Friday, 20 December 2013

Algeria: French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's visit

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, as reported last week (Algeria Politics & Security 13.12.13), arrived in Algiers on Sunday 15 December for a two-day official visit, the primary object of which was to boost bilateral economic co-operation and development between the two countries. Ayrault was accompanied by some nine ministers and about 40 business leaders.

The two premiers co-chaired the first meeting of the Algerian-French High-Level Intergovernmental Committee, which had been instigated during President François Hollande 's highly successful visit to Algeria exactly one year ago.

In the course of these committee sessions the two sides signed nine bilateral co-operation agreements covering a range of fields, including energy, scientific research, mechanical co-operation, fishing, the pharmaceutical industry, construction and trade.

Ayrault said at a joint news conference with Sellal that bilateral relations allowed the two sides to build bridges of co-operation “for the sake of an ambitious partnership that matches the binds linking our countries and people”. He went on to say that France was keen on re-launching dialogue on many issues of mutual interest.

For his part, Sellal voiced relief for the French investment which is urgently needed. He said, “They [French investors] can be assured about our political will regarding the encouragement of partnership that will benefit the two parties.” Algeria, he said, “is not only a market for France but, above all, a partner.”

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Cameroon: New Boko Haram attacks



 
New Boko Haram attacks and the ongoing CAR crisis keep the government worried about mounting insecurity.
 
Interior Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi summoned Cameroon's ten governors for a three-day conclave on security and safety that started on Tuesday 17 December amid growing insecurity in and around the country. It is the second conclave this year and comes on the heels of deadly attacks and kidnappings in eastern and northern Cameroon by rebels from war-torn CAR and Boko Haram insurgents from Nigeria.
 
After having kidnapped a French Catholic priest in November, three Boko Haram militants attacked and killed a man in the northern town of Kousserie on Saturday 14 December.
 
The incident comes after Defence Minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo'o took delivery of imported heavy munitions at Douala port on Saturday 7 December. He received more than 100 heavy mechanised machine guns in Douala after having acquired two combat helicopters in November, as if to show the government's readiness to counter any internal and/or foreign attack.
 
Cameroon has continued to strengthen its military personnel and arsenal since the beginning of 2013, and has made it publicly visible. This was especially after the Paris-based Jeune Afrique magazine reported earlier this year that the country's military was weakened by obsolete equipment and was contaminated by tribal fratricides within its various compartments.
 
The interior minister said that “Cameroon is being propelled by the head of state Paul Biya through a difficult battle to emergence. But without national order; without peace and serenity, these [economic] projects cannot be realised. This is the key context of this meeting.” He added that, apart from routine investigations by special security units, it was imperative for all the governors to pre-empt attacks and avoid being taken by surprise.
 
On the other hand, Minister of Trade Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana told the meeting that food and other basic commodities were in sufficient supply, because that could also trigger internal social strife which might spill over to give insurgents the opportunity to invade the country.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Cameroon, please see Cameroon Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Ghana: Fitch Ratings optimistic on Sub-Saharan Africa's growth

 
Fitch Ratings remains optimistic on Sub-Saharan Africa's growth, despite the risks that may occur from any tapering of quantitative easing by the US Federal Reserve.
 
Although the international ratings agencies have been pessimistic about Ghana – because of debt and deficit concerns – which have led to downgrades and/or Ghana's debt being placed on negative outlook, the most recent Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) release from the Fitch ratings agency, which downgraded Ghana's debt rating in October, is generally positive.
 
Among other things, Fitch expects overall SSA's GDP growth to increase during 2014 to around 5.1% for the year. Fitch, rather than touting the usual commodities story, notes the progress on Africa's public infrastructure and infrastructure spending and successful use of dollar Eurobond financing. On the downside, Fitch sees the tapering by the US Federal Reserve of its “quantitative easing” programme as presenting the biggest risk to Africa's economies.
 
On the ratings front, Fitch maintains a “stable” overall rating outlook for 2014, with more SSA countries (compared to one year ago) having (i) a positive ratings outlook and (ii) a stable ratings outlook, and fewer having (iii) a negative ratings outlook.
 
Ghana, according to Fitch, was one of the three out of 16 SSA countries that was downgraded; the others being South Africa and Zambia while only one country was upgraded. Unfortunately, Fitch highlights Ghana as the 2013-downgraded country in which fiscal deterioration is “most evident” because of its “double digit twin deficits”, increasing debts, and unlikely-to-be-attained “fiscal consolidation” targets. Ghana, according to some, not only faces high deficits and debt but is also rapidly becoming a worst-in-class performer on key economic metrics; a sobering thought for the new year.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Saudi Arabia expels Yemeni workers


Saudi Arabia has been pushing through its campaign to reduce the number of illegal workers in the kingdom. Perhaps 150,000 Yemenis have been expelled or may be soon – with possibly a further 50,000 still to be processed. Riyadh has ignored complaints from Yemen – and the many other countries affected – and indeed the likely consequences for its own security in adding to the misery in Yemen by cutting off vital remittances. The problem for Yemen is that the measure is not aimed against Yemenis but a whole category of people of which Yemenis are the most numerous.
 
Exceptions are not being made.
 
Relations between the two countries have not been helped by the case of a Saudi woman who eloped to Yemen with a Yemeni man. This has become a cause celebre and the woman, after facing the possibility of imprisonment and deportation, has been granted political asylum.
 
The UN Children's Fund and Human Rights Watch got involved. The Saudis are not amused.They may not object to the outcome – it is the publicity they detest. There was shooting on the Yemeni-Saudi border involving those working on building the new security fence.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Benghazi Joint Security Operations spokesman resigns


Colonel Abdullah Zaidi, spokesman of the Benghazi Joint Security Operations Chamber, resigned from his post this week in protest at the deteriorating security situation in the town and at the lack of support the chamber receives from the authorities.
 
This will come as a blow to the government that has made a major effort to bolster security in Benghazi of late, with its sending of army units and military equipment to the city. It seems, however, that for all the government's efforts, there is still a fundamental problem in the support it is giving to those responsible for security in the city.
 
According to former SSC head Hisham Bashar, the government has yet to deliver a proper budget to the Benghazi security directorate. Bashar recounted how there have been CCTV cameras in some parts of Benghazi for some time but that until last week, these cameras were not working because the government had not released the money.
 
While many will put such failings down to general bureaucracy and ineptitude, others believe that this failure to deliver adequate support is part of a deliberate attempt by certain Islamist elements to ensure that Prime Minister Ali Zidan's government falls.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Libya: General Prosecutor for Jebel Akhdar killed in Derna


This week has seen another senior figure from the judiciary targeted and killed in Derna. On 9 November, the General Prosecutor for the Jebel Akhdar region, Mohamed Al-Naas, was killed when a bomb exploded under his car.
 
The killing is reflective of the gaping security vacuum that has opened up in the town. According to one Libyan journalist who travelled to Derna recently, “There is no police, no security directorate, not even a security chamber in Derna. All policemen are sitting at home because of the threat to them by Islamists.” This corroborates the recent assertion by Derna Congressman Abdulfatah Shalwi that the town does not even have a functioning local council or security directorate.
 
The situation is so bad that, according to one Derna resident, the town is “divided between Islamists, gangs, weapons smugglers, drugs mafias and ordinary people”.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 11 November 2013

Morocco's latest spat with Algeria

 
Moroccan-Algerian relations appear to be returning to normal following their recent spat over the Western Sahara. A senior government official announced on 4 November that Morocco's ambassador to Algiers, Abdallah Belkaziz, had returned to the Algerian capital and was set to resume work on the same day.
 
He had been recalled to Rabat the previous week following President Bouteflika's provocative speech over Morocco's abuse of human rights in the Western Sahara occupied territories in suppressing the “peaceful struggle” of the Sahrawi people for freedom of expression and association.
The official stressed that the ambassador had only been recalled for consultations and had not been withdrawn, adding that Morocco "will always take measures against those who try to touch its territorial integrity." Referring to an incident last week, in which a Moroccan protester tore down the flag from Algeria's consulate in Casablanca, he said the authorities had been "firm" and the perpetrator was under arrest. But the official denied that Morocco had made an "apology" over the incident.
 
Ugly scenes had developed outside Algeria's consulate in Casablanca on Friday 1 October as Moroccans, egged on by their own government, protested against President Bouteflika's provocative comments over the Western Sahara. A number of other protests against Algeria were staged around the country and most notably in Rabat and Oujda. In what can only be explained as retaliatory action, Algeria arrested dozens of Moroccans living within its borders on alleged espionage and drug-trafficking charges.
 
Who gets the last word in before US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives on the scene (see below) is still up for grabs. So far, it is with King Mohamed VI, who, in his speech on Wednesday 6 November to mark the 38 th anniversary of the occupation of the Western Sahara, accused Algeria of systematic violations of human rights in Tindouf Sahrawi refugee camps.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

World Bank still rates Ghana as top West African country

 
World Bank still rates Ghana as top West African country for “doing business”, as Vice President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur confirms that GDP growth should still exceed 7% this year. There has been no follow on after recent rumours that Minister of Finance Seth Terkper is set to be replaced by President Mahama because of his performance at the helm of the economy and the monetary policy-focused Bank of Ghana has escaped the opprobrium for the deteriorating fiscal position.
 
Ghana's Vice President and former Bank of Ghana governor, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, has confirmed that Ghana's economic growth will still exceed 7% this year as Finance Ministry officials have recently indicated. According to Amissah-Arthur, GDP growth should reach 7.2% for 2013 even if over 0.5% lower than the predicted 7.9% - with this shortfall unfortunately one of the reasons that the deficit will be reduced more slowly than expected. The 7.2% figure is slightly less than the 7.5% figure presented by Terkper late last month when complaining about the Fitch ratings agency's decision to downgrade.
 
At least the World Bank is more optimistic, on a relative basis compared to Fitch, on the business environment. In its latest “Doing Business” report for 2014 it confirmed Ghana as the highest ranking West African or ECOWAS country. This is despite Ghana's global ranking fell slightly to 67th out of 189 countries because of increasing the administrative requirements on those starting businesses.
 
Ghana was, however, not on the World Bank list of countries that had most improving their business regulations since 2009 which was when John Kufuor handed over the presidency to John Atta Mills. One may interpret this in more than one way including that Ghana has provided a relatively business-friendly environment over a longer period of time. Indeed, Ghana is one of the twenty most improved countries since 2005 - with twelve significant regulatory reforms – and was highlighted as having made major strides in improving domestic access to credit over the past five years.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Libya: Religious authority condemns federalism


The federalists received a blow from the religious establishment this week when the Association of Libyan Scholars issued a fatwa castigating federalism as 'haram' (religiously prohibited). The association made sure to point out that it was not condemning federalism as a concept, but rather that they were prohibiting it on religious grounds because of the damage that it might do to the country. The head of the association, Omar Mouloud, commented that “federalism would take Libya backwards.”
 
Given that ruling something as haram makes it permissible to kill anyone who engages in it, the association also clarified that the “banning of federalism does not permit bloodletting.”
Meanwhile the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadiq Al-Ghariani, also laid into the federalists, accusing the announcement of the new Cyrenaica government as being tantamount to the declaration of a state within a state. He also warned that the country could not sustain any more division.
While the Islamists have long made clear their aversion to federalism, such condemnation coming from respected Islamic scholars, does further damage to the federalists' cause in the eyes of many Libyans.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Caspian: Tethys in unexpected farm-out

 
Tethys Petroleum is continuing to surprise market-watchers, with an unexpected farm-out of its Kazakh assets to a Chinese oil company owned by a major private equity fund. The company had not hinted it was planning a farm-out, which will help fund its work programme there as well as free up cashflow for expansion elsewhere.

On 1 November Tethys said in a statement that it was selling 50% plus one share of its Kazakh business to SinoHan Oil and Gas Investment, part of Beijing-based HanHong, for $75 million. Tethys will remain the operator for the assets in question and the two sides will have equal representation on the board of the local company. HanHong has assets already in Kazakhstan through other branches – four gold mining licences in which HanHong is an investor or manager – but this is its first foray into the energy sector.

The deal is a boost for Tethys, which has found it something of a challenge to effectively monetise its valuable Kazakh assets, which have 2P reserves of 26 million barrels. Getting oil to market (the domestic market, for now, since the company has not yet acquired an export licence) has taken some time while the Aral Oil Terminal has been expanded. The terminal, with a current loading capacity of 4,200 b/d and a storage capacity of 1,300 b/d, is being significantly expanded to over 12,000b/d, which will cut the need for trucking crude and increase Tethys's production ceiling.

Although the Aral Oil Terminal provides good access to refineries and ports, Tethys is also considering the construction of an oil export pipeline which would almost certainly connect to the Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline (currently undergoing expansion). Although a pipeline depends on an oil export licence, that appears to be just a matter of time, and the SinoHan farmout will give Tethys a cash boost for a pipeline, as well as to fund its ambitious drilling programme for the coming year. The additional cashflow will also be useful for operations in Georgia, the latest addition to Tethys's portfolio.

Although it's a very different beast to the Chinese majors (Tethys has farmed-out to CNPC, and Total, for its Bokhtar PSC in Tajikistan), SinoHan's involvement nevertheless aligns Tethys towards China in terms of oil and gas export. If and when export pipelines for oil and – one day – gas get built from Tethys's contract area, they will almost certainly connect to the existing pipeline network to China.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 28 October 2013

Libya: The JCP responds

 
On 12 October, referring to Ali Zidan's kidnapping, Justice and Construction Party (JCP) head Mohamed Sawan declared that the government had failed and that the Zidan's mismanagement may have led to 'irresponsible behaviour by some people.'
 
This was hardly a forthright condemnation of the affair. Sawan also insisted that Congress was 'seriously searching for an alternative' to Zidan, though other Congress members have denied doing so. The JCP head did make it clear, however, that Zidan had told JCP Congress members that he was not referring to them in his accusation, remarking, 'I wish he had named the political party behind his kidnap.'
 
Several JCP members accused Zidan of having staged the incident himself in order to detract attention from his failings. Amina Mahjoub, JCP Congress member from Surman, described the abduction as 'like a play that Zidan himself had orchestrated.'
 
The head of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, Bashir Al-Kebti, all but accused Zidan of inventing the whole thing, telling a German press agency, 'There are suspicions that it may have been a piece of theatre to gain support and to cover up his failure to run the state.' Thus the JCP and the Brotherhood used his abduction as simply another chance to attack and weaken the prime minister.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Pakistan wants Iran to finance gas pipeline

Pakistan has asked Iran for $2 billion to finance the construction of its side of a controversial gas pipeline that has drawn the threat of US sanctions, according to Pakistani Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on 8 October.
 
The Iranian side of the $7.5 billion project is almost complete, but Pakistan has run into repeated problems paying for the 780 km section to be built on its side of the border. Abbasi told AFP that preparatory work was complete but that Iranian money was needed for the construction work.
'All these issues will be discussed in a meeting we have requested, but so far there is no reply from the Iranian side,' Abbasi said.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Iran, please see Iran Strategic Focus.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Libya: Mufti issues controversial fatwa on education

Libya's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadiq Al-Ghariani, has prompted further controversy by issuing a fatwa declaring that female teachers in schools and colleges must cover their faces if they are teaching males who have reached the age of puberty.
 
The fatwa was made in response to a request from the Education Ministry that had appealed to Al-Ghariani for a ruling on the matter. The Ministry was concerned that some teachers were wearing the niqab or full face veil during lessons which is something that was making it difficult for students. As such they had hoped that the mufti would rule that it was not obligatory for female teachers to cover their faces in such a situation.
 
Proving his ultra conservative outlook, however, the mufti ruled that young female teachers should cover their faces. He went further and advocated that, where possible, males and females should be segregated in all educational establishments. Where that was not possible, they should at least be segregated during break times and in communal areas. He also called for separate entrances for males and females and ruled that girls should dress respectfully and be prohibited from wearing make-up and perfume “to avoid temptation”. While the Mufti's fatwa will please certain sections of the Libyan population, it has left others reeling. Although Libya might be a socially conservative and traditional society such practices, that smack of the Gulf, are a step too far for many.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Egypt: Foreign minister says relations with the US now in turmoil

 
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy was quoted as telling Al-Ahram that relations with the US are now in turmoil and the entire Middle East could suffer. He was speaking after the US Administration delivered a small rap across Egypt's knuckles for its undemocratic governance by suspending some military aid. However minimal the material effect of the suspension of some arms deliveries will be, there is no doubting that Egypt has felt the slight. Foreign ministers in the Arab world have seldom made foreign policy, which has been the preserve of the president or ruler. However, successive foreign ministers in the post-Hosni Mubarak era have demonstrated that they can be more than mere mouthpieces for their leaders. Fahmy is articulating the new mood in Egypt, one far more critical and hostile to the West, while rather more craven - for now - towards its new backers Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.
 
Fahmy told the newspaper that Egypt had been depending for too long on US aid and that Washington should not take Egypt's support for its actions for granted. "We are now in a delicate state reflecting the turmoil in the relationship and anyone who says otherwise is not speaking honestly," he said. He said that the roots of the problems extend far beyond the current spat over aid suspension. "The truth is that the problem goes back much earlier, and is caused by the dependence of Egypt on the US aid for 30 years. (The aid) made us choose the easy option and not diversify our options."
 
There has been a suggestion that Egypt might turn to Russia for arms purchases - but such a move would be more political than strategic. Few expect Egypt to make the kind of break with Washington that it made with Moscow and the-then Soviet Union in 1973. One relic of the old relationship with the Eastern bloc is the Mig 21 fighter, used still to train Egyptian pilots. Their continued use came to light when one crashed near Luxor. For all the bluster, the military is enjoying the support of the US in confronting Islamist militants in the Sinai.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 11 October 2013

Algeria: Sonatrach exercises pre-emption rights in Petroceltic's farm-out

Petroceltic confirmed on 7 October that it has received formal notification that Sonatrach is exercising its rights under the Isarene Production-Sharing Contract ("PSC") to pre-empt the Company's proposed sale of an 18.375% interest in the PSC.

The commercial terms and proceeds of pre-emption are similar to those agreed between the Company and a potential third party purchaser and comprise a US$20 million payment on completion, a US$140 million development and two contingent payments of US$10 million each based on the achievement of certain early production and technical completion milestones. Following the completion of the transaction, Sonatrach will hold a 43.375% participating interest, Petroceltic will hold 38.25% and Enel will hold the remaining 18.375%.
 
Petroceltic CEO Brian O'Cathain said: "The decision by Sonatrach to exercise its pre-emptive right is a clear indication of the current value and long-term upside potential of the Isarene asset. Since 2005, Petroceltic has enjoyed an excellent relationship with Sonatrach and we believe that this decision represents a positive endorsement of the technical, commercial and development work undertaken over the last nine years. Sonatrach's decision to pre-empt confirms that the timely development of the Ain Tsila field is strategically important to Algeria and we look forward to working together to achieve this shared objective."
 
Sonatrach and Petroceltic are currently working to finalise all the necessary regulatory approvals to facilitate the signing of the amendment to the PSC. Petroceltic said further announcements will be made as appropriate.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Egypt: Morsi trial date set

Judge Nabil Saleeb announced that Mohamed Morsi and other Brotherhood members have been charged with "inciting the killing and torture of protesters in front of the Etihadeya (presidential) palace". The incident outside the presidential palace in December was seen as a turning point in the fortunes of the former president. Those killed had been protesting at his decree extending his own powers.

The trial date has been set for 4 November. The former president has been held at a secret location since he was deposed.
 
In another move against the organisation, the ministry of social solidarity officially dissolved the Muslim Brotherhood as a non-profit organisation and ordered all of its funds and assets be put under the control of the military-appointed government.
The moves underline that the authorities currently in power have no intention of heeding the advice of others that they should seek reconciliation with the Brotherhood: this hardline approach risks storing up problems for the future.
 
The armed forces have suffered their own casualties in the past week, mainly in Sinai, at the hands of jihadist extremists. The authorities are trying to conflate the Islamists in the Sinai with the Muslim Brotherhood in the popular imagination although the two Islamist groups are ideologically very different. Six soldiers were killed in an attack by gunmen on an army patrol near Ismailia on the Suez Canal; two were killed outside the security headquarters at Al Tour, regional capital of South Sinai; and four were killed by a car bomb in Al Arish in north Sinai.
 
An RPG was also fired at the satellite ground station used by Nilesat.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Ghana: PPP anti-corruption march finally goes ahead

Following approval by Ghana's police forces the much awaited Progressive People's Party (PPP) protest against corruption finally did go ahead last week. There was an interesting tagline from a PPP national youth coordinator "Divine Nkrumah" that corruption under the Mahama government was like a "General Mosquito" causing infection that should be eliminated immediately.

The term "General Mosquito" has often been used to refer to NDC General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia , who is currently arguing for the abandonment of the party's internal Electoral College system in favour of a less secure voting system.
 
PPP protesters, carrying a range of attention-grabbing banners, relayed accusations of misappropriation of government funds and controversial "judgement debt" cases. They also echoed suggestions from PPP communications director, William Doworkpor, including the reduction of executive power, separating the Attorney General's office from the Ministry of Justice to prevent partisan interference, and setting up a new, impartial "national commission" to investigate judgement debt cases.
 
Despite the PPP's anti-corruption calls some observers have questioned the party's own claims to be above the fray on probity matters. For example the local Research and Advocacy Platform (RAP) group has accused PPP flagbearer - and former 2008 Convention People's Party (CPP) presidential candidate - Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom (above) of being involved in corruption at the State Enterprises Commission (SEC) while working on an SEC contract in the late 1980s. The group said that Nduom fraudulently claimed to be a representative of a noted US accounting firm. Previous accusations against Nduom have claimed that he was paid a significant sum in US Dollars for his services and that he was eventually appointed to the SEC while still a contractor which is a significant conflict of interest that he has yet to explain.
 
It has been alleged that Nduom was saved from further investigation by the intervention of the US Embassy and that the matter was never resolved. RAP is now calling for the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) to reopen investigations. No political party in Ghana, no matter how small, seems safe from corruption allegations against its senior members.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Mauritania: Election developments

Mauritania continues its roller-coaster ride towards legislative and municipal elections on 23 November, with still no certainty as to whether they will be held or postponed. The first talks in four years between the government and 11-party Co-ordination of Democratic Opposition (COD) began on Monday 30 September but broke up after two days.

Speaking shortly after the break-up, the COD's (rotating) president, Mohamed Ould Mouloud (above), said the two sides disagreed on a number of issues, including the suggestion by the ruling party that the polls be postponed by 15 days, and the opposition's demand that the ruling party's unilateral agenda be suspended in a bid to reach a political agreement to create an environment in which to organise free, democratic and transparent elections. During the two days of talks, the parties also discussed the organisation and monitoring of the polls as well as the impartiality of the State's institutions in the electoral process.
 
The fundamental sticking point between the two was that the COD wanted the polls postponed until April 2014 to allow time to prepare a full voter census and electoral role. The COD also wanted guarantees of the independence of the CENI electoral commission.
 
On Thursday 3 October, the communications minister said there was a possibility that talks with the opposition might resume. However, on the following day, the COD announced that 10 of its 11 member parties had decided to boycott the elections, with only the Tawassoul party agreeing to participate.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Mauritania, please see Mauritania Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 7 October 2013

Nigeria: ADB officials agree to replenish US$3.7 billion fund

African Development Bank (AfDB) officials met in Paris last week to agree the US$7.3 billion replenishment of the African Development Fund, a concessional loan programme. As part of its mission to spur development in low-income African countries, the ADF targets energy, transport, water and sanitation, education and agriculture projects. The current replenishment is for 2014-16.

Last week in New York, the AfDB and the Made in Africa Foundation launched a US$500 million fund aimed at infrastructure investment in Africa. So far, US$250 million has been raised with the rest to be secured in the first half of 2014. The fund is the project development arm of AfDB's Africa50 initiative which marshals financing from central bank reserves, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds, the African diaspora and wealthy individual donors.
 
Made in Africa Foundation was co-founded by Nigerian billionaire industrialist Kola Aluko (above) and the British Ghanaian-born fashion designer Ozwald Boateng.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Libya: Congress delays two important votes

This week, the Congress postponed two important votes on the grounds that not enough members were present to reach the 120-vote minimum required to pass key laws.
 
The first vote was to make amendments to the recently passed law for electing the constitution writing committee, known as the Sixty Committee because of its 60 members. The proposed amendments are related to the number of seats on the committee that have been reserved for Libya's ethnic minorities.
 
Following the uproar from Amazigh, Tebu and Tuareg groups at the limited number of seats that were initially allocated to them in the committee, there has been a push to amend the law to increase their representation. But, due to the insufficient number of members present in the Congress, the vote that was due to go ahead this week had to be postponed until next week.
 
The vote to select Congress' next deputy leader, due to take place on 29 September, was also put off until next week. The three shortlisted candidates who will replace Giumah Attigha, believed to have resigned to pre-empt being barred by the political isolation law, are Omar Khalid Al-Obeidi from Benghazi, Izzideen Mohamed Younis Yahia Al-Awami from Al-Marj and Awad Mohamed Awad Abdul Sadiq from Jalu. All three are independents and, notably, all three come from the east. This is presumably to balance the fact that Congress head Nouri Abu Sahmaine is from the west.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 30 September 2013

Mass demonstration of support for Jonathan in Abuja

Mass demonstration of support for Jonathan in Abuja will provide backdrop for announcement of his candidacy in 2014/15 elections.
 
Months of political suspense over whether President Goodluck Jonathan how and when declare his intentions to run for a second term in 2015 are coming to an end. Although Jonathan is certain to announce he will run in 2014/15, the main question for the ruling People's Democratic Party is how much of an internal competition for the nomination will be allowed in the wake of the defection of seven PDP state governors this month.
 
Preparations are under way for a “five-million-man march” in Abuja on October 19, at which Jonathan is expected to celebrate his achievements since 2011 and announced, at last, that he is in the running again.
 
The National Solidarity March, as the event is called, will be coordinated by Chief Obi Aguocha, an Abia State lawmaker. Similar spectacles will follow in key commercial centres across the country
Jonathan may have taken onboard the advice of Anthony Anenih, the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, who seemed to be losing patience with the ongoing party ructions and two weeks ago told Jonathan to declare his candidacy.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Suriname: Presidential 'Crash Programme' creates 360 new classrooms


The government may be criticised for its spending policy, but at least its investments should cultivate goodwill amongst the Surinamese people. So far the presidential emergency 'Crash Programme' for the construction of new schools has provided 320 classrooms and, according to the Government, this should increase to 361 in the near future.
 
The power that President Desi Bouterse exerts through his committees and task forces has been criticised before. Political opponents argue that this form of policy is both "dictatorial and undemocratic". But it has also been demonstrated that these committees and task forces are an efficient way of delivering results. As an example the Presidential Task Force on Educational Innovation had to map the reasons for the disappointing exam results achieved by the various educational institutions. At very short notice it had advised on problems in 119 Surinamese schools and their results have been improved.
 
The programme involves both renovations and new construction projects. According to the government dozens of public facilities, restrooms, multimedia libraries, and ICT classrooms are being built. The total cost of the first phase of the project was around US$3.7 million.
 
The Task Force has not yet finished its work. The total Crash Programme budget is US$12.9 million. An inventory of the work that still has to be done has not yet been published.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 16 September 2013

Algerian border controls to reduce petrol smuggling produce results

 
Algeria's black-marketeers and their clients in countries like Morocco and Tunisia had realised that there were considerable profits to be made from smuggling cheap Algerian petrol across rather porous land borders. By 2013, the impact of fuel smuggling was being felt, with Algeria's national consumption rocketing for no apparent reason. It was estimated that around 25% of subsidised Algerian hydro-carbons was being taken out of the country illegally, with the State losing around US$1.3 billion in revenue. In the course of summer 2013, the Algerian authorities reinforced border controls. On 8 September, Algeria's Minister of Energy Youcef Yousfi announced that the campaign was beginning to bear fruit. Fuel consumption was down.
 
In July 2012, consumption increased by 9%; a year later, for the same month, consumption was up by a mere 1.8%, attributable to increased summer traffic on the roads. The Moroccan State also suffered from loss of revenue due to declining fuel sales as well as the safety problem created by large amounts of petrol circulating in plastic barrels and other containers.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Morocco, please see Morocco Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 13 September 2013

Nigeria: Jonathan oscillates between compromise and vengeance


But the situation remains very much in flux. Since returning from a state trip to Kenya at the weekend, President Goodluck Jonathan has been in damage-control mode, racing through emergency meetings with friend and foe alike. He met former military leader Ibrahim Babangida and former PDP chairman Ahmadu Ali on 10 September, who could give him crucial support but they seem ambivalent towards Jonathan. Olusegun Obasanjo, who is also a key intermediary, was abroad in Belgium on 10-11 September. He seems to have numerous allies among the rebels.
 
Jonathan then held a closed meeting with members of the New PDP: Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto). While no conclusions emerged, there are concessions that Jonathan could make to pacify the rebels. Those would be, firstly, the removal of Bamanga Tukur from the PDP chairmanship; secondly, the reinstatement of Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi to the party and as chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum. The second concession is much more unlikely because of the high degree of personal animosity between Jonathan and Amaechi.
 
The New PDP, in fact, has already lifted Amaechi's suspension via the procedures of their own faction. Should the warring factions choose to reunite down the road, Jonathan and his supporters would be under pressure to accept this.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 12 September 2013

More blood flowed into the sands of the Sinai


More blood flowed into the sands of the Sinai as the army stepped up its campaign to eradicate the different jihadist groups that have established bases or a presence there.
 
Six soldiers were killed on 11 September in two car-bomb explosions near military units in Rafah in North Sinai Peninsula, close to the border with Gaza.
 
Ali Azzazi, head of criminal investigations in North Sinai, and the state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA) called the attacks suicide car bombings. MENA said at least 17 people, including seven civilians, were injured, adding that one of the blasts destroyed the main gate of the intelligence building and damaged outside walls.
 
The attacks demonstrate that jihadist groups are prepared to take the offensive themselves.
 
The latest military operation began two days after the Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim survived an assassination attempt in Cairo on 5 September. It was, however, 24 hours before news agencies received a statement purporting to come from an extremist group based in the peninsula which said that it had been behind the attempt on the minister.
 
A car bomb exploded near the minister's convoy as he was leaving home for work on 5 September in Nasr City. The suicide bomber and at least one passer-by were killed and more than a score injured. The minister was unscathed in his armoured limousine.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Cameroon: Former president Ahmadou Ahidjo's daughter joins the CPDM to contest a parliamentary seat

For the past two decades, the family of Cameroon's first post- independence president, Ahmadou Ahidjo, has openly resisted joining President Biya's side. He was the man who peacefully succeeded their father in 1982, but then countered him in the 1984 coup and later condemned him to death for treason.
 
Biya's administration has also been vacillating on the question of Ahidjo's mortal remains being returned from Senegal so he could have a funeral that was worthy of such a statesman. His widow, Germaine Ahidjo, has never succeeded in realising this dream for which she has pressed since her husband died.
 
Events that unfolded last weekend showed, however, that the Ahidjo family is either openly divided and has unavoidably succumbed to Biya's grisly longevity in power, or was seeking a new tactic to penetrate the inner circles of a dangerous “enemy”.
 
So, having concluded that Biya has built an insurmountable political fortress, similar to that initially erected by her own father, the former president's youngest daughter, Aminatou Ahidjo, officially aligned herself with the CPDM in a flamboyant fashion on Friday 6 September. Clad in traditional CPDM regalia she was received by the CPDM Secretary-General Jean Nkuete at the party hall's esplanade in Yaounde. The solemn ceremony showed Nkuete flanked by his deputy Grégoire Owona and the party's Communication Secretary Jacques Fame Ndongo alongside other top officials who had come to receive the august guest.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Cameroon, please see Cameroon Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Ghana: Electoral Commission accepts need for reforms and calls for recommendations

 
The Supreme Court verdict - although in theory bolstering the Electoral Commission's (EC) position given its dismissal of the six petitioner counts by varying margins against Mahama, the NDC and the EC - has not been seen as a ringing endorsement of the EC's competence or conduct or of Afari Gyan's leadership. Anticipating the inevitable it is therefore unsurprising that the EC has indeed issued a call to political parties and other observers and stakeholders for recommendations for electoral reforms (to be submitted by November), which it will consider along with criticisms made by Supreme Court justices. Notably, these recommendations are to made - according to the EC - within the existing framework and laws although it is unclear what these boundaries mean in practice.
 
Publicly, at least, the various parties including the NDC , NPP, People's National Convention (PNC), Convention People's Party (CPP) and the Progressive People's Party (PPP) - among the multitude of officially registered political parties of which only seven fielded candidates in 2012 - have generally welcomed the EC's suggestion but not without criticism.
 
For example, the NDC's deputy secretary general George Lawson observed that the EC has a tendency to "rubbish what we say" and not listen to suggestions from the Inter-party Advisory Committee (IPAC, whose influence and power has been relatively insignificant so far. He went on to say that the NDC will meet to decide on any reform suggestions. The NPP's communications director Nana Akomea questioning the date of the elections and the resultant time for second round run-offs should they be needed as well as the need for simplification of the controversial "pink sheets". Other parties cited a need for additional technology to reduce errors and even a more general "overhaul" of the electoral system.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 6 September 2013

Egypt: Media closures

The authorities have moved against the television channels it deems to be supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. A court in Cairo ordered the closure of four television stations, including the Brotherhood's Ahrar 25 TV, Al-Jazeera's Egyptian affiliate Mubasher Misr, Al-Quds, and Al-Yarmouk saying they were operating illegally.
 
Three journalists from Al-Jazeera English were deported.
 
From the outset of the revolt by young Arabs against their rulers in 2011, Al-Jazeera has provided the most comprehensive coverage of this widespread popular movement. Their Qatari owners firmly took the side of the street, to the dismay of ruling families and entrenched regimes across the region. They further have supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in the Gaza strip - and that support has now cost them access in Cairo.
 
The first step towards the proscribing of the Brotherhood as an organisation came when the State Commissioners Authority, a body that advises the government on legal issues, recommended its dissolution. It also called for the group's national headquarters in Moqattam to be closed. The recommendations were made in accordance with Law 84 of 2002, which prohibits non-government organisations and institutions from forming paramilitary groups. This particular charge came after an attack on the party's headquarters -which the interior ministry had warned it would not protect - and the actions of pro-Morsi supporters to protect themselves.
The State Commissioners Authority can only advise the government but it is likely that a similar measure will be invoked to ban the Brotherhood.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Omar Khadrawi was dismissed from his post


This week the Deputy Interior Minister with responsibility for Security Affairs, Omar Khadrawi, was dismissed from his post. It is not known why the official, who has had a relatively high profile, was forced to quit but it is reported that he was keen to leave and that he had, in fact, tendered his resignation back in June. According to some reports Prime Minister Zidan is considering appointing him as Libya's ambassador to Pakistan.

Regardless of the reasons behind his dismissal, Khadrawi's departure leaves the Interior Ministry another person down. The ministry still has no minister following the resignation of Mohamed Sheikh in the middle of August.
 
Despite the importance of the post, as yet there has been no confirmation of when a new appointment will be made, although it is believed that a number of names have been nominated for the job. It was reported this week that the post is to go to someone named Al-Mehdi Al-Harati, but these reports were denied by the ministry, which claimed it had no knowledge of any such appointment.
 
Meanwhile, the Interior Affairs Committee in the Congress declared that the head of the Security Committee in the ruling body, Khalid Al-Sayah, has been nominated to the post and he is widely believed to be the most likely choice for the post.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Ghana: Markets react positively to verdict


As one might expect the Supreme Court verdict in favour of the NDC and Mahama was positively received by the financial markets, which had been perturbed by the uncertainty created by the impending decision, the risk of unrest, the impact of a full or partial election re-run, and the partial paralysis of Ghana's political system due to this uncertainty.

In financial terms as the confidence of investors in Ghana increases, yields - or the implied market-demanded effective interest rates on outstanding bonds, given bonds' market price - on Ghana's cedi denominated bonds have indeed been falling. Rates on the planned September auctions of around 600 million cedis worth of bonds have perhaps fallen by between 2%-4% to as low as 17% - a rate not to be confused with the much lower rates and yields on the dollar denominated Ghana Eurobond.
 
Cedi depreciation may well also be slowed as investors stop the shift to dollar-denominated assets due to electoral uncertainty - with Elvis Darku of Nigeria's Access Bank projecting a slight cedi appreciation versus the dollar by the end of the year. This is even if other analysts remain pessimistic and unlikely to shift from predictions of further cedi decline, even with the recent influx of Eurobond dollars and expected receipt of Cocobod financing dollars through the agreed US$1.2 billion syndicated financing facility which should both increase dollar supply and thus reduce its relative price compared to the cedi.
 
On the inflation front, despite double-digit inflation and the impact of cedi depreciation on inflation due to relatively more expensive (in cedis) imports, the most recent release from the state Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) indicates that July producer price inflation has fallen by 0.5% in month-on-month terms and by 2% points on a year on year basis, to 5% for July 2013 compared to July 2012 (whereas the June producer price level was 7% higher than that in June 2012).
 
Although this may seem like positive news, further detail revealed by GSS statistician Dr Philomena Nyarko indicates that while manufacturing inflation rose from 10.6% to 10.9% (year-on-year), mining and quarrying inflation fell significantly into the sub-zero zone partly due to lower gold prices - a factor which (broader implications for Ghana's economy aside) is unlikely to cause sustained inflation relief.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Nigeria: Bank governor Sanusi keeps tight grip on money supply


Security risks, corruption and unemployment do not seem to have dented foreign optimism about Nigeria's economy. The country's US$1 billion Eurobond was four times oversubscribed at its launch in July and the capital markets continue to attract interest.

Central Bank of Nigeria governor Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi's decision to maintain a tight monetary policy rate in spite of the prevailing favourable economic indices was designed to keep the Nigerian economy attractive as a destination for portfolio investors and raise the volume of foreign exchange.
 
But some analysts think that the hot money being pumped in through portfolio investments could do more harm than good if a stronger regulatory structure is not imposed on fund managers.
 
Even Kingsley Moghalu, the CBN Deputy Governor for Financial Stability, seemed to agree. "The monetary policy rate at this point in time is reasonably high," he recently said.
 
Tope Fasua, the chief executive officer of Global Analytics Consulting Limited in Abuja, thinks the reliance on foreign funds is a possible risk - the money could flee as quickly as it is now pouring in.
 
"In 2008/9 we had a crash in our stock market of about 70%, from which the market is still recovering," Fasua told Nigeria Politics & Security. "A lot of the market recovery is actually from foreign portfolio investment, which may also disappear in a jiffy" if conditions turn sour.
 
A lot of the monies playing in that market are from foreign portfolio managers.
 
The influx of foreign portfolio investments increases the reserves level and strengthens the naira, which means the central bank has to intervene in the market less often, Fasua said. Meanwhile, many Nigerian investors are watching the market from the sidelines, having been burnt in the past.
 
"When these investors are leaving they will demand foreign currency," said Fasua. "There is a huge risk that the naira will fall if these guys, for any reason, decided to exit their investments en masse, and we would be in a much worse shape than ever. The reserves we have accumulated may therefore be a mirage."
 
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 2 September 2013

Morocco's banks get good ratings from Fitch's


Four of Morocco's leading financial institutions received good marks in August evaluations published by Fitch ratings agency. Two of the largest banks, both of which have the support of their French mother banks, namely the Société Générale du Maroc (SGMA) and the BMCI (BNP-Paribas group) were rated AAA/stable perspectives for the long term, while AttijariWafa Bank (AWB) was rated AA-/stable perspectives. The SGMA's credit subsidiary Eqdom was rated AA/stable perspectives.

AttijariWafa Bank is a major player in the Moroccan banking sector with 28% market share. With no outside shareholder, AWB's rating of AA- reflects a more exposed position than those of SGMA and BMCI. AWB is active across Francophone Africa: 6% of its loans are in Tunisia, a country passing through a period of instability, to say the least, while another 12% of loans are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Fitch's considers that an increased volume of loans in the latter region constitutes a risk.

Although the AWB performs well in the Moroccan market, increased competition and a rise in interest rates could affect performance. Any lowering of Morocco's sovereign rating, currently at BBB-/stable, or a reduction in liquidities could lead to a downgrading of AWB's rating. Given the bank's short-term finance needs, its available liquidities (MAD19.6 billion / US$2.3 billion) are moderate.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 30 August 2013

Nigeria: Power reforms need funding

The Nigerian federal government has approached the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) for a $450 million loan to fund on-going power sector reforms. The request was made by Vice-President Namadi Sambo earlier in the month in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, when bank president Ahmed Ali paid him a courtesy visit.

The vice-president, who chairs the power sector reform committee, had been in Saudi Arabia for Umrah, the lesser Hajj during the fasting month of Ramadan.
 
Sambo informed the IDB president that Nigeria still required about $450 million to augment transmission in an on-going power sector reform that is targeting the generation of 20,000 MW of electricity. He also solicited the support of the bank in financing other projects beneficial to Nigeria, such as the construction of a highway linking Lagos State, the commercial hub of the country, to Abidjan, the capital of Côte d'Ivoire.
 
Ali noted that his visit was a reinforcement of the cooperation between IDB and Nigeria, stating that his organisation had already approved three of the five projects for which the country recently sought funding. The other two are still being considered.
 
The approved projects are the $17.9 million construction of four science-specialist secondary schools, a $43.15 million 330-bed capacity specialist hospital, and the $81 million Zaria water project.
 
All the projects are based in Kaduna, northwest Nigeria. Their location has raised quite a few eyebrows, in view of the fact that Sambo is a former governor of the state.
 
Some of the projects, such as four secondary schools, are also considered rather pricy in the opinion of a local quantity surveyor. The $81 million project to improve the water supply across the Zaria metropolis also raises a red flag: the project has been underway for several years but remains incomplete in spite of the funds that have gone into it. Some have called for an investigation.
 
Multiple sources claim that a company owned by the vice-president is involved with the project and has been working on several components of it, dating back to the 1990s.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Libya: Political Exclusion Law Committee finally gets going

 
The 77-member Committee of Applying the Standards of Taking Up Public Posts, the body tasked with implementing the political exclusion law, has begun its work in earnest. This week, the committee, comprising mainly those who were part of the old Integrity Committee, summoned 11 members of the Congress to inform them that the Political Exclusion Law applies to them.

Four of these 11 have already attended committee sessions and all demanded that they be given one week to prove that the law is not applicable to them. It appears that the committee granted them their request and that they will all have the chance to defend themselves. The remaining seven from this first batch are due to attend hearings with the committee this coming week.
 
This first group is clearly just the tip of the iceberg and represents the first set of cases that the committee had been able to work its way through. According to the committee, out of 200 Congress members, so far only 98 of them have actually completed and handed in the compulsory forms distributed by the committee that oblige members to provide details of their past. Implementation of the law is clearly going to be a long, drawn-out process.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Cameroon: Security tightened amid rising insecurity on borders


Cameroon has, amid rising insecurity and tension around its borders, continued to deploy advanced security equipment to key areas. The latest is the dispatch of modern anti-crime vehicles and equipment to the Far-North Region where elements from Nigeria's Boko Haram militant Islamist sect have been infiltrating the country after clashing with the Nigerian army. The equipment was presented to the Far-North Governor Augustin Fonka Awah on 26 August.

The 17 vehicles, including heavy trucks and four-wheel drive cars, were handed to the region's paramilitary gendarmerie commander. Observers believe that following the apparent military successes against Boko Haram, its militants have been crossing over into Cameroon, now seen as their safe haven, just as is the case of those who were chased out of Mali and are believed to have joined Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon or to have moved over to Niger.
 
Cameroon officials have reported repeated cross-border crime, and have arrested some individuals within its territory earlier this year that were suspected of belonging to Boko Haram. The Far-North gendarmerie commander Francis Tang Tang assured Governor Awah Fonka that, with the new equipment, the fight against crime and cross-border insecurity was guaranteed.
 
Meanwhile last week, Cameroon witnessed an overspill of violence from its eastern neighbour the Central African Republic (CAR) which forced the government to close its borders. According to the East Region's Governor Dioudonne Samuel Ihava Diboua, three soldiers belonging to the Seleka rebel movement crossed over into Cameroon territory on 19 August and killed a Cameroonian frontier policeman in the border town of Tocktoyo after having got seriously drunk on Cameroonian territory.
 
He said that the Seleka rebels, like other needy Central Africans, routinely cross over into Cameroon to get supplies. But those who killed the police official were uncontrollable at a time when the CAR's ruling junta is trying to disarm suspected supporters of ousted president Francois Bozize, who is suspected to be rallying forces to retake power. Bozize, who recently left for France, had fled into Cameroon where about 200 of his military supporters have been individually identified.
 
Cameroon had tightened security along its borders with the Central African Republic but, given the limited number of troops that it has at its disposal to secure the frontiers, as well as corruption and other problems, it might seem difficult for it to truly ensure its own security in a country that is also facing the added security requirements of its own forthcoming elections.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Cameroon, please see Cameroon Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Ghana: Gold operators under pressure

 
The on-the-ground impact of falling gold prices will be serious for Africa's gold producers according to South Africa's Gold Fields. Company officials, announcing a major restructuring, are prepared to close mines if doing so would increase profits, including the major mine at Damang in south-western Ghana that is 90% owned (through share ownership of "Abosso Goldfields Limited") by Gold Fields with the remaining stake held by the government. This is even if the Gold Fields mine at Tarkwa would remain financially viable even assuming continued low gold prices of not much more than US$1,300 per ounce. It should be noted that Gold Fields, citing low gold prices and high operating costs, last week announced the slimming down of its board of directors from twelve members to nine.

By contrast, another major international gold operator in Ghana – the US' Newmont - emphasized last week at the Public Accounts Committee's public hearings that it remains "committed to Ghana for the long-term" and that it had kept around 80% of its Ghana gold sales earnings in Ghana during 2012. However, digging beneath this official picture of its Ghana operations, PAC members complained that "up to 100%" of earnings of gold companies could be held offshore under a rumoured in-progress "retention" agreement between Newmont and the government.
 
Under Ghana's current minerals and mining laws - particularly the 2006 Minerals and Mining Act which provides incentives to mining companies - retention account agreements signed by the relevant mining company, the Finance Ministry, and the Bank of Ghana, can allow greater offshore retention of earnings.
 
Given Newmont's emphasis on domestic earnings retention, and the spotlight being turned on natural resource companies, including IOCs operating in Ghana, such a scenario seems extremely unlikely, and likely reflecting concerns of domestic observers over what current mining laws could potentially allow. More information should be forthcoming from PAC proceedings, focusing on the Auditor General's 2012 report, in the coming weeks.
 
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.
 
© 2013 Menas Associates