Friday, 30 November 2012

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Al-Obeidat pressurise Muslim Brotherhood

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

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

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

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


Rawlings has finally abandoned her fight to contest the presidential election

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Mauritania: AQIM reinforcements coming from Algeria

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Suriname: Staatsolie testing E15 ethanol fuel for vehicles

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 26 November 2012

Nigeria: Angry protests in Bakassi

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Nigeria: Army kills top Boko Haram commander

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 19 November 2012

Algeria warns against intervention

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 16 November 2012

IMF evaluates Cameroon's economy

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

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mauritania: What did happen to the President?

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Long-lasting Euro crisis harmful to Surinamese economy

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 12 November 2012

Algeria: Local elections campaign under way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 9 November 2012

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 5 November 2012

Nigeria: North–South Petroleum farm-out

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Iraq: Tribes muscle in

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates