Media Review for March 15, 2016

Bloody Attacks on Ivory Coast Hotels Raise Profile of African al Qaeda Branch
[…] “These aren’t particularly difficult attacks to carry out. These are the most vulnerable and softest of targets. They’re going to be difficult to guard against,” she said, adding that the tragic spectacle “makes the group seem like a much bigger, broader, expansive threat — and I think that’s very much what it would like to do.” The Ivory Coast attacks are part of an apparent AQIM effort to carry out largely symbolic violence as the militants attempt to demonstrate their relevance and capabilities, according to Joseph Siegle, the director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The organization is essentially trying to show that it is capable of traveling to different countries and waging attacks. What’s important to note, Siegle explained, is that this does not indicate any expanding territorial coverage. “It’s a propaganda tool,” Siegle said. “This is hit and run. These are purposely scattered just because they are not strong enough to really hold territory and mount any sort of conventional attacks.” “They’re roving bandits. They’ll hit unsuspecting places wherever they can,” he added. While the UN currently operates a peacekeeping mission Mali known as MINUSMA and France has troops posted throughout the region from a base in Chad, Siegle said the key to averting soft target attacks will be to increase intelligence gathering. This, he explained, is how the international community will be able to help local groups, particularly with tracking cross border movement, money flow, and other transnational operations. Vice

French Nationals Killed in Ivory Coast Beach Attack
Four French nationals are among the 18 people who were killed by Islamist militants at a beach resort in Ivory Coast on Sunday, the French President Francois Hollande has said. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said it was behind the gun attack. Grand Bassam beach is popular with locals and foreigners and people from at least six countries were killed in the attack. It is the first jihadist attack in Ivory Coast. A total of 21 people died in the attack, including three gunmen and three security force members, officials said. As well as Ivorians and French victims, the attackers also killed people from Germany, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Mali, officials say. BBC

French Ministers Head to Ivory Coast after Qaeda Attack
France’s foreign and interior ministers will travel to Ivory Coast on Tuesday to offer support after al Qaeda’s North African arm killed 16 people, including a French national, at a beach resort there on Sunday, diplomatic sources said. [nL5N16L0LR] Some 18,000 French citizens live in the former French colony. As well as Jean-Marc Ayrault and Bernard Cazeneuve, France is sending counter-terrorism officers to help the investigation. France already has 3,500 troops stationed in West Africa, trying to help restore stability after a rebellion in 2012 by ethnic Tuaregs in Mali that was later hijacked by jihadists linked to al Qaeda. Its forces drove the Islamists out of urban centres in northern Mali, but did not eradicate their networks. French officials have warned that the militants are likely to change their methods, and that West African security forces should increasingly prepare for counter-terrorism operations.  Reuters

Ivory Coast Attack: Beyond the Targets
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the Grand-Bassam attack in Ivory Coast that left at least 16 people dead on Sunday. This latest attack indicates a strategic shift by the terrorist group: spreading fear and instability further south and destabilising the capitals of the countries involved in fighting against its Sahel bastions. After smearing the streets of Ouagadougou and Bamako with blood over the past six months, the terrorists have added a new country on their list of targets. In all three cases, such attacks have been intended to derail a steady process of institution building. The objective of these attacks is to fuel hatred and xenophobia while impeding the economic development of societies where fundamentalists hope to recruit more zealots. The biggest enemy and strongest weapon against fundamentalism is a healthy democratic society promoting a multi-party system and guaranteeing freedom of expression. Nowhere is this more true than in Africa, a continent whose economic development is often hampered by the weakness of its political institutions.  Al Jazeera

AQIM: Rivals of Islamic State
[…] Algerian security forces were able to largely drive away AQIM militants in the country. The Islamist fighters sidestepped authorities by going south and finding a safe haven for their operations in Mali, where they have since been able to build up a network of local alliances. “AQIM had many different terror cells,” said conflict researched Assanvo. The AQIM offshoot in northern Mali is probably the most important one. At the beginning of 2012, the Mali group allegedly boasted several hundreds of fighters in four brigades. AQIM also benefits from contacts to other terrorist groups like al-Mourabitoun and Ansar Dine, a Malian Tuareg militant group that appeared in the region after the fall of the Libyan regime. Even though the groups’ ethnic backgrounds and ideologies differ, they pursue the same goals and carry out mutual operations. Deutsche Welle

Africa Targeted Once More as Rivalry Between Islamic Militants Grows
This latest attack in Ivory Coast – claimed by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – will underline why Africa is increasingly spoken of as the “new front” in Islamist militancy. This may be exaggerated, but the threat is undoubtedly growing on the continent, and well beyond its Mediterranean coastline. Ivory Coast has thus become the latest link in a chain of violence-hit countries – from Nigeria, where the Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram is still a force despite recent government efforts, to Somalia, where al-Shabaab extremists appear resurgent. In January it was a hotel in the centre of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, that was attacked. In November it was a similar establishment in Bamako, Mali. Both strikes were claimed by AQIM, the local affiliate of the veteran global organisation. The Guardian

Is the U.S. Now at War With the Shabab? Not Exactly
So last week, when the Pentagon announced that an American airstrike on a Shabab training camp in Somalia had killed about 150 people it said were low-level fighters preparing to attack peacekeeping forces, it raised a crucial question: Is the United States now at war with the Shabab, too? The short answer, several officials said, is no. But there turned out to be a twist that illustrates how the fight against terrorism keeps eroding limits on presidential war-making powers. The Obama administration thinks that the Authorization for Use of Military Force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, or A.U.M.F., enacted by Congress, covered the attack last week — a claim legal scholars described as novel and worthy of attention. First, some context. Over time, the executive branch has stretched the nearly 15-year-old authorization by Congress to justify military actions far from Afghanistan and against foes other than Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It has done so by deeming other groups to be part of or “associated forces” with Al Qaeda, including the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Syria-based Nusra Front, and the Islamic State, a former Qaeda affiliate in Iraq that Al Qaeda excommunicated. The New York Times

Libyan Unity Government Moves to Take Power, Asserting Sole Authority to Rule
A Libyan unity government pulled together with UN backing moved to take power on Saturday night as the Tunis-based Presidential Council called on the country’s institutions and the international community to stop dealing with any rival groups. The council said in a statement on Saturday that it had a majority of signatures approving the new government from the House of Representatives (HOR) – one of Libya’s two rival post-Gaddafi assemblies – as well as endorsement by other political figures. This amounted to a “green light to start work”, the council said. The declaration suggests the Government of National Accord – nominated by the UN-backed Presidential Council – will seek to take power despite continuing opposition from hardliners in both of divided Libya’s competing parliaments: the eastern HOR and the rival General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli. The Guardian

Border Attack Feeds Tunisia Fears of Libya Jihadist Spillover
The signal to attack came from the mosque, sending dozens of Islamist fighters storming through the Tunisian town of Ben Guerdan to hit army and police posts in street battles that lit the dawn sky with tracer bullets. Militants used a megaphone to chant “God is Great,” and reassure residents they were Islamic State, there to save the town near the Libyan border from the “tyrant” army. Most were Tunisians themselves, with local accents, and even some familiar faces, officials and witnesses to Monday’s attack said. Hours later, 36 militants were dead, along with 12 soldiers and seven civilians, in an assault authorities described as an attempt by Islamic State to carve out terrain in Tunisia. Whether Islamic State aimed to hold territory as they have in Iraq, Syria and Libya, or intended only to dent Tunisia’s already battered security, is unclear and the group has yet to officially claim the attack. Reuters

Algeria’s Military Chief Calls Alert over Libyan Frontier
Algeria’s top military chief has heightened the army’s state of alert over border security because of concerns over arms trafficking and turmoil in neighboring Libya, where Islamic State has gained ground. Chief of staff and deputy defense minister Ahmed Gaed Salah visited southeast Algeria, close to Libya’s border, on Sunday, days after the army killed three Islamist militants in an ambush and seized an arsenal including stinger missiles. Algeria, Africa’s largest country with over 1,000 km (600 miles) of border with Libya, has been warning about potential for violence to spill over from its neighbor which has sunk into turmoil since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi. To Algeria’s south, Islamist militants have expanded their attacks recently to parts of Mali and beyond.  Reuters

Kenya’s Vicious War Against Its Youth
[…] We know all of this because unlike many other extrajudicial killings by police and security officials in Kenya, Nyangena and Magomere’s murder was captured on video. The crisp, high-quality footage of the crime, taken on a witness’s mobile phone, is the centerpiece of a recent documentary by noted Kenyan journalist Mohammed Ali on the epidemic of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances by security services. And perhaps as a result of both the video and the documentary, Kenya’s public prosecutor has announced that for the first time in recent memory, his office will charge a police officer for the unlawful killing of a civilian. Unfortunately, the only unusual thing about this horrific story is the judicial outcome. Through a conspiracy of public apathy and sinister cover-ups, Kenyan security forces have essentially acquired carte blanche to kill and disappear citizens, particularly young ones, on the pretext of fighting crime and terrorism. The scourge of killings and disappearances has accelerated in recent years as the Somali militant group al-Shabab has trained its sights on Kenya, but abuse and impunity long have been the calling cards of the Kenyan security services. And while the discriminatory religious contours of the “War on Terror” would suggest that the problem is confined to northeastern and coastal Kenya, regions that are predominantly Muslim and have a high proportion of ethnic Somalis, the truth is that Kenyan authorities routinely commit violent crimes against young people all over the country. Foreign Policy

Sierra Leone President Orders Government Reshuffle
Sierra Leone’s president carried out the biggest cabinet reshuffle of his nine-year tenure on Monday, firing four ministers and his army chief as he tries to reverse waning public support for his party. President Ernest Bai Koroma appointed new interior and finance ministers and brought opposition leader Mohamed Bangura across the divide to install him as information minister. Former finance minister Kaifala Marah will now head up Sierra Leone’s central bank, swapping places with bank governor Momodu Kargbo who takes up the economic portfolio in government. Koroma’s new minister for tourism, Sidi Yahya Tunis, was formerly spokesperson for the country’s National Ebola Response Centre during the latest outbreak.  News 24

Niger Court Refuses to Free Jailed Presidential Hopeful
A Niger appeals court on Monday rejected a demand to release jailed presidential candidate Hama Amadou before a run-off vote on March 20, saying it would only rule on the case a week later. Amadou, 66, has been in jail since November on shadowy baby-trafficking charges and has campaigned from behind bars. He nevertheless picked up nearly 18% of the vote in the first round of the presidential election on February 21, coming second to incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou who took 48% but failed to clinch an outright majority and avoid a second round. Amadou’s lawyer Souley Oumarou told reporters that the court, which had been due to rule on a conditional release on Monday, said it would only deliver its verdict on March 28, eight days after the run-off vote. News 24

Opponents Unite for Benin 2nd Round Vote
Businessman Patrice Talon will team up with his beaten opponent Sebastien Ajavon to take on Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou in the second round of Benin’s presidential election. Zinsou and Talon go head-to-head this Sunday in the battle for the country’s top job after winning the most votes in the first round held on March 6. Ajavon was placed third. Reacting to the official results announced by the Constitutional Court on Sunday, Talon said Ajavon was a “great man” and a “great business operator” and that he “counted on him” for the next step. “We’re going to win together, we’re going to reconstruct our country together,” said Talon, who made his fortune in the cotton industry. Ajavon, a agricultural feed magnate, for his part said he was backing Talon and would support him in the second round. News 24

Malawi Burns 2.6 Tonnes of Illegal Ivory Amid Tanzania’s Protest
Malawi on Monday burned 2.6 tonnes of ivory in the northern city of Mzuzu after a court ordered its destruction, despite a cross-border dispute over whether the elephant tusks smuggled from Tanzania should be saved as legal evidence against poachers. Tanzania had been protesting the torching of the 781 pieces of ivory arguing that the tusks were part of evidence to be brought before a Tanzanian court against poachers and had obtained a 90-day stay order in September after Malawi indicated it was going to burn the stockpile. The elephant tusks were set alight outside a nature sanctuary in the small northern city of Mzuzu, 480 kilometres (300 miles) from the administrative capital Lilongwe. Watched by police, court and wildlife officials, the fire sent a billow of smoke into the sky. In 2013, the Malawi Revenue Authority impounded the ivory, valued at nearly $3 million, at the Songwe border post from alleged smugglers travelling from Dar es Salaam to Lilongwe. The East African

Africa’s Rhinos, Red Tape and Corruption
At the beginning of this year, South African conservationists celebrated a small victory. Figures from 2015, released by the South African government, showed that only 1,175 rhinos were destroyed in its wildlife parks, 40 less than in the previous year. South Africa is currently home to around 15,000 white and 5,000 black rhinos, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Edna Molewa, the minister of environmental affairs, said it was “very, very good news” that the numbers had decreased. “I am today pleased to announce that for the first time in a decade the poaching situation has stabilised …despite escalating poaching pressure, and in the face of an increased and relentless rise of poaching activity into protected areas,” she said at a press conference at the department of government and communications in Pretoria on January 21, 2016. Al Jazeera

Deadly Clashes in Oldest Congo Wildlife Reserve
Two park rangers and five militiamen were killed in clashes in Africa’s oldest wildlife reserve, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park famed for its mountain gorillas, the army said on Monday. “Two park rangers were killed” on Saturday in a joint attack by the Mai-Mai militia and fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an ethnic Hutu militia based in eastern DRC, Captain Guillaume Djike, an army spokesperson in the region, told AFP. The army launched a counter-attack and “killed five assailants”, he said, adding that the militias wanted to set up in the area to carry out “illegal fishing in Lake Edward.” “The search operation is continuing in the region”, infested with rebels and armed militias, about 100km north of Goma, the capital of the turbulent province of Nord-Kivu. News 24

Ethiopian Troops Accused of Executing Protesters
An Ethiopian rights group on Monday accused government forces of more than 100 extra-judicial killings as well as torture while putting down protests that began last year in the Oromia region. The Human Rights Council (HRC) of Ethiopia, a non-governmental organisation, said security forces had committed “criminal acts” between November 2015 and last month when the protests ended. “Most of the victims were shot in the back or in the head,” the group said in a report, after identifying “102 extra-judicial killings” of people ranging in age from 12 years to 68. A further 56 people were either shot or beaten and 22 were tortured, according to the report. With 27 million inhabitants, the Oromia region encircles the capital Addis Ababa and has its own Oromo language. News 24

South Sudan to Close Down Its Embassies Abroad Due to Lack of Funding
South Sudanese government has planned to “temporarily” close down many of its embassies abroad due to lack of money to continue to operate them as the country’s economy continues to deteriorate, a source has disclosed. The world’s youngest East African nation, which got its independence in July 2011 from the Sudan, has about 24 embassies and missions in Africa, Middle East, Europe, Asia and America. However, a source from within the South Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation disclosed to Sudan Tribune that there is a plan to close down several embassies in different continents. Sudan Tribune

Namibia Clarifies Withdrawal from ICC, Saying it No Longer Needs Its Services
Namibian International Relations and Co-operation Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah has clarified the country’s withdrawal as a signatory of the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying Namibia no longer needs its services. According to New Era, Ndaitwah said Namibia had become a member of the organisation due to weak internal institutions present when the country gained independence. Responding to reports that the country’s Cabinet had resolved to withdraw from the ICC, Ndaitwah confirmed that Namibia remained a full member of the organisation until certain technical requirements were met. Ndaitwah said the southern African country’s participation in ICC activities was no longer a priority, saying the focus had been shifted to the eradication of poverty within the struggling state. Times Live

Tough Times for Democracy in Zambia
Zambia’s president Edgar Lungu seems anxious and according to several observers, he is no longer able to hide it. Elections are set for August 11, 2016 and last year Lungu won by a slight margin when he took office to replace his deceased predecessor Michael Sata. In the presidential by-election of January 2015, Lungu (Patriotic Front, PF) beat his challenger Hakainde Hichilema (United Party for National Development , UPND) by only 1.6 percent. Just five months ahead of the elections, the opposition feels muzzled. Last Thursday (11.03.2016) UPND vice president, Geoffrey Mwamba pleaded not guilty to training youths in the use of arms without the president’s permission. Mwamba was also temporarily detained for allegedly having threatened “to go for [the president’s] throat”. That’s according to the police. Deutsche Welle

Up to 1 Million Moroccans March Through Their Capital to Protest the U.N. Chief’s Remarks About the Contested Western Sahara Territory
Up to 1 million Moroccans marched through their capital Sunday to protest the U.N. secretary-general’s remarks about the contested Western Sahara territory. It was an unusually massive show of public anger for Morocco, and was encouraged by leading political parties. Morocco considers the vast mineral-rich Western Sahara as its “southern provinces” and took offense when U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used the word “occupation” after a visit this month to refugee camps for the region’s native Sahrawis in southern Algeria. Protesters on Sunday packed the streets of Rabat after political parties, unions and non-governmental groups called for a national demonstration. Authorities claimed there were up to 3 million people taking part. “The Sahara is ours,” some chanted. Marchers waved Moroccan flags and a banner showing King Mohammed VI. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the U.N. was aware of the protests taking place in Morocco. AP on US News and World Report

UN’s Ban Furious with Morocco Over Western Sahara Protests
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Morocco’s foreign minister on Monday he was angered and disappointed by a demonstration in Rabat he said was a personal attack on him over remarks he made about the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Ban “conveyed his astonishment at the recent statement of the government of Morocco and expressed his deep disappointment and anger regarding the demonstration that was mobilized on Sunday, which targeted him in person,” Ban’s press office said in an unusually tough statement. “He stressed that such attacks are disrespectful to him and to the United Nations,” said the statement, which was issued after he met with Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar. Rabat accused Ban last week of no longer being neutral in the Western Sahara conflict, saying he used the word “occupation” to describe Morocco’s presence in the region that has been at the center of a dispute since 1975.  France 24

Nigeria Leader Fails to Pursue Military Killings of Suspects
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to prosecute soldiers who killed hundreds of detainees, despite promises to end impunity and military abuses, Amnesty International said Monday. Buhari should “take urgent action,” starting with the soldiers who slaughtered 640 suspects on March 14, 2014, after a Boko Haram attack on the Giwa Barracks in northeastern Maiduguri city, the London-based organization said. Amnesty International documented the killings, verified video showing them and used satellite imagery to identify the mass graves. “Despite repeated promises by President Buhari and his government that Amnesty International’s report would be looked into, no concrete steps have been taken to begin independent investigations,” it said. AP on Stars and Stripes

Nigeria’s State Oil Firm Withheld $16.2 bln in 2014: Audit
Nigeria’s state-run oil firm withheld some 3.2 trillion naira ($16.2 billion, 14.6 billion euros) from the sale of crude oil in 2014, according to a government report from auditor-general Samuel Ukura. “From the examination of NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) mandates to (the) CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) on Domestic Crude Oil sales… (the) amount not remitted to FACC (Federation Account Allocation Committee) was N3,234,577,666,791.35,” the report read. A total of $235.7 million made from gas sales was also not paid to the federal government but “transferred to some undisclosed Escrow Accounts”, said the audit, which was presented to parliament on Monday. Non-remittance of crude oil revenue from the NNPC caused a scandal in February 2014 when the former CBN governor Lamido Sanusi said $20 billion had not been sent to the bank from January 2012 to mid-2013.  AFP on Yahoo News

West Africa Piracy Case Highlights US Capacity Building Efforts
When pirates hijacked the MT MAXIMUS in the Gulf of Guinea in mid-February, collaboration between four West African nations, with assistance from the U.S. and France, allowed the African navies to track, interdict the vessel, free 18 hostages and apprehend the pirates. The successful resolution of this piracy case underscores the importance of the U.S. Africa Command’s ongoing partner capacity building efforts throughout the Gulf of Guinea region. This also highlights the tremendous advances the region has made in maritime security endeavors, US Africa Command said. “The training and exercises, as well as the combined operations that have taken place over the years, directly contributed to the successful interception and takedown of the pirates onboard the MAXIMUS,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cdr. Todd Behney, U.S. Africa Command maritime programs officer. “The collaborative efforts that have taken place throughout the region by the Africans and their respective countries has been impressive and highly commendable.”  DefenceWeb

Angola‚ Chair of Security Council‚ Accused of Human Rights Violations
While the Angolan government is revelling in its position as chair of the UN Security Council‚ civil society groups have accused it of human rights violations at home‚ specifically the imprisonment of activist José Marcos Mavungo. A group of civil society organisations‚ including Amnesty International and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre‚ released a statement on Monday saying: “Angola continues to disregard the recommendations of the United Nations in relation to its own human rights situation.” According to the statement Angola is holding the presidency of the UN Security Council in New York throughout March 2016‚ and the “Angolan authorities appear to be proud of this fact”. In contrast to its activities in the country‚ “Angola is also actively engaged at other UN bodies and mechanisms‚ such as the Human Rights Council and the UN Treaty bodies”. Times Live

Virtual Mining in Cameroon: How to Make a Fortune by Failing
In 2003, the American company Geovic raised hopes when it secured a permit to build an industrial cobalt mine. Cameroon’s mineral wealth had long been known – ranging from iron and bauxite to diamonds and gold – but this was the first such licence to be granted in decades. Expectations were sky high and further intensified when the company announced it had discovered the “largest known primary cobalt deposit in the world”. A leaked cable from the American embassy in Yaoundé in 2008 insisted: “Far from a ‘hoax,’ Geovic is Cameroon’s best hope for industrial mining in the near future.” However, despite the company’s spectacular declaration and the US diplomat’s rosy outlook, Geovic’s project site remained mostly fallow until, in 2014, the company finally up and left. There had once been hope that Geovic’s activities could be transformative for the country’s economy, and the East region. But by the time the company departed, it had still yet to extract any minerals whatsoever. In fact, the most lasting legacy of the company’s presence may well be a handful of decrepit announcement boards that are still standing in some surrounding villages. African Arguments



Photo: Adam Jones