Media Review for March 25, 2016

Shekau Speaks of His End in New Video
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, who was reportedly killed, has appeared on video for the first time in more than a year on Thursday. In a video devoid of his usual confidence talk and defiant bluster, the terror group leader rejected the rumours of his death but signalled that his time as chief of the jihadist group may be coming to an end. The video also lacked the usual taunts and denunciation of political leaders of previous videos and will likely be interpreted as an admission of defeat, the dejected-looking the dejected-looking Shekau declared: “For me the end has come”.  The Guardian Nigeria

Escaping Boko Haram: ‘They Wanted Me to Carry a Bomb’
Girls as young as 12 are being used by the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram as female suicide bombers. Anne Soy spoke to one teenager who risked her life to escape after being told she had been chosen for a suicide mission. Her name and voice have been changed to protect her identity. Read more ‘How I almost became a Boko Haram suicide bomber’  BBC

Video: Cameroon Deploys Drones in Fight Against Boko Haram
Cameroon’s army is deploying drones to identify and target Boko Haram positions along the country’s border with Nigeria, a region that is frequently targeted by the Islamist militant group. Boko Haram violence has left at least 17,000 dead and forced more than 2.6 million from their homes since the group launched its insurgency in Nigeria in 2009. Nearly 1,200 people have been killed since the Nigerian fighters took their offensive into Cameroon in 2013, according to government figures. France 24

Boko Haram Militants “Abduct 16 Women, Girls” in Adamawa
At least 16 female residents of Adamawa State were abducted Wednesday by suspected Boko Haram militants, the police and local officials said. Police said a team of officers had been deployed to the area to search for the abducted persons. Those abducted include 14 women and two girls. They were seized in Sabongari Madagali, in Madagali Local Government of the state, a federal lawmaker representing the area said. Local sources said some of the women were taken from a nearby bush where they went in search of firewood. Others were seized from a nearby river while fishing. A source said two women managed to escape the abductors by pretending to have drowned. “The two women who are in real state of trauma told us that the suspected Boko Haram insurgents had a field day carting away the women when their escorts ran away for their dear lives,” the source said.  Premium Times

‘Demand Your Stolen Vote Back’ – Congo’s Mokoko
A failed presidential candidate in Congo-Brazzaville elections has urged a campaign of civil disobedience after a “stolen vote” by strongman Denis Sassou Nguesso. “It is time to stop being afraid! I ask you to demand back your confiscated, stolen vote,” General Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, who came in third in the presidential election, wrote in a statement. One of his lawyers expanded on the statement at a Paris news conference, saying it was not a call to protest. “The opposition does not want a bloodbath. The population is being asked not to go to work. It is a general strike, a peaceful protest,” said lawyer Norbert Tricaud. News 24

Could President Idriss Deby Face a Shock in Chad’s Elections?
Weeks of protest in Chad appear to finally have run out of steam, but President Idriss Deby Itno will still faces many challenges in the run-up to, and the aftermath of, the presidential elections scheduled for 10 April. While it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Deby does not win a fifth term in office, the recent social upheaval following the alleged rape of a teenage girl by figures linked to some of the president’s closest associates shows the depths of frustration at his 26-year rule. The protests broke out in early February in the capital N’Djamena after a video was posted online showing the alleged victim, a 16-year-old girl called Zouhoura, naked and in tears after the attack. Five people were arrested including sons of army officers and the son of Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat. African Arguments

UN Warns of Possible Violence Linked to Upcoming DRC Elections
The United Nations (UN) has sounded the alarm bell, warning that violence linked to the upcoming elections in the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC) was a distinct possibility. In a briefing to the Security Council, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to the UN Mission in the country pointed to an electoral process that was at an impasse, calling for a political dialogue between all the parties. Presidential elections scheduled for November continue to create friction in the country due to the absence of a budget for the elections and an agreed electoral calendar. During a recent visit to the country, the UN Chief called on President Joseph Kabila and other stakeholders to engage constructively in political dialogue that places the interests of the population at the heart of the debate.  SABC

Should Cameroon President Paul Biya Run Again?
In Cameroon, President Paul Biya’s backers are urging him to move up national elections and seek another term for himself while opponents say his 34 years in power has been more than enough. On Thursday, both camps staged demonstrations here in the capital, and members of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement marked the party’s 31st anniversary by showing support for the president at events across the country. Here in Younde, supporters sang that Biya is their leader and father and that, at age 83, the man remains sharp enough to be president for as long as he wants. Charlemagne Messanga Nyamding, a CPDM central committee member, said his party wants Biya to change the constitution and organize early elections. The next presidential poll is scheduled for 2018, and a term is seven years. Biya already revised the constitution in 2008 to remove presidential term limits. VOA

Algerian Police Kill Would-be Suicide Bomber East of Algiers – Media
Algerian police shot dead an Islamist militant wearing a suicide bomb belt when he tried to attack a small town mayor’s office east of the capital Algiers, local Ennahar television said, citing a statement from police on Thursday. Police chased and shot the man on Wednesday night in Maatkas, near Tizi Ouzou, before he could detonate his belt, according to the statement on Ennahar. Security officials were not immediately available to confirm the details. Bombings and shootings have become rare in Algeria since the North African state emerged from a 1990s decade of war with Islamist militants that killed 200,000 people. But al Qaeda’s North Africa branch and Islamic State affiliates operate in remotes part of the vast, oil-exporting country. Reuters

Libya’s Tripoli Government Declares a State of Emergency
Libya’s Islamist-backed government in the capital, Tripoli, has declared a state of emergency after reports that four members of the rival United Nations’ unity government have arrived. In a statement, the so-called National Salvation government in Tripoli said Thursday that it tasked the Defense Ministry, militias and security apparatus to “increase security patrols and checkpoints.” The Tripoli government — one of Libya’s three governments and which is backed by militias — has warned before of the United Nations’ attempts to install a government in the capital.  AP on Stars and Stripes

Tunisia to Enforce State Control Over All Mosques
Spokesperson for the Tunisian government Khalid Shawkat said on Wednesday that all mosques in the country will be controlled through law enforcement. Shawkat said in a statement following a ministerial meeting that Prime Minister Habib Essid is keen to enforce law and re-establish state authority over all mosques across the country. “In case of failure to respond, the state will not hesitate to use all legal means available and guaranteed by the constitution and laws,” he added. The Tunisian Ministry of Religious Affairs is responsible for supervising religious guidance and selects the imams for mosques. An official at the General Union for Religious Affairs Abdul Salam Atawi raised concerns over the many imams and preachers working without a formal mandate from the authorities during a press conference on Tuesday, which he believes is over 50 percent in many provinces. According to the Tunisian Ministry of Religious Affairs, some 50 to 60 mosques operate outside its control. Tunisia has been heavily criticized for the absence of state control over the country’s mosques. Middle East Monitor

Malian ‘Jihadist’ to Go On Trial Over Destruction of Ancient Timbuktu Shrines
Judges at the International Criminal Court on Thursday agreed there was enough evidence to put an alleged Malian jihadist on trial for the destruction of the centuries-old world heritage site of Timbuktu. The judges ruled they would “commit” Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi to trial for “the war crime of attacking buildings dedicated to religion and historic monuments” in 2012, when many of the ancient shrines were destroyed. Faqi, aged about 40, is the first jihadist suspect to appear before the ICC and the first person to face a war crimes charge for an attack on a global historic and cultural monument. France 24

Malian National Pleads Guilty to Killing US Defense Department Official in 2000
A Malian national who escaped from prison twice after being charged with killing a US Defense Department official and wounding a US Marine during a 2000 carjacking in Niger pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of conspiracy to commit murder. Alhassane Ould Mohamed admitted to fatally shooting William Bultemeier, a Department of Defense attache, as Bultemeier left a restaurant in the Niger capital of Niamey on 22 December 2000, and wounding Marine Staff Sgt Christopher McNeely, who came to Bultemeier’s aid. “I am sorry,” Mohamed, 46, said through an interpreter, speaking both French and Arabic during his appearance at a federal court in Brooklyn. But he told Judge William F Kuntz II that he didn’t intend to kill Bultemeier.  The Guardian

Early Warning System Protects CAR Villages from Rebel Attacks
Communities in the Central African Republic (CAR) have a new tool in their fight against rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army: the radio. Since the beginning of the year, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has intensified attacks and kidnappings in the southwest of the country, near the border with South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. To help combat the threat, local NGOs have distributed radios and satellite phones to village chiefs so they can be warned of potential attacks. For those living deep in the bush, the communication tools are a godsend. France 24

Amnesty Condemns Egyptian Crackdown on Human Rights Groups
The London-based organization calls on Egypt’s authorities to halt what it calls its “persecution of these groups” and drop its investigation into their activities. Human rights defenders could face up to 25 years in prison, an Amnesty statement notes. “In recent weeks, the Egyptian authorities have summoned human rights workers for questioning, banned them from travel and attempted to freeze their personal funds and family assets,” the statement reads. Deutsche Welle

African Union Zuma’s Gives Opposition Groups Five Days to Sign Sudan Roadmap
The head of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, welcomed the signing of the Roadmap Agreement by the Sudanese government and urged the opposition groups to sign it within five days. The African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and the Sudanese government signed a framework agreement calling to stop war in Blue Nile, Darfur, and South Kordofan and to engage in the national dialogue process. In line with the 21 March agreement, the government accepted for the first time to negotiate with the SPLM-N without demanding to disarm its fighters before the full implementation of a future political agreement as it had being demanding since the start of the conflict in June 2011. Sudan Tribune

UN Calls on Moroccan Authorities to Allow Return of Expelled Staff
Morocco’s foreign minister says the government’s decision to reduce the number of United Nations staff at the Western Sahara mission is “irreversible.” The Moroccan government and the U.N. have been at odds since Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon visited a camp in Algeria housing refugees from Western Sahara and used the term “occupation” in reference to their plight. Thousands of people demonstrated against the U.N. across Morocco in response last week, carrying banners like “Ban Ki-moon threatens the U.N. process,” denouncing Ban’s “lack of neutrality” on the issue. Then, the Moroccan government asked about 55 personnel from the U.N. peacekeeping mission known as MINURSO to leave the country. U.N. officials have asked for the Security Council to act because of the “potential for escalation” into renewed conflict in that region. VOA

Ivory Coast to Expand Rapid Response Forces
Ivory Coast plans to establish new centres for rapid response forces to protect soft targets throughout the country following an attack by Islamic extremists on a popular beach town earlier this month that killed 19, the country’s prime minister said on Thursday. The March 13 attack on Grand-Bassam, claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was the first of its kind in Ivory Coast. The Unesco World Heritage site attracts hundreds of holidaymakers each weekend and is linked by highway to Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s commercial hub, allowing for a swift response from special forces that officials credit with mitigating the death toll. In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan said new centres for a special security unit would likely be set up in the northern city of Korhogo and in San Pedro, another beach destination in the southwest that is also home to Ivory Coast’s second-largest port. News 24

Ethiopia: Oromo Protests Continue Amid Harsh Crackdown
At first sight, things seem to have returned to normality in the town of Ambo, 120 kilometres west of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. Few uniformed security forces are visible on the streets. People seem to go about their daily lives as usual. But speak to almost any resident and a different picture emerges. “We are living in a violent kind of peace,” says an 18-year-old student, who does not want to reveal his name. Like many people interviewed for this story, he fears he might end up in jail, or worse, for speaking his mind. Ambo is perhaps best known for two things: being Ethiopia’s most popular mineral water, and its university, often a hot spot for anti-government demonstrations. Such displays of public dissent earned the town a reputation as the bastion of opposition in a country where the ruling party and its allies took all 547 parliament seats in last year’s election.  Al Jazeera

Uganda: Parents Who Do Not Immunise Children to Face 6 Years in Jail
President Museveni has assented to the Immunisation law, which criminalises parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated with a six-month jail term. It requires every child to possess an immunisation card in order to access education. The new law also creates an Immunisation Fund. The President’s press secretary, Ms Linda Nabusayi, yesterday confirmed the development in an SMS text to the Daily Monitor. “His Excellency signed the Immunisation Act into law on March 10,” Ms Nabusayi said. Parliament passed the Immunisation Bill on December 17, last year. It was moved as a Private Member’s Bill by Yumbe District Woman Representative, Ms Huda Oleru in 2014. The report A report released at Ministerial Conference on Immunisation in Africa held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last month indicated that one in five African children lack access to all needed and basic life-saving vaccines. In an interview at the sidelines of the conference, Ms Sarah Opendi, the State minister for Primary Health-care, said that the new law will help achieve the target of having every child getting fully immunised. Daily Monitor

Tanzania: Parliament Business Paralysed as Bribery Scam Worsens
Parliament business was paralysed yesterday as the unfolding bribery scandal touching on some members of parliament deepened. Lack of quorum hit some committees as absentee members piled pressure on Speaker Job Ndugai to open an internal investigation over the scandal. Mr Ndugai’s move to reshuffle MPs across a number of committees also appeared to crack, with one dropped vice-chairman resigning from his new position. It was a day of drama at the Bunge offices in Dar es Salaam where government bureaucrats failed to present their budgets review documents as MPs could not raise the requisite numbers. The latest development came as Mr Ndugai and the head of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) Valentino Mlowola confirmed a sweeping investigation had been ordered into reports MPs solicited and received hefty bribes from several state agencies in return for favourable mention in their committee reports. The Citizen

China Launches Charm Offensive for First Overseas Naval Base
China has launched an unusual charm offensive to explain its first overseas naval base in Djibouti, seeking to assuage global concerns about military expansionism by portraying the move as Beijing’s contribution to regional security and development. The message is in stark contrast to Beijing’s more bellicose stance on the South China Sea, where its claims on a vital trade waterway have raised hackles across Asia and the United States. China has repeatedly said it does not seek a U.S.-style “hegemony” by extending its military reach, including through bases abroad. Now that it appears it may be doing precisely that, the government has been quietly briefing on its rationale for the Djibouti base and using state media to address fears of China’s aims. “China is explaining it as part of the ‘one road, one belt’ strategy, to help link Ethiopia to the sea,” said one Western diplomat who has been briefed by Chinese officials on the Djibouti base, referring to China’s New Silk Road strategy.  Reuters

Africa No Continent for Old Men
Today we explore the world according to life expectancy. Africa is the only continent where nations have an average life expectancy below 60, and there are 28 of them. Even relatively developed South Africa’s dying age is 59. The lowest life expectancy is in Sierra Leone – just 46 – followed by Lesotho, Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria and Swaziland. There are a few notable exceptions in Africa, such as Namibia (where the age is 67), Morocco (71), Egypt (71), Algeria (72), Libya (75) and Tunisia (76). Times Live



Photo: Adam Jones