Media Review for May 5, 2016

Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, Deposed Leader of a Troubled Burundi, Is Dead at 69
Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, the deposed president of Burundi who invested heavily in infrastructure but persecuted Catholics and did little to make his small, poor and ethnically fractured country a stable democracy, died on Wednesday morning at a hospital in Brussels. He was 69. The death was confirmed by Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi’s current president. No cause of death was provided. The rule of Mr. Bagaza — who seized power in a 1976 coup and was ousted, also in a coup, in 1987 — reflected the political instability that has characterized Burundi, a landlocked but densely populated central African nation, for much of its modern history. Burundi today is in crisis. Violence has skyrocketed, with reports of mass killings and torture of political dissidents, after Mr. Nkurunziza’s decision in April last year to seek a third term, despite huge protests and international condemnation.  The New York Times

Rebels Kill at Least 17 Civilians in Eastern Congo
A Congo rights group that tracks rebel violence says that at least 17 civilians have been killed in the country’s east. The Center of Study for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights said Wednesday that witnesses said rebels went into Congo’s northern Beni territory on Tuesday, attacking and killing at least 17 people, including 7 members of the same family. It said among those killed was the head of Mutsonge village. It said the attacks were carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, which has origins in neighboring Uganda and has staged many attacks in the area. The rebel group is one of many operating in eastern Congo. AP on Stars and Stripes

Lawmakers Urge More Active U.S. Role in Ending Sudan’s Violence
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling on the Obama administration to renew its focus on the crisis in Sudan and to use financial pressure against the Sudanese regime to change its behavior. Fighting between government forces and rebel groups that dates to 2003 in Darfur has surged again, and the country also is seeing clashes in other areas as well. More than 100 lawmakers said in a letter to President Barack Obama released on Wednesday that they are concerned that millions of people in Sudan lack access to humanitarian aid and are targets of aerial bombardments and other attacks by government forces. “As the violence in Sudan grows worse, the world is looking to the United States to be a strong partner in the effort to build a lasting peace and address this devastating humanitarian crisis,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass.), who organized the letter along with Reps. Joe Pitts (R., Pa.), Mike Capuano (D., Mass.), Michael McCaul (R., Texas), Barbara Lee (D., Calif.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R., Neb.). The Wall Street Journal

South Sudan: Security Council Calls on Transitional Government to Implement Peace Accord
The United Nations Security Council today called on the newly formed transitional unity Government of South Sudan to end the cycles of violence and suffering and fully implement the peace agreement signed by warring parties in August 2015. In a statement to the media, the 15-nation body welcomed the formation on 29 April of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGNU) as “an important milestone” in implementing the accord. Recalling the thousands killed, the ongoing human suffering and the deteriorating economic situation, the Council called on the members of the transitional government to “work together to fully implement the agreement and bring an end to the cycles of violence and suffering, including by adhering to the permanent ceasefire, and by urgently creating the transitional institutions envisioned in the agreement, which are needed to maintain security and build trust between the parties.”  UN

South Sudan Peace Monitoring Body Rejects Legitimacy of 28 States
The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) on Wednesday said it does not recognize the legitimacy of the controversial 28 states which President Salva Kiir created in violation of peace agreement and the country’s constitution. A senior official of the peace monitoring body said they stood by the January communiqué by the East African regional bloc, IGAD, that the parties discuss how many states to create or revert to the 10 states upon which the peace deal was signed. JMEC warned that failure to suspend the 28 states by the transitional unity government would amount to non-implementation of the peace agreement. Sudan Tribune

Juba and Khartoum to Restore Diplomatic Ties
South Sudan and Sudan have again reached a preliminary agreement to restore full diplomatic relations after a period of persistent quarrels over support to rebels on either side. Sudanese Foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour made the announcement just days after South Sudan formed a transitional administration, which ended the two-year war between the armed opposition led by Dr Riek Machar and the government of President Salva Kiir. Africa Review

UK Starts Deploying Troops to South Sudan, Somalia
A team of the British army soldiers has arrived in Somalia as part of the UK’s plans to deploy hundreds of troops in several African countries, following a pledge by Prime Minister, David Cameron. An advance party of 10 soldiers will support the African Union peacekeeping efforts against the al-Shabab militant group in Somalia, Presstv reported. The UK Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon said the deployment of the troops was “another demonstration of the flexibility and global reach of our armed forces.” The group is expected to be joined by additional 60 soldiers who will handle medical, logistical and engineering duties. Sudan Tribune

The Balance of Power Shifts Between Algeria and Morocco
Suspicion and unease are creeping back into relations between Algeria and Morocco. An undeniable shift in power has occurred between the neighboring countries, as Algeria’s military spending outpaces Morocco’s. Large-scale Algerian arms purchases in 2016 reinforce the likelihood that Algiers will continue investing heavily in its military. And as Algeria bolsters its forces, Morocco’s position in the region will only get more precarious, especially if a crisis or conflict erupts. To counter Algeria, Morocco will seek alternative strategies to retain its security. But whether Morocco chooses to do so through select military procurements or through alliances, there is no guarantee its forces can match Algeria’s new weaponry. Given its long-standing animosity toward Algeria, Morocco has historically formulated its strategic defense plans around a potential conflict. These plans require not only a large standing army, but also considerable investment in military hardware capable of withstanding an Algerian attack. For more than a decade after the end of the Western Sahara War, Morocco was largely able to maintain a sufficient balance of force with Algeria. But Algiers steadily began pushing ahead of Morocco around 2003, using its abundant hydrocarbon resources to invest in its military. While Morocco’s military budget largely matched or even surpassed that of Algeria’s at the turn of the century, the country can no longer afford to keep up. Stratfor

Zambia: Once a Poster Child for New Africa, Now Divided and Broke
Zambia perfectly illustrates the developing country conundrum. It is poor because it has weak governance, and it has weak governance because it’s poor. Can one break this cycle through more aid, or aid better spent, or by removing altogether the prop that aid provides to government?  Daily Maverick

DRC Probes Use of US Mercenaries
DRC’s justice minister on Wednesday said he had ordered an investigation into the alleged use of foreign mercenaries by opposition politician Moise Katumbi, a likely contender in presidential elections due this year. “I gave the orders to the PGR [General Prosecutor of the Republic] to open a judicial case in the former province of Katanga,” justice minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba told journalists in Kinshasa. “We have documented proof that several former American soldiers are currently in Katanga in the service of Mr Katumbi.” News 24

Libya’s East Tests Muscle With Oil Shipment, Troop Dispatches
By defiantly attempting to export their own oil and dispatching troops towards the centre of the country, Libya’s eastern factions may be gambling on force as they bid for a larger stake under a U.N.-backed unity government. It could be a costly bet, one that ignites renewed conflict between east and west over territory, slashes oil production, and pushes Libya closer to a split that has threatened the country since the uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi five years ago. The unity deal, signed in December despite opposition from hardliners, was meant to end the divide between rival governments in Tripoli and the east who have vied for control over the country and its oil resources since 2014, backed by competing factions of former anti-Gaddafi rebels. Reuters

South Africa’s EFF MPs Expelled for Heckling Jacob Zuma
A brawl broke out in the South African parliament on Wednesday after security officers were ordered to forcibly remove opposition MPs from the chamber. Several punches were thrown as members of the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were expelled for heckling President Jacob Zuma. It was Mr Zuma’s first appearance in parliament since two damning court rulings against him. BBC

Egypt Court Acquits Mubarak-Era Premier of Graft
An Egyptian court has acquitted a former prime minister of graft charges in the latest retrial linked to his time serving under longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Judge Magdi Abu Ela of the Cairo appeals court ruled Wednesday that Ahmed Nazif was absolved of the charges, which included abuse of office, and that the ruling was final and could not be appealed. Nazif served in the Cabinet from 2004 until the 2011 uprising that forced Mubarak to step down. Nazif was released in June 2013 because he had spent the maximum period in pre-trial detention for corruption charges. He was acquitted of charges in another graft case in February 2015. Many Mubarak-era figures have been cleared of corruption charges. AP on ABC News

Egypt Offers 500,000 State Subsidised Housing Units
Last month, Egypt’s housing ministry opened its doors to applicants registering for what it described as the country’s largest-ever offering of low-income housing, with more than 500,000 state-subsidised units up for grabs. For President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has tried to build support with a populist message, the success of the programme would mean achieving what previous governments failed to do. Meeting that target also would bolster confidence in his government amid a deteriorating economy. But the programme will not address the full magnitude of the country’s housing shortage and the units will be out of reach for the poorest, analysts say. Moreover, the programme has limited participation by the private sector. Business Day Live

Ghana’s Former first Lady for Presidency?
Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, 67, aspires to become the first female president in Ghana. However to achieve that goal, she must first convince many Ghanaians that she’s better than other candidates including the current president John Mahama. Ghana is scheduled to go to the polls in November 2016. Konadu was the first lady from 1979 to January 2001 when her husband President Jerry John Rawlings was in power. On Saturday (April 30, 2016), the National Democratic Party (NDP), a party she founded, elected her unopposed as it’s presidential flag bearer. She made combating rampant corruption as the main theme of her acceptance speech and said it was time for Ghana to be ruled by a strong woman. “We want to ensure that integrity and accountability is upheld,” Konadu said. She blamed the politicians who talk much about decency and accountability but on the other hand steal from ordinary Ghanaians. “If we want all this to stop, we as a people must be vocal and complain,” she added. Deutsche Welle

Mali Militia Blamed in Attacks Killing 13
Pro-government militia killed four members of the Peuhl ethnic group in central Mali and then struck again at the funeral, killing nine more victims, a local community group said Wednesday. The attacks mark the latest violence targeting members of the Peuhl community, who have been accused of collaborating with Islamic extremist groups active in the area. Sekou Bah, the secretary-general of a group called Dental Wuwarbe, said four victims were killed over the weekend while eating at a restaurant. The next day, nine more Peuhls were fatally shot while at the cemetery for the burial, he said. A spokesman for Mali’s security minister said investigators were looking into the reports of the 13 killed. VOA

African Leaders Tackle Desertification to Counter Poverty, Insecurity
The African Union is holding the first ever international conference on the Great Green Wall in Dakar this week. The goal is to map out a strategy to stop desertification in the Sahel-Sahara region, which experts say is driving poverty and insecurity. At the climate change summit in Paris in December, world leaders pledged $4 billion over the next five years for the restoration of Africa’s landscapes. That included support for the so-called Great Green Wall initiative. Now, delegates from 20 countries north and south of the Sahara are meeting with experts and grassroots organizations in Dakar to discuss the way forward. Speaking Tuesday at the opening of the conference, Senegal Minister of Environment Abdoulaye Bibi Balde explained the idea behind the Great Green Wall strategy. He said the Great Green Wall is about much more than simply building a band of greenery. He said it is a strategy to increase the value of the Sahara-Sahel zone through better land use. VOA

Kenya’s Odinga: I Won’t Run if Commission Not Reformed
Opposition leader and former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has said he will not participate in elections next year if the country’s electoral commission is not reformed. Odinga told Al Jazeera’s Head to Head in an interview that he was worried about the potential for violence to break out during the poll, adding that there would be “no reason for us to participate” if the commission was not overhauled. Police fired tear gas at Odinga and other opposition members when they marched on the commission in the capital Nairobi last month in a protest calling for it to be dissolved. Next year’s elections come a decade after violence erupted in the aftermath of a disputed election in 2007, killing 1,300 people and forcing 650,000 from their homes. Odinga ran for president then and later said the result was fixed. He was subsequently named prime minister in a unity government and occupied that post until 2013, when he stood unsuccessfully again, losing to Uhuru Kenyatta. Al Jazeera

Foiled Kenya Anthrax Plot Hints At Islamic State’s Scramble For Africa
Kenyan authorities claim to have foiled a “large-scale” biological terrorist plot by militants linked to the Islamic State (IS), raising fears that the Iraq- and Syria-based group may be extending its influence in Africa. Police arrested Mohammed Abdi Ali, a medical intern at the Wote District Hospital in southeastern Kenya, on Friday and a court has since authorized his detention for 30 days while investigators complete their work, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said in a statement released Tuesday. Ali’s wife was reportedly taken into custody in neighboring Uganda, along with another suspected accomplice. Two other medical interns have been identified as suspected co-conspirators and are thought to have gone into hiding. The suspects were planning large scale attacks akin to the Westgate Mall attack with the intention of killing innocent Kenyans, Boinnet said, referring to the 2013 attack by the Somali militant group al-Shabab that claimed at least 67 lives. He added that the terrorist network “has links to” the Islamic State and “planned to unleash a biological attack in Kenya using anthrax.” He did not name the specific group that was allegedly behind the plot. Foreign Policy

Angelique Kidjo, African Youth Activist Groups Win Amnesty Award
World-famous Beninese musician Angelique Kidjo has won a human rights award, along with three African youth activist movements, for their work defending freedom of expression and peaceful protest. Rights group Amnesty International announced the winners Wednesday, praising Kidjo and the groups Y’en a marre (Fed Up), le Balai Citoyen (The Citizen’s Broom), and Lutte pour Changement (LUCHA) for their work in Africa and around the world. Amnesty says the award honors those who have shown exceptional courage in standing up to injustice, and who have used their talents to inspire others and further the cause of human rights. The honor known as the Ambassador of Conscience Award has previously gone to world leaders such as Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as artists Bono, Joan Baez, and Ai Wei Wei. VOA

Zimbabwe to Print Own Version of US Dollar
Zimbabwe is set to print its own version of the US dollar in order to ease a cash shortage in the country. Central bank governor John Mangudya said the cash, known as bond notes, will be backed by $200m (£140m) support from the Africa Export-Import Bank. The specially-designed two, five, 10 and 20 dollar notes will have the same value as their US dollar equivalents. Zimbabwe introduced the US dollar after ditching its own currency in 2009 following sustained hyperinflation. Since then Zimbabweans have been using the dollar as well as a number of other foreign currencies including the South African rand and the Chinese yuan. BBC

5,000 Government Primary Schools Rotting Away
Classroom structures at four in every 10 government-aided primary schools are disintegrating or non-existent, a top Ministry of Education official admitted yesterday, validating claims that Ugandans have all along been short-changed on free education. Mr Tony Lusambu, the assistant commissioner for Primary Education, told Daily Monitor that lives of thousands of children in the countryside are at stake due to the blighted state of the buildings where they take classes. “Almost 40 per cent of school buildings in Uganda are dilapidated ,especially in traditional old primary schools. Lives of children in these schools are at stake,” he said. There have been criticisms, particularly by the Opposition, that the Universal Primary Education (UPE) hastily introduced in 1997 has eroded quality of education at public schools and resulted in run-down due to official neglect. Daily Monitor

U.S. Spent $1.4 Billion To Stop HIV By Promoting Abstinence. Did It Work?
In the past 12 years, the U.S. has spent more than $1.4 billion funding abstinence programs in Africa. They’re part of a larger program — called the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — aimed at stopping the spread of HIV around the world. Many health officials consider PEPFAR a succes. It is credited with giving lifesaving HIV drugs to more than 5 million people and preventing nearly 1 million babies from getting HIV from their mothers. But a study, published Monday in Health Affairs, finds the abstinence programs have been a failure. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones