Media Review for November 5, 2015

Russian Plane Crash: U.S. Intel Suggests ISIS Bomb Brought Down Jet
Days after authorities dismissed claims that ISIS brought down a Russian passenger jet, a U.S. intelligence analysis now suggests that the terror group or its affiliates planted a bomb on the plane. British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said his government believes there is a “significant possibility” that an explosive device caused the crash. And a Middle East source briefed on intelligence matters also said it appears likely someone placed a bomb aboard the aircraft. Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed Saturday in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after breaking apart in midair, killing all 224 people on board. It was en route to St. Petersburg from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The latest U.S. intelligence suggests that the crash was most likely caused by a bomb planted on the plane by ISIS or an affiliate, according to multiple U.S. officials who spoke with CNN. CNN

Russian Plane Crash: UK Will not Allow Passengers to Fly from Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh Airport Citing Security Fears
By deploying security experts to Sharm el Sheikh late on 4 November, Britain has taken the unprecedented step of saying to another government: we do not trust your airport security. The UK will not allow airlines to fly British citizens from the airport where the doomed Russian charter flight departed until it has people in place to audit security. Passengers expecting to fly home from the Red Sea airport late on 4 November faced confusion when they arrived at the heavily guarded airport. At 7pm local time, as the wave of flights to the UK would normally be preparing to depart, they were told their planes were delayed indefinitely.   The Independent

ISIS Insists it Brought Down Russian Plane in Egypt
The Islamic State group on Wednesday insisted it brought down a Russian plane that crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, providing no new details but challenging sceptics to prove otherwise. The jihadist group had claimed on Saturday that it downed the Airbus in Sinai, where its Egypt affiliate is based, but provided no details, prompting scepticism about its involvement. All 224 people on board the flight bound for Saint Petersburg, mainly Russian tourists, were killed. Experts say the probe into the crash will take time as they analyse recovered black boxes and wreckage that was strewn across a wide area.  In an audio statement posted on social media sites on Wednesday, ISIS said it would announce the details of the alleged attack when it chooses.  News 24

Car Bomb Targeting Police Kills Six People in Egypt
A car bomb targeting a policeman’s club in the Egyptian city of El Arish killed six people and wounded 10 on Wednesday, security sources said. Islamic State’s Egypt affiliate, Sinai Province, claimed responsibility for the attack, which it described as a suicide bombing. The group has killed hundreds of soldiers and police since the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said Islamist militants pose a grave threat to Egypt, the most populous Arab country. Reuters

Sahel Countries Call for Co-ordination Against Religious Extremism and Violent
Participants in the third workshop of the League of ulema, preachers and imams of the Sahel countries in Algiers on Tuesday called for a necessary coordination among states of the region against the religious and violent extremism. They said at the meeting organized under the theme “Religious Experiences of the Sahel countries in the fight against religious extremism and violent,” that the fight against this scourge demanded joint efforts and exchange of experiences between States in the fight against terrorism and religious extremism. The president of the League of Ulema, Imams and Preachers of the Sahel countries, Daouda Abdou Boureima advocated the establishment of the contours of national unity between the members of the nation and peoples of the Sahel and the African continent saying the fight against terrorist groups “is not made by military force alone but by cultivating the values ​​of tolerance and the foundations of Islam.” Ennahar

The Battle for Libya’s Only Resource
Oil is Libya’s lifeblood. The country has virtually no other industries or formal employment; oil is its only business. According to the World Bank, oil revenues account for over 95 percent of the government’s budget. And since about 80 percent of Libyans are on the government payroll, it is no exaggeration to say that oil feeds and clothes the Libyan people. No other country is so dependent on a single resource. This is especially troubling when you consider that Libya is mostly desert, lacking significant arable land — it can’t grow its own food. “Without hydrocarbons revenue, the viability of the Libyan state is very much in question — which is what we are on the cusp of seeing first hand,” said Geoff Porter, a North Africa risk consultant and assistant professor at West Point. “If there are no export earnings, there’s no money, and if there’s no money, there’s no food.” Foreign Policy

Forces Holding Libya Oil Fields Threaten to Cut off Exports
The forces that control most of Libya’s oil fields on Wednesday threatened to cut off exports if foreign companies do not start wiring payments to the internationally recognized government in the country’s east. Until now foreign companies have paid the Central Bank in the capital Tripoli, which is controlled by Islamist-allied militias who back a rival government. The internationally recognized government, which is based in the country’s far eastern city of Tobruk, recently set up its own Central Bank and National Oil Company. Ali al-Hassi, spokesman for the Oil Fields Guard, told The Associated Press that foreign companies must transfer funds to the new authorities. The petroleum-rich North African country slid into chaos following the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Oil production has dropped to less than 25 percent of normal levels, to 350,000 barrels per day, according to the newly established NOC.  AP on Stars and Stripes

Zanzibar to Miss Tanzania President’s Inauguration
Opposition leaders in Zanzibar said on Wednesday they would not take part in celebrations for the inauguration of Tanzania’s new president John Pombe Magufuli, after elections were annulled on the islands. Several African leaders are due on Thursday in the economic capital Dar es Salaam for Magufuli’s swearing in, including the African Union chair, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, and regional heads of state. Ruling party candidate John Magufuli won Tanzania’s hotly contested presidential elections with over 58%  of votes, cementing the long-running Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party’s firm grip on power. Samia Suluhu Hassan, who comes from Zanzibar, will become Tanzania’s first ever female vice president. News 24

4 Dead as Burundi Killings Continue
Witnesses say four people were killed in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, as a wave of killings associated with President Pierre Nkurunziza’s re-election for a third term took more lives. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that at least 198 people have been killed in Burundi since April 26, when Nkurunziza announced his bid for a third term in office that was opposed locally and internationally. Police spokesman Pierre Nkurukiye said the four dead may have been shot by police when they were attacked while patrolling the Mutakura neighborhood. The four deaths raises to 13 people killed since Saturday. Nkurunziza’s successful bid for a third term sparked violent street protests and a failed coup. AP

Conflict Trends in Africa: a Turn for the Better in 2015?
Last year was Africa’s deadliest since 1999 with fatalities, which have steadily risen since 2011, reaching a peak. No wonder there was a sense of despondency during the sixth annual retreat of African mediators that the African Union (AU) organised in Windhoek in late October. In 2014, the number of fatalities from political violence in Africa reached levels last seen during the final stages of the Cold War. During that time the number of armed conflicts in Africa fluctuated at unprecedented levels, and were much higher than we have seen in recent years. Eventually the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of proxy wars on African soil ushered in a peace dividend that continues to benefit current generations – even after the surge in violence from 2011 to 2014. ISS

South Sudan Rivals boosting Weapons Stockpiles – UN
Warring parties in South Sudan are expanding stockpiles of weapons and ammunition in violation of an August peace deal and President Salva Kiir risks fueling violence with plans to almost triple the number of states in the country, said UN experts. In a report to the UN Security Council, seen by Reuters on Wednesday, the experts said they were examining the flow of arms into South Sudan and had “credible, independent” reports that both the government and opposition were boosting their supplies. The experts, who monitor UN sanctions on South Sudan, said they would provide details shortly. The 15-member Security Council warned in August it was ready to impose an arms embargo on the country if the peace agreement collapsed.  News 24

S Sudan Army, Rebels Agree Joint Troop Deployment in Capital
South Sudan’s army and rebel forces have agreed to deploy joint military units in the capital, a key stage of a peace deal aimed to end nearly two years of war. Both sides have repeatedly traded blame for breaking an August 26 peace deal, the eighth such agreement. Despite continued fighting, the rivals signed a deal in neighbouring Ethiopia to fix key military sections of the deal, including how many troops each side will have in the capital Juba. A total of 4 830 troops will be allowed inside Juba. Just over two-thirds of those, or 3 420 men, will come from the government, while the remaining 1 410 will be from the rebels, according to the terms of the deal. News 24

Trouble on the White Nile: What the Barge Kidnapping Reveals about the UN in South Sudan
Last Monday, three barges hired by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) left a UN base in Malakal, Upper Nile state, on the government-controlled east side of the river. The barges carried fuel meant for an UNMISS base in Renk further north and on board were a group of international peacekeepers and a South Sudanese crew. When the barges reached Kaka, an outpost on the rebel-controlled West Bank, 100 heavily armed men under the command of Major General Johnson Olony stopped the boats, detained the crew, disarmed the peacekeepers, and offloaded the cargo of 55,000 litres of fuel, according to the UN. Olony’s spokesperson claimed the men on board included SPLA and National Security Services agents, and said they would treat the captives “like criminals” to let the world know that UNMISS was colluding with the government. He indicated the collusion was local – a deal with the SPLA and lower-level UN folks. The hostages feared for their lives and may have been directly threatened. African Arguments

Hiding from Horror in the Swamps of South Sudan
Civilians in one of South Sudan’s most desperate regions accuse their government of indiscriminate killings in recent months, forcing thousands to flee to swamp islands for safety where there is little medicine or food. Leer county in war-torn Unity state is the birthplace of South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, whose forces have battled those of President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, since December 2013. But the situation in Nuer-majority Unity is complicated by the split in Nuer loyalties. The fighting is largely between Nuer factions loyal to the government and rebel counterparts. The civil war in South Sudan has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than two million, according to the United Nations. Fighting in Leer has been so intense that aid groups evacuated their staff twice this year. Most recently,  Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross evacuated in the first week of October as fighting raged, despite an August peace deal signed by Kiir and Machar. Al Jazeera

An Anticorruption Plea in Kenya: ‘Please, Just Steal a Little’
When it comes to honesty, politicians here don’t usually win many awards.  But even for Kenyans, who have witnessed countless corruption scandals over the years, the graft coming to light now is almost too outrageous to believe. This week, a parliamentary committee was given a document detailing millions of dollars that disappeared through some very curious government spending. It included thousands of dollars for simple condom dispensers and, apparently, $85 for ballpoint pens — that is, $85 each. “A pen?” said John Githongo, a leading anticorruption activist. “More than $80 on a single pen? Come on, this is the biggest bunch of crooks to ever run a government in this part of Africa. This is literally the rape of the country, everything from the poaching of our wildlife to the accumulation of debt at an extraordinary level.”  The New York Times

Tunisian Lawmakers Suspend Membership in Ruling Party, Threatening Split
Thirty lawmakers from Tunisia’s ruling party suspended their membership on Wednesday and threatened to resign in protest over what they called attempts by President Beji Caid Essebsi’s son to control the party. It is a further sign of infighting between two camps within Nidaa Tounes party, which is at risk of splitting up and losing its strong position in the North African state’s parliament to Islamist party rival Ennahda. Any unravelling within Nidaa Tounes could bring instability to Tunisia, which launched the Arab Spring revolts in 2011 and has since won praise for its largely peaceful transition to democracy after the overthrow of autocrat Zine Abidine Ben Ali. Tensions between two camps of Nidaa Tounes, whose name means Call of Tunisia, spilled over into violence last week when a party meeting descended into open fighting with fists and sticks at a luxury hotel in the beach resort of Hammamet.  Reuters

Pope Francis Might Become the First Modern Pontiff to Visit an Active War Zone
Pope Francis, who received a rapturous public response on his recent American tour, is preparing for his next big mission: His first official visit to Africa. The pontiff has planned a three-country swing through Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic (CAR) later this month. If he makes the trip to CAR as scheduled — a resurgence in violence has thrown the visit into question — it is believed it would be the first time in the modern era that a pontiff has visited an active war zone. Unlike in other parts of the world, Catholicism is growing in popularity in Africa. The continent is home to about 16 percent of the world’s Catholics — double the number of a few decades ago. In central African countries, Catholics account for about half the total population. But how much of an impact will the people’s pope have in a growing, changing Africa?  Globalpost

Nigeria’s Buhari Puts Anticorruption Drive Into High Gear
[…] In a country where impunity by big business and the political elite is rarely punished, the uptick in penalties has been eye-catching. But for those who voted for President Muhammadu Buhari, each one is a confirmation that their leader’s campaign promise to bring discipline to Nigeria is taking root.  It also underscores what many Nigerians have always said: that it takes a strongman to whip Africa’s most populous country into shape. “He has had for a long time … a reputation for anticorruption efforts,” says Darren Kew, an expert on Nigeria at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. “And the message since [Buhari] has taken office is that there will be no tolerance of corruption. But there hasn’t been any major cleaning or vetting efforts that have happened in a comprehensive way.”  CS Monitor

Crude Awakening: Can Oil Benefit the People of the Niger Delta?
The thick, acrid smoke billowing above the tree line is the telltale sign of local refining of stolen crude oil in Nigeria’s troubled Niger Delta. It is an environmentally catastrophic business, in a region already fouled by the spills and pollution of the international oil companies, who for the past 60 years have extracted oil with little regard for the health and welfare of the communities that live there. “Artisanal refining”, as it’s known, is in a sense the communities’ revenge. Nigeria has earned between $800 billion and $933 billion from oil (no one really knows as the accounting is so opaque), but in the villages along the creeks from where the crude is pumped, there is little to show for it, so people sometimes help themeselves.  IRIN

Nigeria’s Restive Northeast State to Re-open Public Schools
Nigeria’s restive northeast Borno State would re-open public secondary schools in the state on Nov. 16, an official said on Wednesday. Inuwa Kubo, the state Commissioner for Education, disclosed this at a meeting with Principals of secondary schools in Maiduguri, the state capital. Kubo said only schools located in secured areas with adequate security would be re-opened. He lamented that Boko Haram insurgency had seriously affected the education sector in the state and commiserated with principals and teachers who lost their relatives and staff to the insurgency. He urged them to see the lost as a gallant fight in the quest to save the education system from collapse, assuring that the state government would provide qualitative education in spite of the lingering security challenges.  Xinhua

Democratic Republic of Congo: The Kabila Legacy
With little more than a year left before President Kabila is due to step down, The Africa Report looks into where he has kept his promises and where they have fallen down. One issue remains unclear: whether he will strengthen Congolese democracy or join the ranks of presidents seeking to stay in power at all costs   Joseph Kabila has been president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for nearly 15 years. This makes the lavishly moustached Kabila the country’s second-longest serving head of state after Mobutu Sese Seko, who was president for 32 years, or third if one counts King Leopold II of Belgium, who was head of the Congo Free State for 23 years. The Africa Report

South Africa in Midst of ‘Epic Drought’
South Africa is facing its worst drought since 1982, with more than 2.7 million households facing water shortages across the country, the government has said. Lennox Mabaso, spokesperson for the local government department in KwaZulu-Natal, told Al Jazeera that the drought, concentrated in provinces of Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, was beginning to impact the livelihoods and drain the economy. “The dams are at an all-time low. This is an epic drought and [the] government is doing the best it can do. As you can imagine, it requires a lot of resources, and it’s impacting everyone, rich and poor,” Mabaso said.  The ministry declared the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State provinces as disaster areas and warned that some 6,500 rural communities across four provinces face water shortages. South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, has already implemented water restrictions.   Al Jazeera

Why Zambia’s Ruling Party is no Longer at Ease
One year after President Michael Sata’s death, stalwarts of his governing party claim the establishment has been “forced into a merger with the former governing party Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) and overtaken by newcomers”. They say the complexion of the party was fast changing under the leadership of 58-year-old leader Edgar Lungu. The governing Patriotic Front underwent a chaotic succession battle ahead of the January election, necessitated by Sata’s death. President Lungu has faced criticism and fomented discontent inside the party for giving Cabinet positions to opposition members and newcomers. Africa Review

Why a Quarter of a Million Moroccans Marched Into the Sahara
Forty years ago, the King of Morocco ordered nearly a quarter of a million Moroccans to march into the Sahara desert to claim an area of disputed territory from Spain. The Green March, as it became known, was instigated in part to boost King Hassan the Second’s faltering support at home and sparked a long guerrilla war. Moroccan TV journalist, Seddik Maaninou, was on the march and spoke to Witness about a turning point in North African history.  BBC



Photo: Adam Jones