Media Review for March 30, 2016

‘Nkurunziza Gives us Two Choices; Death or Suicide’ — Burundians Losing Faith in International Effort

TEN months of failed diplomacy are beginning to take a toll on Burundian expectations. “Most of us activists are moving on,” said a Burundian professional who asked not to be named. “We knew all along that the international community had no real leverage, or will, to catalyse inclusive solutions and we have been proven right,” she added. According an opposition leader, “Burundians will not sit on their hands waiting for outside help…we will rely on our own efforts … this sounds radical but it should be welcomed because Burundians must own our problems and their solutions, whatever those may be.” Similar attitudes are being expressed by civil society. According to a leader of one civic coalition, international diplomats “are sending mixed signals … probably because they do not have strategic interests at stake in Burundi … and this has signalled to the regime that it can dig in and have its way, even if it means dragging the country into war.” “However,” she adds, “the stakes are very high for Burundians, and while the mess we have created does not make international news, it is a central issue for the East African Community (EAC) because it affects member states’ national security.” Mail & Guardian

Burundi’s Last Civil War Killed 300,000. A New One is Coming

April will mark one year since violence erupted in Burundi. The torture, abductions and arbitrary arrests have increased since the beginning of the year, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Human Rights Watch has documented horrific violence by government forces and members of the ruling party’s youth league, reporting mutilations, smashed bones, slit throats, and beatings with iron bars. Bodies have been dumped in streets, buried in mass graves, or taken to unknown destinations. The UN reported last week that the death toll stands at 474 people since the violence began. Cara Jones, a US political science professor, has been counting the number of deaths reported by citizens and social media. Her research puts the number of dead closer to 1,200. “But the danger is we don’t know what is happening in the rural areas. There could be a lot more killings and disappearances that we are not aware of,” she says. Two weeks ago Hussein told the Security Council that the small central African state was on the brink of a sudden escalation of violence to “massive proportions.” Global Post

Burundi: Are the Eight Stages of Genocide Applicable to the Nation’s Spiralling Violence?

The founder of Genocide Watch has warned a genocide is in preparation in Burundi and the United Nations (UN) may be too late to prevent it, but are the eight stages of a genocide applicable to the small African nation’s deepening deadly violence? IBTimes UK spoke to Gregory Stanton, research professor in genocide studies and prevention at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution of George Mason University, Virginia, US, who wrote Eight Stages of Genocide: How Governments Can Tell When Genocide Is Coming and What They Can Do To Stop It when he served as Foreign Service Officer in the State Department before becoming the Co-Chair of the Washington Working Group for the International Criminal Court (ICC). According to the expert, genocide proceeds through a predictable eight-stage process, and while no one in the international community has officially declared that a potential genocide is under way, Stanton said “so many of the stages of genocide are already clearly happening in Burundi”. He applied the situation in Burundi to the eight stages of genocide, as follows. IBTimes

Members of Libya’s U.N.-Backed Presidential Council Arrive in Tripoli

Members of Libya’s U.N.-backed Presidential Council have arrived in the capital, Tripoli, a Reuters reporter said. Seven members, including Fayez Seraj, the head of the council and prime minister of Libya’s unity government, arrived at Tripoli’s naval base after travelling by boat from Tunisia. Tripoli’s self-declared government and armed groups that back it had in recent days warned the unity government not to travel to the Libyan capital. Reuters

From Senegal to Libya: An African Student Joins Islamic State

When Sadio Gassama decided to go into medicine, he started by giving free check-ups at his mosque in Senegal’s poor southern region of Casamance. Now, the 25-year-old medical student says he is treating Islamic State fighters in Libya. Until recently, many thought the peaceful, tolerant Sufi brotherhoods in countries such as Senegal could prevent more conservative and radical versions of Islam from taking hold in poorer parts of West Africa, like Mali and Niger. But security experts say Gassama’s story shows how the penetration of hardline Islamic Salafism, coupled with Gulf money and militant propaganda, is aiding recruitment, even from stable and democratic Senegal. In particular, in their appeals to Africans, Islamic State propagandists are calling on doctors to make “hijrah”, or pilgrimage, to their African stronghold of Sirte in Libya. Reuters

UN Says Threat from Violent Extremists in Mali ‘Alarming’

A new UN report says security threats from violent extremists and criminal groups in Mali are ‘alarming’ and the government must deploy more troops to the volatile north and step up efforts to reform its military and police. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in the report to the Security Council that in spite of improved relations among signatories to last June’s peace agreement, north and central Mali remain threatened by “criminal, violent extremist and terrorist groups, which take advantage of the limited presence of Malian law enforcement institutions.” News24

Niger’s Opposition Leader Granted Release

Hama Amadou, Niger’s opposition leader, was granted bail Tuesday, five months after being detained on baby-trafficking charges he said were politically motivated. Last week, Amadou lost a runoff election to President Mahamadou Issoufou, who won his second term with 92 percent of the vote. The opposition party boycotted the election, which led to the lopsided victory. A spokesman for the opposition party said the charges were concocted and Amadou was arrested in order to sideline him for the election. “The court should have freed him so that he could be on equal footing with Issoufou during the elections. It didn’t. Hama is innocent and this case is a plot to push him out of political life,” spokesman Ousseini Salatou said. Amadou was held in a prison and was unable to campaign during the election. He was in poor health during the campaign and was flown to France for medical treatment four days before the March 20 vote, and he remained there Tuesday. VOA

Nigeria: Three Killed in Oil Pipeline Explosion in Bayelsa – ERA

Three people were killed and several wounded when an oil pipeline belonging to Italy’s ENI exploded during repair works in Nigeria’s southern Delta region, an environmental group said on Tuesday. The blast was one of the worst in recent weeks in the swampland, where residents and former militant groups have long complained about oil pollution and casualties caused by pipeline accidents. The explosion happened in the Olugboboro community in Bayelsa state on Sunday but bodies were only recovered on Monday after the fire was brought under control, residents said. Up to seven had been wounded, they said. “The news of another tragic incident in the oil industry which claimed three lives … came to the Environmental Rights Action (ERA) as a great shock,” said Alagoa Morris, an activist at the group. “We in ERA will not stop calling on the authorities and regulators of the oil industry to make safety and best practices the mantra of the industry, not just profit (seeking),” he said. The group and residents said workers had been repairing the pipeline when it caught fire. There was no immediate comment from ENI. Daily Trust

Cameroon Police Detain 60 Regime Opponents

Police in Cameroon on Tuesday detained around 60 members of the opposition who had gathered in Yaounde to protest any attempts to change the constitution to extend the 34-year rule of President Paul Biya, opponents told AFP. “Around 60 people were taken in for questioning” Tuesday morning as they were due to attend a press conference organised by several opposition parties, said Christophe Bobiokono, member of the national commission on human rights and freedoms. He added that they were questioned and eventually released, although he could not confirm by Tuesday night that all of them had been let go. The police blocked the site of the press conference, which was called to denounce any bid to change the constitution, and used tear gas on the opponents as they tried to disperse, said Emmanuel Simh, vice president of the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC). The opposition claims the Cameroonian parliament wants to change the constitution “to benefit only one person”, the country’s 83-year-old president. News24

France to End Military Operations in Central African Republic this Year

France will end its military intervention in the Central African Republic this year as it has achieved its objectives of restoring security to the country after three years of communal violence, the French defence minister said Wednesday. “I can confirm to you the end of Operation Sangaris during the course of 2016,” Jean-Yves Le Drian said in the capital Bangui. France launched the mission in December 2013 as thousands were dying in ethnic violence between Christians and Muslims. At the time, “the country was in the throes of civil war, torn by religious tensions, plagued by chaos, on the brink of pre-genocidal scenarios,” Le Drian said. “In the space of two years, the Sangaris force restored calm and prevented the unacceptable. “Of course everything is not resolved but we can finally see the country emerging from a long period of trouble and uncertainty”, he said, speaking before French soldiers stationed at the M’Poko airport. The CAR plunged into chaos in March 2013 when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize, a Christian, and installed their leader Michel Djotodia in power for 10 months. A transitional government was brought in under international pressure in early 2014. France24

Brazzaville Shopkeepers Protest ‘Massive Fraud’ in Presidential Poll

Opposition strongholds in Brazzaville were closed Tuesday following a strike over the re-election of Congo’s veteran ruler Denis Sassou Nguesso in polls his rivals say were marred by “massive fraud”. Sassou Nguesso was declared the winner of the March 20 election, extending his 32 years in power in a result which has been challenged by five defeated opposition candidates. He got a first-round win with 60 percent of the vote, according to the disputed official result. Southern districts of the Congolese capital were deserted on Tuesday, including Total, the city’s biggest market where the array of goods ranges from electronic appliances to caterpillars — a local delicacy. But on the fringes of the market, hundreds of women vendors ringed the pavements selling vegetables, fruit and soap. The strike call was issued by runner-up Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas who received more than 15 percent of the votes, third-place candidate Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko who polled nearly 14 percent, and three others: Claudine Munari, Andre Okombi Salissa and Pascal Tsaty Mabiala. France24

Hunger and Insecurity Forcing South Sudanese to Flee: UNHCR

Growing food insecurity is causing more and more South Sudanese to flee into Sudan, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), urging more funding for clean water, sanitation and health services, food and shelter. The UN refugee agency said some 38,000 people have fled north over the border to neighbouring East and South Darfur since the end of January, particularly from the growing unrest in South Sudan’s states of Northern Bahr El Ghazal and Warrap. The majority crossed into East Darfur, where an average of 500 South Sudanese have been arriving per day rising to over 150 households last week, UN officials said. The situation “could quickly worsen as the nutrition situation in Upper Nile, Warrap, and Northern Bahr Ghazal grows increasingly serious,” the agency said in a statement. The arrivals are reaching Sudan in poor condition, according to the Government of Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission. In addition to food, water and basic relief items, they need protection from sexual and gender-based violence, and many children have been separated from their families. Sudan Tribune

Sudan Closes its Common Border with South Sudan

Sudanese government has again on Tuesday closed its borders with South Sudan, just a week after Khartoum threatened to treat South Sudanese in Sudan as foreigners. On Tuesday, South Sudan’s Renk county commissioner in West Nile state, (former Upper Nile sate), Stephen Chan Aluong, said his county has officially received a message from the White Nile state governor of Sudan that the national government has issued a directive ending cross border movement with the neighbouring South Sudan. “It is very clear that the closing directives were issued by Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and given as a directive of action to White Nile governor,” Aluong told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday. “Even people who are taking their relatives to hospitals in Sudan have been stopped from crossing the border by border Sudanese authorities,” he said. Sudan threatened two weeks ago to close the border, stop medical and education incentives South Sudanese enjoys in north and treat them as foreigners over charges that Juba continues to support Sudanese rebels. South Sudan has denied this allegation and insists on dialogue as the way to resolve the differences. Sudan Tribune

Uganda: Police Named Worst Abuser of Journalists

A new report has accused Police of being a leading abuser of press freedoms and rights in Uganda, adding to its notoriety as the most corrupt government entity. According to the 2015 press freedom index report published by the Human rights network for journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-U), the police accounts for 75 percent of abuse cases against journalists documented last year. A total 143 cases were documented by the organization and of them, 107 cases against journalists were committed by the police. This is 67 cases more than what was recorded against the police in 2014 despite assurances from the police leadership of a better working relationship between the force and journalists. “The violations include assault, inhumane treatment, and detention and release without charge. Journalists were brutally assaulted, arrested and their cameras confiscated for taking [pictures] of the police using extreme force [against] suspects especially during public meetings and demonstrations,” Robert Ssempala, the HRNJ-U national coordinator, said on Tuesday during the launch of the report at Imperial Royale hotel, Kampala. The Observer

Tanzanian President Calls for Reduced Reliance on Foreign Aid

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has called on citizens of the east African country to lessen their dependence on donations made by foreign entities. According to a report by the Zambian Post, Magufuli made his plea during an Easter mass held in the capital of Dar Es Salaam on Sunday. “Tanzanians can stop relying on conditional loans from foreign donors if they cultivate a culture of working hard,” he was quoted as saying. Since taking up his seat in office in November last year, Magufuli has taken a number of austerity measures that have earned him notoriety. News24

Somali Police Nab 100 Suspects for Planning Attacks in Mogadishu

Somalia security officers have arrested over 100 people suspected to have been planning attacks in the capital city Mogadishu, local government spokesman said on Tuesday. Abdifitah Halane told journalists in Mogadishu that the security swoop also led to seizure of a car laden with explosives and three AK47 riffles. “Our officers launched an operation following reports some people had been spotted acting suspiciously in Hodan district. They arrested 100 of them and carted away a car which had explosives and 3 AK47 guns,” said Halane. Halane noted the suspects were planning to launch attack in the city, but their mission was cut short by the police raid. “Armed police officers raided houses here earlier on Tuesday and arrested around 100 people. I also heard they had weapons,” said local resident Mohamed Dhere. The raid follows similar ones in the last few weeks after the intelligence agency issued terror alerts in Mogadishu with airport and seaport being possible major targets. Bar-Kulan

How Somalia Could Suffer from the Crisis in Burundi

Burundi’s capital Bujumbura lies more than 2,000 kilometers overland from the Somali capital Mogadishu. But the violence that has engulfed Burundi since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced in April 2015 that he was running for a third presidential term could soon have a negative impact on peace and stability in the troubled Horn of Africa state. … After suspending direct aid to Burundi earlier in March, the European Union is now reportedly considering pulling its funding from a lucrative peacekeeping contingent of Burundian soldiers stationed in Somalia that makes up almost a quarter of an African Union force fighting the militant group Al-Shabab. The AU’s mission in Somalia—known as AMISOM—consists of more than 22,000 uniformed personnel. Behind Uganda, Burundi is the largest contributor of troops, with more than 5,400 Burundians involved in the mission. As part of the EU’s support for the force, each contributing government receives $1,000 per month per soldier to cover wages and other logistical expenses—in Burundi’s case, $200 goes to the government while soldiers receive $800. The funding is worth roughly $13 million per year and a combined $52 million for its soldiers, many of whose families depend on the additional funding to make ends meet. Newsweek

Angry Villagers Storm Malawi Police Unit, Kill Murder Suspect

Angry villagers of the Dedza area in Malawi have stormed a police unit and killed a suspected murderer in the latest case of mob justice to hit the region. According to a Nyasa Times report, the suspect was said to have killed a villager during an attempted robbery, setting off a wave of anger that would later result in his own death. Police spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa, confirmed the incident, saying no arrests had been made in the case thus far. “The villagers went to the unit around five in the morning and forced their way into the cell, where they took out the suspect,” Gondwa said. News24

Angola Book Club Members Convicted

A group of 17 political activists known as the Luanda Book Club have been sentenced to jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Angola’s government, local media reported on Tuesday. The group was arrested at a 2015 meeting where they met to discuss Gene Sharp’s 1993 book “From Dictatorship to Democracy, A Conceptual Framework for Liberation.” State prosecutors say they were planning a coup, independent news website Rede Angola reported. The book club members were found guilty of preparing a rebellion and criminal conspiracy in a packed, rowdy courtroom on Monday, the state-owned Jornal de Angola reported. The defence plans to appeal the decision, it reported. The activists were handed jail terms ranging from two years and three months to eight and a half years, Rede Angola reported. News24



Photo: Adam Jones