Media Review for March 8, 2016

U.S. Strikes Kill 150 Shabab Fighters in Somalia, Officials Say
American warplanes on Saturday struck a training camp in Somalia belonging to the Islamist militant group the Shabab, the Pentagon said, killing about 150 fighters who United States officials said were preparing an attack against American troops and their regional allies in East Africa. The strikes at a training facility called Camp Raso, about 120 miles north of Mogadishu, came as the Shabab fighters were nearing the end of “training for a large-scale attack” on forces belonging to the African Union in Somalia, officials said. They were bombed during what United States officials said they believed was a graduation ceremony, and the warplanes dropped a number of precision-guided bombs and missiles on them. “They were standing outdoors in formation,” one official said.  The New York Times

Bomb Blast Strikes Somalia Airport
Six people were wounded when a bomb planted inside a notebook computer exploded at an airport in Somalia on Monday, the second such attack in recent weeks targeting civilian aviation in the country. The bomb detonated at a checkpoint in the small central town of Beledweyne, about 325km north of the capital Mogadishu, where last month al-Shabab fighters claimed responsibility for a blast that tore a gaping hole in a passenger plane shortly after takeoff. “A laptop computer went off at the screening area, and the security forces have also managed to defuse two other explosive devices, one of them planted in a printer,” police Lieutenant-Colonel Ali Dhuh Abdi told reporters. “Six people were wounded, two of them policemen.” The blast on Monday took place where security screening is carried out before cargo and passenger luggage are loaded on to planes. The security checkpoint was manned by African Union troops from Djibouti, as well as Somali government security forces. Al Jazeera

Australian Navy Says Seizes Huge Weapons Cache Headed for Somalia
An Australian Navy ship has seized a huge cache of weapons near Oman’s coast from a fishing vessel bound for Somalia, the navy said on Monday, exposing a possible violation of a U.N. Security Council arms embargo. The United Nations has a decades-long arms embargo in place against Somalia, which has been mired in conflict since civil war broke out in 1991. The Australian navy, which patrols waters around the Indian Ocean as part of an international maritime force, said it had seized nearly 2,000 AK-47 rifles, 100 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 49 PKM machine guns, 39 PKM spare barrels and 20 mortar tubes from the fishing vessel. “The weapons were seized under United Nations sanctions, which authorise interdiction on the high seas of illicit weapons destined for Somalia,” the navy said in a statement. In 2013, the U.N Security Council eased some of the embargo restrictions, allowing the Western-backed government in Mogadishu to buy light weapons to bolster its armed forces in the battle against Islamist al Shabaab insurgents, who are aligned with al Qaeda. Reuters

Tunisian Clash Spreads Fear that Libyan War is Spilling Over
Fear engulfed Tunisia on Monday that Islamic State mayhem was spilling over from neighboring Libya, as dozens of militants stormed a Tunisian town near the border, assaulting police and military posts in what the president called an unprecedented attack. At least 54 people were killed in the fighting in the town, Ben Gardane, which erupted at dawn and lasted for hours until the security forces chased out what remained of the assailants. An enormous stash of weapons was later found. The authorities said at least 36 militants were among the dead. The others were a mix of security forces and civilians, including a 12-year-old girl. It was unclear where the assailants had come from, although some witnesses reported that they had local accents and had pronounced themselves as liberators. But President Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia, increasingly alarmed about the Islamic State’s expansion in Libya, blamed the militant group. In a televised address, he suggested that the motive was to create a new Islamic State territory on Tunisian soil, similar to the 150-mile stretch it controls in Libya. The New York Times

Pentagon Plan to Fight ISIS in Libya Includes Barrage of Airstrikes
Even so, the United States military is poised to carry out limited airstrikes if ordered against terrorists in Libya who threatened Americans or American interests, just as it did against an Islamic State training camp in western Libya last month.“We will continue to use the full range of tools to eliminate ISIL threats wherever they are,” Mr. Obama said on Feb. 25, after convening the National Security Council to discuss combating the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS. But the broader scale of the airstrikes option prepared by the Pentagon’s Africa Command and the highly secretive Joint Special Operations Command illuminated differences in perspectives and short-term goals within the administration. The scope of the military plan surprised some senior administration officials, and it drew warnings from some State Department officials that such airstrikes, if not coordinated properly, could jeopardize the United Nations-led effort to forge a unity government from Libya’s fractious political actors. The New York Times

Burkina Faso Struggles to Come to Terms with Jihadi Attack
Burkina Faso is famous for its laid-back, tolerant atmosphere. The country’s joie de vivre remained unshaken throughout a period of political turbulence that began with the ousting of long-time ruler Blaise Compaore after street protests in 2014 and ended with a shortlived military coup last autumn. Even an attack by Islamist gunmen in neighbouring Mali in November failed to alter the relaxed atmosphere. But residents say last month’s attack changed life in their city. “We are really losing it, sitting here, thinking of our lost friends every day”, says Arsene Kibora, who sells smartphones at a kiosk 200m from the Splendid Hotel. The blackened building has been washed and workers are repairing the damage caused by the attack, but Mr Kibora says the cosmetic changes have not lifted the mood. “Everyone is living in fear,” he says. “We’re completely demoralised,” he says. The Financial Times

Nigerian Ex-defence Chief Alex Badeh ‘Stole $20m’
A former Nigerian chief of defence has been accused of stealing $20m (£14m) from the air force and buying a mansion. Retired Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh denies 10 charges of fraud, criminal breach of trust and money laundering. He was appointed chief of defence two years ago. The BBC’s Martin Patience says ACM Badeh is the latest of several officials accused of stealing billions of dollars from the armed forces. BBC

Video: The War Against Boko Haram’s Suicide Bombers in Cameroon
The far north region of Cameroon is frequently the target of deadly Boko Haram attacks, with the bombings most often perpetrated by suicide bombers. A team of FRANCE 24 journalists embedded with the Cameroonian army report from the front line as the troops battle this hotbed of terrorism in Central Africa. The region around Maroua, the provincial capital of the far north region of Cameroon, is regularly hit by suicide attacks, including many committed by girls and boys transformed into human bombs in Boko Haram camps in neighbouring Nigeria. France 24

Terrorism: Why Nigeria’ll join Saudi-led Islamic coalition
President Muhammadu Buhari said, weekend, that Nigeria would join the coalition of Muslim countries against terrorism, led by Saudi Arabia, because of the activities of Boko Haram. The President had, during his state visit to Saudi Arabia last week, said Nigeria would not be a part of the coalition. “Even if we are not a part of it, we support you,” the President had said at the meeting held in Saudi Arabia in February. Vanguard

Buhari: Nigeria ‘Will Not Tolerate’ Biafra Agitation
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has said that agitation for an independent state of Biafra “would not be tolerated” as a prominent pro-Biafra activist goes on trial. Thousands of people in southeast Nigeria have demonstrated in recent months, demanding independence for the region formerly known as the Republic of Biafra, which existed as a republic between 1967 and 1970. Nnamdi Kanu, a U.K.-based activist and the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group, was arrested by Nigerian authorities in October 2015. Kanu is due to appear in court in the capital Abuja on Monday, charged with treasonable felony, which carries a maximum life sentence in Nigeria.  Newsweek

Rights Group Calls for AU Court on South Sudan Rights Violations
Human Rights Watch is calling for the African Union to establish a court to try the most serious cases of abuses in South Sudan where it says both the army and rebels have committed serious violations. HRW said Monday there is evidence of killings, rapes and forced disappearances by government forces in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state. Last month, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Ivan Simonovic highlighted Western Equatoria as one of the new areas where violence was taking place and that he had received reports of killings, sexual and gender-based violence and the destruction of property there. HRW said its researchers visited the area in February, with witnesses describing soldiers attacking homes, looting belongings and displacing thousands of civilians. Violence in South Sudan has persisted despite a peace accord signed in August between the government and armed opposition. VOA

South Sudan: Aid Supplies Blocked While Fighting Spreads
The United Nations (UN) has accused South Sudan’s government as well as forces loyal to Riek Machar to have blocked trucks from delivering relief supplies in various parts of the country. According to the UN more than one million people in South Sudan are now in dire need of food. “There is a problem of access throughout the country and by all parties”, said Ariane Quentier, UN’s spokesperson in South Sudan. The UN said they are having difficulties transporting basic amenities such as food and clean water to those trapped in areas still under fighting. According to Quentier, those people are desperate need of medical supplies as well. “Whatever vulnerable people need when they have been displaced – they are in need of humanitarian assistance and support,” she added. Deputy rebel spokesman Major Dickson Gatluak denied any involvement of their troops in blocking the aid trucks. He said the government must shoulder the blame alone.  Deutsche Welle

Catch Me if You Can: Omar Bashir and the ICC
Wanted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has once again defied an international warrant for his arrest by flying to Indonesia. Bashir arrived Indonesia on Sunday to attend an Organisation of Islamic Co-operation summit. The co-operation of non-party states like Indonesia is envisioned by the ICC Rome Statute to be of voluntary nature. But Indonesia, which is not signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) but bound by the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I of the United Nations, is expected to arrest Bashir while he is on their soil. Bashir is accused of masterminding genocide and other atrocities in his campaign to crush a revolt in the western Darfur region. The ICC issued an international arrest warrant for him in 2009 and 2010. The Africa Report

South Africa’s Zuma visits Nigeria
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma begins a two-day state visit to Nigeria on Tuesday, which observers see as an attempt to mend fences between the continent’s largest economic powers. Key events on the trip include an address to the National Assembly in the capital, Abuja, and a meeting with the South Africa-Nigeria Business Forum, Zuma’s office has announced. Pretoria is putting a positive spin on the visit, talking up the pair’s “good bilateral political, economic and social relations” and potential new business opportunities. But neither presidency made mention of tensions between the two countries, including most recently the massive fine imposed by Nigeria on South African telecoms giant MTN. MTN’s Nigeria operation was handed a $3.9 billion penalty in October last year for failing to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards.  AFP on Yahoo News

Trainspotter: The Madness of King Mbeki, HIV/AIDS Edition
As you’re no doubt aware, former President Thabo Mbeki has been addressing his legacy in a series of letters published on his Foundation’s homepage. Interested South Africans wondered when he was going to get around to dealing with the most controversial aspect of his presidency? They should wonder no longer. Mbeki is still nuts about Aids. The first time, lots of people died unnecessarily. Now, it’s just pathetic. Daily Maverick

Will Member States Finally Stop Peacekeeper Sex Abuse?
On Friday, the United Nations released an exceedingly disturbing report that showed the number of allegations of sexual exploitation or abuse against UN staff increased in 2015. There were 99 allegations across the UN system, with the majority–69–involving personnel from UN peacekeeping missions. Sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers has been an ongoing concern for the United Nations — and most importantly for the people that peacekeepers are meant to protect — for at least a decade. Back in the early 2000s, the UN adopted a “Zero Tolerance” policy to improve accountability for sex crimes by peacekeeper. Nearly a decade ago, the Jordanian diplomat Prince Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, who now serves as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a scathing report that laid out concrete steps member states could take to reduce sexual crimes by UN peacekeepers. There were some marginal improvements, but no bold action taken.  UN Dispatch

AP Investigation: American Company Bungled Ebola Response
An American company that bills itself as a pioneer in tracking emerging epidemics made a series of costly mistakes during the 2014 Ebola outbreak that swept across West Africa — with employees feuding with fellow responders, contributing to misdiagnosed Ebola cases and repeatedly misreading the trajectory of the virus, an Associated Press investigation has found. San Francisco-based Metabiota Inc. was tapped by the Sierra Leonean government and the World Health Organization to help monitor the spread of the virus and support the response after Ebola was discovered circulating in neighboring Guinea in March 2014. But emails obtained by AP and interviews with aid workers on the ground show that some of the company’s actions made an already chaotic situation worse. WHO outbreak expert Dr. Eric Bertherat wrote to colleagues in a July 17, 2014, email about misdiagnoses and “total confusion” at the Sierra Leone government lab Metabiota shared with Tulane University in the city of Kenema. He said there was “no tracking of the samples” and “absolutely no control on what is being done.”  AP on The Washington Post

Besigye’s Chief Campaigner Arrested
Darius Tweyambe, the chief campaigner for Uganda’s opposition leader, Dr Kizza Besigye, continues to languish in jail after being arrested by Ugandan police. Tweyambe was arrested in the Rukungiri District of Western Uganda, before being transferred to neighbouring Ntungamo district by the authorities.“Our campaign manager was arrested on Saturday morning and spent Saturday night in jail,” tweeted Besigye, who heads the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). Besigye lost to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, in the February 18 presidential elections, which extended Museveni’s 30-year reign and gave him a fifth-term in power. Besigye, who has also been arrested numerous times and is currently under house arrest, said that Ugandan police and intelligence officials were demanding election results and forms from Tweyambe’s laptop. IOL News

In Algeria, Corruption Bedevils the Economy
Transparency International, the anti-corruption NGO, is a household name in Algeria, where its annual reports are feverishly monitored by citizens. The most recent corruption index ranked the country 88 out of 168 nations, a result which is in line with previous years. Many Algerians believe that corruption has plagued their economy for decades. It all started with independence from France in 1962, when the “revolutionary regime” promised governance “by the people and for the people”. But Algerians were left out of key decision-making processes. Bribery really exploded in the 1980s. And when former prime minister Abdelhamid Brahimi declared in 1985 that “corruption had cost the country some $26 billion [Dh95.5bn] over the last 20 years”, people were ready for change, although little did. A few years later, millions rallied behind the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) whose battle cry was that the system was “corrupt and un-Islamic”. In December 1991, the FIS won parliamentary elections. But in January 1992, the army toppled the president and declared a state of emergency. The army brought back Mohammed Boudiaf from exile in Morocco to become president. He made the fight against corruption his top priority. When he was assassinated in June 1992, Algeria descended into a period of conflict until Abdelaziz Bouteflika won the presidency in April 1999. He also jumped on the anti-corruption bandwagon and claimed he was the architect of “national reconciliation”. The National

In Senegal, Presidential Term Limits Spark Hot Debate
Senegal’s President Macky Sall has come under attack ahead of the constitutional referendum set for March 20. The proposed changes would limit a president to two five-year terms. But Sall has stirred controversy as saying the limit would not apply to his current term, which runs until 2019. Campaigning is on in Senegal to vote “Yes” or “No” to the new constitution March 20. In the “yes” camp is the Minister of Youth and Employment Mame Mbaye Niang. He met residents in Thiaroye, a low-income suburb of the capital. He says none of the proposed constitutional changes are to help the president. He says these changes are about strengthening democracy and the rule of law and improving quality of life. He says he just passed through a neighborhood where people were complaining they lost their land. This reform will address those problems, he says, so you need to vote yes. VOA

Death Stalks the Children’s Corridor: Inside Angola’s Second-largest Hospital
There are more than 40 people in the room, most of them sitting or lying on their cotton wraps on the floor. The heat is unbearable, as is the stink of sweat and dirt. The windows are permanently left wide open to try to offset the stifling, oppressive atmosphere. It doesn’t help. Just outside the windows at the back of the building, broken sewers add a horrible, nauseating stench to the air. This sorry scene is repeated in every ward in the paediatric block, where relatives lie prostrate the length of the corridors, unable for lack of space to get any closer to their sick children. Welcome to the Paediatric Unit of Américo Boavida Hospital in Luanda, named for the doctor-turned-freedom-fighter known in the field as Ngola Kimbanda (the chief healer). He must be turning in his grave. It’s the second largest hospital in Angola. Only the Josina Machel hospital is bigger, but it is in just as sorry a state now.  Daily Maverick

Ghana is About to Make Travel in Africa Easier for Africans
On Sunday (March 6), Ghana celebrated its 59th year of independence and John Dramani Mahama, the country’s president, came bearing gifts. During his speech, Mahama announced that the country will begin to offer visas on arrival to citizens of all 54 African Union (AU) member states starting in July. Ghana’s new visa policy is big news in Africa where, according to the African Development Bank, only 25% of the countries offer visas on arrival to nationals of other African nations. Put another way, it is easier for North Americans to travel within the continent than it is for Africans. Only the Seychelles is known to have an open access visa policy applicable to citizens of all AU member states. (Ghana currently offers visa free entry for citizens of 15 countries within the Economic Community of West African States.)  Quartz

Spies Sans Frontières? How CIA-linked Palantir is Gaining Ground in the Aid industry (And Why Some Humanitarians Are Worried)
The software is amazing. It’s an all-powerful data integrator: combing through data from documents, websites, social media and databases, turning that information into people, places, events, things, displaying those connections on your computer screen, and allowing you to probe and analyse the links between them. The tool, developed by secretive Silicon Valley firm Palantir, can be enlisted to tackle a range of humanitarian problems: from people trafficking and gun-running to stemming floods. It could revolutionise disaster coordination, management and response. But the global aid community is wary. Palantir retains extremely close links to the US security establishment, and the line between politics and humanitarian work is under constant attack and incrementally being pushed back. After a months-long investigation, IRIN can reveal how potential aid partners are spooked by these political and security connections and how a major deal with a key UN agency recently fell through because of them. IRIN



Photo: Adam Jones