Media Review for March 9, 2016

Niger Opposition Suspends Participation in Runoff Election
Niger’s opposition coalition said Tuesday that its candidate, Hama Amadou, would not contest a runoff election March 20, increasing the chances that President Mahamadou Issoufou will win a second term. Amadou has been in prison since November on charges relating to baby-trafficking. He says he is innocent and a victim of political repression. The government denies wrongdoing and says it follows the law. “The Coalition for an Alternative has decided to suspend its participation in the electoral process and asks its representatives to withdraw from the electoral commission,” it said in a statement. The coalition denounced Amadou’s detention and justified its decision to withdraw by saying the constitutional court had not followed procedure when it announced definitive first-round results Tuesday and had also not proven its independence.  VOA

Is Cameroon’s Long-serving Biya Eyeing New Term in 2018?
Cameroon’s two houses of parliament open Thursday for the 2016 legislative calendar amid speculation that long-serving President Paul Biya may table a bill to amend the constitution. Local media reports say the president, who at 83 has been in power since 1982, may table a bill to re-introduce the post of vice-president and also to give himself sole authority to call elections. Supporters and allies of the governing Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) have been calling on their leader to seek another presidential mandate when his current seven-year term expires in 2018. Additionally there have been increasing calls from party members for President Biya to call early elections. There are fears within the president’s circle that the French and American governments may object to another term bid in 2018, but reports indicate this will be cushioned by the re-introduction of term limits in the anticipated constitutional changes. Africa Review

UN Investigator Says Burundi Mission was a Success
The government of Burundi has denied accusations that its security forces were behind a number of mass graves containing the bodies of dozens of opposition supporters. The authorities have blamed the armed opposition for carrying out the killings. Christof Heyns, a South African, was in Burundi this week with two other experts, a Colombian and an Algerian. They were sent by the United Nations to investigate human rights violations in the country that has been gripped by political violence. Heyns spoke to DW about the mission. DW: Mr Heyns, did things become clearer for you during thiweek? Christof Heyns: Yes, as you know, this is the first phase of a longer process and we will come back again in June and afterwards. We had good access to government officials, to the police and also to victims and civil societies. I think we were able to get a good picture of where we are and perhaps some of the vague directions in which things should be going. Deutsche Welle

Somali Intelligence Cooperated with US for al-Shabab Hit
Somalia’s intelligence service cooperated with the U.S. in airstrikes that killed more than 150 al-Shabab members on Saturday, an intelligence official said Tuesday. The airstrikes targeted a forested military training camp run by the Islamic extremists 124 miles north of the capital Mogadishu, the official said, adding that the camp was al-Shabab’s main planning base. He said Somali officials helped the U.S. to pinpoint the location of the militants’ training base but did not give details. Another intelligence official said al-Shabab members training there were planning to attack a drone base in the region. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press on this matter. The Pentagon said Monday that the airstrikes killed fighters who were preparing to launch a large-scale attack, likely against African Union or U.S. personnel.  AP on The Stars and Stripes

Somalia’s al-Shabab: Toll of US Air Strikes Exaggerated
Somali rebel group al-Shabab has denied claims by the US defence department that more than 150 of its fighters were recently killed in air strikes. Washington said on Monday that it had carried out several strikes in southern Somalia on the Raso training camp, in which it claimed more than 150 of the al-Qaeda-linked group’s fighters died. “The Americans are dreaming. We never gather that many of our fighters in one place. We know the security situation,” Abdulaziz Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman, told Al Jazeera in a phone call on Tuesday. “Yes, the attack happened and it happened at the location they mentioned, but the number they are telling the world is a lie,” Musab added. Al Jazeera

Somali Cattle Herder Describes US Airstrike on al-Shabaab Training Camp
[…] Bashir Dhure, a herder living nearby, said the camp had been set up in a new and secret location in an attempt to avoid Somali and western intelligence, but was targeted on Saturday night. “There were big explosions,” he told the Guardian. “All nearby places were caught on fire and no one knew what was happening. In the morning I could see the smoke coming from the bombarded training facility. “It was like a burnt house. Everything turned burnt. I saw three vehicles burnt down. Al-Shabaab fighters were collecting dead bodies. They were put on trucks and took out of the village. We do not know where they were buried,” he said in a telephone interview. Following the airstrike, angry al-Shabaab fighters started searching for what they termed spies collaborating with Americans, Dhure continued. They detained about a dozen people, mostly young camel herders living in two nearby villages, Eel Dibi and Raso, about 125 miles north of the capital, Mogadishu. The Guardian

Foreign Commandos Raid al Shabaab Base in Somalia, Kill Fighter in Gun Battle
Terror group al Shabaab said it fought off an attack on one of its bases in southern Somalia early on Wednesday that was launched by foreign commandos who flew in on two helicopters, leaving one al Shabaab fighter dead in the gun battle. Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, did not identify the nationality of the troops who launched the assault at about 1 am in the Awdigle district of Lower Shabelle area, about 50 km (30 miles) south of Mogadishu. Abu Musab told Reuters the two helicopters landed on the banks of the River Shabelle and commandos from the aircraft advanced on the base. “They were masked and spoke foreign languages which our fighters could not understand,” Abu Musab told Reuters. “We do not know who they were but we foiled them.”  The Star

Analysts See Long Fight Ahead Against al-Shabab
The Pentagon says a U.S. airstrike against al-Shabab in Somalia last Saturday killed more than 150 militants. Analysts say the strike was a major coup but that African Union troops in Somalia still have a long fight ahead of them. In an interview with VOA, Somali presidential spokesman Daud Aweys applauded the airstrike. He said Somalia was aware of the operation and contributed intelligence. “We think that this was a significant victory not only for Somalia but also for the entire region as we face the same challenges on the war against terror. This was a coordinated attack in which Somali forces shared (intelligence) with their U.S. counterpart. These areas have been under a close surveillance,” Aweys said. The training camp targeted is located 190 kilometers north of Mogadishu. Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said the U.S. had learned the fighters were set to depart the camp, and “posed an imminent threat” to African Union forces and U.S. military advisers in Somalia. VOA

US Adds to Sanctions Against LRA, Kony
The U.S. government has added to the sanctions against the Lord’s Resistance Army and the African rebel group’s leader, Joseph Kony. The Treasury Department says the financial sanctions, announced Tuesday, are in response to the U.S.-designated terrorist group’s targeting of civilians in the Central African Republic. The department says that since December 2013, the group has killed, kidnapped, displaced, or committed sexual violence against hundreds of C.A.R. residents, as well as looting or destroying civilian property. It says in an 18-month period starting in January 2014, the LRA was involved in nearly 330 abductions. It also accused the group of trading in illicit diamonds and illegal elephant ivory in order to generate revenue. VOA

Mali Court Rejects Treason Charge Against Keita
Mali’s High Court on Monday rejected an attempt by a civil society collective to have President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita face a charge of high treason. A group of associations filed the complaint against Keita last week to the court, which is competent to judge the country’s leaders if accused by the National Assembly of misconduct in office. The Biprem collective, the Popular and Pacific Intervention Block for the Reunification of Mali accused Keita of “high treason and calamitous management” of the country. Biprem also accused the president of reneging on a promise made at his 2013 investiture to “guarantee Mali’s territorial integrity” amid widespread ongoing insecurity. Mali’s vast, desolate north continues to be beset by violence, having fallen under the control of Tuareg-led rebels and jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda in 2012. News 24

Uganda Polls: Opposition Lawyers’ Offices Burgled
Offices of lawyers challenging Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s victory in last month’s election have been broken into. Lead counsel Mohamed Mbabazi said laptops, computers and documents were taken from his office. The lawyers are representing Uganda’s former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi who wants the election results annulled. Local and international observers criticised the election process which saw Mr Museveni win 60% of the vote.  BBC

Nigeria: Is South Africa Really Joining the Fight Against Boko Haram?
According to the headlines in Nigerian newspapers on Tuesday, South Africa has declared war on Boko Haram, and will be helping the Nigerian government in its efforts to combat the Islamist militant group. “South Africa’s special forces to fight Boko Haram,” said The Punch. “Nigeria, South Africa to collaborate on war on terror,” wrote Premium Times. “South Africa to work with Nigerian military,” reported Channels TV. The stories all offered the same evidence for their conclusions — a press briefing delivered by Nigerian defence minister Dan Ali after a meeting with his South African counterpart Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nquakula. A senior South African delegation, headed by President Jacob Zuma, is in Abuja for a state visit designed to repair fractious relations between the two countries. At the briefing, Ali said the two ministers had spoken about a longstanding proposal for South African special forces to assist the Nigerian military. Daily Maverick

Nigeria’s Buhari Says MTN Fuelled Boko Haram Insurgency
Mobile phone giant MTN fuelled the Islamist-led insurgency in Nigeria by failing to disconnect unregistered sim cards, the Nigerian president has said. Muhammadu Buhari made the comment during a visit to Nigeria by his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma. Last year, Nigeria fined the South African-owned firm $3.4bn (£2.7bn) for missing a deadline to disconnect cards. Nigeria believes Boko Haram militants use unregistered sim cards to co-ordinate attacks. BBC Nigeria reporter Martin Patience says fine has overshadowed talks in the capital, Abuja, between the leaders of Africa’s two largest economies. BBC

Global Slump Brings These Two Rivals Together
Misery loves company. Africa’s two biggest economic rivals — South Africa and Nigeria — are turning to each other as they fall on tough times. South Africa’s economy is threatened with recession as demand from China, its main trading partner, weakens and commodity prices plunge, while Nigeria has been hit by a collapse in oil revenue. To weather the global storm, the two countries are seeking closer trade and investment ties when South African President Jacob Zuma leads a high-level delegation of ministers and business executives to Nigeria on Tuesday. In the process, he may rebuild a relationship that’s come under diplomatic strain in the past. Bloomberg

Nigeria, Switzerland Agree on Abacha Loot
Nigeria and Switzerland on Tuesday announced an agreement to return $321m in public funds stolen by the former military ruler Sani Abacha. The agreement came after a meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, between Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and a Swiss delegation including the country’s foreign minister and ambassador. Both countries said the “letter of intent” to return the money provided a framework to help recover other looted funds by corrupt officials and to determine how it would be spent once repatriated. “We guarantee that recovered assets would be put to uses for which they have been intended,” Osinbajo said in an emailed statement. “The framework will guarantee that returned assets will be used in the interest of the people of this country.”  News 24

South Africa’s Biggest Labour Federation Splits
A leading South African trade unionist will in May launch a new federation to rival the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), it has been revealed. The formation of the new federation would result in a major Cosatu split as affiliates would have to choose between the two. Zwelinzima Vavi, the former Cosatu secretary general who was fired by Africa’s largest labour federation in 2014 for allegedly failing to carry out his duties, will lead the new federation to be unveiled on May 1. The Africa Report

China Hints at Global Military Bases
China has hinted that it is planning more global military bases after setting up a logistics centre in Djibouti, a move some analysts view as Beijing’s attempt to wield more global influence. Djibouti – strategically located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal – is already home to United States and French bases, while other navies often use its port. On the Horn of Africa, Djibouti has fewer than a million people but is striving to become an international shipping hub. China is building the logistics facility there to support its anti-piracy operations in the waters off Somalia and Yemen. Speaking on the sidelines of China’s annual congress meeting on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Beijing was fulfilling its international obligations to protect shipping. “We are willing to – in accordance with objective needs, responding to the wishes of host nations, and in regions where China’s interests are concentrated – try out the construction of some infrastructure facilities and support abilities,” he said. Al Jazeera

Tunisia Says Islamic State Attacked Border to Control Town
Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said on Tuesday Islamic State militants had carried out the huge raid on Ben Guerdan on Monday that killed 55 people in an attempt to control the town and expand their territory. Tunisia has become increasingly concerned about violence spilling across its frontier as Islamic State has expanded in Libya, taking advantage of the country’s chaos to control the city of Sirte and setting up training camps there. Dozens of militants stormed through the border town of Ben Guerdan on Monday attacking army and police posts and triggering street battles during which troops killed 36 fighters. Twelve soldiers and seven civilians also died during the attack. Essid said officials were still investigating whether the group of 50 militants had infiltrared across the frontier from Libya, though officials found three caches of arms, explosives and rockets in Ben Guerdan after the attack. Reuters

IS Kidnapping Migrants at Gunpoint to Fight in Libya
The Islamic State group (IS) in Libya is boosting its numbers by people-smuggling new recruits across Libya’s porous southern borders and kidnapping migrant workers, Middle East Eye has learnt. According to military sources as well as a former IS recruit, IS has been busy boosting numbers in Libya by kidnapping migrant workers at gunpoint and forcing them to train to be fighters or suicide bombers. This has allowed them to swell their ranks quickly, with US intelligence assessments in February saying IS now had an estimated 6,000 fighters in Libya, more than double what was previously thought. Nigerian plumber Abdul, 35, told MEE that during the two months he spent working in Libya’s second city of Benghazi, many migrant workers disappeared. After being abducted himself and forced to join IS, he now believes the missing labourers were also taken by the militants. “They didn’t take the boats to Europe, those disappeared people,” he said. “We called their phones and someone answered with an Arabic slang phrase used for when someone has died, and told us not to call again.” Middle East Eye

Video: Inside North Africa’s Triangle of Despair
Today in the windswept desert town of Debdab, nestled at a point between borders of Libya, Algeria, not far from Tunisia, smuggling, and desperation are rife. Al Arabiya

Egypt Approves 3.3 Billion Euro Military Loan from France
Egypt’s parliament has voted for the approval of a 3.3 billion euro from France to pay for the military hardware it is receiving, from fighter jets to warships. A parliamentary report said that a number of French banks, led by Credit Agricole, will provide a cash loan of ‎‎3375.54 million euros for Egypt’s ministry of defence, representing 60 per ‎cent of the value of French military equipment ‎that will be delivered to Egypt, according to Ahram Online. “The total value of ‎this equipment is estimated at 5625.9 million ‎euros, with Egypt to pay the remaining 40 ‎per cent,” the report also revealed. The loan will be guaranteed by ‎Egypt’s finance ministry.‎ Some political parties said the loan would help Egypt’s military combat terrorism in Sinai and secure the nation’s borders. DefenseWeb

‘Women’s Rights Key to Unlocking Africa’s Future’
African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, addressing delegates at an event commemorating International Women’s Day, said the AUC celebrated “the determination of women around the world to fight for equal rights and the opportunity to have their voices heard”. There is “indeed a great deal to celebrate today, in terms of the progress we have made in pushing for the Gender Agenda in Africa,” she said at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Tuesday. Noting that 2016 marked the 105th year in which the world celebrates International Women’s Day, Dlamini-Zuma said that it was a day in which “the economic, political and social achievements of women” should be celebrated. She remarked that the AU’s theme for International Women’s Day was “Agenda 2063: A Pledge for Gender Equality”.  IOL News

South Sudan’s Rival Armies Trade Accusations Over New Clashes in Upper Nile Region
South Sudanese rival forces have traded accusations over renewed fighting in different locations of the country despite the permanent ceasefire agreement they reached in accordance with the peace agreement signed in August 2015 which should have ended 21 months of civil war. The fighting occurred on Monday and Tuesday in Koch county, Unity state, and Ulang and Nasir counties in Upper Nile state between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir’s government and forces loyal to the first vice president designate, Riek Machar, who leads the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO).  Sudan Tribune

The Islamist Behind Sudan’s Throne
Hassan al-Turabi died last Saturday as he had lived: agitating in his native Sudan, and elsewhere in the Arab world, to put Islam at the center of political life and himself at the center of both.</p> <p>Presidents, prime ministers, and military generals came and went in Sudan over the past 40 years, but Turabi remained, either lurking in the corridors of government or agitating from the ranks of the opposition — and occasionally from the inside of a jail cell. If he was not in power in some guise, he was plotting and maneuvering his way back into it. This was true right up until his death on March 5, when, at the age of 84, he was leading a rearguard political insurgency against the president he helped install more than a quarter century ago.Turabi pursued his great cause in life — Islamic governance — with deep fervor, but also with a remarkable degree of pragmatism. There was no potential collaborator with whom the professed ideologue would not forge an alliance if it meant ascending the political ranks. His Islamic jurisprudence seesawed from a virulent brand of militant Islam that led him to host Osama bin Laden in Khartoum and send a generation of Sudanese to wage “jihad” against rebels in Southern Sudan to a more moderate doctrine that saw him oppose the death penalty for apostasy later in life. Expediency was the only unifying thread. Foreign Policy

Is the Polisario Stronger Than Morocco in International Institutions?
Escalations in Moroccan foreign relations today attest to the country’s unprecedented challenges, especially regarding the Sahara affair. Recent developments in the relations with the EU, the UN and the Arab League add salt to the worsening injury at the Algerian front. True, all ranks of political institutions and civil society agree on taking decisive measures to protect territorial unity and openly express Morocco’s exhaustion at having an Achilles’ heel in the south. The escalations may be counterproductive on internal democracy while requiring in-depth strategic alterations to the approach towards the international community. The Sahara affair has persisted as a regional dispute both over territory and strategic alliances. Morocco, on the one hand, claims legitimate presence in the Sahara on the basis that no Sahrawi separate entity ever existed before or after 1975. For Morocco, many of the residents in Tindouf camps are detainees – not refugees – that the Polisario kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s. Algeria, on the other hand, denies involvement in the affair and functions as an umbilical cord for the separatist project.  Middle East Online

Once Bullied, Twice Brave: How Persecuted Angolan Writers Persevere
Being a writer determined to tell the truth in Angola is no walk in the park as the authorities have ways of dealing with such voices. The imperative is that those of goodwill and strength of character do what the government fears the most as they endeavour to conquer the space for freedom of expression for all citizens. Daily Maverick



Photo: Adam Jones