Author: Friends of The Fifth Column

Is the End of Boko Haram in Sight?

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced Saturday that the last refuge of the African terrorist organization and Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram has fallen to Nigerian troops.

The remnants of the terrorist organization were surrounded over the weekend in their final refuge, “camp zero” in the Sambisa forest in northern Nigeria. President Buhari congratulated the troops on a “long awaited” victory and the “final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave.”

Although this news means that Boko Haram has lost out on the area of land they held, it is probably not necessarily the end of their dangerous ideology. Much like the Islamic State organization that Boko Haram leaders pledged allegiance to in 2015; taking their physical territory may just prove to make the group turn to more violent tactics of insurgency.

Israeli Media: Netanyahu Under Investigation for Bribery

Police are gearing up to launch a full-blown criminal investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, according to Israeli media reports on Monday.

For the past nine months, Israeli police have been conducting a secret inquiry into criminal wrongdoing by Netanyahu, and now believe that they have enough information for a formal investigation, the Times of Israel reported.

It is alleged that the Prime Minister accepted bribes in the form of donations during his 2009 campaign.

Journalist Flees Kazakhstan Fearing Persecution

The chief editor of a leading news website in Kazakhstan has announced that he has left the country out of concern that he may be targeted for prosecution.

Bekzhan Idrisov, who edits Radiotochka.kz, made the announcement on his Facebook page on December 26. The publisher of his website and editor of Central Asia Monitor newspaper, Bigeldy Gabdullin, was detained by the authorities in mid-November on suspicion of committing fraud.

Stories of reporters feeling compelled to flee Kazakhstan are a stark reminder of the problems face by independent media in the country as they negotiate financial constraints and pressure from the government to refrain from critical coverage.

Make Russia great again? Aleppo and a plea from another world

During the last days of December, Russia will host a round of diplomatic talks with Iran and Turkey.

A hundred years ago, Ernst Jünger described a peculiar encounter with a frightened British officer in his account of trench warfare, Storm of Steel: “he reached into his pocket, not to pull out a weapon, but a photograph (…). I saw him on it, surrounded by numerous family (…). It was a plea from another world.” According to conventional wisdom, “war is hell,” as famously sentenced by General Sherman. Hence Jünger’s depiction of the scene as something from another planet. And that is how the world today, more concerned with the holidays and the latest Hollywood blockbuster, is receiving the dire plea for help by multiple civilians caught in the crossfire of the battle for Aleppo. We simply content ourselves with the thought that civilians will always suffer in times of war, for war is hell. Or is it?

A few days ago, the soon to be replaced Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, gave his last press conference. Referring to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, he remarked ominously: “Aleppo is now a synonym for hell”. But surely the Secretary General did not intend merely to describe a regrettable fait accompli, as someone might depict a natural disaster. His closing official words carry a message for the world to actively engage in Aleppo, and particularly to make belligerents stop targeting civilians, for not everything is allowed in war after all. As Michael Walzer has pointed out in his decades-long effort to revive the Just War tradition, we strive to fight wars justly and to uphold rules even in the midst of hell.

The “strip tease” of the European Union

The European Parliament (EP), on November 23, 2016, approved a non-legislative resolution to counter or combat “disinformation campaigns and propaganda of countries such as Russia, and non-state actors such as Daesh, Al-Qaeda and other violent terrorist groups”.

Presented by the Polish MP Anna Fotyga of the group of European Conservatives and Reformists, this resolution affirms that the Russian government increased its campaign against the European Union (EU) after having annexed Crimea and launched a “hybrid war” in Donbass (Ukraine).

Egypt: Mass Attack on Prisoners

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Investigate Alleged Abuses Against Alexandria Inmates

Egyptian Interior Ministry security forces stormed into prison cells attacking and injuring hundreds of political prisoners at Borg al-Arab Prison in Alexandria during the week of November 13, 2016, Human Rights Watch said today. The attacks came after prisoners protested poor conditions and humiliating treatment. Egypt’s prosecutor general should order a prompt and transparent investigation into the events and hold those officers responsible for abuse to account.

Families and lawyers of prisoners said that prison guards attacked the inmates in their cells with batons, sticks, teargas, and pepper spray, causing burns and fractures. One prisoner appears to have sustained some form of brain trauma, causing memory loss. Lawyers said the prisoners believed the Interior Ministry’s Central Security Forces probably provided support.

In Wake of UNSC Vote, Israel Approves Hundreds of New Settlements

Following the vote on Friday by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) calling for a halt to further Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Jerusalem Planning Committee has approved hundreds of new settlement homes in East Jerusalem.

The Israeli government began approving new settlements over the weekend that were previously deemed ‘diplomatically sensitive’ by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office prior to the election of Donald Trump. Despite a noticeable slowdown in the construction of settlements over the last few years of the Obama presidency, Israel seems to be banking on further support for their settlement projects from incoming President Donald Trump.

Anger in Afghanistan at Female Pilot’s US Asylum Bid

There was an angry reaction in Afghanistan to news that the first female fixed-wing pilot in the country’s air force was requesting asylum in the United States after completing an 18-month training course.

The Afghan defense ministry confirmed Sunday that Captain Niloofar Rahmani, 25, had sought asylum after the Wall Street Journal quoted her as saying that she feared her life would be in danger if she returned home.

Serbian Government Backtracks on Russia-Inspired Anti-Abortion Council

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Serbian government officials are claiming that uproar over alleged plans to establish a state body to persuade women to avoid abortions is all a misunderstanding.

Slavica Đukić Dejanović, a minister without portfolio responsible for demography and population policy, reportedly told pro-government tabloid Informer confirming that the state would “form a body that would raise awareness of all women about the harmful side effects of abortions.” Several other media outlets then picked up on the statement. According to news portal Alo.rs, the council would provide counseling on pregnancy and its termination, and “would include the civil sector, priests and various experts that would be able to help.”

Despite IT Boom, over 90% of Africa Has No Internet Access

The Internet is one of the most important enablers of social development and education. While Internet services have been quite phenomenal in the rest of the world, access to the Internet remains very low in Africa, especially in the rural communities. According to the Internet World Stats for Africa 2016 (http://APO.af/AvhzA), only 9.3% of people across the African continent are Internet users.

“A few years ago anyone who could not read and write was considered illiterate, but today this concept goes further, encompassing people who do not know how to use information and communication technologies. Health organizations and schools in Africa often face a unique set of obstacles, including a lack of access to much-needed health education and counselling platforms. The Community Tablet was created to help solve these problems”, says Dayn Amade.

Mass Burials of Dozens of Tortured Syrians Found in Aleppo

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Mass graves of torture victims have been uncovered in liberated Aleppo, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Monday.

“Mass burial sites of many dozens [of Syrians], who had been subjected to brutal torture and [then] murdered, have been found,” Maj. Gen. Konashenkov said. “In many cases, body parts are missing; most victims had been shot in the head. And this, it seems, is only the beginning.”

Konashenkov said that the instances are being recorded as serious war crimes and will be given maximum publicity “so that European backers of the so-called opposition in London and Paris are well aware of who their wards actually are.”

Former Kuwaiti Lawmaker Sentenced to 42 Years in Jail for Tweets, ‘Insulting Saudi Arabia’

A former Kuwaiti lawmaker is facing at least 42 years and six months in prison on various convictions that include posting on Twitter comments deemed by the authorities insulting to the neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

On 22 December, a court of appeal convicted Abdulhameed Dashti in absentia of insulting Saudi Arabia and sentenced him to ten years in prison, bringing his total jail term to 42.5 years. Dashti, who is currently in the UK for medical reasons, was stripped of his parliament seat to allow Kuwaiti authorities to prosecute him. Dashti also was convicted of prior charges of insulting religion, Kuwait’s Emir (the country’s ruler), and the judiciary.

Palestinian Parliament to Hold First Session Since 2006

The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) will hold its first session since 2006 after a quarter of lawmakers demanded to convene an emergency session without delay, according to media reports.

According to Palestinian legislation, the PLC is to hold a session if one-fourth of its members demands it. Khuraishah said that this time at least 16 members of the Fatah movement and all Hamas lawmakers requested to hold an emergency session.

Conn Hallinan’s 2016 ‘Are You Serious?’ Awards

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This year’s lowlights from world politics, the culture wars, and the military-industrial complex.

Each year Conn Hallinan gives awards to individuals, companies, and governments that make reading the news a daily adventure. Here are the awards for 2016.

The Golden Lemon Award had a number of strong contenders in 2016, including:

General Atomics for its MQ-9 Reaper armed drone, which has a faulty starter-generator that routinely shorts out the aircraft. So far, no one can figure out why. Some 20 were either destroyed or sustained major damage last year. The Reapers costs $64 million apiece.
Panavia Aircraft Company’s $25 billion Tornado fighter-bomber that can’t fly at night because the cockpit lights blind the pilot. A runner up here is the German arms company Heckler & Koch, whose G-36 assault rifle can’t shoot straight when the weather is hot.
The British company BAE’s $1.26 billion Type 45 destroyer that breaks down “whenever we try to do too much with them,” a Royal Navy officer told the Financial Times. Engaging in combat, he said, would be “catastrophic.”

Africa’s agricultural production systems need a radical change – ECA’s Karingi

“Regardless of the approach or transformative pathway chosen to change food systems and trade regimes, African countries need to undertake radical change in agricultural production systems, adopt agribusiness and promote regional agricultural value chains as a vein for regional integration.” The statement was made by Stephen Karingi, Director of the ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division this week in Cote d’Ivoire, at the opening of a symposium themed: Implementing Agro-Industrialization and Regional Value Chains for Africa’s Agricultural Transformation.

“Despite a handful of landmark political commitments, Africa is the only region in the world that has witnessed an increase in the number of food insecure people and has a mushrooming agricultural and food trade deficit,” said Karingi.