Media Review for January 8, 2016

Burundi: Stalled Talks to Restart in Mid-January, Peacekeeping Force by Consent, Says Tanzania Foreign Minister
Stalled mediation on the crisis in Burundi could restart in just over a week’s time, Tanzania’s foreign minister has told RFI. Augustine Mahiga said on Thursday that there were questions about the availability of Burundi’s foreign minister as well as the agenda, composition and venue for the Ugandan-led mediation. Talks to help resolve the crisis in Burundi sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial third term were expected in Arusha, Tanzania on 6 January. However, Burundi’s government said no consensus had been reached on the date. There are also questions about the role of a proposed African Union peacekeeping force which was to be sent to Burundi. In mid-December, the AU gave the government a four-day deadline to accept a force to halt the violence. Authorities in Burundi called it an “invasion force” and Nkurunziza said AU peacekeepers would be attacked if they stepped foot on Burundian soil. The deadline passed and no further action has been taken to deploy the 5,000-strong force.  RFI

Burundi’s Government Not Motivated to Act, Rights Groups Say
Peace talks between Burundi’s government and opposition groups were supposed to be held Wednesday in Arusha, Tanzania, after discussions opened last month in Uganda. But the talks were canceled, without being rescheduled — adding to the problems for a country that has been experiencing unrest since April. A senior foreign affairs official said the government will not speak with those it says are “supporting violence.” However, the next step must be government action, says Carina Tertsakian, Human Rights Watch senior researcher on Burundi and Rwanda. “It is certainly regrettable that the different parties do not seem to be able to come together,” Tertsakian said. “I would say on the government’s side, the government does not seem to be acknowledging the urgency of the need to take measures to stop the violence.”  VOA

14 Killed in East DR Congo by Suspected Rwandan Rebels
Fourteen people were killed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo overnight by suspected Rwandan rebels accused of repeated attacks in the area, local authorities and the military said Thursday. The latest assault took place in Miriki, 110 kilometres (65 miles) north of Goma, capital of conflict-torn North Kivu province. Bokele Joy, administrator of the Lubero area under which Miriki falls, told AFP “14 bodies” had been found. “The FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) is responsible for this,” Joy said, accusing a Hutu group based in eastern Congo, some of whose members are accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda. Confirming the death toll, Congolese military spokesman Mak Hazukay said the rebels slipped past the army’s positions to carry out the attack using knives or other bladed weapons. Speaking by telephone from Miriki, village chief Gervain Paluku Murandia told AFP his two wives and eldest daughter were among those killed. The East African

Congo Republic: Opposition Leaders to Boycott Presidential Polls
A group of opposition leaders in Congo Brazzaville have made an announcement not to participate in the upcoming presidential elections set for March 20. The group consisting of different political parties say there are still pertinent issues to be addressed which include voter electoral cards among others. “Participating in such an election is handing power to the president on a silver platter,” said Dominique Foufoudoux, the spokesman of the group. The group is calling for an all inclusive dialogue to enable a free and fair election process. The President, Denis Sassou N’Guesso, is going to be contesting for a third term courtesy a referendum passed last year removing limits on the number of terms a president can serve in the country.  Africa News

Burkina Faso Pres Names Economist as PM
Burkina Faso’s new president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, on Thursday chose experienced economist Paul Kaba Thieba as prime minister of the west African nation. Thieba, 55, a former central banker, who is little known to the public, will now form a government. His nomination follows the swearing in last week of Kabore, Burkina Faso’s first new leader in almost three decades who has pledged to “reform institutions and modernise the government for more social justice, democracy and freedom.” Kabore takes over from an interim administration that followed a popular insurrection in October 2014 that toppled Blaise Compaore, who had been in power since 1987. Thieba has a finance and banking doctorate and leaves an administrator’s job in the West African Economic and Monetary Union, one of two regional bodies co-ordinating economic activity in nations sharing the CFA franc, which was historically pegged to the French currency. News 24

Masked Gunmen Shoot at Tourist Bus and Hotel Near Cairo’s Pyramids
Gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on a tourist bus and hotel near Egypt’s Giza pyramids. No injuries were reported but the attack by two masked assailants left windows of the Three Pyramids Hotel smashed and caused damage to the vehicle. The men threw “home-made fireworks” and one shot “a pellet gun” towards security staff in front of the hotel, a short drive from Cairo’s most famous ancient site, according to government officials. An Egyptian Security Information Center spokesperson said: “Approximately 15 unidentified individuals gathered at a side street in the area near the Three Pyramids Hotel. As they passed by the hotel, the individuals threw home-made fireworks in the direction of the security officers stationed at the hotel to disperse them.”  The Telegraph

Niger Tidies Electoral Register Ahead of February Vote
Niger has completed changes to its electoral register recommended by the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF), the body said on Thursday, removing a major source of tension ahead of elections next month. President Mahamadou Issoufou is seeking another mandate as head of the historically turbulent, uranium-producing West African country on Feb. 21. He is the favorite to win but critics say he has become increasingly authoritarian and repressive ahead of the polls. The OIF, an organization representing French-speaking nations tasked with overseeing the voter list, had previously recommended the removal of around 300 ‘ghost’ polling stations and 25,000 voters counted twice. Reuters on GlobalPost

Two Former Premiers to Vie for CAR Presidency in Run-Off Vote
Two former Central African Republic premiers, Anicet Georges Dologuele and Faustin Archange Touadera, will vie for the presidency of the strife-torn nation in the final January 31 round of elections, provisional results showed Thursday. Dologuele won 23.78 percent of the vote in the first December 30 round, trailed by Touadera, who picked up 19.42 percent, according to the results that still need to be officially confirmed by the Constitutional Court. The National Election Authority (ANE) said turnout at the presidential and parliamentary elections reached a high 69 percent.  France 24

Outrage in Ghana over Guantanamo Detainees
[…] This is the first time Ghana has accepted Guantanamo prisoners, although other African countries, such as Uganda and Cap Verde, have received transfers from the facility in the past. The US started housing terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay shortly after the attacks on the country on September 11, 2001. Obama’s 2009 promise to close the facility has been blocked by Congress, which has objected to any transfers to the US, whether for trial or release. But human rights group Amnesty International says the US should not be relying on outside assistance in its move to close Guantanamo. “The US administration is expecting of other countries what it itself refuses to do, despite being the authority, the country, which created this problem in the first place,” Rob Freer of Amnesty International told DW. 105 prisoners are still being held at Guantanamo Bay, including nearly 50 who have been cleared for release. “The USA is responsible for this and has not done what it could to end this human rights injustice,” Freer said.  Deutsche Welle

Ethiopian Forces ‘Kill 140 Oromo Protesters’
Ethiopian security forces have killed at least 140 people taking part in mass anti-government demonstrations since November, activists say, according to US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW). The protests have been sparked by fears that a plan to expand the capital’s administrative control into the Oromia region will displace Oromo farmers. HRW also called for the release of an Oromo politician arrested last month. The government has accused Oromo protesters of links with terror groups. Last month, officials said five people and an undisclosed number of security personnel had died in the protests.  BBC

Saudi Arabia Will Give $22 Billion to Morocco to Improve its Military Industry
Saudi Arabia is trying to expand its influence at the Southern Mediterranean region, as it will provide $22 billion to Morocco to “strengthen the deterrent capabilities of the Royal Armed Forces.” According to Morocco World News, on December 16 the two Kingdoms signed an agreement of military and technical cooperation between the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces and the Saudi Armed Forces. Today, Arabic daily Al-Massae reported that under the signed agreement, “Saudi Arabia is financing the implementation of a military industry project in Morocco with $22 billion.” Besides the funding, Saudi Arabia agreed to provide military intelligence to Morocco to help the Southern Mediterranean country to upgrade its status “from client to producer of weapons”, an unnamed source told Al-Massae. According to Morocco World News, the Strategic Defense Intelligence Institute (SDI) revealed that the December agreement foresaw that “no less than 220 billion dirhams will be invested by the Kingdom over a period of four years (2015-2019) to strengthen the deterrent capabilities of the Royal Armed Forces.”  New Europe

South Sudan Peace Partners Conclude Selection of Ministries for Transitional Government
South Sudanese parties to the recently signed peace agreement have successfully concluded selection of ministries on Thursday without disagreement on key ministries, dispelling fears and speculations that the parties may not reach consensus on sovereign ministries. The parties, according to a letter addressed to former Botswana President and a head joint Monitoring and evaluation Commission (JMEC), Festus Mogae, agreed by consensus to divide the ministries without having to use an agreement-provided lottery-like rotational system since there were no disagreements. Sudan Tribune

US Gives Nigeria 24 Armored Vehicles for Boko Haram Fight
The U.S. government is giving Nigeria 24 mine-resistant, armor-protected vehicles to assist the country in its fight against Boko Haram militants. A statement from the U.S. consulate in Lagos says the vehicles, valued at $11 million, are being handed over to Nigerian military officials Thursday. The consulate says the donation “represents part of the continuing U.S. commitment to Nigeria and its neighbors to counter Boko Haram’s senseless acts of terror, and promote regional security.” In October, the U.S. sent 300 troops to northern Cameroon to help coordinate the fight against the militants, and last month, it provided Cameroon with combat vehicles, power generators and other “tactical war equipment.” VOA

Nigeria’s Anti-Graft Agency Arrests Buhari ally
Nigeria’s anti-graft agency on Thursday said it has arrested a former political associate of President Muhammadu Buhari as part of an ongoing corruption probe into allegedly bogus arms deals. Lawal Jafaru Isa, a former Kaduna state military governor under general Sani Abacha, was arrested late on Wednesday at his Abuja residence, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission told AFP. He is the head of state’s first party ally arrested in the probe. The retired brigadier general was the Kano state governorship candidate for the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) in the 2011 election. Buhari was the party’s presidential candidate. News 24

Davies: Deal ‘Cracked’ to Keep South Africa in Agoa
This comes after South Africa missed an important deadline set by US President Barack Obama to conclude the negotiations by 31 December 2015. There were fears that he would suspend South African from the crucial trade agreement on January 4. “We are calling on the US to do the right thing and retain our involvement in Agoa without any interruptions,” Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry (dti), announced in Pretoria on Thursday. “We are expecting that South Africa will participate in Agoa.” He commended the people involved in the negotiations, saying they had “cracked” the Agoa deal. Referring to time differences between SA and the US, he said SA is waiting formal sign-off from the US. “We are expecting that SA will now be able to participate in Agoa without any interruptions in trade flows.” Daily Maverick

Gaddafi Warned Blair his Ousting Would ‘Open Door’ to Jihadis
Muammar Gaddafi warned Tony Blair in two fraught phone conversations in 2011 that his removal from the Libyan leadership would open a space for al-Qaida to seize control of the country and even launch an invasion of Europe. The transcripts of the conversations have been published with Blair’s agreement by the UK foreign affairs select committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the western air campaign that led to the ousting and killing of Gaddafi in October 2011. In the two calls the former British prime minister pleaded with Gaddafi to stand aside or end the violence. The transcripts reveal the gulf in understanding between Gaddafi and the west over what was occurring in his country and the nature of the threat he was facing. Bomb kills dozens at Libyan police training centre Read more In the first call, at 11.15am on 25 February 2011, Gaddafi gave a warning in part borne out by future events: “They [jihadis] want to control the Mediterranean and then they will attack Europe.”  The Guardian

Egypt’s Roadmap to Nowhere
is Sunday, Egypt’s new parliament will finally gather “under the dome,” as Egyptians call their country’s parliament building — but it doesn’t look like there will be much debating. In its first session, the new legislators are expected to rubber-stamp at least 241 laws that have already been put into effect by presidential decree over the last two years. This is Egypt’s first parliament since a court dissolved the last one in 2012, arguing that the legislation governing its election had been flawed. When President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, then the country’s top general, announced the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Morsi in July 2013, he laid out a “roadmap” — a set of goals meant to mark a transition back to democracy — that included provisions for parliamentary elections. These were finally held in November and December, electing almost entirely pro-regime legislators, mostly independent candidates and a few representing political parties. Egypt’s new parliament includes no meaningful opposition.  Foreign Policy

Benin Economist Announces Presidential Bid
Beninese economist and former International Monetary Fund executive Abdoulaye Bio Tchane announced on Thursday his intention to run for president in next month’s elections. It is the second time Bio Tchane is running for president of the small west African nation. The 64-year-old also ran in 2011. Bio Tchane, also the former head of the West African Development Bank, announced Thursday in front of thousands of supporters at a stadium in Porto-Novo that if elected he intended to create “500,000 jobs per year” in a country where poverty remains widespread. Two Benin business giants — cotton magnate Patrice Talon and food tycoon Sebastien Ajavon — are also running for the presidency. Ajavon, 50, has stuck to the political sidelines in Benin, in the past making financial contributions to different political parties. AFP on Yahoo News

Guinea-Bissau Struggles to End its Role in Global Drugs Trade
Guinea-Bissau’s Bijagós islands look like a tourists’ paradise – the 88 mostly uninhabited islets are filled with palm trees and white, sandy beaches. But the archipelago has been best known as a smugglers’ paradise. Described by the UN as a narco state, Guinea-Bissau has long been a drug trafficking hub for South American cocaine cartels. And although this illegal trade appears to be declining thanks to US and UN counter-narcotic policies, the country still bears the scars and remains dogged by the same poverty and institutional weaknesses that allowed the drugs industry to take hold in the first place. On Bubaque, the main inhabited island, there are no roads, just dirt tracks. People live in mud-brick homes, and pigs and dogs meander in the streets. Most of the small guesthouses are empty; despite nascent efforts to promote the islands’ rich biodiversity, tourism has yet to take off. At Bubaque’s airstrip on a November day, the small terminal was empty and men on bikes rode along the “runway”, hacked out of the grass and scrub.  The Guardian

How 150,000 People Were Saved in the Mediterranean
“Please, sir, please! This is very serious. My engine is off and I have children and pregnant women.” The desperate plea comes from a rubber dinghy packed with 112 people who set off from the Libyan coast in the hope of reaching Europe. The call is received hundreds of miles away in a Rome basement filled with maps, charts, and phones. From this government building, nestled between modern office blocks and fascist-era architecture, the Italian coastguard runs the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre. It is a 365-day-a-year operation that coordinated more than 930 sea rescues in 2015, saving over 150,000 lives. There are no days off. On Christmas Day, 751 people were rescued from six different boats. Although the majority of operations are successful, rescue boats don’t reach everyone in time. Last year, 3,771 people died or went missing trying to cross the Mediterranean, 77 percent of them in the Central Mediterranean between Libya and Italy: the world’s deadliest migration route. Continued instability in Libya means the country is unable to coordinate its own search and rescue missions, leaving the Italian authorities to step in. IRIN

Turkey Set to Build a Military Training Center in Somalia
Emel Tekin, the head of the Foreign Ministry department responsible for Somalia, stated that Turkey is establishing a military base in Mogadishu, a first for Turkey, to train Somali soldiers. She said the initiative is part of a framework agreement between the two countries on military cooperation. “This military training facility will also be an important base for [providing] military training for the entire [continent of] Africa,” she added. The Turkish diplomat’s remarks were delivered during deliberations of Parliament’s Defense Commission, where the agreement on defense industry cooperation between Turkey and Somalia was approved on Dec. 9, 2015. The agreement was signed on Jan. 25, 2015, in Mogadishu. Today’s Zaman

British Diplomat Questions DRC Government Spending
One of the biggest donors to the Democratic Republic of Congo is questioning how the DRC government is spending money. In a letter to a Congolese newspaper, the British ambassador to the DRC notes that in 2014, the last year for which there are figures, the government spent almost as much on parliament as it did on the country’s entire health sector. British Ambassador Graham Zebedee’s letter was published Tuesday in a Kinshasa newspaper. In it, he says it’s an “uncomfortable fact” the basic services provided to the Congolese people are mainly funded by the Congolese people themselves, the diaspora, churches, non-governmental organizations, and foreign governments. Official figures on how the DRC government’s 2014 budget was spent suggest that funding services was not its top priority.  VOA

Isn’t There an App for That? Using Tech to Reach the 2 Billion Unbanked
Financial inclusion for the poor remains one of the biggest developmental challenges of our time. A huge 2 billion adults worldwide are unbanked, but this also presents huge opportunities for businesses that can make finance both available and affordable for these emerging consumers. The race to provide financial products and services to the 2 billion unbanked has seen investors and entrepreneurs pile into Africa in recent times. The business potential in this sector at a global level is huge, smartphones are increasingly becoming a great social leveller, and technological innovation in finance will only leverage financial inclusion further. The developmental needs on the continent for goods and services, and especially for financial access, have thus created massive opportunity. And whereas Africa was traditionally perceived in more developed markets as a risky destination, it is now risky for investors not to be invested in Africa. In this environment, financial inclusion is critical for greasing the wheels of inclusive economic growth and development.  African Arguments



Photo: Adam Jones