Media Review for March 18, 2016

Pentagon Issues Travel Advise Against Five W/African Nations
The Pentagon has issued a travel warning to its military personnel against travelling to five West African nations considered unsafe destinations following last Sunday’s attack on a beachfront in the Ivorian resort town of Grand-Bassam which killed 22 people.According to the warning issued by the Pentagon on Thursday, the countries mentioned as off-limit for unofficial travel by its military personnel are Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal, Guinea and Burkina Faso. Pentagon spokeswoman, Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza said the travel warning came into effect this week and will remain in place until June 30. Baldanza acknowledged that the order was issued in reaction to the recent attacks in West Africa over the past few months, targeting hotels in Burkina Faso, Mali and Ivory Coast between November 2015 and March this year. “We felt it prudent to make this decision at this time in an effort to ensure the safety of our personnel… but it does not restrict official travel to the countries involved” she added.  APA on StarAfrica

Khartoum Could Close Border With S. Sudan over Juba Support to Rebels
A Sudanese presidential aide Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid on Thursday warned that his government may close the border with South Sudan if Juba continues its support to rebel groups in Darfur and the Two Areas. Following a meeting between President Omer al-Bashir with the head of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, Hamid told reporters that the meeting touched on the continued support that Juba provides to Sudanese rebels groups. “If the South Sudan does not stop supporting the insurgency we will have to take action to protect the country, even if it led to the closure of the border again,” he said, adding “We are waiting for the implementation of the Cooperation Agreements signed with the South Sudan since 2012, so there will be no security problems between the two countries.” Sudan Tribune

Western Sahara Independence Group Warns of War if UN Leaves
Rebels seeking independence for Western Sahara warned Thursday that “the shortest way to the resumption of war” is if the U.N. ends its peacekeeping mission in the disputed territory — and they say that’s Morocco’s aim. The Polisario Front’s U.N. representative, Ahmed Boukhari, spoke to reporters after Morocco ordered 84 international staff in the peacekeeping mission to leave within three days and reiterated the country’s termination of $3 million in funding for the U.N. operation, to protest recent remarks by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Boukhari told reporters that the U.N. Security Council, which was meeting behind closed doors Thursday to discuss Morocco’s actions, must defend the U.N. presence in Western Sahara. “If there is no mission, there is a vacuum and an invitation to war,” he said.  AP on The Washington Post

Morocco Orders 84 UN Staffers to Leave Western Sahara
The United Nations says Morocco has ordered 84 international staff members in the UN peacekeeping mission for Western Sahara to leave within three days, in protest at comments by the UN secretary-general about the disputed territory. The UN calls Morocco’s order “unprecedented.” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on Thursday called the order a unilateral action “in clear contradiction” of Morocco’s international obligations and a challenge to the UN Security Council, which authorised the UN mission. The mission is meant to monitor a 1991 cease-fire and help organize a referendum on Western Sahara’s future. That has never taken place. The council has a closed briefing on Thursday on Morocco’s actions by the UN political chief. Dujarric says UN peacekeeping officials are preparing for a number of options, including ending the mission.  News 24

Sassou Nguesso: From Congo Commando to Entrenched Strongman
Republic of Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso, seeking a third term in Sunday’s election, began his political career as a Marxist-Leninist and has become a wealthy strongman determined to extend his 32 years in power. One of Africa’s five longest-serving leaders, having first taken office in 1979, he used the army as a springboard to power, while allegedly amassing a fortune. Sassou Nguesso has come under pressure in former colonial power France about his lavish lifestyle, with rights groups pressing for a probe into his acquisition of luxury homes and expensive automobiles. French judges are investigating the supposedly vast “ill-gotten gains” of the Congolese leader and his extended family despite him warning them in 2013 to lay off “domestic affairs”. AFP on Yahoo News

Congo’s Entrenched Sassou Nguesso Seeks to Extend Presidency in Poll
Congo Republic President Denis Sassou Nguesso will seek to extend his long years of rule in polls on Sunday, falling back on his stranglehold over national institutions and his image as a stabilising force to fend off festering discontent. His re-election, which analysts say is all but assured, would mark a setback for efforts to foster democratic transition in African countries with long-ruling leaders. Sassou Nguesso pushed through changes to the constitution in a referendum last September, altering the term and age limits that would have barred the 72-year-old from standing for another five-year mandate. Having ruled the oil-producing nation from 1979 to 1992, when he lost an election, Sassou Nguesso regained power in 1997 after a brief civil war and then went on to win disputed elections in 2002 and 2009. His supporters credit him with restoring stability and developing the country’s infrastructure. Reuters

Meet the Colorado Businessman who is Running for President in Congo
On paper, the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of Africa’s richest nations. Its eastern hills are estimated to contain about $24 trillion worth of mineral deposits, including gold, diamonds, copper and cobalt. Its nearly 200 million acres of arable land could feed much of Africa, and the mighty Congo River holds the power to light up the continent. Yet it remains one of the poorest, most hopeless and corrupt nations on Earth. More than two decades of conflict — fueled by an array of militias, some supported by the country’s eastern neighbors — have killed millions and caused the United Nations to label Congo the rape capital of the world. Now a businessman in Denver is trying to convince donors and influencers that he can turn Congo around. Emmanuel Weyi, who was born in the Central African nation and founded a fair-trade mining company with operations in four Congolese provinces, is running for president in elections slated for November. LA Times

Niger Opposition Says ‘Will Not Recognize’ Poll Result
Niger’s opposition said Thursday it “will not recognize” the result of Sunday’s presidential election run-off. The opposition coalition called for “a political transition to allow the organisation of new democratic, free, legitimate, transparent and honest elections.” In a statement, it said it would also not recognize “institutions emanating from Sunday’s presidential and legislative elections.” Opposition challenger Hama Amadou, currently receiving medical treatment in Paris, came second in the first round last month, trailing well behind incumbent President Mahamadou Issoufou. Amadou, a 66-year-old former premier and parliament speaker, traveled to Paris on Tuesday having been held in jail on shadowy baby-trafficking charges. A government spokesman said Amadou had suffered from “a chronic illness for three years” and needed specialist care that “does not exist in Niamey.”  AFP on The Daily Star Lebanon

Nigeria Military Denies Undermining Free Speech
The Nigerian military has seized newspapers accused of publishing seditious materials that could undermine the country’s unity, as well as negatively impact the ongoing fight against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, according to military spokesman Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman. The seizures are reportedly generating anti-government sentiment in the country’s Igbo-speaking southeast. Army officials say officers seized newspapers from newsstands in the city of Aba. Officials say the publications call for secession of the region from Nigeria. The affected newspapers include Authority Newspapers, Voice of South-East, Vesym, the New Republic and the Freedom Journal. Usman dismissed the idea that the seizures would whip up anti-government sentiment. The army works hard to ensure the West African country maintains its territorial integrity, he said. However, he added, it is regrettable that people would seek to use the country’s freedom of speech to thwart social cohesion and unity. VOA

Libya’s U.N.-Backed Government to Move to Tripoli Within Days: PM
Libya’s U.N.-backed unity government will move to Tripoli from Tunis “within a few days”, its prime minister said in a television interview broadcast on Thursday. Fayez Seraj said a security plan agreed with police and military forces in Tripoli, with some armed groups, and with the United Nations, would allow the Presidential Council and the government it nominated to transfer to the Libyan capital. The unity government was named under a plan to end the political chaos and conflict that has beset Libya since the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi five years ago. Since 2014, the country has had two rival parliaments and governments, one based in Tripoli and one in the east. “We, the government of national accord, will be in the capital Tripoli soon … within a few days,” Seraj told Jordan-based Libya HD channel in a pre-recorded interview. Reuters

How the Islamic State Came to Libya
The Islamic state is seemingly on the ascent in Libya. It controls territory, including the coastal city of Sirte, and over the past several weeks it has launched a series of spectacular attacks in Libya and Tunisia. So how did ISIS gain a foothold in Libya? I put that question to Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Phd candidate and proprietor of Aaron explains how the Islamic State in Libya can trace its start to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in the mid 2000s, and how through a series of contests it muscled out other jihadist groups in Libya to become a potent and destabilizing force for the entire region. If you are interested in learning more about what will be one of the defining global security challenges of the near future, have a listen. UN Dispatch

Guinea Confirms 2 New Ebola Cases, 3 Probable in Southeast
Two bodies tested positive for Ebola in Guinea, the government said Thursday, months after the outbreak was declared over in the West African country and hours after Sierra Leone announced the end of the recent flare-up of the virus there. The cases emerged from the same family out of Koropara, in the N’Zerekore prefecture, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southeast of Guinea’s capital, Conakry, said Ibrahima Sylla, a spokesman for the national coordination for the fight against Ebola. Sylla said there are three other probable cases, and health authorities are taking appropriate measures to contain the spread. An emergency meeting will be held Friday with the Ministry of Health, said Dr. Sakoba Keita, the national coordinator of the fight against Ebola. Earlier Thursday, the deputy director general of the N’Zerekore Regional Hospital, Dr. Zoba Guilavogui, said a man and woman from the same family died of an illness like Ebola, but tests were pending.  AP on The New York Times

Zanzibar Opposition’s Election Boycott Could Deepen Political Crisis
Zanzibar is preparing for an election rerun Sunday, after polls were nullified in the region last year. But the main opposition party is urging a boycott, and problems with ballot papers are causing many to wonder how a rerun will result in a better electoral process. Three days after Tanzanians cast their ballots in national elections last October, Zanzibar Electoral Commission Chairman Jecha Salim Jecha announced he would be annulling the island’s elections and holding new ones due to “violations of electoral law.” The opposition has dismissed these claims. Justification Zanzibar Law Society president Omar Said Shaaban says the constitution allows for the electoral commission chairman to nullify polls on or before election day. “But this time, nullification happened three days after the election day, which is not something constitutionally provided,” he said. VOA

Cameroon Soldiers Kill 20 Boko Haram Fighters in Nigeria
Cameroonian soldiers killed 20 Boko Haram fighters on Wednesday during a raid in northern Nigeria carried out by a multinational force tasked with stamping out the Islamist militants, military sources told Reuters on Thursday. Cameroon commander General Jacob Kodji said the Islamist fighters were killed in the Nigerian town of Djibrila, which is about 10 km (six miles) from the Cameroon border. A spokesman for Cameroon’s Defence Ministry, Colonel Didier Badjeck, said 12 hostages were freed and munitions and armoured vehicles were seized during the operation. Boko Haram wants to establish an Islamist state in northeastern Nigeria and has waged a six-year campaign of violence to that end, killing thousands of people and displacing two million others. Boko Haram is thought to have killed around 15,000 people, according to U.S. military figures. Reuters

Ghana: Security Chiefs Issue Terror Attack Alert
Ghana’s top security officials have warned locals and foreign residents to be vigilant and to report any suspicious character to security agencies, as the country faces a “credible terrorist threat” after its neighbours suffered a sequence of deadly attacks. The warning follow a high powered meeting of security organs on Tuesday to review the security situation in the country following an upsurge in terrorist attacks in the West Africa sub-region – Mali, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire – and intelligence gathering on increased extremist activities in the region. Parliament also met top security chiefs on Monday to discuss the country’s preparedness to respond to a possible threat. The meeting came days after a terrorist group launched an attack on neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire’s three hotels in the beach resort city of Grand-Bassam, killing 16 people last Sunday, while in January a similar attack at a hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, claimed 28 lives and injured 56. Africa Report

South Africa Gupta row: ANC’s Mantashe Warns of ‘Mafia State’
South Africa risks turning into a “mafia state”, a senior governing party official has warned, as pressure grows on President Jacob Zuma over his links with a wealthy family. Gwede Mantashe made the comments after deputy Finance Minister Mcebesi Jonas alleged the Gupta family had offered him a government promotion. During a rowdy parliamentary session, Mr Zuma denied the family had influenced cabinet appointments. The opposition called on him resign. Mr Mantashe is the third most powerful person in the governing African National Congress (ANC), and his remarks suggest Mr Zuma may be losing the confidence of influential members of the party as well, correspondents say. Mr Zuma’s presidency has been marred by allegations of corruption, cronyism and incompetence, amid a worsening economic situation. BBC

Who Really Runs South Africa?
More and more connections between South African President Jacob Zuma and the Indian Gupta family are coming to light as allegations regarding top government jobs offered by the infamous family continue to surface. The opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) laid corruption charges against the controversial family at the Cape Town police station on Thursday (17.03.2016). President Jacob Zuma was questioned in parliament about the Guptas’ political influence. Zuma, however, denied any involvement and reiterated that he alone holds the power to appoint cabinet members. The Guptas have forged political connections to members of the ruling party and especially to the president himself over the last ten years. The family brothers Ajay, Atul (pictured above with the president’s son, Duduzane Zuma) and Rajesh Gupta, all in their 40s, moved to South Africa from India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh in Saharanpur in 1993, just as white minority rule was ending and the country was opening up to the rest of the world.  Deutsche Welle

Jacob Zuma: South Africa President Fighting for His Political Future as Millions March to Demand Resignation
Increasingly pugnacious, Jacob Zuma wanted there to be no doubt. “I appoint the ministers here,” he declared, attempting to address claims that the South African state has effectively been captured by Indian billionaires. Shortly after, the chamber of the National Assembly emptied. Mr Zuma, leader of a nation racked by drought and economic crisis, is fighting for his political future as millions of South Africans march to demand his resignation. Unseen at the National Assembly in Cape Town were members of the Gupta family, three brothers alleged to have had a hand in Mr Zuma’s decisions for almost a decade. Mr Zuma, the leader of an African National Congress (ANC) subject to infighting, has survived two votes of “no confidence” in the past year. But now even his allies are distancing themselves. “He’s not untouchable, he’s the President,” the ANC general secretary, Gwede Mantashe, told Reuters. “Why should we see this as a crisis instead of a positive? It will embolden people to come to the fore… so we can find the business people who are tampering within the ANC.”  The Independent

China and Gambia Resume Diplomatic Ties
Taiwan faces increasing diplomatic isolation after China announced on Thursday it will resume ties with the island’s former ally Gambia. China suspended relations with Gambia in 1995, when the African nation chose to officially recognise self-ruled Taiwan. Though Taiwan is self-ruled and split from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war, Beijing has repeatedly asserted its belief that there is only “one China” and that the island is still part of its territory awaiting reunification. “The ‘one China’ principle’ is the political premise and foundation for China’s establishment and development of diplomatic ties with any nation,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement announcing the rapprochement with Gambia.  News 24

Africa’s $700 Billion Problem Waiting to Happen
Back in 2002, Meles Zenawi, then prime minister of Ethiopia, drafted a foreign policy and national security white paper for his country. Before finalizing it, he confided to me a “nightmare scenario” — not included in the published version — that could upend the balance of power in the Horn of Africa region. The scenario went like this: Sudan is partitioned into a volatile south and an embittered north. The south becomes a sinkhole of instability, while the north is drawn into the Arab orbit. Meanwhile, Egypt awakens from its decades-long torpor on African issues and resumes its historical stance of attempting to undermine Ethiopia, with which it has a long-standing dispute over control of the Nile River. It does so by trying to bring Eritrea and Somalia into its sphere of influence, thereby isolating the government in Addis Ababa from its direct neighbors. Finally, Saudi Arabia begins directing its vast financial resources to support Ethiopia’s rivals and sponsor Wahhabi groups that challenge the traditionally dominant Sufis in the region, generating conflict and breeding militancy within the Muslim communities. Foreign Policy

Africa’s Ports: The Bottleneck
New investment alone will not fix Africa’s ports. Governments need to deal with pilfering officials, too. At the entrance to the Port of Mombasa, just in front of where machinegun toting policemen check visitors’ permits, is a shipping container mounted on a plinth. The Economist

How Did St. Patrick Get to Be the Patron Saint of Nigeria?
As Americans prepare to observe St. Patrick’s Day with pub crawls, parades, corned beef, and green clothing, beer and bagels, let’s not forget about that country for which Patrick is a patron saint. Irish bishops in Nigeria named St. Patrick, who is said to have died on March 17 in the year 461, as the country’s patron in 1961, the same year Ireland opened its embassy in Lagos. The Irish actually have a long history in the country: Irish nationalist Roger Casement — executed in Dublin in 1916 for his role in the Irish rebels’ Easter Rising — served as a British consular officer in Calabar, in southeastern Nigeria, during the 1890s. Casement’s interest in and sympathy for Africans under colonial rule was unusual for a European in the Victorian era, and likely helped shape his views on social justice. In the early 1920s, Irish priests of the Order of the Holy Ghost established their mission in southern Nigeria. Later St. Patrick’s Society for Foreign Missions, dedicated on March 17, 1932, became one of many Catholic groups in Nigeria providing education both religious and secular. NPR