Monday, 30 July 2012

Libya: Aman dropped from blacklist

Aman Bank, which is 40 per cent owned by Portugal's Banco Espirito Santo, has been removed from the National Transitional Council's (NTC) blacklist of companies whose assets were frozen under a guardianship law while they were investigated for possible corruption and links to the Qadhafi regime.

The assets of 260 individuals and 78 companies were originally sequestered under Law 37, which was passed by the NTC in May. This was one of several controversial measures adopted by the interim authority in the last months of its existence that may well be revisited by the newly elected National Congress.

The list of affected companies and individuals has already been substantially reduced after widespread protests. Some of those originally included were able to point convincingly to the lack of evidence against them. Since then further efforts have been made to remove others from the list whose inclusion is unnecessary.

The inclusion of private companies – in particular a bank such as Aman, which is backed by European capital – was highly controversial. The bank's removal therefore comes as no surprise, but another private finance company, Wafa Bank, remains on the list.

The bulk of those who remain are family members and others with strong Qadhafi affiliations. The list also includes institutions such as the Economic and Social Development Fund, which was part of the financial apparatus of the Jamahiriya.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 27 July 2012

Cameroon: Thousands defy tight security to cheer Marafa in first three court appearances

Cameroon's former interior minister Marafa Hamidou Yaya has made three appearances in court on 16, 24 and 26 July, alongside Yves Michel Fotso, the former general manager of the defunct state-run carrier Cameroon Airlines (Camair). They pleaded not guilty to charges that they were involved in a 2004 financial scam of CFA24 billion destined for the purchase of a presidential jet. But their arrival at the Mfoundi High Court in Yaounde for the last two hearings witnessed a heated atmosphere, with over 50 heavily-armed paramilitary gendarmes, police and anti-terrorist troops clad in bullet proof jackets, who had been deployed to contain nearly 5,000 people crowding the court premises to witness the hearings.

Marafa and Fotso were whisked into the courtroom through the back door to avoid the anxious crowd that had thronged the court entrance waiting to receive the accused with cheers. “Free Marafa!” “Free our president!” repeatedly shouted some of them.

The hearings are attracting much attention because Marafa, who has been tipped to face President Paul Biya in the next elections in 2018, had secretly advised the latter not to stand in the October polls. After his arrest and detention in jail, in one of four open letters to Biya, Marafa asked the head of state to quit power. He also began disclosing top government secrets which have started having damaging consequences on the government.

Hearings on the second day were short-lived, despite the several hours of delay, ostensibly to manage the huge and growing support for Marafa. Chief magistrate Gilbert Schlick was forced to adjourn the case to 26 July as the defending lawyers argued that they could not proceed on grounds that the complaint officially outlining the accusations against Marafa and Fotso only reached them four days before the scheduled hearing, a period too short for them to study the dossiers.

“It is impossible to study and master a thick file of 25kg,” argued defending barrister Jean de Dieu Momo, one of Marafa's lawyers. “Moreover, some pages of the documents are missing, so how can we open the case?” Momo questioned, saying that this is just a means to “mix things up and rapidly liquidate this case”. Fotso's lawyer Alice Nkom said their wish was to see equitable justice in which “the rights of the defendants are not sacrificed”. It is for these reasons that the defence lawyers asked for a week's adjournment in order to carefully study the file. But one of the judges accused the defence team of ineptitude to organise themselves in the face of a “very serious matter”.

Inside the courtroom were the director of finances of the state-run National Hydrocarbons Corporation (SNH) Meding Meko'o, as well as the country's former minister of finance Michel Meva'a M'Eboutou. Both men were among 14 witnesses to testify in the case, as funds to buy the plane were provided by the SNH through the approval of the then minister of finance.

But the postponement seems to have angered the presiding judge Gilbert Schlick, who has just three months to give his verdict on the case. Schlick told the defending lawyers that “even 24 hours were enough for you to understand the file to enable the work to go on, if you really wanted to work”. The next session scheduled for 26 July was yet to start at time of writing, but more crowds of about 7,000 people had already trooped into the court grounds, blocking traffic.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Libya: Oil production on the up

Austria's OMV has reported a rapid recovery of its Libyan oil production following the end of the revolution. It reached 25,000 b/d in the first quarter of 2012 and the pre-war rate of 34,000 b/d in the second quarter.

National Oil Company (NOC), its Agoco subsidiary and Wintershall are working together on a €31.4 million project to construct a 100,000 b/d capacity 55km crude oil pipeline which will help boost oil exports The installation is scheduled to be completed in August and the project as a whole will be handed over to Agoco in March 2013.

Repairing the Libyan economy is proving more difficult than forecast. Although the damage to the oil infrastructure is not particularly severe, it is geographically widespread and the reconstruction activity has been fragmented. According to industry sources the final return to the 1.6 million b/d pre-war levels of oil output could take until the end of 2012. Meanwhile, the political situation has been subject to slow improvement but security problems still remain. Outside the oil sector there is talk of large scale investments that could be made in the short term which would provide an enormous boost but only if the IOCs are convinced, unlike Shell, of the long-term profitability of their Libyan oil operations.

This week, in an example of the way the weak international market is impacting on the Libyan oil industry, an NOC spokesman announced that the August official selling price of its bench mark Es Sider crude is at the lowest level in almost three years. It was cut by US$1.60 a barrel to a discount of US$1.30 to North Sea Dated Brent.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Libya: Encouraging results

On the evening of Tuesday 17 July the head of the Higher National Election Commission (HNEC), Nouri al-Abbar, announced the result of the election for the 80 seats in the 200 seat National Congress which are reserved for political party lists. As had been widely leaked the liberal secular National Forces Alliance (NFA), which is a grouping of more than 60 individual parties and hundreds of local civil-society organisations that is led by Libya's first post revolution prime minister, Mahmoud Jabril, won 39, or 62%, of the 80 seats. The NFA came first in ten of the thirteen electoral districts and another liberal party came first in another. The alliance did surprisingly well even in towns such as Derna which has traditionally been an Islamist stronghold.

By contrast the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Construction Party (JCP), which was expected by many to do well because of its disciplined organisational and financial muscle, only won 17 seats. The remaining 24 seats were won by 19 different parties.

Nouri al-Abbar also confirmed the large turnout with 61% of eligible men and 39% of women having voted. Of the total 1.8 million votes only 3% were invalidated which is very encouraging given that it was Libya's first election for half a century. There will now be a 14 day period for appeals including ten days for the decisions to be reviewed by the appeals court.

While there is no doubt that these results are encouraging for the liberals the results for the independents candidates contesting the remaining 120 seats have not yet been announced and, only when they are, will the real balance of power between the main political group in the National Congress be determined.

Almost regardless of the actual results, the fact that Libya succeeded in conducting seemingly free and fair democratic elections, with only a week's delay and with minimal violence or disruption, is a spectacular achievement which has been recognised by the country's main western partners.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Caspian Focus: Nazarbaev slams security services

President Nursultan Nazarbaev has launched a sharp attack on Kazakhstan's security services for failing to prevent the continuing, if sporadic, spate of militant attacks on Kazakh soil. In a rare rebuke on 13 July, he said that he was dissatisfied with the work of law enforcement agencies, particularly the work of the National Security Committee”, the KNB. The president claimed that “people are outraged by the inability of law enforcement officers to prevent these crimes”.

His criticism came after a house near Almaty exploded, leaving eight dead including four children. A police investigation found guns, 'religious literature' and – most alarmingly – police uniforms. There was no indication of who was behind the explosion, which was presumably a premature detonation of bombs under construction.

Nazarbaev's anger is perhaps justified. The wave of attacks carried out under the umbrella of the militant group Jund al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate) have apparently caught the police and the KNB on the back foot. The failure of the attacks to cause more casualties says more about the amateurishness of the militants than the skills of the security forces.

Events such as last November's one-man rampage in the southern city of Taraz, which left seven dead, have left the police and KNB looking weak and unprepared. The presence of police uniforms among the material found this month also suggests that the group is becoming more sophisticated.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Ghana: Minor mid-cocoa output for 2012 season expected to fall

Minor mid-cocoa output for the 2012 season is expected to fall 60 per cent to 42,000 tonnes, compared with some 107,000 tonnes harvested in the previous seasons.

A Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) source was reported as saying that “We are not expecting a bumper light crop - our target is, plus or minus, 42,000 tonnes.” Industry insiders have attributed the fall in production to this year's bad weather. A prolonged dry spell followed by heavy rains left trees undernourished and stunted, and pest attacks have also taken their toll.

Output is also down in the world's number one cocoa producer, Cote d'Ivoire, which has also suffered from the region's poor weather. The International Cocoa Organisation forecast Ivorian output for the 2011/2012 season at 1.35 million tonnes compared to the unprecedented 1.5 million tonne harvest the previous season.

Last year Ghana produced a record harvest of more than a million tonnes of cocoa, buoyed by improved farming techniques, good weather and a small amount of smuggling from neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire. Ghana's 11-week season opened on 13 July, with a producer price of GH¢3,280 per tonne.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Clinton warns Iran while on visit to Israel

During her recent visit to Israel, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the US will "use all elements of American power" to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapon. She noted that so far the proposals made by the Islamic Republic to resolve the situation were "non-starters".

Speaking about a number of issues, Clinton said the US was working hard on a new resolution "with consequences" regarding Syria. She also added that she had discussed Egypt with Israel's leaders and said the nations' peace treaty should be honoured.

Addressing a press conference, following a meeting with Israel's President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Clinton said a diplomatic resolution to Iran's nuclear issue would be preferable.

She explained: “The amount of work [for Egypt's leaders] would be daunting for the most experienced political leaders…Iran's leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision. The choice is ultimately Iran's." Clinton, however, added: "We will use all elements of American power to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapon."

The latest talks between Iran and six other world powers ended without a resolution. The so-called "P5+1" group - consisting of the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany - want Tehran to suspend the enrichment of uranium to a level of 20%, close down an underground enrichment facility and export its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium.

Iran maintains that its nuclear programme is designed for peaceful purposes only and insists that the West lifts its sanctions, which restrict the country's economic activity.

Speaking about the situation in Syria, Clinton said the US was working hard on a new UN resolution. She also once again called for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to go, saying "the regime cannot survive".

Clinton made a trip to Egypt ahead of her visit to Israel. Speaking about the situation between the two countries, she said both regional nations shared a strong interest and commitment to their peace agreement.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, Bloomberg

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

Monday, 16 July 2012

Suriname: BVD merges with the NDP

The Basispartij voor Vernieuwing en Democratie (BVD or Basic Party for Renewal and Democracy) is to merge with President Desiré Delano "Dési" Bouterse's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and ceases to function as independent political party. The BVD was founded in 1996 by a group of dissident members of the fellow Indian ethnic Vooruitstrevende Hervormingspartij (VHP or Progressive Reform Party). In the last few years, the BVD has been chaired by Dillip Sardjoe, one of the country's richest and most influential businessman. The BVD planned to participate in the 2010 general election as part of the NDP coalition but, because of internal differences of opinion, it did not do so and won no seats. The relationship between Sardjoe and Bouterse has, however, significantly improved since the latter's electoral victory. Sardjoe needs the president to realise his business plans, and Bouterse uses Sardjoe's knowledge and skills to outline his policies.

With the merger, Bouterse has increased the NDP's Indian electorate, which is very important because his biggest rival in the 2015 elections will almost certainly be Chandrikapersad Santokhi's VHP. Although the NDP has been Suriname's first non-ethnic party, and Bouterse condemns ethnic politics, he also knows that the political reality is that the majority of Suriname's population vote on ethnic lines.

Bouterse has also said that he expects that Progressieve Arbeiders- en Landbouwersunie (PALU or Progressive Labourers and Farmers Union), which is also currently part of the ruling coalition but won no seats in the 2010 election, will eventually cease to exist and will merge with the NDP. “But that day will come”, said Bouterse.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Nigeria to get its first female Chief Justice

Nigeria will get its first female Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) on 16 July when Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar is sworn in by President Goodluck Jonathan. This follows the retirement of the current CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapher who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 and Jonathan's nomination of Mukhtar's appointment which has been sent for Senate confirmation. The latter gave Justice Mukhtar the all clear on Wednesday 11 July following a brief screening session. Mukhtar comes from Kano State, was Northern Nigeria's first female legal practitioner and, in an illustrious career in the bar and bench, earned a formidable reputation as a fearless, impartial and independent arbiter.

She will perhaps be mainly remembered for being only one of three Justices who gave a dissenting judgment in the 2007 presidential election petition case involving President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and Gen Muhammadu Buhari. In her judgment she ruled that the election, which purportedly declared President Yar'Adua as the winner, was significantly flawed and should be cancelled. She is expected to serve as CJN until July 2014 when she will also reach the mandatory retirement age.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Algeria: Unrest spreads among armed auxiliaries

Far more serious from the regime's point of view is the unrest that broke out again this week among many of the regime's armed auxiliaries.

On Monday (9 July), some 40,000 police auxiliaries, known as Communal Guards, tried to march on the capital from Blida to demand pay rises and the same benefits as the troops and other security forces. They marched 48km in the heat before reaching Birkhadem on the outskirts of Algiers where they were stopped by hundreds of police. Extensive fighting took place between the protesting Guards and the police, with some 50-60 people injured. The wide press coverage of the fighting, showing pictures of armed police battling community guards, has shocked Algerians.

The Communal Guards were set up in 1994 to bolster local police in villages across the country where authorities were locked in a deadly confrontation with armed Islamist groups. This auxiliary corps numbers 93,000 men, who are demanding the same benefits as policemen and troops. Specifically, they want pay rises, round-the-clock health insurance to replace the current eight-hour coverage they get while working, and retirement after 15 years of active duty.

They are also demanding the option of joining the ranks of the police or the gendarmerie, a French-styled paramilitary police unit.

In March 2011, some 10,000 Communal Guards flooded the streets of Algiers with similar demands, in defiance of a ban on demonstrations.

According to our sources, the Communal Guards have now been joined in their demands by another group of auxiliaries, the 'Patriots'. We are uncertain of their numbers.

In addition, we are hearing that similar concerns and possible unrest may be spreading among the 100,000 or so ex-military servicemen (those no longer in service, but regarded as reservists) who are also becoming concerned by their own lack of rights and the action being taken by the Communal Guards.

If all three of the country's auxiliary-cum-reservist units bring their protests together, as this week's events might suggest, the implications for the regime could be extremely serious.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 13 July 2012

Egypt's economy and tourism

Egypt's foreign exchange reserves were up very slightly in June, reaching US$15.5 billion. External debt was US$33 million in March (the latest figure issued). But few Egyptian economists have taken comfort from these figures. Bearing in mind that foreign exchange reserves were US$36 billion in late 2010, the new figures merely show the depth of Egypt's problems and the urgent need to generate more foreign income and foreign direct investment.

There are few indications of internal performance but one potentially significant one is a drop in demand for steel. Suez Canal revenues are still below 2011 levels, affected by the slowdown in the world economy and troubles in the EU.

The head of Egypt's tourism authority is seeking an urgent meeting with Morsi to persuade him to take early action to boost tourism. Numbers are improving but are well below 2011 figures and concern about criminality is deterring high spending visitors from the Arab world. Ramadan, which starts at the end of next week, usually provides a short-lived but important economic stimulus.

Another big issue that will have to be tackled – but may have to wait until there is a new parliament – is the question of subsidies. The current budget would see significant cuts, which all know are needed but would hit people hard and make whoever implements the measures deeply unpopular. It seems likely that President Mohammed Morsi's government will find a way of stopping the cuts or leaving the decision until after parliamentary elections.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Links between Malta and Libya have been strengthened

Links between Malta and Libya have been strengthened with the operation of a new cargo service run by Mediterranean Maritime Services. The company is jointly owned by three companies: the Malta-based Zammit Group's subsidiary VPJ Limited; Turkey's Fergun Shipping's subsidiary Kucuk Shipping; and the Libya-based BH International. The M/S Azzurra – which can accommodate 700 passengers, 70 cars or 25 semi-trailers and up to 40 20-foot containers - will leave Valletta every Monday and Friday at 18.00hrs and arrive at Tripoli on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 10.00hrs, before leaving again for Malta on the same day of arrival at 18.00hrs, entering Malta Grand Harbour on Wednesdays and Sundays at 10.00hrs. Prices per passenger start from €85 and freight prices start from €500. The twice weekly service will also call in at Misrata.

Meanwhile, Libya-owned Afriqiyah airline resumed its non-stop service between Tripoli and London's Gatwick airport on 3 July. The service, which uses an Airbus A320 aircraft which can seat up to 160 passengers, is currently thrice weekly.

Dubai's Belhasa Trading and Development has opened a Tripoli branch. Its managing director, Samer Malkawi, - stating that it would mainly trade in automobiles, trucks, minivans and buses and sundry spare parts, plus equipment, machines and spare parts for oil and gas wells and storage - said Libya was a country of promise.

In early July, government defence spokesman, Nasser al-Mana, said that some Libyan troops would be trained in France and that 36 army doctors would also receive medical training overseas.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Morocco: Istiqlal's problems of choosing a new leader

The major opposition Istiqlal party held its 16 th congress from 29 June to 1 July. At the top of the agenda was the process of choosing a new leader to succeed former prime minister Abbas El Fassi. The party traditionally chooses a leader by acclamation based on consensus.

This time elections seemed to be necessary because two contrasting candidates have come forward:

  • Abdelouahed El Fassi , Abbas El Fassi's son; and
  • Hamid Chabat, populist mayor of Fès as well as the secretary general of the Union générale des travailleurs marocains (UGTM). Chabat, who has his supporters, says he will step down from his union post if he is elected as party leader. Unfortunately, two of his sons are currently in jail (one for drugs-related offences) and Chabat himself is currently facing legal action.

Observers say that a consensus candidate may be chosen from among the party's leading figures. Possible candidates include former transport minister Karim Ghellab; former housing and urban development minister Taoufik Hejra; and Saâd Alami. Another popular alternative candidate to Chabat, Abdelkader El Kyhel, (aged 40), is too young to stand.

Abbas El Fassi stated to the press that “the party wants neither revolutionaries in its ranks nor candidates for the secretary general's post who have court cases pending”. At the close of the congress, there was no consensus candidate and elections had not been held.

The question of Istiqlal's leadership is now on hold until an executive committee meeting in September. The Palace has expressed no preference for any particular candidate. Chabat declared after the congress that he had no intention of withdrawing his candidature for the leadership.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Mauritania: Nouakchott rejects Libyan request for Senussi extradition

At the same time as Nouakchott was demanding Moustapha Ould Limam Chaafi's extradition from Senegal, it was refusing Libya's request for the extradition of Abdullah Senussi. Details of the latter's arrival and arrest in Mauritania, and the competing demands for his extradition, were described in Mauritania Politics & Security 29.05.12.

On Wednesday 4 July, Libya's Prime Minister Abderrahim El-Keib arrived in Nouakchott for a brief one-day visit. This followed a telephone conversation between President Abdel Aziz and the head of Libya's National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jelil, over Senussi's extradition. Senussi, who is also wanted by both France and the International Criminal Court, is awaiting trial in Mauritania for entering the country on a false passport.

Mauritania, however, officially refused Libya's request, giving two main reasons for doing so. Firstly, Senussi has not yet answered the charges of entering the country on a false passport. Nouakchott has also said it was not going to consider Senussi's extradition until after the outcome of the Libyan elections was known and the country was truly stable. Nouakchott gave assurances that Senussi would not be tortured and would receive a fair trial.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Egypt's parliament reconvenes

Reports have emerged that Egypt's parliament has briefly reconvened, despite the country's Supreme Constitutional Court's decision to dissolve the assembly. Egypt's new President Mohammed Morsi ordered the assembly to meet in defiance of the ruling.

Just days ago, Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) said the decision to dissolve the parliament must be upheld. The military closed parliament last month after the Supreme Court ruling.

Analyst speculate that this could be the first real confrontation between the military and the new president since he was sworn in a week ago.

Speaker Saad al-Katatni said that by holding the assembly, MPs were not contradicting the ruling "but looking at a mechanism for the implementation of the ruling of the respected court. There is no other agenda today".

MPs approved Katatni's proposal that the parliament seek legal advice from a high appeals court on how to implement the Supreme Court's decision. He then adjourned the session.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, Bloomberg
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Egypt: Court says dissolution of parliament is binding

Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi's order to reconvene parliament has been rejected by the country's highest court, which says its decision to dissolve the assembly is binding. Following Morsi's decree, the speaker of the dissolved house had called for the MPs to meet on Tuesday 10 July.

Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood won most seats, says the parliament should function until a new election is held. During a meeting on Monday 9 July, however, the country's Supreme Constitutional Court said its rulings and decisions were "final and not subject to appeal".

Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) – whose original decision to dissolve the parliament was backed by the court – met in an emergency meeting following the issue of the presidential decree on Sunday.

Despite rumours of tensions, Morsi and SCAF's Leader Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi appeared together at a military cadet graduation ceremony. Last month, SCAF enforced a court order dissolving parliament because party members had contested seats reserved for independents.

The military took power last year, after the revolution that ended former president Hosni Mubarak's 30 year reign. Over the course of the last couple months, the army has become increasingly unpopular, with many accusing its leaders of wanting to hold on to power indefinitely.

Morsi, who won the country's first free presidential election last month, was handed power on 30 June. In his presidential decree, Morsi said new parliamentary elections would be held 60 days after the constitution had been agreed by referendum.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, Bloomberg

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

Algeria: Mourad Dhina is finally freed

On 4 July - as we forecast two weeks ago - a French court rejected Algeria's requisition for Mourad Dhina's extradition (Algeria Politics & Security - 20.01.12; 27.01.12; 03.02.12 and 17.02.12), and instead ordered that he be freed.

Algeria's dossier, when it finally arrived from Algiers, was not only flimsy but effectively proved Dhina's innocence. Indeed, some of the trial observers remarked that the dossier of trumped-up terror charges looked faintly ridiculous. As Dhina's supporters have always claimed, since his arrest at Orly airport on 16 January, the Algerian government only acted against him because of his long-standing opposition to the regime. The case has proved to be extremely embarrassing for France, which went along with Algeria's request in contravention of international human rights conventions. It also means that Algeria will not be able to rely on such complicity from France in any future such cases.

At the last court hearing on 20 June, the inconsistencies of the case presented by Algeria and the incoherence of its justice system were exposed. The 4 July decision was therefore expected. In a short deliberation, the president of the trial chamber rejected Algeria's extradition request due to its lack of conformity with the 1964 extradition convention between Algeria and France and the French criminal procedure code.

Many media reports commented on the fact that Dhina, an innocent man, had been denied bail by France whereas a Rwandan national suspected of crimes against humanity and genocide, who was the object of a similar extradition to his home country, appeared before the court without being kept in detention.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 6 July 2012

Yemen: Silence on transitional justice

The draft bill on transitional justice was sent to parliament in the spring but little has been heard since. It appears to be in the in-trays of President Abd al-Rab Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa, probably in the 'too difficult' category.

It will have to be sent to parliament in the next few weeks but it will cause a lot of difficulty because of contradictions behind the bill. Ali Abdullah Saleh and his associates have been granted immunity but there are demands that they be held accountable in some way for their misdeeds. The political elite may understand the need for a pragmatic approach but large sections of the population do not. One who doesn't is Nobel laureate Tawakkul Karman.

A video has appeared on YouTube – and been given some publicity in Yemen – of what appears to be human rights abuses carried out by soldiers of the First Armoured Division commanded by General Ali Mohsen against revolutionaries who did not welcome his support. Revolutionaries have also accused Islah of trying to force the removal of protesters in Change Square.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Nigeria: Two men accused of having links with AQAP

Two Nigerian men, Olaniyi Lawal, 31, and Luqman Babatunde, 30, have been accused of having links with al-Qa'ida and recruiting prospective members to be trained in Yemen.

Both men pleaded not guilty at a court in Abuja. They are being charged with receiving funds from al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and seeking to “further the objectives” of the organisation.

According to court papers, Lawal and Babatunde have been charged with receiving "monies in Saudi riyals and US dollars equivalent to one million naira (approximately £4,000)” from AQAP. It is thought that they were planning to use the funds “to recruit and transport prospective members of a terrorist group to Yemen," which would have violated Nigeria's anti-terrorism law.

Certain factions in Nigeria have a long history of affiliation with militant organisations. Nigeria's most prominent Islamist group Boko Haram has been linked to a different branch of al-Qa'ida in North Africa. The group, which says it is fighting to make Nigeria an Islamic state, has been responsible for hundreds of bomb attacks and killings in northern Nigeria.

Sources: BBC News, AFP, WSJ

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

Egypt: President Morsi promises a new Egypt

The newly elected President Mohamed Morsi took the oath of office on Saturday, promising “a new Egypt and a second republic” in which the popular-will will be respected and the government will serve the people. “Today, the Egyptian people laid the foundations for a dignified life, complete freedom and a real democracy,” he declared.

He was obliged to take his oath before 18 judges at the Supreme Constitutional Court, the same body that had ordered the dissolution of the parliament of his peers before whom he had expected to take the oath. If he felt uncomfortable he did not show it.

But the previous day he had made clear his real views when he addressed the tumult in Tahrir Square, when he asserted that it was the people who were the fount of power, not the army, not the Supreme Constitutional Court. “The ministers, the government, the army, the police, all are listening to me when I say no power is above this power, no power is above you. You are the rulers. You are the source of this power and authority.”

It was an act of defiance towards the generals but equally he might be held hostage to his declaration. He won just over half the votes of just over half the electorate who cast their ballots. The majority of the people who he said were the source of his legitimacy did not vote for him.

The swearing in of the new president is the most significant single step in the transfer of power, even if the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) re-asserted control over the affairs of the state after the dissolution of parliament. SCAF will exercise power to pass laws in the absence of parliament. It has also revived a long-dormant National Defence Council, dominated by officers, to oversee the military.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Libyan relations with Egypt soured by another weapons haul

More heavy weapons – apparently en route from Libya to Gaza - have been seized by the Egyptian security forces. Following on from discoveries including 50 missiles, 7 machine guns and large quantities of ammunition at Marsa Matruh in early May and 100 rockets and 25 anti-tank grenade launchers later that same month, this latest haul has been described as the biggest yet. The Egyptians do not take kindly to this flood of weapons from Libya which cause grave security concerns and, unsurprisingly, the Israelis who fear they are the end target for the ammunition continue to protest.

Meanwhile, a congratulatory message from National Transitional Council (NTC) chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, on behalf of the Libyan government and people to Egypt's newly elected president, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi, will do little to smooth ruffled relations here. It will, however, be very interesting to see if the Muslim Brotherhood's electoral success in both Egypt and Tunisia is replicated in this week's Libyan elections. While the party is probably the best organised and funded the electoral law only allocates 80 seats to party lists and 120 to individual candidates so, even if it does very well, the Brotherhood is unlikely to win a large majority in Libya.

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Mali Islamists planting mines around Gao

According to a number of sources, Islamist fighters in northern Mali have planted anti-personnel mines around the town of Gao, which they seized last week. The move is designed to stop a potential attack by Tuareg rebels. The two groups have reportedly fallen out.

In April, following a coup Tuareg rebels and Islamist groups fought together in order to take over northern Mali. This seems to be no longer the case.

In view of the situation, France has said that it is determined to stop "international terror bases" there. France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he wanted to prevent such groups as al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) threatening the peace and security of the whole region.

Ayrault's comments follow desecration by al-Qa'ida militants from Ansar Dine of ancient Muslim shrines in the northern city of Timbuktu. Those responsible said the shrines contravened their interpretation of strict Islamic law.

The new chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda dubbed the destruction a "war crime".

According to Gao residents, fighters from another Islamist militant group, Mujao, have instilled an atmosphere of terror by planting mines around the town, east of Timbaktu. There have reportedly been warnings issued by the militants for people to remain within the town and desist from going outside the main roads.

It is estimated that more than 300, 000 people have fled northern Mali since the rebels took over.

Sources: BBC News, Bloomberg, Reuters

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

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Ghana: Criminal case against Woyome adjourned

Martin Amidu is disputing the assertion, made by President John Atta Mills in a Radio Gold interview on 23 December 2011, that the two international contracts between Ghana and Waterville Holdings (BVI) Limited, which are dated 26 April 2006, created liabilities for the government which obliged it to pay the Woyome judgement debt. According to Amidu's interpretation of Article 181 of the 1992 Constitution, Ghana cannot incur liability for any foreign or international loan or expenses incidental to such foreign or international loan transactions without parliamentary approval of the transaction.

On this basis, he asked the court to make a declaration that the payments made by the Attorney General to Waterville are inconsistent with and in contravention of the letter and spirit of the 1992 Constitution, as is the fact that the claims were never laid before or approved by parliament. Amidu also criticised the High Court and former Attorney General Betty Mould Iddrisu for allowing Alfred Woyome to commence a legal action on 19 April 2010 claiming damages for breach of contract in an international business transaction. He is seeking a declaration that “those proceedings and others consequent thereupon of the said High Court are null, void, and without effect whatsoever”.

The long-running Woyome case re-entered the spotlight earlier this month when Woyome - who had been charged with three counts of conspiracy, defrauding by false pretence and corrupting a public officer - was discharged and later re-arrested with the “more appropriate charges” of defrauding by false pretence and causing financial loss to the state. Fraud charges were dismissed against the other defendants in the case.

Woyome won a multimillion cedi pay-out after he filed a writ at the High Court claiming that a 2006 contract to renovate five sports stadiums in Ghana for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations tournament had been illegally cancelled by the previous government of then president John Agyekum Kufuor. The award came to light late last year after parliament examined a 2010 auditor-general report. Martin Amidu subsequently lost his job in January 2012 along with another government minister.

The criminal case against Woyome has been adjourned to 12 July by an Accra High Court with the state prosecution pleading for more time to bring another witness.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Nigeria signs £2.9 billion oil refining agreement

Nigeria has signed a preliminary £2.9 billion agreement with US-based Vulcan Petroleum to build six oil refineries in the West African country. The deal could potentially boost the country's refining capacity by 180,000 barrels a day, with two of the refineries due for completion this year.

Nigeria is the biggest oil producer in the region but its refineries are only able to refine a fraction of it into fuel.

Speaking about the new deal Nigeria's Trade and Investment Minister Olusegun Aganga said the MoU with Vulcan marked the "beginning of changing our old paradigm of exporting just raw materials and exporting jobs to Western countries.”

Last week, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan sacked the boss and several other executives of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) after an inquiry into the industry found $6.8 billion had been lost due to fraud in the past two years.

The investigation into the fuel sector followed a number of angry protests in January after the government tried to remove a fuel subsidy. It reasoned that the subsidy is costing the country billions. The probe found the government guilty of chronic corruption and fraud.

Sources: Reuters, Bloomberg, WSJ

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

Deadly bomb blasts hit Iraq

According to a number of sources, dozens of people have been killed and many injured in a series of bomb attacks across Iraq. At least four people died when two car bombs targeting Shi'a pilgrims went off in the town of Karbala.

Further bombings have been reported in Diwaniya, where an estimated 25 people died, and Taji. There has been a surge of attacks in Iraq in recent weeks; with highest number of deaths reported in June, since US troops withdrew in December.

It is thought that the Karbala attacks were targeting Shi'a pilgrims congregating before a religious ceremony on Friday 6 July. The attack is said to have injured at least 30 people.

According to Reuters news agency, a car bomb at a market in the city of Diwaniya killed at least 25 people and injured 40 others. While deadly blast in the Sunni city of Taji have killed three people and injured 15 more. According to AP news agency, a policeman was among the dead.

In other news, Iraq's oil revenues have dropped by 17.6 per cent from May to June. According to the government, this is due to dipping prices in the international market and the diversion of some production to meet domestic needs.

The violence-plagued country is heavily reliant on oil revenues, which make up about 95 per cent of the fragile democratic government's budget. Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said Iraq earned $6.453 billion in June, with an achieved average price of $90 p/b. May's revenues stood at $7.831 billion with an average price of $103.039 p/b. It is estimated that June's oil exports averaged out at 2.403 million b/d, down from an average of 2.452 million b/d in May as the ministry diverted some production to refineries.

Sources: AP, BBC News, Reuters

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

Benghazi election office looted

Demonstrators demanding greater sovereignty for eastern Libya have looted the offices of the electoral authority in Benghazi. Over 300 people chanting slogans of independence took ballot boxes out of the building and burned documents in the street.

Libya, which is still recovering from the civil war that brought down Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi, is to elect a new parliament on Saturday 7July. Pro-autonomy leaders in eastern Libya, however, have called on the nation to boycott the vote. They are demanding that eastern Libya be given a larger share of seats in the new 200-member legislature, which is tasked with drawing up a constitution.

The country's electoral law allocates 60 seats to eastern Libya, 102 seats to western Libya and 38 to the remainder of the country. Speaking to AFP news agency, Head of Benghazi's High National Election Commission Jamal Bukrin said: "A group of people entered the commission's premises, ransacked the offices and destroyed what they found inside the building."

The call to shun Saturday's vote was made by a group that has proclaimed itself the authority of a semi-autonomous territory in Cyrenaica, or eastern Libya. Speaking about the outbreak of violence, one of the movement's leaders Abdeljawad al-Badin said it was the protesters' "reaction to the authorities disregard for their demands".

It is estimated that Cyrenaica contains two-thirds of Libya's oil reserves. It was one of three regions that formed part of a federal system before 1963, along with Tripolitania around the capital Tripoli in the north-west  and Fezzan in the south-west.
Sources: BBC News, Reuters, AFP

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

Monday, 2 July 2012

Suriname: Increase in domestic violence in rural areas

There has been an increase in reports of domestic violence in Suriname's rural areas and particularly in the districts of Nickerie and Commewijne; without mentioning exact figures the police and Justice Minister Edward Belfort say that in Commewijne 'daily' cases of domestic violence are reported. Nickerie has reports over 100 cases in the first half of 2012.

Belfort said that women are not the only the victims of domestic abuse and that men and children are also being hurt. Many cases are related to the low social conditions as well as to drug and alcohol abuse. The government plans to establish shelters and professional help for the victims, who currently can only seek refuge with relatives and friends because there are no professional facilities for them.

It should be noted that, in the last few years, sexual and domestic violence have been more focused on by the Surinamese authorities. One of the results has been that the taboo on the issues is broken. The increasing number of reports does not necessarily mean that the number of incidents has also increased. The higher number can be ascribed to the lowered threshold for the victims to report such incidents to the police.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Algeria: Tourism investment

Algeria's Tourism Minister Smail Mimoune announced on the national radio last week that Algeria has set aside 56 billion dinars (Euros 560 million or US$720 million) to modernise its hotels and thermal baths, as the country seeks to diversify its economy away from it reliance on energy.

According to Mimoune, eight thermal baths will be modernised and renovated at a cost of 12 billion dinars. The remaining 44 billion dinars are for 58 public hotels. According to the report, the government is currently taking bids for their upgrading. The minister said that Algeria has 95,000 hotel beds and that a number of private-sector projects that were already under way aimed to raise that number by 80,000.

We should remind readers, as we reported recently that the government's statistics on the country's tourism industry are notoriously inaccurate.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Nigeria: Former IGP faces corruption charge

Early last month, on 6 June, a court in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, granted the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) leave to arraign former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Sunday Ehindero over an allegation that he and accomplices misappropriated Naira 558 million belonging to the Nigerian Police Force.

Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of the Abuja High Court ordered Ehindero to appear for trial alongside a former police commissioner in charge of budget, John Obaniyi , on 28 June. Both men were to be arraigned on a six-count criminal charge raised against them by the antigraft agency on 30 May.

Specifically, ICPC alleged that the accused conspired and used their positions to confer undue advantages upon themselves by diverting Naira 300 million of Naira 558 million donated to the Nigeria Police Force by the Bayelsa State government. ICPC told the court that the money had been given for the procurement of arms, ammunition, and riot control equipment. It also stated that investigations revealed that the accused had diverted the money into a fixed-deposit account at the now defunct Wema Bank , where it had already yielded interest of Naira9.8 million. The fraud was apparently perpetuated between May and November 2006. Ehindero was the inspector general from 2005 to 2007.

He and his alleged accomplice were also accused of placing another Naira 200 million in a fixed deposit account at Intercontinental Bank (also now defunct, following its takeover by Access Bank ), where it earned interest of Naira 6.5 million. They allegedly diverted all the interest to their

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

© 2012 Menas Associates