Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Iraq: US court order halts US$100 million sale of Kurdish oil

US court order halts US$100 million sale of Kurdish oil
There have been new developments in the tit-for-tat struggle between Baghdad and Erbil over independent oil sales oil sales by the KRG. The Kurds have suffered a fresh blow to their attempts to sell the oil that they have been exporting via Turkey. It has been reported that an US judge, in response to a lawsuit filed by the Baghdad government, has signed an order to seize the US$100 million crude oil cargo from a tanker anchored off the Texan coast.

It was reported at the end of July that the United Kalavrvta, which left the Turkish port of Ceyhan in June, had sailed to the US and was planning to discharge at the Texan port of Galveston. The tanker informed the authorities that it was intending to discharge its cargo at sea into smaller vessels that would then deliver the crude to the port. On 27 July the US Coast Guard in Houston inspected the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker and cleared it for unloading which seemingly opened the way for the delivery to take place.

However, in its filing in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Iraq asked for an order allowing the cargo to be seized by the US Marshals Service, arguing that independent Kurdish oil sales amounted to “smuggling”. Court filings showed on 29 July that the order had been granted by Judge Nancy Johnson. 

AET Offshore Services, an intermediary hired to unload the tanker, had previously asked in a separate court filing on 28 July if Iraq’s claims were valid. It is still not known who has purchased the crude oil and the court filings took no steps towards remedying this, by refusing to name the end-buyer. Companies have so far proved reticent about purchasing crude exported to Turkey from the Kurdish region because Baghdad has threatened legal action against all buyers of non-approved oil exports.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Libya: Kidnapped Maltese oil worker released unharmed

A Maltese oil worker abducted by a Libyan militia on 17 July was released unharmed yesterday. According to a report, 42 year old Martin Galea has already flown back to Malta after eleven days in captivity.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat welcomed the retired armed forces captain on the tarmac at Malta airport and thanked the diplomatic service, the army and the Muslim community in Malta for helping secure his release.

Galea is an employee of Arab Geophysical Exploration Services and was abducted from the suburbs of Tripoli while he was being driven to work.

The Maltese government said that no ransom was paid for Galea's release and that it was too early to say who had abducted him or why. Given the increased spate of kidnappings by criminal gangs, however, the motivations are just as likely to have been financial rather than ideological.

Although he did not elaborate, Galea said the Maltese consul in Tripoli, Marisa Farrugia, had saved his life. A Maltese government official stated "We will fill in the blanks only after the Security Service has spoken to him. So far what we know for a fact is that he has been released and that was our priority.”

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Mozambique expanding electricity supply to meet the needs of a growing economy

Mozambique´s Energy Minister Salvador Namburete says that his government is implementing plans to expand electricity supply to meet the needs of a growing economy. According to the state-run Radio Mozambique, the minister made the announcement at his Ministry’s Coordinating Council in the Niassa Province’s northern provincial capital of Lichinga.

Namburete stated that demand for electricity in Mozambique grew at an annual rate of 13% between 2011 and 2013 compared to 10% per annum in the previous decade. Demand is particularly high in the northern provinces of Nampula, Cabo Delgado and Niassa, with growth rates of 20% annually, almost double the national average.

While the government’s electrification programme has extended the national grid to 121 of the country’s 128 districts, Mozambicans will have to wait until the end of 2014 for the remaining seven districts to be connected. Until then, however, patience will remain high as significant steps to redress the electricity supply failures have been made in the last decade.

Mozambique is a major regional producer of hydro-electric power, mainly from the 2,075 MW capacity Cahora Bassa dam but, in 2004, only 7% of the country’s population had access to electricity. Over the last decade, however, the government’s electrification programme has raised that figure to just over 40% in 2014.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Monday, 28 July 2014

Algeria: Rumours of an army purge

Rumours of an army purge
There is both mystery and a lack of information surrounding the reported “retirement” of senior army officers. More than a month ago, it was reported that a list of 74 senior officers had been drawn up by army chief of staff and deputy defence minister, General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, to be considered for retirement by the High Council of Military Function (HCFM). We then heard that the list may have contained several hundred names and that the “Bouteflika camp”, which includes Gaïd Salah, was already in the throes of “removing” senior army officers who were known or suspected of being opposed to Bouteflika’s fourth mandate. We have since been hearing that this “purge” is being disproportionately weighted against the DRS.

According to our sources, it is because this year’s normal 5 July process of army retirements has turned into this sort of purge, that there has been so little public information on what is happening. Although our sources are adamant that such a purge is taking place, we are finding it impossible to get a firm confirmation of how it is being conducted and who has been removed.

It is obviously a sensitive and politically dangerous process and one that can only be accomplished successfully if it is kept as secret as possible. We are hearing, but cannot confirm, that several hundred officers have been fired or are perhaps still in the firing line, with the DRS being most targeted.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Nigeria: Rivers State's Governor Rotimi Amaechi faces impeachment threat after Adamawa State debacle

Rivers State's Governor Rotimi Amaechi faces impeachment threat after Adamawa State debacle
The 14 July impeachment and removal from office of Adamawa State’s governor Murtala Nyako, who is a prominent member of the opposition All Progressives’ Congress (APC), has descended into a debacle as credible reports suggest that he has fled to Europe via Ghana.

Although one of his assistants insists he is not running from the law - in this case the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and a possible case for treason in relation to his statements on Boko Haram, - the EFCC's media and publicity head, Wilson Uwujaren, stated that in order to locate the elusive Nyako the commission is planning to declare him wanted.

These developments have fuelled suspicions that the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) may next target Rivers State’s governor Rotimi Amaechi. The governor, who last year defected to the APC from the PDP, was detained while en route to campaign for Kayode Fayemi in the Ekiti State gubernatorial election in June.

The Rivers State APC chapter has released a statement lauding Amaechi’s qualifications while suggesting that he is among four additional APC governors “pencilled down by the Presidency” for impeachment, along with those from Borno, Edo and Nasarawa States. APC activists proclaim that they will not allow such “evil machinations” to succeed.

Amaechi issued a statement through his chief of staff, Chief Tony Okocha, that any impeachment plot against him would fail because all 25 former PDP Rivers State assembly members defected to the APC and just six remain loyal to the PDP.

In Adamawa State, the State House of Assembly, which stayed loyal to the PDP, was able to obtain the two-thirds majority in favour of for Nyako’s impeachment. A similar challenge against impeachment was issued in Edo State by Governor Adams Oshiomole who is another APC supporter.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Algerian anger at Bastille Day celebration particpation

Algerian anger at Bastille Day celebration particpation
Further illustration of what many people now believe is part of the price Algeria is having to pay for France’s support for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s fourth mandate surrounded Algeria’s participation in the 14 July Bastille Day celebrations in Paris.

Those not versed in the often-unfathomable complexities of Franco-Algerian relations might have viewed France’s invitation to Algeria to participate in this year’s Bastille Day celebrations as a timely gesture towards improving relations between the two countries.

However, as news leaked out that Bouteflika had accepted the invitation and that three Algerian military officers and the Algerian flag might be present at the Champs-Élysées celebrations, there were expressions of anger from both France’s far right and almost the entire Algerian political spectrum.

At the heart of the anger in Algeria are the established position of almost all political leaders and, above all, the veterans of Algeria’s War of Independence that Algeria would never accept such an invitation until France, the former colonial power, apologies for the crimes it committed in Algeria.

After many days of debate within the local media, with almost total opposition to any participation, Bouteflika’s decision to send an envoy, in the person of Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi, has united, albeit perhaps temporarily, almost all political parties and strands against Bouteflika. Particularly dangerous for the presidential circle, however, is that many of Bouteflika’s supporters have now come out against him. With his popularity already at an all-time low, one can only wonder what threats or promises the Elysée may have made him.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Libya: In-fighting between Islamist militias in Derna

In-fighting between Islamist militias in Derna
Besides the ongoing fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi another flashpoint has emerged in the eastern coastal town of Derna. Unlike the current conflict in Libya’s two largest cities the clashes in Derna are between rival militant Islamist groups rather than between mainstream Islamist and liberals. A major battle has developed between two main groups: the Abu Slim Martyrs Brigade and the Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Derna (the Shura Council of the Youth of Islam in Derna) and its allies.

This battle is mainly one for control over the town but there are also distinct differences of ideological approach. The Abu Slim Martyrs Brigade was formed during the revolution and comprises mainly former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Its cadres were formed during the era when national militant movements emerged out of the Afghanistan war of the 1970s and returned home to challenge authoritarian regimes.

The Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Derna is completely different. Formed very recently, its members are generally young and aspire to more transnational jihadist ideologies and movements. The group reportedly includes a number of young Libyans who returned from fighting in Syria, Mali and Algeria.

These militant groups have become increasingly embroiled in a tit-for-tat battle of killings and revenge killings that have seen some key commanders on both sides assassinated.

Meanwhile some of the groups that are affiliated with the Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Derna are now declaring their allegiance to ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. This includes the recently emerged Al-Bata’a Brigade and the Abu Mahjan Al-Ta’ifi Brigade, whose emir declared his support for Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, after he declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. As a symbol of this support a group of 50 mujahedeen, including fighters, doctors and oil engineers, was sent to Iraq to support the cause. The 50 also included a number of jihadists who are willing to sacrifice themselves as suicide bombers.

That these brigades and groups are allying themselves with ISIS is a worrying development which brings a whole new dimension to the militancy that has implanted itself in Derna and elsewhere in the country.

For further analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2014 Menas Associates

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Nigeria's President sounds out supporters for 2015 re-election bid

Jonathan sounds out supporters for 2015 re-election bid

President Goodluck Jonathan won backing for a re-election bid from several People's Democratic Party (PDP) state governors and House of Representatives members at a meeting held at the Aso Rock presidential villa in Abuja in the week ending 19 July.

Insiders say Jonathan will officially declare his candidacy in late August, following the end of Ramadan and out of respect to Muslim members of the PDP. He also wants to pre-empt any rivals. His most likely opponent within the PDP for the nomination is Jigawa state’s governor Sule Lamido who has the backing of former president Olusegun Obasanjo (1999–2007).

Lamido, a quietly spoken former foreign minister, is scarcely more charismatic than Jonathan but the PDP’s northern caucus would find him more acceptable. If he mounts a serious campaign, with strong backing from PDP governors in the north, he could really damage Jonathan. This, however, requires courage and money and no one is certain about Lamido’s reserves of either commodity.

Despite this Jonathan may need to offer him a very important job if he is to be persuaded to cease and desist.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Elections hold key to elusive Mozambique peace deal

Elections hold key to elusive Mozambique peace deal

Aside from Mozambique’s upcoming October elections, both the government and the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) have announced that they have made significant progresses in peace talks and are close to reaching a deal. Government spokesman, Gabriel Muthisse said both sides have made concessions on the main points of disagreements.

Negotiators have been pursuing common grounds on issues including the integration of Renamo men in the army and the withdrawal of the army's soldiers near Gorongosa. One of four Renamo spokesmen, Saimone Macuiana, who leads the Renamo delegation in talks with the government, had said that they will soon be able to publish the terms of reference for international observers who will oversee disarmament and a ceasefire.

Bishop Dinis Sengulane, one of the mediators of the talks and who was in London last week, has told Mozambique Politics & Security that this should happen on time to allow RENAMO leader, Afonso Dhlakama, to campaign for elections. He has also hinted that some of the outstanding issues may have to wait until after the elections.

Sources say that Dhlakama is expected to return to Maputo to launch his presidential campaign sometime in August. As for a possible meeting between Dhlakama and President Guebuza, the Renamo leader says that the detention of his spokesman Antonio Muchanga has made him reconsider that possibility. According to him, Guebuza has invited him to Maputo to arrest or assassinate him.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

RIGZONE - Bloomberg: Spain's Repsol Considering a Bid for Talisman Energy

RIGZONE - Bloomberg: Spain's Repsol Considering a Bid for Talisman Energy

Azerbaijan: Baku hits back after UK minister's criticism

Baku hits back after UK minister's criticism

The Azeri Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in response to recent comments by UK minister for Europe David Lidington on the sentencing of the civil society activist Hasan Huseynli to a six-year prison term on charges of “hooliganism”. Huseynli has headed the Gandja-based Intelligent Citizen NGO and repeatedly criticised human rights abuses in Azerbaijan.

His trial has drawn a barrage of criticisms from local civil society and international observers as well as from the US diplomatic mission. “In recent years the British embassy in Baku worked closely with Mr Huseynli on projects designed to promote social entrepreneurship and strengthen female participation in civil society,” Lidington said. “Mr Huseynli joins a growing number of civil society activists sentenced to lengthy prison terms. I again call on Azerbaijan to address concerns felt by many about the increasingly worrying trend of detentions and prison sentences which appear to be politically motivated.” 

The Azeri foreign ministry called this assessment “unwarranted interference in a sovereign state’s internal affairs” and added that Huseynli’s contributions to civil society development did not exempt him from responsibility for the criminal actions he has been indicted with. It advised Lidington to direct his efforts to the “improvement of the human rights situation” in his home country, instead of lecturing other countries on what they should or should not do.

This incident highlights Azerbaijan’s nearly allergic reaction to any sort of external criticism of its political system, which has been dominated since independence by the clan of the late president, Heydar Aliev. His son Ilham Aliev has ruled the country with an iron fist since 2003 and was re-elected to the presidency with 83% of the popular vote in October 2013. 

The Azeri-British relationship is unlikely to suffer any collateral damage. Britain’s new defence secretary Michael Fallon was in Baku earlier this month in his previous capacity of energy minister. During this trip he reiterated the obvious by saying that Azerbaijan remains a top foreign policy priority for the UK because of its tremendous gas reserves and their significance for the EU’s energy security. There is no better proof of the simple fact that no western country is willing to sacrifice its energy stakes in Azerbaijan for the sake of human rights concerns.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

IOCs evacuate staff from Libya

IOCs evacuate staff

Italian energy giant, ENI, has responded to the escalating violence in the capital by moving fifteen members of its staff out of Tripoli. The employees were moved to the offshore Bouri oilfield before being whisked away to Malta and onto Italy.

French company Total has also moved its staff out of the capital, getting them out of the country by road to Tunisia. The United Nations has also pulled its remaining staff out of the country. 

Following the abduction and beheading of a Filipino construction worker on 15 July, the Philippines government ordered its estimated 13,000 nationals in Libya to leave the country, instructing them to contact the embassy in Tripoli for instructions on "mass evacuation."

Yet how such evacuations are going to take place while the airport is out of action and with little prospect of its restarting operations any time soon is unclear. 

Although the airport at Zawara is preparing to take both domestic and international flights, it is still going to take several days before it is in a position to do so. It also still requires the agreement and support of the Ministry of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority. More importantly there are still question marks over safety and insurance issues.  

Meanwhile there are growing fears about evacuation by road given that the confrontation has now spilled beyond the airport area and out to Janzour. 

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Nigeria 2014 growth to exceed 6% despite downwards revisions on previous years

2014 growth to exceed 6% despite downwards revisions on previous years

Nigeria's recent rebasing of its GDP continues to lead to statistical adjustments. These include last week’s downwards revision of Nigeria’s 2013 GDP growth rate from 7% to 5.5%. The 2012 GDP growth has also been reduced to below 5% by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), although 2014 growth is still expected to exceed 6%.

While Nigeria is still operating from a massively increased GDP "base" level, such a change does raise concerns about future official growth rates and whether growth - quite aside from broader questions of "job creation" and increase in living standards - is being adequately assessed.

Nevertheless, the NBS projects that GDP growth in 2014 will be approximately 6.2%, based on a first quarter GDP growth rate of around this level. NBS director general Yemi Kale claims that Q1 growth is typically slower than growth for subsequent quarters.

Although growth in the oil and gas sector has been modest, optimism about growth in other sectors of the economy abounds. For example, the Renaissance Capital emerging markets bank has recently released a report entitled "Nigeria's GDP: Bigger but slower - Manufacturing is the engine of growth". It suggests that percentage manufacturing growth has been in double digits, with the Dangote-dominated and Lafarge target cement sector being a notable success story. Rencap also cites textiles as a major growth area, a significant development given the decimation of textile producers in West Africa, including in Ghana, because of foreign competition.

The attraction of the diversified Nigeria growth story is also illustrated by analyst observations that at least US$500 million of investment is planned to build a series of major shopping centres by or before 2016. South African banks, retail players, plus the UK’s CDC private equity spin-off Actis, are among the participants in a country with a significant "demographic dividend". South Africa's Shoprite Holdings, which operates a number of shopping centres or malls throughout Africa - including in Lagos' Ikeja district, Abuja and Accra - has just announced a 10.5% increase in its profits through to June 2014, and so interest is likely to continue.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Friday, 18 July 2014

Cameroon: Anglophone secessionists to ratchet up tension in oil-rich South West Region

Anglophone secessionists to ratchet up tension in oil-rich South West Region

There are risks of a clash between government troops and supporters of the Anglophone secessionist Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) in the oil-rich South-West Region. The SCNC plans to hoist its flag to show its territorial autonomy and hold a national assembly on the side-lines of burying its late former chairman Ayamba Ette Ottun.

Under Ayamba the SCNC has witnessed an unprecedented split into several factions, mainly based on age, between the council’s older leaders and the more militant younger generation. The latter blame the former for having lost the thrust of the mission for outright independence of the Cameroon's two Anglophone regions: South-West and North-West. Their quest for Anglophone autonomy is based on claims that the country’s Francophone majority government and people marginalise them and treat them as second class citizens.

Ayamba's funeral will, however, be used as a reconciliatory platform for the SCNC's various domestic and expatriate factions A new and vibrant leader is expected to be elected by about 5,000 SCNC activists attending the national assembly in Mamfe. Menas Associates learnt during a visit to the South-West Region that the tussle for the leadership has been heating up but that Paul Abine Ayah is the name on most lips.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Short extension to Iran nuclear talks proposed as deadline looms

Short extension to nuclear talks proposed as deadline looms

Iran and the P5+1 have been engaged in very intense negotiations since 2 July in a bid to achieve a comprehensive nuclear deal before the 20 July deadline. Though the deadline can be extended by up to six months, all parties involved are interested in finalising the deal soon.

The two sides agree that significant gaps remain, mainly on the issue of enrichment capacity. This translates into the number of centrifuges, production capacity, and stockpiles of enriched uranium. Various formulae could achieve the Western goal of prohibiting the breakout capability of the Iranian programme, defined as the point at which there is a sufficient quantity of highly enriched uranium to fuel a weapon.

Iran’s latest offer has included a freeze on enrichment to maintain the current capacity of about 9,000 centrifuges instead of reducing that now and allowing it to grow in the future. This suggestion is now being considered in Washington, but insiders there told Menas Associates that 9,000 spinning centrifuges would not offer enough leverage to President Obama to push back congressional pressure against sanctions relief.

It looks very likely that the two sides will agree on an extension of the talks by a few weeks, not by six months. That would allow them to close the gap between their positions, but there is also another important advantage: the US Congress will be on its summer break in August and if the comprehensive agreement is signed in mid-month, there will be no immediate congressional opposition.

Washington and Tehran have achieved their core objectives and are now attempting to make the deal more attractive to their domestic stakeholders. At the same time, each knows that it will be easy for the other to undo the progress made so far and return to the escalatory mode of the past few years.

A deal is thus likely in August and will then be implemented over the next two years, ultimately leading to a working relationship between Tehran and Washington and an improvement of ties between Iran and the European Union.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Thursday, 17 July 2014

How will Cameroon finance pay rises?

How will Cameroon finance pay rises?

Minister of Finance Ousmane Alamine Mey has explained that Cameroon spends CFA820 billion (US$1.69 billion) a year on government workers’ salaries.

President Paul Biya’s 5% increase in these monthly salaries will increase government spending by CFA30 billion (US$62 million) in the second half of 2014 and increase this year’s total expenditure on civil servants’ wages CFA850 billion (US$1.75 billion).

Mey did not explain, however, how the government intends to pay for the additional CFA30 billion. This is worrying because the government’s 2014 budget has already been concluded. 

Menas Associates believes that the additional income will come from increasing oil revenues. Fortunately, Cameroon is expected to witness a surge in oil production in 2014, from 24 million to 30 million barrels as new oil fields come on stream. 

Increased oil production could, therefore, provide the necessary additional revenue to finance this year’s 5% pay increase for the civil servants.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Preparations for parliamentary elections begin in Egypt

Preparations for parliamentary elections begin

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi issued a decree on Tuesday 15 July creating an electoral commission to oversee the upcoming parliamentary elections. This is in keeping with his statement last month indicating that the procedures for parliamentary elections, the first step of which is the appointment of an electoral commission, would take place before 18 July.

The commission will be formed of the head of the Court of Appeals and the eldest members of the Court of Cassation. Its formation indicates that we should expect to hear an announcement regarding the timing of elections in the next week or two. 

The vote is still expected to be held in mid to late-September, as the government is keen on completing a full transition to an elected government and it is very likely that several draft laws are being held up until a parliament is in place to approve them.

In a development that could have a significant impact on the shape of the next parliament, the Cairo Court of Appeals has overturned a ban placed on members of the now defunct National Democratic Party (NDP), which had been headed by former president Hosni Mubarak, from participating in political life. 

The new ruling means that any former NDP member of parliament may run again in the next election cycle (those convicted of crimes in the last three years will still be banned from running), and it is particularly significant given that the new parliamentary electoral law, which has been heavily criticised by the country’s political parties, heavily favours individual candidate districts.

Former members of parliament will now find it easier to run in the constituencies they had once held, as they will not be required to join a political party (most of whom have shunned former NDP members) to compete in individual districts. 

It should be noted that while previous bans failed to prevent many NDP members from running in the 2011 parliamentary elections, they performed poorly against Muslim Brotherhood candidates, who have been banned from taking part in political life.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Another new oil minister in Yemen

Ahmed Abdul Qader Shayyeh, who was appointed minister of oil and minerals in early June, resigned a few days later on health grounds, suggesting that the process of consulting him may have gone wrong. A new minister has now been appointed, having received a phone call from President Abd Rubuh Hadi while in London.

He is Hussein Rashid Jamal Alkaff. Alkaff is well known in oil circles in Yemen and the region, as he was a deputy minister of oil in the last years of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen and held the same position in the first years of unity. He subsequently became CEO of Al-Nimr, a private Saudi oil company owned by the Bin Mahfouz family, who are of Yemeni origin.

For the last few years, Alkaff has functioned as a consultant on Middle East oil, and he and his sons are the owners of Sahra Petroleum, a London- and Sana’a-based oil, gas and mining services company.

He is widely respected in the sector and has provided advice on oil policy to the government and the National Dialogue Conference. He is not a political figure, however, and has no independent power apart from through the now limited prestige of the Al-Kaff Sayyids.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Monday, 14 July 2014

Libya's Brega Port under siege as guards prevent exports

Brega Port under siege as guards prevent exports

Libya’s energy sector was dealt another blow on 11 July when a group of protesters from the Oil Facilities Guard closed down the Brega Port and prevented a cargo that was in the port from loading.

The members of the guard are demanding that they be paid their backdated salaries, just as those members of the guard who were blocking the ports of Es-Sider, Ras Lanuf have been paid. One of the guards told the Turkish media on 11 July that “we closed Brega today as they haven’t given us our financial dues for several months. We will prevent all ships from being loaded with fuel. There is a cargo [in the port] and we won’t allow it to load oil until we receive our dues in full.”

Brega, run by the NOC’s Sirte Oil Company subsidiary, is a relatively small port with a 90,000 b/d capacity that has lately been used to supply the Zawia refinery. Its closure is a challenge given the troubles with the eastern oil export terminal ports over recent months and the fact that it will still take a while before operations are back to normal in Ras-Lanuf and Es-Sider, handed over earlier this month.

Given that the protesters are making purely financial demands the situation should be resolved easily enough. Despite this, with the political scene in such chaos and with the economic situation in deep crisis, how long it will take the government to resolve this standoff has yet to be seen.

Meanwhile, workers at the 103 Oil Field 200 km from Ajdabiya and operated by the Zuetina Oil Company stopped working this week. On 9 July the workers began an open sit-in at the field in protest against the company’s board. It is not clear exactly what it is about the board that the workers are protesting about, but they are refusing to leave unless their demands are met.

The good news, however, is that the agreement between the head of the Cyrenaican Transitional Council (CTC) politburo, Ibrahim Jedhran, and the government appears to be holding despite the fragility of the situation on the ground. It was reported this week that foreign workers have returned to work in the oil fields in Jalu and that European companies are restarting their operations.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Terror attacks continue in Kenya coastal counties

Terror attacks continue in Kenya coastal counties

The security situation in coastal Kenya remains beyond state control. In the past two weeks, three further attacks have taken place. Attacks in Lamu and Tana River Counties, which have again been claimed by Somalia’s Al Shabaab militant Islamists, have resulted in the deaths of at least 22 people. The attacks took place on the night of Saturday 5 July.

The Tana River County attack was in the small town of Gamba, where detainees were freed from police cells and nine people were killed. At least a further 13 died at Hindi close to Mpeketoni in Lamu County. Al Shabaab claimed to have freed 40 detainees and to have killed 60 people in the process.

On the night of 11 July the village of Pandanguo was attacked by a gang of up to 60 people. Six police reservist guns were taken. Pandanguo is close to the village of Witu where, on the night of 22 June, another attack saw 11 people brutally killed.

Lamu County is fast turning into a war zone. People are fleeing the insecurity with at least 2,500 people being served by the Kenyan Red Cross in displaced people’s camps and many more relocating under their own resources. Some are reportedly questioning the government’s inept response which has allowed these attacks to continue.

The state’s response remains confused. Military spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir continues to contradict President Uhuru Kenyatta by pinning the blame for the attacks on Al Shabaab. Meanwhile, the Hindi and Tana River attacks have been blamed on the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC).

The MRC was founded in 1999 and seeks to establish an independent state based around Mombasa. It strongly denies the allegations. In a July 7 statement released on its Facebook page, they called on people “not to fall into the government’s trap of creating war between communities” and that “whether you like it or not, the Mombasa Republic will take its place amongst nations”. Prior to the Hindi and Gamba attacks the police reported the arrest of four alleged MRC members in Mombasa.

Mombasa itself remains tense. A Russian tourist was shot dead on Sunday 6 July while touring the UNESCO Heritage Site of Fort Jesus. It is unclear if the attack was a simple robbery or a terror attack that was targeting tourists.

On Friday 11 July the controversial businessman, Mohamed Shahid Butt, was assassinated in his car coming back from Mombasa’s Moi International airport. Butt was facing charges for inciting radicalism in the town and last appeared in court in December 2013. His shooting is suspected to have been carried out by state security officials in the Anti-Terror Police Unit. Similarly, the Al Shabaab-supporting cleric, Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, was murdered in April 2014.

The recent months have exposed the new frailties in Kenya. The traditional rivalries of the leadership of the country’s main tribes and their political groupings continue, but it is almost as a sideshow. Intensifying conflicts on the edges of the Kenyan state - in its arid north and its increasingly unstable if not ungovernable coastal region - present an increasingly acute risk to investors. The tourism sector is collapsing in the face of terror.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Nigeria moving closer to locating kidnapped schoolgirls.

The Nigerian authorities claim that they are "moving closer" to locating the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, as other kidnapped women and children escape from Boko Haram.

Last week, Sid Djinnit, the regional UN representative in Dakar, told the Security Council that escalating violence against civilians is both harming Nigeria and affecting regional security, and that there have been around 18 attacks attributed to Boko Haram in the preceding two weeks. Despite this, the government continues to claim progress against the insurgents.

The military claims, for example, that it is moving closer to rescuing the Chibok schoolgirls after a wave of recent arrests that were reported to the recent National Council of State meeting in Abuja. One military spokesman claimed at the weekend that over 50 Boko Haram members were killed by its forces at its Damboa military base in Bornu State which was actually attacked by the insurgents.

In addition, there have been reports that some women and children who were kidnapped last month have escaped. Some are being treated at an Adamawa State hospital while others escaped from Boko Haram while the latter’s forces were attacking the Damboa military base.

Boko Haram leaders and their claimed associates continue to suggest negotiations over the kidnapped girls. A Boko Haram spiritual teacher said earlier this week that the Chibok girls who were kidnapped in April are in good health, even voluntarily converting to Islam: he called for Boko Haram prisoners to be released as part of negotiations.

The US' FBI claims that proceeds from Niger Delta kidnappings may have been used to fund Boko Haram's activities and have reached the group via several intermediaries. A private intelligence company, Modern Security Consulting Group, cites evidence from Nigerian insiders that Boko Haram may provide support for kidnappings, perhaps assisting pirates in moving money or acquiring weapons.

This raises the prospect of security worsening in the Niger Delta ahead of the February 2015 elections, where there is likely to be a fierce electoral contest between the ruling PDP and opposition All Progressives' Congress.

Oil industry executives are often the target of Niger Delta kidnappings but earlier this week, Golden Chioma - a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly who chairs the Rivers State House Committee on Judiciary - was allegedly kidnapped by unidentified gunmen.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Friday, 11 July 2014

New security system for Algeria oil bases

New security system for oil bases

Last week’s return of foreign workers to the Tiguentourine gas facility at In Amenas is based on the implementation of new security measures at Algeria’s oil and gas fields and their various installations. The new measures are reported to cover the four regions: the In Salah-Adrar basin, Hassi R'Mel, Hassi Messaoud and the southeast area encompassing Tiafti and In Amenas.

Our understanding of the new measures is that some 80 oil installations have been linked together in a new early warning preventative warning system. This includes intensive monitoring operations over oil and gas fields by military aircraft, as well as an alarm control system operated by Sonatrach that is triggered in the event of the discovery of any infiltration into 50 and 100 km security perimeters surrounding oil fields and bases. The military presence in areas close to industrial centres, oil and gas fields, and bases that have foreign employees has also been strengthened.

In addition, considerable emphasis has been placed on recruitment, not only at the point of recruitment, but throughout the period of employment and after the departure of the employee. This is because the terrorist attackers at In Amenas are believed to have collected information from former employees at the base.

Other safety procedures will include establishing a national security database that will hold the identity and a detailed biography of all Algerian and foreign workers in the oil companies.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

More than 150 Syrian students kidnapped by ISIS

More than 150 Syrian students kidnapped by ISIS

The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) has allegedly abducted between 153 and 186 boys aged 13-16 in the Aleppo region of northern Syria. Although largely unreported by conventional media outlets, bar brief reports in The Guardian and VICE News, it appears that ISIS has perhaps been influenced by Boko Haram’s April kidnapping of more than 300 schoolgirls from Chibok in north-east Nigeria.

Reports have recently surfaced that on 29 May 2014 a convoy of ten minibuses successfully completed the perilous 110 km journey from Ain al-`Arab (Kobani in Kurdish), on the Turkish border, to Aleppo to sit their end-of-year-exams as required by Syria’s educational system. The returning convoy was intercepted and redirected to an ISIS-controlled Islamic school in Minbej, just 66 km from Kobani, where the vast majority of the boys have remained. The primary source of what has been reported is Mustafa Hussan, one of five boys who managed to escape four days after the initial abduction. 

Hussan reports that, although the food was good, many boys were beaten by their international ISIS captors: ‘I saw a lot of Russians, Chechens, Libyans, some Saudi Arabians and Syrians too.’ Forced to undergo lessons in Islamic Shar’ia ideology and training in jihad, the boys were threatened with beheading if they attempted to escape. In spite of this, Hussan and four fellow students managed to escape via a roof under the pretence of raising a flag while their classmates distracted their religious teacher. Hassan stated that once they had escaped they were aided in their journey home by sympathetic locals.

Since their escape, unconfirmed rumours have surfaced that a further 15 students were traded for three ISIS combatants being held by Kurdish forces. What is certain, however, is that the longer the situation remains, the more difficult it will be to extract the students. Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has pledged its support to Kobani but the situation is complicated by the fact that ISIS has been carrying out deadly attacks on the city and surrounding villages since 2 July with weapons captured in Mosul. One attack, at Sheyoh, saw the execution of 24 Kurds, including two children.

Within the majority Kurdish city there is little faith that anyone outside of Kobani will help. According to a 2013 estimate by the Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), over 85% of the total population of 44, 821 is Kurdish, with small Arab (5%), Turkomen ( 5%) and Armenian (1%) minorities.  The city itself is accustomed to both violence and its status as a minority stronghold. Founded in 1915 by Armenians fleeing genocide in Anatolia, who mostly emigrated to the Soviet Union in the 1960s, part of the city fell foul of the demarcation of the Syrian and Turkish border and has been assimilated into the Turkish city of Suruç. 

The vast majority of Kurds, following the principal of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”, supported Syria’s minority Shi’a Alawite regime, believing that if the country were governed by the majority Sunni populace the Kurds would themselves be further ostracised and persecuted. In addition to what is taking place in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which is proving a stumbling block to ISIS’ unrealistic attempts to form an Islamic Caliphate stretching from the Gulf to the Atlantic, the Syrian Kurdish allegiance to the regime has seen them become a target for sustained siege and, now, kidnapping and executions.

While the precise facts of what has happened remain unverified, what has crystallised is ISIS’ willingness to kidnap and enlist children in armed conflict, considered war crimes under International Humanitarian Law, to achieve its aims.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Pulling the plug on Bamako

Pulling the plug on Bamako

Having been deprived of a large part of its multilateral budget aid following the 2012 coup, things were looking rosy for the Mali government by January of this year as international donors, including the World Bank, European Union, and the African Development Bank (AfDB), committed US$4.4 billion to support the economic and social recovery of the country.

So far over the past year, Mali has received US$300 million of the approximately US$900 million allocated by the World Bank’s assistance programme. Over the past months, however, it has seemed only a matter of time before the international community, especially those parts holding the purse strings, lost patience with the incompetent and corrupt Bamako government. That has now happened.

The last straw for international donors was the purchase in May of a presidential jet for Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) from a private company without any tender. In addition to the improper purchasing process, it now transpires that not all of the money paid for the plane finished up in the hands of the supplier.

Similar corruption allegations also surround questionable arms contracts made by the IBK coterie. As a consequence, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has suspended aid to Mali until September. The World Bank followed suit by postponing the payment of US$63 million in budgetary support. Managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati announced the decision on 25 June.

An estimated €100 million from the European Union has also been frozen until further notice, and it is expected that major foreign donors will now suspend payments. Important donor partners include France, Germany, the United States, Canada, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. A review of the management of Mali’s public finances is also underway.

These decisions are a severe punishment and big blow to the Bamako government, but they are not all surprising. The question is how deeply they will affect negotiations over the future of Azawad.

These financial blows, alongside the defeat of the Malian army in May, have not only strengthened the negotiating hand of the Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) but have shifted international opinion towards the realisation that some form of federalism is the only solution.

Dialogue better than war

Mali’s president and prime minster are going through a painful learning process. Interviews in the international media with IBK and Prime Minister Moussa Marra at the end of June suggest that both men now prefer dialogue to war.

From the tone of the interviews, it is clear that they have been chastened by the Malian army’s humiliating performance in Kidal, the increasing frustration of the United Nations with the government’s failure to make progress in the peace process, and the decisions of the international donor community to suspend funds.

These events have perhaps served the purpose of making the political class realise that if the government does not enter into serious and well-meaning negotiations with the rebel Azawad groups very soon, Bamako’s future could become extremely grim.

For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.
© 2014 Menas Associates

Thursday, 10 July 2014

IN DEPTH: Can Al-Maliki survive?

IN DEPTH: Can Al-Maliki survive?

Despite his characteristic resilience, can Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki survive the unfolding crisis in Iraq? In the first week of the crisis Al-Maliki appeared lost and unable to comprehend the political ramifications of ISIS's advances and seemed to have been written off by almost every side. It therefore seemed all but inevitable that the beleaguered premier would have to concede defeat and step down.

In typical style, however, he pulled himself together quickly enough and since then has been on the offensive. Al-Maliki is fighting back hard, something that will have won him further support and respect among some Iraqi Shi’as, many of whom believe that, rather than being the root of the problem, Al-Maliki is the man to protect them from what they see as a sectarian onslaught by the Sunnis and by terrorist forces. 

One should not forget that Al-Maliki still has the support of large swathes of the Shi’a population. His State of Law Alliance took the largest number of votes in the last elections and Al-Maliki himself won 720,000 votes, the largest share of any single candidate. For all that he may be despised and accused of being authoritarian and sectarian, Al-Maliki is still the strongman of the Iraqi political scene. 

All this makes it very difficult for the other political players to force him out. This includes his Shi’a rivals. That is not to say that they haven’t been trying. The Sadrists and to a slightly lesser degree the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), are insisting on Al-Maliki’s departure, even going so far as to nominate alternative candidates for the premiership. At the end of June both blocs proposed Adel Abdulmehdi, the current deputy president, as their chosen candidate. 

Yet their efforts alone are unlikely to unseat Al-Maliki, who is not relying on either the Sadrists or ISCI for his third term. Aware that they were not going to give him a chance, he left both behind weeks ago, deciding instead to focus on forging alliances with other factions, including some Sunnis. It was through such alliances that Al-Maliki succeeded in getting the support of 165 MPs from a range of parties and currents outside the National Alliance. 

Thus for all that these big Shi’a players may be pushing for Al-Maliki’s departure they have little real influence over whether he stays or goes. 

Instead, Al-Maliki’s survival depends more on whether the State of Law Alliance and those smaller political forces that have thrown their weight behind him will continue to back him. There has been a lot of talk that key components inside the State of Law Alliance are ready to drop Al-Maliki. There have also been reports that the alliance is considering putting forward alternative candidates for the prime minister’s post. 

Among the names being circulated are Al-Maliki’s adviser Tariq Najm; deputy prime minister with responsibility for energy affairs Hussain Al-Shahrastani; deputy president Khodeir Khozei; transport minister and head of the Al-Badr Organisation, Hadi Al-Ameri; and national security adviser Faleh Al-Fayed. Notably, none of these individuals are from Al-Maliki’s Al-Dawa party, which had a weaker showing in the elections than many other components of the State of Law Alliance. 

Despite this talk, however, as yet there are no concrete signs that the alliance is about to crack or that it has any intention of withdrawing its support for Al-Maliki. This is perhaps unsurprising. State of Law is Al-Maliki’s creation and was built around him. Although there are other important figures within it, he is still the glue that holds it together and that enables it to attract so much public support. Thus abandoning Al-Maliki will not be that easy. That does not mean that they won’t do it. Much will depend on how much pressure the alliance comes under from other Shi’a parties, from other parts of the political establishment and from external forces, including Iran and the US – Washington clearly doesn’t want Al-Maliki to continue. 

As to whether those MPs from outside his alliance that Al-Maliki managed to win over will stick by him now this crisis has erupted, this is a more questionable matter. This is especially the case for those Sunni elements that Al-Maliki managed to pick off and bring over to his side, who may be persuaded to retract if they see that things are not going the prime minister’s way. Some of these elements might well falter if they see that the tide has turned against Al-Maliki and that the only way forward is to force him out of power. 

Al-Maliki’s days may well be numbered and without such support he will have no chance of holding on.

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

More alleged Renamo attacks and civilian deaths in Mozambique

More alleged Renamo attacks and civilian deaths

There have been more alleged Renamo attacks in Sofala Province near Muxungue, with one taking place on 25 June, Mozambique’s Independence Day. Media reports suggest that during the week of 23-28 June, at least 12 people were killed, including four civilians, and many others were injured.

The army-protected convoys have now been reduced, adversely disrupting trade between the centre and south of the country. Lorry drivers travelling from Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi to the regional port of Beira have also been affected.

There have also been reports of minor attacks and exchanges of gunfire in other regions of the country. In Tete Province, for example, the local media reported that Renamo had attacked a police post in Chiuta and stole weapons. There were other cases of armed attacks in the province but it is believed that these could be the work of local criminals taking advantage of the current security instability.

There were reports of an exchange of gunfire between Renamo men and government soldiers in Zambezia Province when the army tried to dismantle a temporary Renamo base near Gurue District. Some of these attacks took place just before and during the Renamo meeting in Beira, and Renamo's leader Afonso Dhlakama has been asked by his supporters to explain why civilians were targeted. His response was that "the government is using civilian cars to transport weapons by road".

Dhlakama’s position has also been corroborated by a local priest, Jose Luiz Gonzalez, who has been working for the past six years on a local project run by US-based Catholic missionaries. He told reporters that Renamo does not attack civilians and that when there are civilian victims, it is because there are soldiers in the civilian convoys. The priest also stressed that in his area of Muxungue the local people do not agree with Renamo’s plan to divide the country and also do not support the violence.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Ghana budget review comes amid ailing economy

Budget review comes amid ailing economy

Embattled Finance Minister Seth Terkper is expected to outline new measures to address Ghana’s economy when he presents a mid-year review of the 2014 budget.

The review, which is likely to take place before the end of this month, could see the ministry modify its macroeconomic targets for the 2014 budget, which are widely seen as being unrealistic, as well as present new policies to stabilise the economy.

As reports emerged this week that the cedi could fall even further to between GH¢3.50 and GH¢4 per dollar, there is mounting pressure on President Mahama and his Finance Minister to deal with the country’s ailing economy.

Last week the Trades Union Congress released a statement reprimanding the government for an economic situation which is “getting worse every day” and a country in which “nothing is working”. It pointed to the continuous slide in the cedi, unpaid salaries, job losses, failing businesses, rising inflation, energy shortfalls, rising utility tariffs and high taxes as factors which continue to harm hardworking Ghanaians.

The Private Enterprise Foundation (PEF), an umbrella organisation for private businesses, also said last week that the government’s “misguided” policies mean that business confidence is at its lowest in four years. This echoed the sentiment of the Association of Ghana Industries which in May called for drastic measures to improve the dwindling fortunes of Ghanaian businesspeople, as well the concerns of the Monetary Policy Committee which, in its April report, spoke of a depressed business environment. There is also considerable anger that the government is not grasping the severity of the situation. The PEF’s CEO, Nana Osei-Bonsu, said, “Government comments like ‘we are going through short-term challenges and difficulties, and this is like a hiccup’ are not helping. These are hurricanes! This is not a hiccup.”

International ratings agencies have meanwhile delivered a damning report on Ghana’s economic management. Following Fitch’s downgrade of its outlook from stable to negative, Moody’s lowered Ghana’s rating to B2 from B1, and maintained a negative outlook on the rating to signal the likelihood of a further downgrade in future; it then downgraded the ratings for the GCB.

Despite increasing pressures, the government is sticking to “home-grown” solutions for now rather than seeking financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund to help solve its problems.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Monday, 7 July 2014

Nigeria: Spin doctors to the rescue

Nigeria is facing pressing problems so the government has taken decisive action: it signed a $1.2 million contract with an American public-relations company to manage the country's image.
The news of the contract came on the heels of an emotive and sorrowful op-ed that President Goodluck Jonathan published last week in the Washington Post, in which he attempted to rehabilitate his reputation and counter the impression that he was unconcerned about the fate of the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped from their school in Chibok in April.
"My silence has been necessary to avoid compromising the details of our investigation," the president wrote, though it was not clear how a refusal to meet with the grieving parents would endanger the recovery mission.
The letter, in retrospect, looked like the first salvo fired from the PR arsenal of Levick, the Washington-based lobbying firm contracted to help out the Abuja government. The company is going to try to shape the "media narrative" over the government's recovery effort. It is also tasked with mobilising international support of the fight against Boko Haram.
With the elections fast approaching in February 2015, critics accused Jonathan of running to the Washington spin-doctors to spruce up his image ahead of the still-yet-to-be-declared re-election campaign.
For its efforts, Levick will earn $75,000 a month plus (likely to be considerable) expenses for travel and media production, according to The Hill.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria or East Africa, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2014 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Ghana's cocoa farmers still waiting for pesticides

Ghana's cocoa farmers are still waiting for pesticides from the government after recent rains have made the crop more susceptible to disease.

Noah Amenyah of the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) told reporters in Accra that farmers should receive chemicals and fertilisers within two weeks. He was responding to complaints by farmers in the country's western region that deliveries were up to three weeks late. If the chemicals are not received soon, farmers risk losing the light crop to diseases, a spokesperson said.

According to Cocobod projections, Ghana will produce 900,000 metric tonnes of beans for the 12 months ending 30 September, the highest in three years. Even so, global supply is lagging behind demand, in part due to increased demand from the new middle classes in India, China and Russia, sending prices 13% higher this year to more than US$3,000 per tonne.

Cocoa farmers, especially in Ghana and neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire, have to deal with ageing plantations that are often vulnerable to pests and disease. Smallholders for the most part cannot afford modern equipment or fertilisers, and there is a knowledge gap when it comes to good agricultural practice.

As part of its own efforts to boost the cocoa crop, Ghana pledged to distribute free fertiliser to farmers this year in a jointly funded programme between the government and Cocobod. Under the new scheme, which replaces fertiliser subsidies, US$200 million worth of farming inputs, mainly in the form of chemicals and fertilisers, will be given out to farmers.

Further measures to rejuvenate the country's cocoa sector are already in motion, thanks to an agreement between the government and 12 major global cocoa and chocolate companies.

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

© 2014 Menas Associate

Buganda Kingdom seeks share of oil wealth

Uganda’s traditional and powerful Buganda Kingdom has floated the idea of a 1% share of the oil wealth being reserved for “cultural institutions”, a term that refers to traditional leadership structures.
Buganda MPs are considering seeking an amendment to the Public Finance Bill, which currently allows for 93% of the revenues to be reserved for central government and 7% to accrue to oil producing districts.
The Buganda Kingdom - led by Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II (b. 1955) who is the current king or Kabaka of Buganda - covers 18 counties. Hoima County lies to its west. Although the king has few formal powers, it has historically been a key centre of power in Uganda since pre-colonial times.
For more news and expert analysis about East Africa, please see East Africa Politics & Security.

© 2014 Menas Associates

Cameroon: Government raises fuel prices at filling stations

The government has partially bowed to pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which had called on it to scrap fuel subsidies at the filling stations. As of Tuesday 1 July, pump prices have increased. The news was made public through a statement signed by Louis Paul Motaze, Secretary-General at the Prime Minister’s Office, who has revealed that:
A litre of Super or Premium petrol has been increased from CFA560 to CFA650 (US$1.37)
A litre of Gas has risen from CFA520 to CFA600 (US$1.25)
A 12.5 kg bottle of cooking gas will now increase from CFA6,000 to CFA6,500 (US$13.56).
Motaze said that the fuel price increases will help Cameroon to save money for other state projects and infrastructure, adding that the government spent over CFA1,200 billion on fuel subsidies during the first six years when it implemented subsidies.
The government faced a head-on confrontation from angry protesters in February 2008 after it last raised fuel prices. At least 40 people were killed in the clash between street demonstrators and the security forces.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Libya: Selwa Bughagis is shot dead in Benghazi

The Benghazi lawyer and women’s rights activist, Selwa Bughagis, was shot and killed in her home on 25 June by unidentified gunmen.

She had just returned from casting her vote in the elections and had also appeared on Libyan television where she had criticised the militias operating in Benghazi. She declared, “These are people who want to foil elections. Benghazi has been always defiant, and always will be despite the pain and fear. It will succeed.”

It is not clear who was behind her killing but it was presumably the work of Islamist militants. Her husband, who was recently elected to the municipal council in Benghazi, was also abducted in the attack and has not been seen since.

The only witness in the attack - an Egyptian called Ahmed Abdelkader who used to work for Bughagis, and who was shot in the leg in the assault - has since died in mysterious circumstances. Despite the fact that he was supposed to be giving evidence to the police his body was discovered bearing signs of torture.

Bughagis’s death touched deep chord with many Libyans. She had been a prominent figure during the 17 February revolution and beyond and her death was devastating for many. Between 400-500 mourners gathered for her funeral at Benghazi’s Hawari cemetery this week.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates