Friday, 28 June 2013

Egypt: Mubarak fortune

In a bid to prevent any relaxation of the detention orders on the former president and members of his family, Mahmoud al-Hefnawy from the prosecutor general's technical office has said that the Mubarak family amassed a LE9 billion fortune during the former president's 30-year rule. Hefnawy said that evidence from the Administrative Control Authority, the Illicit Gains Authority and the Central Auditing Organisation all showed that Mubarak, his wife Susan Thabet, his sons Alaa and Gamal and their wives Heidi Rasekh and Khadiga al-Gammal all benefited financially from office.
He said that the figure included LE3 billion in cash, LE5 billion in stocks and shares and LE1 billion in real estate.
Hefnawy also submitted a Central Auditing Organisation report which states that five villas owned by the Mubaraks in Sharm El-Sheikh were paid for in full by a company owned by fugitive businessman Hussein Salem.
There was better fortune from the courts for one of Mubarak's last prime ministers, Ahmed Nazif. The Public Funds Prosecution ordered his release from charges of obtaining illegal gifts under the former regime. Al-Ahram reported that Nazif submitted documents to the prosecution proving that he had returned the money - about LE58,000 - to the state. However, he still faces other charges of making illicit gains from his position.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Libya: Backing down over Black Saturday

Prime Minister Ali Zidan appears to have made a major concession to the Libya Shield in his handling of the attacks of Black Saturday. This week, he announced that the relevant ministries were working to get to the bottom of the incident and that the General Prosecutor had started meeting all the relevant parties. He explained that an “action team” comprising three committees had been set up.
One of the tasks of this action team will be to draw up a list of all the individuals in each of the brigades operating across the country. In this way, Zidan explained, the state will be able to determine who within these brigades, including the Libya Shield, belonged to the former regime. It looks as though the prime minister may be paving the way to exonerate the Libya Shield for its actions on Black Saturday by blaming elements linked to Qadhafi's regime within it.
Zidan also revealed that the fact-finding committee charged with investigating the incident is to be made up of local tribal elders from Benghazi. This is hardly a resounding endorsement for the security agencies and the capacity of the state and suggests that Zidan is keen to resolve the issue locally and on a social rather than a security level.
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focusand Libya Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Caspian: Abdenov sacked

Labour and Social Protection Minister Serik Abdenov has been sacked, weeks after he endured a very public egging in a row over pension reform. The young moderniser, who was only appointed in September, was dismissed on 10 June as the controversial pension reform bill was sent back to parliament by a disgruntled Nursultan Nazarbaev. In the interim he has been replaced by his deputy, Tamara Duissenova.
The pension reform has become an increasingly divisive issue, attracting outpourings of public anger. At the end of April Abdenov was pelted with eggs by a Communist activist in Almaty after a series of public meetings in which his inability to explain the rise in retirement age (from 58 to 63 for women) had led to anger and scorn. His explanation that "You all have to work, because, my dear countrymen, just because, just because...” attracted ridicule on social media, and despite his otherwise good record he was considered unable to continue effectively.
President Nazarbaev had returned the pension reform bill to Parliament three days before, saying that “the government and the National Bank have failed to explain the new pension legislation to the people”. He called for the start of the gradual rise in retirement age to begin at the start of 2018, not next year as planned.
Some activists have expressed satisfaction with the president's decision to intervene on behalf of the people. Although there was not massive public opposition, many women's groups in particular did publicly criticise the bill at a number of meetings and events. Analysts have suggested that the president was willing to back down in this case rather than risk provoking further hostility.
For more news and expert analysis about the Caspian region, please see Caspian Focus.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Ghana: Three people arrested in connection with recent fire outbreaks

Three people have been arrested in connection with some of the recent fire outbreaks at markets across the country, according to local news reports.
Deputy Minister for Information and Media Relations Murtala Mohammed told local reporters on 20 June that the arrests had been made after a group of people attempted to burn another market, although he declined to provide further details of where and when the attempted arson attack took place.
Leading NPP member Owusu Afriyie-Akoto has told reporters that the three suspects currently in police custody at the Criminal Investigations Department Headquarters are members of the NPP local chapter in Bawku, and that he suspects “foul play” by the government in the matter. The three suspects, Yakubu Tahiru, Fatau Ibrahim and Mustafa Adamu, have yet to be formally charged.
Almost ten major fires have occurred at Ghana's markets in just under three months, including at the Kantamanto Market, Makola Number Two Market, the Makola Shopping Mall and the Agbogbloshie Market, all in Accra, and at Kumasi Central Market.
The government has already stated that it will not rule out arson as the cause of the recent fires and has brought in a team of foreign experts to help the country's national security agency with investigations.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 24 June 2013

Nigeria: MEND announces start of Hurricane Exodus

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claims that it has commenced “Hurricane Exodus”, an operation to wage war “against injustice, corruption, despotism and oppression”.
In a 15 June press statement sent via email to several media agencies, by its spokesperson Jomo Gbomo MEND said that it began its “Hurricane Exodus” that morning, when its field operatives “stealthily attached portable military limpet explosives magnetically, to two articulated tankers laden with petrol”. The statement claims that the tankers were in a queue outside the depot of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) at Abaji on the outskirts of Abuja, waiting to discharge products when they were blown up. It claims that the attack was part of its “Operation Touch and Go” – a part of Hurricane Exodus. It says that this segment is targeted at the downstream sector of the Nigerian oil and gas industry. It warned Nigerians to steer clear of such oil tankers as they may be attacked at any time having become “legitimate targets” in their struggle.
According to MEND, it will continue to carry out such attacks until all its demands are met. These demands include: the release of Henry Okah, his brother Charles Okah and others held in connection with the 1 October 2010 Independence day bomb blasts in Abuja; the resignation of “the corrupt and inept Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke” as minister of petroleum resources; and an “unreserved apology” from the Federal Government of Nigeria for presenting a “forged email” which threatened the South African government, and was purported to have come from MEND. The letter was used as evidence to convict Henry Okah in his trial in Johannesburg.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Moroccans continue to trust the PJD

A public opinion survey just published by the Arab Centre for Political Research and Studies (CAREP) sheds interesting light on Moroccans? opinion of their first Islamist-dominated government. While the opposition remains inflexible in its criticism of the government and part of the coalition is actually ready to throw in the towel and pull out of government, the Moroccan public actually seems quite well disposed to the Benkirane government.
Although 91% of respondents felt that corruption continues to plague the civil service, 63% remain convinced that the government is determined to fight the problem; 57% said that they felt the government would manage to deal with corruption while 65% felt that the press is free in Morocco – a position which independent analysts would find untenable.
Meanwhile 70% said that they had no worries about the Islamist government having a hidden agenda. While the results of such surveys are problematic in many ways, at the very least this particular set of results suggests that Moroccans are still ready to give the PJD the benefit of the doubt.
This interpretation would seem to suggest that the Parti de l?Istiqlal is out of synch with the dominant feeling about the country?s leadership. Istiqlal leader Hamid Chabat could therefore suffer should early elections have to be called.
For more news and expert analysis about Morocco, please see Morocco Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 17 June 2013

Libya: Chief of Staff Yousef Al-Mangoush finally resigns

Chief of Staff Yousef Al-Mangoush finally resigned this week, handing in his notice to the Congress on account of the events of Black Saturday. It has been reported that Al-Mangoush had not intended to resign over the incident but that he was summoned to Congress where it was made clear to him that he had no choice in the matter.

Al-Mangoush's resignation has not shortened his time in office by very much as he was already on his way out. The Congress voted recently to find a replacement for him and it has already received many nominations for the post. Al-Mangoush would also certainly have been a victim of the Political Exclusion Law once it comes into force given his role as part of the security services of the former regime.

Many Libyans will, however, still have been pleased at the news. Al-Mangoush has proved one of the most unpopular of all public figures in the new Libya. This is largely because of his inability to create a proper national army, something that has led his critics to accuse him of deliberately supporting the brigades and militias at the expense of building a real force. Al-Mangoush has also been accused of doing the bidding of Qatar.

There have long been demands from a wide range of quarters, including from inside the armed forces, but also from inside the Congress and among the revolutionaries, for him to leave office.

Al-Mangoush was replaced by his deputy, Salim Al-Gnaidi, who will lead the armed forces until a proper replacement is agreed upon by the Congress.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Algeria: Creation of military zones along Tunisian border

Algeria is, according to a report in El Khabar, planning to build 20 closed military zones along the Algerian-Tunisian border in an attempt to prevent arms smuggling and terrorist infiltration. The zones will be off-limits for civilians without a permit. Although the report claims that similar moves have been successful in minimising infiltrations and smuggling on the Malian and Libyan borders, evidence on the ground, such as In Amenas, suggests that this success has been exaggerated.
New Algerian-Tunisian security agreements include a military co-operation committee that provides instant exchange of information in order to deal efficiently with cross-border smugglers and infiltrators. This agreement facilitates the tracking of suspects as well as mutually aiding in investigations related to “jihadist” networks.
According to the El Khabar report, the Army leadership began applying a pre-agreed security plan of operational co-ordination with the Tunisian Army three weeks ago. The plan identifies over 80 border points over more than 956km that are suspected of being used for infiltration and smuggling.
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Nigeria: Aliyu Wamako suspended from PDP

Barely two weeks after the ruling People's Democratic Party's (PDP) National Working Council (NWC) suspended Rivers State's Governor Rotimi Amaechi from the party, the NWC has now announced the suspension of Sokoto State's Governor Aliyu Wamako. This was announced on 5 June by PDP national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh, following a meeting of the NWC on the same day.
Wamako's suspension is said to be the consequence of “repeated breaches and disregard” of PDP's constitution. The NWC accused Wamako of ignoring invitations and lawful directives of the NWC on several occasions, showing apathy to the affairs of the party and contempt to one of the party's organs.
The statement revealed that it follows his unexplained refusal to honour another invitation to appear before it on the same day.

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Suriname: Brazilian consul fears clash between Surinamese and Brazilian gold miners

Brazil's consular representative, José Paulo Ribeiro, has warned of escalating conflict near the Lely Mountains in the interior district of Marowijne. "My countrymen are always victims of abuse, extortion, intimidation and fraud," complained Ribeiro. "The torment of Brazilians seems to have become a hobby or a habit to the local people," he added. Ribeiro thinks that the locals are bent upon provoking counter attacks from the Brazilians giving them a reason to create a massive strike and thus to rob them of their equipment and other valuables. "That is the objective they pursue and nothing else. Mind my words,” said Ribeiro. “They simply exploit the situation."
According to Ribeiro, the prospectors have filed their complaints with the police. "But although the laws of the country also apply to the inland residents no action is being taken against them. The state must now 'show its teeth',” added Ribeiro. He remarked that the miners ('Garimpeiros') have been suffering inhumane conditions for ten years now and that the situation has deteriorated. "Almost every week a Brazilian is being abused," claimed Ribeiro. “In mid-May, two Brazilians were knocked about because they refused to give up 5 grams of gold to the local people.” According to Ribeiro, the indigenous residents wanted the gold as compensation for the use of a road to the gold fields.
Around Christmas 2009, serious riots took place between locals and Brazilians in Albina on the border with French Guiana, and the latter had to flee because their houses were set on fire. The tensions between the local population and Brazilian gold miners have been occurring for many years. The Brazilians often mine gold illegally. The locals also do but they consider the land as their property. In the mid-1990s, the late Grand Chief Gazon Matodja of the Maroon tribe, the Aucaners, forbade Brazilians to operate in his area. He took the decision after Brazilians had murdered a local prospector following an argument. Although the land in the area officially belongs to the state, the various local indigenous groups exercise the greatest power in their areas.
For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 10 June 2013

FIS' Ali Benhadj criticises Bouteflika

 In the wake of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's latest hospitalisation in France, the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front's (FIS) deputy leader, Ali Benhadj, has said that Algeria is in a worse state today than when the president took office. Speaking in May exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, he called on the president to leave power. He emphasised that Bouteflika “took power of an ailing country and will leave it in an even worse state”.
Criticising Bouteflika's claims of development and achievement, the Islamist leader said: “What some people consider achievements are in fact projects that go back to the initial years of Algeria's independence. However, their execution has been delayed for more than 35 years.” He added that “some of these achievements were made thanks to suspicious deals that plundered huge sums of public money. Benhadj stressed that “one cannot praise material achievements [made] under tyranny; when people's hopes are being suppressed and their legitimate rights are being denied”.
Benhadj also said: “We must differentiate between the health of the president and that of any ordinary citizen. The president's health will have an impact on society at large and state institutions, which are known to be corrupt. The ailing state becomes even sicker when the president is ill, especially as the president holds broad powers.”
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Morocco: Opposition boycotts PM's monthly question time

On 31 May, Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane addressed a largely empty Lower House of Parliament during his monthly question-time. The main opposition parties – the RNI, PAM, USFP and the UC – had decided to boycott the session in protest against the way in which it has been managed. In essence, the opposition feels that it has insufficient time to raise issues of importance.

During the May question-time, Benkirane was his usual paternalist self, attempting to soften the blow represented by cutbacks in the investment budget by saying that these were “sad measures, but in the interest of the people”; he added a few words addressing the “the poor of the cities and countryside” saying that “our heart is with you”. However, reforms in the subsidy system, retirement pensions, the tax system and justice will go forward, he stressed.

Benkirane compared managing a country to being in the same situation as a “family head building a house: delaying construction works does not mean stopping them. If things are not done this year, they will be next year”.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates