Media Review for January 25, 2016

Ivory Coast Army Chief Urged Burkina Coup Leader to Act
Ivory Coast’s army chief encouraged a coup leader in neighbouring Burkina Faso during his failed bid to seize power last year, according to a recording of a conversation in the hands of Burkina Faso judicial authorities. The recording’s emergence comes after Burkina Faso issued an arrest warrant for Ivory Coast’s parliament speaker Guillaume Soro for alleged links to the coup, further straining relations between the two West African neighbours. Burkina Faso authorities issued the warrant against Soro for crimes including complicity in treason last week on the basis of another recorded phone conversation. Two Burkina Faso judicial officials vouched for the authenticity of the latest recording, obtained by Reuters on Friday. Ivorian authorities were not immediately available to comment. Reuters

Burkina Faso Arrests Ex-Presidential Guards over Raid
Ten soldiers from a disbanded elite unite loyal to Burkina Faso’s former president have been arrested over a raid on an armoury outside the capital Ouagadougou, the army said. The pre-dawn raid on Friday at the weapons warehouse underscored the challenges facing new President Roch March Christian Kabore, a week after al-Qaeda fighters attacked a hotel and cafe in the capital, killing at least 30 people. Army officials said that kalashnikov rifles and rocket launchers taken in the raid were not loaded and that no ammunition had been stolen. Officials have not specified how many weapons were seized.  Al Jazeera

US Urges African Leaders to Sway Burundi on Peacekeepers
The United States on Saturday urged African leaders to “work behind the scenes” before their annual summit next weekend to convince Burundi to accept a deployment of international troops in the tiny African state amid festering political violence. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said members of the African Union Peace and Security Council expected leaders to endorse its proposed deployment of 5,000 troops to protect civilians, despite a rejection of the force by Burundi. “I didn’t get a sense from the African countries gathered in the room that they’re going to take that as a final answer,” Power told reporters after a meeting between the U.N. Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa. CS Monitor

UN Security Council Considers Burundi Options
The U.N. Security Council departed Africa on Saturday, considering its options to help quell political violence in Burundi. Council members had a disappointing meeting with President Pierre Nkurunziza on Friday, in which he showed no sign of softening his rejection of an African Union peacekeeping force or engaging in a substantive and inclusive dialogue with the opposition. “The African Union has to work through what its next move is, now that the force it authorized is rejected,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told reporters after meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council for more than two hours Saturday here in Ethiopia’s capital. VOA

Burundi President Rejects UN help
UN Security Council ambassadors on Saturday turned to the African Union to map out the next steps to end violence in Burundi after President Pierre Nkurunziza rejected talks and peacekeepers. The 15 council envoys arrived in Addis Ababa a day after meeting Nkurunziza at his residence outside Bujumbura to urge him to agree to mediated talks and an African force. But Nkurunziza was unmoved by their appeals. “He’s in total denial about the dangers,” said Egyptian Ambassador Amr Aboulatta on the final day of the three-day visit. It was the second time in 10 months that the council travelled to Burundi to push for an end to the crisis. News 24

U.S. Envoy Says Little Achieved in U.N. Meeting with Burundi President
The United Nations Security Council met with Burundi’s president on Friday to push for peace talks and an international force to quell worsening political violence, but U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said little was achieved. The meeting came a day after rebels in the tiny African state raised the stakes in the crisis by declaring a general who led a failed coup in May as their leader, deepening concerns that Burundi is sliding back into conflict after its ethnically charged civil war ended in 2005. The 15-member council, which arrived in Burundi’s lakeside capital Bujumbura on Thursday, met with President Pierre Nkurunziza in Gitega for more than two hours. It is the council’s second visit to Burundi in less than a year. “I’m here to guarantee that there will not ever be another genocide in Burundi,” the president told the council. Reuters

South Sudan Misses Deadline to Form Unity Government
South Sudan has missed a key deadline to create a transitional government, after the president increased the number of provinces from 10 to 28. The plan for a unity government was part of a peace deal in August to end the civil war which began in 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his then-deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. The two sides blame each other for violating the terms of the agreement. Thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced since 2013. President Kiir, who said he had “reservations” about the August peace deal, appointed 28 new governors for the new provinces, just as rebel delegates arrived in the capital Juba, to begin work on the new government.  BBC

South Sudan: Slaughter of Civilians, Gang Rapes Among ‘Shocking’ Crimes Committed by All Sides, Says UN
Hundreds of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, gang-rapes, sexual slavery, forced abortion, massive child soldier recruitment and indiscriminate attacks against civilians with entire villages burned down have been perpetrated by all in sides in war-torn South Sudan, the United Nations reported today. “The constant attacks on women, the rape, enslavement and slaughter of innocents; the recruitment of thousands upon thousands of child soldiers; the deliberate displacement of vast numbers of people in such a harsh and poverty-stricken country – these are abhorrent practices that must be halted,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, whose Office (OHCHR) compiled the report along with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The country, which only gained independence in 2009 after breaking away from Sudan, its northern neighbour, was thrown into turmoil when conflict erupted between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice-President Riek Machar in December 2013, killing thousands, displacing over 2.4 million people, 650,000 of whom fled abroad, and impacting the food security of 4.6 million.  UN Dispatch

South Sudan’s Machar Heads to Uganda to Ask Help from Museveni
The chairman and commander-in-chief of the armed opposition group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM/A-IO), Riek Machar, has left for the Ugandan capital, Kampala, to meet president Yoweri Museveni.  The opposition leader left the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to Kampala on Sunday night to meet the Ugandan president to try to get help from Museveni with regard to the outstanding issues in the implementation of the South Sudan peace agreement. At a short-lived press conference he conducted on Sunday evening at his residential area in Addis Ababa, the First Vice President designate, according to a peace agreement he signed with the South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, said he will be trying to persuade Uganda to play a key role in convincing President Kiir reverse the order of expanding South Sudan states from 10 to 28. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan’s Next Civil War Is Starting
More than half a dozen cease-fires had been brokered and broken before opposition forces finally returned to the capital in late December as part of a deal to end South Sudan’s bloody two-year civil war. None of the previous negotiations had gotten this far. But late last year, with more than 2 million displaced, unknown thousands dead, and countless maimed and raped, advance teams representing rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar were back in Juba to hash out a plan with the current government to share ministries in a proposed unity cabinet. Things were finally looking up. But just when it seemed possible to imagine an end to all the suffering, President Salva Kiir announced in a Christmas Eve broadcast that he was moving forward with a plan that could plunge the battered nation back into civil war even before the current peace agreement is implemented. Calling the country’s existing 10 states “defunct” in his broadcast, Kiir said he’d replaced them with 28 new ones. He had already appointed 28 new governors to run them, he said all conveniently loyal to him. They were sworn in five days later.  Foreign Policy

Horn of Africa States Follow Gulf into the Yemen War
In the Horn, where cash-strapped regimes often teeter on the brink of financial survival and alliances are made and broken with bewildering regularity, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has found willing partners as Saudi-Iranian tensions escalate. In the commercial melting pot of Dubai, where British bankers rub shoulders with Afghan carpet sellers, you would be hard-pressed to imagine that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is fighting a major war in Yemen that has sucked in several other Gulf states and four Horn of Africa countries. […] Initially Khartoum made only a notional military contribution, but as Saudi and Emirati losses mounted, they asked more of the Sudanese, who in October 2015 deployed what reports estimate to be between 350 and 700 ground troops. Eritrean, Djiboutian and Somali involvement in Yemen is more opaque. In Eritrea’s case, the port of Assab is being used as an air-sea logistical hub for Saudi-Emirati operations. However, unlike Khartoum, Asmara has been silent as to whether it has deployed troops. The UN Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group wrote in September 2015 that Eritrean troop deployments would constitute “a clear violation” of UN resolution 1907 – which imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea in 2009. Africa Report

Amisom Blunders Aided Shabaab in KDF Fatal Attack
Institutional weaknesses, poor command structure, underfunding and decisions driven by self-interest among the senior leadership of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) contributed greatly to the biggest attack on Kenyan armed forces since independence, military experts and Somalia analysts have told the Sunday Nation. Inter-clan rivalries in the El Adde region where the attack occurred also played a role in aiding the Al-Shabaab, who attacked on January 15 using suicide bombers and hundreds of men, an assault that the Kenya Defence Forces is now investigating. This comes as focus turns to the board of inquiry announced by the Chief of Defence Forces, in accordance with standard military practice, to answer critical questions on how the attack was carried out and what lessons can be learnt even as queries linger on the number of deaths and injuries. Daily Nation

How to Reform the Democratic Republic of Congo
[…] Decades after independence from Belgium, this vast, diverse and young country—blessed with abundant natural resources that have drawn migrants, and a few investors, from around the world—remains mired in violence, poverty, plunder and despair. Civil wars since 1996 have resulted in some six million deaths and destroyed the country’s decades-old economic infrastructure and industrial base. In the eyes of its own people and those of the world, DRC represents a tragic failure of governance. Despite possessing one of the planet’s richest troves of natural resources, government cannot meet the basic needs of the governed. Unemployment stands at a staggering 80%. Conflict, insecurity, sexual and gender-based violence, and graft are epidemic. The State Department’s most recent annual report on human rights around the world described corruption in the DRC as “endemic,” noting that officials often act with impunity and rights abuses remain widespread—particularly among women, children and other vulnerable groups. The DRC consistently ranks among last in the U.N. Development Program’s Human Development Index. And with a per capita GDP of $394 in 2015 and average life expectancy of about 50, it is also arguably the poorest country in the world, with 88% of its people living below the $1.25-per-day international poverty line.  Time

DRC Calls on Uganda to Stop Oil Activity in Virunga, Africa’s Oldest Natural Park
Uganda should not license an oil exploration block close to neighbouring Congo’s Virunga National Park because drilling would harm the park’s ecosystem, 60 local and international environmental groups said on Thursday. The east African country of Uganda discovered crude reserves in its Albertine rift basin near its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2006. In its latest licensing round, the first to be conducted competitively, six blocks covering about 3,000 square kilometres (1160 square miles) are expected to be handed out early this year. Sixteen oil firms are competing for the blocks, including Britain’s Tullow, France’s Total and China’s CNOOC, which are all already operating in Uganda. But oil exploration in Ngaji, one of the six blocks, “could have a devastating impact on the (Virunga) UNESCO World Heritage Site,” the environmental groups said in a statement. Africa News

Fighting in Mozambique Prompts Refugee Flight to Malawi
Intermittent fighting between government forces and the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) has sparked a flight of nearly 3,500 people into neighbouring Malawi, raising concerns of a new refugee crisis in Southern Africa. Bestone Chisamile, Malawi’s commissioner for refugees, told Al Jazeera on Friday that with no end to fighting in sight across the border, his government had no choice but to take in the refugees and asylum seekers who continued to arrive daily. “We don’t have much of a choice. Most of those coming are women and children. We have to assist them on humanitarian grounds,” Chisamile said. Refugees have been fleeing fighting between Renamo and government forces in the province of Tete since July. Renamo has refused to accept the results of elections in late 2014 that saw the return of the Frelimo party to power.  Al Jazeera

U.S. and Allies Weigh Military Action Against ISIS in Libya
Meeting in Europe this week with counterparts from Britain, Italy and France, General Dunford discussed a broad array of military options to turn up the pressure on the Islamic State in Libya. Officials said there was agreement that the United States and its allies needed to find ways of shoring up Libya’s new government of national accord — established just this week with help from the United Nations but stuck, as of now, in a hotel in Tunis. France, General Dunford said, will work closely with the United States Africa Command on a plan. But that may be particularly challenging given that the new government has yet to gain support from the opposing parliaments in Tripoli and Tobruk, separated by the length of the country. “Although I want to move quickly,” General Dunford told reporters traveling with him in Paris on Friday, “we’ve got to make sure we do this right.” He said that “unchecked, I am concerned about the spread of ISIL in Libya,” adding that he believed that “military leaders owe the president a way ahead.”  The New York Times

Libyan Human Rights Chief Flees to Britain after Abduction Ordeal
A senior lawyer for Libya’s official human rights watchdog has fled to Britain after militiamen linked to the country’s new government waged a terrifying campaign of intimidation against him and his staff. Faraj Alajeeli, 40, was abducted for 30 hours by masked gunmen who beat him up, urinated on him, and warned him “never to talk about human rights again”. Islamists also sent death threats to his house in Tripoli, threatening to kill him as an “unbeliever”. The father-of-four, whose organisation worked closely with Britain’s Foreign Office, eventually smuggled himself out of Libya and sought asylum in Britain in November. The Telegraph

Algeria’s Bouteflika Dissolves Army-Linked Intel Agency
In a landmark move, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has ordered the dissolution of the country’s army-linked intelligence agency, which will be replaced by a “Directorate for Security Affairs” that will report directly to him, local media reported on Sunday. According to the private Al-Hiwar newspaper, Bouteflika — along with Algeria’s national defense minister and the supreme commander of the armed forces — signed a decree on Friday formally dissolving the intelligence agency and replacing it with the new security affairs directorate. The new agency, the paper reported, which will be led by Gen. Othman Tartag, a known ally of Bouteflika’s, “shall be fully independent of the Ministry of Defense and will be under the direct and exclusive guardianship of the president of the Republic”. The presidency, for its part, has yet to comment on the move. Anadolu Agency

1000s March to Protest Education Cuts in Morocco
Thousands of demonstrators in Morocco have defied a government ban to march in a tense protest over planned cuts to Morocco’s education system. Marchers on Sunday chanted “We’re prepared to go to prison!” and other slogans as they neared the parliament building in Rabat, Morocco’s capital. Teacher trainees have been protesting the cuts around the country for the past few months, and the response from security forces during some demonstrations has been violent. Riot police were scattered along the route of Sunday’s march.  News 24

State Repression in Egypt Worst in Decades, Says Activist
The scale of state repression in Egypt is greater today than it has been for generations, one of the country’s most prominent journalists and human rights advocates has told the Guardian. Hossam Bahgat, an investigative reporter who was recently detained by Egypt’s military intelligence agency, spoke out ahead of the fifth anniversary of the start of Egypt’s revolution on Monday – the run-up to which has seen an unprecedented crackdown by security forces against opposition and dissent. “This is without doubt the worst we’ve ever seen,” said Bahgat, citing restrictions on media outlets, a spike in the number of political prisoners, forced disappearances, and alleged extrajudicial killings of Islamists by the state.  The Guardian

Secession Talk Leads to Rising Tensions in Nigeria
Agitation for the Biafra region to become an independent state has been growing. In the late 1960s, an attempt by the region to secede from Nigeria to form an independent state led to the Nigerian civil war which lasted for 30 months. Some estimates put the death toll at two million. People fear that the renewed Biafran agitation could potentially lead to yet another crisis. Residents of the region, like Ima Umoh, now see themselves as Biafran and not Nigerian. “I cannot belong to Nigeria. I am a real Biafran woman. I am a Biafran person, come sun, come rain, even if they point a gun to me,” she said. Deutsche Welle

Africa Wants Veto Powers in UN Security Council
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo say Africa wants to see reforms enacted at the U.N. Security Council and they want the continent to be given at least one spot as a permanent member. The call came at the end of a visit to Zimbabwe by Nguema and ahead of an African Union General Assembly later this month. Mugabe — who is handing over the rotating AU chairmanship — said his Equatorial Guinea counterpart ,Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, was in Zimbabwe because of the upcoming African summit in Ethiopia. “On the event of the meeting of the African Union, he [Nguema] saw it meet to discuss what our position is regarding various matters. The issue of the reform of the U.N. Security Council and our position as Africa. Then the issue of peace and security in Africa and terrorism.”  VOA

New Agoa Rule on Eligibility and Suspension Starts to Apply
Countries qualifying for duty-free access to US markets under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) must adhere to US trade regulations as well as its foreign policy. This is a new rule enacted by the US Congress last year after the renewal of the US–Africa trade partnership for another 10 years. According to EAC Director General of Customs and Trade Peter Kiguta, under the new rule, a country that goes against any of these requirements is suspended from Agoa for a period to be determined by the US government. “The eligibility criteria will worsen with time because US trade representatives are expected to report on the eligibility of individual country every year and if found ineligible, a country’s goods will not have access to the US market,” said Mr Kiguta. Last week, the US and South Africa reached an agreement on importation of American pork shoulder cuts and beef. In November, the two had reached yet another agreement on poultry products. The East African

Zambia Issues Election Details
The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has released the schedule of dates of nominations, including for those running in the presidential poll, in preparation for the country’s August 11 general election. The ECZ also announced it has so far registered more than 1.5 million prospective voters in an ongoing bid to compile a new voter list to be used for the presidential, parliamentary and local elections. The ECZ’s director of elections, Priscilla Isaac, says the commission has also announced the date for official campaigning to give all candidates and political parties adequate time to prepare for the poll. “We have over 1.5 million, which is good,” she said. “It is about 96 percent of our target of 1.7 million new registrations. … It is our intention to go back to do another 14 days mid-February and then close the voter registration, both in terms of the mobile and at district centers by February 29, so that we can now start the cleaning of the register to enable us to produce the provisional voters roll for inspection. VOA

Visa Deadline Looms for Zim Citizens
Zimbaweans living in South Africa have a week to collect special permits allowing them to remain in the country until the end of 2017. Under a special dispensation granted by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba in 2014, Zimbabweans who had held or applied for a Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP) permit could re-register for its successor, the Zimbabwean Special Dispensation permit (ZSP) through Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) offices before April 30 last year. The department said in November it received 208 967 online applications; 197 790 were approved, with 160 still under review because of technical issues such as submission of incomplete applications, capturing of biometrics and obtaining police clearances. It had rejected 25 as the applicants had either not held a DZP permit or police clearance was declined. IOL News

Cape Verde Plays Down U.S. Travel Alert over Zika Virus
Cape Verde’s health ministry said on Sunday concerns prompted by a U.S. travel alert were overblown and that the number of cases of the Zika virus in the West African island nation was on the decline. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) extended its travel warning on Friday to a further eight countries or territories – including Cape Verde – that pose a risk of infection with Zika, bringing the total to 22. Zika is a mosquito-borne virus spreading through the Caribbean and Latin America. Only about 20 percent of infected cases display symptoms, which are usually mild and include fever, joint pain and conjunctivitis. But the CDC says it can be spread from pregnant women to fetuses and has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly, in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and sometimes brain damage. Reuters on Yahoo News



Photo: Adam Jones