Friday, 14 December 2012

King inaugurates new developments in eastern Morocco

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Mauritania: Opposition boycotts independence celebrations

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

EU-ACP summit: big success for Suriname

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 10 December 2012

Algeria: Response of opposition parties

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Libya: Government still incomplete

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

© 2012 Menas Associates