Thursday, 30 August 2012

Nigeria: Traders make huge profits

Sources have revealed that some traders who were recently awarded crude term contracts by the federal government are set to make profits of as much as $9 million per trade after paying commissions.

Already, some traders have started enjoying the fruits of the term contracts. Walter Wagbatsoma, the owner of Ontario Oil and Gas, is said to have bought five vessels to the tune of $45 million to bolster his company's fleet. It will be recalled that Wagbatsoma, along with his company and other directors in it, was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for gross abuses perpetrated through the subsidy scheme.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Ghana: NPP launches its campaign for December 2012 elections

In a bid to take back the political initiative from new President John Mahama, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) launched its manifesto, entitled “Transforming Our Lives; Transforming Ghana, building a free, fair and prosperous society”, and held a campaign rally at Mantse Agbona in James Town which is one of the poorest areas of the capital Accra.
The 2012 presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, his running mate, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, and all of the NPP parliamentary candidates were officially presented to the electorate. Former President John Agyekum Kufuor also spoke at the event. This was meant to show the NPP's new sense of unity cementing the bonds between Akufo-Addo (Akypem); Bawumia (Northern Muslim ex-President Kufuor (Ashanti).
Akufo-Addo got that message across effectively and concentrated on pushing an overall positive note – about the NPP's determination to invest in mass education and training, and boost opportunities for entrepreneurs. Secondary education for all is the NPP's big new idea – even if they are doubts about its cost see Comment & Analysis) If elected the transformation of the country's education structure would be the cornerstone of NPP government policy. Akufo-Addo told supporters his party would redefine a school system in which 60% of children did not reach secondary school and some did not even make it into the classroom.
The NPP's launch went down well in Greater Accra which is a swing region and a key test of voter sentiment. It established the NPP as policy-heavy and was a sharp rebuke to the NDC which had been relying on strong voter sentiment for the late President John Atta Mills and his role as “prince of pace”.
The manifesto launch has both sharpened and elevated the election campaign above the previous name calling on both sides. The attack dogs are, however, still operating but both Akufo-Addo and Mahama are trying to rise above it by adopting a statesmanlike demeanour. The NPP chairman denigrated the Mills-Mahama government as Ghana's “worst-ever” which, to many, might seem hyperbole but it will certainly spark a fierce response from the NDC's own militants.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Algeria: UMA squabbles commence

The next summit of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) is to take place on 10 October at Tabarka, in Tunisia. Almost as soon as this was announced by the Tunisians in late July, the Algerian foreign affairs ministry disputed it, saying that negotiations were still under way and that the date of the summit will not be officially set until they are completed.

The Moroccans have also poured cold water on the momentum towards greater Maghreb cooperation. In an interview in a Moroccan daily on 26 July, prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane said that the conditions were not right for the high-level meeting to take place: “The Moroccan and Algerian peoples are united by lines of friendship and fraternity, but it is depressing that the Algerian leadership takes another view with regard to the question of our territorial integrity.” The old chestnut of the status of the Western Sahara, claimed by Morocco but also by the Algerian-backed Polisario movement is once again rearing its ugly head.

Earlier in the year, during a flurry of high-level diplomatic visits between Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, hopes for the revival of the UMA, stagnant for some 20 years, were high. On 18 February, the 23rd anniversary of the establishment of the union in Marrakech in 1989, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika told his Maghrebi counterparts that the promotion of economic cooperation was “a vital and pressing need”. Other senior Algerian officials suggested at the time that re-opening the border with Morocco was also on the cards. Officials from both countries announced that the question of the Western Sahara would be put aside, to be resolved through UN channels, as a means of moving forward. However, old ideologies are clearly not easy to bury, and it looks like the path to UMA co-operation will be far from straightforward as a result.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Nowhere to hide for Qadhafi supporters in Egypt

Qadhafi supporters who fled to Egypt as the revolution in Libya progressed will soon find themselves on an unwanted return journey. The Egyptian ambassador to Libya, Hisham Abdul-Wahab, announced that their exile would soon be over as soon as the last legal technicalities were sorted. The Judicial Co-operation Convention that has been signed between the two countries means that several thousand persons could be affected.

One person who would receive a particularly special welcome, if he should he forced to return, is Ahmed Qadhafaddam who was Qadhafi's cousin and close confidant. He is widely believed that he is currently in command of very large sums of Libyan state money, assuming that he and his confederates have been able to conceal so large a cache. It is believed that he has also been financing the current insurgency campaign by Qadhafi supporters inside Libya. For many years he managed and manipulated Libyan relations with Egypt and he will remain strong for as long as he and others can fund the insurgency and are tolerated by Cairo as non-diplomatic guests.

Meanwhile Abdul-Wahab is attempting, as a priority, to arrange the release of those Egyptians who are being held in Tripoli by the militias and a connection between the two events is not hard to make.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Libya arrests 32 Qadhafi loyalists over twin car bombings

The Libyan authorities have arrested 32 members of a network loyal to former leader Mu'ammar Qadhafi in connection with Sunday's twin car bombings in Tripoli. According to a number of reports, two people were killed by bomb blasts near a former military academy for women and the interior ministry.
A security agency said the group had been linked to the bombings, the first of their kind since the overthrow of Qadhafi last year. The bomb attacks took place on the eve of the anniversary of the fall of Tripoli to rebel fighters last year. The attacks occurred at dawn, one of them close to the interior ministry's administrative offices, and the other near the military academy on Omar al-Mokhtar Avenue.
Tripoli's head of security Col Mahmoud Sherif said the blast outside the military academy left two people dead and four or five injured. No casualties were reported from the other explosion. Sherif said that Qadhafi supporters were responsible for the attacks. He also alleged they were receiving financial backing from contacts in neighbouring countries.
Another official speaking to Reuters news agency said that a connection between the group and the attacks had been established. The attacks took place as crowds prepared for mass morning prayers to mark Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim celebration at the end of the fasting month Ramadan.
Earlier this month, Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) handed over power to a newly elected assembly, in the first peaceful transition in the country's modern history. But outbreaks of violence remain a frequent occurrence, which the security forces are strugging to curtail.
Sources: BBC News, Reuters, Bloomberg
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

Monday, 20 August 2012

EU allocates €34 million for Algerian environmental programme

The European Commission announced this week that it will allocate €35 million for an Algerian environmental programme. The programme will focus on protecting the Algiers coastal region, and aims to put the environment and efforts to tackle the impact of climate change at the heart of the country's development policies.
According to the European Commission, support will be given, for example, to a national climate plan, an ecological monitoring system for the coast, management plans for protected areas and studies of public investment costs and recurrent costs, including maintenance. The private sector and civil society will be closely involved in the programme's implementation.
This co-operation programme supplements other EU programmes which have for many years funded environmental protection and measures to combat pollution in the Mediterranean.
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 17 August 2012

Nigeria: Arguments over appointment of new Minister of Defence

The State Security Service (SSS) has screened retired Brigadier General Bitrus Boka Ushe, who is being proposed as the new Minister of Defence. The proposed nomination of Ushe - who, unlike many former military officers, has not entered politics since he retired seven years ago – is, however, being opposed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in his own Kebbi State where he is viewed as not a “party man”.
Some who oppose Ushe's nomination are doing so on the basis of religion because his nomination and subsequent appointment as Defence Minister would result in the Defence Ministry being headed by two Christians. The Minister of State for Defence, Mrs Olusola Obada, is also a Christian.
The appointment of a Defence Minister is quite political and it is reported that the presidency is shopping around for an ideal candidate who is not merely suitably qualified to head the ministry but is also an indigene of Kebbi State. This is because the presidency has to fill the ministerial slot reserved for Kebbi State which has become vacant following the removal of the former defence minister Haliru Bello Mohammed.
Kebbi State's Governor Saidu Dakingari had reportedly forwarded three names to the president as ministerial nominees. They were: Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, a former gubernatorial candidate of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) who has since defected
to the PDP; Isa Mohammed a former water resources minister and national chairman of the now defunct United Nigeria Congress Party; and Bello Usman Maitambari, a retired permanent secretary in the Federal Civil Service.
All three were rejected by President Goodluck Jonathan who stated that he wanted a suitable candidate who was not just from Kebbi State but who also had a relevant military background. Others being speculated as possible appointees - such as former National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Gen Aliyu Gusau and retired Colonel Dangiwar Umar - have not yet been screened. It is, therefore, very likely that barring any last minute unforeseen circumstances, the president will now forward Ushe's name as his nominee for Defence Minister.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Ghana: Electoral register ready for inspection on 1 September

Chairman of the electoral commission, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, has announced that updated biometric voters' register will be available for public display – and electronically – for voters and the political parties to check. It will be the first time that Ghana has made the electoral roll available with more than four months to go before the national elections on 7 December. All the 23,000 centres where prospective voters were registered during the registration period will be opened for anyone to cross-check their data, make corrections, and also ensure that their names are in the voter roll.
Huge hopes are pinned on the credibility of the new bio-metric system as a means of countering electoral fraud. Combined with the new census, which has cut significantly the number of people in the central Ashanti region which is a stronghold of the opposition NPP, the biometric register should introduce more accountability into the electoral process.
Afari-Gyan has unsurprisingly, however, come under increasing attack from opposition parties and civic society groups for acquiescing to the ruling NDC's proposals to create 45 new constituencies. This will only increase the number of parliamentary seats to 275 which is regarded by many Ghanaians as an intolerable burden on the public purse. Ghana's parliament and its MPs are widely derided as lazy and corrupt and have won little public respect during the multi-party era.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Feierstein on international community's role in Yemen

The leading role played by the international community was spelled out by US ambassador Gerald Feierstein in an interview with Al-Sharq al-Awsat:

“We hope that the dialogue will begin after the feast of Ramadan. The second point is to prepare for the national referendum and the elections. This consists of several steps. The Gulf initiative authorised the government to form a higher committee for the elections and the referendum. We are in contact with the government to encourage it to do so. We are also learning about the opinions of the political leaders on this subject. After that, we review and update the voters' register. The international group is ready to work closely with the higher elections and referendum committee to offer assistance in this regard. I hope we will begin this process in September so we will have enough time to prepare a credible voters' register.

“The constitutional amendments or drawing up a draft of the new constitution is another aspect of the second transitional phase. This will be the result of the national dialogue. I hope that the draft of the new constitution will be ready at the beginning of next year so it can be ratified in the general referendum. We also mention the work related to the restructuring of the armed forces and the security forces. We are working to finalise this with a number of institutions in the defence ministry and the interior ministry, and we are satisfied with what has been accomplished.

“Our impression regarding the articles of the Gulf initiative that have been accomplished is extremely positive. We are on the right road to accomplish many more of the resolutions of the initiative within the set deadlines until the end of the transitional phase by the beginning of February 2014.”

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 13 August 2012

US accuses Algeria of hindering counter-terrorism

The US State Department's report on global terrorism, released earlier this month is being seen as a warning shot across the bows of the Algerian regime. The US Intelligence services are, as John Schindler's recent whistle-blowing article revealed well aware of how the DRS has created its own terrorists and that AQIM is very much a product of this practice.
In its latest report, however, the US State Department is saying that Algeria is an obstacle to efforts in combating terrorism in the region. This suggests that, at last, the US may be beginning to lose patience with the Algerian regime. The DRS' sponsorship of AQIM and other Islamists groups in Mali would seem to be the catalyst that has sparked the US State Department's response.
The report, not surprisingly, has been seized upon by Morocco. As Tajeddine El Houssaini, professor of international relations at Morocco's University Mohammed V-Agdal, said this week, the US State Department is accusing the regime of Abdelaziz Bouteflika over his role as an obstacle to efforts to eradicate extremist groups.
El Houssaini said there are many links between former members of the "Polisario" and terrorists operating in the Sahel and Sahara. Citing the US report, he linked Algeria's negative role in the fight against terrorism in the region with the lack of a final settlement of the Sahara issue. According to other sources at University Mohammed V, several studies have shown that there are many links between former members of the “Polisario” and terrorists operating in the Sahel and Sahara. According to these reports, which are supported by our own research in this field, there is cooperation between elements of the Polisario and 'terrorists' in both hostage-taking and drug smuggling.
Moroccan sources, we should stress, are careful not to publicly accuse the DRS of being the key agency linking Polisario with the AQIM 'terrorists', although we have increasing evidence of this and believe that the US State Department is also becoming increasingly aware of such relationships.
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 10 August 2012

Nigeria: James Ibori seeks PR firm to help launder his image

Sources have revealed that convicted former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, who is serving a jail term in the United Kingdom for money laundering and fraud convictions has been trying to engage the services of UK public relations firms. Apparently he is seeking the services of a PR firm to help him launder his image in preparation for his release from jail and his eventual return to Nigeria.
Ibori apparently intends to continue in Nigerian politics after his prison stint. Sources have also revealed that, so far, most of the major PR firms contacted by Ibori's people have turned down the offer to work for Ibori. It would appear that Ibori is hoping to take a leaf from the book of former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyesiegha, who was infamously arrested in the UK on money laundering charges but escaped, dressed as a woman and effectively evading trial.
Following his disgrace Alamieyesiegha was replaced as governor by Goodluck Jonathan who was then the deputy governor. Despite being perceived as something of a political pariah his people held a “welcome parade” for him which was severely criticised by pundits. Alamieyesiegha has, however, now made a successful return to political circles.
Ibori's family and associates in Nigeria recently planned a “grand celebration” in honour of his 54th birthday party and this was widely advertised in national dailies. This celebration, which was criticised as ill-advised by observers and political pundits had been scheduled for Saturday 4 August but it has now been cancelled. The cancellation announcement was made by the secretary of the James Ibori Political Associates, Jaro Egbo, which was organising the celebration. Egbo cited circumstances beyond their control - the death of Ibori's brother - as the reason for the cancellation.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Egypt: Sinai is becoming an operating base for militant Jihadis

Security analysts had been warning for some time that the Sinai was becoming an operating base for militant jihadis. The local tribesmen, who for centuries have smuggled goods across borders they do not recognise, have been bringing in arms looted from Libya's armouries, some for militants in Gaza some for their own use. It has not been established how many militants from outside the Sinai might also have been drawn to the region for the apparent ease with which they could operate outside the purview of Egyptian security. One of Israel's best known and most authoritative defence analysts, Ehud Yaari, wrote in a report published in January: "Measures are needed to prevent the total collapse of security in and around the peninsula [and] avoid the rise of an armed runaway Bedouin statelet."
He noted that armed gangs had been trafficking hundreds of people, mainly from the Horn of Africa or sub-Saharan Africa, who paid them thousands of dollars to ensure their passage through the border into Israel. It was to stop the influx of illegal immigrants as much as for security reasons that Israel embarked on its project to build a massive security fence along its Sinai border.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Yemen: Suicide bomber kills 45 in Abyan

Yemen's government has blamed al-Qa'ida for a suicide bombing that has claimed at least 45 lives in the southern province of Abyan. Dozens more people were injured in the attack on a funeral in the city of Jaar.

It is thought that the bomber detonated an explosive belt during the service held by a tribal militia that supported the army during recent fighting.

In a statemtn, local governor Jamal al-Aqal said that an investigation had been opened into the "criminal and cowardly" attack on the service. According to an unnamed witness: "Bodies were flying in all directions because the explosion was so powerful."

Earlier this year, Yemen's army carried out a major offensive against Islamist militants in Abyan, taking control of the region in June with the help of civilian militias comprised of local tribesmen.
The latest attack, however, has raised fears that Ansar al-Sharia remains active in the area. Groups belonging to the al-Qa'ida have taken advantage of the security vacuum in the country, which began during a year of protests against the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Upon taking power the new President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi pledged his forces would crush the militants, but it seems the fight is ongoing.

The US has used its drones in the region to support the military campaign. According to Yemeni officials, just days ago, five alleged al-Qa'ida militants were killed in a suspected US drone strike. The drone reportedly targeted their vehicle in Hadramawt.

Sources: Agence France-Presse, BBC News, Reuters

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

Monday, 6 August 2012

Algeria: Whither Amar Ghoul?

Bouguerra Soltani,formally started his new party (P&S 20.07.12; 27.07.12), at this stage called Algérie pour Tous (Algeria for All), on Saturday 28 July, but with little further news on its specific line or prospective membership.

Bouguerra Soltani, president of MSP (Movement of Society for Peace) confirmed Ghoul's resignation from the MSP, but said that “the movement is broader than people”.

In his first statement after his formal resignation from MSP, Ghoul told reporters on 28 July that his decision to found a new party is “irreversible” and that “it is not important to me what Soltani or anyone else has to say about it.” Ghoul said, “The time to talk about the Movement of Society for Peace has passed,” and went as far as saying that the party was finished.

Speaking about the new party, Ghoul said: “We decided to change the party line based on the experience we have gained in the last few years,” adding that it would not be an explicitly Islamic movement. The new party, he said, would include groups from across the political spectrum.

Members of Ghoul's entourage were reported as saying that the new party will follow the example of Turkey's AK party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi - Justice and Development Party), which moved away from the Islamism of its former leader Necmettin Erbakan and has dominated power for the past decade.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 3 August 2012

Nigeria: Ex-presidents call for unity and peace

Two former presidents of Nigeria have issued a joint statement on the state of the nation. Former military president, Gen Ibrahim Babangida and former president Olusegun Obasanjo (who also served as military president 1976-79) issued the rare joint statement in Minna, Niger State, the home town of Babangida, on Sunday 29 July. They said that the statement was in response to the “unfolding events that are threatening to unravel the nearly century-old labour of our founding fathers”.

They urged that there was a need for a strong, united and peaceful nation, noting that there were internecine crises raging across the land unabated, with damaging consequences on the social, political and economic life of the nation, with untold hardships being visited on all citizens in one form or the other on a daily basis. They also pledged to do whatever was necessary to promote the quest for peace and harmony and to join hands with all patriots to sustain and further enhance the unity and progress of Nigeria.

Their statement has been met with mixed reviews. While some have commended both men for speaking out in unison against the security challenges that have held the country in a firm grip over the past year, others such as the Ohaneze Ndigbo socio-political group of the South-Eastern region, were less charitable as they referred to both men as hypocritical.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Suriname wants co-operation with Ecuador's petroleum sector

Suriname would like closer co-operation with Ecuador's mining and petroleum sector. In two months' time, Natural Resources Minister Jim Hok will travel to Quito to start discussions.

This was made clear during the official visit of Ecuador's Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Armando Patiño Aroca. With a 12-member delegation, he visited Suriname on 17 and 18 July. Suriname's Minister of Foreign Affaris Winston Lackin received his counterpart and delegation and there were talks on regional integration, climate change, markets for products, visa policy and tourism. Ecuador's tourism is booming; there is a 10% growth each year. Suriname is also busy establishing its tourism industry. Education was another topic of the discussions. At the end of the visit a 'Memorandum of Understanding' was signed in which, among other things, it was agreed that there will be an exchange programme of knowledge between both countries. Furthermore, there must be co-operation in the areas of trade and agriculture.

The visit of the Ecuadorian delegation must be seen in the light of deepening the regional integration. Suriname, being a small non-Spanish speaking country on the continent, has always been isolated compared to the Spanish-speaking countries. The Bouterse-Ameerali government is now trying to break out of this isolation.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Libya: Security system failures

There has been a failure of the security system in protecting those elements of, or close to, the government of the National Transitional Council (NTC), particularly in Benghazi. Among the victims of this particular instability is a military intelligence official, Suleiman Buzraidah, formerly in Qadhafi's employ, who was killed in a drive-by shooting incident on 28 July. This is seen in Libya as part of a well-integrated plot to eliminate from the ruling group those suspected of involvement in the deaths of individuals during the Qadhafi era. In all, it is suggested by government sources that as many as 106 names of officials in office during the Qadhafi period appear on the death list of the covert vigilante organisation. The shooting of Buzraidah was followed by the death in a bombing incident of Hameed Ali Kunduz. In June, Colonel Saleh al-Warfali, another Qadhafi regime official suffered a similar fate and this was again associated with the anti-Qadhafi extremists within the current regime.

On 29 July, again in Benghazi, General Khalifa Hafter was fortunate enough not to be included in the above reckoning. The gunmen who fired at the convoy in which he was travelling failed in their assassination attempt, leaving him unhurt.

The peace has also been disturbed by a continuation of the feuds raging in the Misrata region, particularly including confrontations between militia men from Bani Walid and locals from Misrata. At the same time, the violence affecting the Zwai and Tebu tribes in the Al Kufrah area continues and now includes a sub-theme of arms sales and smuggling.

On 30 July, a delegation of seven members of the Iranian Red Crescent arrived in Benghazi to discuss with their Libyan counterparts co-operation in humanitarian aid. At 01:00 on 31 July on the way to their hotel they were kidnapped by gunmen. There is no further information.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Nigeria: Masters wins Sierra Leone block

Masters Energy Exploration and Production (E&P) Company, a subsidiary of the Masters Energy Group, has been awarded oil exploration block SL 7C-10, covering an area of 2,015 km2 in Sierra Leone. The award was communicated to the company via an offer letter from the Petroleum Directorate of Sierra Leone.

Block SL-7C-10 is located in water depths of 10–330 m in the south, adjacent to block SL-7B-11, operated by Anadarko Petroleum and in which the deepwater hydrocarbon discovery well Jupiter-1 is located. Two more wells, Venus B-1 and Mercury-1, have also discovered hydrocarbons in the Upper Cretaceous channel in the same block, an indication that the Cretaceous sandstone and carbonate reservoirs sourced from Lower Cretaceous shale will be prospective targets in SL-7C-10.

Announcing the award the president of the Masters Energy Group, Uchechukwu Ogah, described it as a feat that has launched Masters E&P into the limelight as it is milestone in the company's history. The company's E&P group business executive, Casmir Onuoha, said, 'The award is a big boost to the company's entrance into E&P.' He stated that bidding for the block was keenly contested but the company came out tops through its superior presentations. He added that the company is on course to achieve first oil soon.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates