Thursday, 31 May 2012

Nigeria: Killing of German national highlights northern kidnap threat

According to reports, a German national kidnapped in the northern city of Kano in January has been killed in a failed rescue attempt. At the time of his abduction, Edgar Fritz Raupach had been working as a supervising engineer for the Nigerian construction company, Dantata and Sawoe (D&S). A video message recorded by Raupach was sent to the German government in March by the kidnappers, whom he claimed were 'Mujahid'. The kidnappers are believed to be members of Al Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which operates in neighbouring Niger and Mali, and which is believed to have links to the domestic Islamist group Boko Haram.

Apparently, Raupach was killed during a raid by Nigerian security forces at a location in Kano's Danbare Quarters, near the new campus of Bayero University. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen his corpse inside a military vehicle transporting militants away from the site following the conclusion of the raid.

Although at a relatively low level compared to the peak of expatriate kidnapping in the Niger Delta, abduction of foreigners is increasing across the north of the country as armed Islamist groups expand their activities – indeed, an Italian engineer was reportedly kidnapped on 28 May in Kwara State (western Nigeria).

The government is struggling to respond to the threat – Raupach's killing is the second time in four months that a rescue attempt has failed, resulting in the death of the captives. In March, a Briton and an Italian national were killed in a botched rescue attempt in Sokoto, despite assistance from British security forces.

Although at a less extreme level, the challenges posed by Islamist kidnapping are of a different order to those in the Delta. The groups involved appear less motivated by financial reward: the demand of Raupach's kidnappers was the release of a Muslim woman imprisoned in Germany.

Non-financial demands make it more difficult to secure the release, since most governments refuse to bow to 'political' demands. In the north, abductees are often transported across substantial distances, impeding detection. The abductee may also change hands between groups, further complicating efforts to identify the kidnappers.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Algeria: New Parliament sworn in

The newly-elected MPs (Deputies) were sworn in on Saturday 26 May in the first plenary session of the new People's National Assembly. As they had promised, Islamist MPs walked out of the inaugural session to protest against an election they say was rigged to hand a majority to the ruling elite's party. Before walking out, they held up placards reading "No to fraud!"

The MPs who left were from the Green Algeria Alliance - comprising Bouguerra Soltani's Movement of Society for Peace and the two smaller moderately Islamist parties El Islah and Ennahda - who together have about 60 seats in the 462-seat parliament.

Meanwhile, the Front for the Protection of Democracy (FPD) - formed on 21 May, comprising Abdallah Djaballah's Justice and Development Front and 15 other small parties, and had a collective total of 30 seats - held the opening ceremony of their parallel constituent assembly at the Republican Patriotic Rally (RPR) headquarters. The RPR's Abdelkader Merbah said that the parties sitting in the "People's Parliament", dubbed the “boycott parliament”, will decide how this parallel 462-seat chamber will operate.

The Interior Minister claimed that this was all “illegal” and that it “undermines democracy, the will of the people and the state”. He urged those boycotting the assembly to “resign”. It is unclear when or whether they will be returning but the release of the CNISEL report, three days after the inauguration of the new parliament, is likely to have a strong bearing on where things go from here.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Libya signs MoI with UK

A Memorandum of Intentions – effective from 24 May - was signed in London by Libya's Minister of Communications and Information Anwar Fituri and UK Minister of Trade and Investment Stephen Green. Areas of technical co-operation cover Information and Communication Technology, and activities could include:

sending technical experts from the UK (and elsewhere) to develop proposals, provide technical and strategic guidance, training and education;

assistance in improving physical structure and capabilities, promotion of affordable access to the internet, and designing policies to govern the emerging telecommunications market.

There are hopes of improved economic and political co-operation between Libya and its neighbours Tunisia and Egypt. There is, however, as yet, no date fixed for a meeting announced by Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr. Meanwhile, the Tunisian subsidiary of France's Monoprix supermarket chain intends to set up ten stores in Libya in the next 18 months in a US$25.2 million project. The first, probably in Tripoli, is due to open by the end of 2012. Prior to the uprisings, international retailers had shown interest in the Libyan market but, if it succeeds, Monoprix will be the first to open a new store.

Qatari Business Trading Co., along with Al Meera Consumer Goods Co., have also announced their intention to expand into retail outlets in Libya thereby further strengthening the Qatari position in Tripoli.

It was reported on 27 May that Libya - along with Nigeria, Nepal and Iran – has the weakest internet connections, so any assistance would be propitious.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Morocco: Collective Mamfakinche calls for a political amnesty

The minister for justice, the former activist Mustapha Ramid, presented the national report on the situation in Morocco on 22 May in Geneva as part of the Universal Periodic Examination on human rights. He was questioned on accusations that the country had seen repeated attacks on freedom of expression at several levels and the resurgence of police violence during demonstrations. The minister was called upon to reform the press code, abolish the death penalty and introduce legislation abolishing polygamy and the marriage of minors. In response, Ramid drew attention to Morocco's moratorium on the death penalty and promised a revised press code.

On the same day, the Mamfakinche collective launched the Free Koulchi (literally, Free Everybody) advocating a general amnesty for political prisoners in Morocco. Its website campaign notes that 13 years after Mohamed VI's accession and seven years after the Instance pour l'équité et la réconciliation (IER), the body which was supposed to have settled issues around human rights abuses in Morocco, the human rights situation was still fragile, with:

  • dissidents regularly put on trial for their opinions;
  • journalists jailed;
  • trials being rigged;
  • police violence a risk at demonstrations;
  • public media tools for state propaganda;
  • repressive anti-terrorist legislation in force.

The campaign page calls upon Prime Minister Benkirane and the Chamber of Representatives (Lower House of Parliament) to 'break with immobilism and present, debate and adopt a bill of amnesty for all those given sentences for political reasons, both during the period covered by the IER report (1956 to 2005) and since'. Among those listed on the page to be freed are rapper LaHaqed and the poet of the Mouvement du 20-Février, Younes Belkhdim, arrested on 30 March during a sit-in in support of LaHaqed, and sentenced to two years imprisonment on 18 May.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has sacked the head of Mauritania's Supreme Court, Seyid Ould Ghaylani. The sacking, which many believe to be constitutionally illegal, is likely to swell and accelerate what is being described as a 'slow-burn' movement (see below) against Abdel Aziz.

Ould Ghaylani's dismissal was announced in a presidential decree published in the state media last week. According to constitution, the head of the Supreme Court can only be replaced or suspended if he resigns, is physically unable to work or is deemed unfit to hold the post. No reason has been given for the shift.

Ould Ghaylani, who was due to remain president of the Supreme Court until 2015, has refused to leave his post, saying that his removal was illegal and an attempt by the president to undermine the independence and powers of the judiciary. Despite this, Ould Ghaylani found the entrance to his office barred by security forces. He told the media on Sunday 27 May that “I refuse this humiliation and personalisation of the judiciary”.

According to the presidential degree, which named Yahfdhou Ould Mohamed Youssef as the new head of the court, Ould Ghaylani was offered the position of Mauritania's new ambassador to Yemen. Ould Mohamed Youssef was sworn in on 28 May.

Hatem, an influential opposition party, called the sacking a “coup against the judiciary”. The prominent Mauritanian lawyer and human rights activist, Brahim Ould Ebety, was quoted as saying: “It is a serious attack on the constitutional independence of the judiciary and therefore justice, which is the basis for any democratic system.”

Although Abdel Aziz has the backing of the US, France and UK for his tough stance against terrorism and AQIM, domestic protests against his regime have been mounting. There are now almost weekly public demonstrations demanding that he step down because of his militaristic and dictatorial regime, his failure to organise legislation elections, his corruption, mismanagement and poor handling of the food crisis. His sacking of Ould Ghaylani could, therefore, have profound political consequences.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Ghana: Biometric voter registration exercise continues

Electoral Commission (EC) registration teams are to visit each of Ghana's 43 prisons from 29 May to allow prisoners to register to vote although, according to Electoral Commissioner Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan, they will only be able to vote in the presidential poll in December and not in parliamentary elections. The president announced government's intention to allow prisoners to vote last year, after years of national debates, amid pressure from human rights campaigners and a Supreme Court ruling which was backed by President John Atta Mills.

The EC had initially planned to register prisoners during the 40-day biometric registration exercise but changed its mind because of the lack of credible databases confirming prisoners' identities. This prompted an outcry from human rights groups who said that the electoral body was reneging on its constitutional obligation to allow prisoners the right to elect their country's leader. For example the well-known human rights lawyer, Kojo Graham, threatened to take the EC to the Supreme Court if prisoners were not included in the biometric registration exercise. A Ghana Prison Service (GPS) taskforce was set up to tour the country's prisons, helping inmates to provide authentic identification details.

The EC has also announced that a biometric voter registration “mop-up” exercise is scheduled to take place on 9-10 June in selected centres across Ghana. This will allow those who were unable to register the first time around due to technical or other difficulties the chance to do so.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

BP to start operations in Libya

BP is to start oil and gas exploration in Libya, which the company suspended last year due to the popular uprising against Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi. On Tuesday 29 May, Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) chairman Nouri Berouin held a meeting with BP's deputy chief for exploration Michael Daly, at the NOC's headquarters.

The NOC released a statement saying: “During the meeting, BP announced the lifting of the state of force majeure starting on May 15, 2012, and a return to carry out exploratory activity at onshore and offshore areas belonging to it in Libya.”

For his part, Daly said: "The lifting of Force Majeure is a significant milestone in BP's plans to return to the exploration of onshore and offshore blocks in our existing EPSA contract. We look forward to working with the NOC and our partners in the Libyan Investment Authority to safely implement our drilling programme."

PB has no oil and gas production in Libya. In February 2011, it was preparing to start exploration in western Libya when it suspended the work because of the unrest. In 2007, the company signed a $900 million deal for exploration in the country and was planning to drill two wells, one offshore and one onshore.

Before the civil war, Libya was Africa's third-largest oil producer. Oil companies including Eni and Total have already resumed some of their output in Libya.

Sources: Reuters, BP, Bloomberg

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

Monday, 28 May 2012

Former Mubarak aide jailed for corruption

On Sunday 27 May, a criminal court convicted one of former president Hosni Mubarak's aides of corruption, fining Zakaria Azmi £3.8million and sentencing him to seven years in prison.

Azmi was Mubarak's chief of staff. Mubarak, who spent 29 years in power, was rarely seen in public without him. Azmi was also a lawmaker and a senior member of Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

Azmi, who is in his 70s, reportedly supported Mubarak's wish to eventually hand over-power to his youngest son Gamal.

According to Egypt's Middle East News Agency, the Cairo court established that Azmi used his position to make illicit gains of $7 million. Azmi was jailed last year and put on trial in October, charged with illegal acquisition of funds.

He is one of many former Mubarak cronies detained on suspicion of corruption, some of whom have been sentence while others await trial. The group includes two former prime ministers, the former speaker of parliament, several wealthy businessmen and cabinet ministers closely linked to Gamal.
The verdict against Azmi came less than a week before a court was due to issue its verdict in the trial of Mubarak, who faced charges of complicity in the killing of protesters during the popular uprising that toppled his regime last year. Mubarak, along with Gamal and his other son, Alaa, also faced corruption charges.

If convicted the former long-term leader could face the death penalty.

Sources: BBC News, Aljazeera, CTV

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

Algeria: Appeals to constitutional council

According to the Constitutional Council, 165 appeals regarding the 10 May legislative elections were submitted to the Council prior to the closing date for appeals on Thursday 17 May. Appeals can be lodged by political parties and candidates. Most of the political parties told the media that they had submitted appeals.

The appeal process lacks transparency and is not thought likely to consider seriously any appeal relating to such serious matters as vote rigging. We would even be surprised if the Council had accepted appeals relating to the fact that the voter's role, strongly believed to have been 'out of order', was not made available to the political parties.

According to the Council, it has accepted 13 of these appeals as being founded, while saying that it had rejected 107 as being unfounded. What has happened to the balance of 45 has not been made clear. We can also only assume that these have also been rejected. As some of the 13 accepted appeals have come from the government's own two parties (FLN and RND), it is doubted whether they will be casting any serious dispersions on the election.

According to the Council, the appeals that it has taken into account came from 12 constituencies, namely Chlef, Blida, Bouira, Tebessa, Djelfa, Annaba, Guelma, Constantine, Mostaganem, Bordj Bou Arreridj, Boumerdes and Mila.

The Council will issue written replies in due course.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 25 May 2012

Iran: Bank Tejarat funding

Bank Tejarat has signed an agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to provide financial facilities for key oil sector projects. The bank will provide loans to ICOFCo and Arvandan Oil and Gas Production Company as two major NIOC subsidiaries.

Tejarat has already played a strong role in providing the funds for oil projects by selling rial and euro bonds to domestic and international investors. It is a key domestic bank with extensive financial resources. At a time when sanctions are preventing international financial institutions from funding Iranian energy projects, it is natural for the country to turn to domestic sources.

What is not clear is how successful the mechanism will be, particularly in light of the mistrust that banks have of the government when it comes to returning the funds it owes them. Last month, media reported that the government had withdrawn major amounts from the banks without their knowledge to pay for subsidy reform handouts. The government said the amounts were the difference between the official rate of the dollar and the rate the banks had sold to the public.

This immediately drew strong criticism from the Majles and the banks themselves. There has been no indication whether the funds have been returned. Additionally, the case is being scrutinised by the Majles, with MPs saying that they could take it to the judiciary as a matter of state misconduct.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Iran: Subsidy reforms phase 2

The Majles approved government use of IRR660 trillion (about $53 billion) for the implementation of the second phase of subsidy reforms in the current Iranian year (started 20 March 2012). Tables 3 and 4 summarise the key data.

The Majles altered the government plan by increasing handouts to households and reducing the amount to the industrial sector. Although new price hikes were planned to kick in on 21 May 2012, that move has been postponed.

There is still major criticism from economists over its potential inflationary impact. Experts agree that so far the socio-economic impact of the reforms has been a disaster. The Iranian middle class and industries have suffered and the reforms have contributed to economic uncertainty and low business confidence, though they have also had positive outcomes such as major energy savings.

In its deliberations, the Majles voted to raise cash handouts by 60 per cent. Some 65 million Iranians will each receive IRR730,000 ($59.50 at the official exchange rate) of direct monthly aid from the government, up from IRR455,000 ($37.10). The total paid to families during the previous Iranian calendar year was IRR400 trillion ($32.6 billion), and in the current year the figure is IRR480 trillion ($39.2 billion).

The raise is designed to offset runaway inflation, which has caused growing discontent in recent months. Official estimates put inflation at 21.8 per cent since last May, but unofficial statistics show that it is closer to 30 per cent.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Egypt-Elections: A clear-cut break with the past?

Opinion polls have little experience and no record in Egypt. This might explain the considerable divergence of projections over who might win the first round of elections. Few believe that any one candidate will secure the required 50% of the vote. That leaves the possibility of virtually any combination of two of the four or five top candidates going into run-off elections. One could see Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq; or Morsi and Aboul Fotouh; or AbdelMoneim Aboul Fotouh and Amr Moussa; the one combination that would appear unlikely is Shafiq and Moussa as they both appeal to a similar constituency.

Each of them would have a slightly different attitude towards office and the relationship with parliament and the government. Amr Moussa, who has little domestic support base, would be likely to seek to strengthen the powers of the presidency. Shafiq would do likewise, and reach across to the military from whose senior ranks he sprang.

Morsi, by contrast, could count on support from parliament which is dominated by members of his party. His victory would mean the domination of the new political institutions - the parliament and the presidency - by a single party. More nuanced would be Aboul Fotouh, who is portraying himself as no one's and everyone's man.

What had promised to be the end of the transitional phase is nothing of the sort. The presidential elections are just one more step on the way. They are not going to mark the clear-cut break with the past and the dawning of a new future that the revolutionaries who thronged Tahrir Square in January and February last year had dreamt of. But by the same token, they have to acknowledge that they are getting an elected president, and the army is committed to withdrawing from political life: those are very real gains for the blood spilt by those young activists to topple the old regime.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Some 600 companies take part in Libya Build international fair

The Libya Build international fair, which is currently being held (20-24 May) has attracted many foreign firms wishing to participate in this wide ranging construction event. At its official opening, Minister of Economy Ahmed Salim al Khoshali welcomed more than 600 companies. Italy's Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Mario Ciaccia claimed that, with over 130 companies in attendance, his country had the largest representation at the fair.

Belgium, which has been taking a keen interest in Libyan reconstruction, sent some 50 companies. In December 2011, a delegation from the Flanders region was in Libya, and in February 2012, a second delegation arrived headed by Belgium's Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders.

Similarly, Malta's 20-company delegation followed closely on the April visit of a delegation led by the Malta's Minister of Finance, Economy and Investment.

There was also a Tunisian delegation at Libya Build following bilateral meetings in Tunis on 18 May when an economic and trade MoU was signed by Libya's Minister of Economy and the Tunisian Minister of Finance, Houcine Dimassi. Further details indicate a meeting between Tunisia's Minister of Defence Abdel Karim Zubaid and Libya's Army Chief of Staff General Yousef Mangoush, who discussed border security. Reports that Libya is to supply oil at cut price to boost the Tunisian economy have not been confirmed.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Algeria: Sonatrach DGs sacked for mismanagement

Sonatrach PDG Abdelhamid Zerguine dismissed the general directors (DGs) from two of its affiliates in late May, in a move which some regarded as a response to worker and broader social unrest in the Arzew industrial complex.

The directors of Société de Transport d'Arzew (Sotraz) and Société de Maintenance Industrielle d'Arzew (Somiz) were removed and both entities have seen their senior management reshuffled, reportedly for breaches of professional duties, poor management of internal conflicts and recruitment strategy. While Sonatrach has not officially pronounced on the reasons behind the sackings, local media cited company sources who argued that the decisions were merely taken to enhance managerial efficiency by nominating more competent individuals to top jobs. As there has been no police inquiry thus far, observers also think that the move could be a response to the inflamed political and social situation in Arzew, where workers' relations with the company have been poor for some time. Somiz and Sotraz are both headquartered in the country's largest industrial zone, which is a vital hydrocarbons terminal as well as a site for flagship petrochemical projects.

The fact that the corruption scandals of the past two years have focused strongly on the central management of the Sonatrach holding company has allowed its Arzew-based affiliates to stay out of the media spotlight. While the scale of managerial abuse in these subsidiaries is likely to be minimal compared to the alleged abuses committed by those senior officials disgraced in 2010, local reports of bribery, favouritism and illegal subcontracting have been signalled for years, and have mostly escaped justice.

According to industry sources in Arzew, this month's episode is due to the months-long discontent of local youth, to whom promises of priority in jobs and training were not fulfilled. “Sonatrach in Algiers is buying itself time again by scarifying the heads of the snake. The orders came from the governor of Oran [the wilaya that includes Arzew] in fears that protests could become politically costly,” revealed the source.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Ghana: Rift between Jerry Rawlings and President Mills deepens

The on-going rift between former president Jerry Rawlings and President John Atta Mills intensified when Rawlings told the 30th anniversary ceremony of the 31st December Women's movement that several key government members are 'traitors.' He also criticised what he described as the unprecedented “monetisation” of politics, which had “eroded the principle of integrity on which the party has always won its elections”.

The Presidency's director of operations, Nii Lante Vanderpuije, responded by telling a local radio station that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was tired of Rawlings' constant criticisms of the ruling party. Many NDC members, he said, have used their time, resources and reputations to support the party and are not “greedy bastards” or “traitors” as Rawlings alleges.

He also challenged the former president and his wife, Nana Konadu Rawlings, to leave the NDC before the 2012 elections and see if it made a difference to the election result.

As reported in previous editions of Ghana Politics & Security, the tensions between the Rawlings, his wife, and the current NDC leadership have been escalating for some time. The Rawlings' criticisms of the NDP are regularly printed in the pro-NPP local press and it has recently been suggested that Rawlings and his wife would prefer electoral defeat for the NDC.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Finance minister threatens resignation

Libya's interim Finance Minister Hassan Zaglam threatened to resign this month over the ongoing saga of the revolutionaries' compensation file. It was Zaglam who suspended payments to the revolutionaries after he discovered gross irregularities in the lists that had been drawn up by local military councils of those eligible to receive the special payments for their services during the revolution.

According to Zaglam, the whole scheme, which was initiated before the interim government was appointed, is so enveloped in corruption that it is proving a major drain on the public purse.

After suspending the payments, Zaglam announced that no money would be paid out until the lists had been properly audited. Unsurprisingly, his decision has not gone down well with the revolutionaries, who are continuing to harass him and use violence against him and other government officials in a bid to get their cash.

Things have clearly got too much for Zaglam, who declared in May, 'I can't work in these circumstances. This is a waste of public money.'

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Mali: Prime Minister Diarra ashamed at interim leader's beating

In a TV broadcast, Mali's Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra said he is ashamed that the country's interim President Dioncounda Traore was beaten unconscious by protesters on Monday 21st May.

Traore was attacked a day after a deal was made with coup leader Capt Amadou Sanogo for Traore to remain in office for a year.

In the same televised address, Diarra appealed for calm and called for the protests to stop. A spokesman for regional bloc ECOWAS said Mali could face sanctions if the military was in any way involved.

There has been speculation that soldiers allowed demonstrators, who backed the coup leaders, into Traore's office. He was reportedly unconscious when he reached the hospital, but was later released.

It is thought that the protesters were furious that Traore's decree, which was due to end on Monday, was prolonged. The recent political upheaval in the country and the rebel seizure of northern Mali, have seen thousands of people flee their homes.

Human rights groups are concerned about the humanitarian situation in the country, which is also currently undergoing a draught.

Speaking about the incident Diarra said: "I am ashamed to relate what happened this morning. I'm asking the young people who protested today not to protest again. I have understood their complaints and I'll make sure that the right people hear about them. Given the situation that this country is in right now, vandalism and looting is not what we need. It's not going to help the reconstruction of the nation."

ECOWAS representatives left Bamako on Monday, saying "we have accomplished our mission". The bloc's spokesman Sunny Ugoh, however, told the BBC he was shaken at the events that followed their departure and said sanctions were now a possibility.

He added: "We're rather shocked that this kind of incident would happen barely 24 hours after a delegation from ECOWAS managed to secure an agreement with the military. I believe that regional governments are already consulting to see how they can respond to the situation. Sanctions are still on the table if it turns out that those with whom an agreement was reached are complicit in this."

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, AFP

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

Former Qadhafi intelligence chief 'charged' in Mauritania

According to Mauritanian officials, former Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi has been charged with illegal entry. Senussi, who fled Libya after the fall of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, was held at Nouakchott airport after flying in from Morocco in March.

Both Libya and the International Criminal Court (ICC) want him extradited to face trial for crimes against humanity. But Muritanian officials say he is facing trial for using false documents to travel. A source quoted by AFP news agency said Senussi has been detained in a special prison cell ahead of the trial.

Libya's interim government has said it wants Senussi back on Libyan soil, where he can stand trial for numerous allegations of murder and human rights abuses while he was Qadhafi's head of intelligence.

Senussi, who is Qadhafi's brother-in-law, was once the late leader's closets aide. Nicknamed “the butcher” he was reportedly involved in a massacre in 1996 of more than 1,000 inmates at the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli.

In March, following Senussi's arrest, Libya's Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur said Mauritania had agreed to hand him over. Mauritanian officials, however, said no decision had been made on his extradition.

Interpol has issued an international "red notice" call for his arrest at Libya's request. Senussi is also wanted on a 2011 ICC arrest warrant in connection with the violent suppression of protests during last year's Libyan uprising. He is also wanted by the French authorities after a court there sentenced him to life in prison for his involvement in a 1989 attack on a French plane that killed 170 people.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, Business Week

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

French Guyana's military exercises in Suriname

French Guyana - a department of France that borders Suriname - has held regular military exercises on Surinamese territory. According to the French military attaché, Thierry Lopez, the facilities in Suriname are more appropriate than in French Guyana because of the extensive savannahs and sand in which there is a smaller risk of bullet ricocheting. A French naval ship has also visited Suriname which the French Embassy in Paramaribo claims demonstrates the good relations between France and Suriname.

Although the French government has, diplomatically, criticised the controversial Amnesty Law, it is, without saying so publicly, unhappy with the fierce attitude of the Netherlands in this matter. France has long striven for a very good relationship with the neighbouring country. The Maroni River which divides the two countries is about 300 km long and is hard to monitor. In the 1980s, the border between the two countries was an important scene in the civil war.

Many former Surinamese refugees still live in French Guyana. There is substantial smuggling and criminality in the area which France wants to keep as peaceful as possible. There is regular consultation between the authorities in the border towns of Albina (Suriname) and St. Laurent (French Guyana). After a fatal plane crash in May 2010, the French immediately sent helicopters for a search and rescue operation. Quad-bikes, confiscated by the French police from illegal Brazilian miners in French Guyana, have been donated to the police corps of Albina in the recent past.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 21 May 2012

Yemen: At least 63 dead in suicide bomb attack in Sana'a

According to Yemeni officials, at least 63 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack during a rehearsal for a military parade in Sana'a. A suicide bomber, reportedly wearing an army uniform, detonated a bomb among a group of soldiers at al-Sabin Square, near the presidential palace.

Witnesses reported that the remains of the victims were scattered across the Square, as ambulances rushed to the area to take the dozens of wounded to hospital. This latest attack has been the deadliest in the capital since President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi took power in February.

In recent months, there have been almost daily casualties in battles in the mountainous southern desert and towns between government forces, backed by US military advisers, and militants linked to al-Qa'ida. Sana'a, however, has been relatively quiet up to now. Some suggest that the latest attack is a message to the new president the he can expect more confrontations between the army and the militants.

Speaking about the incident, Col Amin al-Alghabati said: “We were in a parade, suddenly there was a huge explosion. Dozens of our men were killed. We tried to help them…The suicide bomber was dressed in a military uniform. He had a belt of explosives underneath.”

Yemen's Defence Minister Nasser Ahmed and the army chief-of-staff were reportedly in the Square at the time, but were not hurt. According to medical officials quoted by AFP news agency at least 96 soldiers had been killed and 300 wounded, who they said were being treated in seven hospitals across Sana'a.

Yemeni military personnel had been practising for a parade for National Unity Day on Tuesday 22nd May, which marks the anniversary of the 1990 unification of the Marxist People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, also known as South Yemen, and the Yemen Arab Republic, known as North Yemen.

Today's attack comes just over a week after the military launched an offensive against Islamist militants linked to al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the southern province of Abyan.

No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, AFP

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

Algeria: 'Good abroad, bad at home'

Probably the best summary headline of the election result read: “Algeria elections look good abroad, bad at home.” This caption was widely reproduced in the international media. It portrayed the view that Algeria's Western allies could report that progress on democratic reform was underway in Algeria, which we do not believe is at all the case, while most Algerians regard the elections as a fraudulent farce.

The EU, which treats Algeria with kid gloves, largely because of the fact that Algeria supplies it with a fifth of its gas needs and is the third largest supplier after Russia and Norway and cooperates with it on terrorism matters, called the election a "step forward in the reform process" that would consolidate democracy.

Hugh Roberts, an Algeria expert at Boston's Tufts University who is also a former long-serving contributor to Menas' Algeria publications, said: “Algeria has satisfactory relations with Washington and Paris …. It needs to do well enough (with reform) not to embarrass its Western partners, and that's what it's done.”

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 18 May 2012

Drone strike in Yemen kills two suspected militants

According to a number of reports, a drone strike in eastern Yemen has killed two alleged al-Qa'ida militants. A security official told AFP news agency that the unmanned aircraft hit a car in the province of Hadramout. He noted that the strike caused a number of subsequent blasts as the vehicle was reportedly carrying explosives.

A week ago, the Yemeni army launched an offensive to wrest control of cities in south Yemen from fighters belonging to the al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula. Both Washington and Sana'a deny there are drones deployed in Yemen, but there are wide reports of their use.

Additionally, some Yemeni officials and Western diplomats claim that US military specialists are closely involved in the Yemeni government's campaign against Qa'ida militants.

Over the past year, Yemen has been plagued by political upheaval and protests, which ousted long-term Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh. A newly-elected government is under pressure from the US to curb militant activity across the country.

Al-Qa'ida militants have taken advantage of the upheaval and breakdown of central government control to gain ground across Yemen, which is now considered to be the stronghold of al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Suorces: AFP, BBC News, Reuters

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

US ready to attack Iran should other measures fail

According to Washington envoy to Israel Dan Shapiro, the US is ready to attack Iran should other measures fail to stop it developing nuclear weapons. Shapiro said the US hoped diplomacy and sanctions would convince Tehranto revise its nuclear programme, but a military option was in place and "ready".

US President Barack Obama has previously said military action was a possibility. The US and various other world powers are worried Tehran is developing a nuclear bomb, an accusation it denies. Talks between the Islamic Republic and six world powers are due to resume in Baghdad on 23 May.
The comments made by Shapiro, at the Israel Bar Association on Tuesday 15 April, were obtained by AP news agency.

Speaking about Tehran, Shapiro said: “It would be preferable to resolve this diplomatically through the use of pressure than to use military force. But that doesn't mean that option is not fully available. Not just available, but it's ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it's ready."
On Thursday 17 April, Pentagon spokesman George Little stressed that Washington's policy on the issue "has not changed at all". He explained: "The ambassador's comments are perfectly in line with what we have been saying for a while with respect to Iran. Our focus in the US is on using diplomatic and economic bring pressure to bear on the Iranians to do the right thing."

Furthermore, Little added that Shapiro "was absolutely correct to say that no options are off the table but those options are not something that are being contemplated at this time".

Both the US and Israel have said they consider military force a last resort to stop Iran using its uranium enrichment programme to make weapons. In March, Obama said there was "still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution," which would be preferable as a strike on Iran would cause major problems in regional stability.

Sources: AP, BBC News, Bloomberg

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

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Nigeria: FG faces major cash squeeze – civil servants unpaid

The Federal Government appears to be facing a cash squeeze amid revelations it has not paid some civil servants their monthly wages and that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members have been owed allowances since March. It has also been revealed that the monthly Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting has been stalled because there is no cash to disburse to the government tiers funded by the Federation Account.

FAAC meetings are held every month to determine the distribution of allocations from the proceeds to the Federation Account to the Federal, State and Local Governments. Minister for Youths Bolaji Abdullahi sought to explain the reason for the delay in the payment of federal civil staff wages and NYSC allowances by stating that it was due to some glitches in the salary payment software of the Federal Civil Service.

Sources have disclosed, however, that the cash crunch has been developing for some time because the government has been struggling with liquidity issues since November 2011. It has been revealed that December salaries, which are usually paid before the Christmas holiday, were not paid till the middle of January 2012.

It was also stated that some of the Federal Government's Ministries, Departments and Agencies were only able to pay March salaries in

April because they rely on warrants being cash-backed. Apparently, no employees have yet been paid their April salaries. It has also been disclosed that the FAAC allocations for March were only settled in part and that, in some cases, only about 30% of what was owned was paid.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Egypt: Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh is the presidential candidate uniting different factions within the country

The presidential contest is not only between Amr Moussa and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. They might have had the first television debate but two others, the official candidate of the country's best organised political movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, and the former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, are also serious contenders. Two are former ministers. Shafiq, in particularly, appeals to the desire to restore law and order. Moussa, in his television debate, sought to distance himself from the regime which he had served as foreign minister.

The strength of Aboul Fotouh is equally his weakness. He has been trying to appeal to all voters. He was originally a Salafist and has the endorsement of the Salafists. He became a Muslim Brother but fell out with them. He has the support of younger Muslim Brothers who do not care for their rigid and elderly leaders. And he has also reached out to Copts and others as a moderate voice.

His critics, however, argue that he is so bent on power that he will sell any of his principles. Of all the candidates, he is the major one nearest to being a candidate uniting all different factions within the country.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Ghana: Government outlines measures to prevent electoral disputes

The government outlines measures to prevent electoral disputes as leading politicians and interest groups continue to call for peace in the run up to the 2012 elections.

Longstanding pressure on both main political parties to ratchet down the election rhetoric and eschew violence is beginning to have some effect. The main protagonists are, however, still far from making the necessary public commitments on banning hate speech and condemning violence that is necessary. There is a large measure of hypocrisy from both sides on the issue and the need for a more assertive stance from neutral civil society organisations.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) government has reaffirmed its commitment to peaceful elections after various incidents of violence and corruption during the recently completed biometric voter registration exercise prompted widespread criticism of the ruling party as well as the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). Attorney General and Minister of Justice Benjamin Kumbuor told local reporters that the government is implementing measures to prevent electoral disputes including fresh training for the security agencies.

Observers are continuing to express concern about violent rhetoric used by politicians in the run up to December's general election.

The Ghana for Peace movement, for example, which is a non-partisan youth group with a country-wide membership, has begun a nationwide peace tour calling for young people to reject violence in the run up to the December general elections.

The Coalition of Muslim Organisations - Ghana (COMOG) has said that the biometric registration exercise had been characterised by provocative confrontations, reckless statements, and advocacy for lawlessness along tribal lines by a cross section of self-seeking politicians who should know better.

During a dialogue between the eastern regional police command and political party representatives in Koforidua, the latter said that developments during the biometric voter registration campaign had highlighted a number of concerns, including the need for the police to be fair and firm to all irrespective of their political beliefs.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Libya: Most imams are opposed to Islamic extremism

Given the problems the Libyan regime is experiencing in arranging the current political balance – more or less one of tension followed by negative actions – it is imperative that the establishment of the election proceeds without any major disruption. Any hiatus arising from the activities of the militias or major political shifts by players in the elections will be viewed by the majority of the Libyan people as another government failure.

Of great assistance to the regime is the fairly consistent advice from the imams that honest Libyans should baulk at the disruptive activities of extremists. This message has been put out in direct and simple language through the mosques although, as yet, there is no guidance available as to the relative importance of these main religious leaders.

In an interview, Minister of Religious Endowments Dr Hamza Abu Faris stressed the importance of opposing the hostile movements controlled by the Islamic fundamentalists. Faris, like many Libyans who were educated at serious Islamic schools, takes a much more philosophical view concerning the entry into the country of non-Islamic workers, and is content to endorse the response of the average Libyan against the Islamists, as do most of the imams who are working in the country.

The religious establishment, rather like the National Transitional Council (NTC), is anxious for the country to avoid civil war and the Islamist terrorist attacks that occur elsewhere in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria. It is very aware that, throughout the long battle for the control of Libya, religion has not played a damaging or divisive role and that there are real causes for discomfort which must be faced if the country adopts a radical Islamist programme. The imams would like to see Libya escape without a fully-fledged civil war.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Mali: ECOWAS threatens to re-impose sanction on military officials

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS has said it will re-impose sanctions on officials who led a coup in Mali in March, on grounds of them thwarting a return to constitutional rule. Back in April, ECOWAS lifted sanctions after the coup leaders agreed to return power to a civilian government, but in a recent statement the bloc said the junta was still interfering in the country's politics.

ECOWAS objects to the junta's plans to replace interim President Djouncounda Traore. Speaker of parliament Traore was sworn in as part of the deal under which the military would return the country to civilian rule. Coup leader Capt Amadou Sanogo has called for a national assembly of civil society groups to appoint a new interim government once Traore's term officially ends on 22 May.

ECOWAS wants Traore to continue to lead the interim government for another year. The bloc released a statement, saying: "Failure on the part of the (junta) and their civilian allies to clearly reaffirm their commitment to the transitional arrangement in the next few days will be met with the immediate reinstatement of the targeted sanctions."

In March, a group of army officers led by Capt Sanogo toppled President Amadou Amani Toure, saying he did little to curb the Tuareg-led rebellion in the north. After ECOWAS imposed sanctions, the coup leaders agreed to start a transition back to civilian rule, and parliamentary speaker Traore was sworn in as interim president.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, AP

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

Monday, 14 May 2012

Nigeria: SEC castigates bourse during Committee testimony

The on-going investigative hearing by the Ad-Hoc Committee of the House of Representatives investigating the near total collapse of the Nigerian capital market has continued to throw up revelations about the workings of the stock exchange, its operators and regulators.

Appearing before the Ad-Hoc Committee on 7 May, the Director General of the capital market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), made certain revelations about the numerous financial infractions committed by the management of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), which had been led by Ndi Okereke-Onyuike until her removal by SEC in 2010.

According to SEC's Arunma Oteh, it was found that the NSE was riddled with incidents of financial scheming, misrepresentation, false accounting, misappropriation and questionable transactions. For instance, it was found that NSE bought a yacht for N37 million and wrote down the book value within one year by recognising it in its books as a gift presented during its 2008 long-service award, yet there are no records of the beneficiary.

The NSE also spent N186 million for the purchase of 165 Rolex wristwatches as gifts for awardees, of which only 73 were actually presented. The outstanding 92 watches valued at N99.5 million remain unaccounted for.

An SEC Inspection team to the NSE also made the following findings: weaknesses in corporate governance; weaknesses in risk management; weaknesses in internal control; insufficient oversight of brokerage firms and listed companies; and inability to enforce the rules.

The inspection team further found that more than 2,700 investor complaints lodged at the NSE had yet to be treated. These complaints ranged from unauthorised sales of shares to withholding of proceeds of sale of shares. It also found that the NSE investor protection fund was not being properly administered.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Algeria: FLN wins parliamentary elections

According to official results, Algeria's National Liberation Front (FLN) has won Thursday's (10th May) parliamentary elections. The party won 220 out of 463 seats, while its partner in government, the came second with 68 seats.

An Islamist alliance group came third winning 48 seats, but it has made accusation of fraud. The vote had been billed as Algeria's most free and fair, but has been marred by widespread voter indifference.

Algeria officials said turnout was 42.9 per cent, much higher than initially expected. There has been speculation, however, that the figure may be inflated. According to AFP news agency, the three Islamist parties forming the Islamist Green Algeria Alliance, which saw their combined share of the seats drop, said the election was fraudulent.

Professor Abdulali Rezaki of Algiers University told Reuters that he thought 85 per cent of voters would boycott the elections. The reason he gave for the boycott was because “parliament has become a place which people hate. It has become an institution working under the rule of administration instead of carrying out its legislative and supervision missions…This is the election of people who struggle to rule, not the ordinary public.”

The Algerian authorities were keen to show that the voting process could be a democratic one, with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika approving the establishment of 23 new political parties before the vote.

The mood among Algerians seems to be a mixture of resentment and apathy. Most argue that 'elections have always been fraudulent, so why should this one be any different'. The flagrancy of the way in which these election results have been reportedly manipulated has, however, angered many.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, AFP

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

Friday, 11 May 2012

In another sign that Russian-Turkmen relations may be gradually getting back to normal, Russian cellphone company MTS is set to return to Turkmenistan after an enforced absence of eighteen months.

The company was unceremoniously kicked out at the end of 2010 after the Turkmen authorities refused to renew its licence, which began in 2005. No reason was given for the cancellation, which cut off around half the population (MTS had around 85% market share) and forced them to switch to the state-owned provider Altyn Asyr instead. For ordinary Turkmen citizens, the cutoff had a serious effect on business and social life as the state provider was unable to provide the same coverage.

MTS slammed the move as thinly-disguised expropriation, and filed several lawsuits with international arbitration bodies. Nothing appeared to come of them, and the Russian government chose not to intervene in the dispute. The Turkmen government refused to pay any compensation for the sudden shutdown, saying it had followed legal procedures.

Ashgabat's decision to resume the company's licence is equally mysterious. It seems that the government has realised the inability of Altyn Asyr to cope with the influx of customers. Service is expected to be resumed within three to six months.

The story is in some ways a good encapsulation of the government's approach to handling business. Nominal commitment to foreign investment followed by a sudden and unexplained volte-face, based on a serious miscalculation of domestic capabilities. The one bright spot is the government's willingness to walk back on its bad decision.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Seven Algerian hostages up for ransom

Since last week's report, when it appeared that the seven Algerian hostages looked likely to be freed soon, their situation appears to have taken a turn for the worse. The alleged kidnappers, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which is believed to be an offshoot of AQIM and with leadership links to the Algerians DRS, is now demanding Euros 15 million for the diplomats, along with the release of prisoners held by Algeria. It is also demanding a further Euros 30 million for the three European aid workers abducted from Tindouf on October 22-23.

This new demand was made on Sunday 29 April by MUJAO spokesman Adnan Abu Walid Sahraoui during an exchange with AFP. Sahraoui said that negotiations with Algiers had broken down and that the lives of the Algerians were in danger.

This reversal comes after a MUJAO spokesman had told AFP that “we have agreed (together with the Islamist group Ansar Dine) to the release of the seven people arrested on Algerian soil [i.e. the Algerian consulate] in Gao.” Ansar al-Din is led by Iyad ag Aghaly has been closely linked with the DRS since at least 2003. This message was followed by a statement from Algeria's foreign minister saying that the seven were in good health, that Algerian authorities were in contact with the kidnappers, and that "we expect this will soon bear fruit".

The circumstances of the original abduction and the subsequent 'negotiations' are highly suspicious. Not only is the abducted Consul believed to be a DRS Colonel, but all the groups associated with the abduction and subsequent negotiations are known to have leaders linked with the DRS.

Some sources in Algeria believe that the situation is being manipulated by Algeria to provide for the justification, if necessary, of Algerian military intervention in Mali.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Egypt will need nearly 50% more Nile water by 2050

According to experts at Egypt's National Planning Institute (NPI), Egypt will need nearly 50% more Nile water by 2050 to cater for an estimated population of 150 million people.

Fadya Abdel-Salam, director of the NPI told Al Ahram that Egypt will require an extra 21 billion cubic metres of water per year to meet the needs of industry, agriculture and households in 40 years' time.

Egypt's current entitlement under the 1959 treaty on allocation of Nile waters of 55.5 bcm of the river's total annual flow of around 84 bcm is under challenge from upstream states, notably Ethiopia which is planning a series of dams for hydroelectric power generation and for irrigation.

The planner said that if Egypt's current share of the Nile remains the same, by 2050 the allocation per head of population will be about 400 cubic metres - well below the global water poverty index of 1,000 cubic metres. Egypt gets almost all its water from the Nile. About 85% is for agriculture and the remainder split between domestic and industrial use.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Libya's institutions under pressure as elections draw closer

There is continuing disintegration of Libya's institutions as the elections come closer and pressure grows for as many of the electorate as possible to participate in the ballot.

On paper the spread of support for regional semi-autonomy is a damaging departure for those who wish for a simple majority to settle the issue across the country. Most of the support, however, for the federalists remains in the hands of the people of the east and in one or two other enclaves. Those who would not contemplate the division of the national territory merely to satisfy discrete groups and other dissenters will remain strongly in support of a unitary power base. Fortunately there is just about sufficient backing for a parliamentary or Islamist solution within the new constitution to give some strength of belief in the likelihood of a national vote without a federal component.

The strains produced by the confrontation of political parties and individuals taking part in the elections will produce a great deal of tension which could, at time, be violent. Mustafa Abdel Jalil has the ability to keep the aims of the National Transitional Council (NTC) strictly on target but, if he fails in this, then flash points of considerable proportions will exist.

An immediate threat to the NTC is the persistence of the militia groups who are still heavily armed and assertive. They have the potential to disrupt events surrounding the election and the regime itself is powerless to stop them.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Nigeria: Azazi pours fuel on the fire in PDP's North-South divide

The National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen Andrew Owoye Azazi (rtd), is in hot water over recent public statements arguing that the lack of internal democracy in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is at the root of the increasing threat posed by Boko Haram. Azazi, who made the claim at the South-South Economic Summit organised by the South-South Governors during the past week, stated: “PDP got it wrong from the beginning, from the onset by saying Mr A can rule, Mr B cannot rule...according to PDP's convention, rules and regulations and not according to the constitution and that created the climate for what has manifest itself, this way [sic]”.

Azazi also implied that certain elements within the party, disgruntled over President Jonathan's succession, led to the escalation of the Boko Haram violence. It may be recalled that in the politically tense days leading up to the PDP's selection of Jonathan as its candidate for the April 2011 presidential elections, there had been “threats” from some aggrieved quarters that, if Jonathan emerged as head of state, the country would be made ungovernable. This was a response to the widespread northern views that Jonathan's emergence was against the interests of the North and that the PDP's 'zoning' arrangement meant that a Northerner ought to be president from 2007-2015.

Azazi pointed to an October 2010 statement which was credited to Lawal Kaita, a prominent member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) - one of the foremost Northern socio-political groups - proclaiming that "anything short of a Northern President is tantamount to stealing our presidency. Jonathan has to go and he will go”.

Azazi went on to state that the Boko Haram threat did not escalate to the point it is at now until after the 2011 general elections. He traced the escalation in its activities to the deadly suppression of riots in the North in the aftermath of the polls.

During a visit to the bombed offices of This Day on 26 April, the President was asked what he thought about the NSA's comments. He stated that it was possible that the NSA was misinterpreted. Jonathan is also reported to have demanded a full transcript of the NSA's statements.

The party has already refuting Azazi's claims with the PDP National Publicity Secretary Olisa Metuh berating him for making them. Reports have claimed that the President has since been under immense pressure to sack Azazi.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Yemen: Patronage and tribes

Nadwa al-Dawsari has produced an excellent report on the tribal system for the Carnegie Endowment, Tribal Governance and Stability in Yemen*. She shows how, in the absence of an effective state, tribes look after their own affairs and how when the government moved out of parts of Yemen in 2011 tribes co-operated to cope. They also have acted as mediators to prevent disputes escalating in areas contested by Al-Huthi and Islah-backed tribes. She also throws new light on how tribal actors, not the armed forces, prevented militants from Ansar al-Shariah seizing large parts of Rada'a earlier this year and then negotiated a settlement. It appears that Tariq al-Dhabi, the leader, lost his life when he lost the protection of the tribes after he breached the agreement.

The Saleh system developed over 33 years was based on co-opting local leaders – usually tribal – and providing them in exchange for support and loyalty with access to government resources, whether in the form, of cash, jobs, contracts or favours. Many tribal leaders received direct subsidies. It was all fed by oil income, at least until recently. Al-Dawsari describes how some tribal leaders, brought into the patronage system, have moved to Sana'a to play in national politics and business but cut themselves off from tribal roots, undermining their standing – and, when the money runs out, their influence. The 2012 budget allocated YR13 billion for payments to tribal shaikhs – although the prime minister says the figure will be cut drastically.

There havem been demonstrations calling for an end to these payments. He may find this difficult to implement. Al-Dawsari's conclusion is addressed to the international community. “Evidence about the role performed by tribes in Yemen challenges two major assumptions: that Yemen is a lawless country and that tribes and the tribal system undermine stability and state building. On the contrary, in a country like Yemen, where the state is weak, the tribal system — especially tribal conflict resolution mechanisms — can help promote national reconciliation, stability, and even state building. As the United Nations and the international community try to help Yemen in its critical transition and state-building process, policymakers and practitioners need to explore ways in which the traditional system can complement and strengthen this process.”

What she does not discuss is how the patronage system will evolve under President Abd al-Rab Mansour Hadi and perhaps eventually a more democratic regime. For the moment, the state subsidies will continue to flow, as will those from Saudi Arabia as well as people such as Sadiq and Hamid al-Ahmar, who have their own sources and networks of patronage.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates