Media Review for November 3, 2015

Somali Extremists kill 15 Government Soldiers in Ambush
A Somali military official says at least 15 soldiers have been killed in an ambush by fighters from the Islamic extremist rebel group al-Shabab. Col. Ahmed Muse said late Monday that the ambush took place near Walaweyn, a town in Lower Shabelle region, about 93 kilometers (58 miles) south of the capital, Mogadishu. He said the rebels seized three military vehicles during the ambush. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had killed 30 soldiers, but it was impossible to independently verify the group’s claims. The attack comes a day after extremists attacked a hotel in Mogadishu, killing at least 12 people and injuring many others before they were killed by security forces. AP on Stars and Stripes

Islamist al Shabaab Ambushes Somali Military Trainees, Says Kills 30
Somali Islamists al Shabaab said they had ambushed a group of military trainees on Monday southwest of the capital Mogadishu and killed 30 of them, though the claim could not be independently confirmed. A Somali military officer confirmed the ambush but said fighting was still going on and that no death toll was immediately available. The ambush came a day after at least 13 people were killed after al Shabaab militants stormed a hotel in Mogadishu where government officials and lawmakers stay. The militants, which aim to topple the Western-backed Somali government, and local authorities often cite different numbers of casualties after such attacks.  Reuters

Judging the Threat of al-Shabab in Africa
Al-Shabab fighters in Somalia have struck again – managing to evade security measures to stage an attack in downtown Mogadishu. Their target, yet again, a hotel popular with government leaders and members of parliament. Al-Shabab have waged a relentless war against the government since being forced from the capital. The fighters have also attacked neighbouring countries who have sent peacekeeping troops to Somalia. Somalis have not seen a stable government since 1991. So, how big a threat is al-Shabab in Africa? And could a strong Somali government defeat them?  Al Jazeera

Eight Gunmen Killed in Burundi Battles – Police
Eight gunmen were killed and 18 others captured in Burundi after clashes with police outside the capital Bujumbura, police said Monday, the latest in months of violence in the troubled country. The clashes with armed “criminals” took place in the rural Nyabiraba District, some 13 kilometres east of Bujumbura, police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye said. Burundi has seen months of violence triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s successful bid to win a third term in office. Nyabiraba is a stronghold of the National Liberation Forces (FNL), one of the main ethnic Hutu rebel groups during Burundi’s 13-year civil war, which ended in 2006. The East African

Amid Crisis, Burundi President Sets Deadline to Give up Guns
President Pierre Nkurunziza set a Nov. 7 deadline on Monday for Burundians to hand over illegal firearms or risk being “dealt with as enemies of the nation”, after months of protests over his re-election in July and a failed coup. Burundi, which emerged from civil war a decade ago, was thrown into turmoil over Nkurunziza’s plan to seek a third term in office, which many of his critics said was unconstitutional. The bid, which Nkurunziza ultimately won in a disputed vote, plunged the country into crisis, including violent clashes between protesters and security forces in the capital Bujumbura and a series of targeted killings. Experts say “tit-for-tat” assassinations of government officials and members of the opposition risk driving the nation back into another conflict and could reopen old ethnic wounds. Burundi lies next to Rwanda, scene of a 1994 genocide. In Monday’s address to the nation, Nkurunziza said people had five days to voluntarily give up their guns. Thomson Reuters Foundation

Congo Opposition Drops Civil Disobedience
Congo’s opposition said on Monday that in the interests of peace it was calling a halt to a civil disobedience campaign against the veteran president’s bid to extend his three-decade rule. A joint statement from the Republic of Congo’s two opposition coalitions, the IDC and the FROCAD, said they had decided to drop plans to shut down the country’s cities every Monday, Thursday and Friday starting November 2. “With a view to appeasement and in order to enable the holding of a dialogue …. the IDC and FROCAD have decided with responsibility to suspend the programme of actions from today,” they said. Last week the opposition also cancelled a planned nationwide protest aimed at pressuring the government to withdraw a constitutional amendment enabling President Denis Sassou Nguesso to extend his stay in office. VOA

Sinai Plane Crash: IS Claims ‘Propaganda’, Says Egypt president
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has described claims that militants linked to Islamic State brought down a Russian airliner as “propaganda”. He told the BBC that it was too early to say what had caused the crash. The Airbus 321 is thought to have broken up in mid-air over the Sinai peninsula on Saturday, killing all 224 people on board. On Monday, the airline Kogalymavia blamed “external influence” for the crash. But the head of Russia’s Federal Aviation Agency, Aleksandr Neradko, told Russian TV that such talk was premature and “not based on any proper facts”. BBC

Zanzibar: Opposition Calls for Calm as Leaders Negotiate
For Zanzibar’s incumbent president Ali Mohamed Shein, November 2, 2015, should have marked the end of his term in office. Yet according to a recent statement by Tanzania’s government, Shein is set to remain in power until the semi-autonomous regions holds fresh elections and a new government is chosen. On Tuesday October 27, 2015, Hamad of Zanzibar’s main opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF), had declared himself the winner of the elections before the announcement of the official results. A day later the elections were annulled, citing “violations of electoral law”. As political and civil society leaders, as well as, members of the international community are meeting for negotiations, Hamad, seemed optimistic over the region’s political future.  Deutsche Welle

Zanzibar Opposition to Meet Army Chief over Political Crisis
The main opposition leader in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago will meet the country’s army chief to discuss the political situation in the islands, amid unrest after a disputed election.    Tanzania held national elections on October 25, which included a vote for local authorities in Zanzibar, traditionally a bastion of opposition to the central government.    But Zanzibar’s election commission annulled the vote for the island’s president, citing “gross violations”. The main opposition Civic United Front (CUF) rejected the move, saying it had won that poll. Two bombs exploded minutes apart in Zanzibar on Saturday without causing casualties.  In a statement late on Sunday, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete’s office said the president had ordered talks between CUF leaders and the Chief of Defence Forces, General Davis Mwamunyange, following a request from the opposition party.  It is unclear what opposition leaders plan to discuss with the army chief in the meeting scheduled for this week. The East African

In Zanzibar, Democracy, Peace and Unity are at Stake after Annulled Elections
Observers initially praised the elections as the smoothest in Zanzibar’s tumultuous history, but there was a sharp turn Wednesday morning. ZEC Chairman Jecha Salum Jecha unilaterally announced that Zanzibar’s elections would be annulled. The headline for this post draws from a statement by the Commonwealth observer team shortly after the results were annulled, pleading for a speedy resolution because “democracy, peace and unity in Zanzibar are at stake.” As rumors spread and tensions rise, this post sheds light on the events leading up to the announcement to annul Zanzibar’s election and the aftermath. Delays in reporting results have tarnished Zanzibar’s elections. Perennial Civic United Front (CUF) presidential candidate for Zanzibar Seif Sharrif Hamad blames ZEC for his election defeats, especially in 1995.  The Washington Post

US Delivers Four F-16 Fighter Jets to Egyptian Armed Forces
On October 29, Ambassador Stephen Beecroft and Senior Defense Official Major General Charles Hooper joined Air Marshal Younes al-Masri and other senior Egyptian military officials in a ceremony at the Cairo West Air Force Base to receive four F-16 “Fighting Falcon” fighter jets delivered by the United States to the Egyptian Air Force. Welcoming the four U.S. Air Force pilots who made the 14-hour flight from the United States to Egypt, Ambassador Beecroft called the delivery “another step forward in U.S.-Egyptian cooperation on fighting terror, bringing stability to the region, and strengthening our historic relationship.” DefenceTalk

Violence Hits Central African Republic Ahead of Pope’s Visit
Armed men in the capital of Central African Republic slit a person’s throat and set fire to scores of homes, in a cycle of violence that could further delay elections and prevent a visit this month by Pope Francis. Witnesses said hundreds of people fled their homes in Bangui on Monday after the weekend’s attack by men from the mainly Muslim PK-5 neighbourhood in which more than a dozen people were also shot and wounded. It was not immediately clear who the targets and attackers were, but the violence is part of a pattern in which at least 90 people have been killed since late September – after a Muslim man was found murdered. The majority Christian country plunged into tumult when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a coup in 2013, prompting lethal reprisals by Christian militias known as anti-balaka, and repeated bouts of bloodletting since then. Reuters

Ethiopia Outperforms Sub-Saharan Countries in World Bank Index
Ethiopia has a better regulatory environment that promotes the ease of doing business compared to other Sub-Saharan Africa countries, a new World Bank report says. According to the report – Doing Business 2016: Measuring Regulatory Quality and Efficiency – Ethiopia performed well on the indicators related to dealing with construction permits and enforcing contracts.  The report showed that Ethiopia was among the best performers in the region on enforcing Contracts, with a global ranking of 84 and is placed seventh in the region. This is due, in part, to past efforts to ease the process of contract enforcement which has resulted in considerable time gains.  The Africa Report

Rwanda Accused of Manipulating Poverty Statistics
Rwandan authorities manipulated the latest official statistics on poverty to make it look like it was going down, while much of the source data suggested it was actually on the increase, according to information obtained by FRANCE 24. While international NGOs such as Human Rights Watch regularly accuse the Rwandan government of oppressing its people, Rwanda is usually praised by the West for its development policies. But according to information obtained by FRANCE 24 and Belgian university professor Filip Reyntjens, Kigali has brazenly manipulated its latest official report on poverty in the central African country.  France 24

Tunisia’s Ruling Party Implodes as President Beji Caid Essebsi Stands Accused of Trying to Build a Dynasty
A power struggle within Tunisia’s secularist ruling party is threatening to destabilise the government of the country hailed as the greatest success story of the “Arab spring”. Violence broke out between rival Nidaa Tounes factions at the weekend when young men armed with wooden clubs prevented dissident party members from entering a planned leadership meeting, smashing windows of the five-star hotel in the tourist resort of Hammamat where the party gathering was due to be held. Dissident MPs, who believe Tunisia’s 88-year-old President Beji Caid Essebsi is attempting to install a family dynasty to rule the country, moved instead to another hotel and accused his son and another senior presidential adviser of encouraging the violence. The growing dispute within the party is pitting conservative supporters of the President and his son, Hafedh, against more liberal Nidaa MPs, at least 35 of whom are close to forming a breakaway party of their own, insiders say.  The Independent

Nigeria’s Boko Haram Reveals Rocket-Making Factory
Islamist militant group Boko Haram has released photos apparently showing a rocket-making factory in north-eastern Nigeria. The group has used rocket-propelled grenades in the past and many Nigerians have been asking where the weapons have been coming from. The photos seem to indicate that members of the group have the technical know-how to manufacture weapons. The pictures are believed to have been taken in a college in Borno state. They were sent as a Whatsapp messages to the BBC Hausa service using a telephone number from Cameroon, and have also been published on sites linked to so-called Islamic State, which Boko Haram has joined. BBC

Nigeria’s Ruling APC in War of Words With Opposition PDP
It appears a war of words between the spokesmen of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) party and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has intensified. APC national public secretary Lai Mohammed reportedly told the PDP to stop whining, rebrand itself or go down. This came after the PDP accused President Muhammadu Buhari of continuously making negative comments about Nigeria’s economy, which the PDP said is driving away potential investors. Lai Mohammed said the PDP is the architect of its own downfall.  But Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the PDP, said President Buhari should come up with his own programs how to fix what the president said is Nigeria’s bankrupt economy instead of continuously criticizing former president Goodluck Jonathan’s government. VOA

5 things That the President of Nigeria Can do to Get His Country Back on Track
President Muhammadu Buhari, who was inaugurated May 29, is the antithesis of the stereotypical Nigerian politician: incorruptible, soft-spoken, self-effacing and deliberate.  He embraces the nickname “Baba Go-Slow and Steady.” Buhari’s unhurried style has its downsides, however: It took him an unprecedented four months to name a solid but unextraordinary cabinet.  His reform agenda appears to be sauntering out of the gates, according to the civil society-run Buharimeter. In the meantime, the challenges facing Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy continue to grow: Oil revenues are down, currency value has slipped and Boko Haram has killed more than 1,700 since June.  Nigerians nevertheless expect their new president’s reform agenda to show tangible results, and soon. Given these imperatives, here are five things Buhari can do to get the ball rolling. The Washington Post

South Africa-Nigeria Security: Guns, Sadza and Plantain
Of all the grand plans minted by Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo during the golden years of the South Africa-Nigeria partnership, military cooperation has seen the least progress. On conflict resolution, the two sides rarely pull their weight together. They often divide their labour or differ fundamentally on strategy.   But a more positive pattern is emerging according to Nigeria’s Kayode Fayemi. “On negotiations to end South Sudan’s war, you have Abdulsalami Abubakar and Thabo Mbeki as special envoys on the same side pushing for agreement. that is really important,” he says. Big African countries, which have the economic and military means, can change conditions on the ground in ways that outside countries and agencies cannot. The Africa Report

Thousands March in Niger to Denounce Vote Preparations
Thousands of anti-government protesters marched in Niger’s capital on Sunday to denounce what they say are irregularities in voter lists ahead of presidential elections in early 2016. Marchers carried banners with slogans such as “The people stand up for clean elections” and “No to dictatorship” and demanded a full audit of the electoral register. Niger, a poor, uranium-producing country in the Sahel band of West Africa, is set to hold presidential elections in February with President Mahamadou Issoufou expected to seek a second five-year mandate. Issoufou, a key Western ally against radical Islamist groups, is widely expected to triumph over a fragmented opposition to win a second mandate. His ruling PNDS party has forecast a one-round victory. Reuters

Kidnapped UN Workers Released by South Sudan Rebels
Rebel fighters in South Sudan have released 13 United Nations workers who were held hostage for a week, the UN has said. Around 100 rebel fighters, who have been battling the government for almost two years, seized 31 members of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) last week. While 18 Bangladeshi peacekeepers were freed soon after their capture, the 13 remaining UN workers – all South Sudanese nationals – were released by the rebels on Sunday, UNMISS said on Monday. The UN had last week said that only 12 were still being held. However, it said 13 were released on Sunday. The rebels had captured the men after seizing a UN barge carrying fuel along the Nile River. While the barge was also given back, the UN said that rebels had stolen the 55,000 litres of fuel it was carrying, as well as communications equipment, an inflatable boat and seven weapons. Al Jazeera

Out of Africa, Into Limbo: Many Migrants who Can’t Reach Europe Can’t Go Home, Either
new chapter of the migrant crisis is building on Africa’s Mediterranean coast. As the world watches hundreds of thousands of Syrians crossing into Europe from the east, territories north of the Sahara are filling with comparable numbers of Africans determined to make their own entrance. Migrants from more than a dozen African nations are descending on Morocco, Algeria and Libya in unprecedented numbers, sleeping in abandoned apartments, derelict warehouses and on city streets. Thousands are living in fast-expanding forest encampments, surviving off garbage and stolen water. Here in Morocco’s capital, some 50 West Africans en route to Europe live in a derelict squat known to residents as The Titanic because it is large and full of travelers who might not make it. The housemates include multilingual university graduates, former army officers, and even a successful pop singer, who now dine nightly on 50-cent meals of eggs and stale bread.  The Wall Street Journal

Congolese Activists Honored for Fighting Oil Exploration in Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park, home to roughly a quarter of the world’s remaining 880 mountain gorillas, was featured in Dian Fossey’s Gorillas in the Mist. This week, the Alexander Soros Foundation gave its annual Extraordinary Achievement in Environmental and Human Rights award to two activists from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have resisted the efforts of SOCO International, a U.K.-based oil company, to prospect for oil from Virunga National Park. The park, which is classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, straddles the Congo-Uganda border. Conservationists and residents in the region cried out against oil exploration in the Virunga after a contract was awarded in 2010. In addition to the endangered mountain guerillas, lions, elephants, and hippos live there. The World Wildlife Fund maintained that, by virtue of Virunga’s World Heritage Site status, SOCO’s activities in the Virunga were prohibited by international law. Tens of thousands of Congolese residents fish on Virunga’s Lake Edward. One of Soros’ awardees, Alphonse Muhindo Valivambene, is a fisherman.  NPR



Photo: Adam Jones