Media Review for November 30, 2015

‘Lay Down Your Arms,’ Pope Francis Says in Divided Central Africa
Pope Francis urged the warring factions in Central African Republic to lay down their weapons on Sunday as he brought a message of peace to a country ravaged by bloody sectarian violence. As his plane touched down, the waiting crowds burst into cheers and singing as he began a 24-hour visit to one of Africa’s poorest and most unstable countries on a trip that has had his security detail working overtime. For the short ride to the presidential palace in Bangui, the pontiff travelled in his open-topped popemobile, with huge crowds, many of them children and young people, cheering wildly as he passed, some waving branches in a sign of peace. “To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death!” he said in the capital, Bangui, after flying in from Uganda on his final leg of a three-nation tour of Africa, which he has hailed “the continent of hope”.  The Telegraph

Pope Francis: ‘Christians and Muslims are brothers’
Pope Francis has told worshippers in a mosque in the capital of the Central African Republic that “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters”. He was speaking to Muslims who had sought shelter in Bangui following nearly three years of violence between Christians and Muslims. The mosque visit was seen as perhaps the most difficult part of his Africa tour, a BBC correspondent says Pope Francis will conclude his trip to Africa with a final Mass in Bangui. Most Muslims left the capital as a result of the fighting but 15,000 are left in an area called PK5, surrounded by armed Christian militia. BBC

Pope Honours Ugandan Martyrs on Africa Tour
Vast crowds of Ugandans greeted Pope Francis on Saturday as he honoured Christians martyred for the faith on the second leg of a landmark trip to Africa, which he dubbed “the continent of hope”. The 78-year-old pontiff received a rapturous welcome as he arrived at a shrine to the martyrs at Namugongo, just outside the capital Kampala, where some 45 Christians were executed in 1886 for refusing to recant their faith. Wild cheers and singing broke out as Francis arrived at the open air shrine. Over 100,000 people had waited from before dawn to attend the mass, a key highlight of his visit to Uganda. Later, he will meet with young Ugandans at a huge ceremonial ground in the capital’s Kololo district. The East African

Pope Hails Uganda’s ‘Outstanding’ Treatment of Refugees
Pope Francis on Friday hailed Uganda for its “outstanding” response in welcoming refugees as he began a two-day visit to this east African nation. “Here in East Africa, Uganda has shown outstanding concern for welcoming refugees, enabling them to rebuild their lives in security and to sense the dignity which comes from earning one’s livelihood through honest labour,” he said, shortly after landing in the central town of Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria, on the second leg of three-nation Africa tour. Figures published by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) show Uganda hosts over half a million people, most of whom have fled conflict and violence in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. “Our world, caught up in wars, violence, and various forms of injustice, is witnessing an unprecedented movement of peoples,” the 78-year-old pontiff said. AFP on Yahoo News

CAR Leader Asks Pope’s ‘Forgiveness’ for Sectarian Violence
Central African Republic’s (CAR) interim president Catherine Samba-Panza on Sunday asked for “forgiveness” from Pope Francis for two years of “evil” sectarian violence she dubbed “a descent into hell”. “Central Africans have inflicted unspeakable suffering on other Central Africans,” she said on meeting the pope in the capital, Bangui, where the situation remains volatile. “On behalf of the ruling class of this country but also in the name of everyone who has played any part in this descent into hell, I confess all the evil that has been done here throughout the course of history and ask for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart.” CAR descended into bloodshed more than two years ago after longtime leader Francois Bozize, a Christian, was ousted by mainly Muslim rebels, triggering the worst crisis since independence in 1960.  News 24

Burkina Election: Connections to the Old Regime, Assessing the Transition and Accepting the Results
Voters in Burkina Faso head to landmark elections on Sunday in the first polls since the ousting of strongman Blaise Compaore last year. Fourteen candidates are vying to become president and take over from the transitional government. Temporarily delayed by a failed coup in September, it has been a turbulent year for politics in Burkina Faso. So which parties have emerged as the frontrunners and will the results be accepted? RFI spoke to Daniel Eizenga, Sahel Research Group, University of Florida.  RFI

Low Turnout in Burkina Faso Elections
Burkina Faso voters are electing a president and parliament on Sunday, one year after a violent public uprising forced the West African country’s long-time leader out of office. Two out of 14 candidates had emerged as favourites. One is former prime minister Roch Kabore, 58, of the People’s Movement for Progress; the other is former finance minister Zephirin Diabre, 56, of the Union for Progress and Change. Turnout appeared low in the morning, partly because many people were at church, but appeared to increase in the afternoon, observers said. Minor irregularities were reported, such as a lack of equipment or some voters not finding their names on voting lists at some polling stations. News 24

Gunmen Ambush Burundian Army Commander
Gunmen wounded a senior army commander in western Burundi, a military spokesperson said on Sunday, with at least four killed in following clashes. Colonel Serge Kabanyura was shot when gunmen opened fire in an ambush as he was driving on Saturday to the capital Bujumbura, about 20km from the city, said army spokesperson Gaspard Baratuza. The area is a stronghold of the former rebels from the 1993-2006 civil war, the National Liberation Forces (FNL), many of whom now oppose the third term in power of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Burundi descended into violence in April after Nkurunziza launched his now successful bid for a third consecutive term in office, despite concerns over the legality of such a move. News 24

Pope Francis: ‘Christians and Muslims are brothers’
Pope Francis has told worshippers in a mosque in the capital of the Central African Republic that “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters”. He was speaking to Muslims who had sought shelter in Bangui following nearly three years of violence between Christians and Muslims. The mosque visit was seen as perhaps the most difficult part of his Africa tour, a BBC correspondent says Pope Francis will conclude his trip to Africa with a final Mass in Bangui. Most Muslims left the capital as a result of the fighting but 15,000 are left in an area called PK5, surrounded by armed Christian militia. BBC

At least 12 killed in attack by Ugandan rebels in eastern DR Congo
At least 12 people have been killed in an overnight attack blamed on Ugandan rebels in the restive east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a witness and local NGO said on Monday. “I saw four civilians killed by bullets… and seven patients and a nurse cut up by machete at the hospital,” a regional official told AFP in the north of the troubled North Kivu province. A local non-governmental organisation however put the toll much higher, at 30 dead. The Study Centre for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights (CEPADHO) said the victims included Congolese soldiers but the army has not confirmed the losses. The mostly Muslim rebels, who have been active in the region since being driven out of their homeland in 1995, are accused of a series of killings which have claimed the lives of more than 450 civilians since October 2014.  AFP on Yahoo News

Congo president urges national dialogue before elections
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila made a long-anticipated public call on Saturday for a national dialogue to prepare for elections next year, an idea regarded with suspicion by his opponents. A successful presidential election in 2016 would mark Congo’s first-ever peaceful transition of power after decades of autocratic rule and civil conflict since independence from Belgium in 1960. In an address to the nation, Kabila announced the creation of a preparatory committee but did not specify who would serve on it, nor when the dialogue itself would begin. “I have decided on this day to convoke an inclusive national political dialogue and the subsequent implementation of a preparatory committee to address all aspects linked to its organization,” Kabila said in a pre-recorded speech aired on state-run television on Saturday evening. Reuters on Yahoo News

Suspected Jihadists Kill Three in Rocket Attack on U.N. Base in Mali
Unknown attackers fired rockets at a United Nations peacekeeping base in northern Mali on Saturday, killing three people inside, the U.N. said, in the latest sign that the West African country’s Islamist insurgency is intensifying. French troops and the 10,000-strong U.N. force, known as MINUSMA, are struggling to stabilize the former French colony. Islamist militants attacked a hotel in the capital Bamako on Nov. 20 and killed 20 people, in their bloodiest attack yet in the country’s south. Desert-based jihadists regularly launch rockets and missiles at northern U.N. bases, especially around full moon when the lighter nights make it easier to target the camps, although it is rare for the missiles to land inside the walls. “They fired rockets from around 4 a.m. inside the MINUSMA camp,” Olivier Salgado, Deputy Chief of Communication in the peacekeeping mission, told Reuters. Reuters

France’s War in Mali has not been Able to End Extremist Violence
Two years after French troops drove jihadist forces from northern Mali, a deadly attack on a luxury hotel has raised concerns that Islamist extremists are gaining ground again in this volatile country, despite a new peace accord among domestic rebel groups. While Malian and U.N. officials point to the peace agreement as a potential milestone in pacifying the lawless, Arab-dominated north, they also worry that violence could surge again. The weak central government is struggling with a host of challenges: entrenched poverty, drug smuggling, and a mix of growing competition and collaboration among Islamist factions in the West African region. “Mali today is as fragile as it was before the coup in 2012,” said Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, referring to the military power grab that occurred as a rebellion in the north gained strength. France intervened the following year, after Islamist fighters seized control of a large chunk of territory. The Washington Post

This is What Citizens Say is Needed to End Mali’s Insecurity
On Nov. 20, the world’s eyes turned to Mali once again as 21 people were killed during an attack at the Radisson hotel in Bamako, the country’s capital. Many more were trapped in the building until Malian Special Forces led a joint raid and killed two assailants. Two different groups have claimed credit for the attack and two arrests were made Thursday, but at the time of writing there is still speculation as to which actors were responsible and an unspecified number of accomplices are still at large. The siege of the Radisson was only the most recent attack against civilians in a wave of instability that has struck the country since an insurgency began in northern Mali in early 2012. Mali continues to face widespread insecurity despite a French intervention (in 2013), the restoration of presidential and legislative elections (also 2013), the ongoing presence of more than 12,000 international troops, and the recent signing of peace accords in June 2015. An increase in attacks in Mali against U.N. forces over the last two years has earned the peacekeeping mission there the dubious distinction of being the “world’s most dangerous.”  The Washington Post

The Struggle for Mali
When fighters linked to al-Qaida swept into Timbuktu on 1 April 2012, Dr Ibrahim Maiga found himself living a nightmare. The new rulers of west Africa’s most famous centre of Islamic scholarship immediately set about destroying its history. Over the following months they set fire to thousands of ancient manuscripts, destroyed the mausoleums of local holy men and forced musicians into exile. For the invaders, many of whom were from Algeria and other parts of the region, “saint worship” and music were un-Islamic. The new sharia court wasted no time issuing death sentences to anyone who violated its creed. State officials fled before the onslaught, and Dr Ibrahim became the most senior medic in Timbuktu. Overnight, he found himself responsible for providing healthcare to a population of 60,000. “The first responsibility of government is governance, then security,” he said. “But the state left. They all ran away.”  The Guardian

Death Toll Rises to 22 in Nigeria Suicide Attack on Shiite Muslim Procession
he death toll in a suicide bombing on a Shia Muslim procession near the northern Nigerian city of Kano has risen to 22 after one more person was confirmed dead, one of the organisers said on Saturday. “For now, we have 22 deaths following the death of one more person yesterday. Thirty-eight people have also been injured, two of whom have been discharged from the hospital,” Ali Kakaki told AFP. Kakaki said that, despite the attack on Friday, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria members had continued their march from Kano to Zaria in neighbouring Kaduna state, where their leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is based. The march is to mark Ashura, which commemorates the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. “Following the attack, many more of our members have joined the procession,” Kakaki said, adding that they aimed to arrive at their destination next week. Friday’s attack took place in the village of Dakasoye, some 20 kilometres (13 miles) south of the city of Kano.  AFP on The Times of India

ISIS’ Grip on Libyan City Gives It a Fallback Option

“The entire Islamic State government there is from abroad — they are the ones who are calling the shots,” said Nuri al-Mangoush, the head of a trucking company based here in Misurata, about 65 miles west of the Islamic State’s territory around Surt. Many of its employees live in Surt, and five were jailed there recently. [..] As the Islamic State has come under growing military and economic pressure in Syria and Iraq, its leaders have looked outward. One manifestation of the shift is a turn toward large-scale terrorist attacks against distant targets, including the massacre in Paris and the bombing of a Russian charter jet over Egypt, Western intelligence officials say. But the group’s leaders are also devoting new resources and attention to far-flung affiliate groups that pledged their loyalty from places like Egypt, Afghanistan, Nigeria and elsewhere. There are at least eight in all, according to Western officials. Of those, by far the most important is based in Surt, a Libyan port city on the Mediterranean about 400 miles southeast of Sicily. The New York Times

IS Group Claims Killing of 4 Egyptian Police
An Islamic State affiliate in Egypt has claimed responsibility for a shooting near a historic site just outside Cairo that killed four police. A statement circulated online by supporters of the group on Sunday vowed to continue targeting the “soldiers of the tyrant,” referring to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. It was not possible to confirm the authenticity of the statement, but it resembled previous claims issued by the group. Militant attacks have spiked since Morsi’s overthrow, as the government has waged a sweeping crackdown on his supporters and other activists. Saturday’s shooting took place on the outskirts of Cairo near Saqqara, home to the 4,600-year-old Step Pyramid. AP on Stars and Stripes

Tunisia Leaders Urged to Rethink Anti-Jihad Strategy
Tunisia’s leaders faced calls Thursday to rethink their strategy in the fight against extremism following a suicide bombing by the Islamic State group that killed a busload of presidential guards. The North African nation’s struggle against Islamist violence has taken on added urgency following three major attacks this year by IS, which has made Tunisia one of its main targets. The authorities closed the border with strife-wracked Libya for 15 days, imposed a nationwide state of emergency and a night-time curfew in Tunis after 12 presidential guards were killed in Tuesday’s blast. “Some of the materials used in the bombing are not available in Tunisia, but they can be found in Libya,” Prime Minister Habib Essid told parliament. Times Live

China Retools Its Military With a First Overseas Outpost in Djibouti
China announced on Thursday that it would establish its first overseas military outpost and unveiled a sweeping plan to reorganize its military into a more agile force capable of projecting power abroad. The outpost, in the East African nation of Djibouti, breaks with Beijing’s longstanding policy against emulating the United States in building military facilities abroad. The Foreign Ministry refrained from describing the new installation as a military base, saying it would be used to resupply Chinese Navy ships that have been participating in United Nations antipiracy missions. Yet by establishing an outpost in the Horn of Africa — more than 4,800 miles away from Beijing and near some of the world’s most volatile regions — President Xi Jinping is leading the military beyond its historical focus on protecting the nation’s borders. […] The head of the United States Africa Command, Gen. David M. Rodriguez, said in Washington last week that China planned “to build a base in Djibouti” and had reached a 10-year agreement with the country’s government to do so. He said the installation would serve as a logistics hub and would enable the Chinese to “extend their reach.” The New York Times

World Bank Demands Climate Justice for Africa at Cop21
The Cop21 conference in Paris is crunch time for world leaders to reach a binding climate deal that would halt climate change and stop what scientists call a collision course with nature. Africa is likely to pay a heavy price for global warming, despite having contributed little to its growth and the World Bank and other international organisations want climate justice for the continent. RFI

Top South Sudanese Rebel Defector in Talks with Government
A top South Sudanese rebel commander, who in July defected from the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) led by former vice-president, Riek Machar, has finally come out of shadows and requested president Salva Kiir’s government for a deal which would make it possible for him to return to Juba. After more than 4 months of defection when he disowned the leadership of Machar, former deputy chief of general staff for operations in the SPLA-IO, Major General Peter Gatdet Yak, said he was ready to return to president Kiir’s government if his demands were met. Sudan Tribune

Uganda Passes Controversial NGO Bill
Ugandan lawmakers passed a bill that would give authorities sweeping powers to regulate civil society, which rights groups say will “strangle” criticism of the government, just before Pope Francis arrived on a visit. “The bill was unanimously passed,” government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa told AFP on Friday, after lawmakers voted at a late-night sitting on Thursday. Civil society groups say the legislation gives the government unprecedented powers, including the ability to shut down non-governmental organisations and jail their members. The announcement came just hours before Pope Francis flew in from Kenya on the second leg of a three-nation African tour, where he has spoken out strongly against poverty, corruption and wealthy minorities who hoard resources. AFP on Yahoo News

Algerian Military Court Convicts Ex-Counterespionage Chief
An Algerian military tribunal has convicted the nation’s long-time counterespionage chief of breaching orders and destroying documents and sentenced him to five years in prison. The verdict against Abdelkader Ait Ouarabi, best known as Gen. Hassan, fell late Thursday in a closed-door trial in the Mediterranean city of Oran. Grounds for the charges were not made public, though the Algerian press has reported accusations of arms possession and creating an armed organization. Hassan said Friday through an attorney, Mokrane Ait Larbi, that he plans to appeal the verdict. AP



Photo: Adam Jones