Media Review for March 11, 2016

Africa’s Battle With Somalia Islamists Falters as Funds Are Cut
As al-Qaeda-linked militants raid Somali hotels and strike multinational army bases with increasing frequency, an almost 10-year mission by African forces to quell the insurgency is being jeopardized by a funding cut. With the European Union trimming its financial support by a fifth this year, ground operations could be the first casualty, according to analysts including Emma Gordon at Verisk Maplecroft. Such belt-tightening would come even as al-Shabaab insurgents are seen regaining their cross-border capabilities after a decline in attacks in neighboring Kenya in 2015 and two incidents in five weeks suggest civil aviation is being added to their targets. Less funding could force the African Union Mission in Somalia, or Amisom, to rely more on airstrikes than infantry, tactics that are “less effective against a disparate enemy,” said Gordon, a senior analyst for sub-Saharan Africa.  Bloomberg

Africa Failing in Shabaab War, Says US Army Chief
The fight against Al-Shabaab is failing to achieve its objectives because African Union forces are “overstretched” and the Somalia National Army suffers “endemic deficiencies,” the US military commander for Africa said on Tuesday. Gen David Rodriguez, head of the the US Africa Command (Africom), offered a bleak assessment of Somalia’s security situation in remarks to the US Senate Armed Services Committee. His comments stood in marked contrast to assurances of substantial progress in Somalia that other US officials have repeatedly voiced. Al-Shabaab lost territory last year and was weakened in its ability to generate resources, Gen Rodriguez said. But he warned that Shabaab may respond to these financial and territorial losses “by broadening its terrorist agenda throughout East Africa.”  East African

Al-Shabab Denies Top Leaders Killed in US Air Strikes
A senior al-Shabab commander has made a public appearance to deny claims that he and another group leader were killed in US air strikes last week at a training camp in southern Somalia. Washington said on Monday it had carried out several strikes in Somalia’s Hiiraan region, in which it claimed more than 150 of the al-Qaeda-linked group’s fighters had been killed. Somali officials said later on Monday that five al-Shabab commanders had been killed in Saturday’s attack, including Mohamed Mire, the group’s Hiiraan governor, and Yusuf Ali Ugas, al-Shabab’s former Hiiraan chief. But Mire appeared on Thursday in the village of Buqa Qabe – in the same province the air strikes took place – to dismiss the claims. “It is all lies. They said I was among those killed. But I’m here and doing well as you can see,” he told a crowd that had gathered to see the public execution of a man the group accused of being a Somali government soldier. Al Jazeera

American Intervention in Somalia Just Got More Fierce
United States Special Forces launched a helicopter raid on an Al Shabaab controlled-town on Tuesday, just days after a US airstrike killed 150 suspected Al Shabaab fighters on Saturday. These operations are likely to have caused more fatalities in one week than all known US counter terror strikes in Somalia over the last nine years combined. This escalation in US engagement marks a sharp and immediate departure from the standard American approach to Somalia over the last decade, where Al Shabaab fighters have been heavily observed, but rarely attacked. Noting that US engagement with Al Shabaab has intensified over the last week, the head of US Africa Command, General David Rodriguez, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that “Right now in Somalia, there has been a tactical upswing of Al Shabaab activities, [and] we are doing everything we can to support [the African Union’s] troop-contributing countries to ensure that is a temporary change.” UN Dispatch

6 Somali Groups Get Grants to Fight Terrorism Recruitment
Six organizations that work with young Somalis in Minnesota have been awarded $300,000 in grants as part of a federal pilot project designed to combat terrorism recruitment, the nonprofit group that is administering the funds announced Thursday. The grant recipients include a youth athletics group, a program that empowers Somali parents, an organization that plans to enhance youth employment opportunities and a group that addresses mental health issues for refugees. An additional $100,000 has been set aside to help with professional development and other efforts designed to build up the programs so they can sustain themselves in the future. Marcus Pope, director of partnerships and external relations for Youthprise, the nonprofit administering the money, said investing in youth development is crucial. He said Minnesota is home to many young Somalis who are creative and bright, but a lot of them face “formidable challenges, including a sense of alienation, a search for identity as new immigrants, unemployment and poverty that can open them to recruitment by extremist groups.” AP on Stars and Stripes

US AFRICOM Commander Counters Buhari, Says Boko Haram Still Holds Territory in Nigeria
Boko Haram is still holding territory in Northern Nigeria, commander of the US Africa Command (USAFRICOM), General David Rodriguez, has said. General Rodriguez’s claim challenges Nigeria’s official position on the seven-year old insurgency that has so far claimed about 20,000 lives and displaced 2.5 million people. Rodriguez’s assertion comes almost two months after President Muhammadu Buhari told the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, that the terrorist group was no longer “holding any territory as we speak.” Buhari, who was speaking on the sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit in the UAE, said Nigerian Armed Forces in collaboration with the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNTJF) had driven the terrorist group from Nigerian territory into “fall-back positions.” This Day

South Africa Not Sending Soldiers – or Special Forces – to Nigeria
No South African military assistance, including Special Forces, will be sent to Nigeria to assist in fighting Boko Haram. This assurance comes from South Africa’s top soldier, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Solly Shoke. He was responding to reports coming out of the West African powerhouse during President Jacob Zuma’s official visit there this week. “I note with concern some media reports suggesting the SANDF is planning to send Special Forces to Nigeria in a combat support role to that country’s military against known militia group. These reports are reckless and unfortunate,” Shoke said in a statement. The Guardian

Nigeria v South Africa: The Battle for African Supremacy
This week South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma visited Nigeria and stressed that Africa’s two economic giants could work together. Relations have been fraught, not helped by South African deaths in a Nigerian pastor’s building and a $5bn Nigerian fine for a South African phone company. The view of Nigerians by South Africans can be described as a form of sibling rivalry, at best. South Africans generally see Nigerians as having a chip on their shoulder along with an over-confidence tinged with a bit of arrogance. Each time there’s a so-called 419 email scam involving strangers offering millions of dollars in exchange for banking details, locals here tend to blame it on the Nigerians. That’s even if there is no evidence of which country the scam originates from. BBC

South Sudan Troops Suffocated 60 Men, Boys, Amnesty Reports
The global human rights watchdog Amnesty International has accused South Sudan military forces of suffocating 60 men and boys in a shipping container. In a report released Thursday, the London-based organization called for the perpetrators to be prosecuted. Amnesty International says that in October 2015, government soldiers rounded up more than 60 men and boys in Leer, a town in the northern Unity state, and locked them in a shipping container on the grounds of a Catholic church. The report is based on nearly two dozen eyewitnesses who saw the victims forced into the container with their hands tied. “Witnesses described hearing the detainees crying and screaming in distress and banging on the walls of the shipping container, which they said had no windows or other form of ventilation,” the report said. VOA

In South Sudan, Civilians Wonder if Peace Deal Could Bring More Conflict
At least 40 people died and about half of the 48,000-large UN protected camp was burned to ashes, humanitarian groups here say. And UN chief Ban Ki-Moon condemned the attack, calling it a possible war crime. To Deng, however, this was another example of the South Sudanese government’s attempt to grab land from the Shilluk tribe, South Sudan’s third largest ethnic group, which has lived in this oil-rich region for centuries. Clashes between government troops and ethnic militia have become commonplace here since civil war broke out in December 2013 between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. CS Monitor

IS Documents Identify Thousands Of Jihadis
Tens of thousands of documents, containing names, addresses, telephone numbers and family contacts of Islamic State jihadis, have been obtained by Sky News. Nationals from at least 51 countries, including the UK, had to give up their most personal information as they joined the terror organisation. Only when the 23-question form was filled in were they inducted into IS. A lot of the names and their new Islamic State names on the registration forms are well-known. Abdel Bary, a 26-year-old from London joined in 2013 after visiting Libya, Egypt and Turkey. […] But the key breakthrough from the documents is the revealing of the identities of a number of previously unknown jihadis in the UK, across northern Europe, much of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in the United States and Canada. Sky News

New ISIS Leader in Libya Says Group ‘Stronger Every Day’
A senior ISIS militant has said in an interview identifying him as the new leader of the militant group’s Libyan offshoot that the extremist organization is getting “stronger every day” in the north African country. Abdul Qadr al-Najdi, described in an interview released by the SITE monitoring group on Thursday as “the emir tasked with administering the Libyan provinces”, said he was praying for Libya to be made the “vanguard of the Caliphate”. He also warned neighboring countries that they would not be able to defend themselves from the militants. “You are protecting yourself from the detonators with shields of bamboo, and from the flood with a ring of wood,” he said, in the interview in ISIS publication al-Naba. Al Arabiya

UN Warns Isis is Strengthening Hold in Libya with ‘Nationalistic Narrative’
Islamic State has greatly expanded its control over territory in Libya, and the militants are claiming to be the key defense for the North African state against foreign military intervention, according to United Nations sanctions monitors. In their annual report to the UN security council, which was released on Wednesday, the monitors also said Libya has become more attractive to foreign fighters who mainly arrive through Sudan, Tunisia and Turkey. The US has carried out air strikes in Libya targeting Islamic State, also known as Isis or Isil. A US air strike in the eastern city of Derna in November 2015 killed Isis’s previous leader in Libya, known as Abu Nabil.  The Guardian

AU Mulls Mali Counter-terrorism Force
The African Union will send a mission to northern Mali in the next few weeks to look into setting up a counter-terrorism force to support vulnerable UN peacekeepers, sources familiar with the matter said. The Bamako government, as well as some officials of the UN force in Mali, MINUSMA, have called for more help in fighting al Qaeda-linked insurgents, who have become increasingly active despite the efforts of French, Malian and UN troops. French forces drove the jihadists out of northern Malian cities in 2013 but they have regrouped, and in November al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb attacked a luxury hotel in Bamako, killing 20 people in a demonstration of their ability to strike beyond their desert bases. Critics say the 10 000-strong UN force’s ability to bring peace to Mali is hamstrung by its lack of an aggressive counter-terrorism mandate, meaning it cannot hunt down militants and is vulnerable to attack. IOL News

Video: The Plight of Libyan Refugees in Algeria
Al Arabiya correspondent Ahmed Hirzallah is reporting from the border between Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. He is now in Debdabah border point between Algeria and Libya.  Al Arabiya

Ethiopia Plans New 2,000 MW Dam: PM
Ethiopia, which plans to become a top regional electricity exporter, will soon launch a new 2,000 megawatt hydropower dam, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said on Thursday. Under a new 2015-2020 development plan, Addis Ababa wants to raise output to 17,346 megawatts from a current capacity of just over 2,200 from hydropower, wind and geothermal sources. “The launch of this new dam will be commenced soon,” Hailemariam told parliament, without giving further details.Ethiopia’s bid to tap several rivers for power generation is part of plans to boost manufacturing and industrialise its agrarian economy. It already has an array of projects under construction, including the $4.1 billion Grand Renaissance Dam that will churn out 6,000 megawatts upon completion within the next five years, as well as a 1,800-megawatt Gilgel Gibe 3 Dam in its southern region.  Reuters

Mwamba Denies Training Illegal Militia
A leading member of Zambia’s main opposition party appeared in court on Thursday and denied he had been training party supporters to form an illegal militia ahead of elections due in August. Geoffrey Mwamba, vice-president of the United Party for National Development (UPND), who was arrested on March 3, appeared in court together with 21 party members alleged to have been undergoing militia training. “My lady, I deny the charge,” Mwamba told the magistrate after being asked to plead. The trial is due to start on May 3. Mwamba was last week arrested on separate charges of inciting violence against President Edgar Lungu, after threatening to “go for his throat”. IOL News

Killer of South African Anti-Apartheid Leader to Be Freed
A jailed assassin who killed a prominent anti-apartheid leader in South Africa in 1993 won a bid for parole on Thursday, igniting bitter memories of racial unrest during white minority rule as well as fresh scrutiny of the balance between punishment and leniency for crimes committed during that era. A Pretoria judge ordered parole within two weeks for Polish immigrant Janusz Walus, whose killing of Chris Hani stirred fears of all-out racial conflict at a time when delicate negotiations for a democratic transition were underway. Hani was head of the South African Communist Party and of the military wing of the African National Congress, the main anti-apartheid movement that later became South Africa’s ruling party.  Time

Africa: Can Gbagbo’s ICC Trial Quench Côte d’Ivoire’s Thirst for Justice?
[…] If the ongoing trial at The Hague is to mete out some level of justice for the victims, it is imperative that this momentum is carried through at the national level by means of an appropriate judicial response. This would be in accordance with President Alassane Ouattara’s statement of 4 February that ‘he will no longer send Ivorians to the ICC,’ arguing that the Ivorian justice system had been ‘rebuilt’. The president’s stance raises important questions given the numerous challenges facing the Ivorian justice system. Critics say that the system lacks impartiality and that mechanisms for justice are not implemented effectively – as illustrated by the existence of so-called political prisoners, and dysfunctional proceedings observed in certain trials. The partiality of the Ivorian justice system is emphasised in a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), published on 8 December 2015. The report points out that almost all of the cases that have been initiated since the crisis target supporters of the old regime. Similarly, in its latest annual report – published on 26 February – Amnesty International states ‘that a number of perpetrators of crimes committed during the post-electoral crisis continues to escape justice’. ISS on allAfrica

Egyptian Diplomat to Become Head of Arab League
The 22-member Arab League on Thursday chose veteran Egyptian diplomat Ahmed Aboul-Gheit as its secretary general. Aboul-Gheit, a former ambassador to the United Nations who also served as foreign minister under Egypt’s ousted President Hosni Mubarak, will replace Nabil El-Araby, who said last month that he would not seek another term as secretary general after his current one ends in July. Aboul-Gheit will take office at a time when the Cairo-based Arab League is facing several tests of its unity. Syria is marking the fifth anniversary of the start of its devastating civil war; regional proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran are on full display; and the battle against Islamic State is raging in several Arab countries. VOA

The Business of Peace in Africa
The 19th century Republican Sen. Mark Hanna famously remarked that two things were important in politics: The first was money, and he couldn’t remember what the second one was. Hanna would be at home in the mercenary politics of peace in Africa and the Middle East today, where political parties, rebel movements and even governments are run on a business model. Money can’t buy anything or anyone, but without cash flow and a sharp set of business skills, any political entrepreneur will quickly fall by the wayside. I learned this the hard way as a member of the African Union mediation team that tried and failed to negotiate a peace agreement to end the war in Darfur, Sudan, a decade ago. The cabal that ran the government was less interested in any Islamist ideology than in bargaining over the machinery of power in a chaotic province. The rebels were haggling for the maximum cash handouts. For sure, some of them were simply interested in lining their pockets. But it wasn’t simple corruption. The more honest among them knew full well that if they were to abandon armed rebellion for civil politics, they needed a “political budget”— money to run an election campaign, to rent the allegiances of local chiefs and neighborhood bosses, and buy all the other services needed to grease the wheels of political office. LA Times

Malawi Drought Brings Fresh Misery, Hunger to Flood Survivors
For weeks, Josamu has relied on unripened watermelons and vegetables to keep her small family alive in Chikwawa, one of the most disaster-prone areas in southern Malawi. “When they eat the children collapse because it’s not tasty and they can’t eat enough,” the 22-year-old fretted. “If we don’t get any help after this food finishes, our children are going to die,” Josamu said as she collected a bag of maize, cooking oil and legumes being handed out by World Vision, one of a clutch of aid groups responding to an emergency that has left 2.8 million Malawians hungry. Almost 16 million in Southern Africa face hunger this year because of drought exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern, but Malawi is the worst-hit country with about 17 percent of its population affected. Times Live

Looking for the New Einstein in Africa
Delegates attending the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) held in Senegal’s capital Dakar say the goal is clear: To give African scientists the infrastructure they need to support their work and keep them on the continent, as well as offering them the visibility they need to expose their ground-breaking research. Some 700 mathematicians and scientists from 80 countries including Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya, South Africa, Cameroon and Zimbabwe attended the forum. It was named after the German-born scientist Albert Einstein who revolutionized the way we view space and time in the early years of the 20th century.  Deutsche Welle

Lack of Seeds Hampers Africa’s Ability to Boost Yields
An assessment of smallholder farmers’ access to seeds says greater engagement from global seed companies would help boost yields and food security. The Access to Seeds Index said the large multinational companies’ quality and range of seeds, if available and affordable, could help boost yields. In Sub-Saharan Africa, smallholders are responsible for the majority of the region’s food production. However, only 2.5% of seeds used by the farmers come from global seed firms. The index, published at the end of February, assessed the main field crop and vegetable seed companies’ efforts to make their products available to smallholder farmers in the most food insecure regions of the world: South and South-East Asia, Latin America, Eastern Africa and Western Africa. BBC

Desperation of African Youth is a ‘Time Bomb’
The desperation of the African youth is a time bomb, Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko said on Wednesday. The minister was quoting international reports in his ­address to delegates at the ­Russia-Africa Anti-Drug Dialogue conference, which was held at the Chief Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, in Durban, this week. “As we recognise South Africa’s peace and security challenges, what is most worrying is the youth,” he said. Further, he said the population was expected to double by 2050, and that governments were facing challenges in creating sufficient job opportunities for new potential employees. “This is cause for concern,” the minister said. IOL News



Photo: Adam Jones