Media Review for November 24, 2015

Burundi Violence: US to Place Sanctions on Officials
The United States is to put sanctions on four current and former officials in Burundi in connection with the continuing violence there. They include the minister of public security and the deputy director of police. The four will face an asset freeze and visa restrictions. The US says President Pierre Nkurunziza’s pursuit of a third term has “precipitated” violence which has left at least 240 dead since April. The violence increased in recent weeks, with bodies found on the streets on a daily basis. BBC

Burundi govt ‘provisionally’ bans local NGOs
Burundi’s interior ministry on Monday “provisionally” shut down the activities of the main civil society groups which have been leading the movement against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s successful bid for a third term in office. A ministry order “provisionally suspends the activities of certain civil society organisations, that are facing judicial action for their role in crimes committed” since protests began in April, interior ministry spokesman Therence Ntahiraja told AFP. The measure means “these NGOs are closed, they are banned from all activities… until there is a legal decision on their actions,” another ministry source said. AFP on Yahoo News

Burundi Says Belgium Behind Plot to Overthrow President
Burundi’s government has accused its former colonial ruler Belgium of instigating an attempted coup against President Pierre Nkurunziza in May – a charge Belgium called absurd. Army officers unhappy with Nkurunziza’s bid to seek a third term as leader tried to seize power while he was on an official visit to neighbouring Tanzania. “We blame Belgium because all the plotters of the coup are in Belgium. The Belgians have given them accommodation and are looking after them. We blame them for the coup,” Willy Nyamitwe, spokesman for President Nkurunziza, told Al Jazeera. “We blame them for the 1972 genocide that happened in this country. They are responsible for all the difficulties our country is facing,” Nyamitwe said from the capital, Bujumbura, over the phone.  Al Jazeera

UNHCR: ‘ We can’t Cope with Mass Burundian Refugee Influx in Tanzania’
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned that heavy rains, flooding and a spike in new arrivals could threaten the lives of over 110,000 Burundian refugees living in overcrowded camps in Tanzania. An upsurge of new arrivals in the camps in April saw the figures rise to almost 180,000 Burundian and Congolese refugees in Tanzania. The violence in Burundi sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term has claimed at least 240 lives and sent more than 200,000 Burundian fleeing to neighboring countries. Nkurunziza won the election in July leading to further instability in the country. Burundi is now engulfed in violent clashes between opposition groups and security forces in the capital, Bujumbura, and a series of targeted killings. Deutsche Welle

Egypt Shoots Dead Five Sudanese Migrants Near Israel border
Egyptian border forces shot dead five Sudanese migrants trying to cross from Egypt’s turbulent North Sinai region into Israel on Monday, the military said in a statement. “Law enforcement tasked with protecting the border spotted at dawn today a group of Africans trying to sneak though the international border in cooperation with criminal elements involved in illegal immigration,” the military said. “The force fired several warning shots and moved to arrest those trespassers who shot at the security force. The force engaged them, killing five, injuring six and arresting five more. All of them were Sudanese.” North Sinai, which is bordered to the east by Israel and the Gaza Strip, is the epicentre of an Islamist militant insurgency. Militants there have killed hundreds of soldiers and police. On Nov. 15, Egyptian police found the bodies of 15 African migrants who appeared to have been shot dead in the same region, security sources said at the time. Reuters

Belmokhtar, ‘The Uncatchable’ Desert Jihadist
Wily one-eyed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, whose jihadists have claimed an assault on a luxury Mali hotel, shot to global notoriety with a spectacular assault on an Algerian gas field two years ago, but had long been known as “The Uncatchable”. US bombers as recently as June were sent out to target the elusive 43-year-old Algerian born and bred in the country’s desert hinterland, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last weekend. Washington has pledged a reward of $5m on his head, and of all the jihadist leaders in the Sahel region straddling the southern Sahara, it is Belmokhtar’s photo that features on the wall of the French army commander’s office at Gao in northern Mali.  News 24

Mali Attack Highlights Underlying Connections Between Terror Groups in Africa
NPR’s Ari Shapiro talks to retired Gen. Carter Ham, former head of U.S. Africa Command, about U.S. military efforts to counter jihadist groups in Africa. A state of emergency continues in Mali following a terrorist attack that left 20 people dead in the capital city Bamako. Three groups have now claimed responsibility. They are considered among the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the region, and these organizations are growing. Retired general Carter Ham is the former head of the United States Africa Command. Here’s here in the studio. Thanks for coming in. NPR

Mali Hotel Attack Shows the Country’s Continuing Need for French Military Help
Francois Hollande’s visit turned into a wonderful party. The people of Timbuktu put on their most colourful clothes, danced to and sang to music being belted out from loudspeakers and cheered the man who had delivered them from vicious Islamists. The French president did not look like a triumphant Caesar, instead he seemed taken aback in his navy blue suit and tie and buttoned up white shirt as he was mobbed by the crowd. Journalists mused on how Tony Blair would have milked the moment. But even as Mr Hollande’s helicopter departed after the three hours and 48 minutes trip, there were ominous signs that the breathtakingly swift 23 day campaign by French forces which had driven the jihadists back to the borders masked trouble lying ahead. The Independent

A Look at Mali’s Islamic Extremist Groups
The competing claims by the Macina Liberation Front and Al-Mourabitoun to have carried out Friday’s attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako highlight the number of militant Islamic groups flourishing in Mali, a country with a weak central government and vast ungoverned spaces. Most of the groups trace their origins to al-Qaida’s North Africa branch, and membership has also been very fluid between them. For the most part, they have not allied themselves with the Islamic State group, which is al-Qaida’s rival for dominance of the world’s jihadi movements and carried out the Nov. 13 Paris attacks. Mali became a focal point for jihadi groups in 2012 when for nine months the Ansar Dine movement, composed mainly of ultraconservative Tuareg tribesmen, and other Islamic extremists held sway over all over northern Mali until pushed out by a French-led military intervention in 2013.  AP on Stars and Stripes

Suicide Attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon Kill 12 plus 5 Bombers
Girl suicide bombers killed 12 people over the weekend in Nigeria and Cameroon, officials said Monday of the attackers who were stopped for routine searches. All five bombers also died, but they could have killed many more people. Police who blamed Boko Haram said one girl detonated explosives strapped to her body Sunday evening at a military checkpoint guarding an entry to Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri. Police commissioner Aderemi Opadokun said she killed herself and seven other passengers who got off a bus to be searched. A dozen people were injured. It was the first bomb in nearly a month in Maiduguri, the birthplace of Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremists whose 6-year-old insurgency has killed about 20,000 people and driven 2.3 million people from their homes. AP on Stars and Stripes

U.S. State Department Issues Worldwide Travel Alert
The U.S. State Department has issued rare a worldwide travel alert due to ongoing terrorist threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and Great Syria (ISIS) and other groups. The travel alert urges caution for any Americans traveling abroad, coming in the wake of a terrorist attack in Paris on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people. The alert, posted Monday, says, “Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da’esh) [ISIS], al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions… Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da’esh return from Syria and Iraq. Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis. Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services.” The alert will remain in place until February 2016, the State Department said.  Time

From Nairobi to Kampala to Bangui: Pontiff’s Packed Itinerary
Pope Francis will have a packed itinerary in the region from the minute his plane touches down on Wednesday at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The pontiff will be hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta, a Catholic himself, at State House, Nairobi. Pope Francis, accompanied by senior clergy and officials from the Vatican, will then hold talks with senior Kenyan officials, diplomats and later deliver a speech from the lawns of State House. According to a statement released by Waumini Communications, the Catholic Church in Kenya’s official communication arm, Pope Francis will spend Thursday morning holding inter-religious meetings with leaders from different Protestant denominations at the Nuncio (Vatican embassy), including representatives of the Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu faiths, to promote the message of co-operation and friendship. The East African

Will the Pope Challenge Homophobia in Uganda?
Pope Francis embarks this week on an Africa tour that will take him to the Central African Republic, Kenya and Uganda. Gay rights activists say they hope the pope brings a message of tolerance. In Uganda, Catholics make up nearly half of the Christian population and hold considerable sway within a number of communities. The pope’s upcoming trip to the country, where same-sex acts are illegal, has many wondering if he will address the issue of widespread and sometimes violent homophobia. The pope, once commenting as part of a response to reports of gay clergy members in the Vatican, said that if a person is gay and searches for the Lord in goodwill, who is he to judge. Joanne Banura, a devout Catholic, says she approves of the pope’s stance. VOA

Kenyatta Declares Corruption National Security Threat
Kenya’s president has declared corruption a national security threat. President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on Monday a raft of measures to bolster the fight against corruption that is endemic in East Africa’s largest economy. Measures include the vetting of customs and revenue officers, whom the government believes are denying the country revenue by taking bribes to overlook individuals’ and institutions’ tax obligations. Kenyatta’s nearly three-year old regime has come under heavy criticism for inaction against graft. Many of the incidents of graft highlighted by the Kenyan media focused on the Devolution and Planning Ministry where the minister Anne Waiguru resigned over the weekend, citing health concerns. News 24

Kenya Banks Risk Losing Licences for Money Laundering
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta Monday warned banks involved in money laundering that they risk losing their licenses. The president, who was speaking during his annual address to the nation, said that after consultations with the central bank governor, banks engaged in the vice will be shut down. “From today, we have agreed that those banks that break our anti-money laundering laws and regulations will at a minimum lose their banking licenses,” he said. Mr Kenyatta, spoke strongly against corruption in the country, declaring it a threat to national security.  The East African

South Sudan Army Pulling Out of Capital, Part of Peace Deal
South Sudan’s army began withdrawing troops from the capital, Juba, a key condition of a power-sharing deal between the government and rebels that seeks to end two years of civil war in the oil-producing nation. Two companies comprising 250 soldiers left for Mogiri, on the Juba-Bor road, following a ceremony held at the presidential guard headquarters on Monday, army spokesman Philip Aguer said in an interview afterward. “The process will continue until all the forces meant to be redeployed are out of Juba,” he said, without giving a timeframe. Logistical issues are slowing demilitarization plans, he said. Bloomberg

Peace Talks Between Khartoum, SPLM/Northern Sector Rebels Collapse
The peace talks between Khartoum and rebels of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)/northern sector have collapsed, just five days after they were resumed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. “The African mediation has suspended the negotiations after reaching a deadlock,” a source close to the two negotiating delegations, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Xinhua Monday. The source said the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP), led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, has not informed the two delegations with any new date for resuming the talks. Xinhua

Sudan’s Bashir South Africa Visit Saga Rages on
The Sudan Embassy in Pretoria has said it was “too early” to tell if President Omar al-Bashir would be at the second summit of the forum on China-Africa cooperation in Johannesburg next month. A Sudanese embassy official, Mr Saif Ahmed, said Khartoum was not concerned about the International Criminal Court (ICC) or its decision since it was not a signatory. “The court has no authority on Sudan. While they are targeting to isolate the Sudanese president as the symbol of sovereignty to his nation, it is actually the ICC which is currently isolated within the continent and finds it difficult to convince Africans,” he said. Mr Ahmed accused the ICC of claiming to be an international organisation while it was not. “Africans need to expose and re-question the court which contradicts common African interest,” he said. The East African

Somalia’s Al-Qaeda Branch Warns Members Against Joining IS
Somalia’s Shebab fighters have warned they will “cut the throat” of members who shift allegiance from Al-Qaeda to Islamic State, amid reports some factions have already been punished for doing so. “If anyone says he belongs to another Islamic movement, kill him on the spot,” top Shebab official Abu Abdalla, said in a radio broadcast Monday. “We will cut the throat of any one… if they undermine unity.” The Shebab, East Africa’s long-time Al-Qaeda branch, is fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, which is protected by 22,000 African Union troops. AFP on Yahoo News

Somali Pirates Hijack Iranian Fishing Vessel with 15 Crew, Says Official
Somali pirates have hijacked an Iranian fishing vessel with 15 crew members, a Somali official and a maritime expert said on Monday amid warnings that piracy might be making a comeback in the Indian Ocean. Although there are still occasional cases of sea attacks, piracy near Somalia’s coast had largely subsided in the past three years, mainly due to shipping firms hiring private security details and the presence of international warships. The Iranian ship was taken on Sunday evening in waters off northern Somali city of Eyl, said Abdirizak Mohamed Dirir, director of the anti-piracy and seaport ministry in Puntland, a semi-autonomous region in Somalia. “Pirates hijacked an Iranian-flagged fishing vessel with its 15 crew from near Eyl,” Dirir told Reuters. Reuters

Ghana’s Ruling Party Votes Massively for Mahama’s Second Term Bid
Ghana’s ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) voted massively to affirm President John Mahama as its candidate for elections next year, setting the stage for a tight race between him and his main 2012 rival. Many expect the 2016 contest to be tough for Mahama, whose administration is grappling with economic challenges and has signed a three-year aid deal with the International Monetary Fund to restore fiscal balance. Mahama, who won 95.1 percent of the valid votes declared on Sunday, said the overwhelming renewal of his mandate had re-energized him to face the challenges and improve the livelihood of Ghanaians. “It has been a challenging three years … market fires that affected almost every region of our country; nationwide strike actions; serious challenges of the economy and most serious of all, power shortages that is still with us,” he told party supporters in the capital after the results were announced. “I will continue to work hard. … The path is not an easy one but we’re on the right track,” he said.  Reuters

Tanzania’s Magufuli Scraps Independence Day Celebration
Tanzania’s newly elected President John Magufuli has cancelled independence day celebrations, and has ordered a clean-up campaign instead. “It is so shameful that we are spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of independence when our people are dying of cholera,” he was quoted on state television as saying. Cholera has killed about 60 people in Tanzania in the last three months. Tanzania achieved independence from the UK on 9 December 1961. BBC

Belgium Seeks Morocco’s Help to Track Paris Attacker
Belgium has asked Morocco to share any intelligence it has to help track a key suspect in connection with the Paris attacks, the interior ministry in Rabat said Monday. A statement said King Philippe made the request in a telephone conversation with Morocco’s King Mohamed VI, calling for “close cooperation” in the fields of “intelligence and security”. Morocco’s Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad and his Belgian counterpart Jan Jambon later discussed ways of “implementing concretely and immediately this request” which follows a similar one from Paris. Moroccan intelligence helped put French investigators on the trail of the Belgian jihadist suspected of orchestrating the November 13 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. AFP on Yahoo News

Algeria to Try former Counter-Terrorism Chief – Lawyer
Algeria’s former head of counter-terrorism is to appear in military court Thursday in the country’s first trial of a high-ranking officer in the secret services, his lawyer said. Abdelkader Ait-Ouarabi – better known as General Hassan – is accused of “destroying documents and disobeying military instructions”, Mokrane Ait-Larbi told AFP on Monday. The military court in second city Oran could not be reached for confirmation. General Hassan had for two decades embodied the army’s fight against Islamist groups. He was forcibly retired at the orders of a military judge at the end of 2013 and placed under surveillance, then arrested in August.  News 24

How Africa’s fastest solar power project is lighting up Rwanda
“Arise, shine for your light has come,” reads a sign at the entrance to the first major solar power farm in east Africa. The 8.5 megawatt (MW) power plant in Rwanda is designed so that, from a bird’s-eye view, it resembles the shape of the African continent. “Right now we’re in Somalia,” jokes Twaha Twagirimana, the plant supervisor, during a walkabout of the 17-hectare site. The plant is also evidence, not only of renewable energy’s increasing affordability, but how nimble it can be. The $23.7m (£15.6m) solar field went from contract signing to construction to connection in just a year, defying sceptics of Africa’s ability to realise projects fast. The setting is magnificent amid Rwanda’s famed green hills, within view of Lake Mugesera, 60km east of the capital, Kigali. Some 28,360 solar panels sit in neat rows above wild grass where inhabitants include puff adders. Tony Blair and Bono have recently taken the tour. The Guardian

Moroccan Solar Plant to Bring Energy to a Million People
A giant plant using energy from the Sun to power a Moroccan city at night will open next month. The solar thermal plant at Ouarzazate will harness the Sun’s warmth to melt salt, which will hold its heat to power a steam turbine in the evening. The first phase will generate for three hours after dark; the last stage aims to supply power 20 hours a day. It is part of Morocco’s pledge to get 42% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. The UN has praised Morocco for the level of its ambition. The UK, a much richer country, is aiming for 30% by the same date. The Saudi-built Ouarzazate solar thermal plant will be one of the world’s biggest when it is complete. The mirrors will cover the same area as the country’s capital, Rabat.  BBC



Photo: Adam Jones