Friday, 29 July 2011

Algeria: Djaballah seeks to lead new Islamists

Abdellah Djaballah, the former head of the moderate Islamist parties El-Islah and Ennahda, has announced plans to create a new Islamist party. The new party, which does not yet have a name, was to be launched at Zeralda on 30th July. Djaballah will be joining forces with a disaffected former leader of El-Islah, Mohamed Boulahia, who is contesting the legitimacy of the current leadership of El-Islah through a court case. The party “is aimed at reuniting members of the [Islamist] movement”, he told the press.

He added that the party would be open to former members of the ex Front Islamique du Salut (FIS). Abdelrafour Sadi, another former member of El-Islah and founding member of the new party, has said that the documents for the foundation of the party will soon be delivered to the interior minister for approval. “The state needs to learn the lesson of what has happened in the Arab countries. Algeria has to represent the party of freedom in the Arab Maghreb,” said Sadi on 23rd July. Whether or not the party is approved will be an interesting test of the regime's willingness to tolerate the emergence of a new Islamist opposition, incorporating former members of the FIS.

Last month, it emerged that Islamists were lobbying the president for a pardon of former FIS members still in prison, and for the return of these former Islamists to the political fold.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

President Jonathan to present tenure bill to National Assembly

President Goodluck Jonathan's office has confirmed the news making the rounds that he is planning to send a constitution amendment bill to the National Assembly, proposing longer single tenures for political office holders. The duration has not been specified, but it is widely thought the presidency will attempt to insert a six or seven year period into the legislation before presenting it.

Lawmakers would be eligible to contest elections in perpetuity, if they so wish, after the expiration of each term. In effect, the two term limit will be removed.

Over the past week, there had been speculation that such a bill was in the works, though it was perceived that the bill was being sponsored by other people with close ties to the Jonathan.

On Tuesday 26th July, Jonathan finally clarified the situation when he released a statement through his new Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, renowned journalist and former government critic, Reuben Abati. In the two-page statement, Jonathan said that his “commitment to a single term for the President and Governors is borne out of a patriotic zeal, after a painstaking study and belief that the constitutionally guaranteed two terms for Presidents and Governors is not helping the focus of Governance and institutionalisation of democracy at this stage of our development”.

The statement further sought to explain the rationale for such a bill, positing that “President Jonathan is concerned about the acrimony which the issue of re-election, every four years, generates both at the Federal and State levels. The nation is still smarting from the unrest, the desperation for power and the overheating of the polity that has attended each general election, the fall-out of all this is the unending inter- and intra-party squabbles which have affected the growth of party democracy in the country, and have further undermined the country's developmental aspirations”.

Jonathan, however, denied accusations that the bill was engineered to favour him and make him eligible to stay the full eight year course as president.

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Iran threatens to cut India exports

The Iranian government has threatened to cut off oil exports to India by August if India does not make payments of over $2 billion for oil it has already received from Iran. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) made the warning in a letter sent to Indian refineries that had been purchasing Iranian crude on credit.

The controversy began late last year when the Reserve Bank of India stopped using the Asia Clearing Union (ACU) to settle Indian payments to Iran because of ACU's non-adherence to US and EU sanctions. Ever since, India and Iran have examined alternative payment mechanisms, with no apparent success.

Fars News Agency later questioned the authenticity of the news, referring to an unnamed informed source at the Ministry of Petroleum who blamed foreign media for releasing reports based on what they have heard. This is while two Iranian industry officials confirmed sending a letter to Indian refiners.

Iran's threat comes at a time when the Saudis are significantly increasing their oil production and exports. Saudi Arabia, which is India's largest supplier of oil, has already offered India an extra 2.5 million barrels of crude to replace any loss of Iranian imports.

For more news and expert analysis about Iran, please see Iran Strategic Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Split between the military and young activists more pronounced

The split between the military and the young activists seeking democratic reforms is becoming more pronounced. The gloves are off.

The two sides are more openly trading accusations. The fear among the democracy activists is that the military are in essence mounting a counter-revolution in association with former regime elements.

It is still not clear how much vision of the future the military really has and its role in shaping it. Its sudden embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) a partner is an extraordinary change of tack.

For its part, the mainstream MB has refrained from hostile criticism of the military. Not so its youth wing, which released a statement saying: “The military council is not the army but a council with a specific political mandate authorised by the people to run the country in this transitional period. The people have the right to keep it or banish the council."

The trouble is that there is no mechanism yet before elections to determine the will of the people.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

UN-backed Cameroon-Nigeria border commission seeks swift resolution

The UN-backed Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, set up to help Cameroon and Nigeria resolve their border disputes has called for “swift agreement” to resolve the remaining border disputes.

The Commission was set up at the request of the West African neighbours after the 2002 International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision on the ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula, in order to help implement the decision.

It has already reached agreement on more than 1,600 km of the border, however it is still working on the final 350 kilometres of the land border which needs to be demarcated.

The most recent meeting of the Commission, which took place for two days in Abuja last week, had planned to reach an agreement on the remaining 350 kilometres, however it was not successful.

The Commission instruct its sub-commission on demarcation to find "effective and practical solutions" on the remaining areas, which include previous skipped areas, areas of disagreement, and inaccessible areas.

In a press release at the end of the meeting on Friday 22nd July, Cameroon and Nigeria reiterated their commitment to complete the demarcation by the end of next year.

The commission, chaired by the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for West Africa Said Djinnit also noted the progress made by the two nations regarding the confidence-building initiatives for the populations affected by the demarcation.

A draft agreement was reached at the meeting however, on other issues such as the exploitation of hydrocarbons on the border of Nigeria and Cameroon.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan said on Tuesday 26th July that he would form a committee to consider the draft agreement for ratification, after which the document would be signed by the leaders of both countries.

Jonathan also said it was critical for the two countries to work together to ensure security along the border.

The next session of the commission will be held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on 8-9th December.

Sources: Punch, The Nation, UN News Centre

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

Algeria ups food imports

Algeria's customs bureau announced that total food imports for the first half of 2011 are up by 59 per cent compared to the same period in 2010. It is estimated that Algeria has imported $2.04 billion worth of cereals, flour and semolina in the first half of the year, which marks a 99 per cent increase compared to 2010 figures.

It is thought that Algeria has boosted its food imports in order to contain possible social unrest ahead of Ramadan, when food prices traditionally go up. The move is believed to guard against a popular revolt like that in neighbouring Tunisia, where a frustrated public - inspired by one man's dramatic protest - brought down an entrenched regime.

Five Algerians were killed and more than 800 injured during five days of riots in January, ignited by a rise in the cost of basic comestibles like oil and sugar. Anti-government demonstrations have continued intermittently since, with Algerians taking to the streets to demand an improvement in employment and housing.

Some believe that the government's strategic move to up food imports to subdue the Algerian population is flawed move. Head of Algerian FCE business forum Reda Hamiani, said: "Algeria lowers prices internationally, and countries like Mali, Niger Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania also profit from these subsidies through certain networks."

The policy is also "nonsensical", according to Hamiani, because it discourages domestic farmers from boosting domestic grain production, which the country desperately needs.

Sources: AFP, News24, Bloomberg

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

President Jonathan proposes one-term presidency limit

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has announced he will put in a request with MPs to ament current constitution so that future presidents serve a single, longer term in office. At present the constitution limits presidents to two four-year terms.

Nigerian press has been speculating that the suggested amendment would allow Jonathan to extend his own term. Jonathan, however, has said that the change would would not come into effect before he steps down.

AFP news agency quoted the president as saying: "If the proposed amendment is accepted by the National Assembly, the president assures that he will not in any way be a beneficiary."

Jonathan did not give details about how long the new term should be, but stipulated that the changes would allow politicians to concentrate on governance rather than re-election. According to the BBC, the new term would most likely be for the period of six years.

Jonathan relseased a statement saying, he was "was concerned about the acrimony which the issue of re-election every four years generates". The statement also said: "The nation is still smarting from the unrest, the desperation for power and the overheating of the polity that has attended each general election."

It is estimated that as many as 500 people were killed in violent clashes following the announcement of April's election results, which Jonathan won with nearly 60 per cent of the vote.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, AFP

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

Libya: Security of foreign personnel and assets

The prospects for greater participation by the private sector and foreign interests are slowly improving. Last week's news that Germany will make available a €100 million to the rebels – to be fed into the Libyan system through German exports of goods and services – will enhance the position of these two sectors.

Similar pledges of financial help have been received from other NATO members, which in aggregate amount to a significant sum of credits available to the rebel economy. It must be acknowledged, however, that the bulk of funds will inevitably drain away into the purchase of armaments.

The withdrawal of the Treaty of Friendship with Italy indicates that any new developments in foreign supplies could be surprising, given the threat made by Qadhafi to penalise those who supported the bombing of Libyan territory.

The security of foreign personnel and assets is notably closely bound up with the intensity of the war. Signs indicated that the war will persist and wreak more havoc in the near future if the Transitional Nationa Council engages in a frontal assault on the mountains of Jabal Nafusa and the Jafara.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Ghana: Deficit target widens in 2011 budget, more loans contracted

On 21st July parliament approved a revised 2011 budget raising the public deficit target from 4.1 per cent to 5.1 per cent of GDP. The supplementary budget will also increase spending by GH¢1.5 billion for the year, allowing for more investment in infrastructure and social issues.

The Finance Ministry has said the new spending will target job creation and comes after Ghana raised its predictions for oil revenues.

During the debate, members of the parliamentary Minority criticised the government for its “excessive” borrowing culture, accusing the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of building up more debt in two years than the New Patriotic Party (NPP) had done over a period of eight years in government.

Parliament went on its annual summer recess on 22nd July having approved three loan agreements at its last sitting. Opposition politicians and anti-corruption activists claim that all contracts are overpriced and could be used to help finance the ruling party's 2012 election campaign

The loans include a US$337 million (GH¢505.6 million) agreement with the Bank Hapoalim BM of Israel for the construction of a 59-bed hospital for the University of Ghana and additional works on the Ho Regional Hospital and Hohoe District Hospital (both in NDC-supporting areas); a €13 million (GH¢28 million) agreement with ABN AMRO Bank NV of the Netherlands to finance the additional works on the Barekese Water Supply Expansion Project; and a US$800,000 (GH¢1.2 million) loan agreement with Canada's Société Générale to finance additional works on the ongoing 132-megawatt Combined-Cycle Thermal Plant at Aboadze.

During its third session, five out of nine bills put before parliament were passed: the Petroleum Commission Bill, the Bio-Safety Bill, the Law Reforms Commission Bill, the Health Institution Facilities Bill and the Export Development and Investment Fund Bill.

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Nigerian army accused of killing 23 in Maiduguri

Amnesty International believes Nigeria's security forces have killed 23 people in the city of Maiduguri. The organisation said the Nigerian army opened fire without provocation on Saturday 23rd July, after a bomb explosion in the northern city. It also accused army members of burning a marketplace. A military spokesman dismissed the allegations as "outright lies".

AFP news agency quoted army spokesman Lt Col Hassan Isijeh Mohammed as saying: "The fire that burnt homes, shops and vehicles was caused by the impact of the explosion of the bomb detonated by the Boko Haram attackers."

Maiduguri is home to one of Nigeria's biggest militant Islamist group's, Boko Haram, which has recently carried out a number of bombings and attacks across Nigeria.

Amnesty International has urged Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan to look into the shootings, saying: "The Nigerian authorities must immediately put a stop to unlawful killings by the security forces."

According to a number of sources, the bomb blast killed at least three security officials. Some speculate that the residents of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, are now more fearful of the army than the Islamist militants.

Just last month, Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima admitted that the army had been guilty of excesses in the city and has potentially killed innocent civilians while battling with Boko Haram.

Sources: BBC News, The Nation Newspaper, AFP

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

Qadhafi remaining in Libya is a possibility

Speaking alongside France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi must relinquish power but may not have to leave Libya. Hague noted that Britain would preferably see Qadhafi go but said it was up to the people of Libya to determine whether the Leader should leave.

The two dignitaries were discussing the on-going conflict, following claims that the French were growing impatient with the lack of military success. To counteractive the claims, Hague said that the neighbours were "absolutely united" in their approach to the crisis.

The latest announcement shows a considerable change in Britain's stance on the situation in Libya, which previously indicated that the UK was all for Qadhafi going. According to the BBC, Hague's comments come amid signs that Libyan opposition fears that it may be near-impossible to see Qadhafi and his family leave the country.

The deal, for the Leader to remain in the country, would rest on him agreeing to relinquish power and certain other conditions. A number of parallel mediation efforts to find a peace deal are underway, involving UN, African and other envoys.

Speaking about the situation, Hague said: “What happens to Qadhafi is ultimately a question for the Libyans…What is absolutely clear, as Alain (Juppe) has said, is that whatever happens, Qadhafi must leave power. He must never again be able to threaten the lives of Libyan civilians nor to destabilise Libya once he has left power…Obviously him leaving Libya itself would be the best way of showing the Libyan people that they no longer have to live in fear of Qadhafi.”

He added: “But as I have said all along, this is ultimately a question for Libyans to determine."

In a show of solidarity between the neighbouring countries, Juppe backed Hague's comments, saying the allies were in "perfect co-operation". He noted: "We think that we must continue to exert strong pressure on the Libyan regime with the same methods. If we did not intervene four months ago it would have been a massacre in Benghazi and I think we may be proud to have taken this courageous decision."

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, The Daily Telegraph

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

Iraq: Relations with opposition deteriorate

The already tense relationship between the Kurdish authorities and the opposition worsened this month with Goran, Ittihad Al-Islami and Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiya proving relentless in their push against the government. The two sides were supposed to be cooperating to come up with a joint plan for reform in the region and had held a series of meetings in recent weeks that caused many to believe relations were on the mend. However, talks collapsed in July after the opposition accused the government of prevaricating and of ignoring all their proposed changes, something that prompted them to suspend their co-operation.

It isn't only the reform issue that is irking the opposition. They are still making a number of key demands which the authorities have until now refused to implement. These demands are that the government bring to justice those who are responsible for killing protesters in the demonstrations that took place in Suleimania from February; that it stop arresting and detaining political activists and members of the opposition; and that it lift the economic and political siege it has placed on the opposition since the outbreak of the popular protests. The government suspended the financial grants it pays to the opposition parties when the public protests broke out, accusing them of being behind the unrest. It has yet to restore these payments.

This suspension of funds has provoked outrage among opposition groups. So much so that the moderate Islamist party, Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiya, has taken out a legal case against prime minister Barham Saleh and finance minister Bayiz Saeed Mohammad Talabani for cutting off the payments. The trial was due to begin on 25th July.

Given the government's refusal to deal with any of the opposition's requests, tensions are rising again. While the authorities appeared last month to have put an end to the public demonstrations, a protest was held on 15th July in Suleimania. The security forces moved in quickly to prevent the demonstration from growing and also attacked and detained a number of journalists who had gone to cover the event, confiscating their equipment. It seems, however, that the public mood is once again on the offensive and further demonstrations may well be in the offing.

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Monday, 25 July 2011

Egypt: Opposition supporters have vowed to continue protesting

Following two days of violent clashes, Egyptian opposition supporters have vowed to continue protesting. According to the country's Health Ministry, several hundred people were injured during confrontations with the army and groups of unidentified men in civilian clothes.

The protesters have continued demonstrating since Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February, about the slow pace of political and social change. Speculation is rife that the clashes were orchestrated by the military but the army continues to deny any such doing.

Some of the demonstrators have already returned to Tahrir Square in the centre of Cairo, despite being heavily injured. Most incurred injury when unidentified men in plain clothes attacked marches from the square to the defence ministry, where the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is based.

The protesters continue to be defiant, and the clashes last week mark a new turning point in the confrontation between the opposition and SCAF, who continues to have trouble appealing to ordinary Egyptians.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, Bloomberg

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

Nigeria: New government convened; finance minister still unconfirmed

President Goodluck Jonathan's new government term met for the first time on 20th July 2011, following the completion of the screening and swearing-in of ministers and special advisers. One individual, however, was conspicuous by her absence from the meeting, namely former finance minister and World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

She is the only nominee not to have been sworn-in, some two weeks after being confirmed by the Senate, and after outgoing finance minister Olusegun Aganga, paved the way for her by leaving to head the newly-created Ministry of Trade and Investment.

The official explanation given by the presidency – that Okonjo-Iweala is clearing out her desk and handing over her duties at the World Bank – has raised eyebrows. Okonjo-Iweala famously stalled before finally accepting Jonathan's offer to join his “transformation team” (as the president likes to call his cabinet).

The formation of the cabinet was already long delayed. Despite Jonathan's promise to appoint his team within two weeks of his inauguration in May, it was not until two months later that the new cabinet could be convened.

Although yet to be confirmed, Okonjo-Iweala is expected to run the key Ministry of Finance. Her robustly negotiated terms of engagement are expected to give her a largely free hand in running the economy, which was recently described in glowingly hopeful terms by the visiting UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

The high expectations surrounding Okonjo-Iweala's appointment are understandable. One of the major highlights of her previous stint as minister, under former president Olusegun Obasanjo, was the negotiation of debt forgiveness for the country's seemingly insurmountable arrears. She will no doubt be disappointed that her good work in getting the country's debts pardoned and reduced is gradually being eroded. The country's debt is now put at well over US$40 billion.

Okonjo-Iweala is also widely credited as being the 'brightest spark' in what has been described as an “uninspiring” cabinet, lacking any major figures.

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Algeria: Assassination attempt on SNAPAP leader

On Friday 15th July, after we had gone to press, there was an attempt to assassinate Rachid Malaoui, the human rights activist and chairman of the independent trade union Syndicat national autonome du personnel de l'administration publique (SNAPAP). The planned was scuppered when the brakes of his vehicle were discovered to have been sabotaged. SNAPAP and Malaoui have both been at the forefront of demonstrations against the government. It is no secret that Malaoui is a target of the security services.

He was brutally assaulted during a demonstration in Algiers on 19th February. He is also under a travel ban that has prevented him from meeting and building links with international trade unions. SNAPAP is one of the most active organisations in Algeria and is supported by both the unemployed and the private sector workers. It is a major challenge to the State's own Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens (UGTA), which tends to look after the interests of the government rather than the workers.

The Malaoui incident has reminded Algerian activists that the regime has never held back from eliminating those who stand in its way; whether they be the president, as in the case of Mohamed Boudiaf (Chairman of the High Council of State), assassinated by the DRS in 1992, or leading members of the security establishment who are not prepared to bend to their corrupt and ruthless methods, such as General Saidi Fodil, who was assassinated by the DRS in a 'car accident' in 1996.

Since those days, many other prominent opponents of the regime have simply been 'eliminated'. We remind readers of Ahmed Kerroumi, a professor at the University of Oran and member of the opposition Democratic and Social Movement party and the Oran section of the National Coordination for Change and Democracy, whose body was found on 23rd April, four days after he reportedly disappeared. As expected, no one has been charged with his murder.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Friday, 22 July 2011

South Sudan sells first oil

South Sudan has sold its first oil as an independent country this week, despite the lack of an agreement on oil revenues with Sudan.

South Sudan, which declared independence from Khartoum on 9th July, sold 1 million barrels to Chinese buyer Chinaoil, a Petrochina subsidiary, on Monday 18th July. Reuters estimates the shipment to be worth US$110 million.

Director General for Energy in South Sudan, Arkangelo Okwang, said they would ship a further 600,000 barrels on 23rd July.

Okwang said he expected the north to bill the South for the use of its facilities, but that nothing had yet been decided.

Sudan fought a decades-long civil war, which ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. The CPA outlined a revenue-sharing agreement for oil, in which Sudan and the autonomous South Sudan each received 50 per cent.

Three-quarters of Sudan's 500,000 barrel-a-day output comes from the South, and is crucial to both countries economy. While much of the oil lies in South Sudan, the new nation lacks the infrastructure to exploit its reserves, and so the oil has to be moved to market through the north.

While South Sudan's President Salva Kiir said in June, 2010 that it would be possible for oil revenues to continue to be shared, he has taken an increasingly hard line in recent months.

On Wednesday 20th June, Kiir threatened to stop using the pipelines in Sudan if Khartoum insisted on sharing oil revenues as opposed to receiving transit fees.

“I am saying that we will rent the North's oil pipelines and we will give them money for our oil to be transported, and we will of course pay and there is no problem," Kiir said at a speech to a military base in South Sudan.

"However, this offer is unaccepted by the North. We have agreed on one thing that the oil issue should not be disrupted. They [Sudan] need oil. But we fought for 21 years without oil and we can still go for 3 years until we build our own oil infrastructure,” Kiir added.

Lead negotiator for South Sudan on oil issues, Pagan Amum, was reported in the Sudan Tribune as saying that the north had asked for “unfair and unreasonable” conditions of passage.

“They came with crazy ideas saying they are going to impose several transit fees – a usage fee, something called a normal transit fee, then something called a special fee – maybe $15 per barrel, even more – then maybe other charges, and they wanted revenue-sharing to continue,” Amum said.

Amum said the south was instead prepared to offer $3bn in “assistance” to the north and offered transit fees in line with international norms, citing 41 cents per barrel charged by the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, which is a similar-length.

Khartoum is keen to salvage as much from the south's oil supplies as possible, and Sudan's Finance Minister Ali Mahmood Hassanein said on 19th July that Khartoum was in the process of crafting laws which would set the fees they would expect the South to pay.

He said the fees would contain three levels based on the fact that oil passes through Sudan which requires the imposition of sovereign fees.

Khartoum has threatened to cut shipments of oil from the south along its piplines if the south refuses to pay transit fees or continuing sharing oil revenues. Likewise, Juba has said it will build its own oil infrastructure, moving the oil south, if Khartoum doesn't agree on transit fees.

A delegation from the South is expected to travel to the north to carry out talks soon.

For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Libya: A stabilisation plan

With the assistance of a cadre of international consultants and advisers, the NTC is drawing up stabilisation plans for the period immediately after Qadhafi is removed from power.

According to one source who recently returned from Benghazi, advisers from Abu Dhabi may have helped to draft an oil stabilisation docu­ment that has reportedly entered circulation, although it has not yet been made public. The same source said that engineers from Abu Dhabi – possibly from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Cor­poration (Adnoc) – might be drafted in to help repair the damage to the Sarir and Mesla fields.

The NTC's representative in the UK, Guma El-Gamaty, told a recent briefing organised by Brit­ish Expertise that the immediate post-conflict priorities were the stabilisation of Tripoli and the establishment of security. 'We don't want people taking revenge,' he said. Immediately after this, the NTC will act to make cash available and to provide essential services such as healthcare, water, electricity, and basic amenities. 'Many people have not been paid for three to four months,' he added.

Although the successor government will eventually be able to claim title to an impressive amount of wealth, it is questionable how much of the sovereign wealth outside Libya will be immediately available. The process of unfreezing funds in the EU and the US may take time. El-Gamaty said that $40 billion may be located in various African coun­tries. 'We are not sure if all of it is frozen.'

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Egypt's cabinet reshuffled

Egypt's Prime Minister Essam Sharaf announced a cabinet reshuffle and then had trouble with the details. The swearing-in was delayed because he had to go to hospital to test for low blood pressure. He asked incumbents to continue in their posts until the baton could be passed to those nominated to succeed. First one, then another of the Ministers Designate withdrew. The muddle demonstrates the lack of political experience and acuity of those currently governing Egypt, both in the military and among the civilians.

The ministers of justice, interior, electricity, international co-operation, education, petroleum, culture, environment, tourism, manpower (labour) and social solidarity have all kept their posts.

Key changes include the appointment of two deputy prime ministers, both in their mid-70s, which scarcely reflects the demographics of the new Egypt.

A veteran economist, Hazem Beblawi, has been appointed as the deputy prime minister for economic affairs as well as finance minister. He replaces Samir Radwan who was seen as being too closely associated with the old ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and in favour of a major role in the economy.

Beblawi, who had worked for many years in the UN and other agencies, is a former chairman of the Export Development Bank. He has stated in early interviews his commitment to the market economy.

He was a founding member of the new, secular Egyptian Social Democratic Party, although has also been associated with the liberal Wafd party and has been critical of the old regime.

The Wafd has a number of other members in the cabinet, including the incumbent Minister of Tourism Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour and Minister of Information Osama Heikal.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

British national killed in Aden car bomb explosion

A car explosion in the city of Aden has killed a British national. According to witnesses, the man's car exploded when he got in and started the engine. Another man was wounded.

An unnamed Yemeni official said the bomb was hidden under the vehicle. He said Al-Qa'ida is suspected to be behind the attack, adding: "The way the attack took place only proves that Al-Qa'ida has been watching his moves days prior to the attack.”

Speaking about the explosion to AFP news agency, another witness, Abdullah Al-Sharafi, described the aftermath, saying: "I heard the explosion, I hurried there and I found the car in pieces."

The UK Foreign Office confirmed a British national had been killed and advised British citizens not to travel to Yemen, urging all those who are there to "maintain a heightened level of vigilance and keep a low profile at all times…We believe that terrorists continue to threaten further attacks including in Sana'a, Aden and other urban areas."

Sources: BBC News, AFP, CNN

For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Libya: Contact Group meeting yields positive results for TNC

The Contact Group meeting, held in Turkey on 15–16th July, was perhaps the most successful so far for the TNC, resulting as it did in the US joining other administrations in recognising it as the official representation for the Libyan people. Participants at the meeting agreed to treat the TNC as Libya's legitimate governing authority, despite the fact that areas of the country remain loyal to the Qadhafi. Among this and other issues, the meeting heard once again TNC's plans for ensuring democratic representation throughout Libya.

Beyond the promises made by foreign governments for continued financial support of the TNC, its recognition by the US is perhaps the most positive result the rebels could have received. Making the announcement, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said that the TNC would be recognised as legitimate representation until an interim authority is established. Although, according to US officials there remain a few legal hurdles, this move should allow the TNC access to the sums of Libyan money previously frozen in the US.

During an official visit to South Africa, UK's Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the situation in Libya with President Jacob Zuma, who has taken a front seat on the African front. It is understood that the UK was trying to get Zuma to agree to the importance of Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi stepping down. At a press conference in Pretoria, following their discussions, both leaders agreed that Qadhafi should go. President Zuma, however, believes that talks inside Libya should establish what should happen to the Leader, rather than simply removing by military force.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Ghana: GBA condemns “unsubstantiated allegations of corruption”

The Ghana Bar Association (GBA) has condemned “unsubstantiated allegations of corruption” levelled against the judiciary by a group of five lawyers at the organisation's 23rd June General Council. They are Chris Ackumey, Dr Raymond Atuguba, Abraham Amaliba, Larry Bimi and David Annan. It has asked the lawyers to substantiate their claims or issue an official apology.

These disputes follow growing concerns about the dysfunctional nature and corruption in Ghana's judicial system in the wake of the highly critical reports on its performance by the World Bank and the Open Society Initiative.

The statement also notes with concern the “open confession by a member of the Bar, Chris Ackumey, that he had engaged in the corruption of a Judge. In blatant violation of the laws of the land,” and proposes disciplinary proceedings against him. Ackumey claims that he offered a fellow lawyer money to bribe a judge trying the case of a client. Atuguba, Amaliba, Bimi and Annan have threatened to leave the GBA and former a splinter Bar Association.

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Iran installing “better quality” centrifuges

Iran's Foreign Ministry has released a statement, saying the Islamic Republic is installing centrifuges with "better quality and speed" to improve the uranium enrichment process at its nuclear sites.

Despite Western fears about the country's nuclear programme, Iran is pressing on as planned. According the statement, the UN atomic watchdog had "full supervision" of the centrifuges. The West believes that Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, a claim that Tehran has continually denied, saying it is refining uranium for electricity generation and other civil uses.

Speaking about the latest move, an Iranian government representative Ramin Mehmanparast said: "By installing the new centrifuges progress is being made with more speed and better quality." He added that this particular development showed Iran's success in pursuing its "peaceful nuclear activity".

A number of world powers have been in talks with Iran over its nuclear programme, but with little success. Iran remains resolute to carry on its nuclear activities despite being subject to United Nations Security Council's sanctions over its refusal to cease uranium enrichment.

Sources: BBC News, AFP, RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty

For more news and expert analysis about Iran, please see Iran Strategic Focus.

Libya in talks with the US

US officials have had a meeting with Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi's representatives to discuss the possible resolution to the on-going Libyan crisis. The US delegation reportedly reiterated its demands that Qadhafi steps down.

A US spokesman said that the Libyan government concdeded to dialogue but only if it was without preconditions.

On Monday 18th July, reports emerged that Libyan rebels had made their way into the oil town of Brega. The claim was denied by pro-Qadhafi forces, who said that the key oil refinery town was still firmly under its control.

A spokesman for the rebels, Mohammed Zawi, however, was quoted by AFP news agency as saying: "Some small groups have made it inside, but we do not control the whole [town] yet."

A statement released by US State department said the delegation gave Qadhafi representatives a “clear” message that the Leader must step-down. The statement said: “The message was simple and unambiguous - Gaddafi must leave power so that a new political process can begin that reflects the will and aspirations of the Libyan people… We will discuss everything but do not condition your peace talks. Let the Libyans decide their future.”

The talks, which reportedly took place in neighbouring Tunisia, were hailed by Libya's government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim as an important step forward in “repairing relations" with the US.

Speaking to the press in Tripoli, Ibrahim said: "We support any dialogue, any peace initiative as long as they don't decide Libya's future from without…We will discuss everything but do not condition your peace talks. Let the Libyans decide their future.”

Sources: BBC News, Tripoli Post, Washington Post

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

Vietnam: China's coal lessons

The question of coal imports spotlights the dif­ficulties of Vietnam's energy pricing structure and the limits it is causing in the growth of energy and the timing of liberalisations in the energy sector.

China is currently facing similar constraints in its electricity, and the Chinese case shows that the liberalisation of markets, especially miner­als and electricity, needs to be carried out in a coordinated way.

China is currently suffering an electricity crisis due to its continued control of electricity pricing in the domestic and industrial markets and its reliance on coal for electricity production.

China relies on coal for 73 per cent of its electricity production and the price of coal has been steadily rising as demand for electricity has grown in manufacturing, industry, and the consumer market.

Yet while coal prices are allowed to increase in line with domestic and import costs, electricity producers are forced to keep their prices in line with government guidelines. Electricity genera­tors are losing money as input prices rise and retail prices remain steady.

Electricity generators and utility companies, the majority of which are state owned, are growing very unhappy. Many have decided to cut pro­duction rather than continue to incur losses.

This is affecting industry across China as factories are forced to cut production due to brownouts and blackouts. And commodity mar­kets as far away as Australia are suffering from a downturn in demand for natural resources such as coal, copper, and tin used in China's manufac­turing industry.

The obvious lesson is that the Vietnamese government should be careful how it introduces competition into the electricity market and should ensure that input markets move at the same time. Input suppliers and producers can suffer losses for only so long and as demand for electricity grows so will the strength of partici­pants in the electricity sector.

For more news and expert analysis about Vietnam, please see Vietnam Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Monday, 18 July 2011

Libya: Rebels making their way into Brega

It has emerged that Libyan rebels are fighting Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi's troops in the eastern town of Brega. The rebels have reportedly been making their way to the oil town for a couple of days, despite substantial artillery fire from Qadhafi's forces occupying the town, 750km east of Tripoli.

Arab Times quoted an official in the rebel National Transitional Council, Abdulrahman Busm, as saying: “The news coming from there is there is a street war going on between Gaddafi troops and the rebels, and 127 are wounded from our side.”

Another spokesman for the rebels, Mohammed Zawi, was quoted by AFP news agency as saying: "Some small groups have made it inside, but we do not control the whole [town] yet."

Seizure of Brega, home to one of Libya's biggest oil facilities, would mark a major development for the rebels who have been locked in a political stalemate with pro Qadhafi supporters since 17th February.

AFP also reported that three rebel fighters were killed and 96 wounded in Brega on Sunday 17th July, bringing the rebel death toll since the fighting commence to 15 dead and 274 wounded.

In recent days, NATO airplanes have been targeting Qadhafi's forces near Brega and have reportedly hit a military storage facility containing tanks, armoured personnel carriers and ammunition in Tripoli's eastern outskirts early on Sunday.

A day prior to the airstrikes, Qadhafi made a speech describing the rebels as worthless traitors and denying allegations that he is seeking to negotiate a way out of the crisis. His televised address followed the declaration that the US, the West and some Arab nations, now recognise the rebel leadership as the legitimate government of Libya.

Sources: BBC News, Dawn, Arab Times

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

Algeria: DRS purchase of Beur TV

Last week, we reported that the DRS, through one of its 'front men' had bought the French satellite TV channel, Beur TV. We can now give more details of the DRS' actions in this regard.

The background is that the Algerian national TV and radio broadcast network is wholly state-owned. The state, therefore, controls all of Algeria's broadcast media except the satellite channels. Access to these is relatively limited due to the relative lack of encoder and satellite reception facilities.

One of the key and much-publicised components of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's promised reform process is that the broadcast media will be opened up. This is not because the regime necessarily wants to provide its citizens with access to more than its own very poor quality services. It is simply that the country's citizens are gradually finding ways and means of accessing external broadcast channels.

The state's soon-to-be-presented reform on opening up the broadcast media to foreign and private channels, however, is not so much a retreat in front of technologies that it cannot entirely control, as a strategy designed to 'get ahead of the game'. The DRS is planning to control the new broadcast media in three ways.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Nigeria: Boko Haram Insurgency

Borno State, the base of the Islamic fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram, is still firmly under siege following the arrival of the Joint Task Force (JTF) of military and several security agents into the embattled State.

Borno is experiencing a mass exodus as residents, especially of those who are ethnically non-Borno residents, flee in apparent fear for their lives.

The University of Maiduguri has also been closed because its administration has stated that it could no longer guarantee the safety of its students and staff.

Some Nigerian State governments have already begun the process of evacuating their citizens from Borno State.

This comes on the heels of the first battle between the JTF and the Boko Haram insurgents, where several suspected Boko Haram members were killed. Although the official figure of deaths is put at 17, witnesses have claimed that the number of those killed in the JTF raid is at least 30.

There were subsequent claims that innocent civilians were amongst those killed in the raid. Some have criticised the use of blunt military force in flushing out the Boko Haram insurgency.

Borno State elders, legislators, and the State's Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have also strongly condemned the use of JTF and called on the Federal Government to immediately remove the force, because it is allegedly causing more harm than good, and are advocating dialogue instead.

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Friday, 15 July 2011

Libya Contact Group meets in Turkey

The Libya Contact Group is meeting in Turkey today to discuss the situation in Libya. The group of 15 delegates includes, the ministers of foreign affairs of the UK, Italy and France, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, NATO representatives and Arab diplomats.

France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppé has said Paris has had contact with Libyan officials discussing the prospects of a prospects of a political solution based on contacts with Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi.

The meeting is expected to revolve around key issues pertaining to the on-going political deadlock in Libya, and the measures necessary to oust Qadhafi. The delegation will also look at a progress report on the Libyan opposition's plans for progress to democracy. Representatives of the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council are expected, but invitations to China and Russia were both declined.

Libya remains divided with the rebels holding eastern parts of the country and pockets in the west, while Qadhafi remains entrenched in the capital Tripoli, despite a NATO bombing campaign of more than 6,000 sorties against regime forces.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, Bloomberg

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Political developments in Egypt are slow

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has said the elections for both houses of parliament will be held in November. SCAF is justifying what appears to be a two month postponement by saying that it was always the intention to start the procedures for the elections in September to allow for campaigning before the actual vote.

Most political figures have welcomed the delay as it will give nascent parties more time to organise themselves. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has not raised any objections.

Sources close to SCAF say that it is considering delaying the presidential election until after the new constitution has been approved. That would happen once the Constituent Assembly, to be appointed by the new parliament, has drawn up the constitution and had it approved in a referendum.

SCAF remains publicly committed to sticking with the original timetable, which would see the vote for the president taking place about two months after parliamentary elections. Many politicians, however, have argued that it would not be right to elect a president on the old constitution, which gives the holder almost unrestricted powers, when the new constitution is likely to transfer many of these to parliament.

SCAF is consulting leading political figures about the drawing up of a document that will incorporate the principles for the new constitution. It also appears to be encouraging Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) in proposing drafts for the constitution. The idea is that the Constituent Assembly can then get to work more quickly.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Iran is moving its nuclear programme to a new facility

Reports have emerged that Iran is moving its nuclear programme to a new facility located inside a mountain near Qom, which can withstand air and missile strikes. Iran disclosed the Fowrdow facility's location after Western intelligence sources reported its existence.

Speaking about the developments in the Islamic Republic to The Daily Telegraph, former head of UN nuclear inspections Olli Heinonen, said: “We see Iran moving in the direction of becoming a nuclear weapons capable state.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has expressed concern over the move, and Iran's plans to start operation enrichment centrifuges at Fordow "by this summer".

UK's Foreign Secretary William Hague said Iran would need less than three months to turn the enriched uranium into weapons grade material at Fordow. He warned that the country's claims to "allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring is not a safeguard," because "Iran has a persistent record of evasion and obfuscation with the IAEA."

In a bid to counteract Western fears, Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said the country has disavowed its nuclear weapons. He noted: "Our Supreme Leader has explained that the production and use of atomic weapons is wrong, not only in terms of foreign policy but on religious grounds.”

Iran says it needs 20 per cent uranium to make fuel for a medical re-search reactor near Tehran after the failure of talks on a deal that would have seen foreign countries supply the material.

Sources: PressTV, The Daily Telegraph, Voice of America

For more news and expert analysis about Iran, please see Iran Strategic Focus.

Human Rights Watch accuses rebels of abusing civilians

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Libyan rebels of abusing civilians. Campaigners from the New York based group have interviewed people who have been subjected to violence and mistreatment, as well as witnessed cases of abuse themselves.

Talking to the press in Brussels, rebel “Prime Minister” Mahmoud Jibril denied the allegations focusing on instances of abuse in the recently seized towns of Al-Awaniya, Rayayinah, Zawiyat Al-Bagul and Al-Qawalish. He said: "This is not the case in the liberated areas."

Speaking about the situation, special adviser to HRW, Fred Abrahams said: "The rebel conduct was disturbing…We documented fairly widespread looting of homes and shops, the burning of some homes of suspected Gaddafi supporters and - most disturbingly - the vandalisation of three medical clinics [and] local small hospitals, including the theft of some of the medical equipment."

Reports of abuse on both sides have circulated since the rebellion against Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi began in February. Abrahams said Libyan government was also guilty of human rights abuses and various other crimes, but that did not excuse the behaviour of the rebels. He added: “Our aim is to hold all combatants, all militaries - whether they're organised and states and governments or rebels groups - to the same standards, and it's very much also a warning shot across the bow, because of these other areas they are approaching. We're deeply worried about how they might behave and treat civilians in those areas."

According to the human rights group, the rebels have also been looting shops, homes and medical facilities in the four towns they recently seized in the western part of the country. Senior HRW campaigner Joe Stork noted: "Opposition leaders should halt and punish all rebel abuses…The rebel authorities have a duty to protect civilians and their property - especially hospitals - and discipline anyone responsible for looting or other abuse."

Sources: BBC News, CNN International, Morning Star Online

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Libya: Military stalemate continues

The long period of quiet military stalemate has stimulated a growing lobby in Libya, particularly in Tripolitania, to call for an end to the fighting. This is bound to intensify if the revolutionary army is successful in pressing on toward Tripoli.

The likelihood of a peace settlement based on the implementation of a new constitution and a regime of law and order is distant because the Transitional National Council (TNC) and the rank and file of the revolutionary organisation are dedicated – at any cost – to see either the expulsion of the Qadhafis or their death in battle. These cadres are young, many are professionally qualified, and are well aware of the real nature of democracy and are unlikely to be impressed by rapidly written constitutional documents which, in the past, have always been ignored.

It will, therefore, be seen that Libya remains at high risk of being unable to recreate the domestic private sector or bring international investors into projects other than the rehabilitation of the pre-war economy. The role of foreign capital and technical expertise will be vital to Libya's recovery because without both, it will profoundly constrain both oil exports and hence, revenue for reconstruction.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Ghana: Rawlings family loses a battle but retains influence

Delegates attending the National Democratic Congress' (NDC) convention in Sunyani delivered a devastating blow to the political ambitions of, the former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings and her husband the former president and NDC founder Jerry John Rawlings.

In a straight two-horse race, Mrs Rawlings won just 90 votes (3.1 per cent), compared to the thumping 96.1 per cent (2771 votes) won by the NDC leader Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, who has been Ghana's president since January 2009, and has 18 months left to serve of his four-year mandate. It was the first time in the country's history that a sitting president had been challenged for the presidential nomination by a member of his own party.

Why Mills won

Despite the apparent support of her husband and family, Nana Rawlings' bid appears to have been badly miss-timed. Many assume that the NDC cannot win the December 2012 election unless Mr Rawlings actively campaigns for President Mills' re-election. The body language of the former first couple as they left Sunyani's Coronation Park on Saturday night suggests that they are unlikely to support Mills and may even campaign against his in the run-up to 2012.

The biggest fear of many grassroots party supporters – that the couple will form a new party – is unlikely to happen given the Mills camp's solid grip over the party machinery. But that fear also boosted the pro-Mills vote because few NDC supporters would welcome another eight year spell in the opposition wilderness.

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Sahara: Joint command re-convenes (again)

Under pressure from the EU and the US not to play such a disruptive and destabilising role in the Sahel, the chief of staff of the Algerian army, General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, attended a special meeting in Bamako on 28th April of the joint command of the armies of Algeria, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania.

This is the same joint command that was set up at Tamanrasset rather theatrically one year earlier on 19th April 2010. The last meeting was in September 2010, at which the parties expressed 'their common deter¬mination to strengthen the fight against Al-Qa'ida in Islamic Maghreb.'

A key feature of the meeting was the asser¬tion that the four countries will mobilise 75,000 troops to rid the region of AQIM. This is the same number of troops as proposed at the founding meeting a year earlier, since when little or nothing of consequence has been done. Neither has it been explained by any of the four countries why it takes 75,000 troops to wipe out 400–500 terrorists.

Five days after this meeting, on 3rd May and as part of the new 'rapprochement' between Algeria and the Sahel, Mali's Foreign Affairs Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga did his bit by confirming in an interview for Le Monde that his country had recorded an influx of heavy weapons into Mali stolen from Libyan arsenals.

For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Part of Sinai pipeline sabotaged again

For the third time since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February, on 4th July saboteurs blew up part of the gas pipeline in northern Sinai which takes gas from Egypt to Jordan and Israel.

The pipeline feeds into two export pipelines which bifurcate at el-Arish. One goes to Ashkelon and delivers up 2.4 billion cubic metres a year of gas to Israel. The other, the Arab Gas Pipeline, goes south and delivers up to 4.5 bcm a year to Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

The explosion was at a pumping station at Nagah in Bir Abdu, 60km east of Suez. According to security sources quoted in the media, a group of armed men forced the staff at the station to leave before blowing it up. Ampal-American Israel Corporation, which has a 12.5 per cent stake in East Mediterranean Gas (EMG), operator of the Arish-Ashkelon pipeline, said the explosion occurred at the point where the two pipelines diverge.

The damage was quickly repaired and gas supplies resumed to Israel within two days, albeit at a reduced rate, according to Ampal. After the previous explosion on 27th April, gas flows did not resume until early June. Not so, according to Egypt. Al Masry Al Youm quoted an official from the Egyptian Natural Gas Company (GASCO), the company responsible for exporting natural gas to Israel, as denying that gas exports to Israel had resumed.

GASCO chief Magdy Tawfiq said that repair work was still underway. He explained that the company shut off valves to stop the flow of gas while residual gas was drawn out of the pipe to empty it. He expected the repairs to be completed shortly as damage was limited.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Libya remains in a vicious spiral of confrontation

Libya remains caught in a vicious spiral of military and political confrontation which is defying resolution by the peace-makers. The most favoured candidates to settle the matter, when the two sides are ready to be brought together, are the Arab League and the AU. So far, the League has been muted. Its secretary general, Amr Moussa, who supported the UN Resolution 1973 for intervention in Libya, made a public stance against the continuance of the war in late June. He called for immediate talks to bring about a ceasefire, and suggested that a political solution was bound to be needed in the end.

Given that he is a strong potential Libyan presidential candidate his views have to be taken seriously. South Africa finds itself equally uncertain of a way forward but, like Moussa, takes the view that Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi should not necessarily be driven into exile. They are not enthusiastic about the Leader holding onto power, especially if it continues to obstruct an early political settlement.

The comparative ineffectiveness of the two armies in the last two months would lead to a conclusion that stalemate now prevails. The situation is, however, more complex than this because the revolutionary national army has become increasingly well-equipped following France's air lifting of new weapons for the Berber community which is resisting the drive from Zintan by Qadhafi's forces.

One of the rebels' basic problems is the capture of new territory at a high price of human life which would spell recurrent problems in the future and help to recruit groups in Tripolitania to Qadhafi's side. Whether the older heads in the TNC can keep control of the formations of young volunteer soldiers fighting at the fronts is unlikely. The latter on the battle fronts would not accept that Colonel Qadhafi, his family or henchmen remains in Libya. This single objective gives a unity to the insurrection against the Qadhafi clan which will not to be given up lightly.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Monday, 11 July 2011

Nana Konadu Rawlings fails in NDC bid for presidency

Nana Konadu Rawlings, wife of Ghana's former president Jerry John Rawlings, has failed in her bid to secure a vote as the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) party's presidential candidate in the 2012 election.

During a three-day NDC convention in Accra, Rawlings won a mere 3.1 per cent of the vote, with the remainder 96.9 per cent going to President John Atta Mills.

In his victory speech, Mills promised to rebuild bridges within the NDC caused by pressures pertaining to the contest. Speaking to the crowd, Mills said he wanted to ensure unity and show that all members of the NDC “belong to one party".

The outright victory followed Mills' success in all 10 regions with a total of 2771 votes; leaving the former First Lady firmly behind in the race with a mere 90 votes.

Mills gave assurance in his victory speech that “certain issues and concerns raised by the rank and file of membership of the party during his campaign will be addressed.” He also told party members and delegates: “Let us leave here a united party. There should be no bickering, no name calling, no divisive tendencies.”

The general consensus among NDC members was that it wasn't the right time for the party to change “the Yutong driver,” and that Mills is the best candidate to represent the NDC in next year's election.

Sources: BBC News, MyJoy Online, Ghana Web

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

Yemen: Clashes continue in Ta'izz

In last month's issue of Yemen Focus we described the violence and chaotic conditions in Ta'izz – the killing of demonstrators and armed clashes between military units (some reports speak of organised groups of retired soldiers or defectors) and elements from the Republican Guard. At one stage, tribal militias were summoned by people in the city to provide protection to some neighbourhoods, presumably where there were tribal members.

Tribalism is not a major factor in Ta'izz and the intervention may have been quite limited. Reports suggest that the Mikhlaf tribe is the most involved. Its leader has been active in mediation efforts and has been protecting the young protesters, who have returned in small numbers to the main square.

There have been attempts at mediation by members of the well-known business family of Hayel bin Saeed and the local governor as well as the General People's Congress and Joint Meeting Parties. However, clashes have continued, albeit on a reduced scale and were still taking place in early July despite the announcement on 4th July of a new agreement to end the violence. Residents speak of daily chaos and the increasing difficulty of getting basis commodities. One source told Yemen Focus that he had to wait seven days in a queue for petrol.

There are reports of problems in Ibb and other towns in the Central District, but not on the scale of Ta'izz. Hodaida, which has seen its share of problems, has been quieter.

For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Algeria: More self-immolations

There were at least two or possibly three further attempts at self-immolation last weekend. One of them was a woman from Bechar who was following a man, her father, the previous week who has now reportedly died.

These latest two were in Souk Ahras where the man was excluded from social housing. The reasons for the second case, a woman in the El Tarf region (700 km east of Algiers) are not clear. She has 60 per cent burns and is in the Annaba Hospital.

On Friday 1st July, a 17 year-old youth tried to immolate himself in front of the police station at Theniet el Had in the Tissemsilt region (280 km SW of Algiers). Again, the media explanation was not very clear.

Since January, when attempts at self-immolation in Algeria began to become commonplace, El Watan has now recorded at least 60 attempts. That is an average of more than two a week. The number of fatalities is unknown.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Brazil: Inflation and growth

In an exclusive, long interview published in O Estado de São Paulo on 19th June, Central Bank president Alexandre Tombini, six months into the job, asserts that "it is possible to take back inflation from 6.55 per cent per annum to the target [4.5 per cent in 2012 and 2013] while the economy is growing."

This was the central issue opposing Henrique Meirelles and Guido Mantega in President Lula's second term. Tombini is now in effect aligning himself with the latter.

The Central Bank president said that the presi­dent's economic team carries out a consistent, comprehensive, and unified strategy, comprising credit, monetary policy, foreign investment, and fiscal adjustment. However, the minutes of the most recent Copom meeting indicate that the Central Bank is very cautious indeed about inflation, and willing to raise the Selic interest rate once again.

The official inflation target for 2011 and 2012 is 4.5 per cent of GDP, with a fluctuation of up to 2 per cent. In 2013, what will it be? Econo­mists are divided, and their estimates vary between 2 and 3 per cent.

Notwithstanding warnings from the Central Bank, and on the very same day that Copom warned the government against the expansion of credit, Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) received an injection of R$30 billion from the Treasury on 16th June.

So much for consistency in economic policy.

For more news and expert analysis about Brazil, please see Brazil Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Selection of President Jonathan's new government is ongoing

The process of nominating, screening and confirming the men and women who will make up President Goodluck Jonathan's new government and team of advisers is ongoing.

The president has sent six more names of ministerial nominees to the Senate for screening, bringing the tally of ministerial nominees – including those already confirmed and sworn in as ministers – to 40. He has also communicated to the House of Representatives that he will be appointing around 30 presidential advisers.

There is talk that a couple more names will be communicated to the Senate for screening as potential ministers.

Prominent among the names sent is that of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Managing Director of the World Bank, who arrived in Nigeria a few days ago to hammer out the terms of her return to government and to undergo the mandatory screening by the State Security Services (SSS).

On 6th July, the former finance minister appeared before the Senate for the final phase of the process. She sailed through, was confirmed by the Senate and is expected to be sworn in as a minister in the coming days.

All the indications are that Okonjo-Iweala will resume her previous role. She served as Minister of Finance under the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.

In a surprise move, the president has withdrawn the nomination of Tonye Cole, one of the founding members of the Sahara Energy Group, as the ministerial nominee for Rivers State. Cole, an architect by training whose father Ambassador Patrick Dele Cole was an adviser to Obasanjo, was tipped to be appointed to the Ministry of Works, either as the Minister or Minister of State (junior minister).

No explanation was given for the withdrawal of Cole's name but his nomination as the Rivers State nominee has been replaced with that of Ama Pepple, the former Head of Service at the Federal Civil Service.

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

Friday, 1 July 2011

Abuja sets curfew to discourage Boko Harm

Following recent attacks on government buildings by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram a curfew has been imposed on Nigeria's capital city of Abuja. Under the curfew all public venues such as bars, clubs and cinemas will be shut by 22:00 local time (21:00 GMT).

Speaking about the decision, Abuja's administration spokesman said: "These measures are necessitated by the need to ensure adequate security of lives and property in the federal capital territory [in light of] the prevailing security concerns."

Boko Haram's activates have become more frequent in the last couple of months; just two weeks ago eight people were killed when the group attacked police headquarters in Abuja. On Sunday 26th June, a bomb attack on a beer garden in Maiduguri killed 25 and later another 10 people when a car bomb exploded in the city centre.

The group voiced disapproval back in May about the way Nigeria is being run and staged attacks at President Goodluck Jonathan's inauguration ceremony. Boko Haram has also taken responsibility for several other explosions in Abuja, and other States. In a statement, about the police HQ attack, the group said: “We are responsible for the bomb attack on the police headquarters in Abuja which was to prove a point to all those who doubt our capability.”

Boko haram has killed dozens of people across the country but mainly in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, where the group is based.

Sources: BBC News, The African Report, Reuters

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

Algeria: Survey reveals Sonatrach disatisfaction

In May, Sonatrach PDG Nordine Cherouati ordered a survey of the social climate within Sonatrach which discovered a general malaise in some 20 industrial centres around the whole country. The 50-page document describes “anger” and “general discontent” which it said was more to do with “a long term bad situation” rather than any specific problem of the moment. It blamed the company's management for neglecting the “human factor” so that “kindness and consideration have given place to a tense and stressful environment”. The authors of the report described encounters with “people bullied and suffering from injustices who deplored the lack of any dynamism and momentum to unite their efforts and to stimulate them”.

Sonatrach workers are, of course, oppressed by the high cost of living combined with low salaries and uncertain bonuses and other benefits. Other grievances include poor working conditions, with a lack of spare parts and necessary tools. The health and safety regime is inadequate; protective equipment and safety standards are not in place. Much of this is blamed on centralised and outdated management and a tendering process which favours the very lowest offers.

Another structural inadequacy brought out by the report is the control which the Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens (UGTA) national trade union has over decisions and social life within the company, which it says has only “fosterered subjectivism and non-professionalism.”

The precise meaning of this criticism is hard to define. However, it appears to be related to the fact that the UGTA is less a channel for expression of genuine workers' demands as a mechanism to help management keep the workforce in check. Cherouati's survey has landed him with a list of demands. Workers want the system of remuneration introduced in 2008 to be scrapped, base salaries to be increased and bonuses and allowances to be reorganised. Other demands include reforms to promotion schemes, retirement allowances, healthcare and training.

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