Media Review for May 4, 2016

Kenya Police ‘Foil Anthrax Attack’ by ‘IS-linked Group’
Kenyan police say they have foiled a “large-scale” biological attack using anthrax, by a terror group with links to so-called Islamic State (IS). A man, his wife and another woman have been arrested. Rewards have been offered for two other men. Police did not name the network, but said it stretches across the country and outside its borders, including to Somalia, Libya and Syria. There was no immediate independent confirmation. BBC

Three ICRC Workers Kidnapped in DRC
Armed men kidnapped three workers for the International Committee of the Red Cross in restive eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, the aid agency said. The employees – who a local official said were of Congolese nationality – had been sent to work in Rutshuru in the south of turbulent Nord-Kivu province. “We’ve had no news from our three workers” since shortly after 09:00 Tuesday, ICRC spokesperson Elisabeth Cloutier told AFP, giving no further details. The armed men were not identified. Captain Guillaume Ndjike, a military spokesperson in Nord-Kivu, said he had no details, but added that the army always advised “aid workers to contact the military before going into zones where militia are still operating.” News 24

West Africa Pirates Switch to Kidnapping Crew as Oil Fetches Less
Pirate gangs in West Africa are switching to kidnapping sailors and demanding ransom rather than stealing oil cargoes as low oil prices have made crude harder to sell and less profitable, shipping officials said on Tuesday. Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea – a significant source of oil, cocoa and metals for world markets – have become less frequent partly due to improved patrolling but also to lower oil prices, according to an annual report from the U.S. foundation Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), which is backed by the shipping industry. “They have had to move towards a faster model and that faster model is kidnappings,” OBP’s Matthew Walje said, noting that ransom payouts were as high as $400,000 in one incident. “It only takes a few hours as opposed to several days to conduct the crime itself,” he told Reuters at the report’s launch in London. “Fuel prices have fallen, which cuts into their bottom line.”  Reuters

Pirates Paid ‘$400,000’ Ransoms in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea
Ransoms of up to $400,000 (£273,000) have been paid to gangs which hijacked ships in the Gulf of Guinea in 2015, a maritime report says. The region was the most dangerous in the world for seafarers, with pirates becoming more violent, it added. A total of 32 seafarers had been kidnapped so far this year compared with 15 in 2015, the report said. Kidnapping for ransom took place mainly in the oil-producing areas off Nigeria’s coast, it said. The spike in kidnappings appeared to be linked to political developments in Nigeria, the report by the US-based group Oceans Beyond Piracy group said. There had also been a sharp drop in oil theft last year, which the report put down to improved patrolling of Nigeria’s waters, and the fall in oil prices making it less profitable. BBC

Sahara: Morocco Deplores Washington’s Stand
The Moroccan Government has deplored the stand of the United States, tasked with drafting the first resolution on the extension of the mandate of the MINURSO, the UN peace-keeping mission in the Sahara, which was contrary to the spirit of partnership existing between Rabat and Washington. Without mentioning the USA, but in barely veiled terms, the Moroccan Foreign Ministry said Morocco “regrets that the member of the Security Council, which is responsible for the formulation and presentation of the first draft resolution, has introduced elements of pressure, constraints and weakening, and acted against the spirit of partnership with the Kingdom of Morocco.” This came in a statement issued Friday evening following the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution on the Moroccan Sahara. “The Kingdom of Morocco expresses its thanks to the permanent and non-permanent members of the UN Security Council and brotherly Arab countries, which acted with discernment and responsibility in a constructive and friendly spirit to achieve the adoption of a resolution that allows for the serene pursuit of the UN action in this issue,” said the Foreign Ministry. North Africa Post

Tsvangirai Joins Other Opposition Parties in Coalition Talks Aimed at Unseating Mugabe
Zimbabwe’s main opposition party leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said that his party is ready to join other opposition parties in coalition talks aimed at dislodging president Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF in 2018 elections, a report said on Monday. According to NewsDay, Tsvangirai said that his party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) had acknowledged the significance of having a coalition with other parties to challenge Zanu-PF in the upcoming general elections. Tsvangirai further said that he would join the coalition talks on equal bases. “… The MDC-T will not stand in the way of any coalition discussions. We are talking to people, and we are looking for possibilities for change and if coalitions are one of the possibilities for change we will go for that, and go for it genuinely and not playing a big brother mentality,” Tsvangirai was quoted saying. News 24

Drought-hit Zimbabwe Sells Off Wild Animals
Zimbabwe put its wild animals up for sale on Tuesday, saying it needed buyers to step in and save the beasts from a devastating drought. Members of the public “with the capacity to acquire and manage wildlife” – and enough land to hold the animals – should get in touch to register an interest, the state Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said. There were no details on the animals on offer or their cost, but the southern African country’s 10 national parks are famed for their huge populations of elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards and buffalos. A drought across the region has left more than 4 million Zimbabweans needing aid and hit the crops they rely on for food and export earnings, from maize to tobacco. It has also exacerbated an economic crisis in the cash-strapped country that has largely been deserted by foreign donors since 1999. Reuters

Global Water Shortages to deliver ‘Severe Hit’ to Economies, World Bank Warns
Water shortages will deliver a “severe hit” to the economies of the Middle East, central Asia, and Africa by the middle of the century, taking double digits off their GDP, the World Bank warned on Tuesday. By 2050, growing demand for cities and for agriculture would put water in short supply in regions where it is now plentiful – and worsen shortages across a vast swath of Africa and Asia, spurring conflict and migration, the bank said. Water shortages could strip off 14% of GDP in the Middle East and nearly 12% of GDP in the Sahel – without a radical shift in management, according to the bank’s projections. Central Asia could lose close to 11% of GDP and east Asia about 7% under business-as-usual water management policies, according to a new report. The Guardian

UN Security Council to Make Somalia Visit Ahead of Vote
The UN Security Council will travel to Somalia this month to show support for elections scheduled in August, Egypt’s UN Ambassador and this month’s council president, Amr Aboulatta, said Monday. The 15 envoys will also travel to Nairobi during the May 17-21 trip and hold meetings in Cairo with the Arab League, Aboulatta said, presenting the program of work for the month. “The council will be going to Somalia to push for the elections,” he said. “The election is supposed to be held in the month of August and we will try to give the support of the council.” The vote will be Somalia’s second since 1991, when warlords ousted President Mohamed Siad Barre, plunging the country into years of war and chaos. The last elections took place in 2012. AFP on Al Arabiya

Mozambique Refutes Mass Grave Story
A shocking story from Mozambique circulated through the international media on Thursday about a mass grave containing 120 bodies that had been uncovered in the central district of Gorongosa. The story was superficially plausible in that Gorongosa has been the scene of clashes between the rebel movement Renamo and the government police and military. It is also the district where Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama has his bush headquarters. But the Gorongosa district administration says that when it investigated the story it could find no grave and no bodies. A statement issued on Friday by Gorongosa district administrator Manuel Jamaca said teams from the district government were sent to the area where the grave was supposedly found and made contact with the local community and its leaders. Their conclusion was that the story was false. IOL News

Cameroon’s President Biya Visits Nigeria to Discuss Terrorism
President Paul Biya of Cameroon, his wife Chantal and other officials arrived in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Tuesday. Biya was received by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa in Abuja. The two leaders were set to discuss issues of mutual interest to Nigeria and Cameroon. Expected to be high on the agenda are topics such as the ongoing bilateral and regional cooperation against terrorism, violent extremism and cross-border crimes. The two leaders are expected to deliver a joint communiqué after their meeting on Wednesday when Biya’s visit to Nigeria ends.  Deutsche Welle

Central Africa Villages Take on LRA Rebels
“Charlie Six, India One here… we’re going to begin the check-in,” says radio operator Joanick from his small studio in Obo, calling out to the surrounding villages in southeast Central African Republic. It’s a daily meeting at dawn, when each village informs the base if it has been hit by an attack from rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who have fled to the restive CAR after being driven out of Uganda. Obo, a small community of huts made from ochre-coloured earth, is near the border with South Sudan and has little contact with the government in the far-off capital, Bangui. Unlike much of the CAR, which was torn apart by sectarian violence between the mainly-Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and Christian vigilante groups, this isolated corner of the country is battling a different danger: renegade LRA fighters. News 24

Juba, Dar to Bear Brunt of Steep Drop in Oil Prices
South Sudan and Tanzania will bear the brunt of the sustained fall in commodity prices while Uganda and Kenya stand to gain because the reduction in prices for agricultural exports such as coffee is more than compensated for by the drop in their oil bill. Oil prices have fallen 75 per cent since mid-2015 and financial experts now project that the price will settle at a long-term average of $50 per barrel towards the end of the year. While coffee prices too have fallen to over the past year, Uganda’s current account deficit is expected to narrow to 7.4 per cent this year, primarily because of the gains made from lower oil prices. The East African

IMF Sees Sub-Saharan Africa Growth Near Two-decade Low in 2016
Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa will likely slow this year to its weakest in nearly two decades, hurt by a slump in commodity prices, the Ebola virus outbreak and drought, the IMF said on Tuesday. In its African Economic Outlook, the Fund said the region would likely grow 3 per cent this year – the lowest rate since 1999 – after expanding by 3.4 per cent in 2015. Growth is seen recovering to 4 per cent next year, helped by a slight recovery in commodity prices, and the Fund said it was still optimistic about the region’s prospects in the longer term. “However, to realise this potential, a substantial policy reset is critical in many cases,” the Fund said. The East African

Some Opposition Members Freed in Equatorial Guinea
Two hundred Equatorial Guinea opposition militants have been released after being detained in a pre-election sweep, but others remain in horrendous conditions in detention, party leader Gabriel Nse Obiang Obono told AFP on Tuesday. “Some 200 of our militants arrested on April 21 and detained at Bata and Malabo were released on Saturday,” said the Citizens for Change (CI) leader, who was himself barred from running in the April 24 presidential election. Obono added that other party militants, including members of his own family, remained under lock and key. “Six members of my family are being detained without trial in Malabo’s Black Beach prison. They have been tortured, they have been submitted to cruel treatment, their feet have been hit by hammers and the women have been stripped and beaten,” he added. News 24

Soldiers from 25 Nations in Ouaga for Peacekeeping Training
Over 300 participants from 25 countries in Africa, Europe and the United States and from regional and international institutions are in Ouagadougou where they have begun training on UN peacekeeping operations, the Defense Ministry told APA on Tuesday. Dubbed Western Accord 2016, the two-week training is organized by the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) in partnership with ECOWAS armies and the United States Army Africa (USARAF). Under the theme “A multinational partnership for peace and regional security, the training aims to enhance African armies’ operational capabilities and ability to interact together as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Considered one of the world’s top ten troop contributors to peacekeeping operations, Burkina Faso is the third country hosting Western Accord after Senegal in 2012 and the Netherlands in 2015.  Star Africa

Niger Tells Europe it Needs 1 Bln Euros to Fight Illegal Migration
Niger, a major transit country for Africans seeking to reach the EU, told foreign ministers visiting from Europe on Tuesday it needs 1 billion euros to combat illegal migration. As many as 150,000 migrants, most coming from other West African nations, will travel through Niger this year, crossing the Sahara Desert on their way to the Mediterranean coast, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). A vast landlocked country, Niger borders Nigeria in the south and Libya to north – from whose coast many migrants set off on the perilous sea journey to EU members Italy or Malta. “Niger needs a billion euros to fight against clandestine migration,” Foreign Minister Ibrahim Yacoubou told a news conference in Niger’s capital, flanked by his French and German counterparts Jean-Marc Ayrault and Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “We’ve solicited the help of the European Union, France and Germany. We want to protect legal migration against clandestine migration,” Yacoubou said. Reuters

The Unholy Alliance of Ethno-religious matrimony in Ghana’s politics
The past two weeks have been enthralled with a storm of protests in response to what may be mildly described as ethno-religious political commentary by leading stalwarts of the two main political parties in Ghana. The animus largely springing from the critical mass of Ghanaian media observers, owes its rage to the uptick in ethno-religious political campaign rhetoric with the climate of an election year playing no mean role in fueling such inflammatory dialogue. While a politically charged media banter in an election year is not an unusual spectacle to behold, these ethno-religious sound bites seem to stand out not for what they promise to deliver but what they are perceived to portend in the coming elections. The tension belt that seems to be gathering momentum in the build up to the November 7 elections is advancing parallel to a wave of political dialogue that seeks constant reinvention of a narrative among dueling political rivals-one that does not only win the heart and minds of the electorates but claims ownership of their identities as well. This is no longer just a race for electoral victory but for electoral territory. But to what do we credit the currency of ethno-religious rhetoric and why does it seem to carry such emotional weight in an election year when it remains inter0ped in our body politic even in the non-political season? Joy Online

Map of the Day: Where the Press is Not Free
As you can see from the map, press freedom is wildly inconsistent across the globe. There are countries with terrible records: Eritrea, China, Somalia, and Sudan among others. And some countries, mostly in Scandinavia that are beacons of independent, free media. (The USA falls somewhere in between, despite the first amendment of the constitutions with guarantees freedom of expression. Reporters Without Borders cites “the government’s war on whistleblowers who leak information about its surveillance activities, spying and foreign operations, especially those linked to counter-terrorism,” as reasons for the USA less than stellar ranking). UN Dispatch

Gifted Children in Africa’s urban Slums are a Precious and Untapped Resource
Through opportunity you can overcome difficulty and reach your full potential. But is this true in the developing world? Over a number of years a team at Newcastle University has been searching for the most appropriate ways to identify children in poor areas of sub-Saharan Africa’s cities who, given the “opportunity” and additional support, could become catalysts of social change through influencing their peers and communities. If children from very poor areas are to be given a chance to contribute to their societies, and thus to economic development and growth, then identifying these possible “life changers” could be key. Economic growth is necessary for development. But growth is very reliant on the cognitive skills of the population. This is why human capital is key to a nation’s success. For Nobel Laureate Gary Becker, the modern era is the “age of human capital”. For Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessman, “school policy can, if effective in raising cognitive skills, be an important force in economic development.”  IOL News



Photo: Adam Jones