Media Review for June 9, 2016

Ethiopia Base in Somalia Attacked by Al-Shabab
Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab says it has killed more than 40 Ethiopian soldiers in an attack on an African Union base in central Somalia. Residents in Halgan told the BBC they had heard a huge bang followed by a heavy exchange of gunfire. The AU mission (Amisom) has confirmed the attack but not the casualties and says the “enemy was… repulsed”. Amisom supports the government as it fights to regain control of the country from al-Shabab. In a series of tweets it has said its soldiers, alongside troops from the Somali army, “drove back the attackers who are now on the run with the joint forces in pursuit”.  BBC

Chad Deploys 2,000 Soldiers to Troubled Niger
About 2,000 troops from Chad have arrived in Niger, where Boko Haram fighters have inflicted losses and displaced tens of thousands in the country’s southeast, the Reuters news agency has reported. Citing two unnamed military sources, Reuters said Chadian troops had arrived in the neighbouring country on Tuesday and were advancing on Bosso, a town near Lake Chad that has been the scene of clashes in recent days. The attacks on Bosso, a military garrison close to the border with Nigeria, began on Friday. At least 32 soldiers, including two from neighbouring Nigeria, were killed, authorities said on Saturday. A total of 55 fighters belonging to Boko Haram were also killed and “many” others injured. Al Jazeera

U.N. Accuses Eritrea’s Leaders of Crimes Against Humanity
The leaders of Eritrea are responsible for crimes against humanity, a United Nations commission of inquiry said Wednesday, calling for international action to hold them to account, including referral to the International Criminal Court. The inquiry found that “officials at the highest levels of state,” including the ruling party and military commanders of the East African nation, “have committed and continue to commit” crimes including enslavement, imprisonment and disappearances, torture, rape and murder. One of the most egregious offenses, the United Nation commission found, was the forced conscription of young people in a never-ending national service program that has driven thousands of young Eritreans to flee, many to Europe. Eritrea, a small country on the Horn of Africa along the Red Sea, is known as the North Korea of Africa. It is one of the continent’s most secretive, isolated and repressive countries.  The New York Times

Nigerian Chaos Leaves Refiners Cold and Oil Unsold Amid Outages
Refineries from India to the United States are backing away from buying Nigerian oil amid heightened uncertainty about deliveries as the country squares up to militants in the restive Delta region. Their reluctance to buy is limiting the prices Nigeria can get for its oil even as there is less of it – another hit to the finances of a country battling its worst economic crisis in decades. A group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers has staged a number of attacks on oil installations belonging to Shell, ENI and Chevron, pushing output in what is usually Africa’s largest crude exporter down past 20-year lows last month. Some oil facilities have clawed back output, but the Avenger attacks have continued and the group has vowed to bring Nigerian production to “zero”. “Not everybody wants to be caught up in that, so they will avoid it,” said Olivier Jakob, managing director of PetroMatrix in Switzerland. “The refineries will walk away from it.” Reuters

Ethiopia Stifles Dissent, While Giving Impression Of Tolerance, Critics Say
The Oromo Federalist Congress, an opposition party in Ethiopia, represents the largest ethnic group in the country, the Oromo. Yet its office in the capital Addis Ababa is virtually deserted, with chairs stacked up on tables. A chessboard with bottle caps as pieces is one of the few signs of human habitation. In a side office, the party’s chairman, Merera Gudina, explains why the place is so empty: Almost everyone has gone to prison. The deputy chairman? Prison. The party secretary general? House arrest. The assistant secretary general? In prison. Six members of the party’s youth league? All in prison. Critics of the Ethiopian government regularly land in prison. So why isn’t Merera Gudina, the chairman of the party and an outspoken critic of the regime, also behind bars?  NPR

Ethiopia OKs Law Against Sharing Defamatory Speech Online
Ethiopia’s parliament has approved a law to imprison people who distribute defamatory speech, pornography and spam online, a move that bloggers and activists say is meant to silence dissent. Lawmakers on Tuesday passed the law, whose most severe penalty is 10 years’ imprisonment for sharing pornography online. Sharing defamatory speech or spam gets at least three years in prison. Ethiopia’s cybersecurity officials have said the country is subject to more than 1 000 cyberattacks per day, and the government has said the new law will enable it to prosecute such crimes more efficiently. News 24

UN Calls for Eritrea Leaders to Be Tried for Crimes Against Humanity
UN human rights investigators accused Eritrean leaders on Wednesday of crimes against humanity including torture, rape, murder and enslaving hundreds of thousands of people and called for the case to be referred to the International Criminal Court. Europe announced this week that it was considering working with Eritrea and Sudan as part of a €62 billion development plan to encourage African countries to do more to reduce migration flows to the EU. The move risks a backlash from human rights groups, whose misgivings are likely to be deepened by the UN findings. As well as widespread crimes against humanity, the report accuses Eritrea of adopting a “shoot on sight” policy along its borders as a response to international pressure to clamp down on the flood of migrants. Eritrea’s government, which refused the three-man UN commission access to the country, rejected the report as “entirely one-sided”.  The Telegraph

EU Considering ‘Partnership’ with Eritrea on Migration Despite UN Accusations of Crimes Against Humanity
The European Commission is considering making Eritrea a partner for “managing migration” amid calls for its leaders to be tried for crimes against humanity. The EU’s executive body listed the East African nation among 16 possible countries in line for unspecified “packages” to increase co-operation as the refugee crisis continues. Eritreans make up a significant portion of the asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean Sea, risking their lives to escape a litany of human rights abuses documented in the authoritarian state. The Independent

Suspect Extradited for People Smuggling ‘is Wrong Man’
Friends of a man extradited to Italy on Tuesday on people smuggling charges say police have the wrong man. Prosecutors believe Mered Medhanie, known as The General, is at the heart of the operation to smuggle migrants from Africa to Europe. An Eritrean man authorities say is Mr Mered was held in Sudan in May and flown to Rome on Tuesday. But the man’s friends told the BBC there had been a case of mistaken identity and he was innocent. A spokesman for Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), that was involved in the operation, told the Press Association they were “liaising with our partners”. It added: “This is a complex multi-partner operation and it is too soon to speculate about these claims.” BBC

Wolters Pegged to Lead US Air Forces in Europe, Africa
President Barack Obama has nominated Lt. Gen. Tod D. Wolters as the next commander overseeing Air Force operations in Europe and Africa, the Defense Department announced Tuesday. If confirmed by the Senate, Wolters would replace Gen. Frank Gorenc as commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa and commander of Allied Air Command at Ramstein Air Base. Gorenc is scheduled to retire in July, USAFE-AFAFRICA officials have said. Wolters is currently director of operations on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, a position he’s held since last summer. He’s an Air Force Academy graduate and a fighter pilot who’s flown the F-15, F-22 and A-10, among other aircraft. Stars and Stripes

‘Islamic State’ Loses Ground in Syria and Libya
[…] the Libyan government captured military barracks used by the militant group as they advanced towards their coastal stronghold Sirte. “Our forces are in full control of Tagreft barracks and military engineers are inspecting the zone to clear anti-personnel mines,” the forces of the Government of National Unity (GNA), the UN-backed unity government, said in a statement. In February 2015, IS shocked the world when it released a video showing the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, marking its first major action in the North African country. In April, US Army General David Rodriguez, who heads Africa Command, said ‘IS’ has seen the number of its fighters in Libya double in the past year, reaching up to 6,000. The top commander of US forces in Africa said local militias tried to curb the militant group’s presence, but political infighting contributed to a security void across the country.  Deutsche Welle

Activists: Kiir-Machar Proposal Would Undo South Sudan Peace Deal
Civil society activists in South Sudan are angry over an opinion piece apparently penned by President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar in Tuesday’s edition of The New York Times. In the piece, Kiir and Machar call for a truth and reconciliation commission instead of a hybrid court, as stipulated in the August peace agreement. Activists said the two leaders are trying to eliminate the formation of a fair court and allow those who committed atrocities during South Sudan’s two-year conflict off the hook. Beny Gideon Mabor of the South Sudan Law Society said the president and Machar have no regard for the victims of the bloody conflict. “The president and the first vice president calling for truth, not trial, is to me a surprise because a person of a right mind could not negotiate himself or herself into jail or stand trial for that matter,” he told VOA. “I say this because the principal parties to the peace agreement, majorly the government of the Republic of South Sudan and the SPLM-In Opposition, are the primary accused of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”  VOA

UN: Rebels Kidnap Dozens of Civilians in DRC
Nearly 100 people have been kidnapped in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during an attack blamed on Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, the United Nations (UN) said on Wednesday. Lieutenant-Colonel Martin Amouzou Codjo, spokesperson for the UN’s MONUSCO peace mission in DR Congo, said the suspected LRA members had “attacked and looted” two villages during Saturday’s attack in the Bas-Uele province. “These attackers also kidnapped nearly 100 people to carry the loot,” Codjo told a press conference. He condemning the regular atrocities committed by the ruthless LRA against civilians in northeastDRC. The LRA first emerged in northern Uganda in 1986 when it took up arms in the name of the Acholi ethnic group against the government of President Yoweri Museveni.  News 24

DRC’s Rebel Stalemate
An estimated 70 militia groups are active in eastern DRC, with a spate of clashes in recent months. As the tally of displaced people rises, UN and government forces seem unable to shift the balance of power. Storm clouds are gathering menacingly once more in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s troubled east, threatening to rain down more conflict and misery. Sources in the United Nations (UN) mission in the DRC say that combatants of the Rwanda-backed anti-government Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) militia are circulating in the Nord-Kivu provincial capital of Goma but reckon they currently pose little threat. However, the government’s often tense relationship with the UN could begin a new phase this year, with spillover effects for conflict in the Kivus. M23 troops took control of Goma in 2012, but UN and Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) soldiers beat them back. At present, say UN sources, there is no indication that the Rwandan government is interested in offering its support to a fresh armed insurgency. The Africa Report

Kenya Moves to Resolve Electoral Body Stalemate with Joint House Committee
Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta has set up a joint committee of both the National Assembly and the Senate to resolve the stalemate over the electoral body. Speaking at State House Wednesday shortly before the reading of the budget, President Kenyatta agreed to the formation of the committee outside parliament that will hear and collate views of various stakeholders on the issue of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). The move could be a breakthrough for the country which has been facing a standoff between the government and the opposition over IEBC. Five people have been killed and properties destroyed in the weekly demonstrations called by the opposition. The East African

Without a Cabinet, Museveni Reads own Budget as Opposition Protests
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has in a break with tradition presented his own budget in a ceremony at the Serena International Conference Centre Wednesday in Kampala. Traditionally, the Minister for Finance presents the budget on behalf of the President. However, Mr Museveni has no cabinet as yet having only nominated new ministers on Monday this week. The Ministers are yet to be vetted by parliament and with a deadline for the presentation of the budget falling, Mr Museveni has had to read it himself. The East African

Burundi’s AU Victory: Fox in the Henhouse is Bad News for Beleaguered Opposition
Last week, in its vast wood-panelled meeting room in Addis Ababa, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) elected a new chairperson for June. Step forward Dieudonné Ndabarushimana, envoy of the Republic of Burundi. The ambassador is relatively new to his post, having previously served as Burundi’s ambassador to France, and in normal times his appointment would raise no eyebrows. For Burundi, however, these are not normal times. Ever since President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in office, the country has witnessed high levels of instability and violence. Popular protests were followed by a brutal government crackdown, while ongoing fighting between government-aligned militias and armed rebel groups has claimed hundreds of lives, and forced hundreds of thousands into exile in neighbouring countries. Although the East African Community is supposedly leading the negotiations between the government and disgruntled opposition groups, the African Union (AU) – through the PSC – has a continental mandate to resolve the Burundi situation. It is supposed to be doing everything in its (admittedly limited) power to fix Burundi.  Daily Maverick

Rwandan Rebel Group’s Affection for Germany
How could a radical, racist militia linked to war crimes and crimes against humanity come to identify itself with a country like modern-day Germany? It is a question which has preoccupied German journalist Simone Schlindwein for some time. She is based in Uganda but makes regular trips to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where she has met fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) on several occasions. “Many are football fans who support Bayern Munich or Stuttgart, everybody has heard of Angela Merkel, some even speak German,” she said. The FDLR rebels feel a certain affinity towards Germany. They assumed that the former head of the FDLR Ignace Murwanashyaka used to live in the country in ambassadorial style with his own villa. Murwanashyaka came to Germany in the late 1980s and studied at Bonn University. The Rwandan Hutu leader was later granted political asylum on account of political persecution in his home country. He lived quietly in the German city of Mannheim until his arrest in 2009. Deutsche Welle

How to End the Massacre in the Med
With more than 700 deaths reported over three days last week, and with a confirmed 800,000 more migrants waiting in Libya to attempt the crossing into Europe, it is becoming increasingly clear that Italy could become the new Greece in the global refugee crisis, and that the central Mediterranean could become the new Aegean. The dirty deal cut between the European Union and Turkey this spring seems to be working: It’s effectively shut down the eastern Mediterranean route to Europe. But it has also pushed those attempting to reach the continent onto the arguably more dangerous central Mediterranean route, which claimed thousands of lives last summer. Now we’re seeing the consequences. It’s clear that this crisis will not be resolved in Libya. The country may be ground zero for migration from North Africa to southern Europe — the result of a power vacuum left by Western powers after the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011, but coming up with a solution that involves this troubled country will be difficult, to put it mildly. Libya is a failed state. Or rather, it is a jigsaw of four ethnic groups (Arab, Berber, Tuareg, and Toubou) and several dozen Ashraf tribes with no serious central authority to speak of. While a unity government and a draft constitution are in place, the former effectively controls only parts of Tripoli, while the latter is littered with both procedural deficiencies and substantive flaws. Foreign Policy

Zimbabwe’s Black Market, Where the Dollar Trades Against Itself
In Zimbabwe — the country that once suffered 500 billion percent inflation — one dollar may now cost you as much as $1.07. A shortage of banknotes is resulting in a new black market more than seven years after Zimbabwe abolished its own money, the Zimbabwean dollar, and adopted the greenback and other foreign currencies to avoid exactly that sort of unofficial trading. The cash crunch has intensified in recent weeks, according to central bank Governor John Mangudya, forcing banks to limit withdrawals and shut down some ATMs. Zimbabwe implemented a multi-currency system in 2009 after its economy collapsed in the wake of a campaign to seize white-owned commercial farms and hand them over to black subsistence farmers, triggering a near decade-long recession as exports from tobacco to roses slumped. As well as the dollar, the country allows the use of currencies including the South African rand, the yuan, the pound and the euro. While that tamed inflation — said by the International Monetary Fund to have reached 500 billion percent in 2008 — it also left the government short of cash to pay civil servants and buy essential imports. Bloomberg

How the Central African Republic Can Start to End its Aid Dependency
After more than three years of the worst crisis in its history, the Central African Republic (CAR) is today completely aid dependent. The role of humanitarian agencies in providing basic social services is so deep and universally accepted that a way out seems almost impossible. The turmoil of the past few years was triggered by the overthrow of President François Bozizé by the Séléka rebels in 2013, but it came after a long decade of instability and rebellions. Over these years, the country was essentially in the throes of a protracted crisis, punctuated by violence, mass displacement, and humanitarian emergencies. In these moments of particular need, international relief agencies flooded in, but often ended up taking over structural projects too. By contrast, development actors committed to longer-term interventions were typically reluctant to engage in the country during Bozizé’s decade in office. Donors felt that the basic security conditions required to launch structural interventions were lacking, while a lack of good governance and political will also progressively discouraged many stakeholders. African Arguments

Is Burning Poached Ivory Good for Elephants?
[…] The first, very public incineration of poached elephant ivory occurred in Kenya in 1989, a stunt that underscored the ban on the trade in African elephant ivory that came into force in 1990. “The tusks were stacked like a tepee, twenty feet high, the design of a pyrotechnist who specialized in creating fires for movies,” wrote journalist Raymond Bonner of this event in At the Hand of Man. Since then, some 21 countries and territories have crushed or burned more than 263 tonnes of confiscated ivory, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. This amounts to around 26,000 elephants. “The destruction of ivory stockpiles reflects the concerted international efforts to eradicate both the legal and illegal ivory trade once and for all,” says Charlie Mayhew, CEO and founder of the conservation charity Tusk. “Indeed all of this pressure had led to two of the biggest ivory consuming countries, the US and China, announcing their intention to halt domestic trade in ivory.”  The Guardian

Cameroon Christians Join Muslims to Break Ramadan Fast
Muslims around the world are marking Ramadan with prayer and fasting. In Cameroon, Christians and Animists are joining Muslims for the evening meal as a show of solidarity against the terrorist group Boko Haram, which has been carrying out attacks in the north since 2014. Hundreds of people gather at Yaounde’s largest mosque to pray and break fast. But not all are Muslims. Christians have come to share supper. They wait outside in the courtyard while the Muslims pray. “The message is just one: let Cameroon remain [the] same. Christians and Muslims should live together. We should not discriminate and we pray for a better Cameroon,”said Charles Nzobo, an elder at the Catholic cathedral across town. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones