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