed Ugandan special forces to back President Salva Kiir at the start of the conflict in December 2013. “I want to start a new chapter of peace and friendship,” Machar reportedly told Museveni during the meeting on Monday night, according to a statement from Uganda’s presidency. AP on Stars and Stripes

Kenyan Troops Abandon Somali Camp to Al Shabaab Militants
Kenyan soldiers have abandoned a camp in the southern Somali town of El Adde following an attack by al Shabaab, a military spokesman said, and the islamist militants said they had taken full control of the base on Tuesday. The Kenyan troops, part of an African Union (AU) force in Somalia (AMISOM), took heavy losses when al Shabaab launched a dawn raid on the camp near the Kenyan border on Jan. 15. David Obonyo, spokesman for the Kenya Defence Forces, said the troops had vacated the camp, and were now stationed nearby. Al Shabaab, which has links to al Qaeda and seeks to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government, said it had killed more than 100 soldiers in the attack. The militants are seeking to drive the AU force out of Somalia. Reuters

Gulf of Guinea Piracy Down in 2015
Piracy and maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea dropped by nearly a third in 2015 compared to the previous year, while Somali piracy remains contained, according to a new report, which notes that maritime crime in Southeast Asia continues to rise. Dryad Maritime has reported that offshore maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea saw a 29% drop in reported incidents in 2015 compared to 2014. “This drop…also saw an unprecedented five month break in piracy. However, it is not a time to be complacent, and the risk of kidnap remains a concern for crew of vessels operating off Nigeria with the overall figures for the number of crew kidnapped actually surpassing 2014’s records,” Dryad said. DefenceWeb

Opening a New Front Against ISIS in Libya
The Pentagon is ramping up intelligence-gathering in Libya as the Obama administration draws up plans to open a third front in the war against the Islamic State. This significant escalation is being planned without a meaningful debate in Congress about the merits and risks of a military campaign that is expected to include airstrikes and raids by elite American troops. That is deeply troubling. A new military intervention in Libya would represent a significant progression of a war that could easily spread to other countries on the continent. It is being planned as the American military burrows more deeply into battlegrounds in Syria and Iraq, where American ground troops are being asked to play an increasingly hands-on role in the fight.  The New York Times

Hundreds Vanishing in Egypt as Crackdown Widens, Activists Say
After the security forces raided the home of Islam Khalil, a 26-year-old salesman, last summer, he seemed to vanish without a trace. Mr. Khalil, who lives about 50 miles north of Cairo in El Santa, Egypt, had not been formally arrested, so his family could not determine where he was being held, or by whom. His relatives, who said he did not have access to a lawyer, worried that he was dead. When Mr. Khalil finally emerged, four months later, at a police station in the port city of Alexandria, Egypt, he looked dirty and emaciated, according to his brother Nour, and reported that interrogators had suspended him from his arms and his legs, and administered electric shocks to his genitals. “He didn’t look like the Islam I know,” Nour Khalil recalled in a recent interview. The New York Times

Nigeria Grazing Rights Spat Turns Deadly
Gunmen believed to be ethnic Fulani herders have killed a policeman and 19 civilians and torched homes in Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa state in a spat over grazing rights, the police said on Monday. They said it appeared to be revenge attacks following a row over destroyed crops. “We lost a DPO (Divisional Police Officer) and 19 civilians in his area of jurisdiction when they came under attack by Fulani herdsmen in Girei district,” police spokesman Othman Abubakar told AFP. The senior police officer with his team were “responding to a distress call from the communities under attack to restore calm following an invasion by the armed herdsmen”, he said. Local media reports gave a much higher death toll of 30, including the police officer following the raids on Sunday morning. AFP on IOL News

Is Nigeria’s Corruption Crusade Aimed at Clean-up or Political Opponents?
[…] since  President Muhammadu Buhari – took office in May last year on a campaign of clean government, he has made clear that he will no longer tolerate the graft that has siphoned billions from Africa’s largest economy, exacerbating poverty and hobbling the country’s fight against Boko Haram militants. Mr. Buhari has demanded public agencies open themselves to closer financial scrutiny, put public works on ice to scrutinize contracts, and is overhauling management of the state oil company – one of the biggest sources of graft. But if there are early signs that this drive against corruption is showing results – sales of luxury cars and villas in the capital, Abuja, have dried up, for instance – many have also raised concerns that it is little more than an attempt by a new president to settle scores with his old adversaries.  CS Monitor

‘Uganda President Buying Extended Term’
At an election rally this month, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni awarded city status to the town of Mbarara – a minor distinction on the face of it, but one that promises more public sector jobs for local voters. As top musicians played for thousands of dancing supporters, critics said it was another example of Museveni spending freely on government patronage in a campaign to extend his three decades in office while teachers go unpaid and clinics run out of drugs. “For 30 years, it has been the same face, the same system, the economy in the hands of a few people,” said 53-year-old Steven, who did not want to give his full name. “He has the state machinery buying the election.” Museveni, whose government denies squandering state cash on campaigning for the February 18 presidential vote, has brought a measure of peace and economic stability since he took control of the country in 1986 after winning a protracted bush war.  Reuters on IOL News

Museveni Celebrated as He Campaigns for Fourth Decade in Power
Museveni, thought to be at least 71 years old, is head of the ruling ex-rebel National Resistance Movement and is widely expected to win another five-year term. The Daily Monitor marked the day with an article pointing out global changes since Museveni took power in 1986. The state-owned New Vision newspaper praised the ruling party’s economic advances. Seven opposition candidates are vying to end Museveni’s rule in the February 18 poll. He will face his stiffest opposition from Kizza Besigye, a three-time loser for the Forum for Democratic Change, and Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and ruling party stalwart now running for the new Go-Forward party. AFP on Times Live

Senegal Detains 900 People in Security Drive
Police in Senegal have detained 900 people as part of a security operation following militant attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali. The detentions, which were not terror-related, took place over the weekend in the capital Dakar and Thies. The assaults on a hotel in Mali and a hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso, both claimed by Islamists, have raised security fears in the region. Senegal has been comparatively safe but is a popular tourist destination.  BBC

Ex-Guantanamo Inmate Still Kept in Morocco Jail
Authorities have again postponed a hearing on whether to charge a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who was turned over to Morocco last year after the U.S. withdrew allegations he had ties to an Islamic militant group. Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri has been imprisoned without charge since he was returned to Morocco last September. Moroccan judges have repeatedly postponed hearings on whether to charge the 46-year-old, with no reason given. Chekkouri was captured by Pakistan in December 2001 as he fled Afghanistan with other suspected al-Qaida fighters. He was turned over to the United States, which held him for 13 years without charge. A new hearing in the case was set for Feb. 9. AP on Stars and Stripes

South African Opposition Seeks to Harness Discontent over Zuma
When President Jacob Zuma sacked his respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene on December 9, 2015, there was a chorus of protest. Within hours, his critics on social media had taken up the call #ZumaMustFall. More than half a million people have since signed an online petition calling for Zuma to be removed from office. A week ago, a huge banner reading Zuma Must Fall was removed from a building in Cape Town by members of his ruling African National Congress (ANC). The haphazard reshuffle at the finance ministry didn’t just cause dismay among South African financial analysts, it also send the rand tumbling on exchange markets. Announcing plans for Wednesday’s march in Johannesburg, Mmusi Maimane, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said that he wanted the whole of South Africa to unite and promote fairness and prosperity. He called on his countrymen to join the march “in solidarity with the poor and unemployed South Africans who are suffering as result of no economic leadership.”  Deutsche Welle

Gbagbo Supporters in Ivory Coast Gearing Up for His Trial
The trial of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo is due to begin January 28 at the International Criminal Court. Gbagbo is facing charges of crimes against humanity, based on acts allegedly committed during Ivory Coast’s post-election violence in 2010 and 2011. Gbagbo supporters plan to closely follow the trial, which many of them perceive as an insult. In the hall of his party’s new office in Abidjan, giant posters of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo are plastered on almost every wall. Party official Aboubacar Koné said Gbagbo’s detention at the International Criminal Court “is a hostage-taking situation that does not say its name.” Koné is acting spokesperson of a faction of Gbagbo’s former party, the Ivorian Popular Front, or FPI. The party broke into two factions last year before the presidential elections. Koné was among those who linked the party’s participation in the vote to Gbagbo’s release from the ICC. That did not happen, so that faction boycotted the elections. VOA

AU Summit Preview: It Would be Foolish to Expect Any Major Changes
The more things change at the top, the more they stay the same. Farewell, Robert Mugabe. The Zimbabwean president’s year as chairperson of the African Union has expired, mercifully, and few will mourn his absence from the top job. Except Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper, of course: “Under President Mugabe’s chairmanship, Africa returned to source. And the senior statesman did not disappoint as he has laid the requisite foundation for the continent’s holistic independence,” it crowed. In fact, Mugabe’s tenure caused more trouble than it was worth. Even though the role is largely ceremonial, Mugabe’s appointment caused all sorts of diplomatic headaches for the AU with international partners who simply cannot afford to be seen getting too close to him. Mugabe’s absence was a condition of Barack Obama’s speech at AU headquarters in July, for example, which created tension between Zimbabwe and the AU Commission whose job it was to disinvite him.  Daily Maverick

Thomas Cook Cancels Tunisia Bookings
Travel operator Thomas Cook has cancelled all British bookings to Tunisia until November following a wave of violent protests across the country. Britain’s Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to the north African country, which is experiencing its worst social unrest since the 2011 revolution. “In light of this, and given that we have no clear indication as to when the FCO travel advice may change, Thomas Cook can confirm that it has taken the decision to cancel all bookings to Tunisia up to and including 31 October 2016,” the British company said in a statement. “We appreciate that this may be frustrating for our customers who have been looking forward to their holiday,” it added. “The safety and well-being of all those who travel with us is our absolute priority.” News 24

Israel Vows to Restart Law of Return for Ethiopian Jews
The Israeli government says it plans to restart its law of return programme in Ethiopia. Under the “Aliyah” rule, anyone who can prove their Jewish identity can move to Israel. Israel stopped the programme for Ethiopians in 2013, saying there was no one left who met the criteria – a move that split up thousands of families. For example, the family of Werkenshe Akalu, an Ethiopian Jew, left for Israel in 2013 but she was unable to follow. “I feel lonely here because all my family are in Israel,” Akalu told Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera

Oil Crash Exposes Angola’s Era of Excess
There’s never a good time for a drought, but this is a particularly bad period for Angola as it struggles to cope with shrinking revenues as a result of the global oil price crash. In the southern province of Cunene, 800,000 people – more than 70 percent of the population – are threatened with food shortages due to last year’s poor harvest. The drought has also affected the neigbouring provinces of Cuando Cubango and Huila, where the rural poor do not have enough in their granaries to tide them over to the next harvest in June. “We can confirm that the level of acute malnutrition across Angola warrants a high impact emergency response,” the development agency World Vision said in a statement to IRIN. “We gather that supplies of essential medicines are disrupted. We have observed stock outs of therapeutic foods, reduced outpatient services, and increased admissions to in-patient nutrition centres that are ill equipped to provide the required level of service,” the agency warned.  IRIN

African Economies Weighed Down by Weak Currencies
African economies will continue to be weighed down by weak commodity prices, depreciation of major currencies and inflation this year despite a projected marginal growth, a senior United Nations official has said. Adam Elhiraika, director of the macro-economic policy at the UN Economic Commission for Africa made the observation at the unveiling of the 2016 World Economic Situation and Prospects report in Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa recently. Elhiraika said this year would be challenging because of the exchange rate volatility that is affecting many currencies. The Africa Report

Ghana’s Success Story Built on Gold, Oil and Cocoa is Foundering
Dressed in the red and black clothing traditionally worn at funerals, waving anti-austerity placards and accompanied by drums and bellowing horns, thousands of Ghanaians descended on the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra in mid-January. These workers marching through the capital and other cities were showing their dismay at recent price hikes and taxes, which have increased the cost of electricity by 59%, water by 67% and fuel by 28%. Ebenezer Pabi, a warehouse keeper at an import company for 17 years, says prices are making life in the west African country very difficult. “The government is raising things and the living standard in Ghana is hard. Money is not flowing in the system and it is a problem,” the 39-year-old father of two explains. At the end of last year, inflation in Ghana was running at 17.7%, well above the budget target of 13.7%,  The Guardian

Kenya to Destroy Largest Ever Ivory Stockpile at Star-Studded Summit
Kenya said Tuesday it will torch its vast stockpile of ivory at a star-studded summit to include Hollywood celebrities, presidents and business leaders against “poaching and illegal trade in ivory.” The fire will be eight times the size of any ivory stockpile destroyed so far. “Kenya plans to use the occasion to torch as many as 120 tonnes of ivory, the largest stockpile of ivory ever destroyed by any country, as proof of our commitment to zero tolerance for poaching and illegal ivory trade,” presidential spokesman Manoah Esipisu told reporters. Kenya said “several” heads of state were expected to attend, along with Hollywood actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman, and business tycoons George Soros, Paul Allen, Howard Buffet and Michael Bloomberg.  AFP on Yahoo News

Secret Aid Worker: ‘I Was the Obscure African Girl in a Room Full of White Faces’
It was sitting in a conflict resolution lecture – an intern in my early twenties and eager for life – when I knew that was it, I wanted to be an aid worker. I wanted to be the one who makes the difference. I started my career as that obscure national staff member who took the minutes at important meetings and was good at it. Many times however, I would be the only African in those meetings and my role would solely be to take minutes. Strangely, and contrary to popular belief, minute taking is the best way to learn and adapt to new concepts. Nobody noticed me, or asked for my opinion; even when what they discussed affected how much food I had at dinner. So I listened, took notes and learned. Soon I knew more than most people coming to the meetings. A few years later, I landed my first international job. I had managed to convince a HR officer that I knew what I was doing better than anyone else going for the position, and that I deserved the job. This time, I became the obscure African girl who could relate to the context and whose opinion was closest to the reality of those affected by crisis. The room would fall silent when I spoke, and I felt relevant. I was making the difference, and I thought I was good at it.  The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones