Media Review for June 16, 2016

Sahrawi Insurgency Could Provide an Opening for AQIM
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has presided over a large swath of western Sahel and Sahara for the better part of the last decade. With no competition and many affiliates—from Ansar Dine and Al Mourabitoun in Mali to Okba ibn Nafaa Brigade in Tunisia—AQIM has established a profitable cottage industry of smuggling and kidnapping to support its terrorist activity. Some estimates have AQIM making nearly $100 million between 2008 and 2014. 2014, however, marked the end of AQIM’s unchallenged jihadist reign of the region. When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) came into existence, it began a campaign co-opting the movements that AQIM’s parent organization, Al Qaeda, had cultivated. It wooed recruits from AQIM allies Ansar Al Sharia in Libya and Tunisia. In AQIM’s home turf of Algeria, it swayed a splinter group of AQIM to join it under the name Jund Al Khilafah. ISIS even managed to wedge open the door to AQIM’s Malian theater when former Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) members who had co-created Al Mourabitoun pledged allegiance to it. All the while, ISIS was also trying to anchor itself in Libya and establish an arms corridor to its Nigerian ally Boko Haram.  Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Ethiopian Forces ‘Killed 400 Oromo Protesters’
Ethiopian security forces killed more than 400 people in the recent wave of anti-government demonstrations, US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) says. In its most comprehensive report into the Oromo protests, HRW lists the names of more than 300 it says were killed. The government has acknowledged that protesters have died but has said HRW was “very generous with numbers”. Protests were sparked by fears that a plan to expand the capital into Oromia region would displace Oromo farmers. They began in November last year, but the government dropped the proposal to enlarge Addis Ababa in January. BBC

DR Congo: Who is Étienne Tshisekedi, the Man Tasked With Toppling Kabila?
An ex-prime minister and former ally of notorious dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, veteran politician Étienne Tshisekedi, is preparing once more to pick up the opposition baton in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The 83-year-old leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), Tshisekedi appears again to have been nominated as the de facto opposition leader ahead of elections scheduled for November, but which could be jeopardized by delays and by the incumbent Joseph Kabila’s attempts to cling to power. Tshisekedi has emerged as Kabila’s main opponent following a meeting of Congolese opposition parties in the Belgian capital Brussels earlier in June. The meeting included the G7 coalition, which recently pronounced businessman Moise Katumbi, the former governor of DRC’s mineral-rich Katanga province, as its candidate for the presidency. Following Katumbi’s announcement in May that he was running for the presidency, it seemed that he would pose the biggest threat to Kabila. NewsWeek

US Lawmakers Mull Train-and-equip Plan to Stabilize Libya
As forces backed by Libya’s unity government press an offensive against Islamic State’s stronghold of Sirte, the U.S. is considering widening its engagement with the country’s fragile Government of National Accord, in a bid to oust the militants. On Wednesday, U.S. lawmakers debated a proposal to train and equip a Libyan national security force, a move that would require a partial lifting of a U.N. arms embargo imposed on the country shortly after the 2011 ouster of leader Moammar Gadhafi. There is broad international support for the partial lifting. At a May meeting in Vienna attended by Secretary of State John Kerry, the U.S. was among 25 countries and world bodies that signed a communiqué saying they would support a Libyan request for the exemption. VOA

Libyan Forces Claim Sirte Port Captured from Isis as Street Battles Rage
Libyan government forces fighting to oust Islamic State from Sirte, its last stronghold in the north African nation, have taken the strategic port area and pinned militants into a small part of the city centre. After capturing the airport last week and the seaport on Friday, troops loyal to the UN-backed unity government, mostly militias from Misrata in western Libya, were battling for control of the massive Ougadougou conference centre on Saturday. Artillery and mortar rounds have been hammering the building, with Isis snipers shooting back. Units from Misrata have pushed Isis back more than 100 miles, last week entering Sirte itself, at a cost of 105 dead and more than 500 wounded. US and UK forces are providing logistics and intelligence support in the battle for the city, the hometown of former ­dictator Muammar Gaddafi, where the militant fighters have collapsed far more quickly than expected. The Guardian

To Rebuild Libya, Start From Below
There has been at least a bit of good news from Libya lately. Over the past few days, militias allied with the internationally recognized unity government have made substantial advances against Islamic State forces based in the city of Sirte. That has awakened hopes that Libyans might be on their way toward re-establishing an effective central government. For the time being, however, the country remains badly fractured. Libya has been in a state of anarchy since the ousting of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Rival administrations, dozens of different armed groups, and complex and shifting tribal alliances have battled for control of the oil-rich state. Until its latest setbacks, the Islamic State exerted control over some 150 miles of the Mediterranean coastline. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of refugees from across Africa have exploited the chaos, using Libya as their launching pad for travel onward to Europe. Worries over the risks posed by such turmoil explain the rush of the United States and other world powers to provide Libya’s national unity government with military assistance. Western diplomats are desperate to see a central authority emerge that they can entrust with fighting the Islamic State and stopping refugees at its borders. Foreign Policy

Tunisia Criminalizes Racial Discrimination
Tunisia’s parliament unanimously approved a bill to “criminalize discrimination, especially racism” yesterday Three civil society organizations, EuroMed Rights, the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights, and the Committee for the Respect of Human Rights and Liberties in Tunisia, presented the bill in front of MPs, thus beginning the formal process for the bill to be codified into Tunisian law. The coalition of civil society groups signalled the start of the campaign with a press conference in March, calling for a law against racial discrimination and racism to be introduced. After three months of lobbying, the coalition established enough of a consensus between political parties to ensure the bill’s safe passage. Tunisia Live

Gambia Threatens Military Action Against Senegal
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has threatened military action against Senegal if the alleged protégées of President Macky Sall attack his country. The Africa’s French magazine Jeune Afrique Tuesday quoted President Jammeh saying that President Sall had become worse than his predecessors. The Gambian leader said his anger stemmed from the fact that Senegal allowed Gambian dissidents to express themselves freely in Senegalese media. Africa Review

Angola Gets $4.5 Billion IMF Loan
The International Monetary Fund has offered Angola a $4.5 billion loan as it continues to grapple with falling oil prices. Angola’s economy grew rapidly after the end of its 27-year civil war with oil production fueling a boom in the capital Luanda. The IMF in a statement said Angola’s outlook for 2016 remained difficult despite an increase of oil prices in recent weeks adding that economic activity will likely decelerate further. It also said that the country’s GDP growth had slowed to three percent last year and that inflation was at an annualized 26 percent to May. Africa News

US Special Envoy to Meet Sudan’s Rebels in Addis
A consultative meeting will be held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Thursday and Friday to discuss peace in Sudan. The meeting was called by US special envoy Donald Booth. It will be attended by delegations from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the Sudan Liberation Movement under the leadership of Minni Minawi (SLM-MM), and the National Umma Party of El Sadig El Mahdi. On Tuesday JEM head Dr Jibril Ibrahim told Radio Dabanga that Thursday’s meeting is an invitation from the US envoy so as to consult on the peace process in Sudan. He predicted the roadmap, the outputs of the last meeting in Doha with the Qatari mediator and head of Unamid, and the meeting of El Sadig El Mahdi with mediator Thabo Mbeki in Johannesburg will be discussed at the meeting. Dabanga

AU Endorses Extension of Darfur Mandate
The African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council has endorsed a recommendation to extend the mandate of the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), Sudan, for another 12 months until 30 June 2017. The United Nations’ top peace keeping official, Herve Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations advised the UN Security Council to follow suit. Ladsous told the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday that, following a recent assessment of the situation in Darfur, from 1 July 2015 to 15 May 2015 which showed little progress, the mandate of the AU-UN should be extended for another year without changes to its priorities or its authorised troop and police ceiling. The assessment was contained in the Special Report of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission on UNAMID. IOL News

UN Backs Kenya’s Stand on Closure of Dadaab Refugee Camp
The United Nations (UN) has finally bowed to Kenya’s firm stand on the closure of Dadaab camp and pledged to seek funds to ensure the refugees are repatriated safely. Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said President Uhuru Kenyatta and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held a meeting on the sidelines of the European Union Development Day summit in Brussels, Belgium on Wednesday and agreed to ensure the refugees are treated with dignity. Ms Mohamed said Mr Ban had said he understood Kenya’s decision and its determination to close the camp and that he had thanked Kenya for hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighbouring countries for many years. “The UN secretary-general said he understands Kenya’s decision to close the refugee camp,” she said at the Sheraton Brussels Hotel. Daily Nation

Has Kenya’s Brinkmanship over Dadaab Worked?
Kenya has called on the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, to help develop a plan for the repatriation of 315,000 Somalis from its sprawling Dadaab refugee complex – a move that might allow the extension of a controversial and unlikely November deadline for their return. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told a press conference in Nairobi on Monday that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had asked him: “give me a plan, and we’ll discuss it”. Grandi said the plan was still being worked on “with our partners” and would be presented to the foreign ministers of Kenya and Somalia at a meeting in Nairobi on 25 June. “We’ll talk about these plans and possible extensions,” he added. “We’ll take it step by step.” IRIN

Uhuru and Ruto’s Offices Spent Sh1bn Each on Hospitality in Nine Months: Report
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto’s offices spent Sh1 billion each on hospitality during the first nine months of the 2015/16 financial year despite their repeated calls for austerity. The Controller of Budget’s report for the third quarter of this financial year shows that the Presidency used Sh1.045 billion on hospitality, Sh359 million on domestic travel, Sh167 million on foreign tours and Sh149 million on printing and advertising. The huge expenditure on hospitality and travel flies in the face of the President’s repeated advice to government officials to cut costs associated with travel and hospitality in order to free money for development. Addressing a governors’ summit at Sagana State Lodge in Nyeri in February, Mr Kenyatta directed government officials to reduce travel and expense allowances by 60 per cent. Daily Nation

China Now Owns More Than Half of Kenya’s External Debt
Kenya secured a $600 million loan from China last week to help towards paying for a $6 billion budget deficit that the government expects this year. The loan, one of many China has given to the country over the years, helps Kenya’s goal of bringing down its budget deficit to 7.9% of gross domestic product instead of the previously forecast 8.7%. But it also raises the prospect of whether East Africa’s largest economy is growing too indebted to China. China is now Kenya’s largest creditor, accounting for 57% the country’s total external debt (pdf, p.37) of $4.51 billion, according to the World Bank. That figure has grown quickly. Chinese loans to Kenya grew an annual rate of 54% between 2010 and 2014 while loans from other lenders like Japan and France fell. Quartz

EgyptAir Crash: Wreckage Found in Mediterranean
Wreckage of the EgyptAir flight that went missing over the Mediterranean last month has been found, Egyptian investigators say. A statement said “several main locations of the wreckage” had been identified. A deep sea search vessel had also sent back the first images of the wreckage, the statement added. There were 66 people on board flight MS804 when it crashed on 19 May while flying from Paris to Cairo. The Airbus A320 plane vanished from Greek and Egyptian radar screens, apparently without having sent a distress call. The Egyptian investigation committee said that investigators on board the John Lethbridge search vessel, which has been contracted by the Egyptian government, would now draw up a map of the wreckage distribution. BBC

Migrants, Including Children, Found Dead in Niger Desert
In a statement read on national television on Wednesday, the Niger government said the migrants died between June 6 and 12. Of the adult migrants, nine were women and five were men, Interior Minister Bazoum Mohammed said, adding that President Mahamadou Issoufou expressed his condolences to their families. “Thirty-four people of whom five were men, nine were women and 20 children, died as they tried to cross the desert,” Mohammed said. “They probably died of thirst, as is often the case, and they were found near Assamaka,” a border post between Niger and Algeria. The migrants “were abandoned by people smugglers,” the statement added. Only two of the bodies have so far been identified: a man and a 26-year-old woman, both from Niger. Deutsche Welle

US Seeks African Allies Against Pyongyang’s Nuclear Drive
The top U.S. nonproliferation official is in Africa to try to align nations against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions by urging them to cut ties with Pyongyang. The threat, he says, is not as far away as it seems. The increasingly belligerent, mountainous hermit kingdom of North Korea feels like it is a world away from the broad savannas of Africa. But it isn’t, says Thomas Countryman, the assistant secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation. “What I’ve said to friends all over the world, including those who are far away from Asia, whether it’s Africa or South America, is that the North Korean challenge is not something that is distant and that does not concern them,” he said. “In fact, this is the place in the world where, thanks to both the actions and the rhetoric of the North Korean regime, there is the highest probability of serious conflict. There is the highest probability of the first use of nuclear weapons in more than 70 years. And every country in the world has to take that seriously.” VOA

UN Envoy: Terrorism, Electoral Crises Thwart Central Africa Progress
Electoral crises and terrorism are undoing efforts to promote stability and development in Central Africa, the top U.N. diplomat for the area warned Wednesday. “There are political tensions of concern … in Central Africa linked to recent or upcoming electoral processes,” Abdoulaye Bathily, the head of the U.N. Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), told the Security Council. “This undermines the ongoing work to consolidate stability, development and democracy.” Post-election crises have caused bloodshed in Burundi and the Republic of Congo, while there are fears the next presidential election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could do the same. Bathily said the Central African Republic, which held successful presidential and legislative elections this spring, is just beginning its long, difficult road to stability. VOA

Uganda: Jailed Opposition Leader Says He Fears for His Life
Uganda’s jailed opposition leader says he fears for his life in a maximum-security prison. Appearing in court on Wednesday over his treason charges, Kizza Besigye told a magistrate he wants a speedy trial. He cited cases of political prisoners who he said died under mysterious circumstances while in detention. The charges against Besigye relate to his refusal to accept the legitimacy of President Yoweri Museveni, who won a disputed election in February. Besigye claims he won the polls. A lawyer for the opposition leader, Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, recently told The Associated Press there is concern Besigye may be poisoned while in jail. News 24

Benin Boosts Security after ‘Terror Warning’
Benin has put its security forces on alert after being warned of a “new terrorist threat”, according to an internal armed forces memo and a senior army officer contacted by AFP on Wednesday. The internal communication, which was leaked and published by several news organisations, ordered enhanced security and vigilance, particularly in border areas. The head of Benin’s army, General Awal Nagnimi told RFI radio it was a routine message sent to defence and security forces that should never have been published. But according to a senior commander, the army “redoubled vigilance” last week after “a foreign country warned of a threat of terrorist attack”. News 24

Michelle Obama, Daughters to Visit Liberia, Morocco, Spain: White House
Michelle Obama will travel to Liberia, Morocco and Spain with her teen daughters Malia and Sasha at the end of June to promote education for girls, one of her signature issues as the first lady of the United States, the White House said on Wednesday. In Liberia, Obama will visit a Peace Corps training center in Kakata and a school in Unification Town to talk to young women about barriers they face to staying in school. She will be joined by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the White House said. Obama will be joined by actor Meryl Streep in Morocco on June 28 and 29 to talk about commitments made by the U.S. government and the Kingdom of Morocco to help girls go to school. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones