Media Review for November 20, 2015

Mali Hotel Attack: Scores of Hostages Held in Bamako
Gunmen have launched an attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in the centre of Mali’s capital, Bamako, with three hostages reported to have been killed. Two people have locked in 140 guests and 30 employees in “a hostage-taking situation”, the hotel’s US owners said. Gunmen entered the hotel, which is popular with expat workers, shooting and shouting “God is great!” in Arabic. A Malian army commander told the AP news agency that about 20 hostages had been freed. Hostages able to recite verses of the Koran were being released, a security source has told Reuters news agency. Six staff from Turkish Airlines are staying at the hotel, and a Chinese guest told China’s state news agency Xinhua that he was among about seven Chinese tourists trapped there. BBC

At Least 105 Nigerian Soldiers Missing after Fierce Gun Battle with Boko Haram
At least 105 soldiers of the 157 Battalion, including their commanding officer, are feared missing after they came under intense attack from Boko Haram insurgents at Gudunbali, Borno State, on Wednesday, military sources have told Premium Times. According to one of our sources, the terrorists also captured a T-72 tank as well as several artillery weapons from the unit. “Gudunbali was attacked this morning and some weapons were captured from the battalion. Two officers and 105 soldiers are still missing,” our source said. “They captured a T-72 tank from the unit and some artillery weapons were also captured. The commanding Officer (CO) of the battalion is yet to be seen but no one has been confirmed dead yet,” the source added. Another source however said the T-72 tank was recovered after a prolonged fight with Boko Haram insurgents. The gunner and tank commander were injured in the process, he said. Premium Times

Nigerian Air Force Degrades Terrorists’ Logistics in Sambisa Forest
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Thursday said it had degraded Boko Haram terrorists’ logistics, vehicle workshop and a weapon storage facility after successful interdiction missions on their Sambisa forest hideout. Air Commodore Isiaka Amao, the Air Component Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, said this while briefing newsmen in Maiduguri, the northeast Borno State capital. Amao said NAF had also destroyed a bomb making factory in the forest, noting that the Air Component has continued to intensify its air effort in support of the ground troops. In October, over 40 interdiction missions with over 80 percent success were carried out, he told reporters. The air force chief said NAF had also destroyed two suspected terrorists camps in the forest, adding that the continued air strikes have significantly degraded the capabilities of the terrorists. Xinhua

Chad Extends State of Emergency over Boko Haram Attacks
Chad’s national assembly extended a state of emergency in the western Lake Chad region by four months on Wednesday following a double attack by Boko Haram militants that killed some 12 people. “The state of emergency is prolonged by 147 unanimous votes by the parliament for four months. That is to say it will end on March 22,” a ruling party deputy told Reuters. The initial emergency was authorized on Nov. 9 and was set to last 12 days. The government wanted a six-month extension but deputies opposed it, another deputy told Reuters. Chad helped force Boko Haram to cede territory earlier this year, undermining the Islamist group’s six-year campaign to carve out a Nigerian caliphate. The rebels have since ramped up attacks in remote border areas around Lake Chad. Reuters

Libya May Become the “New Sanctuary” of ISIL
Libya may become the “new sanctuary” of the terrorist organization “Islamic state”, warned the Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Al Dayri, calling the international community to include his country in the fight against it. In an interview to AFP news agency, published Wednesday, Libyan minister claims to have reliable information according to which the command of Daech ordered the new recruits to move now to Libya, not Syria, following the Russian strikes against its organization. “We join the calls for international action against Daech in Syria and Iraq, and also in Libya, because I fear it will become in the near future its next sanctuary “. He believes “for the moment” the number of ISIL terrorists in Libya between 4000 to 5,000 members, stating that Tunisian, Sudanese and Yemenis nationals constitute the biggest contingents. Ennahar

Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa
While the world’s attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night’s deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports. VOA

Belgians Urged to Leave Burundi by CNDD-FDD
Burundi’s ruling party says all citizens of its former colonial power, Belgium, should leave the country. Belgium last week said those “whose presence is not essential” should leave because of increasing levels of violence. Burundi has accused Belgium of links to opposition groups it blames for a spate of killings. The unrest began in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term. Belgium said it had about 500 citizens in Burundi but Robert Misigaro, from the BBC’s Great Lakes Service, says there have been no signs of mass evacuations at the airport. BBC

Kenyatta Urges Burundi President to Save Country from War
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday urged Burundian leader Pierre Nkurunziza to revive peace talks and prevent the east African nation from plunging into full-blown war. Burundi has been mired in a political crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced in April he planned to run for a third term – a move opponents said violated the constitution and a peace treaty that ended a 12-year civil war in 2005. Hundreds have been killed since April and 217,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, kindling fears of a slide into ethnic conflict in a region where memories of the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda are still raw. “The buck stops with President Nkurunziza. That is why we are encouraging him to involve all parties in the search for a solution to the conflict,” Kenyatta said, according to a statement released by Kenya’s presidency. “Peace and stability in Burundi overrides all other issues. All parties must be brought on board to restore normalcy.” East African

Violence, Hunger, Poverty Stalk Troubled Burundi, Many Flee Homes
Political violence, a shrinking economy and biting aid cuts are worsening poverty and hunger across Burundi, amid reports that thousands of people are internally displaced and unable to get help. People are fleeing their homes in one of the world’s poorest and hungriest countries, amid United Nations warnings that mass atrocities could erupt following inflammatory remarks by government officials. Many displaced people are scared of being identified, fearing their lives are in danger for supporting, or being perceived to support, the political opposition, Refugees International said on Wednesday. “They fled after multiple threats, arrests, torture and even the rape of female family members – actions allegedly carried out by different security actors,” it said in a report. Burundian government agents have beaten, arrested or turned back suspected pro-opposition citizens at the border, it added. Reuters

S. Sudan Lawmakers Change Constitution to Give Kiir More Powers
South Sudan’s parliament has changed the constitution to boost presidential powers amid fears violence is spreading to new areas, with seven killed on the highway to Uganda. The constitutional change comes after President Salva Kiir ordered the number of regional states to be nearly tripled, undermining a fundamental pillar of a power-sharing deal to end a nearly two-year long civil war. “This amendment is actually paving the way for the introduction of the new states,” Information Minister Michael Makuei said. The creation of new states threatens to undermine a complex power-sharing formula, the basis of the peace deal, to forge a transitional government. Daily Nation

African Union Criticizes International Criminal Court at Member States’ Meeting
“We have arrived at the conclusion that the International Criminal Court, whose establishment was strongly supported by Africa, is no longer a court for all.” Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was speaking on behalf of the African Union (AU) at the 14th session of the Assembly of States Parties. This is the name given to an annual meeting between the 123 countries that have signed up to the ICC’s founding Rome statute. The court was set up to try the world’s worst crimes, including genocide. The AU has accused the court of unfairly targeting Africans for prosecution, as the majority of its cases come from the continent. Deutsche Welle

Somalia’s US Embassy Reopens After 24 Years
For the first time in almost a quarter-century, Somalia has an embassy in the United States. The Somali government reopened its embassy in Washington at a ceremony Wednesday attended by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Somalia’s Foreign Minister Abdisalam Omer. Omer told VOA that reopening the embassy is a signal to the world that his country has emerged from years of isolation. “This is very important, this is the most important day in the recent history of Somalia, which tells us we are out of the dark, we are part of the world, we are in Washington D.C., where important decisions are made and issues are resolved and we are among friends,” said Fessahaye. “Here with us is Congressman Keith Ellison, [the] assistant secretary of state for African affairs, so we are with our colleagues, brothers and friends and our allies in United States. And Somalia will never die.” VOA

UN Re-Authorizes East African Naval Force to Combat Piracy
The United Nations Security Council renewed for another year its authorization for international naval forces to join in fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia, stressing that while the threat from Somali pirates has declined, it still remains a matter of “grave concern.” Adopting a unanimous resolution, the 15-member body highlighted the important role played by ships from regional organizations such as the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Operation (NATO) Ocean Shield, but noted that the primary responsibility lies with the Somalia, a country torn apart by 25 years of strife. “While noting improvements in Somalia, [the Council] recognizes that piracy exacerbates instability in Somalia by introducing large amounts of illicit cash that fuels additional crime and corruption,” the resolution declared, stressing “the need for a comprehensive response to prevent and suppress piracy and tackle its underlying causes by the international community.” African Defense

Al Shabaab Defectors Tell Their Stories
At least 700 Kenyans, who had gone to Somalia to join al Shabaab, have quietly returned home after quitting the militant group. In this special report, our writers Calvin Onsarigo and Charles Mghenyi spoke to Ali, Juma and Abubakar who narrate their experiences in Somalia and how they are trying to rebuild their lives. The Star

Pope Africa Plans Unchanged
The Vatican says it’s going ahead with plans for Pope Francis to visit the conflict-wracked Central African Republic next week, but that his top bodyguard is doing an unusual, last-minute on-site survey early in the week. The Vatican spokesperson, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, said on Thursday that the pope wants to bring a message of peace and reconciliation to Central African Republic, and that plans are still on for him to visit after stops in Kenya and Uganda starting on Wednesday. But Lombardi said the pope’s bodyguard is leaving Rome early to visit Bangui and that the Vatican is monitoring the situation and will “see what happens.” The country has been wracked by months of violence between Christians and Muslims. News 24

Africa Blasts ICC as World Crimes Court Members Meet
The African Union blasted the world’s only permanent war crimes court Wednesday for its unrelenting focus on the continent, as it called for a case against Kenya’s deputy president to be dropped. “We have arrived at the conclusion that the International Criminal Court, whose establishment was strongly supported by Africa… is no longer a court for all,” Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. The Ethiopian minister was speaking on behalf of the AU at the 14th session of the Assembly of States Parties, an annual meeting between the 123 countries that have signed up to the Hague-based ICC’s founding statute. The AU, led in particular by Kenya, has accused the court of unfairly targeting Africans for prosecution as the majority of its cases come from the continent. AFP on Yahoo News

ICC Referring Sudan to UN over Wanted Darfur Rebel Leader
The International Criminal Court on Thursday rapped Sudan for failing to arrest a Darfur rebel leader wanted on war crimes charges and said it would refer Khartoum to the UN Security Council. In September 2014, the Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant against Abdallah Banda, saying it was “unlikely” he would voluntarily attend his war crimes trial, which has been postponed indefinitely. Banda faces three war crimes charges for his alleged role in an attack on African Union peacekeepers in September 2007 in northern Darfur. His trial for his role in the deadly attack on an AU military base in which 12 peacekeepers died was supposed to start on November 18, 2014. But late Thursday, more than a year after the arrest warrant was issued, the judges at the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal acknowledged Banda remained at large. AFP on Yahoo News

Kenya Steps up War to Suspend ICC ‘Rule 68’
Kenya’s delegation to the Assembly of States Parties has vowed to ensure the controversial rule allowing use of recanted evidence at the International Criminal Court is debated. Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said protests by the ICC should be ignored. Kenya maintains that the rule was not to be used in the case against its Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang, who are facing charges of crimes against humanity at the court. Ms Mohamed spoke after chairing a meeting of the Kenya delegation and said the country also wants an audit into how the court sourced its witnesses in both cases. Kenya’s two items have now been included in the agenda. The meeting brings together countries that have ratified the Rome Statute, its financiers and the UN Security Council. It begins on Thursday at The Hague, Netherlands. The East African

U.N. Says Congo Failed to Properly Vet Central African Republic Troops
The United Nations said on Thursday it is in talks with the Democratic Republic of Congo about the country’s future involvement in a peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic because it had not adequately vetted its troops. According to the U.N. peacekeeping website, there are currently 809 Congolese troops and 123 police deployed as part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic, known as MINUSCA. “As per standard procedure, U.N. Peacekeeping has conducted recently a pre-deployment assessment of the incoming DRC contingent,” a U.N. peacekeeping official said on Thursday. Peacekeeping contingents are rotated regularly. “The results of this assessment and the vetting of the unit were unsatisfactory. U.N. Peacekeeping is in discussions with the DRC authorities on the future of the DRC contingent in MINUSCA,” he said. Reuters

UN Sends Envoy for Talks on Western Sahara
A UN envoy begins a 10-day mission to North Africa this weekend in a bid to break the impasse between Morocco and Algerian-backed separatists over the future of Western Sahara. Christopher Ross will hold talks with senior officials from Morocco, the Polisario Front that is seeking independence for the territory, and neighboring states, UN officials said Thursday. Details of Ross’ itinerary were not disclosed but Morocco has said the envoy is not welcome in the country. The United Nations has been trying to broker a settlement for Western Sahara since 1991, after a ceasefire was reached to end fighting that broke out when Morocco sent troops to the former Spanish territory in 1975. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently called for “true negotiations in the coming months” to settle the conflict that he said was “becoming increasingly alarming” after 40 years. ReliefWeb

South Africa: Echoes of Apartheid
Under apartheid, South Africa’s police were notorious for extrajudicial killings and the routine use of torture against political dissidents. Only later did it emerge that these same techniques were being used even when the victims were suspected criminals, rather than enemies of the racist state. On the birth of the Rainbow Nation two decades ago, most people believed that this would quickly become a thing of the past, that a new era of prosperity, justice and social harmony would make such abuses unthinkable. But in the past 20 years, with both prosperity and social equality remaining an unfulfilled dream for many South Africans, violent crime has been on the rise. This in turn has generated an increasingly aggressive response from the police – under intense political pressure to stop muggings, armed robberies, gang warfare and murder on the streets of the country’s major cities. AlJazeera

Russia Inks Deal to Build Egypt’s First Nuclear Power Plant
Russia has signed an agreement with Egypt to build the country’s first nuclear power plant. The deal includes a loan to cash-strapped Egypt, which has considered building a nuclear plant since the 1980s. Under the agreement signed on Thursday Russia’s state-owned nuclear company Rosatom would build and operate four 1,200 MW nuclear reactors at Dabaa in northern Egypt, helping to fill an energy gap in the Arab world’s most populous country. “This was a long dream for Egypt, to have a peaceful nuclear program to produce electricity,” President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on television. “This dream was there for many years and today, God willing, we are taking the first step to make it happen.” Al-Sisi provided few details of the cost or how the country would pay for the reactors that by some estimates could top $20 billion (18.6 billion euros). He said only that the loan would be paid back over 35-years and be paid for by electricity. Egypt Daily News