Media Review for September 17, 2015

Elite Troops Declare Burkina Faso Coup
Burkina Faso’s presidential guard declared a coup Thursday a day after seizing the interim president and senior government members, as the country geared up for its first elections since the overthrow of longtime leader Blaise Compaore. Lieutenant-Colonel Mamadou Bamba appeared on national television to declare that a new “National Democratic Council” had put an end “to the deviant regime of transition” in the west African state. Announcing the coup, Bamba said that “wide-ranging talks” were being held to form a government leading to “inclusive and peaceful elections.” Presidential guard members linked to ex-leader Compaore had burst into a cabinet meeting Wednesday and seized acting president Michel Kafando, prime Minister Isaac Zida and two ministers.  AFP on Times Live

Guards Seize Interim Leaders of Burkina Faso, Gunfire Heard
Guards seized Burkina Faso’s interim president, prime minister and two cabinet ministers Wednesday, in what appeared to be a military coup attempt less than a year after the last abrupt power shift in this poor African country. Gunfire was heard near the presidential residence in the hours after the seizure of the interim president, Michel Kafando, his prime minister, Isaac Zida, and the two ministers. Their whereabouts as of Wednesday night was not clear. Military patrols crisscrossed neighborhoods of the capital into the late hours and fired warning shots to disperse demonstrators who were protesting the seizures and yelling, “Free the hostages!” Television and radio broadcasts ceased. Chérif Sy, head of the Burkina Faso Parliament, issued a statement on Wednesday evening calling the events a “serious attack on the republic and its institutions.” He exhorted “all patriots to defend the motherland.”  The New York Times

Burkina Faso ‘Coup’: Shooting after Officers Dissolve Government
Presidential guard officers in Burkina Faso have announced the dissolution of the transitional government. A new “national democratic council” had taken control to end the “deviant regime”, Lt-Col Mamadou Bamba said on state television. Interim parliament speaker Cheriff Sy said the move was “clearly a coup”. Heavy shooting could be heard at the main square in the capital, Oaugadougou to disperse protesters, reports the BBC’s Yacouba Ouedraogo from the city.  BBC

U.S. Calls for Release of President in Burkina Faso Coup
The United States has called for the immediate release of Burkina Faso’s interim president, prime minister and other leaders after they were arrested by the presidential guard on Wednesday. “The United States strongly condemns any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means or resolve internal political disagreements using force,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also expressed outrage after the presidential guard burst into a cabinet meeting. It comes less than a month before an election to complete a transition back to democracy after a popular uprising toppled Burkina’s long-time ruler last year.  Reuters on NBC News

UN Security Council Demands Release of Burkina Faso President, PM
The UN Security Council strongly condemned the detention of Burkina Faso’s interim president and prime minister by the presidential guard and demanded they be released. In a unanimous statement, the 15-member council urged “all actors in Burkina Faso to refrain from any violence.” Presidential guard members linked to ex-leader Blaise Compaore burst into a cabinet meeting and seized President Michel Kafando, Prime Minister Isaac Zida and two ministers. The council “condemned in the strongest terms” the forceful detention and “demanded that they be released safely and immediately.  AFP on Yahoo News

S.Sudan Helicopters Attacked Rebels: Ceasefire Monitors
South Sudan’s army used helicopter gunships to pound rebel positions, military monitors said Thursday, their first report detailing ceasefire violations since a peace deal was signed. The army and rebels have repeatedly traded blame accusing each other of breaking an August 29 ceasefire deal, the eighth such agreement to have been signed since civil war broke out in December 2013. Monitors from the regional East Africa bloc IGAD, which led efforts to negotiate the peace deal, said that on September 2, government helicopters attacked rebel positions outside Malakal, capital of the battleground oil-state of Upper Nile.  AFP on Yahoo News

As Conflicts Multiply, Peacekeeping Confronts an Identity Crisis
In Darfur, United Nations peacekeepers have covered up evidence of government-led attacks against civilians and, on occasion, even attacks on themselves. In Mali’s northern badlands, attacks on blue-helmeted peacekeepers have killed 42 of them in the last two years alone, making it hard for the peacekeepers there to resupply their bases. In the Golan Heights, United Nations soldiers have pulled out of most of their posts on the Syrian side of the territory, which has been overrun by an affiliate of Al Qaeda. And in the Central African Republic, peacekeepers have faced one sordid allegation of sexual abuse after another. Seventy years after the founding of the United Nations, peacekeeping is bigger and costlier than ever — and confronting an identity crisis. The New York Times

Dissidents Expelled from Congo’s Ruling Coalition
Seven senior political figures were kicked out of Democratic Republic of Congo’s ruling coalition on Wednesday for signing a letter urging President Joseph Kabila not to cling to power after his term expires next year, government officials said. In the letter to Kabila on Monday, the leaders of the G7, a grouping of parties within the coalition, demanded immediate steps to ensure a presidential election scheduled for November 2016 is held on time. A successful vote would mark the first peaceful transition of power in the mineral-rich central African nation. But Kabila’s critics fear he intends to exploit a packed and expensive slate of local, provincial and national polls over the next 14 months to force delays to the presidential vote.  Reuters

In Central Tunisia, Birthplace Of Arab Spring Now Jihad Hotbed
Ali Chadli opens his eyes wide, incredulous even now. No, he had no idea his sons were planning to leave for Syria, where they eventually died. “They were praying as usual,” he says. “I hadn’t noticed anything particular.” The aging man invites us to take a seat next to the grapevine, on the terrace of his little farm, outside a small village called Sidi Ali Ben Aoun. The village sits at the end of a bumpy path lined with olive and barbary fig trees, at the foot of the infamous Sidi Aich mountains, where armed groups have their hideouts, according to villagers. Located 250 kilometers south of Tunis, this Salafist stronghold is a different world altogether. Here, a portion of the young people dream of jihad in Iraq, Syria or Libya. Some are even starting to turn their anger against their own country. For Ali Chadli, the troubles began in 2012, with a phone call from Turkey. The voice on the other end was his son Mohammed, who hadn’t, the father realized, “gone there for tourism. Worldcrunch – Le Monde

Algeria Spy Chief Axing Renews Accession Debate
[…] It may also be a final purge in a struggle for influence among the military intelligence and civilian old guard, widely seen as rival factions since the uprising against French colonial rule in the late 1950s. “End of an Era” screamed the front page of El Watan newspaper. Describing the departure of the rarely-seen spy chief, Liberte daily said: “The Myth has crumbled.” Bouteflika, 78, has also been seen in public infrequently since surviving a stroke in 2013. Even after his re-election for a fourth term in April 2014, he has appeared only in brief television recordings, fuelling speculation about his intentions. But curbing the DRS’ influence means effectively that Bouteflika loyalists now hold more sway, analysts and opposition leaders say, and that may allow the independence war veteran to eventually step aside for an ally.  News 24

Liberia’s Port Shows Surge in Trade as Nation Recovers from Ebola
Liberia is seeing a surge in trade as it recovers from an Ebola epidemic that killed thousands and virtually halted economic activity for months, the manager of the country’s sole container terminal said in an interview Tuesday. The country was declared Ebola-free for a second time by the World Health Organization earlier this month, after a handful of cases were reported in July. Over 11,000 people died of the disease in three West African countries over the course of the outbreak. Liberia’s economy barely expanded in 2014 and is expected to grow at an anemic rate this year, down from more than 8% annual growth before Ebola. Still, container volumes are expected to jump roughly 30% this year, to about 100,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units, said George Adjei, who manages APM Terminals’ port facility in the capital Monrovia.  The Wall Street Journal

Smuggler Vessels off Libya would be Seized under UN Proposal
A proposed U.N. resolution would authorize the European Union and individual countries to take “enforcement action” on the high seas off Libya against vessels trying to smuggle migrants and refugees to Europe, including seizing and destroying the boats. It would also authorize the EU and member states “to use all necessary measures” — U.N. language for military action — “in confronting migrant smugglers or human traffickers.” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft circulated the resolution Tuesday and presented it to the U.N. Security Council at a closed meeting on Wednesday. EU naval vessels have been patrolling Mediterranean waters off the coast of Libya in hopes of preventing more mass drownings of migrants jammed onto flimsy smugglers’ boats.  AP on Stars and Stripes

UK Warship will be Used to ‘Board, Seize and Divert’ Refugee Boats
A Royal Navy frigate is to be sent to take part in a blockade-style naval operation aimed at “boarding, seizing and diverting” refugee boats in the Mediterranean, the Ministry of Defence has said. The British warship HMS Richmond is to take part in a “more aggressive” phase two of a European Union naval operation operating off the coast of Libya aimed at ending the people-smuggling trade across the Mediterranean. British defence and foreign ministers gave their informal approval to the EU plan at meetings in Brussels last week, after being told by the Italian admiral in charge of the naval force that 16 boats used by the smugglers could have been seized or destroyed in recent weeks if the new phase had been in force.  The Guardian

Zuma: Blood of Refugee Crisis is on Nato’s Hands
President Jacob Zuma has become one of the first African leaders to put blame for the devastating African refugee crises on Nato countries. And he is unapologetic about it.  “They caused it. They must address it,” he firmly told a room full of ambassadors, Cabinet ministers and the media on Tuesday.  The president further called out European countries, which he blamed for causing instability in the North African region, for closing their borders to African refugees.  “Today those who are part of destabilising that part of the world … they don’t want to accept the refugees,” Zuma said, garnering the nods of ambassadors from many African countries.   Mail and Guardian

Kenya’s Wildlife Flees Al-Shabab Conflict into Somalia
Wild elephants, lions, leopards, giraffe, buffalo and ostriches have been spotted in Somalia’s Lower Jubba area in the first sightings of the animals in the east African country in decades. The animals are believed to have been displaced from Kenya’s Boni forest by ongoing security operations against the armed group al-Shabab that operates in the area. Boni forest, which is a national reserve for conservation, borders Somalia. “The animals are coming back in large numbers. Inside the town we have ostriches walking around. Leopards and elephants are just outside the town,” Farah Haybe, Badaade district commissioner, told Al Jazeera. The densely forested area used to be home to herds of wild animals and birds until the start of the Somali war in 1991 which led to unabated poaching.  Al Jazeera

Lawsuit Could Establish End to Prosecution of War Criminals Living in US
Almost three decades after he was imprisoned and tortured by henchmen of brutal Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, Farhan Warfaa is still haunted by the moment the army officer interrogating him drew out a pistol and shot him five times at close range. Assuming he had killed the man he was questioning about a crime no more serious than the theft of a water tanker, the officer ordered soldiers to take away and bury the body. But Warfaa survived and escaped the prison compound with the aid of sympathetic jailers who smuggled him to safety, leaving him to deal with years of nightmares and the mental anguish of his brush with death.  The Guardian

Zimbabwe MPs Recalled to Parliament after Mugabe Gaffe
Zimbabwean politicians have been recalled for a special sitting a day after President Robert Mugabe delivered the wrong speech at the opening session of parliament.  The government-owned Herald newspaper said all parliamentarians were required to attend Wednesday afternoon’s session called by Mugabe.  The 91-year-old leader on Tuesday gave the same speech he delivered at a state of the nation address in August. The Herald and other state-owned media outlets later published the intended speech, which announced restrictions on imports, land reforms and measures to protect employees from unfair dismissal.  Al Jazeera

Gambian Killings, Torture Fueling Refugee Crisis: HRW
Shadowy paramilitaries and secret police in Gambia are fueling a growing refugee crisis through acts of violence and atrocities committed against critics of one of the world’s most repressive regimes, a new study said Thursday. “State of Fear,” the first ever report on the west African nation by Human Rights Watch, details extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances, which it says are “rife” in the tourist paradise. “Gambia may be (mainland) Africa’s smallest country but it also accounts for a growing number of people in the current migration crisis gripping Europe,” HRW said on the release of the 81-page report.  AFP on Japan Times

Moroccan Journalist Writes Again after a 10-Year Legal Ban
Here’s the kind of story that lifts the heart because it illustrates the courage of a journalist who has fought official disapproval in order to go on working. It begins by stating that Moroccan journalist Ali Lmrabet is back at his desk writing an article about his country’s history for a local magazine. Why is that surprising? Because, as Sam Kimball reveals in a Columbia JournalismReview article, Lmrabet is “doing journalism in Morocco” for the first time since 2005, when a court found him guilty of defamation, fined him and barred him from practising as a journalist for 10 years. In an interview in 2005 with the editors of a weekly newspaper, Al Moustakil, Lmrabet had declared that Western Saharans living in camps in Algeria since Moroccan forces invaded their country in 1975 were refugees.  The Guardian

Malaria Deaths Down 60 Percent, says WHO
Public health interventions in countries worst affected by malaria have helped reduce the number of people dying from the disease by 60 percent since 2000, said a joint World Health Organization-UNICEF report on Thursday. While the number of overall cases fell by just 20 percent, the number of people killed by the disease has plummeted to an estimated 438,000 in 2015. Fifteen years ago, an estimated 262,000,000 malaria cases resulted in nearly 840,000 deaths, most of them children under five, the document said. […] Most of the success was reported in Asia and the Caucasus, while sub-Saharan nations will still likely account for nearly 80 percent of global malaria deaths this year. Officials say Africa continues to lag substantially behind other regions of the world in eradicating the disease.  Deutsche Welle

A Decade After Write-Offs, Africa Sliding Back into Debt Trap
With their economies floundering and currencies sinking, African states that have borrowed heavily in dollars may be slipping back into the debt trap – and ultimately default – only a decade after a far-reaching round of debt forgiveness. Some are looking to issue more Eurobonds to refinance existing foreign currency loans, but with U.S. interest rates set to rise soon, the inevitably higher borrowing costs will do little to alleviate pressure on creaking state budgets. Top of the list of ‘at risk’ countries, according to experts, is Ghana, the first African sovereign after South Africa to go to the international markets when it launched a debut $750 million Eurobond in 2007.  Reuters

Africa Mining Stumbles, Raising Fears of Job Loss Chaos
As mining companies in resource-rich Africa bleed jobs due to plunging commodity prices, the ripple effect of redundancies has raised concern about social unrest amid declining economic growth. Top mineral-producing countries like South Africa, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have seen cash-squeezed companies slash workforces, shut operations and reduce capacity. In South Africa, where mining has long been a critical source of jobs, unions say 19,000 jobs are on the line. Most of the country’s current mining layoffs are in the platinum sector, which has seen a price drop of about 40 percent since 2011, while the gold sector has also been badly hit. Africa Review

Crude Below $50 Throws East Africa’s Oil Projects Into Doubt
Kenya and Uganda ended months of debate in August to sign an agreement on an oil pipeline costing almost $4 billion. Finding the money to build it and companies to start pumping crude may be a harder task. The 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) pipeline is key for exporting the region’s crude when production finally begins — 2018 in Uganda’s case. With oil prices languishing below $50 a barrel, there’s little incentive for companies such as Tullow Oil Plc, Africa Oil Corp., China’s CNOOC Ltd. and France’s Total SA to keep investing. “The lower oil price has created a great deal more of uncertainty around future oil production, given that additional capital expenditure will be required to make oil production a reality,” Razia Khan, head of Africa economic research at Standard Chartered Plc in London, said in an e-mailed response to questions.  Bloomberg

Health Care, Education Are Top Priorities in Sub-Saharan Africa
s the United Nations prepares to ratify new global development goals, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that people in major sub-Saharan African nations are feeling more optimistic about the future than many others around the world. Having experienced relatively high rates of economic growth in recent years, African publics are more likely than citizens of many wealthier nations to believe their economies will improve in the short run, and that in the long run the next generation will be better off financially. Nonetheless, throughout sub-Saharan Africa people recognize that their countries face tremendous challenges. Even though extreme poverty around the world has been cut by more than half since the last round of UN development targets (the Millennium Development Goals) were adopted in 2000, economic challenges persist, especially a lack of jobs. Pew Research Center



Photo: Adam Jones