Media Review for May 20, 2016

EgyptAir Crash: ‘Debris Found’ From Flight MS804
Debris from the missing EgyptAir flight has been found floating in the Mediterranean, officials say. Flight MS804 was en route from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew when it vanished early on Thursday. Egypt’s army spokesman said wreckage and passenger belongings were found 290km (180 miles) from Alexandria. In a statement, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke of his “utmost sadness and regret” at the crash. EgyptAir also confirmed the discovery on its Twitter feed. The find was made early on Friday, army spokesman Brig Gen Mohammed Samir said on his Facebook page (in Arabic).  BBC

Nigerian Army Claims Second Chibok Schoolgirl Rescued
An emailed statement carried by PR Nigeria, an official government agency, cited army spokesman Sani Usman “confirming the rescue of another Chibok girl this evening.” Some 57 of the 276 girls abducted from the remote town in northeast Nigeria on April 14, 2014, escaped during the abduction, but parents of the remaining 219 accused then-President Goodluck Jonathan of not doing enough to find their daughters. The abduction brought worldwide attention to the conflict, although until Amina and the latest student were found there were few signs that any release was imminent. Deutsche Welle

Peacekeepers Killed in Mali Ambush: UN
The UN on Thursday said five Chadian peacekeepers had been killed and three others wounded during an ambush in northeastern Mali, raising concern over the rising body count of its mission in the country. The attack, which took place on Wednesday, occurred as the soldiers were escorting a convoy in Aguelhok in the Kidal region. They hit a landmine and then came under sustained gunfire, according to a statement on the UN Mali mission’s social media accounts. “Five… peacekeepers were killed and three seriously wounded during an ambush,” it said. “Following the attack, three suspects were captured and will be transferred to the relevant authorities,” said interim mission chief Koen Davidse, who described the ambush as “despicable”. News 24

DRC Seeks Arrest of Presidential Challenger
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government has issued an arrest warrant for Moise Katumbi, an opposition leader planning a possible election challenge to President Joseph Kabila. Government spokesman Lambert Mende told VOA French to Africa on Thursday that the arrest warrant was issued after Katumbi was indicted on a charge of hiring mercenaries. Katumbi’s lawyer, Jean-Joseph Mukendi Wa Mulumba, said Thursday that he cannot respond to the indictment until he is formally notified. VOA

Can Democratic Republic of Congo Afford Another Civil War?
Storm clouds are gathering over Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) once again. Elections due in 2016 are now almost certain not to happen. A political crisis is looming, and Congo’s already tattered post-war constitution will be put under even greater strain—particularly if President Joseph Kabila reaches the end of his final mandate, in December, without a replacement elected. A confusing series of political dialogues is ongoing, but no resolution seems imminent. DRC’s elite is sleepwalking towards a cliff edge. Violence is already spiking in the volatile Eastern Congo, which is still awash with weapons and armed groups. An entrenched national leadership is indulging in heavy-handed harassment of political opponents, such as presidential aspirant Moise Katumbi, who has been arrested on charges of recruiting U.S. mercenaries into his private security, which he denies. Newsweek

UN Urges World Not to Forget Niger
UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien has urged the international community to focus on the plight of people in Niger who have been displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency. While the insurgents appear to be losing ground in Nigeria, they have gained a foothold in neighbouring countries such as Niger. So far most of the coverage surrounding the jihadist group has centred on the abduction of more than 200 school girls in Chibok in 2014. However, experts maintain their impact is very much regional. For his two-day visit of the Lake Chad Basin, top UN official Stephen O’Brien chose to visit Diffa on the border with Nigeria, and Maiduguri, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency. RFI

Libya Forces Recapture Abu Grain from IS
Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed unity government pushed Islamic State fighters back towards their stronghold of Sirte on Wednesday but lost more than 30 men, including seven killed in a car bombing, officials said. In a televised statement from the streets of Abu Grain, military spokesman Mohamed al-Gasri said the forces had “liberated” the small town and two nearby villages after heavy fighting. Western powers are counting on the new government to unify Libya’s political and armed factions to take on Islamic State. The government arrived in Tripoli in late March and is still trying to establish its authority. Islamic State gained control over Sirte last year and has built up its most important base outside Syria and Iraq in the Libyan coastal city. However, it has struggled to hold on to territory elsewhere in Libya. IOL News

Tunisia’s Ennahda to Separate Politics from Islamic Activity
Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party will separate it religious activities from political ones, its chief said in statements published on Thursday ahead of a weekend congress to formalise the change. Rached Ghannouchi, an intellectual who once advocated a strict application of Islamic sharia’h law, told French daily Le Monde there was no room left in post-Arab Spring Tunisia for “political Islam”. “Tunisia is now a democracy. The 2014 constitution has imposed limits on extreme secularism and extreme religion,” he was quoted as saying. “We want religious activity to be completely independent from political activity. “This is good for politicians because they would no longer be accused of manipulating religion for political means and good for religion because it would not be held hostage to politics,” said Ghannouchi. News 24

Tunisia Says Its War on ‘Terror’ Has Cost $4 bn
Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi said in Doha on Thursday that his country’s battle to fight “terrorism” has cost it around $4 billion diverted away from the country’s economy. “The war against terrorism has cost Tunisia a lot, about $4 billion,” Essebsi told reporters in Qatar, at the end of an official three-day visit to the Gulf country. “It could have been invested in economic matters but unfortunately in this situation it was necessary to give a priority to fighting terrorism and achieving security.” Essebsi added that there was “no future” for political Islam in the country. Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, has suffered from a wave of jihadist violence since its 2011 uprising which saw dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ousted. News 24

Burundi Government Says to Attend Tanzania Peace Talks
Burundi’s government said on Thursday it would attend regional talks this weekend aimed at ending a year-long cycle of violence that has claimed about 450 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Mediated by the East African Community (EAC), a regional body of which Burundi is a member, the talks have been repeatedly postponed since a first meeting in December, with the government refusing to share a table with what it considers insurgent groups. Spokesman Willy Nyamitwe said that restriction still applied, but added: “We have received an invitation and we will go.” Burundi’s political crisis broke out in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, a move opponents said violated the constitution. After putting down an attempted coup in May led by generals opposed to his continued rule, he was re-elected in July, supported by a favourable court ruling. Reuters

South Sudan Peace Faces New Challenges
The Riek Machar faction of South Sudan’s ruling SPLM has said it will register as an independent party if the Arusha Reunification Agreement is not respected. The ruling party is currently divided into three; the SPLM mainstream led by President Salva Kiir, SPLM-IO under First Vice-President Machar and the SPLM-FDs led by Pagan Amum. Mr Amum was the secretary-general of the governing party before the 2013 civil war outbreak. The SPLM-IO spokesman in Juba, Mr William Ezekiel, alleged that there was no commitment from President Kiir and his group to implement the Arusha agreement. “President Kiir is to blame for the delay to reunite SPLM, not SPLM-IO chairman Dr Riek Machar,” Mr Ezekiel said. A mediation by South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) and Tanzania’s Chama Cha Mapunduzi (CCM) in May last year saw representatives from the three SPLM factions sign a reunification agreement in Arusha, Tanzania. The East African

Sudan’s Bashir, Wanted by ICC, Applies for US Visa
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, has applied for a US visa to attend the next United Nations General Assembly, an official said Thursday. It would be Bashir’s first visit to the United States since his 2009 indictment by the Hague-based ICC for alleged war crimes in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. “Yes, President Bashir and his delegation have applied for US visas for attending the UN General Assembly meeting,” Bashir’s press secretary Obei Ezzedine told AFP. Bashir previously applied for a US visa in 2014 to attend the UN General Assembly, which is held each year in September, but was rejected. The US embassy in Khartoum could not be reached for comment. France 24

Sudan Will Not Seek to Renew Peacekeeping Mandate in Darfur
Sudan will not seek to renew the mandate for the international peacekeeping mission in Darfur in June as it believes the insurgency there is winding down and civilians are safe, its foreign minister said on Thursday. The joint African Union-United Nations force, known as UNAMID, has been stationed in Darfur since 2007 with a mandate to stem violence against civilians. The U.N. Security Council will discuss a one-year renewal of its mission in June. Security remains fragile in Darfur, where mainly non-Arab tribes have been fighting the Arab-led government in Khartoum, and the government is struggling to control rural areas. Clashes between government forces and armed groups in mid-January forced more than 130 thousand people to flee their homes, according to U.N. figures. “It is time to end the mission of UNAMID in Darfur,” Foreign Minister Kamal Ismail said. “The situation is stable in Darfur and the rebel activities receded. There is no citizen in Darfur that is under threat and in need of protection from UNAMID.” Reuters

‘The Shrapnel Finds Us Wherever We Hide’: Sudan’s Janjaweed are Back. Only this Time they’re Better Armed.
“They surrounded us, killed kids and women, burnt the village. We waited until nightfall, and then we escaped to the mountains,” said Kawthar Ali Adelan, who sought refuge from a March offensive by Sudanese armed forces in a remote mountain cave. “We can’t go to get water because we still hear the shelling and see the planes flying around.” The 25-year-old mother was wedged in a rock crevice with her cooking materials laid out before her. “The shrapnel finds us wherever we hide,” she said. Assaults like the one on Adelan’s village, Alazrak, coupled with near-daily air bombardment by President Omar al-Bashir’s forces are the new normal in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains. For five years now, the government has sought to defeat the rebel fighters who once fought alongside South Sudanese secessionists and now demand greater autonomy in their remote border region. Neither side has been able to gain the upper hand on the battlefield, resulting in a brutal, grinding conflict in which the rebel’s civilian communities are the ultimate victims.  Foreign Policy

Security Council Concludes Visit to Somalia; Urges Swift Approval of Electoral Model
The United Nations Security Council concluded a one-day visit to Somalia today by reaffirming its solidarity with the country’s people and Government and reiterating its calls to the federal parliament to legalize the 2016 electoral model as soon as possible. “Somalia’s security in its broadest sense is a common concern of the international community and the whole region, and that is why such importance has been placed by the Security Council in a legitimate transfer of power later this year,” said Michael Keating, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Somalia, in a briefing to reporters at the conclusion of the Council’s visit. “The message of the Security Council is very clear: the international community looks forward to elections in August 2016 and will do everything possible to support them being free and fair and on time. But it urges immediate action to legalize the electoral model so that practical preparations can begin as quickly as possible,” he added. The Council delegation was led by the body’s current President, the Permanent Representative of Egypt, Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta, and the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, Matthew Rycroft.  UN

MSF Suspending Operations in Part of Central African Republic
Doctors Without Borders says it must suspend operations in part of Central African Republic after its employees there came under attack, leaving one person dead. The aid group, also known by its French acronym MSF, said on Thursday that the armed men had stopped a two-vehicle convoy in Kouki, about 80km north of Bossangoa. A driver for the organization was shot and killed during the attack, which MSF said lasted about 40 minutes. Michelle Chouinard, head of mission in Central African Republic, strongly condemned the violence and said the team was returning from a medical mission at the time.  News 24

Energy: Russia to Lend Egypt $25 Billion to Build Nuclear Power Plant
Russia will loan Egypt $25 billion to finance building and operating a nuclear power plant in Egypt, the official gazette said on Thursday. Egypt and Russia signed an agreement on 19 November for Russia to build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant in Egypt and to extend Egypt a loan to cover the cost of construction. It was not clear at the time what the deal was worth, but Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the loan would be paid off over 35 years. Egypt will pay an interest rate of 3 percent annually, according to the country’s official gazette. Instalment payments will begin on Oct. 15, 2029. “The loan will be used by the Egyptian side for a period of 13 years between 2016-2028 … the Egyptian side will repay loan amounts used over 22 years in 43 instalments,” the gazette said. The Africa Report

UN Recognizes Exceptional Bravery of Senegalese Peacekeeper
The United Nations has recognized the outstanding bravery of a peacekeeper who was killed while protecting hundreds of civilians during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The honor was awarded Thursday to the widow and two children of Senegalese Captain Mbaye Diagne. In 1994, Diagne was a young army officer deployed with the U.N. Assistance Mission for Rwanda. While Hutus massacred at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during a 100-day spree, Diagne risked his life to save hundreds of children, women and men. “He did not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a medal ceremony in the General Assembly Hall under a large projected image of a smiling Diagne. “He did not ignore his conscience or walk away in fear. He acted from his heart. He was exceptionally courageous.” VOA

Floods and Landslides Kill over 100 in Ethiopia
About 100 people have been killed by floods and landslides across Ethiopia that started last month, government officials say. At least 20,000 families have been made homeless, according to the UN, while local officials say there are a number of people still missing. Meteorologists have blamed this year’s particularly powerful El Nino weather phenomenon for the country’s high rainfall. Aid organisations anticipate continued flooding could displace tens of thousands more. “People can be affected in different ways. They can have damaged crops, they can lose their livestock, and in the more extreme cases, lose their entire households and go quite really destitute,” Paul Handley, of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Ethiopia, said. The floods have also hampered distribution of vital aid to drought-affected areas. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones