Media Review for September 23, 2015

Burkina Faso Coup: Michel Kafando ‘Back in Charge’
Burkina Faso’s interim President Michel Kafando has said he is back in charge and civilian rule restored after last week’s military takeover. His announcement came as coup leader Gen Gilbert Diendere went to welcome several African leaders arriving to oversee the transfer of power. His presidential guard agreed to a deal overnight with the regular army to avoid violence. They pledged to return to barracks and the army to withdraw from the capital.  BBC

Burkina Coup Leaders Warn They Will Hit Back if Attacked
Burkina Faso’s coup leader said Tuesday he would abide by a deal reached with top African mediators, but warned his men would defend themselves if attacked after the army entered the capital. General Gilbert Diendere, whose elite army unit freed the interim president and prime minister on Tuesday, called for troops who entered the capital Ouagadougou overnight, seeking a surrender by the putschists, to leave the city. “We do not want to fight but ultimately we will defend ourselves,” Diendere warned, nearly a week after his men detained the interim leaders who had been running the country since a popular uprising deposed iron-fisted president Blaise Compaore last October. AFP on Yahoo News

Burkina Faso Coup: Leaders Ignore Army’s Deadline to Lay Down Their Weapons
Arms crossed and awaiting orders, four soldiers stood outside the État Major base in Ouagadougou on Tuesday. The deadline given by Burkina Faso’s army for coup leaders and the presidential guard to lay down their weapons came and went without action but the soldiers said they were ready to fight – even though none of them had guns to fight with. “We will fight them if we are called to the presidential palace for [General Gilbert] Diendere and the presidential guard,” said army officer Marck. “The presidential guard are our brothers. We don’t want to shoot our brothers. But we will shoot them if we have to.”  At Sangoulé Lamizana, a camp that houses the army prison, two men in civilian clothes arrived to surrender. They were presidential guardsmen, loyal to the coup leaders. The crowd that had gathered at the camp cheered as the commander, pistol drawn, met his new prisoners. “They committed crimes. They fired on the population. Amnesty is not possible. We want justice,” said Daniel Tourikaria, 41. Behind him, two army tanks rolled into the camp and the crowd erupted into cheers. The Independent

VICE News Interviews Leader of Burkina Faso Coup
Few people ventured out onto the streets of the capital Ouagadougou as the deadline set for 10am passed. Presidential guard forces loyal to Diendere held the presidential palace but troops opposing the coup held most other strategic points. Loyalist troops said they were preparing to attack the Camp Naba Koom military base near the capital’s presidential palace, which is held by presidential guard troops who staged the coup. Ex-spy chief Diendere and his presidential guard rebelled on Wednesday, raiding a cabinet meeting and detaining the president and other ministers. VICE News spoke by telephone to the coup leader late on Monday night, as he was awaiting the arrival of army troops loyal to the government. VICE News: When did you learn that the National Armed Forces were marching on Ougadougou with the aim of disarming you?  VICE

The Rocky Road to Democracy in Burkina Faso
A coup, a counter-coup, a stand-off, a missed ultimatum to lay down weapons: the uncertain situation in Burkina Faso is developing quickly and no one knows how it will end. After the army marched into the capital of Ouagadougou overnight to demand that the presidential guard disarm, regional mediators are gathering today at an ECOWAS summit in Nigeria to discuss the details of an accord aimed at ending the post-coup crisis and restoring the country to civilian rule. It was the elite 1,300-strong presidential guard, known as the RSP, who set off the crisis by overthrowing the interim government last week and kidnapping transitional President Michel Kafando. They were unhappy at a law banning candidates who had supported former president Blaise Compaoré from running in elections to find a new leader slated for next month. Compaoré was overthrown in a popular revolution last October as he tried to amend the constitution to extend his 27 years in power.  IRIN

New Peace Mission for Coup-Hit Burkina Faso
West African heads of state on Tuesday sought to end a tense stand-off between coup leaders and the army in Burkina Faso, announcing a new peace mission to the troubled nation and a call for non-violence. The appeal came as the putschists and the army exchanged threats a day after troops entered the capital city Ouagadougou to put pressure on the elite forces that staged a coup last Wednesday. Marathon talks which were supposed to yield a deal Tuesday night at a summit in Nigeria’s Abuja now appear not to have yet garnered a consensus. ECOWAS Commission president Kadre Desire Ouedraogo said a new delegation would be sent Wednesday “to reestablish Michel Kafando in his function as president of the transition.” AFP on Yahoo News

What Went Wrong in Burkina Faso and What’s Next?
[…] Although the ousted interim government could soon be reinstated, as hinted by a mediator on Sunday, both the initial appointment of and the decisions made by the interim government during their year of tenure call into question the democratic nature and credibility of the transition and the elections originally scheduled for Oct. 11. Even if observers in the international community were surprised by what some have called a “disaster for Africa,” this unconstitutional seizure of power was predictable, and if it didn’t happen before the elections, it could have happened after the elections. My research suggests this “disaster” is a result of weak horizontal accountability during the transition. Simply put, horizontal accountability is the ability of government institutions to check abuses by other branches of government and a system in which government institutions are independent and no agency or branch becomes too powerful compared to the others. Some may refer to this system as one with “checks and balances.”  The Washington Post

Appalling Human Rights Abuses in Burundi
Burundi has been shattered by violence since April this year when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his plan to run for a third term. Dozens of people have since been killed and thousands have fled the country. Head of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Burundi Patrice Vahard told DW that ”the situation in the country is deteriorating and it’s regrettable.” According to our correspondent in the capital Bujumbura, Apollinaire Niyirora, the country is becoming increasingly unstable, two months after the controversial presidential elections, during which president Pierre Nkurunziza won overwhelmingly. The United Nations claimed the election was neither fair nor peaceful, the African Union stood down its election observers saying the country was not suitable to hold election and the opposition boycotted the elections.  Deutsche Welle

Boko Haram Militants hit Cameroon Army Again
Cameroon’s army killed 11 Boko Haram militants in clashes in the northern town of Amchide early on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defence said. Boko Haram has stepped up attacks in Cameroon since the country started cracking down on the radical Islamist group, which has used the far north as a base for recruitment and supplies for its Nigeria operations. “Our troops close to the zone were alerted by our intelligence system, reacted and there was a fight. They [Boko Haram] returned the second time more numerous and they found us ready for combat,” said ministry spokesman Colonel Didier Badjeck. Badjeck said there were no losses on the Cameroonian military side. News 24

Death Toll Hits 117 after NE Nigeria Bombings: Medics
The death toll from a series of bomb blasts blamed on Boko Haram in Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria has risen to at least 117, hospital sources said Tuesday, more than twice the official tally. A total of 72 dead were registered at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, while another 45 were taken to the mortuary at the Borno State Specialist Hospital, three medical staff said. Borno state’s capital has been hit repeatedly since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power on May 29, vowing to crush the insurgency. But Sunday night’s attacks were the deadliest so far. Nigeria’s military claims the Islamist militants are a spent force and that troops have driven them from their camps and occupied territory in the remote region. AFP on Relief Web

Security Increased in Northeast Nigeria over Boko Haram Eid fears
Nigeria on Wednesday imposed tight movement restrictions in the restive northeast after Boko Haram bombings that killed more than 100 raised fears of fresh attacks over the Eid al-Adha festival.  The military said the use of all vehicles would be banned throughout Borno state during the Muslim festival, which is known as Sallah in Nigeria and marked with two days’ public holiday from Thursday. “All movements using vehicles, bicycles and animals like horses, camels and donkeys in Maiduguri will be restricted as from Wednesday 5:00 pm,” said army spokesman Tukur Gusau.  AFP on Times Live

Iraq, Nigeria Star at UN Counter-Terrorism Summit
Iraqi leader Haider al-Abadi and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari are among more than 100 leaders taking part in a counter-terrorism summit hosted by President Barack Obama at the United Nations next week. A total of 104 countries are invited to the September 29 summit that will take stock of the US-led campaign to defeat Islamic State jihadists, one year after it was launched. Iran however has not been invited to the event even though it is playing a major role in the fight against IS in neighboring Iraq, providing military advisers, weapons and trainers to the Iraqi army and Shiite militias. Some 30 regional organisations and 100 non-governmental groups are invited to the US-hosted summit in a bid by Washington to broaden the approach to counter-terrorism. AFP

Ex-fighter’s Calls for Algeria Islamist Party Stir Ghosts of Past
A former Islamist guerrilla fighter’s plans to enter politics have fanned fears of instability in Algeria, more than two decades after the army halted an expected election victory by his allies and plunged the country into war. The debate over the new ambitions of Madani Mezrag, who spent the 1990s in the mountains fighting the military before surrendering his rifle in a truce, highlights the uneasy role of Islamist parties in North Africa after the Arab Spring revolts. Memories of the brutal 1990s war in which 200,000 people died hang heavily over Algeria, whose citizens see turmoil tearing at neighbors Libya, Egypt and Tunisia following the rise of violent Islamist militancy during the Arab Spring.  Reuters

AU Fighters Conduct Air Raids on Al-Shabaab Militants in S. Somalia: Official
African Union (AU) peacekeeping force fighter jets conducted raids in Bay region, southern Somalia, targeting Al-Shabaab militants, officials said on Tuesday. Hassan Hussein, Rehabilitation Minister of Militia for South-western regional Administration, told media that AU fighter jets launched attacks on the rebel hideouts in some areas in the Bay region “The shelling succeeded in its goal, and during the operation, a number of fighters who were hiding in Bay region were killed,” he said. The official did not give more details about the operation, but stressed the continuation of such operations against Al-Shabaab. Residents in the region said they heard several explosions. Xinhua

Liberia and Sierra Leone Approved for US Funding
Liberia and Sierra Leone have been selected for the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) funding after years of waiting. The Board of Directors of the MCC, a government agency which uses funding for development as an incentive to propagate democracy in the developing world, approved the $256.7 million grant to Liberia to fund the electricity, road maintenance, reforms and training. The grant, according to a statement by the Liberian Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), was approved during the MCC board’s annual meeting held on September 17 in Washington, DC. The meeting was chaired by the US Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry. Liberia got approval for the Compact, the high award in the scheme that was introduced by the George W. Bush administration in 2002. In Freetown, a US embassy statement on Monday broke the news of the planned $44.4 million disbursement, under the less attractive Threshold programme. Africa Review

Tanzania Newspaper Returns After Three-Year Ban
A Tanzanian newspaper closed by the government published its first edition for three years Tuesday after a court lifted the ban. The Swahili-language independent weekly newspaper Mwanahalisi was ordered to close in July 2012, but the ban was overturned after an appeal in the High Court in Dar es Salaam earlier this month. “We’re back,” the newspaper’s headline read Tuesday, saying it would publish investigative articles without “favouring anybody.” The Committee to Protect Journalists has criticized Tanzania for often relying “on an arsenal of anti-media laws” that allows the information ministry “wide discretionary powers to ban” publications. Media Council of Tanzania head Kajubi Mukajanga said the ruling was “a warning to all those who want to use obsolete laws to suppress press freedom.”  AFP on The Daily Star Lebanon

Independent Poll Gives Tanzania Ruling Party Lead Before October Election
Some 65 percent of Tanzanians preferred to vote for the ruling party’s presidential candidate John Magufuli ahead of the October election, according to an independent poll published on Tuesday. “More than 62 percent (of Tanzanians) report that they feel closest to the ruling CCM party out of all political parties,” said the report by Twaweza, an organization aiming to promote transparency in the east African nation. Tanzanians will go to the polls on Oct. 25 to elect a new president and the members of parliament. The poll showed 60 percent of Tanzanians would vote for CCM PMs, suggesting a possible return of the level of support for the ruling party last seen in 2012. Xinhua

South Africa’s Zuma Starts Probe on Police Chief Over “Marikana Massacre”
South African President Jacob Zuma has launched an investigation into the police chief’s role in the 2012 killing of 34 miners by officers during a strike over pay, his office said on Tuesday. South Africa’s worst police killing since the end of apartheid sparked intense public and media criticism toward the police, mining companies, unions, the ruling African National Congress and Zuma himself. An inquiry into the shootings blamed a mining company, police and unions for what became known as the “Marikana massacre” and called for an investigation to establish the best methods for crowd control “without resorting to the use of weapons capable of automatic fire.”  Reuters

U.N.-Brokered Libya Peace Talks Teeter on Collapse
United Nations-brokered peace talks aimed at reconciling Libya’s two rival governments teetered on the edge of collapse Monday, as the deadline for an accord passed. The talks aim to create a unified governing body and end a four-year power vacuum that has devastated the country’s economy and led to the growth of an illegal people-smuggling network that has become a focal point of the largest refugee crisis in decades. A framework deal for a national unity government including officials from the two competing administrations was to have been presented Sunday. It was unclear on Monday whether talks were still proceeding or the deadline had been extended. The U.N.’s mission in Libya didn’t comment on the lapsed deadline, and officials from rival camps couldn’t be immediately reached. Both parties have jockeyed for influence and control of Libya’s oil resources and central bank. Armed fighting between forces loyal to each side began in 2014, effectively splitting the country. The Wall Street Journal

Egypt ‘Violated International Law’ Through Mass Home Demolitions along Sinai Border with Gaza
The Egyptian army may have broken international law by forcibly evicting more than 3,000 families as part of its campaign against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), a monitoring group has said. The government of President Abdel Fattah al Sisi has ordered a 45 square mile buffer zone along Egypt’s border with Gaza in the hope that it will ease the fight with Isil loyalists in the area. Army personnel in the restive North Sinai region have destroyed entire neighbourhoods and hundreds of hectares of farmland since July 2013. The Telegraph

Sudanese President Decrees Amnesty for Rebels and Ceasefire
President Omer Hassan al-Bashir Tuesday has pardoned rebel leaders who participate in the national dialogue conference, and declared a two-month ceasefire in war areas. According to the official news agency (SUNA) Tuesday, Bashir issued a republican decree granting general amnesty for the leaders and members of the armed movements taking part in the national dialogue conference. Also, he issued another decree declaring a two-month cease fire in the battlefronts. The national dialogue conference is scheduled for 20 October 2015.  Sudan Tribune

Can a New Tool Help the U.S. Say (and Mean) ‘Never Again’ for Genocide?
Can genocide be predicted and stopped before it starts? Officials from the United States Holocaust Museum hope a new online tool will be able to do just that. If it works, policymakers may be able to determine which countries are at the greatest risk of descending into mass violence — and then decide how far they want to go to prevent it. Cameron Hudson, who directs the museum’s genocide prevention center, told Foreign Policy that the goal of the Early Warning Project is to systematically track “all the things we know to be warning signs” and try to put them in front of experts and officials with the power to potentially intervene. The new system went into effect on Monday. A country’s risk for mass atrocities — defined by Hudson as more than 1,000 targeted killings in one year — is determined by statistical models that weigh social, political, and economic factors that could contribute to state-led violence. Compiled together on one site, the project will also allow experts from around the world to weigh in on whether they believe the project’s statistical analysis is accurate or to argue that a given country’s level of risk could change due to factors the computer may have missed. In Nigeria, for example, the 2015 statistics failed to take into account that a largely successful election in March will likely reverse some of the concerns that ranked it second on this year’s risk list. In some cases, countries already experiencing mass atrocities appear on the at-risk list. Foreign Policy

How We Made Mozambique Mine-Free
Last week’s announcement that Mozambique – once one of the most heavily mined countries in the world – is now mine-free is a culmination of 22 years’ work, but the results will last forever. It is a beacon of hope for other countries living with a legacy of landmines. My work has allowed me to see close-up the transformative effects of mine clearance for both ordinary people and an entire country. It is a critical factor for development. People need safe access to land and resources in order to survive and thrive, and mine clearance paves the way for the development of major infrastructure such as roads, rail and power lines. In the case of Mozambique, mine clearance was possible due to the right combination of resources: a good working relationship with the government; the right level of support from donors; the tools for the job (armoured diggers to metal detectors) and the will of local people to work alongside us. The Guardian

Nearly 500 Mozambican Poachers Killed in South Africa’s Kruger Since 2010: Former Leader
Armed rangers in South Africa’s Kruger Park have killed nearly 500 mostly young Mozambicans for poaching activities over the past five years, according to former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano. Kruger, South Africa’s main tourist draw, is on the front lines of a surge in rhino poaching for the animal’s horn to meet demand in countries such as Vietnam, where it is a coveted ingredient in traditional medicine. Poaching gangs are usually heavily armed and rangers in Kruger, which shares a porous, 350-km (210-mile)-long border with impoverished Mozambique, are allowed to open fire if threatened with lethal force. Officials from the South African National Parks referred queries on Chissano’s comments made on Friday to police, who could not confirm the number of the poachers killed by Monday.  Reuters

    



Photo: Adam Jones