Friday, 14 December 2012

King inaugurates new developments in eastern Morocco

On Saturday 1 December, Moroccan TV news reported on the royal visit to Nador, eastern Morocco's largest port city. The king visited the special tourist development zone at Mar Chica, the lagoon next to Nador and a new golf academy. The king opens tens of such projects every year – some are extremely significant while others are not. Many such inaugurations would be left to a minor royal or government official in another country. The king and his close entourage are, however, key decision makers so, during such a visit, much is happening backstage, while 'who-is-who' can be seen on TV news by watching who is presented to the king.

During the Nador visit the king looked unwell and walked with the aid of a crutch from his car to the official inauguration tent. Very quickly this appearance was the object of multiple commentaries in social media. The most reasonable explanation is that in the winter the king suffers when a badly treated leg injury of some years ago flares up. Palace sources made absolutely no comment. The last time the Royal Household made an announcement on the king's health was in 2009.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Egypt: Al-Aujali still not sworn-in as Foreign Minister

Prime Minister Ali Zidan's controversial choice for Foreign Minister, Ali Al-Aujali, may have been cleared by the Integrity Commission in late November, but he has yet to be sworn-in to office.

Unlike his counterparts - Agriculture Minister Ahmed Al-Urfi and Social Affairs Minister Kamla Al-Mazini - who were both cleared by the commission on the same day and who were both sworn-in this week, Al-Aujali has refused to take up his position. Although no official reason has been given for his refusal, the Al-Tadamu press agency reported that he had declared that he would only take part in the ceremony if it could be guaranteed that all members of the Congress would support him.

Given the strength of feeling against Al-Aujali, on account of his high profile diplomatic role during the Qadhafi years, such support was clearly not going to be forthcoming. Indeed, there continue to be many in Congress as well as outside of it, who object strongly to Al-Aujali's being given a cabinet position.

How this issue is to be resolved is still unclear. Meanwhile, Zidan has taken temporary charge of the Foreign Ministry.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Mauritania: Opposition boycotts independence celebrations

The COD boycotted the 52nd anniversary celebrations of Mauritania's independence from France on Wednesday 28 November, and instead protested against President Abdel Aziz's regime. The opposition group issued a statement saying they were "refus[ing] to take part in a ceremony attended by the president", whose resignation they have demanded in regular protests since 2011. The COD attempted to hold a parallel celebration but couldn't get authorisation.

The alternative 'independence anniversary celebration' planned by the COD for Wednesday 5 December was blocked by the security forces. Despite having obtained permission to hold a demonstration in Place Ibn Abbass, it was stopped by the police who blocked off the square prior to the arrival of the demonstrators. It is believed they feared the COD was planning a 'sit-in' although the latter claimed that their planned use of tents was merely to give shelter from the cold. The demonstrators withdrew peacefully.

Nevertheless, with the president again out of the country, the COD launched another attack on him, accusing him of “misrepresenting the facts” with regard to almost everything about his government.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

EU-ACP summit: big success for Suriname

By playing host to the EU-ACP summit Suriname has placed itself distinctly in the spotlight. “The country has won the European hearts,” Dutch press wrote. “We all had a completely wrong impression of this country,” said co-chair Louis Michel during the closing press conference. “The conference was very well-organised, and so is Surinamese society. The economy is growing, and the government puts a lot of efforts to achieve its goals. Our eyes are opened.”
According to him, the so-called 'Article 8 dialogue' is a proper means to discuss the poor bilateral relationship between the Netherlands and Suriname. In May, the Article 8 dialogue about the Amnesty Law ended in a fierce discussion between Europe and Suriname. (See Suriname Politics & Security – 04.06.12). On that occasion, the Surinamese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Lackin, said that he had felt “almost screwed” by the EU.
During the conference the atmosphere in Paramaribo was remarkably better than it was six months ago. “We should hold on to that. The Amnesty Law should not hinder a constructive discussion,” said Michel. “This was a historic conference,” mused one Surinamese journalist, “Should the Netherlands and Suriname start talks in a few years' time, then we can say that it has all started here.”
For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 10 December 2012

Algeria: Response of opposition parties

The opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) party issued a statement saying: “All of the observers noted the government's determination to promote criminality and incompetence through its lists, increasing the risks of national destabilisation.”

The leader of the now-banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), Abassi Madani, called from his base in Qatar for a “massive boycott” of the vote, “to expose the Algerian regime and its oppressive practices”. While many former FIS voters boycotted the elections as an irrelevant and illegitimate exercise, most local Algerian analysts have seen the results as showing further evidence (following the 10 May elections) of the collapse of the Islamist parties.

MSP leader Bouguerra Soltani was disappointed and questioned the results saying: “The climate surrounding the elections and the various irregularities which occurred at every stage … damaged the sincerity and credibility of the results and destroyed their legitimacy.”

Local commentators put the continuing slump suffered by the Islamists down to the fact that the authorities allowed many new parties to be created as part of political reforms with the result that the Islamist vote fragmented. Mouloudi Mohamed, an analyst on Islamic issues, said, “The increased number of parties with an Islamist orientation has weakened their share on the political scene.”

There are also indications that a lot of Islamists have joined the newly-created moderate Islamist TAJ party led by Amar Ghoul, former senior member of the Green Algeria Alliance. As Ghoul is serving as the Minister of Public Works, he did not take part in the elections.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Libya: Government still incomplete

Ali Zidan is still struggling to get his government up to full capacity. There is no indication yet that he has found replacements for those ministers who were ruled unfit for office by the Integrity Commission. The new premier may well be waiting for the appeals process to end before making any moves in this direction but this could take some time.
Zidan has also yet to nominate anyone to take over the post of Minister for Martyrs and the Missing. His first nominee, Sami Saeidi, resigned earlier in the month on the grounds that the government contained too many members with links to the former regime. This is an important portfolio for the Libyans, and the ongoing absence of a minister is likely to aggravate the frustration already felt by the thousands of families at the state's slowness in offering them proper compensation.
The Integrity Commission also still has to issue its ruling on Abdulsalam Mohammed Abusaad, Zidan's nominee for Awqaf Minister. Last week, the Commission complained that it still had not received Abusaad's file.
The longer the process of forming a government drags on, the more difficult it becomes for the Prime Minister to convince the Libyans that he has a credible cabinet that has what it takes to take charge and to change things on the ground. The government is rapidly coming to resemble a body that is being pushed around by the stronger forces that surround it, from the Integrity Commission, to the revolutionaries, to the General National Congress (GNC).
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 30 November 2012

Attack on Abuja headquarters of police's anti-robbery squad

Less than 24 hours after the twin suicide bombing there was another deadly attack on a second security installation. In the early hours of Monday 26 November, gunmen attacked the headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force's Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in the Garki district of Abuja, where suspected terrorists are thought to be held. Initial reports claimed that the gunmen released about 30 detainees in the attack which left two policemen dead. The Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, reported that 25 detainees had been recaptured and that five were still at large. Two of the gunmen were killed in the ensuing shootout and that the police had now identified the gunmen.

Mba denied reports that terrorists were held in the SARS detention facility as only suspected armed robbers were detained there. Sources have revealed, however, that the deeply embarrassed Nigerian Police Force (NPF) is desperately trying to downplay the number of escapees because it is claimed that over 100 detainees escaped.

One of the escaped detainees is alleged to be the wife of Kabiru Sokoto, said to be the mastermind of the fatal Christmas Day 2011 bomb attack on a church at Madalla in Niger State. In January, he escaped from police custody at Abaji on the outskirts of Abuja before he was eventually re-arrested in February.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Al-Obeidat pressurise Muslim Brotherhood

The July 2011 assassination of security chief Abdel Fatah Younis Al-Obeidi, believed to have been killed by an Islamist brigade with some kind of tacit agreement from some parts of the transitional ruling authorities, continues to preoccupy his tribe. Elders of the powerful Al-Obeidat tribe held a meeting in Derna this week with senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Justice and Construction Party (JCP) to demand that the Islamist movement provide its own explanation into Younis’ death.

Specifically, the tribal elders wanted to know what the Brotherhood would do if two of those accused of the assassination - Salim Al-Sheiki and Fawzi Abu Ketif who are both strongly connected to the movement - are found guilty.

The seriousness of the matter was demonstrated by the fact that among those present from the Brotherhood were the movement’s General Guide Beshir Al-Kebti and the JCP’s head Mohamed Sawan. It is, therefore, clear that if the two individuals in question are proved guilty by the courts, the Al-Obeidat are not going to let the Brotherhood off the hook.

Meanwhile, a small group of protesters from Tobruk succeeded in closing down one of the city’s refineries on 22 November when they staged a protest demanding to know the truth about Younis’ murder. The protesters, mostly comprising members of his extended family, insisted that the head of the refinery refuse to accept any cargo until the government had met their demands.


Rawlings has finally abandoned her fight to contest the presidential election

Former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings has finally abandoned her fight to contest the presidential election.

She says that instead that she will put her energy into ensuring that the newly formed NDP, of which she was elected leader in October, wins as many parliamentary seats as possible.

She told the Daily Graphic newspaper in an interview that, although she was confident of winning her court case against the Electoral Commission (EC) - which last month disqualified her from the presidential race on the grounds that her nomination papers had not been completed correctly before the deadline - it was clear that she could not be included in the electoral process this time around.

She stressed, however, that the NDP's parliamentary candidates were still campaigning under the vision of the NDP's manifesto which, she said, seeks to ensure that corruption is a thing of the past, and to elevate the position of women and children in Ghanaian society.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Mauritania: AQIM reinforcements coming from Algeria

Timbuktu is now even more firmly in the control of the Islamists (mostly AQIM), as well as the entire region surrounding the town. Most of the Islamists' reinforcements have come from Algeria. Agence France Press (AFP), quoting Mali security sources, reported several dozen 'white-skinned' Algerians (i.e. Arabs) arriving in Timbuktu on the weekend of 24-25 November. Our own field contacts who gained access to AQIM camps confirmed that dozens had crossed over from Algeria and that French was being spoken, suggesting that some of them may have come from France (see below). As the Algerian border is heavily guarded and officially 'closed', this suggests that Algeria is lying to the outside world about its border security and/or sending its own Islamists to support AQIM.

Both are true. Algeria's DRS has been controlling the leadership and supporting AQIM since it was established in the Sahara-Sahel after the end of 2006. The AQIM leader, Abdelhamid Abou Zaid, is currently in command of the Islamist forces around Timbuktu. He is accompanied by Iyad ag Ghaly, leader of Ansar al-Din. Both men have long been associated with Algeria's DRS.

Although we have always known about the DRS links with and support for AQIM and Ansar al-Din, we did not know the strength of this support until we were able to access the camps and reconnoitre the Timbuktu region this week. This alters the military configuration of the whole region.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Suriname: Staatsolie testing E15 ethanol fuel for vehicles

Staatsolie will test 20 cars in December that will run on a mixture of ethanol and gasoline. The test programme will last five months and will be carried out by the Anton de Kom University. In the long run, the company is planning to introduce Suriname to green, environmentally-friendly and relatively more-sustainable fuel.

The 20 test cars are currently running on normal unleaded gasoline in order to gather the basic information of each vehicle. Starting in December, they will run solely on the E15 bio fuel for a period of four months, during which the effect of E15 on engine performance, fuel consumption and exhaust gases will be carefully logged. The E15 bio fuel is a mixture of 15% by volume ethanol and 85% by volume unleaded gasoline. This is a proven method - not least in neighbouring Brazil where most new cars run on so-called flex-fuel - that reduces costs and has a beneficial impact on the environment. The ethanol is produced from sugar cane, which grows very easily in Suriname, and decreases carbon monoxide emissions.

Staatsolie is currently researching the feasibility of producing ethanol from sugar cane at Wageningen in the Nickerie district in western Suriname. By the end of 2014, the company's new refinery will produce gasoline and it will most probably mix this with ethanol. By then, E15 should be readily available at the pumps throughout the country.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 26 November 2012

Nigeria: Angry protests in Bakassi

With the closure of Nigeria's window of opportunity to appeal the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) decision granting sovereignty of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, increasing tensions in the region have forced the UN team which is demarcating the maritime boundary to suspend their activities.

On 21 November, local people, angry about Abuja's failure to appeal the ICJ ruling, demonstrated in front of the building in Ikang where members of the demarcation team were meeting local officials. The crowd, composed mainly of youths holding placards condemning the UN's 'contempt' for self-determination of the Bakassi people, prevented the demarcation team from moving to the peninsula.

Their leader, Augustine Omini Iwara, said that it was surprising the demarcation was being undertaken despite the fact that local people had filed a case affirming their right to self-determination.

The crowd was already angered by the presence of three ships carrying Cameroonian gendarmes on to the beaches at Ikang. The ships were reportedly connected with the demarcation process but provoked a confrontation with around 300 local youths. The demarcation committee is now consulting with the Federal Government about its next step.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Nigeria: Army kills top Boko Haram commander

The Nigerian military has announced that it has killed a top Boko Haram commander in a gunfight in Maiduguri. According to spokesman Sagir Musa, a militant leader by the name of Ibn Saleh Ibrahim was killed alongside several other fighters in a military operation involving helicopters and armoured personnel carriers on 16 November. There were no military casualties.

Ibrahim was reportedly responsible for the assassination of Gen. Mamman Shuwa, a hero of the civil war who was gunned down at his house in Maiduguri on 2 November (Nigeria P&S – 09.11.12). The military operation against Ibrahim's Boko Haram fighters was reportedly continuing.

Meanwhile, the US government has expressed its concern over the alleged detentions, mistreatment and killings of Boko Haram suspects by the security forces. A senior State Department official expressed concern over the allegations, contained in a major Human Rights Watch report in October, in a meeting with Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru.

Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Michael Posner, said that terrorism was a serious and complex challenge but that the struggle against Boko Haram could not be won by force alone.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 19 November 2012

Algeria warns against intervention

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's security advisor, Kalel Rezzag Bara, speaking on local national radio on 10 November, warned that military intervention in Mali was currently a useless step as it would only worsen the situation. He said that a peaceful settlement of the Malian crisis was still possible and that “It's necessary to reach an acceptable agreement to avoid the spill over of the Malian conflict into neighbouring nations."

Bara also said that the international community should distinguish between Tuareg rebels, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), who carry political claims and terror groups belonging to al-Qa'ida organisation and drug trafficking gangs. Interestingly, as part of Algeria's attempt to muddy the waters Bara included the Islamist groups Ansar al-Din alongside the MNLA when the former is in fact largely a creation of the DRS. Its leader, Iyad ag Ghaly has been a close associated of the DRS since the 1980s and is even spoken of in some quarters as “Algeria's man in Mali”.

Ansar al-Din, created in December 2011, is playing the lead role amongst the Islamists. The key question is whether Algeria still has effective control over it and whether the international community will believe its recent more conciliatory remarks. Kamel Bara is doing his bit in trying to get the international community to see Ansar al-Din as more allied to the Tuareg rebels than AQIM which has not been the case. Ansar al-Din's more conciliatory moves are part of Algeria's desperate moves to achieve a peaceful settlement and so prevent military intervention.

We should add that Ansar al-Din - along with AQIM and the DRS – heads the list in the International Criminal Court's (ICC) preliminary investigations into war crimes in northern Mali.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 16 November 2012

IMF evaluates Cameroon's economy

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation met top government officials on Monday 12 November to review the country's economic evolution. Led by its mission head, Mario de Zamaroczy, the delegation comes six months after the last visit during which the IMF made various propositions: asking Cameroon to adjust some aspects of its economic policies to ensure growth. The members met Minister of Finance Alamine Ousmane Mey and Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Planning Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi.
During the next two weeks, the IMF will examine the execution of Cameroon's 2012 state budget for the period January to October. It will also examine the prospects of the country's 2013 budget, the balance of payments, the banking and financial sectors, the state of the economy and what the government has done to improve on it.
After his meeting with the ministers, Zamaroczy told reporters: “The cluster of propositions we made during our last visit to the government was aimed at seeing how the government was progressing with economic growth, pare down the financial sector, increase returns and better manage spending.” According to Ousamane Mey, the economy “is on a good footing”, growth was above 5% and inflation has stabilised at below 3%.
For more news and expert analysis about Cameroon, please see Cameroon Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mauritania: What did happen to the President?

Mystery still surrounds what really did happen to the President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz when he was shot on the evening of 13 October while returning to Nouakchott after spending the weekend out of town.
The government's claim that it was an accident lacked credibility, not only because of its absurdity, but because the government versions were so varied and contradictory. In Mauritania Politics & Security – 30.10.12 we did, however, say that we were increasingly more inclined towards the 'accident' version, and we are now even more certain that this is true. The President was almost certainly shot by a military checkpoint guard or guards taken unawares by his passing.

Within hours of the incident, there were rumours that the President was having an affair and had been out of town for the weekend with a mistress. This version of events has been gathering pace, at least among those with knowledge of the President's private life and with access to what took place at and immediately after the accident. This explains why the Present was travelling ahead of his security detail and possibly why he was driving at such high speed.

We have also received information that other people travelling with him in his vehicle were killed in the shooting. Their identities have not been revealed. It is, however, strongly rumoured that one of those killed may have been his mistress. This would explain the early reports, subsequently denied, of bodies being taken to Nouakchott hospital. We have been told that at least two people may have been killed.

With the President's immediate circle trying to prevent leaks of such a scandal, it is hardly surprising that the official spokespersons kept tripping over themselves with one bizarre version of the accident after another. So, although the details of the story may have been pulled from a number of hats, it appears increasingly as if the fundamental substance of the 'accident' story may have been true.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Long-lasting Euro crisis harmful to Surinamese economy

In a reaction to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel's statement that the current Eurozone economic crisis will continue for five more years, the tax lawyer, Robby Makka, has said that if it does so, it will harm the Surinamese economy. He expects that a prolonged crisis will lead to a decline in tourism, fewer investors and a decrease in money repatriated from the Netherlands to relatives in Suriname.
Makka hopes that the new Dutch government, sworn in by the Queen on Monday 5 November, would give a more positive perspective about the economy. Unfortunately, on the day after Prime Minister Mark Rutte's second government took office, it immediately became clear that prolonged cutbacks and a decline in purchasing power are being considered in the Netherlands.
Many Surinamese relatives in Holland transfer foreign currency every month to their family in Suriname, or ship boxes with relief supplies back home. However, unlike the shrinking or stagnating European economies, Suriname's resource-based economy is growing; there is a growing tendency among expatriate Surinamese to re-emigrate to their motherland to try their luck there.
For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 12 November 2012

Algeria: Local elections campaign under way

Campaigning for the 29 November local elections got under way last Sunday (4 November).

Fifty-two political parties and independent candidates will contest the 1,541-seat Municipal Assemblies (APC) and the 48-seat Provincial Assemblies (APW). Campaigning will end three days before polling day, in accordance with the electoral laws.

According to Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, the government will mobilise “all necessary means” to make these elections a success.

A total of 109,177 lists of candidates for the APCs and 615 for the APWs have been filed, while 48,000 polling stations have been set up. According to official government sources, 20,673,818 people have been registered to vote, with 520,128 newly-registered voters.

On the previous Friday, the National Commission for Monitoring Local Elections (CNSEL) dispatched its staff to supervise the installation of local committees across the country's 48 wilayas. The CNSEL is composed of one representative from each of the 52 registered parties and one from the independent lists.

Public enthusiasm for the elections currently appears to be at an all-time low, which is saying something for Algeria, and the initial signs are that the elections could be largely ignored.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 9 November 2012

Catholic Cardinal wants Biya to resign and foresees social implosion in Cameroon

Cameroon's chief Catholic prelate, Archbishop Emeritus of the Douala archdiocese, Cardinal Christian Tumi expressed concern about Biya's continuing stay in power after 30 years and declared in the last week of October that social implosion was imminent in Cameroon because of the deplorable conditions under which most of the country's 20 million inhabitants live.

“Before the [October 2011 presidential] elections, I said I had told somebody [Biya], that if I were Paul Biya, I would resign, because for more than 30 years in power and at the age of 80, I would love to see a change. I don't see any change happening in Cameroon by 2035, the year the government claims will see the country transformed into an emerging economy,” the fearless and ascetically-critical Tumi, who originates from the English-speaking North-West Region told the authoritative bi-weekly “The Post” newspaper in an exclusive interview on 19 October.

“But for Cameroon, I don't know whether the people have the freedom or the power to change their leaders. They should have the freedom to choose their leaders. Since independence, I have never seen any transparent elections in Cameroon, even when we had that one party system,” Cardinal Christian Tumi said, forecasting that the country was heading towards social implosion. “Maybe we are sitting on gun powder that might explode one day. Imagine the case where someone is sick and there is no way the person can have himself treated because there is no means, while there are others riding in very luxurious cars, which is seen to have come from doubtful origin,” Tumi questioned.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 5 November 2012

Nigeria: North–South Petroleum farm-out

North–South Petroleum, the owner of oil prospectinglicence (OPL) 326, is looking to farm out a 30 per cent stake in the block. Meanwhile, a behind-the-scenes drama over the management of the company has been revealed. The chair used to be Senator Abu Ibrahim and the company was managed by one Geoffrey C. Oherne as managing director. Oherne who is trained as a lawyer and is a close friend of former Rivers State governor Peter Odili , seems to have had a serious falling-out with the suspected 'closet' owners of the company, one of whom has been named as former head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar .

The breach is said to have occurred about nine months ago. As part of the episode, Oherne was apparently arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and turned for help to his contacts in the presidency but was told there was nothing they could do. He then attempted to reach out to Minister for Petroleum Resources Diezani Allison-Madueke , who in turn contacted EFCC chair Ibrahim Lamorde on his behalf. Lamorde informed them, however, that he could to nothing to assist Oherne in his predicament as the order for his arrest had 'come from above.'

The company is now said to be run by Chris Okoli , and Abubakar may have sold his stake in OPL 326 for $50 million to Okoli and two others – Bello Isa Bayero and an unnamed Odugua – after kicking Oherne out. Industry sources have revealed that OPL 326 has very low prospects.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Iraq: Tribes muscle in

Some of the difficulties that confront companies operating in Iraq's energy sector came to light this month when the head of UAE drilling company Piling Tech revealed to the Al-Alam newspaper some of the challenges his company faces in going about its work. The head of the company, which is contracted by Russian firm Lukoil, explained how he was under sustained pressure from tribal elements in the south that regularly demand payments and other favours.

According to the Piling Tech head, his company had been forced to pay ID50 million to the heads of tribes in the area where the company operates before it had even started work. Such demands are reportedly commonplace. However, this was not the end of it. These tribes began coming back demanding more money while other tribes started allying themselves with the local tribes, enabling them to insist that the land the company is drilling belongs to them and they should also be paid. The Piling Tech head described these tribes as acting like “organised mercenaries”.

In addition, the tribes are forcing these international companies to take on their members and to provide them with jobs. As the head of the drilling company explained, “We were forced to take on unskilled workers from the tribes and to give them jobs that they don't understand.”

One of the main problems is that these tribes appear to be working in conjunction with, or at least with the blessing of, the security protection teams set up to provide security at the oil sites. According to the Piling Tech boss, “The police in charge of the protection gave the green light to the tribes to take money from the companies. When they [the tribes] come to us they feel strong and have no fear of the security protection teams.”

He also revealed that some of his engineers and other employees had felt so threatened by the behaviour of some tribes that they had quit their posts and left the country.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Mauritania: The latest news on the president, as at 29 October

President Abdel Aziz was discharged from hospital in Paris on October 24. Differing reports had him staying in a hotel near an airport or at the Mauritania Embassy. The same reports said he was returning to Mauritania on Sunday 28 October.

The latest news, sourced to Mohamed Ould El Kory, director of ANAIR ( Agence Nation d'Appui et d'Insertion des Réfugiés) and co-ordinator of the ruling UPR's Political Commission, is that the president, since leaving the Percy Hospital (Paris) at 16:00 pm on 24 October, is now convalescing in Nice.

Even though his state of health is reportedly very good, Ould El Kory said that the president's doctors had recommended two weeks of rest. According to Ould El Kory, the president was “on top of things”, as evidenced by his appointment on 27 October of a Mauritanian Ambassador to Iraq and his assurance that he will preside over the next cabinet meeting (Council of Ministers) currently scheduled for 8 November.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Suriname - VHP: “Spend mining industry profits on agricultural development”

Suriname's biggest opposition party, the Progressive Reform Party (VHP), would like to see profits from the mining industry used to set up a development fund for agriculture to develop and modernise the sector.

According to chairman of the Agricultural Council of the VHP, Dayanand Dwarka, the agricultural sector in Suriname has stagnated during the past decades and urgently needs to be modernised. Dwarka says that successive governments have done nothing to implement technological developments in agricuture. “The governments rather focus on the big bucks that come from the mining industry in Suriname, but they do not factor in that one day oil and bauxite will be exhausted.”

According to Dwarka, Suriname is going downhill, despite large worldwide technological developments in agriculture. “It is a tough job and prices are high. Farmers advise their children not to aspire to a career in agriculture. Young people see no achievements in their parents' agricultural enterprises and they rather invest in knowledge, skills and capital in other sectors.”

Dwarka predicts that in the long term this situation will become critical. “International organisations predict serious food shortages. Suriname has vast areas where large-scale agriculture can be practised. But if we continue at this level, by then all the knowledge, experience and capital will be lost.” He states that it is essential for Suriname to invest in these sectors now, “…so that we can extend our knowledge, experience and capital”.

Analysis: Mr Dwarka's observations are correct, but at the same time, remarkable, as during the past decades the VHP has more than once staffed the Ministry of Agriculture. This ministry was also held by top leaders of the party during the last few cabinets in which the VHP co-governed. Agriculture in Suriname is mainly in the hands of the VHP supporters: the Hindustani community. President Dési Bouterse's government has on a number of occasions expressed the intention to make Suriname the 'food supplier' of the Caribbean region. No real steps in that direction, however, have so far been taken. It appears that with regard to this topical item, the VHP wants to outstrip the current government. At the same time their intention is to guarantee the Hindustani electorate's loyalty to their party, because Bouterse's government is also looking for these votes.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Libya: Khamis Qadhafi killed and Moussa Ibrahim captured

The death of Khamis Qadhafi, who became the former Leader's most hated son after having led the notorious Brigade 32, has been confirmed after a long period of supposition and rumour of his whereabouts. He was located in Bani Walid on 20 October and was transferred to Misrata hospital but declared dead on arrival and DNA tests are now being carried out to prove his identity. Khamis was chiefly concerned with the military establishment and held an important position in state security. There is considerable speculation concerning the treatment he received between his arrest and his arrival in Misrata.
Moussa Ibrahim, who was Colonel Qadhafi infamous minister of information during the revolution, is also reported to have been captured at a checkpoint near Bani Walid on 20 October and to have been transferred to Tripoli. His name is amongst thirty or so Qadhafi loyalists, including Abdurrahman Al-Sid and Muftah Kayiba, rumoured to have been taking sanctuary in Bani Walid. There are, however, many such rumours.
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Caspian: Socar issues formal invitations for Tanap

Socar has formally invited a handful of IOCs to take part in the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (Tanap), apparently shutting out others (both public and private) that had expressed an interest in joining the project. As previously expected, BP, Statoil and Total were all invited to take some of Socar's 80% stake in the project. (Turkey's state-owned energy companies hold the remaining 20%.) Socar has offered 29% of its stake, ensuring that it retains a majority.

The formal invitation on 8 October suggests that other potential entrants – notably Hungary's OMV and Ukraine – have been kept out of the project, at least for now. In late September Turkey's economy minister Zafer Çaglayan said that OMV “has demanded [an opportunity] to join the Tanap project.” Çaglayan suggested that the company was willing to provide an eye-opening €5.4 billion to Tanap. Although Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz subsequently welcomed OMV's participation, Baku is the one to make the final decision and it shows no sign of wanting to dilute its stake any further.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych had affirmed his interest in Tanap as recently as last month, in a meeting with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 14 September. Despite Yanukovych's request, he appears to have been rebuffed. At the time of writing, none of the three companies had responded to Socar's offer but BP, at any rate, is widely considered to be interested.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 22 October 2012

French foreign minister visits Algiers

France's Foreign Minister Manuel Valls arrived in Algiers on Saturday 13 October on a two-day visit. He was met at Algiers?s Houari Boumédienne Airport by counterpart Daho Ould Kablia. During his stay he met with several of Algeria's senior ministers, including Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci and Minister of Religious Affairs Bouabdellah Ghlamallah. Valls' visit came before President Hollande's admission of the October 1961 massacre of Algerians and there have been no indications as to whether he gave the Algiers regime any indication of what Hollande mwas to say.

Virtually nothing has been divulged about the purpose of the visit or the content of the talks held, other than platitudinous remarks in press in which Valls hailed the “excellent” cooperation between Algeria and France in anti-terrorism and what he described as the “flawless” commitment of the Algerian authorities in that regard.

It is widely believed that the main purpose of his visit was to discuss the Mali situation. Although Valls stressed his agreement with Algeria on the importance of Mali?s territorial unity and the danger of terrorism in that country, France and Algeria are fundamentally at odds over how to resolve the crisis. While France is at the forefront in pushing for international military intervention and is offering military logistical support for such an intervention, Algeria is strongly opposed to any such intervention, arguing instead for a political situation. Valls said, on his departure on Monday 15 October, that France supported “all political processes that would allow Mali to preserve its territorial integrity.”

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Libya: Economy and Business News

The Libyan Investment Authority is struggling to recover the remainder of its assets frozen during the revolution. The outstanding amount is calculated at between US$50-60 billion. About US$1.39 billion of this is in Italy and a slightly larger amount is locked in investments made four or five years ago.

A very positive note has been struck by the recent release of tenders for the refurbishment and development of two tourist hotels – one in Benghazi and one in Misurata.

The National Mixed Thoroughbred Horse Auction on 13 October, held at the Al Shaab Stud also indicated that “things are moving” and that a measure of normality in day-to-day living is possible. This event in Tajoura attracted bidders from across the globe. Prices have been higher in the past, but Libyan racehorses and this auction continue to be internationally recognised.

Tobruk airport is looking to gain a licence for international flights. The airport director Mohamed Manfour is very positive as, with approval, transport of haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia would be possible.

This year Saudi Arabia has agreed to increase the number of Libyans permitted to attend the celebrations which take place between 24-29 October and many Libyan pilgrims have already flown to Jedda from other airports.

A three-day exhibition, Technology of Oil and Gas, is currently running in Tripoli with the support of NOC. It aims to attract new ventures and foreign capital back to Libya. See more information on NOC in sections below.

A small group of Libyan officials – from the Ministries of Economics, Defence, Labour and Foreign Affairs - are currently on a five-day training course in Warsaw. The Polish School of Public Administration is providing lectures and workshops suitable for administering “a country in transition”.

Training is also being provided for 160 officers in the armed forces by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The programme aims to draw attention to the legal responsibilities under humanitarian law and their application to both armed conflict and the treatment of prisoners. Those trained will pass on the information provided.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Ghana: Vice president candidate confirmed

The Convention People's Party (CPP) has confirmed the Dwantoahemaa (Queen Mother) of the Dormaa Traditional Council in the Brong Ahafo Region, Nana Akosua Frimpomaa Sarpong II, as its vice presidential candidate.

CPP general secretary, Ivor Greenstreet, told reporters in Accra late on 11 October, “She is highly educated, very knowledgeable and has great experience in her area of expertise.” He described Sarpong, who is the founder of NGO Caring Kids International, as “somebody who has been involved with children or the youth and NGO activities, very articulate, very dynamic”.

Sarpong has resigned from the position of Queen Mother in order to comply with Ghanas constitution which prevents traditional leaders from actively participating in politics. Political commentators have questioned whether the CPP, the party founded by Ghana?s first president Kwame Nkrumah, will be able to mount a serious challenge to either the ruling NDC or the NPP in December. It has, in recent years, struggled to make a significant dent in the polls.

Greenstreet told reporters, “We believe Ghanaians have seen the works of the NDC and the NPP and they've been waiting for the Convention People's Party to demonstrate seriousness, and we believe that with this particular appointment, it would be something that will make a significant impact throughout the electoral process.”

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 15 October 2012

Suriname: IMF criticises subsidies to state-owned companies

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has criticised the way in which Suriname provides subsidies to a few large state-owned companies. In its recently published Country Report the Suriname Energy Company (EBS) is explicitly named and it described as having a "complicated issue of criss-crossing subsidies and mounting unpaid debts?. Meanwhile the EBS owes the government US$47 million for the electricity bill from the Afobaka Hydropower plant. It also does not pay for the diesel it receives from Staatsolie for the Wärtsilää generators at the Paramaribo power plant.
The IMF estimates that a total of US$84 million in subsidies was therefore provided to EBS in 2011. It states, however, that these financial constructions are not harmful to the Surinamese economy but do disguise the level of state subsidies to the public sector.
Analysis : It is obvious that Suriname still has problems operating in a business-like and transparent manner when it comes to the government supporting state companies. Besides the EBS the telecommunication company Telesur and Surinam Airways (SLM) also both receive indirect support from the government.
The lack of transparency gives a biased view of the flow of money and, in addition to that, it disguises information about investment constructions. For example, as noted in previous editions of Suriname Politics & Security, contracts for the power station which is run by Staatsolie were not put out to tender. The generators supplied by the Finnish company Wärtsilää were instead supplied by the businessman Dillip Sardjoe who is a confidant of the president and, at the same time, the Honorary Consul of Finland.
The IMF, does not, however, report on low prices that Suriname ?s population pays for energy. Electricity is fairly cheap which makes it difficult for campaigns on energy savings to be effective. Large-scale government investments in wind and solar energy have failed to get off the ground despite Suriname being in the position of being able to fully provide its own energy needs according to energy experts. If, for example, all of Suriname ?s cars ran on electricity the country would be able to generate energy for its entire fleet and still have sufficient energy to export to its neighbours.
For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Libya: Back to the drawing board as GNC reject Mustafa Abushagur

The past week has seen further setbacks for post-revolution Libya with continuing security problems throughout the country plus a political dispute which will inevitably delay the formation of a new and legitimate government by at least a month.
Prime Minister elect, Mustafa Abushagur, was dismissed from his post on 7 October following an overwhelming vote of no confidence by the General National Congress (GNC). There were 125 members who voted against him retaining his position, while only 44 voted for him and a further 17 abstained. His dismissal came despite his energetic attempts to sustain his proposals for a new cabinet. Comment & Analysis provides further details and the chronology of the events of the past week.
France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius immediately called off his planned visit to Tripoli on 6 October when it became apparent that there was no legitimate government to talk to; his visit will now be rescheduled for a later date.
The GNC, recognising the need for a swift resolution to the political crisis and to choose a consensus candidate, agreed to a proposal for three new candidates to be nominated on 10 October. The three will be selected from a list of individuals made up of two representatives from each of Congress' main political blocs - the National Forces Alliance (39 representatives); Justice & Construction Party (17); National Agreement group (26); the Workers group (13); and the National Independent group (35) - plus a few genuine independents. The winner, who will certainly have to be a compromise candidate and will not include any of the main politicians who took part in the 12 September election, will need to win 101 of the 200 votes to become the next prime minister elect.
The GNC vote could not have come at a worse time because Libya desperately needs political stability and a strong government which can deal with the current security crisis. There is a very real danger that if the GNC continues for much longer to be unable to elect a prime minister, and then approve his choice of ministers, foreign companies may soon give up on the country and go elsewhere.
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Yemen: Anti-corruption moves

Some of the Yemeni organisations that look at corruption and malpractice make stinging criticisms of parts of the administration. One such in September exposed corruption in the handling of goods at ports, claiming the state lost about 90% of the revenues.

The Supreme National Anti-Corruption Commission wants the prime minister to consider – and thus cancel – some power generation projects. Another organisation has questioned the prices the government is paying for privately generated electricity. This is an awkward one, given the dire and immediate need for more power generation and the current interest being shown by private sector businessmen in proposals to deal with it – mostly on a provincial level. The real need is to make the whole process more transparent so that the public have confidence that the practices of the Saleh era do not carry over into the Hadi presidency.

The anti-corruption body is also reviewing agreements signed between the government and foreign oil companies. There appears to be no specific target in mind but there has been strong criticism within Yemen over the low price received from a South Korean company for gas taken on a long term contracts – a price which is now well below international gas prices. There are also mumblings about details of the Yemeni LNG agreement.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 5 October 2012

President is criticised for his Independence Day speech

Nigeria “celebrated” the 52 nd Independence Day anniversary on 1 October. For the second consecutive year, the celebrations were low-key across the country and even more so in Abuja. President Goodluck Jonathan has received widespread criticism for his 18-minute Independence Day broadcast which has been described as lacklustre, inaccurate and defeatist.

His declaration of the commencement of a year-long national prayer campaign has been slated because, as far as most Nigerians are concerned, it could be construed to mean that the presidency had run out of ideas and was literally “living on a prayer” in charting the affairs of the country and in resolving the myriad problems of insecurity, corruption and lack of infrastructure provision that continue to impact negatively on Nigeria's economic development.

Attempting to highlight his administration's achievements in the fight against corruption Jonathan erroneously stated that Transparency International (TI) had scored his administration high and Nigeria as “improving”. This was almost immediately refuted by TI which said: “Transparency International does not have a recent rating or report that places Nigeria as the second most improved country in the fight against corruption.”

Meanwhile, sources have revealed that the president is unhappy with the remarks made by Senate president, David Mark, during the special Independence Day session of the Senate held on Tuesday 2 October.

Remarking on the state of the nation at 52, Mark said: “We have made some considerable achievements. For that alone, we need to show gratitude to God, pray and work. Not just pray alone. Praying alone will not solve the problem and we need to combine both of them. I think more than anything else, we just need political will to take our policies to logical conclusions whether it is at the executive level or the legislative level.”

Some observers believe that Mark's reference to prayer being insufficient was a veiled response to the President's call for a year-long national prayer campaign. According to sources, Jonathan reached the same conclusion, and is therefore unhappy with Senator David Mark. Jonathan apparently felt that Mark's statement constituted a betrayal because he had always considered Mark to be one of his administration's firm allies.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Sahara: Libyan spy chief tricky for Algeria

The return of Muammar Qadhafi's muchwanted spy chief Abdullah Al-Senussi from Mauritania to Libya on 8 September is likely to prove acutely embarrassing for Algeria. Senussi was handed over to Libyan authorities for a reported price of €1 billion.

Senussi is apparently telling his Libyan captors a great deal about the form of assistance that Algeria gave to the Qadhafi regime during the Libyan rebellion last year. According to sources, Senussi has been revealing much about the financial and other conditions under which many members of the Qadhafi family were given sanctuary in Algeria last year.

If Senussi continues to cooperate with his Libyan interrogators in the same as he appears to have begun, Algeria could have some very tricky questions to explain away.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Cameroon: Military surveillance increased around oil-rich basins

Military officials in the South-West Region have told Cameroon Politics & Security that newly-graduated recruits will be used in the fight against the growing national insecurity and especially possible terrorists on the country's Atlantic coast.

The new security structure at Kribi commenced on 19 September and is reportedly equipped with cutting-edge surveillance technology and other military communications gear. It is aimed at reinforcing security around the Douala/Campo Kribi oil basin, as well as in the adjacent Rio del Rey basin in South-West Cameroon. The latter is particularly sensitive because of its proximity to the disputed Bakassi peninsula.

Cameroon hopes that new oil exploitation at the end of 2012 and the start of 2013 will increase its daily oil production from around 63,000 b/d to 100,000 b/d with the new output from Rio del Rey.

The state-run National Hydrocarbons Corporation invested over CFA17 billion in November 2011 for the construction of an ultra-modern building on the shores of Rio del Rey to contain piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Cameroon Politics & Security' s military sources have told us that the BIR's expansion to other parts of the coastal waters is to ensure that the troublemakers do not disguise themselves among the locals in order to cause any form of insecurity or jeopardise peace in the areas.

The Kribi BIR's key mission is to protect the gigantic Kribi seaport, ensure the security of the Kribi Gas plant which is under construction along with other investments, as well as the 216MW thermal electricity power station being built by AES-Sonel.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Nigeria: Domestic aviation almost extinct

In recent years, the performance and growth of Nigeria's domestic aviation sector has been at best just below average, with most airlines struggling to maintain profits and operating under enormous mountains of debt. On the periphery, however, observers assumed the airlines were making passable profits and doing quite well.
For most Nigerians, the major concern has been the question of aircraft safety and whether the regulatory authorities were doing enough to ensure it. About 90 per cent of air accidents that occur in Nigeria are completely fatal. They have so far involved only domestic airline operators and a couple of aircraft belonging to security agencies, the police, and the military.
What was not known was that domestic airlines were hugely indebted to the financial sector. The bubble burst and the secret financial rot came out in the open in 2009, when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) conducted a joint audit of the banking sector and found mammoth margin loans and nonperforming loans on the books.
It was found that some of the prominent debtors were domestic airlines. This spurred the CBN to offer a bailout fund in the hope that the aviation sector would not collapse and plunge the economy into chaos.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 1 October 2012

Suriname wants co-operation with Ecuador's petroleum sector

Guna Castelen, who is the leader of the Surinaamse Partij van de Arbeid (SPA) or Surinamese Labour Party was reported as saying that corruption remained one of the biggest threats for the development of the country. Corruption has, however, been a major problem for Suriname for many years including during the Venetiaan administration of which Castelen was a part. During his August 2010 inaugural speech President Bouterse had announced a ‘crusade against corruption’. Castelen claims that that there is still corruption in the country and he therefore regretted that the president has not touched upon this issue in his address.
Castelen said that he was happy that the President obviously recognises that during the past few years he has ‘filled a box with empty promises’. He claimed that the 2012 annual address was less ambitious and more realistic than the two previous addresses but that a number of new promises had been added.
One person who attended Bouterse’s address to parliament and who supports Castelen was reported as saying “Look at the construction of houses. During the 2010 election campaign Mr Bouterse was talking about a target of 30,000 houses. Now he talks about 18,000. We will see if he accomplishes half of this number. The government does not own land and in Suriname there are not enough labourers to do the job.”
For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Iraq: Licensing round awards approved

Despite the difficulties that are engulfing its energy sector, Baghdad had some reason to feel good this month. At the end of September, the cabinet approved three of the oil and gas contracts that were awarded to foreign firms in the May licensing round. According to government spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh, the cabinet approved a gas exploration contract with Pakistan Petroleum to develop gas block 8, a 6,000 sq km block in the east central part of Iraq, about 40km east of Baquba. Pakistan Petroleum won the tender with a remuneration fee of $5.38/barrel oil equivalent.
Also approved was the contract with the consortium led by Russia's Lukoil to develop block 10, a 5,500 sq km site, 120km west of Basra. The cabinet also approved an initial deal with Russia's Bashneft to develop block 12 in the western desert. Bashneft had originally bid on this block as part of a consortium with PetroVietnam as operator. However, the $9.85/barrel remuneration fee bid in the round was too high and the bid rejected. Bashneft has since entered into an agreement with Baghdad for the block.
The cabinet was also expected to approve the contact signed with a consortium led by Kuwait Energy in partnership with TPAO and Dragon Oil for block 9 in Basra. However, according to Al-Dabbagh, the cabinet decided to delay approval until the “oil ministry completes some of its procedures”.
For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 28 September 2012

Egypt: MB's Freedom and Justice Party consulting other parties about Islamic bonds

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party is consulting other parties about introducing sukuk or Islamic bonds. Issuance has been held up because no laws cover these Sharia-compliant instruments. The FJP says there is strong demand for them.

According to a Reuters report, the Salafist al-Nour party has indicated it would not oppose the proposed US$4.8 billion dollar loan from the IMF, despite the interest payments demanded which it does not approve of. Tarek Shaalan, head of the party's economic committee, was quoted by Reuters as saying that they believe the government can take out such loans if there is no other option. For its part, the IMF said it would send another mission to Egypt in the coming weeks to discuss the loan agreement which it hoped would be concluded by the end of the year.

The cabinet has set up a committee to look at how each and every one of 185 state-owned companies was sold off to ensure no financial irregularities.

Egypt's Energy Minister Osama Kamal went to Qatar to discuss a gas import deal - at a time when Egypt is planning to resume gas exports to Jordan. Egypt's shortage is in LPG for domestic cooking.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Nigeria: Opposition merger talks run into trouble

Merger talks between the main opposition parties in the country - Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN); ANPP; and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – are still ongoing. Sources have revealed, however, that ANPP is divided over the current talks with CPC. The ANPP's chairman, Ogbonnaya Onu, is reportedly in favour of the merger. The new chairman of the party's Board of Trustees, former Borno State governor Ali Modu Sheriff, is said to be opposed to the merger with CPC.

Sheriff defeated the ANPP's 2011 presidential candidate, Ibrahim Shekarau, to clinch the chairmanship and this has apparently upset Shekarau. In a bid to calm the latter's ruffled feathers, Bashir Tofa, who is from Shekarau's home state of Kano, is said to have been offered the position of chair of ANPP's merger committee. Tofa has, however, declined because of Shekarau and Yobe State's governor, Ibrahim Geidam, was chosen instead. Meanwhile, it appears that former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, who is an ANPP chieftain, may be tilting in favour of merging with CPC. He recently visited CPC leader, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, at his home in Kaduna State, ostensibly to discuss the disunity in the North.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates