Media Review for September 18, 2015

Burkina Faso Military Junta Frees Interim President
The head of a military junta in Burkina Faso which took power on Thursday has freed interim President Michel Kafando and two of his ministers, state television said on Friday. “I confirm that President Kafando has been freed. He is in good health,” General Gilbert Diendere, the junta leader who for three decades was chief military adviser to long-time former President Blaise Compaore, told journalists. He said interim Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida was under house arrest.  Reuters on Yahoo News

Burkina Faso Military Spy Chief seizes Power, Dissolves Government
A shadowy spy master formerly the right-hand man to toppled President Blaise Compaore seized power in Burkina Faso at the head of a military coup on Thursday, less than a month before elections meant to restore democracy in the West African state. General Gilbert Diendere, who for three decades served as Compaore’s chief military adviser and operated an intelligence network spanning West Africa, was named as the head of a military junta called the National Council for Democracy. The power grab led by the presidential guard unfolded three days after a government committee recommended dissolving the elite unit, which was a pillar of Compaore’s 27-year rule and has repeatedly meddled in politics since his fall. A spokesman for the coup leaders hinted at a political agenda to back a return to power by loyalists to Compaore, who has remained in exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast since he was toppled by a popular uprising in October last year.  Reuters

‘We Have the Support of the Army,’ Burkina Coup leader Tells France 24
Speaking to France 24 on Thursday, General Gilbert Diendéré said that the coup in Burkina Faso had the support of the army and that those leaders seized in the coup would be freed. Acting President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Isaac Zida were detained along with two ministers when members of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) burst into a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. France 24

AU Demands Burkina Faso Military Hand Over Power
The deputy chairman of the African Union Commission on Thursday condemned the overthrow of the administration in Burkina Faso and said the AU had demanded that military leaders immediately return power to the transitional government. Erastus Mwencha said the AU Peace and Security Council would meet soon to review the situation in Burkina Faso and decide the organization’s next line of action. The overthrow of the government Wednesday in Ouagadougou came less than three weeks before the scheduled general election on October 11. The election is aimed at ushering in a new, democratically elected leadership in the West African country.  VOA

New Burkina Faso leader Says October poll Too Soon
The military general who has taken power in a coup in Burkina Faso says the October 11 date for planned national elections appears to be “too soon.” General Gilbert Diendere was named the West African country’s new leader on Thursday, a day after soldiers arrested the country’s interim president and prime minister. In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Diendere criticized the electoral code that had banned members of ex-President Blaise Compaore’s party from taking part in the elections. Diendere was head of the elite presidential guard for Compaore, who was forced from power after 27 years last year in a popular uprising.  News 24

Senegal, Benin Presidents to Mediate in Burkina Faso After Coup
Senegal President Macky Sall, the current chairman of the West African ECOWAS bloc, and Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi will travel to Burkina Faso on Friday to mediate in the wake of a military coup, Benin’s foreign minister said on Thursday. “The goal behind this is to achieve a return to normal constitutional life, freeing the president and prime minister who are hostages, and the liberation of all the ministers,” Saliou Akadiri said on Benin’s state-owned television. Boni Yayi is ECOWAS special facilitator for Burkina Faso.  Reuters

Burkina Faso: The Sting in the Tail of the Counter-Revolution
When the much-feared Presidential Guard stormed into a cabinet meeting to arrest Burkina Faso’s interim President and Prime Minister, we should not have been surprised. Until now, the country’s revolution has been – superficially at least – a little too clean, a little too orderly. In hindsight, another setback was always inevitable.  Daily Maverick

In Niger, U.S. Soldiers Quietly Help Build Wall Against Boko Haram
[…] The soldiers, who encouraged the meeting and helped provide a ring of security, do not go into combat, or even wear uniforms. They are quietly trying to help Niger build a wall against Boko Haram’s incursions and its recruitment of Diffa’s youth. A Reuters reporter was the first to visit the detachment, which is among about 1,000 U.S. Special Operations Forces deployed across Africa. In Chad, Nigeria, Niger and elsewhere, they are executing Obama’s relatively low-risk strategy of countering Islamic extremists by finding local partners willing to fight rather than deploying combat troops by the thousands. The new approach, which Obama announced in May 2014, is far from being a silver bullet for the United States in its global battle against Islamic militancy.  Reuters

Mozambique Declared Free of Landmines
Mozambique has removed its last known landmine after two decades of work to get rid of the explosives. Close to 171,000 landmines were removed, according to the Halo Trust, a British charity that led the clearance. The landmines were left after a long fight for independence followed by a civil war. Many were planted up until the 1990s. The charity says it is the first large mine-contaminated country to be completely cleared of mines. The last mine was removed from the base of a railway bridge in the centre of the country.  BBC Libya’s Tripoli Govt Captures Russia-Flagged Tanker Smuggling oil
Military forces allied with Libya’s self-declared government in Tripoli said on Wednesday they had captured a Russian-flagged oil tanker and its crew trying to smuggle oil from the port of Zawara. Twafik Alskir, a senior official with Tripoli-allied naval forces said 11 Russian crew had been detained. Alskir said the tanker and crew had been taken to Tripoli port. Libya is caught up in a conflict between two rival governments – one internationally recognized, and the other self-declared after its forces took over Tripoli last year. Both are backed by loose coalitions of armed groups who helped oust Muammar Gaddafi four years ago.  DefenceWeb

Number of Children Dsplaced by Boko Haram Hits 1.4 million: UNICEF
The number of children forced to flee Boko Haram’s insurgency in Nigeria and neighboring countries has reached 1.4 million, the U.N. children agency UNICEF said on Friday. Around 500,000 were displaced in the last five months after a sharp rise in attacks by the Islamist jihadi group, it said. The militants have been waging a six-year insurrection to establish an Islamist state in the northeast of Nigeria that has killed thousands and displaced 2.1 million people, most of whom are children. “In northern Nigeria alone, nearly 1.2 million children – over half of them under 5 years old – have been forced to flee their homes. An additional 265,000 children have been uprooted in Cameroon, Chad and Niger,” UNICEF said in a statement.  Reuters

Libya’s Islamist-Backed Parliament Stormed by Armed Men
Libya’s Islamist-backed parliament General National Congress (GNC) was stormed Thursday by unknown armed men during a session, Libya’s local media reported. The armed men broke into the headquarter of GNC in the capital Tripoli during a session of discussion of UN-proposed draft agreement, and selection of candidates to head the upcoming government, Libyan Herald reported. No group claimed responsibility for the attack and it is unclear about the initiatives. It is widely believed that Halboos militia of Misrata is responsible for Thursday’s GNC storming. However, no official sources can confirm on the statement.  Xinhua

Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri: The Latest Freed Gitmo Prisoner
In December 2001, as U.S. forces closed in on Tora Bora during the invasion of Afghanistan, Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri fled, but he was caught by Pakistani forces, according to U.S. officials. Then he escaped again, during a prisoner riot, but was recaptured. On January 1, 2002, he was handed over to U.S. forces at Kandahar. Five months later, on May 1, he was moved to Guantanamo Bay, where he was imprisoned until Wednesday. He was never charged with any crime. The U.S. government announced Thursday the Moroccan had been transferred back to his home country—five years after he was approved for release. As Agence France-Presse notes, there’s no indication whether Chekkouri will be imprisoned in Morocco, put under house arrest, or simply set free. He was not immediately freed upon arrival in Morocco. The Atlantic

South Sudan Oil Tanker Blast ‘Kills 170′
At least 170 people have been killed after an oil tanker exploded in South Sudan, officials say. The tanker had veered off the road in Maridi, Western Equatoria state, and local residents were siphoning off the fuel when the vehicle exploded, they said. At least 50 people are reported to have been injured. Local hospitals have been overwhelmed, and state officials have appealed to the Red Cross and the UN for help.  BBC

Ruling Party Appoints Guinea-Bissau’s Third PM in 5 Weeks
Guinea-Bissau’s ruling party selected veteran politician Carlos Correia as prime minister on Thursday after two predecessors were removed in the space of weeks in the coup-prone West African state. The country descended into political turmoil after President Jose Mario Vaz removed popular prime minister Domingoes Simoes Pereira and his government on Aug. 13. Vaz replaced him with Baciro Dja, despite objections from the ruling PAIGC party, but he and his government were dismissed two days later to comply with a Supreme Court ruling. “The political bureau of the liberating party of the country has … designated Carlos Correia, second vice president of the party,” Pereira, former prime minister and PAIGC president, told reporters. VOA

DR Congo Commutes Policeman’s Death Sentence for Murder of RIghts Activist
A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday commuted a police officer’s death sentence over the 2010 murder of prominent rights activist Floribert Chebeya and his driver. On appeal, the Supreme Military Court reduced Colonel Daniel Mukalay’s sentence to 15 years in prison and acquitted another officer, Captain Michel Mwila, who had been facing a life sentence. The court upheld the acquittal of three other officers. France 24

Trial Against Alleged Somali Pirate Kingpin Begins
Known as “Afweyne,” or “Big Mouth,” and allegedly the most influential leader of a Somali pirate network, Mohamed Abdi Hassan was missing from the benches behind the defense as the trial against him opened at the criminal court in Bruges, Belgium. “We have decided not to appear because the prosecution has added 2,500 pages to the dossier and we were only notified of this two days ago,” defense attorney Hans Rieder said. “But these new documents are very important because they challenge Mr. Hassan’s alibi.” Rieder said his client would plead not guilty to the charges of hijacking the Belgian ship MS Pompei in 2009 and heading up a criminal organization.  Deutsche Welle

Mexican Tourists Describe Repeated Egyptian Airstrikes on Desert Convoy
Egyptian forces bombed a convoy of Mexican tourists about five times over a period of three hours, even after local security forces on the ground had stopped them twice and cleared their passage, according to one of six Mexican survivors of the deadly attack.  Susana Calderón spoke to the Mexican newspaper El Universal in a Cairo hospital before she and the other injured tourists were due to head home on Thursday. Her husband Luis was among eight Mexicans killed in the incident that claimed 12 lives. “We were bombed some five times, always from the air,” she said. Calderón’s arm was marked with wounds and her right leg was paralysed, though doctors believe she will recover movement, the newspaper reported.  The Guardian

17 Militants killed, 62 Suspects Arrested in Egypt’s Sinai
At least 17 militants were killed and 62 suspects arrested on Thursday as part of a massive operation launched by the Egyptian security forces in restive North Sinai province, a military official said. “The forces also defused 53 explosive devices planted to target the armed forces, burned down 42 huts and dens of the terrorists, destroyed 16 vehicles and 13 motorbikes without plates and ruined seven warehouses belonging to terrorist elements,” Brigadier-General Mohamed Samir said. Thursday’s raids mark the 11th day of the large-scale security operation in North Sinai that left hundreds of militants killed and a similar number of suspects arrested. Xinhua

What’s the Point of Peacekeepers When They Don’t Keep the Peace?
Rwanda, 1994. The nadir of many lows for UN peacekeeping. Hundreds of desperate Tutsis sought refuge on the first day of the genocide at a school where 90 UN troops were under the command of Captain Luc Lemaire. Here, they were surely safe from the Hutus and their machetes. The UN flag flew over the school. The Belgian peacekeepers were armed with a machine gun, planted at the entrance. These soldiers were the world’s army. The Tutsis could not imagine they would stand by while people were slaughtered. The 39-year-old captain feared otherwise. The UN in New York had ignored warnings that the genocide was being planned and the security council was pulling out peacekeepers in response to the mass killing.  The Guardian

Africa: U.S. Businesses Visit Ethiopia As Part of Largest-Ever U.S.-Led Trade Mission to Africa
The U.S. Embassy to Addis Abeba, through its Foreign Commercial Service office, welcomed Ten U.S. Companies to Ethiopia this week as part of the largest U.S. government-led trade mission to Africa in history. The companies went through a day of meetings with Ethiopian government officials and area businesses, in an effort to facilitate new U.S.-Africa business deals. The Ethiopia visit was part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Trade Winds – Africa trade mission, which is ultimately bringing more than 100 U.S. companies to eight Sub-Saharan African markets. “Ethiopia is at the forefront of Africa’s economic development,” said Patricia M. Haslach, U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia. “The country has shown its commitment to trade and investment through its Growth and Transformation Plan, and the United States government and the U.S. business community see Ethiopia as an important partner.”  Addis Standard on allAfrica

East Africa’s Sufi Path to Countering Violent Extremism
Many paths have been tried to counter the appeal of violent religious extremism in East Africa. In the Muslim community, traditional Sufism is being increasingly viewed as an important new way. But it should be followed with caution, since official embrace of just one religious custom can never be the only road. A new engagement emerged from a meeting of Sufi clerics and activists from East and Central Africa who organised a three-day conference in Mackinnon, a small trading centre on the Mombasa-Nairobi Highway in late August to discuss ways of countering violent extremism (known as CVE). Some 300 delegates representing Sufi orders (tariqas) from Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and DR Congo attended the meeting dubbed “The International Sufi Conference for East Africa”. International Crisis Group

These Are the African Nations Most Exposed to China’s Slump
China’s slowdown is rippling across Africa and these three nations are the most exposed, relying on demand from the Asian economy for almost half their exports: Republic of Congo, Angola and Mauritania. Oil accounts for the bulk of Angola’s and Congo’s exports, damaging their prospects after crude prices plunged 55 percent since the beginning of June last year to below $50 a barrel. The price of iron ore, which makes up more than 40 percent of Mauritania’s exports, has dropped by almost a third in the past year. The three nations each shipped more than 45 percent of their exports in 2014 to China, data from the International Monetary Fund shows. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones