Media Review for March 22, 2016

Gunmen Attack EU Military Training Base in Mali Capital
Unidentified gunmen attacked a hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako on Monday that had been converted into a base for a European Union military training mission in the West African nation, a Defence Ministry official and a witness said. European military sources said that there were no casualties among the staff of the base, and that one of the attackers had been killed. Three of the four attackers had fled the scene, according to FRANCE 24’s sister radio station Radio France Internationale (RFI).  France 24

Partial Niger Election Results Show President Heading for Big Win
Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou is heading for a crushing victory in a run-off election that became a near-formality when the opposition coalition declared a boycott, partial results on Tuesday showed. With 226 constituencies counted from a total of 308, Issoufou received 93 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to the national electoral commission. Turnout was around 61 percent. Issoufou, an ally of the West in its fight against Islamist insurgents in West Africa, won the first round comfortably last month with 48 percent of votes but failed to clinch the outright majority required to avoid a second round.  Reuters on Yahoo News

Niger Opposition Rejects ‘Sham’ Run-off over Low Turnout
Niger’s opposition on Monday slammed the final round of the country’s presidential elections as a “sham” due to a low voter turnout, challenging any attempts to claim victory by incumbent President Mahamadou Issoufou. Voter participation was a crucial issue in Sunday’s vote following the opposition’s boycott call and the dramatic evacuation of Issoufou’s challenger, Hama Amadou, suddenly flown from jail to Paris last week for medical treatment. “The people of Niger have massively rejected this sham of an election,” said the COPA 2016 opposition coalition. It claimed the voter turnout was a mere 11 percent nationwide, against the official estimate of 56 percent.  AFP on Yahoo News

Patrice Talon: From Self-made Tycoon to New African leader
Benin’s new president Patrice Talon, dubbed the “King of Cotton”, is a self-made tycoon with a bling-bling style in marked contrast to the more austere past rulers of the West African country. The 57-year-old drove to a polling station on Sunday in a Porsche and has vowed a “new beginning” for the tiny coastal nation where high unemployment is a major problem. The tycoon, who made his money in the key cotton sector and running Cotonou’s port — a regional maritime hub — is one of the most powerful figures in Beninese business. He looks the part with designer glasses, his Jaguar sports cars and his fondness for the chic George V hotel in Paris. But he became public enemy number one of former president Thomas Boni Yayi, whose successful election campaigns he bankrolled in 2006 and 2011. AFP on Yahoo News

Tanzanian Ruling Party Declared Winner in Zanzibar Re-run Vote
The ruling party candidate in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar was declared the winner in a re-run of presidential elections boycotted by the opposition. The incumbent Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein, of the national ruling CCM party, won 91.4 percent of the votes in Sunday’s ballot, the electoral body said after it annulled the initial poll in October that the opposition said it had won. In October, the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) called for a re-run citing fraud, a charge the opposition said was made up. The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) warned of violence if the re-run went ahead on the Indian Ocean archipelago, but voting proceeded calmly. The Independent

Jean-Pierre Bemba: DR Congo Ex-warlord Guilty of War Crimes
Former Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has been found guilty of war crimes in a landmark trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bemba, 53, was accused of failing to stop his rebels from killing and raping people in neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003. He had sent more than 1,000 fighters to help put down an attempted coup. Bemba, once vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, will remain in custody until sentencing. The court in The Hague found him guilty of several charges including rape and murder. He is expected to appeal. BBC

Protest, Tear Gas in Congo as Sassou Nguesso Seeks to Extend Rule
Police fired tear gas at opposition supporters in Congo Republic on Sunday, witnesses said, after voting ended in a poll expected to see long-time leader Denis Sassou Nguesso extend his three-decade rule. The government ordered mobile phone and internet services cut for the day across the oil-producing Central African country “for reasons of security and public tranquillity”, a government official said. It also banned motor vehicle use nationwide. Despite protests in which at least 18 demonstrators died, Sassou Nguesso pushed through constitutional changes in October to remove term and age limits that would have prevented him from standing again. He is now heavily favoured to win the polls. He faces eight opponents, including retired General Jean-Marie Mokoko, seen as the strongest challenger. “I want this to go well. I don’t want war, which is often what happens after these elections,” said Damien Kiongazi, who returned home to the capital Brazzaville from Paris to vote. Reuters

Nigeria: Air Force Fighter Jets Pound Boko Haram Logistics Base in Yobe
As part of the collective effort by the Armed Forces to expeditiously bring to an end the war against insurgency in the Northeast, Nigerian Air Force Alpha Jet at the weekend successfully attacked suspected Boko Haram Logistics Base at Allagarno. Director of Airforce Public Relations, Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa who made the disclosure on Monday in a statement, noted that “The target was selected after careful Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) by NAF Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV)”. He continued, “The mission; that was carried out in support of surface forces in order to further degrade the fighting capacity of the remnants of the insurgents, was successful as seen in the video of the Battlefield Damage Assessment (BDA) carried out by the UCAV. “The target was probably an ammunition depot, a fuel dump or a facility housing other combustible materials. “This effort is likely to create certain logistics constraints for the terrorists along the Allagarno axis.  Vanguard

Nigeria’s Missing Chibok Schoolgirls Were Once Located by US, UK, But Rescue Mission Deemed Too Risky
Former British High Commissioner to Nigeria Andrew Pocock said Sunday the United States and the United Kingdom knew the whereabouts of at least 80 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria but failed to launch a rescue operation. In an interview with British newspaper the Sunday Times, Pocock revealed that the Western governments felt “powerless” to save the girls and young women. Boko Haram militants descended on a boarding school in northeast Nigeria on the night of April 14, 2014. By morning, the extremist group had herded 276 schoolgirls into trucks and vanished behind the forest brush in the town of Chibok. Some of the girls have managed to escape on their own since then, but more than 200 are still missing, and government search efforts have been unsuccessful despite a global social media campaign and pleas from international leaders.  International Business Times

Nigeria Electoral Staff ‘Killed and Kidnapped’ in Rivers State
Nigeria’s electoral commission says some of its staff were killed, injured and kidnapped during an election re-run on Saturday in Rivers state. An Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) spokesman blamed the violence on “armed thugs… allegedly acting on behalf of some politicians”. Voting was suspended in most areas of the oil-rich state, which has suffered from political unrest in the past. A re-run was ordered after legal disputes over elections in 2015. BBC

Nigeria’s “Frivolous” Anti-social Media Bill Just Won’t Go Away
Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, played an influential role in driving transparency and change during Nigeria’s elections last year, as citizens shared images of verified results from polling units around the country ahead of formal results being announced. President Muhammadu Buhari’s 10-month old government recognizes both the advantages of the technology—as well as the challenges it may present. This might have been what prompted the introduction of a so-called “social media bill” to the Nigerian Senate a few months ago. Nigerian internet activists and civil society groups have protested the bill’s vague wording and possible draconian punishment for saying the wrong thing online. Quartz

Zambia Arrests Opposition Leader for Saying President Misused Public Funds – Police
Zambian police on Monday arrested a leader of the opposition for saying President Edgar Lungu used public funds in a trip to a holiday resort last year, a spokeswoman said. Charity Munganga-Chanda said Erick Chanda, leader of the Fourth Revolution Party, was charged with defamation.  Reuters

Al-Shabaab Claim Killing at Least 73 Somali Troops
Militant group Al-Shabaab have claimed killing at least 73 Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers in an attack on Sunday. Al-Andalus, a broadcaster run by the jihadist group, claimed the heavily armed militants attacked the SNA camp at Lanta Bur, in Lower Shabelle, about 60km south of Mogadishu. “We killed all the soldiers in the garrison,” said Mr Abdulaziz Abu Mus’ab, the Al-Shabaab’s operations spokesman. Heavy weapons The said camp belongs to SNA’s 5th Brigade. Local residents testified that the confrontation was heavy, with both sides using both light and heavy weapons. The casualty levels were yet to be established independently. Africa Review

Bribes You Have to Pay ‘to Survive’ in Kenya
The shocking revelation that two out of every 10 people in Kenya seeking the most basic of services such as medical attention are forced to part with a bribe is the clearest indicator of a catastrophic failure in the tactics employed to fight corruption. A report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) details how Kenyans are forced to part with bribes for services as reporting a crime to the police or even obtaining a national identity card. The report also detailed how the size of bribes varied from one county to another, with Mandera in the north leading with the average bribe at $800 (Sh80,000). Africa Review

Sudan’s Islamists: From Salvation to Survival
There is an ideological vacuum at the heart of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), its leaders no longer interested in a radical or reforming Islamist project yet offering no alternative political vision. President Omar al-Bashir’s 2015 re-election signalled a strengthening of the political centre around its long-time leader, neutralising opposition and forcing an empty “national dialogue” process with little prospect of significant outcomes. The March 2016 death of Hassan al-Turabi, the Islamist “salvation” regime’s original architect, highlighted the absence of younger, credible figures to revive a project in terminal decline since he left government in the late 1990s. Bashir’s strengthening of power around a small coterie of senior politicians, the military and security services has accompanied development of a more pragmatic government focused on regime survival. This change should encourage the West to explore ways to induce a more constructive approach by Khartoum to settling the internal wars that block normal relations with an increasingly active player in the turbulent Middle East. International Crisis Group

Namibia’s President Geingob One Year On: A for Effort, D for Performance
As Namibians take stock of President Hage Geingob’s first year in office, they have much to ponder. This has been one of the most active years in Namibia’s one-party dominated politics for a long time. For ten years under former president Hifikepunye Pohamba, Namibians had become used to good-natured but listless leadership (ultimately rewarded with a Mo Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership at the end of his second term in 2015). But since coming to office on 21 March 2015, the 74-year-old Geingob has sought to shake off the inertia of the Pohamba era by declaring a “war on poverty” and adopting the slogan “no Namibian will be left behind”. This rhetoric has resonated with a Namibian populace struggling with an unemployment rate of 28% and one of the highest levels of inequality in the world. Expectations of more jobs, comprehensive welfare programmes and improved service delivery are high under Geingob. African Arguments

Ivory Coast Struggles to Keep Economy Afloat after Terror Attack
It’s exactly a week since al-Qaida gunmen opened fire indiscriminately on swimmers and diners last Sunday at a popular beachfront weekend getaway in Grand Bassam, the historic former capital of Ivory Coast. Bassam, as the sleepy, pretty town is known, is a short 25-mile ride from the economic capital and main city, Abidjan. Bassam is much favored by local families and visitors, including children of all ages. March 13 was a lazy, sweltering Sunday, as swimmers frolicked in the warm Atlantic Ocean waters, sunbathers enjoyed a day outdoors, and visitors and tourists sat down for lunch at hotels and restaurants overlooking the sea. That’s when al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, by its own admission, claims its black balaclava-clad militants, toting heavy weapons, first sprayed the palm-fringed beach. They fired in and out of the water before turning their weapons from the beach to the diners.  NPR

UN Accuses Morocco over Actions on Western Sahara mission
The United Nations said Monday that Morocco is now trying to expel military staff from the peacekeeping mission in the disputed Western Sahara days after ordering civilian staff to leave the country to protest remarks by U.N. secretary general during a recent visit. Morocco ordered 84 international staff members in the Western Sahara mission to leave to protest Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s use of the word “occupation” in describing the status of the vast mineral-rich territory during his first visit earlier this month to refugee camps in Algeria for the Sahrawis, as the region’s native inhabitants are known.  AP on Stars and Stripes

Isis’s Backup Plan to Retreat to Libya is Falling Apart
Libya has become Isis’s new frontier as it faces territorial loses in its stronghold in Iraq and Syria, but it faces major roadblocks to establishing a true back-up capital there, according to a new report. The Combating Terrorism Center report, published on 17 March, said the terrorist group Isis suffered “setbacks” in Libya and is struggling to expand there. The West Point center noted that there’s no doubt that Isis will remain a “violent threat” in Libya as it’s targeted in Iraq and Syria. But the center also said Isis’s Libya base would be a “poorer and more constrained organisation deprived of personnel, revenue, and the fundamental narrative tropes of governance and sectarianism that is has used to ‘remain and expand.’”  The Independent

Southern Libya Could Be New Frontier for IS: Experts
A potentially critical conflict has gone largely unnoticed in southern Libya yet could open up a gateway to sub-Saharan Africa for the Islamic State group, analysts say. IS has consolidated its hold along Libya’s northern coast, and experts are concerned the jihadists may now be pushing into the remote desert region of Fezzan in the southwest of the country. Sitting on the crossroads between Algeria, Niger and Chad, Fezzan offers lucrative sources of income from smuggling and already acts as a hideout for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) and other jihadist groups. It is one of Africa’s main drug routes, traversed by migrants from sub-Saharan Africa hoping to get to Europe as well as by foreign mercenaries, mostly African, heading to join IS at their Sirte stronghold in northeastern Libya. AFP on France 24

Israel’s Cancelled Plan on Ethiopian Jews Prompts Rally
Hundreds of Ethiopian Israelis marched in Jerusalem after the government cancelled plans to allow their relatives to emigrate from the African nation, calling the move discrimination. Police and organisers estimated the crowd at up to 2,000 people for Sunday’s march, which ended outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. “Stop the suffering, stop the discrimination, stop the racism,” demonstrators chanted, holding signs with similar slogans as well as pictures of relatives left behind in Ethiopia. Antaihe Cheol, a 30-year-old resident of northern Israel, said his father and brother have been waiting to immigrate for 20 years. “This is simply discrimination,” Cheol told the AFP news agency. His friend Ashebo noted that the government actively encourages immigration of Jews from France, the United States and Russia. “When it comes to Jews from Ethiopia – everyone refuses,” he said. “It’s embarrassing.” Al Jazeera

Guinea Says Monitoring 816 Ebola Contacts Following Flare-up
Guinea’s Ebola coordination unit has traced an estimated 816 people who may have come into contact with victims of the disease or their corpses amid a recent flare-up in a village in the West African country’s southeast, a health official said on Monday. “Since the start of the tracing on Saturday, we have traced 816 contacts in 107 families,” Fode Tass Sylla, spokesman for the coordination unit, said on state television.  Reuters

Women in Peace Operations: the Unsung Champions of Human Rights
Today, South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day, commemorating the 1960 shooting of police upon peaceful protestors, which killed 69 people. This year, reflecting on the role of police in relation to human rights seems more relevant than ever given that the African Union (AU) dedicated 2016 to human rights, with a specific focus on the rights of women. As South Africans reflect on the events of 1960, it would be useful to consider the broader responsibility of police in Africa. Discussions around the role of police should include questions regarding the role of police in promoting human rights, particularly in conflict and post-conflict environments. Considering that women are disproportionately affected by conflict, police peacekeepers must be mindful of ensuring that women’s rights, in particular, remain protected. This is especially true for conflict situations where sexual violence against women has become an accepted norm that does not receive due attention. Cases in countries such as Somalia, Sudan (Darfur) and South Sudan are but some examples where these abuses are often not investigated or prosecuted. ISS



Photo: Adam Jones