Media Review for May 18, 2016

Who in Libya Will the U.S. Send Weapons to? It’s Complicated, Says a Top General.
The top U.S. general overseeing American military operations in Africa said Tuesday that while Washington is considering sending weapons to Libya to fight the Islamic State, doing so will require taking cues from a fledgling unity government that is still struggling to establish support at home. Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the chief of U.S. Africa Command, told a handful of reporters here that Libya’s internal politics still make it difficult to determine which armed groups are aligning themselves with the Government of National Accord, an interim group that has backing from the United Nations. The militias would be called on to play a key role in stopping the spread of the Islamic State, which took hold in Libya in November 2014. The Washington Post

New U.S. Plan Aims to Give Libya – and U.S. Policy – Another Chance
The overthrow of Libyan strongman Moammar Kadafi five years ago by NATO-backed rebels left a political vacuum in the oil-rich North African nation, with rival governments and armed militias battling ever since for control. A new Obama administration plan to funnel international support to an untested government in Tripoli is intended to give Libya — and U.S. policy — another chance. The effort, which would require the United Nations to ease a weapons embargo, aims to train and arm local partners to fight Islamic State — a strategy that has yet to succeed in Syria or Iraq. It also involves a major dose of nation building, an open-ended policy that President Obama long has sought to avoid. The challenge is immense. The United States and its allies will have to vet the Libyan militias and security forces amid the ongoing conflict, while shoring up a fragile government that barely exists on the ground. LA Times

France Urges Caution Over Arms Supplies to Libya
France on Tuesday urged caution over supplying arms to Libya’s fledgling unity government, saying an EU naval operation should ensure that weapons do not fall into the wrong hands. “As was decided… in Vienna, it is essential to help the national unity government to control and ensure the security of Libyan territory,” the French foreign ministry said in an online press briefing. But it stressed that only the UN-backed government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj “can legitimately request exemptions to the arms embargo,” the foreign ministry said. “The arms embargo must be maintained. France would like the mandate of (EU Operation Sophia against people smuggling) to be broadened to cover this.” The United States, Italy and Libya’s friends and neighbors agreed at a meeting in Vienna on Monday to arm the war-torn country’s fledgling unity government to fight ISIS threat. AFP on Al Arabiya

Libya Unity Govt Wants Aircraft
Libya’s new unity government said on Tuesday it wants aircraft and helicopters to fight jihadists as it hailed international support for lifting a long standing embargo on weapons sales. International backing to lift the embargo, in place since 2011, is “fundamental to the creation of a strong army… capable of fighting the jihadist Islamic State group and other extremist groups”, Deputy Prime Minister Mussa al-Kony told AFP. On Monday, the United States, Italy and Libya’s friends and neighbours agreed to arm its fledgling Government of National Accord to confront the threat from ISIS as the GNA seeks to assert its authority. US Secretary of State John Kerry said a 25-member group agreed to exempt the GNA from the UN arms embargo imposed since the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime five years ago. News 24

Militias Fight Islamic State in Libya
A Libyan militia spokesman says militias from the western city of Misrata are battling Islamic State militants and have seized vital checkpoints after a brief takeover by the IS. Mohammed Shamia told The Associated Press Tuesday that the Misrata forces captured three areas south of Misrata including Abu Grain. He said warplanes have bombed IS forces withdrawing from their positions. Shamia said six Misrata militia fighters were killed and 17 injured. Clashes are ongoing, nearly 31 miles from Sirte, the IS stronghold in Libya. The fighting comes two weeks after IS took over the three areas in surprise attacks. It also comes a day after the United States and other world powers said they would supply Libya’s internationally recognized government with weapons to counter the Islamic State group. AP on Stars and Stripes

US Military Looking at Sites for 2nd Africa Base
The U.S. military has looked at 11 locations for a potential second base in Africa, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). Colonel Mark Cheadle, speaking to VOA in Brussels on Tuesday, would not disclose which locations the military is considering for a possible second base, other than to specify that “Nigeria isn’t one of them.” The United States currently has one military base in the east African nation of Djibouti. U.S. forces are also on the ground in Somalia to assist the regional fight against al-Shabab and in Cameroon to help with the multinational effort against Nigeria-based Boko Haram. AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez told reporters in Brussels that the U.S. military has trained members of Nigeria’s intelligence corps as well as three Nigerian battalions, including one that “just recently” graduated. “Boko Haram is the biggest killer of people across the world,” the general said. VOA

Smugglers Made $5-6 bln off Migrants to Europe in 2015: Interpol
People smugglers made over $5 billion from the wave of migration into southern Europe last year, a report by international crime-fighting agencies Interpol and Europol said on Tuesday. Nine out of 10 migrants and refugees entering the European Union in 2015 relied on “facilitation services”, mainly loose networks of criminals along the routes, and the proportion was likely to be even higher this year, the report said. About 1 million migrants entered the EU in 2015. Most paid 3,000-6,000 euros ($3,400-$6,800), so the average turnover was likely between $5 billion and $6 billion, the report said. To launder the money and integrate it into the legitimate economy, couriers carried large amounts of cash over borders, and smugglers ran their proceeds through car dealerships, grocery stores, restaurants or transport companies. The main organisers came from the same countries as the migrants, but often had EU residence permits or passports. “The basic structure of migrant smuggling networks includes leaders who coordinate activities along a given route, organisers who manage activities locally through personal contacts, and opportunistic low-level facilitators who mostly assist organisers and may assist in recruitment activities,” the report said. Reuters

Damned for Trying: The Largest Fow of Modern African Migration Funnels Through a Single Country — Libya.
Coming from the south, migrants flee the vestiges of wars that have left entire nations in ruin. From the east, they escape a life of indefinite military servitude and violent conflict. From the west, they evade destitution and governments that arbitrarily jail whomever they please. Some arrive by choice, others by force. But Libya is the purgatory where most migrants prepare to face the deadliest stretch of the Mediterranean Sea. […] The conundrum Libya poses for policymakers is that the root of its wave of migration does not come from a single source. Like a flood of tributaries streaming to the mouth of a river, migrants are fleeing en masse from at least a dozen different countries. Shutting off the flow would mean addressing the needs of migrants spanning half of an entire continent. MSNBC

Kenya: Photos of Police Violence Spark International Outrage
Widely viewed pictures and video of a protester being kicked by Kenyan riot police as he lay on the ground have caused a stir in this East Africa country, prompting debate on police brutality and civil rights. The U.S. and human rights activists are condemning the violence displayed by Kenyan police who on Monday beat up opposition supporters protesting for election reforms ahead of polls next year. In one incident that has stirred anger and condemnation across Kenya, a policeman is seen beating and kicking one protester who had fallen on a road curb in the chaotic scenes after police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd in the capital, Nairobi. Daily Mail

U.S. Condemns Kenyan Police’s “Excessive” Force Against Protest
The United States condemned on Tuesday the “excessive use of force” by Kenya’s security services during a demonstration by opponents of the electoral oversight body, the embassy said. Police beat some demonstrators with batons and kicked others on Monday after firing teargas and water cannon to disperse a crowd outside the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. Some demonstrators threw stones at police. “The United States deplores the excessive use of force by the Kenyan security services and the violence around the demonstrations,” U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec said. “We welcome announcements by Kenyan authorities that all reports of the excessive use of force will be investigated.” Kenya does not hold its next presidential and parliamentary polls until August 2017, but politicians are already trying to galvanise their supporters. More than 1,200 people died after an election in 2007. A 2013 election passed peacefully, although the opposition disputed the result and said the commission mishandled the voting. It accepted a court ruling that rejected the challenge. Reuters

Nigeria Union to Press Ahead with Strike Despite Court Ruling
A major Nigerian trade union says it will press ahead with a general strike on Wednesday, despite a court injunction against the action. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) announced that the strike would go ahead after walking out of talks with the government. The NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) called the strike after the government raised fuel prices by 67%. The TUC, however, has said that it is suspending strike action. Earlier, the National Industrial Court had ruled the strike should not go ahead because of the risk of civil disorder. “The decision… is that strike continues tomorrow. We have reached a dead end,” NLC President Ayuba Wabba said after the union’s delegation walked out of a meeting with government officials. BBC

Nigeria: Senate Bows to Public Pressure, Withdraws Anti-social Media Bill
The Senate has withdrawn the Frivolous Petition Bill sponsored by Bala Ibn Na’Allah. The controversial bill was seen as an attempt to restrict freedom of expression. The withdrawal of the bill followed the report of the upper chamber’s Committee on Human Rights and Legal Matters submitted by David Umar on Tuesday. The report made it clear the bill amounted to violation of citizens’ rights, and contradicted extant laws, imposing duty of investigation on petitioners and serving as stumbling block to the fight against corruption. The introduction of the bill, last year, by lawmakers who frequently come under media spotlight because of huge salary they draw despite relatively low output, sparked widespread outrage across the country. The intendment of the bill, Mr. Umaru said, while presenting his report, was to check “upsurge of frivolous petitions and publications in the social media”. Premium Times

Brawl Erupts in South African Parliament as Opposition Party Ejected
A fistfight broke out in the South African parliament on Tuesday as security guards ejected opposition lawmakers in an ugly fracas that underlined heightened political tensions over Jacob Zuma’s presidency. About 20 Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party members, who were wrestled from their seats by plain-clothed guards, had refused to let Zuma speak and furiously shouted down the Speaker, Baleka Mbete. As Zuma looked on impassively, the radical leftist lawmakers – dressed in their uniform of red workers’ overalls – fought back to try to remain in the chamber until they were physically removed through a side door. Before the guards moved in, the EFF members, led by their firebrand “commander in chief” Julius Malema, yelled that it was the president who should be thrown out. “He broke his oath of office. Zuma is the one who must go,” they shouted. The Guardian

Uganda: President Promotes His Son to 2-star Army General
Uganda’s long-time president promoted his son to a two-star general, bolstering speculation that the son is being groomed to succeed his father. With the promotion, President Yoweri Museveni’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, becomes a major general and remains the top commander of Uganda’s special forces, an elite unit within the regular army that is mainly in charge of protecting the president and top government officials. Military spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said Tuesday that Kainerugaba is one of five army officers promoted in changes announced late Monday. Many Ugandans believe Kainerugaba, 42, is being prepared to eventually succeed Museveni, who has ruled this East African country for 30 years. Museveni has denied he wants his son to be his political heir, saying that Uganda is not a monarchy. AP on Stars and Stripes

South Sudan Armed Men Clash with Sudanese Rebels in Bahr el Ghazal
Sudanese rebels of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), backed by government forces in Western Bahr el Ghazal region, have clashed with armed men allegedly allied to the opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), capturing a military site previously held by the opposition forces in Deim Zubeir area. Several security and military sources from Raja, the administrative headquarters of the newly created Lol state, attributed the clash to a contest over the site the Sudanese rebels have been using as their hideout in the region. But local officials claimed it was a ploy by government forces in the area to deny the presence of armed opposition forces in the region in fulfillment of the directive given by the army’s top command. Sudan Tribune

How Burundi and Rwanda Became East Africa’s Bad Neighbors
For much of the 20th century, Burundi and Rwanda could not have been closer. The two tiny Great Lakes countries were administered as the single kingdom of Ruanda-Urundi as part of the Belgian colonial empire in Africa, only emerging as independent nations in the early 1960s. Since then, there have been tragic similarities in the two countries’ paths. Rwanda suffered a devastating genocide in 1994, when an estimated 800,000 people—mostly members of the Tutsi ethnic group, but also moderate Hutus—were slaughtered by Hutu extremists. Burundi, which has a similar ethnic makeup to Rwanda—about 85 percent Hutu and 15 percent Tutsi—also experienced a massive loss of life during a 12-year civil war, fought between 1993 and 2005 largely along ethnic lines, which claimed around 300,000 lives. Newsweek

World’s Biggest Refugee Camp and Al-Qaeda in Middle of Political Poker Game
Kenya appears locked in a game of geo-political poker with cashed-up western allies, but it holds a solitary card up its sleeve – the threat to shut down the world’s largest refugee camp of 350,000 people. Dadaab, located in a dusty wasteland in north eastern Kenya, some 100km from the Somalia border, is a sprawling warren of tents stretching across 39 square kilometres. To label Dadaab a “camp” might be technically correct but is somewhat deceiving. Set up in 1991, Dadaab is now home to almost 350,000 displaced souls, the same population as the entire ACT. Inside its ever-growing confines lie 42 schools and some 22 hospitals and clinics.

The US Isn’t Making Sure Its Military Aid to Egypt Stays Out of the Wrong Hands
The US pours around $1.3 billion into the Egyptian military each year, financing its massive arsenal of US-made weapons: F-16s, Apache helicopters, M1A1 tanks, and a flood of small arms, missiles, and equipment. Strict requirements are in place to keep tabs on where exactly such aid goes and to make sure weapons don’t fall into the hands of human rights abusers. But the State Department and the Department of Defense don’t have a fully functioning systems to track the flow of weapons, according to a report released to the public last week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that examines the past five years of US security support for Egypt. The GAO described how the Egyptian government stymied or delayed efforts to monitor US-furnished hardware such as stinger missiles, night vision equipment, and riot control gear. Additionally, it found that the State Department lacks a rigorous protocol to ensure that US equipment doesn’t find its way into the hands of Egyptian units flagged as human rights abusers, even as the State Department has itself criticized Egypt’s rights record. VICE

New Friends, New Risks as the Gambia Looks East
On 11 December 2015, President Yahya Jammeh unexpectedly declared the Gambia “an Islamic Republic”. He proclaimed that the decision was “in line with the country’s religious identity and values”, referring to the fact that 90% of the population is Muslim. In order to enact his vision and make it official, a bill is due to be submitted to Parliament, while the national flag is set to be modified. These moves will likely face legal and political challenges − according to a member of the opposition, “there is a constitutional clause that says that Gambia is a secular state,” which can only be removed via a referendum – and could drag on for some time. However, in the meantime, it is worth looking more closely at the proposal. Some possible motivations behind the declaration have already been debated here on African Arguments, but the move warrants further attention including in terms of the possible repercussions for broader geopolitical dynamics. African Arguments

Competing Crises Could Push African Drought Down Humanitarian Summit Agenda
Amid a cacophony of conflicting demands and desperate needs at next week’s unprecedented World Humanitarian Summit, there are growing fears that the meeting will neglect the “silent disasters” in regions such as Africa’s worsening drought zone. Scores of world leaders will gather in Istanbul on Monday and Tuesday for the first-ever global humanitarian summit. The agenda will be crowded with competing crises: Middle East wars, climate disasters, massive refugee flows, donor fatigue and an increasing shortage of resources for the rapidly expanding needs. The United Nations says the world is facing its worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, with some 125 million people needing aid and 60 million people forced from their homes by war, violence and disaster. […] The Istanbul conference is also likely to be dominated by concerns about the Syria conflict and the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who have arrived in Europe in the past two years. Africa, struggling with its own wars and disasters, could be lower on the agenda. The Globe and Mail