Media Review for March 24, 2016

Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso Wins Landslide Third Term
Denis Sassou Nguesso has been re-elected president of Congo-Brazzaville after the constitution was amended to allow him to seek a third term. He won 60% of the vote, against 15% for his nearest challenger, the electoral body announced. The opposition says there was “massive fraud”. It says the communications blackout announced during the vote was designed to prevent observers from monitoring the election. More about this and other African news stories More about Congo-Brazzaville Mr Sassou Nguesso has been in power since 1979, except for a five-year period after losing elections in 1992. BBC

Kagame Drops Intelligence Chief Karake In Ongoing Shuffle
President Paul Kagame on Tuesday dropped the long-serving director of the National Intelligence and Security Services, Lt Gen Emmanuel Karenzi Karake. Lt Karake, 55, will now serve as Kagame’s advisor on defence and his replacement is former army spokesperson Brig-General Joseph Nzabamwita, 50. The removal of Lt Karake comes during an ongoing shuffle which has seen a couple of officials being dropped or replaced, such as the minister of Family Promotion Oda Gasinizingwa, who was last week replaced with Dr Diane Gashumba. Lt Karake had served in that capacity since July 2011, after replacing the longest serving spy chief, Dr Emmanuel Ndahiro. He made international headlines in June last year when he was arrested in London on a Spanish arrest warrant for alleged war crimes including ordering of massacres while he was head of Rwanda’s military intelligence between 1994 and 1997. He was accused of ordering the killing of three Spanish health workers in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The East African

Niger Leader Proposes National Unity Govt
Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, re-elected for a second term during controversial weekend elections, on Wednesday proposed forming a national unity government with the opposition which boycotted the vote. In an interview with AFP, he said: “I am ready to put in place a government of national unity with the opposition in order to face the threats facing the people of Niger. “There is not just a security challenge, there are other challenges including economic and social development. All these challenges need a sacred union,” he said. Issoufou won 92% of the vote in Sunday’s election in the impoverished but uranium-rich country, which was marred by low turnout. News 24

Polisario Front Threatens ‘War’ with Morocco as Dispute over UN Mission to Western Sahara Escalates
Leaders of Morocco’s breakaway Western Saharan region threatened the country’s government with a return to war last night as the two sides escalated a dispute sparked by remarks made by the United Nation’s top diplomat. The leaders of the Polisario Front, which has pushed for independence from Morocco for more than 40 years, said they would have “no other option but war” if Morocco did not backtrack on a decision to shut down part of the UN peacekeeping mission to the disputed region. The warning from Mohamed Said Ould Salek, the foreign minister of the Front’s political wing, came in response to Morocco’s expulsion of 84 civilian staff members on Sunday in protest over comments on the Western Sahara issue by Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General. During a visit to Western Sahara earlier this month, Mr Ban used the word “occupation” to describe Moroccan’s annexation of the territory in 1975. It led Rabat to accuse him of abandoning his neutrality in the dispute. The Telegraph

Western Sahara: Ban Ki-moon’s Diplomatic Mask Slips, With Dangerous Consequences
Ban Ki-moon is a master of diplomatic language. In his position, you have to be; as secretary-general of the United Nations, there’s no room for verbal missteps. If anything, Ban, with his cautiously scripted speeches, is considered too diplomatic – in saying everything so carefully, he more often than not says nothing at all. Yet even he slips up occasionally, to reveal the man behind that bland mask. And when he does, the consequences can be severe. Earlier this month, Ban and his team toured a refugee camp in Algeria. The camp is home to tens of thousands of would-be citizens of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the country that exists only on paper and is better known as Western Sahara. Kicked out of their land in 1975 by Morocco, these Sahrawis have been living in poverty-stricken exile ever since. Others who remained behind have been marginalised and discriminated against by the Moroccan administration that was imposed. Daily Maverick

Rwanda, Burundi Fire Back After US Rebukes Leaders for ‘Power Grabs’
Rwanda and Burundi fired back on Monday against US claims of “blatant power grabs” by the presidents of the two Great Lakes countries. And in addition to lashing Washington, the Bujumbura and Kigali governments attacked one another. Each accused the other of supporting rebel forces intent on destabilising legitimate authority. The remarks by the Rwandan, Burundian and US representatives during a United Nations Security Council debate were unusually undiplomatic. A Rwandan minister directly warned the US ambassador to the UN not to speak critically of President Paul Kagame. And a senior Burundian official told the Security Council that “it is absolutely unacceptable that some appoint themselves as judges over our countries.” The two diplomats’ angry rejoinders were triggered by US Ambassador Samantha Power’s claim that “democratic processes are being deliberately undermined” in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as in Rwanda and Burundi. Daily Nation

Mali Arrests 21 after Attack on EU Military Training Mission
Authorities in Mali have arrested 21 people in connection with an attack on the headquarters of an EU military training operation there, a senior police official said on Wednesday. In the foiled gun attack on Bamako’s Nord-Sud Hotel on Monday, one assailant was killed and two others arrested. There were no reports of casualties at the hotel, where the EU Training Mission-Mali is based. The EU mission is comprised of nearly 600 personnel deployed to train security forces as part of efforts to stabilise Mali after the defeat of Islamist militants who had seized the country’s desert north in 2012. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but Mali and neighbouring West African countries have increasingly been the target of Islamists, some affiliated with al Qaeda. SABC

Egypt’s Sisi Names 10 Ministers in Cabinet Reshuffle
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi named 10 new ministers, including the finance and investment portfolios, in a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday meant to help revive an economy laid low by years of political turmoil and militant violence. Banking veteran Amr el-Garhy was appointed finance minister and Dalia Khorshid investment minister, a presidency statement said. Sisi also named four new deputy ministers – a deputy planning minister and three deputy finance ministers for treasury affairs, tax policy and fiscal policy. Garhy and Khorshid will face the daunting task of strengthening an economy battered by an acute foreign currency crisis that has hampered Egypt’s ability to import goods and dimmed prospects for attracting direct foreign investment. The central bank devalued the pound last week. Garhy joins the finance ministry after serving in leadership positions at various finance institutions including Qalaa Holdings, El-Ahli Bank of Qatar and EFG Hermes, one of the Middle East’s largest investment banks. Reuters

Egypt Eyeing More Arms Contracts with France
Egypt is on the verge of buying two more Gowind 2500 corvettes and two other warships from France, as well as a military satellite. This is according to France’s La Tribune newspaper, which reported on Tuesday the deals would be worth more than a billion euros.  They are expected to be signed during a visit to Egypt by French President Francois Hollande on April 18. In addition to two Gowind 2500 corvettes, Egypt is apparently also interested in the Gowind class patrol vessel L’Adroit, which is currently being used by the French Navy, but will leave the French fleet in the next few months (it was given to the French Navy by DCNS on a trial basis). Egypt previously ordered four Gowind 2500 corvettes, with production in France and Egypt, with options for two more. The two additional vessels would be built in France. DefenceWeb

United and Credible: Côte d’Ivoire’s Response to the Grand Bassam Attacks
The attacks that took place in mid-March at Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire, provoked the familiar knee-jerk reactions from 24-hour news outlets whose take on these events is often questionable. Due to their strictly Western perspective, these reports sometimes border on the grotesque. Unsurprisingly, Fox News was the most outlandish. The network claimed the attacks targeted Americans, and characterised the crisis that has rocked the country over the last years as a “religious war”. French media outlets hardly fared better, with many repeatedly stating that France had been targeted. True to its usual rhetoric, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) hammered the same kind of simplistic narrative. According to its statement claiming responsibility, the goal of the Bassam attack was to punish the countries which make up the “satanic alliance” that “invaded” Mali in 2013 in the wake of the French military operation Serval, later replaced by Operation Barkhane. Côte d’Ivoire has indeed contributed troops to the UN peace mission in Mali, MINUSMA. It is also one of France’s major West African trading partners and political allies, with close military ties; a 600-strong French force is already stationed in the country. So the idea of trying to get to France by attacking Côte d’Ivoire is plausible.  African Arguments

West African Residents Brace Themselves Amid Attacks
Armed police now patrol the Ivory Coast beach where Islamic extremists killed at least 19 people earlier this month. And in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, cars are pulled over for security checks of trunks, back seats and bags. Across West Africa, security measures are being beefed up following a spate of deadly extremist attacks, including the assault Monday on a hotel in Mali that houses a European Union military mission. Despite the precautions, there is widespread fear over where the jihadis will strike next. “Of course I am scared. I am scared that these people will continue their attacks. But this is not Islam. Islam is peace,” said Papis Sane, 42, who works at the Sea Plaza Mall in Dakar that is popular with foreigners. “It’s God who protects … Even with security, no one is 100 percent secure.”  AP on ABC News

UN Envoy to Libya not Allowed to Land in Tripoli
The Islamist-linked government in the Libyan capital has declined to give permission for the UN envoy to Libya to land in Tripoli, the diplomat said on Wednesday. The envoy, Martin Kobler, said on his Twitter account that he has had to cancel another flight to Tripoli because of this. He said he “wanted to help pave the way to peace” and stressed that the United Nations must be given access to the Libyan capital. Kobler has been pressing Libya’s rival parliaments – the one in Tripoli and a second, based in the far eastern region of the country – to reconcile and accept a third, UN-back government that emerged from a December political agreement between Libya’s factions. The new, UN-backed government is facing major challenges, however – including how to get into Tripoli, something that had been tentatively planned for later this week.  AP on Al Arabiya

7 Dead in Clashes West of Libyan Capital
At least seven people were killed in clashes on Wednesday west of Tripoli between tribesmen and forces loyal to Libya’s unrecognised government, an army officer said. The violence in the village of Touebiya, 30km from the capital, stemmed from a failed burglary. Tribesmen attacked the village and burnt down homes, said Colonel Abderrazaq al-Kharmani, an officer with forces that support the unrecognised government in Tripoli. “We seized one of their vehicles, destroyed another and killed seven of their fighters,” he told AFP. Kharmani said the confrontation broke out a day after a member of the tribal forces had been beaten to death with a stick by a woman in Touebiya as he tried to rob her home. News 24

Politics and Ebola are Not Such Strange Bedfellows, Report Says
A Key Lesson From Ebola: You Can’t Forget About Politics The Ebola virus marks a milestone this month. It has been two years since the first case was confirmed in West Africa, the start of a devastating epidemic that claimed more than 11,000 lives. The anniversary is making health workers think about what the world has — and hasn’t — learned from the experience. Today, the International Rescue Committee is issuing a new report on the epidemic and its aftermath. (Actually it’s an analysis of previous Ebola reports from the World Health Organization, Bill Gates, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative and others.) The idea was, with so many reports already out there, let’s see what issues are being raised — and what’s not being raised that should be part of the discussion of lessons learned. We interviewed the IRC’s senior health director, Emmanuel d’Harcourt, about the recommendations in the group’s report and its focus on the importance of understanding local and national politics when responding to a medical crisis. And later this week we’ll share an essay by a nurse who worked on the ground during the epidemic and her perspective. NPR

UN Praises Uganda’s Treatment of Refugees Fleeing from Neighbouring Countries
Several thousand refugees from South Sudan and Burundi have fled to Uganda over the last few weeks, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a recent statement. At least 2 840 South Sudanese refugees have fled to Uganda at the end of February and the beginning of March following violent clashes between government and opposition fighters in Jonglei and Western Equatoria States in South Sudan. The UNHCR said there had been fighting in Yambio, the capital of Western Equatoria State, where Ugandan soldiers were hunting Ugandan exiles of Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance Army (LRA). “Refugees arrived in Uganda from South Sudan tired and hungry due to the ongoing food insecurity in many parts of the country. Some of the refugees reported having walked for days in order to reach safety,” the statement read. “Intense fighting was reported in Yambio and Jonglei while in other areas, militias were reportedly burning down villages, looting, destroying farms, kidnapping youth and committing acts of sexual assault.” Mail and Guardian

ICC Orders Ugandan Militia Fighter to Stand Trial
The International Criminal Court has ordered a senior Ugandan commander in Joseph Kony’s feared militia to stand trial on 70 charges including murder, rape, torture and using child soldiers. Dominic Ongwen is the only member of Kony’s murderous Lord’s Resistance army in the court’s custody. Kony remains free despite years of efforts in northern Uganda and neighboring countries to track down and capture him. Judges said Wednesday that evidence gathered by prosecutors is strong enough to merit a trial. They based the decision on written and oral statements of 130 witnesses and intercepted radio communications. The crimes allegedly happened before, during and after attacks on camps for internally displaced people in northern Uganda in 2003-2004. AP on Stars and Stripes

South Sudan’s Kiir Sacks Foreign Affairs Minister
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has sacked the country’s foreign affairs minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin, a day after he referred to people from Abyei as Sudanese. In a decree, read on the state-owned SSTV Wednesday, the South Sudan leader did not give reasons for Marial’s removal. Marial signed a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner For Human Rights, in which he referred to Luka Biong Deng, a former minister for the presidency as a Sudanese national. Biong, who hails from Abyei, fled the country in October last year after government agents threatend him for holding a lecture on the controversial creation of 28 new states. Sudan Tribune

Washington Putting Pressure on Sudanese to Sign Peace Roadmap: Sources
International parties including the United States (US) are making efforts to convince the Sudanese armed movements to endorse the Roadmap Agreement signed by the Sudanese government, said an US diplomatic source. On Monday, the Sudanese government signed a Roadmap Agreement concocted by the African Union mediators at the end of a three-day strategic meeting in Addis Ababa, but the opposition groups refrained from endorsing it. According to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, the diplomatic source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the US envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth, has engaged in intensive meetings with the leaders of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on the Roadmap Agreement that the opposition forces refrained from signing. Sudan Tribune

US Helps Cameroon Ramp Up Airport, Border Security
The United States has given Cameroonian police sophisticated equipment to monitor airports and border crossings as part of continued cooperation in the fight against Boko Haram. Cameroonian police showed reporters the new surveillance setup Tuesday at the Yaounde police headquarters. On screens, officials can monitor movements at airports and border crossings. They can also see images from scanners that peer into parcels or bags, looking for suspicious content. Cameroonian Police Chief Martin Mbarga Nguelle said the U.S. was installing the scanning and identification systems in Cameroonian airports and at border checkpoints to allow the tracing of criminals who attempt to escape or hide among the population. VOA

Angolan Rebels Claim to Have Killed 30 Troops
Separatist guerrillas operating in Angola’s oil-rich Cabinda enclave on Wednesday claimed to have shot dead around 30 Angolan government soldiers in March. Angolan authorities refused to comment on the claims which AFP could not independently verify. The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) has been fighting for the independence of Cabinda for four decades. In a statement received by AFP the FLEC said it staged an attack on March 13 which resulted in “several serious injuries… and more than 10 deaths” among the Angolan army soldiers. A second ambush on March 16 killed 20 troops in the town of Buco-Zau. FLEC urged “Western nationals living in Cabinda to temporarily leave.” AFP on Yahoo News

The Ugly Side of Ethiopia’s Economic Boom
For those who would speak frankly about politics in this landlocked East African country, the first challenge is to find a safe space. But on a recent evening in Adama, a city in the heart of a region reeling from the largest protest movement Ethiopia has faced in decades, most people seemed at ease. University students poured out of the city’s main campus, spilling into claustrophobic bars and pool halls. Others crowded around a cluster of aging taxis, jostling for a quick ride home. Though it is one of the largest cities in Oromia where members of Ethiopia’s Oromo ethnic group have taken to the streets in recent months in unprecedented numbers to protest their political and economic marginalization Adama has remained mostly quiet. Hidden beneath the casual veneer of daily life, however, lurks a deep-seated suspicion of the government, which has built a massive surveillance apparatus and cracked down violently on its opponents. Citizens feel they have to watch what they say, and where they say it. At the hangouts where crowds have gathered, a political statement might be overheard. Out on the sidewalks, government spies could be on patrol. Inside the university campus, security officials are on the lookout for suspicious behavior. In a way, the recent unrest is rooted in Ethiopia’s rapid economic rise. Foreign Policy



Photo: Adam Jones