Media Review for March 3, 2016

U.N. Official Says at Least 50,000 Dead in South Sudan War
At least 50,000 people have been killed in South Sudan’s two-year civil war, a senior United Nations official said on Wednesday, a five-fold increase in the death toll given by humanitarian agencies in the early months of the conflict. A political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, sparked the war in December 2013, which has reopened ethnic fault lines between Kiir’s Dinka and Machar’s Nuer people. “Fifty thousand killed, maybe more, 2.2 million refugees and displaced, famine coming and looming in just a few months,” the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told a small group of reporters. He added that he saw little prospect of implementing an August peace deal. The United Nations said last month that South Sudan’s warring parties are killing, abducting and displacing civilians and destroying property despite conciliatory rhetoric by Kiir and Machar. After months of ineffective negotiations and failed ceasefires, both sides agreed in January to share positions in a transitional government, and last month Kiir reappointed Machar to his former post as vice president. Reuters

East African Community Admits South Sudan, Snubs Burundi
As leaders of the EAC met in Arusha in northern Tanzania, one man was conspicuously missing. Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, did not attend even though his country was bidding for the chairmanship of the bloc. The last time Nkurunziza attended an EAC summit, rebels staged a failed coup in his absence. The group however rejected Burundi’s bid for this yearly chairmanship and instead decided to extend Tanzania’s tenure under President John Magufuli into a second year. Deutsche Welle

Burundi Power Struggle Outlasts Diplomatic Flurry
[…] On the critical issue of negotiating with the opposition coalition known as CNARED, which the government describes as “terrorists” and “coup-plotters”, Nkurunziza didn’t budge. Instead, the authorities have unilaterally set up a National Commission for inter-Burundian Dialogue, known as the CNDI, to negotiate with people it finds more palatable. This effectively involves “engaging factions that broke away from mainstream parties to join what was left of Nkurunziza’s governing coalition” before last year’s election, said Joseph Siegle, director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University, Washington. The opposition and key sections of civil society argue that negotiations can only be meaningful if they bridge the divide between the government and an armed opposition, a growing chasm that threatens all-out civil war. “One can’t be a political party and judge,” said Leonce Ngendakumana, president of opposition platform ADC Ikibiri. “The negotiations must include those who are armed, including exiled coup-plotters.” CNARED, many of whom are in exile, is recognised as the main opposition umbrella by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, appointed by the East African Community to mediate in the dispute.  IRIN

Inclusive Dialogue to Resolve Burundi Crisis Essential to EU Aid
European Union aid to Burundi’s government will be dependent upon inclusive dialogue between all actors in the country’s crisis, RFI has learnt. The African Union had said in a statement on Monday that restoration of aid should be considered in the event of an improvement in the security and humanitarian situation. The EU will take into account whether commitments to inclusive dialogue are actually realised when deciding upon aid to Burundi’s government. Europe’s regional bloc has not yet suspended development cooperation, but anticipates only providing support that directly benefits the population. Yet the international community should “envisage” restoring international aid to Burundi, the African Union had said on Monday. RFI

What UN Experts Hope to Find Out in Burundi
The UN team of experts begun its investigations into human rights violations in Burundi as authorities in Bujumbura showed a mass grave to the public for the first time. The unveiling of the mass grave confirms that dozens of people have been buried in such graves since the political violence erupted in 2015. DW spoke to Christof Heyns, currently in Burundi and UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, about what his team will be doing in Burundi. What will your team be doing in Burundi? Our mission is a mission from the Human Rights Council so the Human Rights Council asked me to appoint three experts and we are investigating the Arusha Accord and its implementation and also alleged human rights violations that took place especially in 2015 and ongoing as well. Deutsche Welle

Nkurunziza’s Man Set for Top EAC Job
One of the staunchest political supporters of embattled President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi is likely to become the new East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, The Citizen can report. Well-placed sources within the regional body confirmed the Burundian is being lined up to succeed Dr Richard Sezibera whose tenure ends in April. Mr Alain Aime Nyamitwe, the country’s minister for External Relations and International Cooperation, has been mentioned to be the one that may be presented before the Summit of the Heads of State this morning for endorsement. Mr Nyamitwe has in recent months been actively involved in shuttle diplomacy in the region as the political crisis in his country worsened, often pleading that the administration in Bujumbura was not against the mediation efforts to save his country from full scale civil war. He is also one of national leaders in the strife-torn country who strongly opposed the planned deployment of a 5,000 strong peace keeping force by the African Union (AU) to his country on grounds that there were other options to reconcile the warring parties.  The Citizen

Tanzania’s Former President to Head Burundi Peace Talks
The former president of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, has been chosen to restart peace talks in Burundi. His appointment was announced at a meeting of the East African Community, which also confirmed South Sudan as its newest member. Officially, the crisis in Burundi was not even on the agenda at this summit but it was never far from anyone’s mind. The presidents of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda met in private on Wednesday morning and agreed to restart the peace talks which were halted in December. It is here where they chose Mkapa to lead those talks as a full time envoy. He has a difficult task ahead: to negotiate peace in a country which has had allegations of human rights abuses from both sides. At least 400 people have been killed and nearly a quarter of a million have fled the country. SABC

South Sudan Set to Join EAC Bloc
South Sudan is set to become the sixth member of the East African Community (EAC) after the council of ministers shifted from its earlier position that the country be granted an observer status. The oil rich country’s admission is expected to be approved at the five EAC presidents’ summit that is ongoing in Arusha, Tanzania. A statement on Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni’s Twitter account @KagutaMuseveni read: “President Magufuli informed me that South Sudan will be admitted to the EAC as 6th member during this summit.” The message was retweeted on the Tanzanian President’s twitter account. A statement from Kenya’s Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU) also appeared to anticipate the admission. “Formal admission of South Sudan into the EAC community would be a sweet end to a long wait for Juba and a potentially expanded market for traders in the region,” read a PSCU statement. The East African

Drug Trafficking, Production Up in West Africa, UN Says
Drug trafficking is a growing problem in West Africa as the production of synthetic drugs and their use are increasing in the region, a report by the International Narcotics Control Board said Wednesday. West Africa has, for some time, been a major transit region for drugs, such as cocaine, produced in South America going to Europe. Guinea-Bissau and Mali remain vulnerable transit points, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The region has also become a focal point for trafficking stimulants, like methamphetamines, to East and Southeast Asia, and the substances are now more locally consumed, it said. “In West Africa, we see an increase of trafficking of drugs in general,” said Erik Van Der Veen, Sahel coordinator for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. “The production of synthetic drugs are increasing in the region. Because of that, there’s higher use in the region.” The Washington Post

Battle for Merca: Al-Shabab Ambushes Somalia Troops in Embattled Port City
Somali forces clashed with al-Shabab fighters overnight Tuesday in the East African country’s Lower Shebelle region. A deadly firefight broke out when the Islamic militant group ambushed Somali National Army troops stationed at a base in the embattled southern port city of Merca, according to Somali radio and television station Shabelle Media Network. Government sources have not yet disclosed the exact number of casualties from Tuesday night’s battle in Merca, the provincial capital of Lower Shebelle which is located some 60 miles from the national capital, Mogadishu. Al-Shabab recaptured Merca earlier this month, making it the largest city under the group’s control, according to BBC News. The loss of the coastal city was a major setback for the African Union Mission to Somalia, or Amisom, the continental bloc’s peacekeeping mission in the country, in its decade-long fight against the Somalia-based terrorist organization. Regaining control of Merca, which faces the Indian Ocean, grants al-Shabab access to a port again and will provide a financial boost to the group’s operations. International Business Times

One-Family Rule in Gabon to Cross the Half Century Mark
Ali Bongo Ondimba, son of the Gabonese patriarch Omar Bongo Ondimba, has announced plans to seek another term in office – giving his family over a half century of rule in this West African nation if he wins. Announcing his candidacy, President Ali Bongo pledged to fight “unwarranted privilege” even as he stands as one of the richest men in the region with 39 properties in France, 11 French bank accounts and 29 luxury cars in France worth more than $18.5 million, at last count. Gabon enjoys close relations with France whose oil company, Total, is one of the biggest oil producers in the country, pumping around 230,000 barrels per day. The country also enjoyed protection from France for years under a system known as “la Francafrique” whereby Paris granted political and military support to long-ruling African presidents in exchange for commercial favors. A recent corruption probe by France into the actions of President Bongo’s closest advisor ended after the president cited diplomatic immunity. The Wilmington Journal

Amid Calls for More Presence in Mediterranean, Marines Look at Splitting Up Amphibious Ready Group Deployments
Increasing challenges in Europe and Northern Africa have sparked a discussion in the Marine Corps and Joint Staff about revamping how to deploy amphibious groups, including the idea of splitting up the three-ship Amphibious Ready Group from the start. […] Navy officials have increasingly talked about the need for more presence in EUCOM and AFRICOM, as terrorism, piracy and other threats continue to pop up around Africa and the Mediterranean. Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources, said at the HASC hearing last week that the Global Force Management system has primary provided presence in the Mediterranean in the form of ships sailing through on their way to and from CENTCOM, but “the forces we have go where they need to be. We have clearly used our amphibs to operate as necessary off Libya on a number of occasions, and other ships, whether it’s on a national mission like grabbing the terrorists in Libya or other events that happened over there.” This week Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee that the carrier strike groups would begin to spend more time in the Mediterranean but that Navy can still only meet about half the combatant commander’s demand for aircraft carriers due to increased threats from Russia and the Islamic State. U.S. Naval Institute

Spanish al Qaeda Commander Killed by French Forces in Mali: Sources
French forces killed a Spaniard working as an al Qaeda commander in northern Mali during a military operation against the group this week, a Spanish intelligence firm and security sources said. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a group that emerged from Algeria’s civil war, has stepped up a regional insurgency in West Africa, claiming two hotel attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso’s capitals since November that killed at least 50 people. U.S. Africa Command calls it the world’s “most enduring” extremist group and a U.S. commander warned last month it could strengthen further. “The death of (Abu al-Nur al-Andalusi) happened during an attack by French forces on a meeting of al Qaeda members in northern Mali,” AICS, a Spain-based intelligence company said in a statement sent to Reuters on Wednesday, citing local sources. Reuters

Security Forces Raid Islamic State Hideout in Libya’s Sabratha: Official
Security forces in the western Libyan city of Sabratha said they had killed seven suspected Islamic State fighters in a raid on a militant hideout on Wednesday. Local brigades have been battling militants in Sabratha since they briefly overran the city center last week and beheaded more than 10 brigade members. That followed a U.S. air strike on the outskirts of Sabratha on Feb. 19 in which more than 40 people were killed. Sabratha is one of several Libyan cities in which militants loyal to Islamic State have established a presence, taking advantage of the political chaos that has plagued Libya since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in an uprising five years ago. A spokesman for Sabratha’s military council, Sabri Kshada, said Wednesday’s raid took place about 20 km (12 miles) south of the city. Reuters

UN Envoy Warns Against Military Intervention in Libya
Foreign military intervention in Libya will only exacerbate the war-torn country’s already dire humanitarian crisis, according to UN deputy envoy to Libya Ali al-Zaatari. ​ In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Zaatari said that the Libyan crisis appeared to be worsening. “Any military intervention or internal fighting inside Libyan territory will exacerbate the humanitarian situation there; this means more displacement and more destruction,” he said. Zaatari, who is the UN’s humanitarian coordinator, said that more than two million people were in a dire need of food in the war-ravaged country. “There are 435,000 displaced [people] inside Libya and 250,000 mostly immigrants or refugees from surrounding countries, along with more than 2,400,000 people who need food and health care,” he asserted. The UN official went on to say that between 650,000 and 850,000 Libyans are in need of drinking water and sanitation services. “There is a worsening humanitarian crisis, particularly in the province of Benghazi,” he said. Zaatari said that a lack of financial resources was hindering efforts to dispatch humanitarian aid to Libya. Middle East Online

Russia, Algeria to Sign Deal for Su-34 Sale by End of 2016
The Algerian Ministry of National Defense (MND) and Russian aircraft manufacturer Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association (NAPO) are likely to sign a deal for the sale of 12 Sukhoi-34 “Fullback” striker aircraft before the end of 2016, Russian news service TASS has reported. The service quoted a Russian military-diplomatic source who attended the Singapore Airshow as saying the two sides will certainly sign the deal by the end of 2016 after the Su-34 was granted the export certification.  Defense News

Erdoğan Offers to Help West Africa Fight Terrorism
Turkey stands ready to help fight the growing threat of terrorism in West Africa under a new strategic partnership that aims to boost trade and other ties with the continent, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on March 2. Addressing members of Ghana’s parliament during a two-day visit to Accra, Erdoğan said Turkey was well placed to help African countries combat terrorism, an allusion to its decades-long fight against outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants as well as other groups. “Turkey has a vast experience in combating terrorism and we understand those countries suffering at the hands of terrorism best,” he said, citing recent attacks by Islamic militants in Mali and Burkina Faso. Turkey Weekly

Niger’s Presidential Run-off: Same Cast, Different Script?
On the surface, the old adage that a week is a long time in politics doesn’t seem to hold true in Niger. Five years after the crucial 2011 elections, the Sahelian nation is in the midst of voting once again faced with the same cast of familiar faces. As before, the first round of this year’s presidential elections on 21 February saw three men take centre stage: Mahamadou Issoufou of the PNDS-Tarraya, El-Hadji Seyni Oumarou of the MNSD, and Haman Amadou of MODEN-FA. However, while the characters remain the same, many of the roles have shifted since the last contest. Issoufou is now president. Amadou, his great ally in 2011, is now his fiercest political opponent and is currently campaigning from behind bars. And Oumarou – who last time around was seen to be favoured by former president Mamadou Tandja and the candidate most likely to bring continuity – now represents a break from the Issoufou’s status quo. African Arguments

76 Hungry Boko Haram Members Surrender to Nigerian Military
Dozens of emaciated-looking Boko Haram members begging for food have surrendered in northeast Nigeria, the military and a civilian self-defense fighter said Wednesday. Seventy-six people including children and women gave themselves up to soldiers last Saturday in Gwoza, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Maiduguri, according to a senior officer. All are being detained at military headquarters in Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram and currently the command center of the war against the Islamic extremists, according to the officer. He insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to journalists. The detainees said many more fighters want to surrender, a self-defense civilian fighter who helped escort them to Maiduguri told The Associated Press.  VOA

Nigeria, Corruption and ‘the Goodluck Jonathan Alibi’
It would be easy to believe that Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is winning the war against corruption since his landmark election victory nearly a year ago. Hardly a week goes by without the country’s anti-graft agency announcing new arrests and investigations to add to the prominent politicians already in the dock. But the longer the cases already brought to court drag on, the clearer it becomes that a potential setback could prevent Buhari from securing the convictions he has promised — and Nigerians demand. Call it “the Goodluck Jonathan alibi”. Even before the final election results were announced last March, Jonathan conceded defeat, accepting the inevitable that Nigerians had for the first time in the country’s history ousted an incumbent president. Then, in a strategy designed to keep the peace and avoid a renewed flare-up of election-linked violence, Buhari extended an olive branch to the ousted leader.  AFP on Yahoo News

Uganda’s Failure to Spend Global Fund Grants Denies Thousands HIV Treatment
The lives of hundreds of thousands of people are being put at risk by Uganda’s poor management of health spending, a report finds. An audit by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, published on Friday, said millions of dollars remained unspent even though drug shortages were common in health centres. For a country often pleading limited resources for providing decent healthcare, the findings suggest that a big part of the problem could be paucity of smart governance. Since 2002, the fund has signed grants worth $1bn (£715m) to Uganda, of which $623m has been disbursed. About 90% of the money goes on buying drugs and other health commodities. The Guardian

Uganda and Tanzania Plan Oil Pipeline
Uganda and Tanzania are planning to build a pipeline from Ugandan oil fields to the Tanzanian coast in a move that could strike a blow to Kenyan pipeline plans. Statements issued after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli met on Tuesday did not mention the fate of the Kenyan oil export pipeline plan. Uganda, which has yet to start oil production, raised the possibility of a Tanzanian pipeline route last year. France’s Total, one of the oil firms developing Uganda’s fields, had raised security concerns about the Kenyan route. A Kenyan pipeline could run near Somalia, from where militants have launched attacks on Kenya. The East African

Mozambique: Towards a New War Between the Frelimo Government and Renamo Rebels?
Two decades after the end of Mozambique’s bloody civil war and over 16 months after the ruling party, the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo), won elections in October 2014, tensions have been running high with opposition the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) guerillas. In an escalation of a simmering conflict between old civil war foes, army operations began in Tete Province in October 2015, and thousands have fled to bordering Malawi fearing violence and harassment from government soldiers, and the situation is still evolving in Mozambique – one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, which is looking to escape years of poverty and conflict by tapping into its huge energy resources. IBTimes UK spoke to Joseph Hanlon, a journalist and a development researcher who has been writing about Mozambique since 1978 about the possibilities of a new civil war in the country home to more than 27 million people. International business Times

ANC Chief Whip Quits
ANC chief whip Stone Sizani has resigned from Parliament with immediate effect, the party said on Wednesday. An ANC MP, who spoke off the record, said Sizani was heading to Germany, where he would be deployed as an ambassador. Sizani would be temporarily replaced by deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude, said spokesperson Moloto Mothapo. He did not say where Sizani would be going. “The National Executive Committee of the ANC will make a decision regarding the replacement when it meets for its regular sitting in a few weeks’ time,” he said. Sizani was appointed to the position in 2013. The MP said the party had found out at an urgent caucus meeting, called on Wednesday.  News 24

Ethiopia’s Persistent Food Insecurity: What Went Wrong?
On June 11, 2003 Ethiopia’s Prime Minister the late Meles Zenawi convened a joint meeting with major Western donors in Addis Abeba and confided in them that the food crisis Ethiopia was facing at the time had reached unacceptable level; he said he considered the situation to be a matter of national security concern. At the time, 16 million Ethiopians were in need of food aid. Thirteen years later, more than 20 million Ethiopians are facing chronic food shortage. For more than two decades the government in Ethiopia repeatedly claimed that it was so focused on tackling pervasive poverty and acute food deficit in the country. So why are so many Ethiopians still starving? What went wrong? The government’s standard answer to these questions is usually to point its fingers on external factors; this time the sole culprit is El Niño. However, the fact is Ethiopia had been, and remains to be, one of the world’s most food-insecure countries where one in four people live below the poverty line, according to the latest human development index on Ethiopia. Addis Standard on allAfrica

Egypt’s Parliament Expels Lawmaker Who Dined With Israel’s Ambassador
Egypt’s Parliament on Wednesday expelled a well-known television personality turned lawmaker over a dinner he had with the Israeli ambassador — a vote that exposed a raw nerve in the mostly tranquil relationship between the two countries. The lawmaker, Tawfik Okasha, had already been attacked with a shoe by a fellow lawmaker three days earlier over the same episode, which highlighted Egyptian sensitivity toward Israel, 37 years after the two countries signed a peace treaty. Although Egypt and Israel enjoy close security cooperation, particularly in the struggle against Islamist extremists in Sinai, many Egyptians view Israel with hostility over its policies toward the Palestinians, and public interactions with Israeli officials are considered taboo. Speaking by telephone, Mr. Okasha’s lawyer, Khaled Suleiman, said he had been “expecting a backlash for meeting the ambassador, but nothing close to this.”  The Washington Post

Living-Room Democracy: In Rural Egypt, Political Candidates Go Door-to-door
This past fall in El-Balyana, a remote district in Upper Egypt, there were nineteen candidates for two seats in the new national parliament, and none of them seemed to enjoy the campaign more than Yusuf Hasan Yusuf. He was a big man in his mid-forties, with smooth, dark skin that was set off by a white galabia. He had nine children, a jewelry shop, and a farm where he grew wheat, corn, and sugarcane. He campaigned entirely door-to-door—in his opinion, public political activity served no purpose. “If you have those rallies, it’s fake,” Yusuf told me. He had no platform, and he didn’t talk about issues, policies, or potential legislation. He never made a single public campaign promise. In the past, he hadn’t enjoyed the support of any party or other institution, and yet he had built a successful political career. Once, I asked a rival candidate how he did it. “Yusuf is lucky,” he said, somewhat grudgingly. “Yusuf is a simple, kind man, and he’s lucky.” Yusuf first won a seat in parliament in December of 2010. Running as an independent, he defeated the local candidate from the National Democratic Party, which had ruled a de-facto one-party state for more than thirty years.  The New Yorker



Photo: Adam Jones