Media Review for March 7, 2016

Maritime Safety and Security: Crucial for Africa’s Strategic Future
Africa’s 16,000-mile coastline gives two-thirds of its countries direct access to a sea of riches. The maritime domain offers enormous earning potential through fishing and tourism. It serves as a major cultural reference point and a vital source of livelihoods for both coastal and inland communities. Maritime access, moreover, gives Africa a strategic advantage for international trade, diplomacy, and national development. The maritime domain is also a source of insecurity that affects the continent’s stability. Piracy, narcotics trafficking, arms smuggling, and other transnational threats all thrive in Africa’s maritime space, undercutting government authority and investor confidence. “There is no national security without maritime security,” says Dr. Assis Malaquias, an expert on maritime safety and security for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. And yet, national security and economic policies rarely emphasize maritime security due to a lack of awareness, political will, and resources.  Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Hassan al-Turabi, Islamist Who Championed Bin Laden, Dies at 84
Hassan al-Turabi, the Sudanese Islamist who played a central role in the 1989 coup that brought President Omar al-Bashir to power and who once hosted Osama bin Laden, died on Saturday, Sudan’s state-run news agency said. He was 84. Mr. Turabi championed radical Islam in the early 1990s, inviting Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, to Sudan. He once called the United States the “incarnation of the devil” and hailed Bin Laden as a hero. But shortly after Sudan, under pressure from the United States and other countries, expelled Al Qaeda in 1996, Mr. Turabi began to remake himself as a mainstream politician. Mr. Bashir dismissed him as Parliament speaker after Mr. Turabi backed legislation aimed at curbing the president’s powers in 1999. Mr. Turabi went on to form the opposition Popular Congress Party. He was jailed on a number of occasions and spent more than two years under house arrest. Born the son of a religious judge in 1932, Mr. Turabi was a lifelong scholar of Islam. A soft-spoken cleric, he was among the few Islamic scholars to argue that Muslim women could marry Christian or Jewish men.  AP on The New York Times

Benin to Elect New President Amid Concerns over Voters’ Cards
Benin goes to the polls on Sunday to choose a new president but with lingering concerns about the distribution of voters’ cards that has already forced a two-week postponement to the election. Polling stations open at 0600 GMT in the tiny West African nation with 4.7 million voters and close nine hours later, with a record 33 candidates on the first round ballot paper. Incumbent President Thomas Boni Yayi is bowing out after serving a maximum two five-year terms. The first results are expected within 72 hours of the vote. Prominent candidates include Lionel Zinsou, the Franco-Beninese financier who stepped down as head of France’s biggest investment bank to become prime minister last year. France 24

Election Campaigning Underway in Congo Brazzaville as Opposition Calls for Delay
Campaigning for presidential elections in the Republic of Congo officially got underway on Friday, although the opposition have criticised the choice of date since it coincides with deadly explosions in Brazzaville four years ago. President Denis Sassou Nguesso is vying for a third term in office after a controversial modification to the country’s constitution. The opposition is calling for the 20 March elections to be delayed, saying they will not be free and fair.  RFI

Tunisia Kills 10 Militants Near Libya Border
Tunisian security forces have killed 10 militants after they launched a cross-border raid from Libya, an army spokesman says. Fighting followed an attack on an army base and a police station in the eastern town of Ben Guerdane. Three civilians and two soldiers were also killed in the clashes, AFP news agency reports. There is concern in Tunisia about the threat from Islamist fighters based in Libya being able to cross the border. All entrances to the town have been shut, including the Ras Jdeir border crossing with Libya, the BBC’s Rana Jawad reports from the capital, Tunis.  BBC

Hearing: The Path Forward in Libya
Fred Wehrey Senior Associate, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Ms. Claudia Gazzini Senior Analyst, Libya International Crisis Group. U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Islamic State Setback in Libya Bolsters Ambition of Defiant General
Army engineers defused three bombs hidden by Islamic State militants in Ibrahim Mohamed’s home before letting him enter. One was concealed in his mother’s favorite chair. “I didn’t take anything with me as I thought I’d only be gone for a day or two,” the 39-year-old said as he wiped footprints from photographs discarded by jihadists who used his three-story house as a hideout during 18 months of fighting in Libya’s Benghazi. “It seems they experienced the same feeling during their last moments in my home.” Mohamed’s return was made possible by Libyan forces’ biggest victory over Islamic State, an achievement welcomed by world leaders alarmed that the holder of Africa’s largest oil reserves is becoming the latest stronghold of the militant group. Yet in a twist typical of the country’s chaos, the success bolstered a general whose ambitions are an obstacle to United Nations efforts to forge a national unity government, highlighting the struggle to catch up with ground realities dictated by local strongmen.  Bloomberg

US Planning to Strike Isil in Libya Based on ‘Faulty Intelligence’
The United States is basing plans for military intervention in Libya on faulty intelligence, Western officials and country experts have told the Sunday Telegraph. American intelligence agencies assess that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has doubled in size in Libya, with between 5,000 and 6,500 fighters in the country. Privately, however, some US officials say they believe these estimates to be overblown. Independent experts have come to the same conclusion. “The estimates of the number of jihadists is grossly exaggerated,” said Karim Mezran, a Libya expert with the Atlantic Council in Washington. Whilst Mr Mezran and other analysts were loathe to put a number on the size of the organisation, citing the chaos and lack of access to Isil areas in Libya, all said they believed the real figure to be only 20 to 40 per cent of the US estimate. Isil’s presence on Libya’s coast – just 300 miles from Italy – has caused deep concern among Western governments. The Telegraph

Renzi Says Won’t Send Troops to Libya for Now; Freed Italian Hostages Fly Home
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi denied on Sunday suggestions by the U.S. ambassador in Rome that Italy could send up to 5,000 troops to Libya, saying conditions were not in place for military intervention in the former Italian colony. Renzi was speaking on a television talk show on the day two Italian hostages freed in Libya were flown back home. Two other captives held at the same time were allegedly killed by Islamic State militants. “As long as I am prime minister, Italy will not go to Libya for an invasion with 5,000 men,” Renzi told Canale 5 television. He was responding to the U.S. ambassador to Italy, John Phillips, who told the Corriere della Sera newspaper on Friday that Rome could send up to 5,000 troops. “We need to make Tripoli safe and ensure that ISIS is no longer free to strike,” Phillips said. Rome is working with other Western powers and the United Nations to try to convince two rival Libyan governments to create a single, unity coalition and focus on the fight against Islamic State.  Reuters

Sahel Nations to Set up Anti-Islamist Units
Defence ministers from West Africa’s arid Sahel region have agreed to work together to establish special rapid reaction forces to counter the growing threat from al-Qaeda and Islamic State-linked militants. With its vast, loosely controlled desert expanses on the edge of the Sahara and its porous borders, the Sahel has proved to be fertile soil for the expansion of Islamist militancy in one of the world’s poorest regions. At a meeting in Chad’s capital N’Djamena, defence chiefs from Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania – the so-called G5 Sahel countries – pledged to form special units to respond quickly to threats and attacks from Islamist militants. “These groups, each composed of around 100 well-trained and very mobile men, will deploy in zones where the terrorists operate,” the G5 Sahel’s permanent secretary Najim Elhadj Mohamed said following the meeting late on Friday. He said the units, tailored after Spanish forces used against the Basque separatist group ETA, would receive training and support from both Spain and France. Reuters

Groups Seek to End Uganda’s Political Impasse
Efforts are underway to get Uganda’s ruling NRM party and the opposition Forum for Democratic Change to contribute to a minimum agenda for dialogue to resolve the tension in the aftermath of the February 18 General Election. The Elders Forum and the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, who organised the first televised presidential debate in Uganda, are leading the effort, together with the Uganda Women’s Situation Room (WSR), a platform for women whose aim is to provide early warning and rapid response mechanisms against election related violence or conflict. On Thursday, March 3, a team from these organisations was scheduled to meet with officials of the FDC a day after the party issued four demands it says are critical to resolve the current standoff. “FDC has not closed the door to dialogue. So we want to hear from them what sort of dialogue they are committed to and what form they would like it to take so that we can begin to draw up an agenda. We are also meant to meet with the president but we were informed he is away. Once he returns it will be possible to meet with them as well,” said a member of the opposition party.  The East Africa

Ban Wants Solution in Western Sahara
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday he had asked his envoy for Western Sahara to work to relaunch talks between Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front on the disputed desert territory. The secretary general made the announcement in Algiers, the main supporter of the Polisario Front which is demanding Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco. He told reporters he had asked special envoy Christopher Ross to resume visits to the region in a bid to relaunch talks between Rabat and the Polisario Front and seek an end to the 40-year conflict. The United Nations has been trying to broker a Western Sahara settlement since 1991 after a ceasefire was reached to end a war that broke out when Morocco deployed its military in the former Spanish territory in 1975.  News 24

Cameroon’s Capital on Edge About Potential Terrorist Attack
Panic has gripped Cameroon’s capital Yaounde after a confidential letter from the country’s defense minister leaked to social media stating that Boko Haram terrorists had arrived in the city. The letter from Joseph Beti Assomo to top military officers called for vigilance and additional deployment of troops to ministerial buildings and public areas such as markets churches and schools. Military officials said the leak occurred because of lapses in their information system. In light of the information some residents have decided to lie low. Businesswoman Belinda Tatah said that when she heard Assomo had urged the military to stop a possible terrorist attack in the capital she decided to avoid all public places and gatherings. “You know if the minister of defense signs a confidential note that there are terrorists in town any normal human being should be afraid” Tatah said. “That is why I have decided not to go out because I am too scared.” The letter called for increased security at government buildings army barracks military hospitals and “crowded” public places. It also called for collaboration between the public and vigilante groups. Turkish Weekly

Boko Haram Falls Victim to a Food Crisis It Created
At first, the attack had all the hallmarks of a typical Boko Haram assault. Armed fighters stormed a town on the border with Nigeria, shooting every man they saw. But this time, instead of burning homes and abducting hostages, the fighters gathered cows, goats and any kind of food they could round up, then fled with it all. Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group terrorizing this part of the world, is on the hunt — for food. After rampaging across the region for years, forcing more than two million people to flee their homes and farms, Boko Haram appears to be falling victim to a major food crisis of its own creation. Farmers have fled, leaving behind fallow fields. Herdsmen have rerouted cattle drives to avoid the violence. Throughout the region, entire villages have emptied, leaving a string of ghost towns with few people for Boko Haram to dominate — and little for the group to plunder. The New York Times

Zika Isn’t the Only Outbreak; Nigeria Struggles to Rein in Lassa Fever
In the world of public health, a lot of the media attention is focusing on the Zika outbreak in Latin America, but that’s not the only disease on the rise. Nigeria is experiencing a smoldering Lassa fever outbreak. Since August 2015, almost 20 states have seen 175 confirmed and suspected cases and 101 deaths. The outbreak has poured into neighboring Benin, where 68 cases and 23 deaths have been reported. Lassa fever, which is caused by an arenavirus, can affect multiple organs and cause bleeding in late stages. It’s seen with some regularity every year in Nigeria. Since 2012, there have been 1,723 cases and 112 deaths, according to Nigeria’s Center for Disease Control. But in the current outbreak, Nigeria’s ability to control the spread has been limited. There are concerns that patients are not seeking care in time either because they can’t afford it, can’t get to a health facility or don’t recognize the symptoms as a sign of potentially serious illness. And so there is no true sense of the scope of the outbreak.  NPR

Nigeria’s economic woes basically our own fault – Buhari
Nigeria only has itself to blame for its current economic troubles, President Muhammadu Buhari said in an interview broadcast on Saturday, criticising previous governments for an over-reliance on crude revenues. Africa’s biggest oil producer and leading economy has been struggling with the slump in global crude prices for nearly two years, which has slashed the majority of government revenues. The country’s junior oil minister last Thursday said some oil-producing countries, including Russia, would meet in Moscow on March 20 to discuss a way out of the slump. Asked if the world’s biggest supplier Saudi Arabia and policies of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries had hit smaller producers, Buhari told Al-Jazeera English OPEC had to “act together to save the situation”. News 24

Armed Men Kill 12 in Central African Republic
Armed men killed 12 people in villages in Central African Republic, local officials said on Sunday, in the first violence since Faustin-Archange Touadera was confirmed as president last Tuesday after an election many hoped would help end attacks. The attacks took place near the central town of Bambari and were likely linked to livestock rustling or an inter-ethnic dispute involving the Peuhl, or Fulani, ethnic group, the officials said. The violence did not appear directly connected to the political, communal and religious killings involving militia groups that since 2013 have left thousands dead, forced many more to flee their homes and left the northern half of the country effectively partitioned. In the latest attack late on Saturday, six people were killed in three different villages, the authorities said. VOA

Impoverished Interior Poses Risk for Struggling Tunisia
Five years after Tunisia’s popular uprising, which set the tone for the momentous Arab Spring wave of protests, the wealth gap between its impoverished interior and coastal cities is sparking fresh unrest. “We thought that the social issues that killed off (former president Zine El Abidine) Ben Ali would be the priority for the political class,” said Abderrahmane Hedhili, president of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Political Rights (FTDES). “But that hasn’t happened: the interior regions are still suffering from poverty and unemployment and remain the victims of discrimination.” Central Tunisia was the crucible of the 2011 uprising, when protests demanding jobs and reform started in the town of Sidi Bouzid and spread across the country, eventually forcing Ben Ali into exile. Fresh demonstrations and clashes erupted in January in nearby Kasserine after an unemployed man died while protesting the removal of his name from a list of hires for public sector jobs. AFP on Times Live

France Joins Military Exercise with Egypt
The “Ramses 2016″ military and naval exercise is being held off the coast of the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and are expected to last for several days, the army said on its Facebook page. Paris announced the manoeuvres Tuesday saying the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is being used to launch air strikes on the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, would also take part. The drill is aimed at “sharing our expertise with the Egyptian military… one of our main Middle East partners,” the French defence ministry said at the time. The Egyptian army said a French multi-mission frigate purchased by Cairo last year would also take part in the drill along with Rafale combat jets and F-16 warplanes.  RFI

Al-Aqrab Prison: The Death Camp of Egypt’s Dissidents
Al-Aqrab Prison has long been one of Egypt’s most notorious prisons; built in 1993 under strict guardianship, during the era of infamous former interior minister Habib El-Adly, according the innovation of a group of police officers. They had travelled to the US on a mission and came back with the idea of establishing a chain of prisons inside the Tora area to face the wave of terrorism that struck Egypt during the 1990s. According to the testimonies of the families of numerous detainees in the prison, inmates there receive the most brutal treatment and are subject to the most vicious types of torture, including rape, with numerous reported deaths during incarceration. In this report, Daily News Egypt tries to explore the actuality of the situation inside this prison by interviewing a number of families membera of Al-Aqrab’s detainees and highlighting the stages of the establishment of the prison and its history, which includes some of Egypt’s best-known inmates, as well as the forms of torture that took place within its walls. Daily News Egypt

Morocco joins NATO Interoperability Platform
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has incorporated the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces into its Interoperability Platform and stepped up military cooperation and special forces training with Egypt, Tunisia and Mauritania. Addressing the just-concluded NATO-Morocco Public Diplomacy Seminar held in Rabat, NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said the new program is aimed at strengthening the defense and security sectors of partners in the Middle East and North Africa. Vershbow said Morocco’s membership of the NATO Interoperability Platform will enable its forces to be trained to standards that will enable them to operate side by side with NATO forces in continuing and upcoming joint regional security initiatives against terrorism and religious extremism. Further, Vershbow said Morocco’s joining of the NATO Interoperability Platform caps a long history of bilateral diplomatic and defense cooperation, which dates back from the Kosovo war to cooperation in the NATO aerial campaign in support of militias who fought the Libyan war in 2011 and the recent airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq. Defense News

‘Want Me to Punch You?’ Says Mugabe at TV Interviewer’s Retirement Question
“Do you want me to punch you to the floor to realise I am still there?” So said Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, 92, to a TV interviewer who asked him about his retirement and who might replace him. “Why ‘successor’ when I am still there?” Mugabe said in the interview was broadcast on Thursday night. “Why do you want a successor?” Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since the country was formed in 1980 from the ashes of white-ruled Rhodesia, said he had no plans to hand over power and ruled out grooming his politically ambitious wife, Grace, as his chosen successor. “Grooming a successor, is it an inheritance?” he asked. “In a democratic party you don’t want leaders appointed that way. They have to be appointed properly by the people. Succession is not part of our culture.”  The Guardian

Mugabe Fires Defiant Mutsvangwa
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has fired defiant War Veterans Minister Christopher Mutsvangwa and within hours replaced him with his deputy Tshinga Dube. Tshinga, a former head of the Zimbabwe Defence Industries, was sworn in on Saturday at State House in Harare. Principal director in the information ministry Regis Chikowore told journalists at State House on Saturday: “He [Mutsvangwa] was relieved of his duties yesterday [Friday].” Mugabe fired Mutsvangwa a day after he had suspended him from Zanu-PF for three years during the party’s politburo meeting. The politburo is Zanu-PF’s supreme decision-making body. Allegations against Mutsvangwa are that he was undermining the authority of the first family. Until Friday, Mutsvangwa also served as the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association chairman. IOL News

Lesotho: Time for Visionary Leaders in Lesotho
Almost a month after the release of the report of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) inquiry into political instability in Lesotho, many citizens remain in the dark over both its contents and their implications for the future. Led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of the Botswana High Court, the 10-strong commission was established after a SADC leaders’ meeting last July. Following months of political and legal and wrangling, its report was finally presented to Lesotho’s National Assembly and Senate on February 8 and 10 respectively. The leaders set up the inquiry after the killing last June 25 of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao, by soldiers sent to arrest him for an alleged mutiny plot. The killing occurred after Mahao had been replaced as commander by Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli. allAfrica

DR Congo Considers Opening its Rainforests to Loggers
The world’s second largest tract of rainforest, twice the size of Texas, is at risk of being cut down as Democratic Republic of Congo plans to lift the moratorium on industrial logging in place since 2002. Congo had introduced a moratorium on the allocation of new logging titles in 2002, in an attempt to regain control of the country’s timber industry, which was riddled with illegal logging and corruption. The ban remained in place for most of country’s rainforests although around one tenth of Congo’s forests were outside the moratorium. Recently, Robert Bopolo Bogeza, DRC’s Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development, stated that measures are being undertaken to lift the ban on the allocation of new industrial logging licenses to boost government revenues. |

Money Given to Kenya, Since Stolen, Puts Nike in Spotlight
When a Chinese clothing company swooped in and offered to sponsor Kenya’s famed runners, Nike panicked, Kenyan officials say. “Can we talk about the situation?” a Nike executive wrote to a Kenyan official after hearing the news that the Kenyans wanted to end their deal with Nike. “You and I go back a long way.” What followed — according to email exchanges, letters, bank records and invoices, provided by a former employee of Kenya’s athletics federation — has led to a major scandal in Kenya, a country in the midst of its biggest war against corruption in years. In a contract signed several years ago, Nike agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in honorariums and a one-time $500,000 “commitment bonus,” which the former employee called a bribe. The money was supposed to be used to help train and support poor Kenyan athletes who dream of running their way out of poverty. Instead, it was immediately sucked out of the federation’s bank account by a handful of Kenyan officials and kept off the books. The New York Times

Hazardous Trucking in DR Congo
The road terminus in Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is abuzz with activity. Traders throng around the only available transport, hoping to get a lift into the town of Bukama, 650km away, where they will sell their goods. Eugene, a truck driver, is one of the few truckers willing to risk the notorious road to Bukama. The bundles of goods are carefully positioned. To him, space is money. The fees are based on the bulk of the goods and their weight. And it is non-negotiable. “The road is really bad, that’s why my transportation [fees] are so high. I need to make some money, so with any heavy bundle I charge 15 or 20,000 francs,” Eugene says. “I need the money to buy another truck. The vehicles last for maybe three, four or five years. But it could break down in a month, or a year or two, you never know.” The road to Bukama is merciless and takes a heavy toll on the trucks. Many have clocked more than a million kilometres. Eugene’s truck is relatively new. It has only notched up 700,000km. Al Jazeera