Media Review for January 4, 2016

U.S. “Deeply Disappointed” Rwandan President Will Seek Third Term
The United States is “deeply disappointed” by Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s New Year’s announcement that he would seek a third term in 2017, according to the U.S. State Department. Kagame, who has been president since 2000, has effectively been in control since his rebel force marched into Kigali to end the 1994 genocide. He had been limited to two terms, but Rwanda approved constitutional changes last year that would allow him to stay in power until 2034, if he wins elections. “The United States is deeply disappointed that President Paul Kagame has announced his intention to run for a third term in office,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said in a statement late on Saturday. The United States is a major donor to Rwanda and provides military aid. It has long praised Kagame for transforming the nation since the genocide. It has expressed alarm at the growing list of African leaders seeking to extend their time in office. Reuters

Burundi Protest Could Delay a Return to Peace Talks
Doubts have surfaced over the resumption of the intra-Burundi dialogue on January 6, as the government pushes for a homegrown initiative, amid protests at what it considers external interference in its domestic affairs. The African Union is considering what sanctions it can impose on Burundi after the government refused to allow the deployment of 5,000 peacekeeping troops to the country, with President Pierre Nkurunziza saying he would attack the force if it were deployed against the will of Parliament. Progress on the talks at the height of the dispute over the troops had been seen as the AU’s way of saving face, but the government’s insistence that it will not engage with parties it believes plotted the aborted coup in May could cause a further breaking of ranks. The East African

France 24 Probes Alleged Summary Executions in Burundi
France 24 probes alleged summary executions in Burundi inShare Burundi has been rocked by unrest since April when the ruling party selected incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza as its candidate for a third term in office. Nkurunziza has since successfully navigated street protests, a failed coup and elections. But the country was rocked by its worst violence since the start of the crisis on December 11, a day dubbed locally as “Black Friday”. Insurgents clashed with loyalists at three military camps before security forces unleashed a crackdown in pro-opposition neighbourhoods. Our team on the ground probed allegations of summary executions and mass graves. Some of the witnesses they spoke to preferred to remain anonymous for security reasons.  France 24

Burundi Refugees Live in Squalor in Tanzanian Camps, But They Still Prefer Life There
The post-election stalemate in Burundi continues, even as the talks mediated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni were revived on December 28 in Entebbe. At least 87 people were killed on December 11 in renewed attacks in Bujumbura. On December 17, the African Union Peace and Security Council authorised the deployment of an African Prevention and Protection Mission to Burundi (MAPROBU). The 5,000-strong force including military and police will be tasked with protecting civilians and creating the conditions for dialogue. But there have been rising concerns over the humanitarian situation in the country, with relief organisations calling for urgent help. The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Unicef have warned of the displacement of people and food insecurity and the risk of a full-blown humanitarian crisis if no progress is made on the political front.  The East African

Embassy Official: US Shuts Down Drone Operation in Ethiopia
The U.S. government has shut down its drone operation base in southern Ethiopia, an embassy official announced. A decision has been reached that the base in Arba Minch, 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Addis Ababa, is no longer necessary, embassy spokesman David Kennedy told The Associated Press by email. “U.S. military personnel are no longer in Arba Minch,” Kennedy said. “In our ongoing bilateral discussions on defense cooperation, we reached a mutual decision that our presence in Arba Minch is not required at this time.” Ethiopian media reported about the base when it was set up in 2011 but the U.S. has never publicly confirmed its existence. A security expert in Addis Ababa, who insisted on anonymity for fear of Ethiopian government reprisal, said the base was used to attack Islamic extremists in Somalia.  VOA

Jihadists Deepen Collaboration in North Africa
A group of light armored vehicles skated over the moonscape of the Sahara, part of one of the largest detachments the French military has deployed here since colonial times. Its mission is growing ever more urgent: to cut smuggling routes used by jihadists who have turned this inhospitable terrain into a sprawling security challenge for African and international forces alike. Many of the extremist groups are affiliates of Al Qaeda, which has had roots in North Africa since the 1990s. With the recent introduction of Islamic State franchises, the jihadist push has been marked by increasing, sometimes heated, competition. But, analysts and military officials say, there is also deepening collaboration among groups using modern communications and a sophisticated system of roving trainers to share military tactics, media strategies and ways of transferring money. Their threat has grown as Libya — with its ungoverned spaces, oil, ports, and proximity to Europe and the Middle East — becomes a budding hub of operations for both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State to reach deeper into Africa. The New York Times

Algeria a ‘Symbolic Target’ for ISIL
Dozens of top African police officials met in Algiers this month to ratify legal documents related to the creation of Afripol, the pan-African law enforcement agency expected to begin operations next year. Algeria has played a leading role in the establishment of Afripol, which provides a mechanism for cooperation and coordination among African police services. The agency’s headquarters will be based in the Algiers neighbourhood of Ben Aknoun. According to Algeria’s national security chief, Major-General Abdelghani Hamel, this marks the start of a new phase in the country’s battle against “terrorism”. “Afripol can provide an added value to the regional and international police cooperation, and bring a police response to the global threats in a changing environment,” Hamel said in a statement. Al Jazeera

Qaeda Jihadi ‘Escapes’ Mauritania Jail
A Mauritanian prisoner sentenced to death for terrorism over an al-Qaeda plot to assassinate the president has escaped from prison, a security source told AFP on Friday. Cheikh Ould Saleck, on death row since 2011, was last seen by fellow inmates at Nouakchott central prison at midday on Thursday, according to the source. “His absence from group prayers in the evening alerted his fellow Islamist inmates, who went to get him and found his cell locked,” the source said. A guard smashed open the door and found a flag of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the group’s north African franchise, the source added. Ould Saleck and a fellow AQIM jihadi were arrested on the outskirts of the Mauritanian capital in 2011 when the army foiled their plot to kill President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz using two car bombs.  IOL News

Islamic State Fighters Target Libyan Oil Port of Sidra
Islamic State (IS) fighters have clashed with guards near Libya’s Sidra oil port east of its Sirte stronghold, Reuters news agency is quoting witnesses as saying. There was no confirmation of how close the fighting is to the port, but IS says it now controls Bin Jawad, on the road to Sidra from Sirte. In December, France said IS was aiming to control the country’s oil wells. IS failed to take Sidra in an attack last October. Libya has descended into chaos since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.  BBC

UN Envoy Expresses Support for German Military Training Deployment in Libya
“As soon as the security situation is better in the country, I can imagine that Germany will participate in the training of security officers in Libya,” Kobler told the weekly “Bild am Sonntag” newspaper. It’s been four years since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi and the ensuing instability and lawlessness has made the North African nation a hub for people smugglers and also helped “Islamic State” (IS) militants gain a foothold. The German diplomat also did not exclude a possible international troop deployment in Libya against the IS militants who have also taken over large swathes of northern Iraq and Syria with the aim of establishing a caliphate based on Sharia law. The UN envoy was still based in the Tunisian capital of Tunis, but said he would move to Libya in a few days. “I will move with a small team of employees to Libya as soon as possible,” he told reporters.  Deutsche Welle

The Masked Crusaders Trying to Restore Law and Order in Libya
It’s early in the morning and Islam Halab is putting on his military uniform, including a mask that reveals only his eyes. Fully covered and all in black, he’s about to go to work as a volunteer policeman in his home city of Zuwara in eastern Libya. Along with more than 130 others, Halab is part of a self-organised anti-crime unit fighting to reinstall law and order since civil war engulfed the country following the death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. “We’re not allowed to perform any task without wearing this uniform, including the mask,” says Halab. “At first, we wore [it] to hide our identities for safety, especially since even our families didn’t know we were members of this team. But now, after three years, most of us have become well-known by the people in the city.”  The Guardian

Somali Extremists Use Donald Trump Clip to Recruit Followers
Al-Qaeda’s East African affiliate has released a video to recruit American blacks and Muslims that includes a clip of presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for Muslims to be banned from entering the United States. The 51-minute video by the Somalia based al-Shabaab militant group says there is institutionalised racism and religious segregation in the US and radical Islam is the way to fight back. In the clip of Trump, he calls for the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. The video, which SITE Intel monitoring group said was released by extremists on Friday, presents several Americans who died fighting for extremism in Somalia and encourages American youths to follow their example Al-Shabaab is fighting a Somali government backed by African Union troops. News 24

Restaurant Hit by Deadly Suicide Attack in Somalia
At least three people have been killed and two others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a restaurant near the presidential palace in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack that targeted the Village restaurant on Saturday morning. The restaurant is often frequented by journalists and government officials and has previously been attacked by the al-Shabab armed group. A witness, Burhan Diini, said he saw several wounded victims after the attack. “Ambulances were seen rushing to the scene. Security forces surrounded the area,” he told the DPA news agency. The attack comes nearly two months after a hotel was bombed in Mogadishu killing at least 15 people, including an Al Jazeera contributor, Mustaf Abdi Noor. The hotel attack was claimed by al-Shabab.  Al Jazeera

Cameroon Welcomes US Assistance Against Boko Haram
Cameroon President Paul Biya welcomed the engagement of U.S. troops in his country’s fight against Boko Haram insurgents. But many Cameroonians do not yet understand the role of the troops in the war. President Biya in his end of the year message said Boko Haram had remained a major challenge to his country’s development, peace and security, and saluted what he called the experience and expertise of American troops in helping Cameroon. He said he specially thanks the U.S. government and is highly delighted with the confidence of the American people, especially now that their troops have been providing vital information and training for his country’s military. Thirty-year-old Muslim youth leader Bouba Ahijo said residents of Cameroon’s northern town of Garoua were told U.S. troops had come to liberate them from Boko Haram atrocities. But he said he is still not aware what the Americans have been doing more than two months after they arrived.  VOA

Ivory Coast Leader Grants Clemency for Political Prisoners
Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara announced Thursday in his New Year’s address that he had reduced the sentences of 3,100 prisoners held over bloody post-election unrest. Around 3,000 people died in five months of violence in 2010-2011 in the west African nation following elections that saw Ouattara unseat then president Laurent Gbagbo. The crisis erupted after the strongman leader refused to concede defeat, sparking months of violence that eventually drew in international troops. “I have decided to use my right of clemency to grant full and partial sentence reductions,” Ouattara said. France 24

Clashes Between Rebels and Army in Congo Leave Eight Dead
At least eight people are dead after fighting between rebels and the Congolese military, an army spokesperson told dpa on Saturday. Seven Mai Mai militants and one civilian are reported to have died during clashes in the city of Bunyakiri. The Mai Mai armed group, made up of between 5 000 and 7 000 predominantly Hutu fighters, was formed two decades ago to defend local territory against other armed groups allied with neighbouring Rwanda.  News 24

South Sudan armed Opposition Faction Says Forces May Deploy in Juba by Mid-January
Thousands of components of the would-be joint integrated forces from the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) may deploy in the national capital, Juba, by mid-January, says opposition’s spokesperson. In accordance with the peace agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan which President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Machar, signed in August to end 21 months of violent conflict in the world’s youngest nation, joint police and military forces including national security and presidential guards were to be deployed within the 90 days of pre-transitional period. Sudan Tribune

Ghana Electoral Commission Says No to New Voter List
The electoral commission of Ghana will not be compiling a new voter list to be used for the November 7 general election, despite calls by the main opposition, New Patriotic Party (NPP) to do so. Backed by other opposition and some civil society groups, the NPP petitioned the electoral commission, saying it has evidence that the current voter list is bloated with minors and non-citizens. The opposition party maintains the credibility of presidential, parliamentary and local elections will be undermined if the current voter list is not discarded and a new one compiled. The electoral commission had appointed an independent panel to look into the NPP’s concerns. The panel presented its report to the electoral commission in late December, concluding that arguments for a new register were “unconvincing,” adding that it would not recommend the replacement of the current voter list. VOA

Violence Looms Large in Uganda Campaigns
As Uganda’s presidential race enters the home stretch, efforts by the three leading contenders – President Yoweri Museveni, former prime minister Amama Mbabazi and Forum for Democratic Change flagbearer Dr Kizza Besigye – to make the most of the remaining 45 days of campaigning are certain to drive up political temperatures and probably spark more violent confrontations than have been reported so far, some analysts say. The earliest indication of rising tensions came on December 13 in Ntungamo municipality, when supporters of Mr Mbabazi clobbered the president’s followers, who had attempted to interfere with the former premier’s campaigns in the district. The southern district of Ntungamo is one of 59 electoral violence hotspots, the Uganda Human Rights Commission said recently. The clashes there were violent incidents reported since the campaigns began on November 9, according to Ushindi kwa Uganda, a self-reporting online site that is tracking and aggregating election violence in this year’s elections. The East African

South Africa Hopeful of Meeting Target to End U.S. Trade Dispute
South Africa is confident of meeting a deadline next week to resolve a trade dispute with the U.S. that will allow it to retain duty-free access for farm exports, a top trade official said. “We are totally committed to finding a resolution,” Lionel October, the director-general of South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry, said by phone from Cape Town. In a Nov. 6 letter to Congress, President Barack Obama said South Africa continued to impose several longstanding barriers to U.S. trade and had been given 60 days to take remedial action or face suspension of some of its trade preferences under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. Veterinarians from the two countries are in daily contact to try to resolve outstanding issues relating to testing of U.S. imports of poultry and pork for salmonella and other diseases, October said. They hope to issue final protocols in the next few days, he said.  Bloomberg

Zambia to Hold Presidential, Parliamentary Votes on Aug. 11
Zambia will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Aug. 11 under a new constitution, a government spokesman said on Monday. The elections are expected to be tight contest between President Edgar Lungu’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party and Hakainde Hichilema’s opposition United Party for National Development (UPND). Lungu is expected to assent to the constitutional amendments on Tuesday, ratifying the election date, his spokesman Amos Chanda said. Under the previous constitution, the president set the election date every five years. “The new constitution has a fixed election date and that will take effect as soon as the president signs,” Chanda told Reuters. Other amendments include a clause requiring a winning presidential candidate to get more than 50 percent of the valid votes cast, he said.  Reuters

Mohamed Bouazizi: Was the Arab Spring Worth Dying for?
Around noon on December 17, 2010, Ali Bouazizi’s phone rang. It was his uncle Salah. “Grab your camera and come film,” Salah told him. “Someone has set himself on fire in front of the provincial government building.” At the time, Ali, now 43, was active in the opposition against former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. “Through our newspaper and website, we seized every opportunity to expose the government,” he told Al Jazeera in an interview five years after the uprising. When his uncle called, Ali had no idea that the person who had set himself on fire was Mohamed Bouazizi, his 26-year-old cousin and friend. Even in his wildest imagination, Ali could never have predicted that a revolution would begin in the small, dusty provincial town of Sidi Bouzid – nor that within a month, Tunisia’s dictator would be ousted, felling the first domino in the line that triggered the Arab Spring. Al Jazeera

Africa’s Election Year 2015: A Long Way to Democracy?
For the first time in Nigeria’s history, a sitting president was defeated and accepted the outcome of the election. He later willingly handed over power to his main rival. In this case it was Goodluck Jonathan handing over power to Muhammadu Buhari. Six months later it was Burkina Faso’s turn to elect its new leader. Voters endured long queues at polling stations to elect a new leader, knowing that this time their vote counted, unlike in the past three decades under Blaise Compaore’s rule when the results were long certain. Elsewhere in Burundi violence erupted over President Pierre Nkuruziza’s third term bid in office. Like was the case in 2014 in Burkina Faso, citizens and human rights activists protested in Burundi against their president’s thirst for power as he, with the help of the state apparatus went ahead and run for a third term. His government violently crushed the protests and systematically embarked on a crackdown of the opposition and rights activists. Nkuruziza was again elected in July – many of his critics have since fled the country. Deutsche Welle

Africa’s Boom Is Over
recent years, economists and popular publications alike have argued that Africa was on the threshold of an economic boom. Pointing to a decade of high growth and increased foreign investment, this argument held that the continent was finally on track to leave its long years of poverty and under-development behind. Some even said that Africa could become the next global economic powerhouse, following in the footsteps of East Asia. This view never went entirely unchallenged, of course. In 2013 I argued that Africa’s growth would not be real, lasting, or beneficial for its people until it was based on industrialization rather than exporting raw commodities. Rather than focusing on the hype of mobile phones and African billionaires, I urged advocates of the “Africa Rising” argument to look at some basic development indicators: Was manufacturing increasing as a percentage of GDP? Were the goods African countries exported becoming more valuable — finished products rather than raw materials? In 2011, a U.N. report looked into these very questions, and found that most African countries are either stagnating or moving backwards when it comes to industrialization, quite unlike the East Asian experience. Foreign Policy



Photo: Adam Jones