Friday, 26 April 2013

Mixed fortunes for former Mubarak-era ministers

Two have been ordered released from custody because they have served the maximum two years in detention. But the former finance minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali has been given another 25-year sentence, on top of the 30-year sentence he is already serving, in absentia (he is living in London).
The Cairo Criminal Court acquitted the former housing minister Mohamed Ibrahim Soliman on charges of illegally allocating land for the Six of October Development and Investment Company (SODIC). He was ordered released from custody pending a re-trial. The former tourism minister Zuhair Garana has also been ordered released from custody.
The Cairo representative of the former Libyan regime, Ahmed Gaddafadam, has been charged with attempted murder while resisting arrest. The charges will delay any attempt by the current authorities in Tripoli to secure his extradition to face charges in Libya.
The authorities have ordered the detention of seven people for belonging to the Black Bloc, a group of street activists opposed to President Morsi who dress all in black and wear black masks. It is unclear how much support they enjoy.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Mauritania becomes 'meeting ground' for Azawad fighters

There have been several, albeit mostly vague, reports and local chatter about how Mauritania is becoming a meeting place for most of the increasing number of groups and factions contesting the future of the Azawad region of Mali.

In addition to the almost 100,000 refugees from Mali still in Mauritania (see below), representatives of Tuareg and Arab communities and groups from Azawad, representatives and members of many of the terrorist/Islamist organisations and Azawadian political movements, as well as politically influential Malians, are using Mauritania as a safe haven in which to meet and discuss their strategies for the future of both Azawad and Mali as a whole.

For the moment, this situation has not yet threatened instability in Mauritania. But it certainly has the potential to do so, not simply because of the distinct possibility of renewed fighting or at least skirmishing between these many groups, but also because there are signs that many of the Islamists that have been driven out of Mali by the Franco-Chadian forces may seek a new haven in Mauritania.

This is a threat faced by many other countries in the region, notably Niger, Burkina Faso and Libya, but it is probably greatest in Mauritania because of its many sympathetic Salafist strands and the links that Mauritania already has with these Islamists groups (notably AQIM and MUJAO).

Two names which have been mentioned within some concern within this context are Henoune Ould Ali and Amar Ould Hamaha. Ould Ali, from a small Arab tribe linked to the Berabich, is a wealthy trader believed to be a significant financier of MUJAO. Ould Hamaha, generally known as “Red Beard” in the Malian press, was prominent in both AQIM and MUJAO, and believed to be responsible for many of the atrocities committed by the Islamists in Timbuktu before creating Ansar Shari'a.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 22 April 2013

Algeria: Protests Continue in South

There are no signs that the protests by the jobless in Algeria's desert regions are abating. According to the National Committee for Protection of the Rights of the Unemployed (CNDDC), and reported in the press, some 1,000 people turned out for the demonstration of jobless youths held in Ghardaia last Saturday (April 13).

The protest, unlike the one the previous week which ran into heavy police violence, was peaceful from beginning to end, just as organisers wanted it to be.

CNDCC members were determined to distance themselves from the violence of the previous demonstration in Ghardaia and the violence that had also broken in Ouargla the previous day (April 12). One young man had been killed in Ouargla from tear gas asphyxiation.

Tahar Belabbes, the national co-ordinator for the CNDCC, expressed disapproval over the clashes that erupted in his hometown of Ouargla. He said: “We have criticised and warned against the risk of young people being manipulated into becoming violent. Our movement is a peaceful one and will remain so.”

The next demonstration is scheduled to take place in Djelfa.

Belabbes said that the protests would not stop until the authorities engaged in a frank and transparent discussion with representatives of the unemployed. He noted that the CNDDC had representatives in all 48 provinces.

He added: “If the authorities intend to play the violence card to discredit us, they will need a whole army across all 48 provinces of the country to manipulate young people and spur them to commit acts of violence and counter-violence."

The movement's leaders have made no secret of their ambition of positioning themselves as an alternative to the traditional system of local representation and have been targeting local elected representatives and prominent figures, who they say have no right to speak on behalf of young people.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Libya: Amendment draws criticism

The amendment to the Constitutional Declaration which was finally approved by the Congress on 9 April by 144 votes and which allowed for the ring fencing of the Political Exclusion Law has prompted no small degree of controversy inside Libya. The amendment that was aimed at ensuring that the law could not be overturned by the country's judiciary at appeal given that so many judges would be directly affected by the legislation, has drawn severe criticism from human rights groups and the judiciary itself.

The reaction is hardly surprising. The amendment included a new paragraph that was added to Article 6 of the Constitutional Declaration (which states that “Libyans shall be equal before the law”), stipulating that it would not be considered a breach of the declaration to “prevent certain individuals from taking up sovereign positions and leadership jobs in the state for a temporary period of time according to a law that will be issued to that effect and that does not breach human rights.” A change was also made to Article 2 of the declaration ruling that the minimum number of votes required to pass the political exclusion law is 101.

The Libyan Observatory for Human Rights condemned the amendment immediately, describing it as "an unprecedented violation of the rights of citizens to appeal against laws that would affect their lives or violate their rights". Some Libyans pointed out that Libya has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that such an amendment runs counter to this international treaty. The country's judges were also outraged by the move which directly undermines them.

However, such is the pressure on the congress to pass the law, that it clearly concluded it had no option but to prevent its being sabotaged by the judiciary.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on official visit to Ghana

Information Minister Mahama Ayariga said in a statement, “President Ahmadinejad will arrive on Tuesday 16 April to hold discussions with President John Mahama on strengthening the NAM and also co-chair a bilateral meeting between the two countries.”

The visit is part of a three-nation tour of West Africa during which the Iranian premier is also visiting Benin and Niger, one of Africa's biggest uranium producers.

Former minister of trade and industry Alan Kyeremanteng has lost out in his bid to lead the WTO after failing to make it through the first round of the selection process.

Kenya's Amina Mohamed, the other African candidate, has also left the race. Jordan's Ahmed Hindawi, the first candidate from an Arab nation in the WTO's 18-year history was the third candidate not to make it through to the second round.

Five candidates remain in the running: Mexico's Herminio Blanco, Brazil's Roberto Azevedo, New Zealand's Tim Groser, South Korea's Taeho Bark and Indonesia's Mari Pangestu, the only woman still under consideration.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 15 April 2013

Suriname: KPMG to set up social security system

The Surinamese government has brought in the Dutch consultancy bureau KPMG to develop a Surinamese social security system. Vice President Robert Ameerali has again promised in the National Assembly that he country will have a new social security system no later than 1 January 2014. Suriname Politics & Security has previously reported on the plans to set up a social security system.
Addressing parliament, Ameerali looked more deeply into the parameters of the system. New retirement provisions will be introduced (many pensions have not yet been adjusted to the price increases for decades); general health insurance; a minimum wage and labour legislation will also be incorporated into the new system.
The vice president says that the government and KPMG are already working on a draft of the system.
By mid-2013, the government wants to start introducing some elements of the system.
The opposition has tried to insinuate that the contract with KPMG for setting up the social security system was arranged by a so-called 'underhand agreement'. But Ameerali defended the granting of the contract to the Dutch firm by explaining that only two companies registered to participate in the public bidding. The government chose KPMG on quality terms.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Iraq: Fighting in Ninevah

Clashes broke out this month between the Haraki, a prominent Kurdish tribe, and a group of Shabak in the troubled Ninevah area. The Shabak are a Shia sect, described by some as Kurds, who live mainly in the Sinjar district of Ninevah.

The trouble flared after the Shabak accused members of the Haraki tribe of taking land from them. This led to clashes that erupted in the village of Dhob Zawa, east of Mosul. As the general secretary of the Shabak Democratic Gathering, Khaneen Gadou, explained, “The crisis was prompted by attempts by the Haraki to take control of huge areas of land totalling almost 4,000 hectares that belong to the Shabak. We tried to stop them and as a result a commotion developed and there were clashes involving light weapons that lasted for four hours.” The violence was sufficiently bad for Kurdish forces within the Iraqi army to have to intervene.

Gadou also complained that the move by the Haraki tribe was supported by the Kurdistan Democratic Party. He told the Al-Hayat newspaper that the Kurds were from Akra and had migrated to the Hamam Al-Aleel area where they began trying to control land that belonged to the Shabak in an attempt to “force a demographic change with the support of the KDP”. He also alleged that the Haraki tribe had the support of a number of Kurdish intelligence personnel who were helping to impose their control over the area to bolster the Kurdish support base in advance of the local election.

For its part, the Kurdish government has tried to distance itself from the issue, insisting that the disturbances were the result of social rather than political problems.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Libya: Grand Mufti ups the pressure

Libya's ultra conservative Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ghariani has continued with his meddling in the political arena. This week, he called on Libyans to come out in their thousands to pressurise the Congress to issue the Political Exclusion Law, issuing a fatwa ruling that doing so is fard kifayah (a religious obligation).

In a bid to reach as wide an audience as possible, the Mufti, who has made no bones about his support for the current uncompromising draft of the Political Exclusion Law, also gave a lecture that was filmed and distributed this week. In it Al-Ghariani proclaimed, “If this law can't be applied unless one hundred thousand people come out, then this number of people have to come out.”

Al-Ghirani declared, too, that in order to set up a proper state Libya needed to issue the Political Exclusion Law to expel all former regime loyalists who are now “penetrating the state”, and to reform the judiciary and activate it in a proper manner, meaning that, in his view, it should be purged of all those who have links to the former regime.

The Grand Mufti also made an outright attack on the government, asserting that the state is “stealing hundreds of millions” and is stealing public money on a wider scale than the former regime. Al-Ghirani called for all corrupt elements who were part of the National Transitional Council's executive office or the interim government or all those in the current government to be held to account.

In a clear effort to pave the way in the public mind for an Islamist alternative, the Mufti also asserted that “these governments are still working in the same way as the former regime”.

While Al-Ghiriani is an influential figure who commands a great deal of support and respect, his repeated insistence on intervening in politics is prompting serious anger and resentment among some Libyans, particularly those in the liberal camp. His assertion earlier this month in a letter to Minister of Social Affairs Kamila Khamis Al-Mazini that Libyan women should not be allowed to marry foreigners, including foreign Muslims, as well as his condemnation of the latest UN report on violence against women, which the Dar Al-Ifta described as “menacing”, caused outcry among certain Libyans who fear the Mufti's growing political role and what they see as the increasing Islamisation of society.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Cameroon: Chinese traders protest insecurity

Chinese traders in Cameroon have observed nearly three weeks of strike action as the protest at what they have described as the harassment and killing of their citizens. Since 2004 at least six Chinese have been killed, three of them this year alone, which indicates that insecurity is rising for foreigners and for the Chinese in particular. A statement signed by members of the Chinese expatriate community said that at least 30 burglaries targeted at Chinese expatriates have been recorded since 2004 and they complained of a lack of government action.

Most Chinese shops in Yaounde and Douala were, however, reopened on Monday 8 April although they would not confirm if security had been guaranteed as they had requested. “We strongly demand that this insecurity be taken very seriously,” read a notice that was posted on a Chinese-run shop on Friday, 7 January in Yaounde.

The incidents are widely considered to be xenophobic attacks given the worry amongst some Cameroonians that Chinese migrants are elbowing them out of business by even getting involved in small-scale trading business in very obscure corners in the country. President Biya has turned to China and other emerging economies for investment to boost the economy because of his inability to woo big businesses from Europe, the US Japan. Many Cameroonians see this policy as a government sell-out which allows around 2,000 Chinese residents to take jobs and businesses which would otherwise be taken by locals.

Official trade between China and Cameroon is growing extremely rapidly and rose by 34% in 2008-2009 alone. China also gives Cameroon grants, loans infrastructural development, as well asproviding military-technical assistance.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

President Mahama urges Bank of Ghana to reduce interest rates

President John Mahama , who was swearing-in the Bank of Ghana's new governor, Dr Henry Kofi Wampah, urged the bank to reduce interest rates, return inflation to single digits and stem the dollarisation of goods and services.

At the 4 April swearing-in ceremony, President Mahama declared the government's determination to work with the governor to reduce interest rates and make the cost of borrowing easier for the private sector. He said, “The cedi remains relatively stable, but we need to do more to ensure that we protect that stability so that the cedi operates in a predictable manner both in the interest of the economy and for foreign investors.” He went on to say, “We must continue to index prices in the Ghana cedi. The dollar and other foreign currencies are a means of international exchange and trade, and are not supposed to be the indicator of what currency prices we have.”

Dr Wampah pledged to consolidate present gains and accelerate Ghana's transition to higher middle-income status. Wampah has been the acting governor since former governor and current Vice President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur joined Mahama as his running mate for the 2012 election campaign.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Mauritania: Kinross lawsuit fails

It was reported on 23 March that Kinross Gold Corporation had failed to win the dismissal of a US lawsuit accusing it of defrauding shareholders over the Tasiast mine in Mauritania which has contributed to more than US$6 billion of company write-downs. The decision by US District Judge Paul Engelmayer stems from Kinross' US$7.1 billion 2010 acquisition of Red Back Mining which gave it control of the Tasiast gold mine and the Chirano gold mine in Ghana.

The judge, while calling the matter a “close question”, ruled that the shareholders may sue over losses between 10 August 2011, when Kinross delayed a feasibility study for the Tasiast mine, and 17 January 2012, which was a day after it took a US$2.94 billion non-cash, goodwill write-down related to the Red Back mines. Kinross took a separate US$3.21 billion write-down related to the mines on 13 February. 2013. The judge also let shareholders pursue claims against four Kinross executives, including Tye Burt who was ousted as chief executive last August.

Stanley Bernstein, a partner at Bernstein Liebhard, representing the plaintiffs, said: “We are gratified the court has sustained most of the complaint, and are looking forward to obtaining recovery for the shareholders who were defrauded.” In a statement, Kinross said: “The company believes that the surviving claims are without merit, and we will continue to vigorously defend against the litigation.”

Kinross shares fell more than 36% between 10 August 2011 and 17 January 2012 in both the US and Canada, and following further declines they are now roughly half their levels at the start of that period.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 8 April 2013

Algeria: UN Mediator for the Sahara on New Tour in North Africa

The UN mediator for the Sahara, Christopher Ross, undertook a two week tour of North Africa (March 20 – April 3) in another attempt to persuade the parties to the Western Sahara conflict to sit at the table of direct negotiations.
After visiting a month or more ago the capitals of the Group of Friends of Western Sahara (Washington, Moscow, Paris, Madrid, London), as well as Germany and Switzerland, to seek international support for his approach, Ross resumed contacts over the last two weeks with the parties directly involved in the conflict: Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front.
UN deputy spokesman, Eduardo del Buey, told reporters in New York that the purpose of this new North African tour was to prepare the ground for a “possible resumption of direct talks” on the Sahara conflict, as a settlement of this issue “becomes more urgent than ever” in view of the “growing risk of instability in the Sahel.” He said that Ross's trip was“to prepare for the next phase in the negotiating process and a possible resumption of direct talks to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution.”
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Yemen: Inspire analysed


Analysts have now had time to take a close look at the latest issue of Inspire (see Yemen Focus March 2013). Global intelligence company Stratfor got it right with this comment: “The new editor, who uses the nom de guerre Yahya Ibrahim, has worked with [Samir] Khan since the first edition of the magazine. He is a native English speaker who is familiar with Western culture and idioms. Ibrahim was clearly influenced by Khan and has attempted to continue Khan's work, but he lacks Khan's acerbic wit and irreverence. In Inspire 10, for example, Ibrahim attempts to replicate the insulting one-page 'advertisements' that Khan included in earlier editions of the magazine — one in particular racially derided US President Barack Obama — but they lack the bite of Khan.”
Inspire seems to be more serious and less edgy than when Khan was in charge – which may, it is to be hoped, dull its appeal among its target audience. New call for release of Yemenis in Guantanamo: There have been some renewed calls in Yemen for the release of some 90 or so Yemenis still at Guantanamo Bay. Their families lobby the Yemen government to intervene on their behalf and this gets a creation profile in the Yemeni media. President Abd Rubuh Hadi has just raised the issue with President Obama. Yemenis now make up nearly two thirds of the remaining prisoners at the facility.
For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 5 April 2013

Egypt: Ongoing problems in the transport sector

Labour unrest continues to plague Egypt. Alexandria's railway workers forced the cancellation of a number of trains while the city's international airport at al Burj was closed after police blocked the runway and demanded a slice of the fees paid by travellers.

Meanwhile Cairo airport is reducing its operating hours because of both a dramatic fall in traffic and a need to save energy. The civil aviation minister, Wael al-Maadawi, said that two runways will now be closed for four hours starting from 01.30 am (2330 GMT) "in order to save energy". Only one runway at Terminal 3 - which serves as a regional hub - will remain open 24 hours a day.

Egypt's growing sense of isolation was increased by the rupture of undersea telecommunications cables. A judge is now investigating which ship might have dragged its anchors over the cables.

Only Iran, itself in almost complete international isolation and economic meltdown, seems to be improving relations with Egypt at present. Direct flights between the two countries were inaugurated on 30 March when an aircraft of the privately-owned Air Memphis took off from Cairo airport. Civil Aviation Minister Wael Al-Maadawi said that Iran and Egypt had signed an agreement to promote tourism, basically one way, to bring Iranian tourists to Egypt.

There have been concerns expressed that the presence of Iranian tourists in Egypt might lead to conversions to Shiism - but a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood scoffed at the suggestion. Dr Essam el-Erian, who was for years the Brotherhood's official spokesman, said that Egypt's Sunni identity was very strong. “Egypt is too great to be penetrated by any thought or current ... Egypt has refused all forms of secularism and welcomed nationalism mixed with Islamism,” he said.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Ghana: GMC announces an increase in gold production in 2012

The Ghana Minerals Commission (GMC) has announced a 17% increase in gold production in 2012, in most part due to rising prices that encouraged greater output by companies.

Last year gold prices averaged US$1,668 per ounce, which was up from around US$1,572 an ounce a in 2011. Production also rose from 3.6 million ounces in 2011 to 4.2 million ounces in 2012 which was an improvement on the GMC's forecast of 3.9 million ounces for the year.

Australian miner Adamus Resources started first gold production in Ghana in January 2012, while Newmont's Akyem mine, which is its second in Ghana and is situated around 80 miles north west of Accra, is expected to start commercial production of up to 450,000 ounces annually later this year.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Nigeria: Threats from Akwa Ibom militants

A militant group in the Esit Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State has written a letter to two oil companies in operation in their community for allegedly not paying royalties. Under the aegis of the Niger Delta Subterranean Force, the group said it would attack the Frontier and Septa Oil and Gas companies if its demands were not met.

The letter was dated 5 March and signed by General Oyobio Oyobio . It warned the managing directors of the two firms that unless the companies provided ? 600 million in royalties and a 100 million naira monthly package for 'settlement of the boys,' it would strike.

'In the next week, we will be ready to attack the pipelines. We are ready to visit the Central Processing Facilities (CPF). If the two companies do not settle [with] us, they should forget about the inauguration of the CPF … because we will attack it.' The group is also pushing for its members to be given the contract to protect the pipelines, stating that it will otherwise blow them up.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates

Mali should be under UN mandate, says Bouteflika adviser

One of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's close advisers on terrorism and trans-national crime, Kamel Rezag-Bara , has issued a stark warning to the states involved in the military intervention in Mali, saying that the tensions in the region could destroy the state of Mali if political dialogue between rival camps is not reestablished as a matter of priority.
Speaking at a seminar, he also said that the number of parties involved in the conflict should be reduced urgently and the dossier be handed to the UN to avoid the exacerbation of the crisis. Arguing that Touareg demands had grown while the government in Bamako ignored them, Bara said political dialogue between the Malian government and the tribal groups in the north, Algeria's favoured policy all along, offered the only way out of the conflict. It is not often that the president's close advisers speak publicly on major policy issues.
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates