Media Review for November 6, 2015

Russian Plane Crash: UK Suspects Bomb was in Hold
UK investigators looking at what caused a Russian airliner to crash in Egypt believe a bomb was put in the hold prior to take-off, the BBC has learned. The British government suspended all flights to and from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh two days ago. It had received intelligence based on intercepted communications between militants in the Sinai Peninsula. However, both Egypt and Russia have said it is too early to draw conclusions. The Metrojet Airbus A321 was flying from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg when it came down in Sinai on Saturday, killing all 224 people on board. Most of the victims were Russian. Britons stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh are due to begin returning on Friday, but will only be allowed to bring hand luggage. BBC

The Death of Politics in Sisi’s Egypt
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is the moon,” crooned Nahid Sultan, while blowing kisses at a smiling portrait of the Egyptian president, as she skipped out of a polling station for parliamentary elections. Behind her, heavily armed military officers in black balaclavas peered over sandbags. The 50-year-old housewife had voted for the “For the Love of Egypt” political coalition, which swept the majority of seats in the 14 governorates (including Giza, Alexandria, the Red Sea, and Luxor) that have voted so far. (The remaining 13 regions, including Cairo, will vote from Nov. 21 to Dec. 2.) The coalition, which absorbed some of the largest pro-regime parties, is bankrolled by business and media tycoons and spearheaded by ex-military men and former regime figures. In a sea of nationalistic parties, For the Love of Egypt still came out as the most pro-Sisi — the coalition spent months unsuccessfully trying to convince the courts to let it feature Sisi’s face on its campaign posters, and its spokespeople have described the movement as a “backup force” to the president, rather than a check on his powers. Foreign Policy

The Pharaoh’s Dream: Sisi Wants a New Capital City for Egypt
Cairo is an unruly urban sprawl that has spun out of control. Now, officials want to build a new capital in the desert — a potent symbol of President Sisi’s regime. But will it ever happen? […] The Egyptian government has decided to build a new capital city east of Cairo, smack in the middle of the desert. “A global capital,” the building minister announced at a conference on the Red Sea in March. At the event, investors from the Gulf states, China and Saudi Arabia gathered around a model of the new metropolis, admiring the business quarter, with its Dubai-style skyscrapers, the small residential homes in greenbelts and the football stadium. The city is to be situated on 700 square kilometers of land, with an airport larger than London’s Heathrow. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi even wooed investors himself. He recently announced that construction would begin in January.  Spiegle

Burkina MPs Set Two-Term Limit for Presidents
Burkina Faso lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly voted in favour of setting a two-term limit for presidents, a year after veteran ex-leader Blaise Compaore was ousted in a popular revolt for trying to extend his time in office. The constitutional amendment adopted by the National Transitional Council, as Burkina’s interim parliament is known, stipulates that presidential terms are limited to two five-year mandates. “Under no circumstance may anyone exercise more than two presidential mandates in Burkina Faso either consecutively or intermittently,” the text reads. The president is elected for a five-year mandate and “is eligible for re-election just once”, it added. The amendment was approved by 88 of the 89 MPs present. AFP on Yahoo News

Burkina’s Bassole a ‘Political Prisoner’
Burkina Faso’s former foreign minister Djibril Bassole has accused transitional authorities of detaining him for political reasons to prevent him running in this month’s presidential election, his lawyer said on Thursday. Bassole, previously a joint UN-African Union mediator in Sudan’s Darfur conflict and foreign minister under longtime leader Blaise Compaore, was arrested in mid-September accused of supporting a coup against the interim government ahead of scheduled elections. “Djibril Bassole considers that he is still a presidential candidate and that he is a pure political prisoner,” Alexandre Varaut told a small group of reporters in Paris. Varaut, speaking on his return from Ouagadougou, said that in documentation he had been given access to by the Burkina courts there was nothing supporting accusations against his client.  IOL News

U.S. Fears Burundi Ultimatum Will Trigger Violence This Weekend
The president of Burundi’s five-day ultimatum for people to hand over illegal firearms or be treated as enemies of the state may spark extensive bloodshed in the coming days, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Thursday. “The United States is alarmed by the escalating violence in Burundi and dangerous, irresponsible rhetoric on the part of the government, loyalist militias, violent anti-government forces and criminal elements,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said in a statement. “The United States expresses its extreme concern that the five-day ultimatum issued by the president will trigger widespread violence beginning this coming weekend,” she said.  Reuters

Burundi Crisis Poses ‘Devastating’ Risk for Region, says African Union
The African Union has warned of its “deep concern” for troubled Burundi and the wider region if rivals do not resolve political differences peacefully. AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said she was worried at “the continuation of acts of violence and the increase of statements that are likely to further aggravate the current situation.” If the crisis is not solved, it would “create conditions for more instability, with devastating consequences for Burundi and the whole region,” she said in a statement late Wednesday. The central African nation has seen months of violence triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s successful bid to win a third term in office, with the government calling the gangs of gunmen “criminals”. The UN has warned that Burundi risks sliding back into civil war after a dramatic rise in killings, arrests and detentions, with over 200,000 refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries. The East African

US Threatens to Impose Trade Sanctions on South Africa
President Barack Obama is threatening to impose trade sanctions on South Africa for blocking imports of meat from the United States. Obama said Thursday that he will suspend South Africa’s right to ship farm products to the U.S. duty free unless it begins to dismantle barriers to American pork, poultry and beef within 60 days. At stake are trade benefits South Africa receives under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is meant to encourage African countries to open their economies to trade. The United States says South Africa has been blocking U.S. chicken imports for 15 years and has used “unwarranted sanitary restrictions” to keep out U.S. pork and beef.  AP

Uganda to Vote for President on February 18
Uganda’s electoral commission has set February 18 as the date for presidential polls, with eight candidates approved to run for office, reports said Thursday. Veteran leader Yoweri Museveni, in power for 29 years, will face key opposition challengers Amama Mbabazi and Kizza Besigye. Opposition leaders have said they will back a joint candidate, expected to be either Besigye, leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party and a three-time challenger, or ex-prime minister Mbabazi. Other candidates include university professor Venansius Baryamureeba, Abed Bwanika of the People’s Development Party, evangelical pastor Joseph Mabirizi, retired general Benon Biraaro and the only female candidate, lawyer Faith Kyalya. The East African

Rwandan Senate Debates Constitutional Change for Kagame 3rd Term
Rwanda’s upper house of parliament debated on Thursday a constitutional amendment enabling President Paul Kagame to run for a third consecutive term in 2017 and potentially paving the way for the strongman to remain in power till 2034. Senate president Bernard Makuza said the proposals would now be considered by a senate committee on politics and good governance, before returning to the upper house for voting. The proposed constitutional changes were passed last week by lawmakers in the lower house. If, as is widely expected, it is passed by the senate, the changes will then be put to a national referendum – also expected to pass with little outspoken opposition. News 24

The UN Wants to End Libya’s Civil War. Here’s the Big Challenge They Face
Although negotiations over the formation of a unity government in Libya are currently overshadowed by allegations about the UN mediator, the structural obstacle to any deal is and remains Libya’s fragmented political scene. Libya’s second civil war, which erupted in mid-2014, is often mischaracterized as a conflict between two camps, each with its own parliament and government. The reality is considerably more complicated. The actors in Libya’s toxic mix of conflicts include a plethora of largely autonomous local militias, a variety of jihadi groups, and regional powers backing their preferred Libyan clients. The two loose alliances that emerged in 2014 turned out to be fleeting phenomena. Over the past year, divisions in both camps have taken center stage. Libya’s fragmented political scene has posed persistent obstacles to the U.N.-led talks to form a unity government. Trying to respond to the problem, the U.N. has sought to gain the buy-in of important local constituencies – rightly so, given that local conflicts are a crucial element of the struggles at the national level. Yet in their search for credible local representatives, mediators have faced increasingly fractious communities. The Washington Post

ISIS Responsible for Most Libya Killings
Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists are killing more civilians in Libya than the other warring factions, but all sides are committing “large-scale crimes,” International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said on Thursday. Of the 37 car and suicide bombings recorded this year in Libya, 27 have been attributed to the ISIS group, Bensouda said in a report to the UN Security Council. ISIS fighters are executing Libyans for “perceived activities such as spying, homosexuality and social activism,” she said. Violent deaths are on the rise in Libya, where the United Nations is trying to broker a deal on a unity government that would be able to confront the growing threat from the Islamic State group.  News 24

South Sudan: UN Report Casts Doubts on Formation of Unity Government
According to the expert panel report presented to the UN Security Council, South Sudan’s army and Riek Machar’s rebel faction are actively expanding their stockpiles of arms and ammunition. The report says that “credible, independent” sources have said that both parties were failing to implement a permanent ceasefire and maintain security measures meant to help set up a transitional government. It also notes that President Salva Kiir had tried to undermine the power-sharing deal, by raising the number of states in South Sudan from 10 to 28 and saying that he would appoint state governors himself. In August 2015, the two warring factions had agreed to reunite their security forces. The force is supposed to remain in place during the transitional period. After talks between the two groups in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Wednesday (05.11.2015), Taban Ndeng, the chief negotiator of the rebel faction, denied that the groups were rearming.  Deutsche Welle

South Sudanese Government Welcomes Machar Return to Juba
South Sudanese government welcomed on Thursday reports that the former vice-president Riek Machar will return to the national capital, Juba next week. Machar left Juba in December 2013 when the fighting erupted between his supporters in the presidential guards and forces loyal to president Salva Kiir. “He is welcomed as a citizen of the country and as part of the implementation of the peace agreement”, a presidential advisor on decentralisation and intergovernmental linkage told Sudan Tribune on Thursday. Sudan Tribune

Tanzania Swears In New President
Tanzania’s new president, John Magufuli, was sworn in Thursday, despite continuing disputes over the October 25 election. Magufuli along with the east African nation’s first female Vice President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, took the oath of office in front of cheering crowds at Uhuru Stadium in the capital, Dar es Salaam. “I, John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, do solemnly swear that I will execute my duties as the president of the United Republic of Tanzania, with integrity to fulfill the responsibilities of my roles diligently…,” he said in Swahili. In a short speech, Magufuli promised to work hard to implement the pledges he made during the campaign. VOA

Malawi: US Threatens to Pull Out Malaria Drug Aid Package to Malawi
US government has threatened to pull out malaria drug aid package in public hospitals unless the Malawi government takes serious action on theft of the medicine. Virginia Palmer, US ambassador to Malawi sounded the warning Tuesday afternoon at a news briefing in Lilongwe. Palmer did not mince words but directly attacked the Malawi government for its passiveness on drug theft in public hospitals which she said is now reaching alarming levels. “We want to see perpetrators locked up, we want to see officials involved fired not transferring them to other hospital,” said Palmer. If implemented, the move would risk over six million Malawians, especially children who get the free malaria medicine in public hospitals. Nyasa Times on allAfrica

Niger Air Force Bombs Boko Haram Base, Arrests 20 Militants
Niger’s air force bombed a Boko Haram base in the country’s southeast and arrested more than 20 militants, security sources said on Thursday, in its biggest counter-attack in eight months. Members of the Islamist militant group based mostly in northeastern Nigeria have repeatedly attacked the Lake Chad area, including Niger’s southern border region of Diffa. Government forces tracked the militants after a soldier was killed when a military vehicle was blown up by remote control by the group near Lake Chad on Monday, the sources said. “Our air forces destroyed this nest, but we do not yet have an official death toll,” a military officer said. Soldiers arrested the remaining fighters. Reuters

Nigeria: Agents Besiege Home of Accused Security Adviser
Security agents besieging the home of Nigeria’s former presidential adviser on national security, and preventing him from leaving the country, said Thursday he is refusing to answer questions about a $2 billion arms deal. The Department of State Security said it wasn’t illegally blocking retired Col. Sambo Dasuki despite a court order releasing his seized passport for medical travel. Family members said he did not leave the country Wednesday for a medical checkup because of a tip-off that he would be arrested at the airport. They said Dasuki told agents Thursday that any new charges should be filed in court. Dasuki denied a State Security statement Thursday saying he has refused to appear before a committee investigating a $2 billion arms procurement. He said he has never received such an invitation, according to PRNigeria, an agency that publishes news releases. AP

Somalia to Deport Illegal Migrants from Kenya
A Somali court has ordered the deportation of 27 Kenyans found to be in the country illegally. This is the first time in 25 years that Somalia is to expel foreigners for overstaying their visas. The men have also been fined $10 (£6.50) for each day they were in the country illegally. The BBC’s Mohammud Ali says job opportunities for foreigners have opened up as peace has gradually returned to Somalia.  BBC

4 Iranian Hostages Freed in Somalia
Four Iranian fishermen have been freed in Somalia after security forces rescued them from a pirate gang, security officials said on Thursday. Local elder Mohamed Moalim Abdirahman said the men appeared “healthy” despite their ordeal, but that the pirate gang still held as many as nine other hostages, all believed to be from Iran. “Security forces rescued four Iranians who have been held hostage by pirates,” said Abdirahman Mohamed, a security official in central Somalia’s Galgadud region. “Two of the kidnapers were arrested during the raid on a house where they held the victims,” Mohamed added.  News 24

Gawker Got Pranked. Kony Isn’t Looking for Peace. Here are the Facts.
On Sept. 23, Gawker reported that former U.S. Marine Jason Constantine, who calls himself “an independent freelance diplomat,” had corresponded with the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the notorious Joseph Kony. In the article, Constantine claimed that Kony – who has been in a nearly 30-year war with the Ugandan government that has taken a savage toll on civilians across Central Africa – now seeks peace and wants Constantine to convey this news to the U.S. government. According to Constantine, the U.S. State Department has ignored these efforts. As proof of Constantine’s dialogue, Gawker published a handwritten letter, allegedly written by Kony, along with a photo of Kony in a jogging suit. Constantine’s accusation is serious. President Obama has dedicated attention and financial support to ending the LRA war, declaring the capture or elimination of Kony a top priority of his Africa policy. But the story as reported is almost certainly false. With better fact-checking, Gawker would likely have discovered that someone had played an elaborate con on Constantine. The Washington Post

UN Body Set for Next Round of Eritrea Rights Probe
It has been three years since the United Nations began investigating alleged human rights abuses in Eritrea.  Earlier this year,  Commission of Inquiry presented its first report to the the U.N. Human Rights Council, describing arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, disappearances and imprisonment without charge inside the East African country. But Eritrea’s government strongly rejected the report, and its findings have divided the global Eritrean diaspora. In October 2012, Sheila Keetharuth of Mauritius was appointed as the first special rapporteur to investigate claims that there were between 5,000 and 10,000 political prisoners in Eritrea.  Since then, Keetharuth’s work has expanded into a full commission with three members: herself, Chairman Mike Smith, and Victor Dankwa, an associate professor at the University of Ghana. Keetharuth told VOA that her current focus as special rapporteur is on three issues: whether Eritreans have economic, social and cultural rights; whether Eritreans have rights to adequate housing; and most pressing, what is forcing tens of thousands of Eritreans, including many unaccompanied minors, to put their lives into the hands of smugglers and flee the country. VOA

Merchant Ships add Eyes in Gulf of Guinea
From a small, white building on the campus of Regional Maritime University near Tema, Ghana, a handful of people keep watch on a maritime area that stretches from the northern border of Mauritania to the southern border of Angola. The Maritime Trade and Information Sharing Centre (MTISC) for the Gulf of Guinea is a free service funded by private and public interests, including the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Interpol, Oil Companies International Marine Forum and nations from the G7 Friends of the Gulf of Guinea Group. Watch keepers, who work two or three at a time, typically are drawn from regional navies and industries. DefenceWeb

How Traditional Healers Helped Defeat Ebola
Health experts say indigenous healers cannot be ignored as Sierra Leone rebuilds after deadly disease epidemic. […] A year and a half after the Ebola outbreak began there is at last good news for Sierra Leone. On Saturday it is expected the country will reach 42 days since the last recorded case, meaning it will be officially declared Ebola free.   Many of the almost 4,000 Sierra Leoneans killed by Ebola were medical personnel, says the World Health Organization. The small West African nation suffered the most cases and healthcare has “been extremely compromised with a disproportionate number of workers dying”, according to a report on the United Nations’ Relief Web site. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones