Media Review for March 31, 2016

Ex-Rwandan Minister Accused of Spying Dies in Burundi Jail

Former Rwandan minister Jacques Bihozagara has died in jail in Burundi nearly four months after being arrested for espionage, officials and fellow prisoners told AFP. Kigali said it was “shocked” by the news with the Rwandan foreign ministry demanding answers from the Burundi authorities, amid worsening relations between the two neighbours. “During the day he (Bihozagara) felt ill and was taken to the prison infirmary,” a detainee at Mpimba prison in the capital Bujumbura, reached by telephone, said on condition of anonymity. “Then they told us he had died 20 minutes later, shortly after 3 pm (1300 GMT). … Detainees said Bihozagara had seemed in good health.An official from Burundi’s penitentiary agency and the Rwandan foreign ministry official confirmed his death. Bihozagara, a former youth minister in Rwanda as well as a former ambassador to Belgium and France, was arrested on December 4, 2015 by Burundi’s National Intelligence Service (SNR), an agency under the direct control of President Nkurunziza. News24

Rwanda: Govt to Engage Diaspora on Genocide Ideology

As the 22nd commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi draws near, the government intends to engage more Rwandans abroad to be part of the drive in fighting against the promotion of genocide ideology and revisionism. This was announced yesterday by Sports and Culture Minister, Julienne Uwacu, during a press conference to update the media on the state of preparations to honour the over one million victims of the Genocide. Regardless of government’s efforts to rebuild a united nation—free from divisionism and ethnicity—some individuals, especially Genocide fugitives and their sympathisers, continue to promote genocide ideology across the world. “This year, we want to put more efforts in engaging members of the Diaspora. We want to fight Genocide ideology, by engaging Rwandans and friends of Rwanda through our embassies to participate in commemoration events and to be part of this cause that undermines our pursuit for unity, reconciliation and the development of our country,” Uwacu said. New Times

Uganda: Supreme Court Dismisses Election Petition

The Supreme Court has dismissed the presidential poll petition filed by former premier Amama Mbabazi, challenging the outcome of the February 18 presidential polls. “The first respondent was validly elected. This petition is dismissed. It is not necessary to order for a recount in the 44 districts” Chief Justice Bark Katureebe said as he read out the judgment. Mbabazi filed his petition on March 1, 2016 seeking a court declaration that President-elect Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was not validly elected and that the presidential results that the Electoral Commission (EC) boss, Badru Kiggundu, declared on February 20, were null and void. He also wanted court to order a vote recount in 44 districts where he alleged that there was massive vote rigging. On the issue of non-compliance court reiterated that there was no evidence to directly link the proven instances of non-compliance to the first respondent President Yoweri Museveni adding that failure to comply does not automatically lead to annulment of an election. “There was non-compliance but we’re not satisfied it affected the results in a substantial manner” Katureebe said. New Vision

Six killed in Somalia shootings

Gunmen have killed six people in a drive-by shooting, including two Turkish hospital workers, in the latest violence to hit Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, authorities said Thursday. “Six civilians, two of them Turkish nationals, have been killed, and six more were wounded,” said Abdifatah Omar Halane, spokesman for the Mogadishu city authorities. The shooting took place late Wednesday, and those killed also included the driver and security guards of the Turks. “Security forces are pursuing the attackers,” Mr Halane said. East African

Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 9 in Central Somalia

A Somali police official says a suicide bombing in central Somalia has killed at least nine people and wounded 10 others. Ali Aden said a suicide bomber blew himself up among a group of people at a café near a hotel in Galkayo town on Thursday. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted officials from Puntland, a semiautonomous state in northeastern Somalia. The al-Qaida-linked group has been carrying out a campaign of deadly violence targeting government officials, government and international troops. AP

Boko Haram Attack in Niger kills Six Soldiers

Six soldiers from Niger’s army were killed in an ambush by Boko Haram militants, the country’s interior ministry said. The attack happened near the town of Diffa close to the border with Nigeria early on Wednesday. It comes two weeks after a Boko Haram assault on a military convoy in the same area that left one soldier dead. The Islamist group is based in Nigeria but is being tackled by a multinational force, including soldiers from Niger. In the latest attack, three other soldiers were wounded. Niger’s military deployed aircraft to try and track those responsible soon afterwards. Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou has been praised in the West for rallying neighbouring countries to fight Boko Haram. BBC

Boko Haram Seized 300 Children in 2nd 2014 School Attack

Boko Haram seized hundreds of children from a remote town in northeast Nigeria in late 2014 but initial calls to report the kidnapping were ignored with locals fearful of the government’s response, residents told AFP on Wednesday. A local government administrator, a local chief, another elder and a resident all said some 300 children were among the 500 girls, boys and women taken from Damasak on Monday November 24, 2014. The numbers involved surpass even the 276 schoolgirls who were taken from Chibok in April the same year, which drew worldwide condemnation and calls for action. But the government of former president Goodluck Jonathan in March last year denied reports of the Damasak kidnapping while a local senator and a senior intelligence source also doubted the claim. The administrator, whose seven-year-old child was among those abducted, said: “We kept quiet on the kidnap out of fear of drawing the wrath of the government, which was already grappling with the embarrassment of the kidnap of the Chibok schoolgirls. News24

U.S., Nigeria Set Up Working Groups on Security, Economy, Corruption

The United States and Nigeria on Wednesday agreed to establish working groups focused on strengthening security cooperation, the economy and tackling corruption after day-long talks at the State Department. In a joint statement, the countries said the groups would come up with a paper within a month finalizing goals. Kerry meets Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday on the sidelines of a two-day nuclear security summit in Washington involving leaders from more than 50 countries. The meetings on Wednesday were launched by Kerry and Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, who both acknowledged security challenges posed by Boko Haram militants in the northeast and neighboring countries, as well as tough economic times caused by a drop in oil prices. Kerry said the United States was committed to helping Nigeria tackle the Boko Haram insurgency, although he cautioned that security forces had to avoid human rights abuses even as they stepped up the fight against the jihadi group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Reuters

New Guinea Ebola Outbreak

A resurgence of Ebola in a rural Guinean community has killed seven people, health officials said on Wednesday, even as the World Health Organization voiced confidence that remaining isolated cases could be contained. The WHO said on Tuesday that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa no longer constituted an international emergency, but the announcement of new cases demonstrated the difficulty of managing the aftermath of the virus. The death of a man, two of his wives and his daughter were announced two weeks ago by the Guinean health authorities, who confirmed on Wednesday a third wife and a mother-in-law also died after becoming infected in the village of Koropara. Polygamy is commonly practised in Guinea. “On March 30, there are nine registered cases and seven deaths: three suspected and four confirmed,” said Fode Tass Sylla, spokesman for Guinea’s Ebola response unit. News24

Gunmen Storm TV Station in Libya

Gunmen stormed the Tripoli headquarters of satellite TV station Al-Nabaa on Wednesday night, cut its transmissions and forced out its staff, according to two journalists from the channel, which is close to the authorities in control of the Libyan capital. “A group of armed men, some of them in fatigues and some in civilian clothing, stormed our offices and gathered the employees in one room telling them they have nothing more to do here,” one of the journalists told AFP. Programming was completely halted on the channel, half an hour after a red banner appeared on the screen that read “Urgent” and announced that “the sons and the revolutionaries of Tripoli have closed the channel of discord and instigation [of hatred]“. The message threatened to hunt down anyone working for the channel in the future. News24

Libya’s Unity Government Leaders in Tripoli Power Bid

Leaders of Libya’s new unity government have arrived in the capital, Tripoli, by boat in an attempt to take control. Over recent days, Tripoli’s airspace has been intermittently closed to stop the Presidency Council, which has been based in Tunisia, from arriving by air. Libya’s UN envoy called for “a peaceful and orderly handover”. But hardliners in the coalition that controls Tripoli are opposed to the UN-brokered deal aimed at reconciling a nation split by five years of conflict. In a televised address, the head of the Tripoli authorities, Khalifa Ghweil, said he regarded the politicians as interlopers and said they were not welcome. He urged “the illegitimate outsiders to surrender and be safe in our custody or to return to where they came from”. Late on Wednesday, journalists from a television channel supportive of authorities in Tripoli said it was taken off air after gunmen stormed its offices. It was not clear to whom the gunmen were affiliated. BBC

Tunisia’s Fragile Democracy Faces A Threat From Chaotic Libya

Ben Guerdane is a dusty town in Tunisia’s south, just 20 miles from the border with Libya, a roiling nation of militias and guns galore. It’s a smuggling town, and it depends on the nearly 300-mile border with Libya to survive. In more normal times, it’s everyday products that get smuggled, but these days something more nefarious is coming across that border — weapons and militants. The spillover from the conflict in Libya is setting off alarm bells in Tunisia, threatening a fragile democracy in the one place that emerged from the 2011 Arab revolts as a bright spot. Meanwhile, Libya is a nation in chaos with three battling governments, a plethora of militias and a security vacuum being filled by a growing presence of the Islamic State extremist group on Tunisia’s border. And even more ominously, many of those Islamic State fighters now in Libya are actually from Tunisia. NPR

Entire Village Plundered, Torched in Tawila, North Darfur

On Sunday, militiamen raided the village of Dali Diko in northern Tawila locality, robbed the 247 families in the village of their belongings, and set their homes on fire. Speaking from the Rwanda camp for the displaced in Tawila, one of the villagers told Radio Dabanga that a large group of militiamen in vehicles and others on camels and horses attacked the village on Sunday. “The janjaweed beat and whipped us, and threatening to kill us if we did not leave immediately,” he reported. “They then took all our belongings, including 39 donkeys and more than 40 sheep and goats, and left.” The villager said that 230 families reached the Rwanda camp. The remaining families sought refuge in the camps for the displaced in Abu Shouk, El Salam, and Zamzam near El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur. Radio Dabanga

Darfur Prosecutor Accuses Rebels of Recruiting Child Soldiers

The Special Prosecutor of Darfur Crimes Al-Fatih Mohamed Tayfor has accused rebel movements of abducting children and forcing them to engage in military activities. He said in press statements Wednesday in the capital of North Darfur state, El-Fasher that his court received complaints that children were compelled to engage in direct military work or forced labour such as serving food and drinks and washing clothes. Tayfor pointed that the armed movements violate all international conventions and international humanitarian law and the 2010 Child Act by continuing to recruit children. He added that charges against 30 children have been dropped after the medical examination proved that they are under-age, saying they have been handed over to the child prosecution office to take the appropriate measures. Sudan Tribune

Ethiopia Protesters: No, We Don’t Have Self-Rule in Oromia State

Protesters and activists in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest state, have denied they have self-rule in the region, contrary to a governement’ statement given to IBTimes UK. Abiy Berhane, minister counsellor at the Ethiopian Embassy in London said earlier in March people already rule themselves in Oromia, they use Oromo as the official language, they have their own budget and a regional parliament that rules on all political, economic and social aspects. However, some Oromo people denied the claims made by the official. Activist, author and PhD candidate at London’s Soas University, Etana Habte, told IBTimes UK there is no self-rule in Oromia, where people do not trust the region’s ruling party coalition, Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (Opdo). “Opdo is an organisation of ex-war captives established by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in Tigray in 1990, when the latter failed to co-opt the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF),” he alleged. “Oromia’s regional council, Caffee Oromiyaa, has never had any history of independent decisions, it has been approving what is put on the table by TPLF. If Oromia has no self-rule, no regional council of itself, talking about budget and independent decisions is only a mere waste of time.” IBTimes

South Sudan Army Accuses Opposition Forces of Renewed Attacks

South Sudanese army (SPLA) has accused the armed opposition faction of SPLA-IO of allegedly attacking their forces on Mayendit-Leer road on Wednesday. The accusation came a day after the SPLA-IO on Tuesday said its forces were warned by the government forces in Leer and Mayendit counties to expect attacks on some of their areas such as Thornyor in Leer and Daplual in Mayendit in Unity state. “In the last two days, Riek Machar’s militias have been causing insecurity on Mayendit-Leer road; On 28/3/2016, at about 4:00PM, an SPLA administrative convoy comprising of three Toyota Land-cruiser Pick-ups and a 4th vehicle belonging to the Commissioner of Leer County were ambushed between Mirmir and Rupkuai villages,” SPLA spokesperson, Brigadier Lul Ruai Koang, said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Wednesday. He said one civilian was killed in the ambush, a commissioner’s vehicle was burned and another vehicle taken away by the attackers. Sudan Tribune

UN Widens Probe of Fresh Central Africa Sex Abuse Allegations

The United Nations on Wednesday said it has widened an investigation of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by foreign peacekeepers in Central African Republic and notified authorities in France, Gabon and Burundi about the charges. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Monday the world body had received new sexual abuse allegations against U.N. peacekeepers from Morocco and Burundi in Central African Republic (CAR), including one that involved a 14-year-old girl. The U.N. press office released new information about the probe late on Wednesday, saying that a U.N. team led by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in CAR, known as MINUSCA, had traveled to the Kemo prefecture to investigate. “The exact number and nature of these extremely troubling allegations are still being determined,” the U.N. statement said. “The team has identified the contingents in question as those provided by Burundi and Gabon.” Reuters

South African Court Finds President Failed to Uphold Constitution

South Africa’s highest court says President Jacob Zuma ‘failed to uphold the constitution’ as it delivered its ruling in a case over public funding of improvements to Zuma’s home. The Constitutional Court said Zuma should repay from personal funds an amount to be determined by the national treasury for the upgrades. Opposition lawmakers brought the case against the president, saying the upgrades, described by the government as security enhancements, included a swimming pool, cattle pen, chicken run and amphitheater. Estimates of the cost of the enhancements range from 15 to 20 million dollars. Legal experts say a ruling forcing Zuma to pay back the money would not only be a victory for the opposition, but would also strengthen the position of those who want him impeached. VOA

‘Anonymous’ Hackers Cyber-Attack Angolan Government

The hacking collective Anonymous says it has shut down more than 20 Angolan government websites in response to the jailing of 17 youth activists. Many of the sites were still down 20 hours after the Portuguese branch of the group claimed the cyber-attack in a post on its Facebook page. Prominent rapper Luaty Beirao and 16 others were convicted on Monday of planning a rebellion against Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Mr Dos Santos has ruled since 1979. The activists say they are peaceful campaigners and have called on the veteran leader to step down. They received jail sentences of between two and eight years. BBC

Quick US Response Unit to Africa Focuses on US Embassies

In 2012, the U.S. State Department special office in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked by Islamic militants, killing U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith. Stevens became the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979. Controversy and questions regarding security and preparedness followed. Consequently, a quick response military unit with Marines and Navy personnel was formed in 2013. Called the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF), the unit is permanently based in Spain. “The primary role of this force of just under 2,000 Marines and sailors is for U.S. embassy reinforcement,” said former unit commander Colonel Calvert Worth, Jr., who was in New York on Wednesday to brief the foreign press on the role of the SPMAGTF. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones