Thursday, 28 February 2013

Libya: Budget under discussion

Congress has been busy this month discussing the 2013 budget. According to a spokesperson, this year's budget has been set at LYD66 billion dinars (US$52 billion), marginally lower than LYD68.5 billion (US$53.8 billion) in the 2012 budget.

No details about allocations have been released. The issue is, however, clearly causing disagreement. On 19 February, after a brief discussion within Congress, the budget was referred to specialised committees for review.

It is essential that Congress get the budget passed as quickly as possible in order for the government to get on with implementing much-needed development projects and thus absorbing some of the growing public anger. Such delay is not good for the country.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 25 February 2013

Egypt: NSF lists conditions of dialogue

The National Salvation Front (NSF) coalition of opposition groups has listed its conditions for any dialogue with the presidency to reduce the tension and the polarisation that has emerged in Egyptian politics. They include taking "serious steps" towards the prosecution of those responsible for protesters' deaths, along with the formation of a new government of national unity.
The NSF also insisted on the appointment of a new prosecutor-general in accordance with the constitution and judicial independence, and amending Egypt's new constitution, both stipulations that it made before.
A few weeks ago, the presidency would have dismissed the NSF as a political irrelevance but the growing dissatisfaction with the state of the economy and the government's inability to arrest decline might incline the presidency to seek a broader mandate for ruling by engaging in some sort of discussions with the NSF.
For its part, the Supreme Constitutional Court has raised the possibility of a delay in the holding of parliamentary elections by ruling that the electoral law is flawed.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

French nationals kidnapped in northern Cameroon

It has been confirmed that early on Tuesday 19 February seven French nationals were kidnapped in northern Cameroon about 10 km from the border with Nigeria. The French Embassy in Yaounde has said that they were abducted by armed men on motorbikes and were being taken towards Nigeria.

Menas Associates fortnightly Cameroon Politics & Security noted in our 16 January 2013 issue that there was an impending looming over the country's three Muslim-dominated northern regions of Adamawa, North and Far-North provinces. Traces of Nigeria's militant Islamist group Boko Haram had been discovered but the Cameroon government was covertly trying to undermine the threat.

On 28 December 2012 the publisher of the L'Oeil du Sahel weekly tabloid, Guibai Gatama, was arrested in Yaounde by plainclothes para-military gendarmes because his newspaper reported that 31 Boko Haram suspects had been arrested the previous day by local police and handed over to Nigerian security. Although Gatama was released later that day, his arrest was seen as an attempt to expose Cameroon's collaboration in the fight against Boko Haram. Such collaboration could, we noted at the time attract the sect's operations in northern Cameroon.

The local people are already infuriated by the arrest of one of their own, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, as well as other local dignitaries who are being detained on charges of large-scale corruption. The corruption charges against Yaya - a Fulani Muslim from Garoua who was President Paul Biya's former Secretary-General at the presidency but became Biya's adversary - are seen as a pretext to silence him and prevent him succeeding the president. It is even being reported that potential voters in Garoua are reluctant to register for the triple legislative, council and senatorial elections that are expected to be held this year.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Morocco: Istiqlal's former minister critical of government economic policy

At a conference in Fès attended by the region's economic élite on 9 February, former Minister of Tourism Adil Douiri (Parti de l'Istiqlal) warned of the dangers of the current government's economic policy. He argued that, unless the economic macro-indicators were corrected, Morocco could find itself slipping back thirty years to come under the supervision of the Bretton Woods institutions.
Beyond this rhetoric he did have a number of more concrete points to make regarding a number of major current projects. He argued for close monitoring of the implementation of the Plan Azur (tourist development) and the Plan Emergence (industrial development). The Plan Azur was based on expanding Morocco's seaside tourism with the construction of a series of new resorts. To date only 7% of this plan has been implemented, even though each completed resort could generate up to US$500 million in export income according to Douiri. Unfortunately, resort development has been slow and some projects, including the Oued Fès resort, are at a standstill.
In terms of industrial policy Douiri noted that the success of the new Renault factory south of Tangiers (see below) was based on strong State intervention in terms of land and infrastructure provision and tax incentives. He argued that such political will was going to be necessary to get projects like the integrated industrial park (P2I) in Fès off the ground. While Douiri was clearly making political capital out of this meeting, his arguments hold good for other regions of Morocco where ambitious development projects have ground to a halt for one reason or another.
For more news and expert analysis about Morocco, please see Morocco Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Cardinal Peter Turkson among five favourites to take over from Pope Benedict XVI

British bookmakers have named Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson as among the five favourites to take over from Pope Benedict XVI after he resigns at the end of the month.
Cardinal Peter Turkson has been considered a possible future candidate for the papacy since Benedict XVI appointed him as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 2009 amid speculation that the next Pope would be from Africa or Latin America as part of the Catholic Church's efforts towards modernisation.
Turkson was appointed Archbishop of Cape Coast by Pope John Paul II in 1992 and served as the president of the Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference from 1997 to 2005. In 2003 he became the first ever Ghanaian cardinal.
This week Pope Benedict announced that he would resign on 28 February, which is two months before his 86 th birthday, after serving for almost eight years. The abdication, which is said to be for health reasons, is the first by a leader of the Roman Catholic Church in almost 600 years.
Also in the running to be the next Pope are Canada's Cardinal Marc Ouellet (68), Nigeria's Cardinal Francis Arinze (80), Argentina's Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (69), and Italy's Angelo Scola who is currently archbishop of Milan.
A conclave of the church's cardinals will be called in Rome to select a new Pope in March.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 4 February 2013

Mystery of why Libya's General Hifter is in Algiers

The second is the mystery of the Libyan general in Algiers. General Khalifa Belqasim Hifter was one of Colonel Qadhafi's top commanders in Chad in the late 1980s where he and his men were captured. Angered at Qadhafi's handling of the campaign, Hifter was given refuge in the USA, where he became an advisor to the CIA. In 2011 he returned to Libya to take a top command post in the rebel army. He was widely suspected by many Libyans of being the “CIA?s man in Libya”.

Around October 2012 he is believed, with the US? apparent blessing, to have formed an armed „anti-terrorist? unit. In December, Hifter and his unit where reported to us as being in Algiers where they had been sent by the US and placed under the command of the DRS. Jordan's anti-terrorist group was said to be either with them or about to join them. Their mission was said to be in Mali, although all the signs are that it never took place, which was presumably because of the French intervention.

The DRS and Hifter go back a long way and have a close relationship. For example Qadhafi was causing Algeria a lot of trouble in 1993 by very publicly saying that he wanted to broker a deal between the FIS and the Algerian regime. He was also giving the impression of helping the FIS although FIS sources deny that he was doing so.

In that year Hifter was brought, with US assistance, from his new home near Langley (Virginia) to Tebessa, where he was used to send a very strong message to Qadhafi saying that Algeria would help Qadhafi's opponents in Libya unless he stopped interfering in Algeria's affairs. Qadhafi stopped his meddling. Our current question is: What was Hifter?s planned US/DRS mission in Mali? We hope this will be revealed to us in the next few weeks.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates