Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Mauritania: The latest news on the president, as at 29 October

President Abdel Aziz was discharged from hospital in Paris on October 24. Differing reports had him staying in a hotel near an airport or at the Mauritania Embassy. The same reports said he was returning to Mauritania on Sunday 28 October.

The latest news, sourced to Mohamed Ould El Kory, director of ANAIR ( Agence Nation d'Appui et d'Insertion des Réfugiés) and co-ordinator of the ruling UPR's Political Commission, is that the president, since leaving the Percy Hospital (Paris) at 16:00 pm on 24 October, is now convalescing in Nice.

Even though his state of health is reportedly very good, Ould El Kory said that the president's doctors had recommended two weeks of rest. According to Ould El Kory, the president was “on top of things”, as evidenced by his appointment on 27 October of a Mauritanian Ambassador to Iraq and his assurance that he will preside over the next cabinet meeting (Council of Ministers) currently scheduled for 8 November.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Suriname - VHP: “Spend mining industry profits on agricultural development”

Suriname's biggest opposition party, the Progressive Reform Party (VHP), would like to see profits from the mining industry used to set up a development fund for agriculture to develop and modernise the sector.

According to chairman of the Agricultural Council of the VHP, Dayanand Dwarka, the agricultural sector in Suriname has stagnated during the past decades and urgently needs to be modernised. Dwarka says that successive governments have done nothing to implement technological developments in agricuture. “The governments rather focus on the big bucks that come from the mining industry in Suriname, but they do not factor in that one day oil and bauxite will be exhausted.”

According to Dwarka, Suriname is going downhill, despite large worldwide technological developments in agriculture. “It is a tough job and prices are high. Farmers advise their children not to aspire to a career in agriculture. Young people see no achievements in their parents' agricultural enterprises and they rather invest in knowledge, skills and capital in other sectors.”

Dwarka predicts that in the long term this situation will become critical. “International organisations predict serious food shortages. Suriname has vast areas where large-scale agriculture can be practised. But if we continue at this level, by then all the knowledge, experience and capital will be lost.” He states that it is essential for Suriname to invest in these sectors now, “…so that we can extend our knowledge, experience and capital”.

Analysis: Mr Dwarka's observations are correct, but at the same time, remarkable, as during the past decades the VHP has more than once staffed the Ministry of Agriculture. This ministry was also held by top leaders of the party during the last few cabinets in which the VHP co-governed. Agriculture in Suriname is mainly in the hands of the VHP supporters: the Hindustani community. President Dési Bouterse's government has on a number of occasions expressed the intention to make Suriname the 'food supplier' of the Caribbean region. No real steps in that direction, however, have so far been taken. It appears that with regard to this topical item, the VHP wants to outstrip the current government. At the same time their intention is to guarantee the Hindustani electorate's loyalty to their party, because Bouterse's government is also looking for these votes.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Libya: Khamis Qadhafi killed and Moussa Ibrahim captured

The death of Khamis Qadhafi, who became the former Leader's most hated son after having led the notorious Brigade 32, has been confirmed after a long period of supposition and rumour of his whereabouts. He was located in Bani Walid on 20 October and was transferred to Misrata hospital but declared dead on arrival and DNA tests are now being carried out to prove his identity. Khamis was chiefly concerned with the military establishment and held an important position in state security. There is considerable speculation concerning the treatment he received between his arrest and his arrival in Misrata.
Moussa Ibrahim, who was Colonel Qadhafi infamous minister of information during the revolution, is also reported to have been captured at a checkpoint near Bani Walid on 20 October and to have been transferred to Tripoli. His name is amongst thirty or so Qadhafi loyalists, including Abdurrahman Al-Sid and Muftah Kayiba, rumoured to have been taking sanctuary in Bani Walid. There are, however, many such rumours.
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Caspian: Socar issues formal invitations for Tanap

Socar has formally invited a handful of IOCs to take part in the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (Tanap), apparently shutting out others (both public and private) that had expressed an interest in joining the project. As previously expected, BP, Statoil and Total were all invited to take some of Socar's 80% stake in the project. (Turkey's state-owned energy companies hold the remaining 20%.) Socar has offered 29% of its stake, ensuring that it retains a majority.

The formal invitation on 8 October suggests that other potential entrants – notably Hungary's OMV and Ukraine – have been kept out of the project, at least for now. In late September Turkey's economy minister Zafer Çaglayan said that OMV “has demanded [an opportunity] to join the Tanap project.” Çaglayan suggested that the company was willing to provide an eye-opening €5.4 billion to Tanap. Although Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz subsequently welcomed OMV's participation, Baku is the one to make the final decision and it shows no sign of wanting to dilute its stake any further.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych had affirmed his interest in Tanap as recently as last month, in a meeting with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 14 September. Despite Yanukovych's request, he appears to have been rebuffed. At the time of writing, none of the three companies had responded to Socar's offer but BP, at any rate, is widely considered to be interested.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 22 October 2012

French foreign minister visits Algiers

France's Foreign Minister Manuel Valls arrived in Algiers on Saturday 13 October on a two-day visit. He was met at Algiers?s Houari Boumédienne Airport by counterpart Daho Ould Kablia. During his stay he met with several of Algeria's senior ministers, including Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci and Minister of Religious Affairs Bouabdellah Ghlamallah. Valls' visit came before President Hollande's admission of the October 1961 massacre of Algerians and there have been no indications as to whether he gave the Algiers regime any indication of what Hollande mwas to say.

Virtually nothing has been divulged about the purpose of the visit or the content of the talks held, other than platitudinous remarks in press in which Valls hailed the “excellent” cooperation between Algeria and France in anti-terrorism and what he described as the “flawless” commitment of the Algerian authorities in that regard.

It is widely believed that the main purpose of his visit was to discuss the Mali situation. Although Valls stressed his agreement with Algeria on the importance of Mali?s territorial unity and the danger of terrorism in that country, France and Algeria are fundamentally at odds over how to resolve the crisis. While France is at the forefront in pushing for international military intervention and is offering military logistical support for such an intervention, Algeria is strongly opposed to any such intervention, arguing instead for a political situation. Valls said, on his departure on Monday 15 October, that France supported “all political processes that would allow Mali to preserve its territorial integrity.”

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Libya: Economy and Business News

The Libyan Investment Authority is struggling to recover the remainder of its assets frozen during the revolution. The outstanding amount is calculated at between US$50-60 billion. About US$1.39 billion of this is in Italy and a slightly larger amount is locked in investments made four or five years ago.

A very positive note has been struck by the recent release of tenders for the refurbishment and development of two tourist hotels – one in Benghazi and one in Misurata.

The National Mixed Thoroughbred Horse Auction on 13 October, held at the Al Shaab Stud also indicated that “things are moving” and that a measure of normality in day-to-day living is possible. This event in Tajoura attracted bidders from across the globe. Prices have been higher in the past, but Libyan racehorses and this auction continue to be internationally recognised.

Tobruk airport is looking to gain a licence for international flights. The airport director Mohamed Manfour is very positive as, with approval, transport of haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia would be possible.

This year Saudi Arabia has agreed to increase the number of Libyans permitted to attend the celebrations which take place between 24-29 October and many Libyan pilgrims have already flown to Jedda from other airports.

A three-day exhibition, Technology of Oil and Gas, is currently running in Tripoli with the support of NOC. It aims to attract new ventures and foreign capital back to Libya. See more information on NOC in sections below.

A small group of Libyan officials – from the Ministries of Economics, Defence, Labour and Foreign Affairs - are currently on a five-day training course in Warsaw. The Polish School of Public Administration is providing lectures and workshops suitable for administering “a country in transition”.

Training is also being provided for 160 officers in the armed forces by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The programme aims to draw attention to the legal responsibilities under humanitarian law and their application to both armed conflict and the treatment of prisoners. Those trained will pass on the information provided.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Ghana: Vice president candidate confirmed

The Convention People's Party (CPP) has confirmed the Dwantoahemaa (Queen Mother) of the Dormaa Traditional Council in the Brong Ahafo Region, Nana Akosua Frimpomaa Sarpong II, as its vice presidential candidate.

CPP general secretary, Ivor Greenstreet, told reporters in Accra late on 11 October, “She is highly educated, very knowledgeable and has great experience in her area of expertise.” He described Sarpong, who is the founder of NGO Caring Kids International, as “somebody who has been involved with children or the youth and NGO activities, very articulate, very dynamic”.

Sarpong has resigned from the position of Queen Mother in order to comply with Ghanas constitution which prevents traditional leaders from actively participating in politics. Political commentators have questioned whether the CPP, the party founded by Ghana?s first president Kwame Nkrumah, will be able to mount a serious challenge to either the ruling NDC or the NPP in December. It has, in recent years, struggled to make a significant dent in the polls.

Greenstreet told reporters, “We believe Ghanaians have seen the works of the NDC and the NPP and they've been waiting for the Convention People's Party to demonstrate seriousness, and we believe that with this particular appointment, it would be something that will make a significant impact throughout the electoral process.”

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 15 October 2012

Suriname: IMF criticises subsidies to state-owned companies

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has criticised the way in which Suriname provides subsidies to a few large state-owned companies. In its recently published Country Report the Suriname Energy Company (EBS) is explicitly named and it described as having a "complicated issue of criss-crossing subsidies and mounting unpaid debts?. Meanwhile the EBS owes the government US$47 million for the electricity bill from the Afobaka Hydropower plant. It also does not pay for the diesel it receives from Staatsolie for the Wärtsilää generators at the Paramaribo power plant.
The IMF estimates that a total of US$84 million in subsidies was therefore provided to EBS in 2011. It states, however, that these financial constructions are not harmful to the Surinamese economy but do disguise the level of state subsidies to the public sector.
Analysis : It is obvious that Suriname still has problems operating in a business-like and transparent manner when it comes to the government supporting state companies. Besides the EBS the telecommunication company Telesur and Surinam Airways (SLM) also both receive indirect support from the government.
The lack of transparency gives a biased view of the flow of money and, in addition to that, it disguises information about investment constructions. For example, as noted in previous editions of Suriname Politics & Security, contracts for the power station which is run by Staatsolie were not put out to tender. The generators supplied by the Finnish company Wärtsilää were instead supplied by the businessman Dillip Sardjoe who is a confidant of the president and, at the same time, the Honorary Consul of Finland.
The IMF, does not, however, report on low prices that Suriname ?s population pays for energy. Electricity is fairly cheap which makes it difficult for campaigns on energy savings to be effective. Large-scale government investments in wind and solar energy have failed to get off the ground despite Suriname being in the position of being able to fully provide its own energy needs according to energy experts. If, for example, all of Suriname ?s cars ran on electricity the country would be able to generate energy for its entire fleet and still have sufficient energy to export to its neighbours.
For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Libya: Back to the drawing board as GNC reject Mustafa Abushagur

The past week has seen further setbacks for post-revolution Libya with continuing security problems throughout the country plus a political dispute which will inevitably delay the formation of a new and legitimate government by at least a month.
Prime Minister elect, Mustafa Abushagur, was dismissed from his post on 7 October following an overwhelming vote of no confidence by the General National Congress (GNC). There were 125 members who voted against him retaining his position, while only 44 voted for him and a further 17 abstained. His dismissal came despite his energetic attempts to sustain his proposals for a new cabinet. Comment & Analysis provides further details and the chronology of the events of the past week.
France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius immediately called off his planned visit to Tripoli on 6 October when it became apparent that there was no legitimate government to talk to; his visit will now be rescheduled for a later date.
The GNC, recognising the need for a swift resolution to the political crisis and to choose a consensus candidate, agreed to a proposal for three new candidates to be nominated on 10 October. The three will be selected from a list of individuals made up of two representatives from each of Congress' main political blocs - the National Forces Alliance (39 representatives); Justice & Construction Party (17); National Agreement group (26); the Workers group (13); and the National Independent group (35) - plus a few genuine independents. The winner, who will certainly have to be a compromise candidate and will not include any of the main politicians who took part in the 12 September election, will need to win 101 of the 200 votes to become the next prime minister elect.
The GNC vote could not have come at a worse time because Libya desperately needs political stability and a strong government which can deal with the current security crisis. There is a very real danger that if the GNC continues for much longer to be unable to elect a prime minister, and then approve his choice of ministers, foreign companies may soon give up on the country and go elsewhere.
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Yemen: Anti-corruption moves

Some of the Yemeni organisations that look at corruption and malpractice make stinging criticisms of parts of the administration. One such in September exposed corruption in the handling of goods at ports, claiming the state lost about 90% of the revenues.

The Supreme National Anti-Corruption Commission wants the prime minister to consider – and thus cancel – some power generation projects. Another organisation has questioned the prices the government is paying for privately generated electricity. This is an awkward one, given the dire and immediate need for more power generation and the current interest being shown by private sector businessmen in proposals to deal with it – mostly on a provincial level. The real need is to make the whole process more transparent so that the public have confidence that the practices of the Saleh era do not carry over into the Hadi presidency.

The anti-corruption body is also reviewing agreements signed between the government and foreign oil companies. There appears to be no specific target in mind but there has been strong criticism within Yemen over the low price received from a South Korean company for gas taken on a long term contracts – a price which is now well below international gas prices. There are also mumblings about details of the Yemeni LNG agreement.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Friday, 5 October 2012

President is criticised for his Independence Day speech

Nigeria “celebrated” the 52 nd Independence Day anniversary on 1 October. For the second consecutive year, the celebrations were low-key across the country and even more so in Abuja. President Goodluck Jonathan has received widespread criticism for his 18-minute Independence Day broadcast which has been described as lacklustre, inaccurate and defeatist.

His declaration of the commencement of a year-long national prayer campaign has been slated because, as far as most Nigerians are concerned, it could be construed to mean that the presidency had run out of ideas and was literally “living on a prayer” in charting the affairs of the country and in resolving the myriad problems of insecurity, corruption and lack of infrastructure provision that continue to impact negatively on Nigeria's economic development.

Attempting to highlight his administration's achievements in the fight against corruption Jonathan erroneously stated that Transparency International (TI) had scored his administration high and Nigeria as “improving”. This was almost immediately refuted by TI which said: “Transparency International does not have a recent rating or report that places Nigeria as the second most improved country in the fight against corruption.”

Meanwhile, sources have revealed that the president is unhappy with the remarks made by Senate president, David Mark, during the special Independence Day session of the Senate held on Tuesday 2 October.

Remarking on the state of the nation at 52, Mark said: “We have made some considerable achievements. For that alone, we need to show gratitude to God, pray and work. Not just pray alone. Praying alone will not solve the problem and we need to combine both of them. I think more than anything else, we just need political will to take our policies to logical conclusions whether it is at the executive level or the legislative level.”

Some observers believe that Mark's reference to prayer being insufficient was a veiled response to the President's call for a year-long national prayer campaign. According to sources, Jonathan reached the same conclusion, and is therefore unhappy with Senator David Mark. Jonathan apparently felt that Mark's statement constituted a betrayal because he had always considered Mark to be one of his administration's firm allies.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Sahara: Libyan spy chief tricky for Algeria

The return of Muammar Qadhafi's muchwanted spy chief Abdullah Al-Senussi from Mauritania to Libya on 8 September is likely to prove acutely embarrassing for Algeria. Senussi was handed over to Libyan authorities for a reported price of €1 billion.

Senussi is apparently telling his Libyan captors a great deal about the form of assistance that Algeria gave to the Qadhafi regime during the Libyan rebellion last year. According to sources, Senussi has been revealing much about the financial and other conditions under which many members of the Qadhafi family were given sanctuary in Algeria last year.

If Senussi continues to cooperate with his Libyan interrogators in the same as he appears to have begun, Algeria could have some very tricky questions to explain away.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Cameroon: Military surveillance increased around oil-rich basins

Military officials in the South-West Region have told Cameroon Politics & Security that newly-graduated recruits will be used in the fight against the growing national insecurity and especially possible terrorists on the country's Atlantic coast.

The new security structure at Kribi commenced on 19 September and is reportedly equipped with cutting-edge surveillance technology and other military communications gear. It is aimed at reinforcing security around the Douala/Campo Kribi oil basin, as well as in the adjacent Rio del Rey basin in South-West Cameroon. The latter is particularly sensitive because of its proximity to the disputed Bakassi peninsula.

Cameroon hopes that new oil exploitation at the end of 2012 and the start of 2013 will increase its daily oil production from around 63,000 b/d to 100,000 b/d with the new output from Rio del Rey.

The state-run National Hydrocarbons Corporation invested over CFA17 billion in November 2011 for the construction of an ultra-modern building on the shores of Rio del Rey to contain piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Cameroon Politics & Security' s military sources have told us that the BIR's expansion to other parts of the coastal waters is to ensure that the troublemakers do not disguise themselves among the locals in order to cause any form of insecurity or jeopardise peace in the areas.

The Kribi BIR's key mission is to protect the gigantic Kribi seaport, ensure the security of the Kribi Gas plant which is under construction along with other investments, as well as the 216MW thermal electricity power station being built by AES-Sonel.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

Nigeria: Domestic aviation almost extinct

In recent years, the performance and growth of Nigeria's domestic aviation sector has been at best just below average, with most airlines struggling to maintain profits and operating under enormous mountains of debt. On the periphery, however, observers assumed the airlines were making passable profits and doing quite well.
For most Nigerians, the major concern has been the question of aircraft safety and whether the regulatory authorities were doing enough to ensure it. About 90 per cent of air accidents that occur in Nigeria are completely fatal. They have so far involved only domestic airline operators and a couple of aircraft belonging to security agencies, the police, and the military.
What was not known was that domestic airlines were hugely indebted to the financial sector. The bubble burst and the secret financial rot came out in the open in 2009, when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) conducted a joint audit of the banking sector and found mammoth margin loans and nonperforming loans on the books.
It was found that some of the prominent debtors were domestic airlines. This spurred the CBN to offer a bailout fund in the hope that the aviation sector would not collapse and plunge the economy into chaos.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Monday, 1 October 2012

Suriname wants co-operation with Ecuador's petroleum sector

Guna Castelen, who is the leader of the Surinaamse Partij van de Arbeid (SPA) or Surinamese Labour Party was reported as saying that corruption remained one of the biggest threats for the development of the country. Corruption has, however, been a major problem for Suriname for many years including during the Venetiaan administration of which Castelen was a part. During his August 2010 inaugural speech President Bouterse had announced a ‘crusade against corruption’. Castelen claims that that there is still corruption in the country and he therefore regretted that the president has not touched upon this issue in his address.
Castelen said that he was happy that the President obviously recognises that during the past few years he has ‘filled a box with empty promises’. He claimed that the 2012 annual address was less ambitious and more realistic than the two previous addresses but that a number of new promises had been added.
One person who attended Bouterse’s address to parliament and who supports Castelen was reported as saying “Look at the construction of houses. During the 2010 election campaign Mr Bouterse was talking about a target of 30,000 houses. Now he talks about 18,000. We will see if he accomplishes half of this number. The government does not own land and in Suriname there are not enough labourers to do the job.”
For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.
© 2012 Menas Associates

Iraq: Licensing round awards approved

Despite the difficulties that are engulfing its energy sector, Baghdad had some reason to feel good this month. At the end of September, the cabinet approved three of the oil and gas contracts that were awarded to foreign firms in the May licensing round. According to government spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh, the cabinet approved a gas exploration contract with Pakistan Petroleum to develop gas block 8, a 6,000 sq km block in the east central part of Iraq, about 40km east of Baquba. Pakistan Petroleum won the tender with a remuneration fee of $5.38/barrel oil equivalent.
Also approved was the contract with the consortium led by Russia's Lukoil to develop block 10, a 5,500 sq km site, 120km west of Basra. The cabinet also approved an initial deal with Russia's Bashneft to develop block 12 in the western desert. Bashneft had originally bid on this block as part of a consortium with PetroVietnam as operator. However, the $9.85/barrel remuneration fee bid in the round was too high and the bid rejected. Bashneft has since entered into an agreement with Baghdad for the block.
The cabinet was also expected to approve the contact signed with a consortium led by Kuwait Energy in partnership with TPAO and Dragon Oil for block 9 in Basra. However, according to Al-Dabbagh, the cabinet decided to delay approval until the “oil ministry completes some of its procedures”.
For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

© 2012 Menas Associates