Media Review for March 21, 2016

Africans Vote in ‘Super Sunday’
Elections have taken place in five African countries, while Senegal held a referendum on reducing presidential terms. A presidential run-off went ahead in Niger even though the opposition candidate was in a French hospital. Congo-Brazzaville has cut all telecommunications for two days to prevent “illegal publication of results” of its presidential election. Elections were also held in Benin, Cape Verde and Zanzibar. BBC

Benin PM Zinsou Concedes Defeat to Patrice Talon after Run-off
Benin’s outgoing Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou has conceded defeat to businessman Patrice Talon in Sunday’s presidential run-off. Mr Zinsou posted on Facebook that he had called Mr Talon to congratulate him “on his victory and wish him luck”. President Thomas Boni Yayi is stepping down after two terms. Mr Talon, known as the “king of cotton”, used to be his close ally but was accused of masterminding a plot to poison him in 2012.  BBC

Congo Holds Elections Under Telecom Blackout
Congo holds elections on Sunday under a media blackout in a tense vote expected to see President Denis Sassou Nguesso prolong his 32-year rule over the oil-rich but poor nation. Interior Minister Raymond Mboulou wrote to telecommunication companies urging them to shut off telephone, Internet and SMS services for 48 hours for “reasons of security and national safety”. A government source told AFP the shutdown was intended to stop any “illegal” publication of the results. Tensions have been running high in Congo since October, when a public referendum backed removing a two-term limit that would have kept 72-year-old former paratrooper colonel Sassou Nguesso from power. Daily Nation

Opposition Returns to Power in Cape Verde after 15 years
Cape Verde’s main opposition party won an absolute majority in general elections, according to nearly complete results, ousting the PAICV after 15 years in power. The head of the ruling party, Janira Hopffer Almada, conceded defeat after the liberal opposition MPD party took more than 53 percent of the vote with nearly all ballots counted. MPD leader Correia e Silva said the results showed “a clear desire for change” in the impoverished west African archipelago, which lies 500 kilometres (300 miles) off the coast of Senegal. The prime minister designate said there was “much work (to do) because we need a country with stronger economic growth to solve the unemployment problem and reduce poverty”. The results see the PAIVC lose power in the tiny former Portuguese colony of half a million people for the first time since 2001. AFP on Yahoo News

Turnout Low in Senegal Vote on Constitutional Change
Turnout was low for Senegal’s controversial referendum on sweeping constitutional reforms on Sunday, including cutting the presidential term from seven to five years. There were no queues and few voters visible in polling stations visited by AFP in areas of the capital in the early morning. The situation was much the same after midday. No official turnout was immediately given after polls closed at 1800 GMT, but it was hovering around 25 percent in the afternoon. “Voters are trickling in,” said an official in a polling station. An Electoral Commission spokesman added: “Enthusiasm is not as high as during legislative or presidential elections.” The first official results are expected on Monday at the earliest. The referendum caused controversy as President Macky Sall was elected in 2012 partly on a platform to reduce the presidential mandate from seven years to five. AFP on Yahoo News

Zanzibar Holds Presidential Elections Despite Opposition’s Boycott
Some 500,000 voters were eligible to cast ballots in presidential and legislative elections of Tanzania’s semi-autonomous islands. The security situation in Zanzibar has been tense following the arrests of Civic United Front (CUF) activists and leaders. The authorities also banned public rallies to avoid conflict between rival parties. The election rerun took place after the Zanzibar Election Commission (ZEC) annulled the results of the first poll in October on allegations of fraud. However, diplomats and election observers said they found no evidence of “massive fraud” as claimed by the ZEC chairman, Jecha Salim Jecha. CUF leaders alleged the cancellation of the October vote was meant to prevent their leader Seif Sharif Hamad from forming government. Sharif had declared himself the winner before results were officially announced. Deutsche Welle

Somalia Army Battles Al-Shabaab West of Capital; Dozens Killed
Al-Shabaab militants attacked a Somali army base west of the capital, leading to clashes in which a resident and the al-Qaeda-linked group said dozens of people were killed. Islamist fighters stormed the camp in Lanta Buro town, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Mogadishu, in violence that involved heavy machine-gun fire, resident Ahmed Aden said by phone. He said he’d counted dozens of bodies around the base. Radio Andalus, a broadcaster that supports the insurgents, said al-Shabaab had killed at least 73 government soldiers. Isse Ali, a Somali army officer, said by phone that troops quickly repulsed the raid. He said al-Shabaab had suffered heavy losses, declining to comment on any casualties on his own side.  Bloomberg

KDF Soldiers Kill 34 Al-Shabaab Militants in Two Days
The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers on Saturday killed 21 Al-Shabaab militants in a shootout in Lower Juba Region in Somalia and recovered weapons. Two KDF soldiers also died in the shootout on Saturday afternoon. The KDF also recovered 19 AK-47 rifles, three rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and a pistol. The KDF spokesman Col David Obonyo said that a convoy of KDF soldiers operating under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) were on their way to Afmadow when they engaged Al-Shabaab militants who had laid an ambush in the Lower Juba Region. “Regrettably, KDF suffered two fatalities and five injuries,” Col Obonyo said. Daily Nation

Isis Mortar Kills at Least 13 Police at Egyptian Checkpoint
At least 13 Egyptian policemen were killed in the Sinai peninsula when Islamic militants fired a mortar round at a security checkpoint in the city of Arish, security and medical sources said on Saturday. Islamic State claimed responsibility on several websites for the attack and Egyptian state media later confirmed it. Ambulances were subjected to heavy gunfire as they attempted to reach the wounded, sources said. Eyewitnesses reported hearing a massive explosion and said the city’s entrances and exits had been closed off by security forces. Security sources said government forces later killed five of the militants who had carried out the attack. The Guardian

UN Staffers Pull Out of Western Sahara Mission
Dozens of United Nations international staffers pulled out of their Western Sahara mission on Sunday after Morocco demanded they leave because of Ban Ki-Moon’s remarks about the disputed territory, Morocco’s state news agency and a source said. MAP state news agency said a “significant number” of UN staffers had left Laayoune airport in U.N. aircraft and commercial flights to Las Palmas in Spain. The source said 73 U.N. staffers had left, 10 would leave in the afternoon and one would remain for now. Rabat accused Ban earlier this month of no longer being neutral in the Western Sahara dispute. France 24

Rockets Hit Algeria Gas Plant in Attack Claimed by Qaeda
Rockets on Friday struck an Algerian gas plant run by foreign energy giants in an attack claimed by Al-Qaeda, three years after a deadly hostage crisis at another facility in the country. There were no casualties reported in the attack on the plant operated by Britain’s BP, Norway’s Statoil and Algerian company Sonatrach. It was claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on its Telegram channel in a message saying that it comes within its “war on the interest of the Crusaders in every place,” according to SITE Intelligence Group. Friday’s attack was the most serious since other Al-Qaeda-linked militants stormed a complex in Algeria’s remote east in 2013 and began a four-day siege that left dozens dead. AFP on Yahoo News

Tunisia Dissident Forms Own Political Party
A dissident member of the Nidaa Tounes party founded by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi on Sunday launched his own political grouping, several months after quitting the party. Mohsen Marzouk, former Nidaa Tounes general secretary, announced in front of thousands of supporters the creation of the Tounes Movement Project with policies based on those of Habib Bourguiba who led the North African country to independence. The new party also opposes the moderate Islamist Ennahda, which became the largest group in parliament after 22 lawmakers quit Nidaa Tounes in January. AFP on The Daily Mail

Tunisia’s First Freely Elected President: The ‘Arab Spring’ is a European Creation
Beji Caïd Essebsi, 89, was elected president of Tunisia in 2014 after running for the secular Nidaa Tounes party. Previously, he served as prime minister in 2011 and as foreign minister from 1981 to 1986. He sat down with The Washington Post at his presidential palace a few days before the country’s Independence Day, which it marks Sunday, to discuss the five years since the uprising in Tunisia and security challenges in the region. The interview, which has been edited, was conducted in Arabic and French. Mr. President, congratulations on Tunisia’s Independence Day. Thank you very much. What do you think when people congratulate you on the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring? The Tunisian Spring. Why not the ‘Arab Spring?’ Because the ‘Arab Spring’ is a European creation; it is neither a Tunisian nor an Arab creation. The first time I heard of it was during the G8 meeting in Deauville, France, in 2011. My reaction then was that there was no Arab Spring. The Washington Post

EU Fears New Surge of Migrants from Libya, Plans Mission
Nearly half a million people displaced in Libya could travel to Europe, the EU’s foreign policy chief has told the bloc’s foreign ministers in a letter, urging action to prevent another escalation in the region’s migration crisis. In the message seen by Reuters, Federica Mogherini warned that people traffickers were operating freely in Libya and said the EU was working on sending a civilian security mission to boost the country’s police, border forces and counter-terrorism operations. The letter, sent on March 12, came in the build-up to a series of top-level meetings on the migration crisis, including one hosted by Britain in Brussels on Friday with Mogherini and leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Malta. Diplomats and activists have said they are concerned Libya could be forgotten while the bloc focuses on reaching a deal with Turkey to return refugees from Greece. An effective deal with Turkey may also push traffickers to focus on other routes to smuggle migrants to Europe. Reuters

Libya: Stoking Conflict
High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. Libya’s oil facilities are the economic lifeblood of the two dominant factions in the country’s civil war — the Islamist-backed General National Congress in Tripoli and the House of Representatives which was elected in 2014 but forced out to Tubruq. “The raiders [Isis] have most of the weaponry possessed by the Libyan army — and better,” says Ali al-Hassi, spokesman for the Petroleum Defence Guards, a militia that backs the HoR and guards the vast refineries and pipelines of the Sirte basin, Libya’s oil crescent. “New cars. Powerful rockets. The most modern guns. We expect them to attack us again at any moment.” The attacks, western intelligence officials believe, mark a new phase in the two-year conflict, where Isis has shifted its focus from local insurgent operations and land grabs to broader regional ambitions. Its immediate aim is to undermine any prospect of a functioning unity government in Libya, which is also facing increased flows of migrants trying to reach Europe. Financial Times

Al Qaeda, Seeking to Reassert Itself, Sets Sights on West Africa and Foreign Visitors
Al Qaeda and its allies have a new strategy for spreading fear in West Africa. Once focused on taking hostages for ransom and striking military targets in the desert, the terrorist network has been sending small groups of nimble gunmen to attack hotels, resorts and other soft targets where Westerners congregate. The latest assault came Sunday in Ivory Coast, where the dead included 15 civilians. The shift is an attempt by Al Qaeda and its affiliates to gain visibility as the world’s attention has turned to threats from Islamic State militants. It is also a response to a French military offensive against insurgents in the region as well as airstrikes and other interventions by the U.S. and its allies in Africa and the Middle East. “It’s almost a symbolic reminder that this is a serious force to be reckoned with,” said Paul Rogers, a terrorism analyst at the University of Bradford in England, describing Al Qaeda’s recent attacks and its fight for relevance. “It doesn’t have the capacity to take on military forces head on, so it’s concentrating on soft targets with high impact.” LA Times

Cameroon Death Sentences Will Bolster Boko Haram: Expert
Cameroon has sentenced 89 members of Islamist militant group Boko Haram to death, local media reported on Wednesday. The decision has already been condemned by human rights groups and experts. A military court convicted the 89 people of terror charges for allegedly participating in several attacks in Cameroon’s northern region, which borders Nigeria. Hundreds of people have been killed in Cameroon in Boko Haram attacks in the past year. In 2014 Cameroon passed an anti-terror law, which introduced the death sentence for recruiters, as well as perpetrators of attacks. This law has however been condemned by rights groups, including Amnesty International. RFI

Cameroonian, Nigerian Forces Free Hundreds of Boko Haram Hostages
The militaries of Cameroon and Nigeria have freed hundreds of hostages held by Boko Haram, including dozens of girls and women either forcefully married or held as sex slaves. The captives were freed after raids on the town of Achigachia, which straddles Cameroon and Nigeria. VOA was able to talk to several of them. Speaking in Kanouri, a language spoken in northern Cameroon and northeastern Nigeria, Aisha Moussa said that after her parents asked her to get married at age 14 last year, her husband took her to the Sambissa forest, a stronghold of Boko Haram situated on the Cameroon-Nigeria border. She said that while she was there, her husband led a group of motorcycle riders who transported Boko Haram fighters to steal, kidnap and kill in cattle ranches, farms and markets, both in Cameroon and Nigeria. VOA

Eritrea Releases Four Djiboutian Soldiers after Eight Years Imprisonment
After nearly eight years in prison, four Djiboutian prisoners-of-war have been released by Eritrea. A total of 19 POWs were captured by Eritrea in June 2008 during a border skirmish, but some of them escaped prison in September 2011, said Djibouti’s Ambassador to the U.S. and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mohamed Siad Doualeh. The others remain in detention. The release was negotiated by Qatar and the freed soldiers were flown back to their home country on March 18 on a Qatari Airways plane accompanied by Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani. Upon landing they knelt down to kiss the ground and were met by dignitaries as a military band played. Later they met with Djibouti’s President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh. Ambassador Doualeh, told VOA that the prisoners had been held “incommunicado” over the years without the ability to communicate with their government or families. VOA

DRC Extradites Key Suspect in Rwandan Genocide
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s justice minister says one of the most wanted suspects in the 1994 Rwandan genocide has now been extradited home to face charges. Ladislas Ntaganzwa’s arrest in eastern DRC late last year came more than two decades after the genocide in which more than 800 000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by extremist Hutus. Congolese Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba made the announcement on Sunday. Rwandan authorities have said they want to try him on charges of participating in the planning and execution of the massacre of more than 20,000 Tutsis over a four-day period. News 24

Former UN Official Accuses World Body of ‘Colossal Mismanagement’
A former United Nations official with decades of experience in senior positions accused the world body of “colossal mismanagement,” saying it had failed to uphold the principles for which it was established. Anthony Banbury, former head of the UN mission to combat the Ebola epidemic in west Africa, made the remarks in an opinion column on the New York Times website on Friday. He had overseen the establishment of the UN mission to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program. “In terms of its overall mission, thanks to colossal mismanagement, the United Nations is failing,” Banbury said. A UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric responded that UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, was committed to improving the organisation’s efficiency. The Guardian

Burundi Links Violence to European Union Sanctions
Burundi has warned the European Union that economic sanctions against the country over human-rights concerns could fan violence, blaming terror groups for the ongoing attacks on civilians and security forces. After consultations with the EU Council, Burundi said the economic bloc ignored the positive steps taken to restore peace, saying it had made “significant progress” in containing the violence. “We regret the decision made by the EU without considering the significant advances, efforts and progress despite the challenges posed by terrorist groups that have chosen to target civilians and security forces,” said Burundi government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba. The East African

Saudi Offers $1.5bn to Fund Egypt’s Sinai Projects
Egypt said on Sunday that Saudi Arabia has offered $1.5bn to help finance economic projects in the Sinai Peninsula, as Riyadh continues to bolster its ties with Cairo. Saudi Arabia, a staunch supporter of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime, has previously offered billions of dollars in aid to Egypt since the 2013 ouster of Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi. In December, Riyadh pledged $8bn in investment and aid to Egypt over five years, but it was unclear whether the Sinai offer was part of this. Egypt’s International Co-operation Minister Sahar Nasr signed a “$1.5bn agreement with the Saudi Development Fund for developing projects in the Sinai Peninsula”, a ministry statement said. News 24

Aga Khan Accused of Squeezing Kenya Press Freedom after Newspaper Sacks Cartoonist and Journalists
[…] The Daily Nation, East Africa’s most influential newspaper, is owned by Prince Karim Aga Khan, a British businessman and the hereditary leader of the world’s 15 million Ismaili Shias, who confer him with “demi-god” status. He now stands accused of acquiescing to demands from the Kenyan government to gag the newspaper in a bid to protect his business interests in the country. The government is by far the country’s biggest advertiser and has the power to extend or rescind tax breaks. Prince Karim, whose father’s ex-wives included the actress Rita Hayworth, grew up in Nairobi and founded the Daily Nation in 1960, building it into the country’s foremost newspaper. But his vast business empire – including the Aga Khan hospital, the Serena hotel chain, insurers and a Kenyan bank – has long since dwarfed his media interests. As his empire has grown, so, too, have his vulnerabilities. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni’s antagonism to Prince Karim’s media interests led to a “taming” of his newspaper the Daily Monitor.  The East African

Why Road Construction is Pushing Lions out of Nairobi National Park
A leading Kenyan wildlife expert has said the noise from road construction is scaring lions out of Nairobi National Park and could lead to the death of people or the lions. A lion injured a 63-old man Friday after it strayed from the Nairobi park into a major highway during the morning rush hour. Kenya Wildlife Service rangers captured and returned it to the park. It was third incident in the last two months of lions straying from the park. The construction of a road joining two of the city’s major highways along the boundary of the Nairobi park is disorienting the lions, said wildlife expert Paula Kahumbu. CS Monitor



Photo: Adam Jones