Media Review for September 29, 2015

Obama Calls for Renewed Commitment to U.N. Peacekeeping Missions
Since the first modest force of United Nations blue helmets was deployed to maintain an Arab-Israeli cease fire in 1948, millions of troops from around the world have participated in U.N. peacekeeping operations. They have kept Greeks and Turks apart, separated Pakistanis and Indians, and monitored the cessation of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea. But the difficulties that U.N. peacekeepers face have changed substantially in recent years, and the force is showing its age. “Old challenges persist,” President Obama said today at a U.S.-convened high level meeting on the future of peacekeeping. “Too few nations bear a disproportionate burden of providing troops, which is unsustainable. Atop this, we’ve seen new challenges — more armed conflicts, more instability driven by terrorism and violent extremism, and more refugees.”  The Washington Post

The President Speaks at the U.N. Peacekeeping Summit (video)
President Obama delivered remarks at the UN Peacekeeping Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. September 28, 2015.  The White House

Why President Obama is Hosting a Summit on UN Peacekeeping
There are any number of activities, events and meetings that a President can hold at the United Nations during UN Week. The President can pick a global issue, declare a “summit” and you can bet that most other world leaders would want to attend. In years’ past, President Obama has done just that, holding events on a range of issues, from countering violent extremism to peace in South Sudan. This year, President Obama is choosing to focus on UN Peacekeeping. And for good reason. UN Peacekeeping is under unprecedented strain. There are over 100,000 troops serving in 16 missions worldwide. Most of these missions are short staffed, many lack equipment like helicopters, and a few are operating in the midst of jihadist insurgencies in which UN Peacekeepers are routinely targeted.  UN Dispatch

US Says States Pledge 40,000-Plus Troops to UN Peacekeeping
President Barack Obama on Monday announced notable steps to upgrade U.N peacekeeping, with his administration saying more than 50 countries have pledged to contribute more than 40,000 new troops and police to serve in some of the world’s most volatile areas. But there was no sign the U.S., which pays a quarter of the peacekeeping budget, would put more of its own troops into the field. The United States chaired a high-level meeting to strengthen and modernize peacekeeping, whose nearly 125,000 personnel increasingly face threats from extremist groups while being severely stretched in personnel and equipment. Deployments to crises can take several months. And a series of sexual abuse allegations against peacekeepers has brought new concerns about a long-standing problem that Obama called “an affront to human decency.”  AP on ABC News

Can Attack Helicopters Save U.N. Peacekeeping?
Does U.N. peacekeeping matter? President Barack Obama believes that it does — and he has advocated the cause more forcefully than any of his predecessors since George H. W. Bush, who once looked to the U.N. to help forge a “new world order.” The catastrophes of Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia purged that dream forever; but from literally his first day in office, when the United States paid off its outstanding arrears at the U.N., Obama has championed peacekeeping as a low-cost and effective means of policing turbulent places. His administration has spent the last year rounding up fresh commitments from troop-contributing countries; at the U.N. General Assembly session this week, Obama will convene a group of more than 50 heads of state who have made such pledges and will announce them like so many swells at an annual philanthropic dinner. Foreign Policy

What Have Been the Successes and Failures of UN Peacekeeping Missions?
The UN General Assembly session opened on September 15. This year the organisation celebrates its 70th birthday but how has the UN had an impact on the world’s conflicts? United Nations peacekeeping operations began in 1948 and the light blue helmets and berets have been deployed to many of the world’s trouble spot from Papua New Guinea to Haiti ever since, with varying levels of effectiveness. An internal UN study last year found that UN peacekeeping missions routinely avoid using force to protect civilians who are under attack, intervening in only 20 per cent of cases despite being authorised to do so by the UN Security Council. While some peacekeeping missions perform adequately, others have failed to protect civilians – notably at Srebrenica, where Dutch peacekeepers watched on powerless as thousands of men were murdered.  The Telegraph

Mali Among the UN’s Deadliest Missions
TThe UN peacekeeping mission in Mali is one of the deadliest missions in the history of the UN blue helmets, with 60 deaths, Stockholm research institute Sipri said on Monday. In its report “Fatality Trends in UN Peace Operations”, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said a total of 1 938 UN soldiers had been killed since the first UN peacekeeping mission in the Middle East in 1948, but almost three-quarters of those were due to accidents or were natural deaths. The highest mortality rates took place in the 1990s with two very small missions in Tajikistan and Georgia, which had three and eight deaths respectively. The Unosom II mission in Somalia, from 1993-1995, came in third place with 148 deaths, including 109 violent ones, out of 19 000 peacekeepers.  News 24

How the US is Expanding its Fight Against Extremism in Africa
Numerous worldwide threats exist across almost every part of the planet including China, Iran, North Korea and Russia. This typically puts Africa at the bottom of the pecking order. But America is taking more notice of the African continent due to the expansion of extremist organisations operating in Africa like al-Qaeda, al-Shabbab, Ansar al-Sharia, al-Murabitun, Boko Haram, Islamic State (IS) and others. Islamic extremist organisations operating inside Libya, Nigeria, northwest Africa and Somalia pose the largest substantial threats to the African people and their international partners like the US. The situation in Libya, also referred to as “Somalia on the Med”, has spiralled out of control since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011. Fighters from Ansar al-Sharia, IS and others control territory and operate and train with impunity. The US strategy here is to contain the situation by supporting its allies like Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia.  Times Live

Burkina Unrest LIngers, Putschists Accused of Seizing Troops
Burkina Faso’s government on Monday accused an elite presidential guard behind this month’s week-long coup of refusing to disarm, of seizing loyalist troops, and of planning yet more trouble. A peace deal brokered by the ECOWAS west African regional bloc is “at an impasse”, the chief of army staff said, denouncing the powerful RSP unit of guards for “refusing to follow the disarmament by creating incidents and attacking personnel charged with this mission.” The interim government meanwhile accused coup leader Gilbert Diendere of seizing soldiers and taking them hostage, as well as of holding back RSP troops “wanting to join the voice of reason.” “What is more serious is that the government has come to learn of the mobilisation of foreign troops and jihadists who they have called to help them,” the statement said, without elaborating.  AFP on Yahoo News

C.African Capital Bangui Paralysed by Wave of Violence
Tension and fear on Monday gripped Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, with the city’s main streets closed by barricades after a spate of violence, looting and the death of three protestors. A hospital source told AFP on condition of anonymity the three were killed and seven were injured on Monday when UN peacekeepers opened fire as several hundred protestors headed for the presidency. The UN mission issued a denial. The demonstrators were demanding the resignation of interim leader Catherine Samba Panza after the deaths of at least 20 people in Bangui at the weekend. She was in New York attending the UN General Assembly session. AFP on Yahoo News

Armed Groups Roam CAR Capital Following Fatal Clashes
At least four people have been fatally shot in the capital of the Central African Republic, according to hospital sources, as sectarian violence erupted on the city’s streets for a second day.  Sunday’s clashes were aimed at derailing elections scheduled to take place next month, the government said.  Armed Christian fighters roamed the streets and protesters erected barricades in Bangui, a day after at least 21 people were killed and another 100 were wounded when Muslims attacked a mainly Christian neighbourhood. The two days of clashes, sparked by the murder of a Muslim man, were the worst this year in the city, where United Nations peacekeepers and French troops are meant to ensure security. Al Jazeera

Central African Republic Prisoners Escape in Bangui
Hundreds of inmates at a prison in the Central African Republic have escaped as a wave of violence left dozens dead. After a Muslim taxi driver was killed, clashes erupted on Saturday between Christian militia and Muslim groups. Members of a Christian militia known as the anti-Balaka attacked the prison on Monday, freeing hundreds of soldiers and militiamen. The CAR has been wracked by violence since a mainly Muslim rebel group, the Seleka, seized power in March 2013. The Seleka group was then ousted, sparking a wave of violent reprisals against the Muslim population, thousands of whom fled their homes.  BBC

Central African President Leaves UN early as Violence Worsens in Bangui
The interim president of Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza left the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday to return home due to the worst violence in the capital of her country this year, two Western diplomats said. Around 30 people have been killed and dozens more injured in three days of inter-communal clashes in Bangui, a city secured by United Nations and French peacekeepers. The violence has sparked fears that Samba-Panza could be overthrown. “She left (New York) to go back to Central Africa because of the security situation,” a diplomat told Reuters. Earlier, hundreds of prisoners escaped from the main jail in the capital and U.N. peacekeepers fired warning shots to disperse thousands of protesters calling for the rearming of the army. At least one person was killed.  France 24

Djibouti’s Strongman President Faces Strongest Cross-Examination of his Career
For the first time in history, a sitting African president will be summoned to give evidence in person before the British High Court. Ismail Omar Guelleh, the long-standing president of Djibouti is set to travel to London next month to testify in a long drawn-out trial involving his millionaire compatriot, former ally and now rival Abdourahman Boreh. A former presidential candidate, Boreh was accused of terrorism, saw his worldwide assets frozen and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2009 by a Djiboutian court. However, that decision, made in absentia, was later overturned after the British court deemed the trial politically motivated. A spectacular round two is now set to start after Justice Flaux insisted that Guelleh must give personal testimony in court and set the record straight given that the case against Boreh is based almost entirely on oral evidence.  African Argument

Cattle Rustlers Profit from Boko Haram Bonanza
[…] Cattle theft has long been a problem in the region but the general insecurity caused by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has emboldened seasoned rustlers, while others struggling with endemic poverty and unemployment have turned to it as a lucrative second ‘career’. The rustlers are not believed to have direct ties to the Boko Haram insurgency, which has killed more than 15,000 people and displaced more than 2.1 million, but they wage similar, armed attacks on villages, setting homes on fire and killing anyone who stands in their way.  “Our people’s livelihoods are being destroyed by these bandits who kill and take away their animals,” Dodo Oroji, chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), told IRIN. Accurate numbers are hard to gauge as many thefts go unreported, but the association estimates that at the current rate Nigeria will lose around 40 million cows to rustling over the next two years.  Most attacks occur in remote villages, close to forested regions in the northwest where there is little security presence. IRIN

EU to impose Sanctions on Four Burundi Officials Close to President
The European Union will impose sanctions on four officials close to Burundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza in protest at his third term in office that has provoked a deep political crisis, diplomatic sources said. The travel bans and asset freezes on the four men were agreed by EU ambassadors last week and will be formally adopted on Thursday, likely taking effect on Friday, people familiar with the discussions said on condition of anonymity. The measures are a response to Nkurunziza’s disputed reelection in July in which he broke the two-term limit agreed a decade ago, plunging the Central African country into its worst crisis since its civil war ended in 2005. His opponents boycotted the election. Nkurunziza will not be sanctioned to “keep open the channels of dialogue,” one EU diplomat said, while one minister of the new government has also been struck off the EU’s initial list for the same reason. Reuters

Concern as Burundi Army Major Who is Deputy Commander of Elite Unit Goes Absent Without Leave
An army major in Burundi who is the deputy commander of an elite infantry unit failed to show up for work on Monday, sparking speculation he has defected, a spokesman for the country’s military said Monday. The missing major, Emmanuel Ndayikeza, had no reason to be absent as he had not sought time off duty, Col. Gaspard Baratuza told journalists in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura. He said Ndayikeza’s absence will be considered a defection if he is absent without leave for eight days. Ndayizeka is deputy commandant of a military unit known as Camp Muha in the south of Bujumbura. Burundi has been tense since April when it was announced that President Pierre Nkurunziza would stand for a third term in office, sparking violet street protests. Nkurunziza was re-elected in July. Attacks on military outposts since then have raised fears of a rebel movement against Nkurunziza.  AP on US News and World Report

Doubts Grow About AU Mission to Somalia as Shabaab Mounts Attacks
Doubts are growing about African Union forces’ abilities to defeat the radical group al-Shabaab in Somalia. Despite the union’s battlefield successes, the Islamists have retained their military capacity and recently carried out large-scale attacks on union bases. Analysts said the union’s troops lack sufficient intelligence gathering and organization with some of the contingents reporting to their national armies instead of the African Union command. The joint forces of the African Union and the Somali army also have no air power to provide cover for troops and to destroy al-Shabaab bases. “We need to fight the militants from the air,” Somali commander Abdirahman Mohamed Osman Tima’adde said.  News 24

Kenyatta Calls for International Support for South Sudan Peace
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says East African nations that have worked to bring a new peace agreement for South Sudan should expand their efforts to include the international community in implementing the pact to end 20 months of fighting. In an interview with VOA’s Africa 54 in New York, Kenyatta said that path will allow the opening of humanitarian corridors in South Sudan, where the conflict has forced 2 million people from their homes.  It will also help in establishing an agreed upon unity government between the current administration and rebels. “I think the key focus now is actually on implementation, and given the fact that all parties have signed, I believe there is a keen commitment on the part of all South Sudanese parties to see a genuine peace achieved,” Kenyatta said.  “And what they need from us is really the backing to see the process of implementation through.”  VOA

Women Held as Sex Slaves in South Sudan ‘Rape Camps’
One woman was abducted by soldiers and taken to a military camp, tied up and raped repeatedly for two months. Another was kidnapped with her 15-year-old sister and raped every night for five nights. A third was taken to a forest with her 12-year old daughter where both were raped. The abduction of women and girls for use as sex slaves — some of them held indefinitely, tied up with hundreds of others in secret rape camps — is a disturbing new aspect of South Sudan’s 21-month conflict, already characterised by well-documented war crimes and human rights abuses. Nigeria’s ‘Chibok girls’, abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014, and Iraq’s Yazidi women taken as sex slaves by Islamic State are well-known. But the plight of perhaps thousands of South Sudanese women and girls from just a single state, abducted and subjected to repeated, brutal rape and slave-like working conditions has remained hidden until now.  The East African

Africa: EU Gives Africa U.S.$2 Billion to Stop Migration
Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are among African countries that will benefit from a $2.04 billion (€1.8 billion) emergency fund set up by the European Union to address the causes of migration and displacement of persons on the continent. The fund, to be officially launched before the end of the year, will help the countries address socio-economic challenges that force people to migrate from their original homes. “The EU will work to help African countries achieve economic development that tackles unemployment and prevents migration and radicalisation,” said the EU Commissioner for International Co-operation and Development Neven Mimica at a press briefing in Nairobi.  The East African on allAfrica

Central Africa: U.S. Envoy Underlines Need to Respect Term Limits
As world leaders gather this week for the United Nations General Assembly, a crisis gaining little international attention may offer a big lesson on foreign policy. Standing before dozens of African heads of state this summer, President Barack Obama reiterated his belief that constitutional term limits should be respected and that strong institutions matter to a country’s stability and prosperity more than strong men. “When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office,” he said, “it risks instability and strife, as we’ve seen in Burundi.” Sadly this core policy – that term limits and regular, democratic transfers of power are key to stability – has been proven correct again by the increasingly fragile conditions in Burundi today.  allAfrica

Obama Admits Mistakes in Libya, Says West Should Have Done More
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday the international community should have done more to avoid a leadership vacuum in Libya, which has been in disarray since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi four years ago. Obama told the United Nations General Assembly the international community must work harder in future to ensure states do not implode. The rapid descent of Libya into violent chaos was one of the most dramatic events in the “Arab Spring,” the abrupt collapse of long-standing autocratic governments in a number of Arab countries in the face of popular protests.  Reuters

Algeria Reconciliation Proves Elusive Decade After Deal
Ten years after Algeria’s reconciliation deal ending a decade-long civil war that cost tens of thousands of lives, victims are still clamouring for justice and radical groups remain active. On September 29, 2005, Algerians voted in a referendum to approve a “Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation” that led to 8,500 armed Islamists being pardoned in exchange for their surrender. The deal sought to end a civil war that had killed 200,000 since 1992, according to official figures. But a decade on and critics say they are no closer to knowing the truth of what happened during the conflict, and families of the dead and missing are still seeking justice. “There was never any reconciliation in Algeria,” said prominent lawyer and former opposition parliamentarian Mustapha Bouchachi.  AFP on Yahoo News

Ex-Congo Vice President Bemba, Four Allies Go on Trial Accused of Bribing Witnesses
Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba, his former lawyer and three other allies go on trial at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday charged with corrupting witnesses and interfering with the administration of justice. Bemba, already on trial at the court for crimes against humanity and war crimes, and his former trial lawyer Aime Kilolo Musamba are accused of coaching witnesses and paying them to testify in his favour between 2011 and 2013. Last year, prosecutors had to drop their case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, accused of fomenting pre-election violence, because of what they said was large-scale intimidation and bribing of witnesses – underlining the difficulties faced by prosecutors at the global war crimes court.  Reuters

How to Share Water Along the Nile
On the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, construction is underway on a public works project of gigantic physical proportions and exquisite political delicacy. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, now about halfway finished, amounts to a test: With water becoming precious enough to be the stuff of war, can nations find ways to share it? So far, so good. The project is moving toward completion, and a recent joint declaration of principles by the leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan pledges cooperation and no “significant” downstream harm. That is critical, given that the dam will control nearly two-thirds of the water on which Egypt depends. But for the cooperation to be meaningful, these three countries will need serious technical analysis. Poor assessment of such matters as the variability of annual rainfall or minimum flows required to maintain downstream water quality could undermine a decent agreement, leading to conflict of unpredictable intensity.  The New York Times

Madagascar’s Food Crisis: Chronic Malnutrition is Stunting Mental Capacity
On the surface, this is a story about food, and Madagascar. But it’s actually about something else entirely. It’s about how generations of Malagasy children have been systematically denied their full mental potential by poor nutrition and worse governance, and how the next generation is suffering the same fate. Even worse: the problem is not confined to Madagascar.  Daily Maverick



Photo: Adam Jones