Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Ghana: Mahama says he will support ongoing negotiations between ECOWAS and EU

President John Mahama says he will support the ongoing negotiations between ECOWAS and the EU on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Welcoming an ECOWAS delegation to Accra for a summit in his capacity as its new group chairman, Mahama said that it would be “disastrous” for Ghana to unilaterally pursue any agreement with the EU. “Ghana will continue to play a facilitative role, especially now that we have assumed the Chairmanship of ECOWAS,” he said. “It is our intention to call a meeting of a technical grouping to narrow down the issues that are outstanding, so that we can move ahead and complete the negotiations of the EPA with the European Union.”

Also crucial to the region’s economic development is intra-regional trade, Mahama said, as he called on heads of government across West Africa to take measures to remove trade barriers. Turning to security matters, he pledged to encourage collective action to deal with terrorist group Boko Haram in the wake of several high profile incidents in Nigeria in recent weeks.

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.
© 2014 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Libya: Jordanian Ambassador Fawaz Al-Aitan still held captive

Jordan’s ambassador to Libya, Fawaz Al-Aitan, who was kidnapped in Tripoli on 15 April, remains in captivity, despite talk of his imminent release.

Al-Aitan’s abductors demanded Jordan free Libyan militant prisoner, Mohamed Said Dersi, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in Jordan in 2007 for plotting to blow up a Jordanian airport. This demand reportedly came from Dersi’s family in Benghazi who allegedly appealed to militants in Tripoli to carry out the kidnapping to try to secure their son’s release.

Reports emerged this week that Dersi has now been released but they were quickly denied by the Libyan Foreign Affairs Ministry. The official LANA news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesperson Said Al-Aswad as saying that the ministry had no knowledge of Dersi’s being transported to Libya. A ministry spokesman also told the Jordan Times that the ministry had “no information confirming these reports”.

There are, however, plenty of credible sources who are insisting that Dersi has been freed. This week, his lawyer declared that the militant had been released from prison and that he had already returned to Tripoli. Similarly, the lawyer for many Islamist prisoners in Jordan, Mousa Abedlat, announced that the Jordanian authorities had deported Dersi to Tripoli at dawn on 25 April in return for the release of their ambassador. A Salafist jihadist leader in the south of Jordan, Mohamed Al-Chalabi (a.k.a. Abu Sayaf) also told the Al-Hayat newspaper this week, “Dersi is now asleep in Libya.”

If these reports are true, then it is not clear why Al-Aitan has yet to be freed.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Monday, 28 April 2014

China-Algeria trade increases fifteen-fold

France lost its position as Algeria’s major supplier to China in 2013, according to the latest economic data, Naser al-Tamimi reported for Al-Arabiya on 26 March. The source of the data is not given, so we cannot comment on it. What we can say is that bilateral trade between Algiers and Beijing, according to UN data, has grown almost fifteen-fold in the past 10 years, from $608 million in 2003 to more than $9 billion by the end of 2013. The two countries have established what they call “the comprehensive strategic partnership”.

Algeria is now China’s top trade partner and largest export market in the Maghreb region. Beijing’s trade with Algeria represented over 40% of China’s total trade with Maghreb (nearly $21 billion) in 2013. As we reported last month, Algeria is a lucrative market for Chinese engineering. Latest data show that Algeria is the biggest market for Chinese contractors in Africa, after Nigeria.

A little known feature of Chinese-Algerian trade, possibly because of the prominence given to the establishment of French auto-plants in Algeria, is that China, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), exports more cars to Algeria than any other country. Algeria was China’s top vehicle export destination in 2012 and 2013. Chinese state manufacturer FAW has recently signed a deal to build an assembly plant in Algeria, producing 10,000 vehicles a year. A number of defence industry sources have recently commented on Algeria’s interest, as one of the world’s major arms purchasers, in the possible procurement of Chinese weaponry.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Friday, 25 April 2014

Libya: Sixty Committee holds first meeting

Libya’s constitution committee held its first meeting on 21 April in the eastern town of Al-Bayda.
The committee elected a head, selecting well-known liberal Ali Tarhouni to lead the process, and chose Al-Jilani Abdelsalam Arhouma as his deputy. The committee also agreed to spend the coming days working out its by-laws.

Only 47 of the 60 members of the committee were present as the remaining 13 members still have to be elected. The Amazigh (Berbers) are continuing to boycott the committee and elections for the other 11 seats - which could not take place in February due to security issues -  have yet to be re-held.
The committee remains incomplete, creating serious difficulties for the process of writing the new constitution. As one former congress member explained,: “The elections have not been completed so anyone can challenge the work of the committee by filing a petition to the constitutional court.”

This aside, the committee only has 120 days to draw up the new constitution. Given the sensitivities over some of the issues that will need to be thrashed out - such as what political system the country should adopt; how far it should go with decentralisation; whether Islamic Sharia should be the sole source of legislation; and what status should be given the country’s ethnic minorities - it seems highly unlikely that the committee will be able to complete its work within that timeframe.

How this new constitution will sit with the ongoing transition process and new elections also has yet to be seen.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.
© 2014 Menas Associates

Cameroon declared eligible for new World Bank loans

Last week, Minister of Economic Planning and Regional Development Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi declared that Cameroon has been successful in applying for soft loans from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) subsidiary through which projects are supported in eligible developing economies.

Nothing was said about the scale of the loans but Djoumessi said that Cameroon, which had applied for World Bank funding during a 2013 meeting in Washington DC, is expected to use the funding to build roads, develop electricity and fund other key infrastructural projects in the country’s quest to become an emerging economy.

In recent years, Cameroon’s relationship with the World Bank has not been particularly cordial because it has faced criticisms from the Bank for not using all of the credits at its disposal. Corruption, administrative red tape, excessive procedural lapses and inappropriate execution of projects have been at the centre of the discords, which the World Bank had earlier said had kept credit consumption levels at barely 11%.

For more news and expert analysis about Cameroon, please see Cameroon Politics & Security.
© 2014 Menas Associates

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Egypt: New law to protect officials from prosecution

The interim president Adly Mansour has issued a decree that will make it more difficult for third parties to challenge contracts signed with the government. It would make impossible the kind of challenge that led to the prosecution of ministers from the Mubarak era and other senior officials for selling off state property cheaply to developers in exchange for favours.

The government says the new protections are aimed at encouraging foreign investment.  The review of contracts immediately after the fall of the Mubarak regime led to uncertainty among investors, especially from the Gulf who had invested in real estate developments. The lack of security for investments did much to dampen enthusiasm for more investment.

Critics say it marks a return to the old ways and that officials will be able to act corruptly with impunity.  Abdullah Bin Mahfouz, Chairman of the Saudi Egyptian Business Council, welcomed the new law: "I'm sure that due to this law we will see an inflow of investment no less than US$15 billion in the next three years because there are huge opportunities in steel and mining and factories that are considered the biggest in the Middle East."

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2014 Menas Associates

Nigeria: Unhappy banks

Speculation aside, Nigeria’s banks have not welcomed the private-sector CRR increase, which they believe could harm their profits and reduce their ability to lend. These include Diamond Bank, whose officials recently stated that they will need to obtain more customer deposits to maintain profits now that – per deposit value – they may be unable to make the same income.

Some banks have in recent weeks reported decreased 2013 earnings, but it should be noted that some analysts – including Exotix – view Nigeria’s banking sector as a sound place to invest compared to other sub-Saharan African banking sectors. They highlight Zenith, United Bank for Africa, and Access Bank as good buys.

Nevertheless, the Nigerian commercial banking sector has been reassured by the installation of a new chief executive for pan-African Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), which has around 40 per cent of its revenues and assets in Nigeria. That feeling should be reinforced by soothing comments from the new man, Albert Kobina Essien.

Essien emphasises that ETI will focus on consolidation and efficiency improvements rather than overly rapid expansion, and that it will be more vigilant regarding important markets like Nigeria.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Ghana: New measures positively impacting local currency

The Bank of Ghana's head of financial stability says that the new measures introduced by the bank are already positively impacting the local currency.

At an Institute of Economic Affairs policy forum, Benjamin Amoah said that the cumulative depreciation of the cedi, which stood at 7.2% at the start of January, had reduced to 1.29% by mid-April thanks to a number of policy changes, including the raising of the policy rate by 200 basis points to 18% and the hiking of reserve requirements.

To consolidate these gains, he said, the government should adhere to budgetary targets, improve revenue mobilisation by widening the tax net, diversify exports and make a greater effort to block foreign exchange leakages. He said that greater collaboration and communication between fiscal managers and the central bank would also be beneficial.

A Reuters report issued last week suggested, however, that the impact of central bank measures is unlikely to last. Analysts are predicting a further fall in the cedi over the next week because of the unmet dollar demand from importers. 

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.
© 2014 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Libya: New discoveries

The National Oil Company (NOC) reported two new discoveries this month. The first was announced by its Arabian Gulf Oil Company (Agoco) subsidiary and is in the Sirte basin, about 80 km southwest of the town of Marada. According to the NOC website, the company drilled the FF2-47 well to a total depth of 7,270 feet and tested oil from the Lidam formation.

The test flow rate was 1,900 b/d of 27o API oil. The exploration well was first drilled in 1971 but the results were not very encouraging and only 65 barrels of oil were recovered – which is why it was considered uncommercial at the time.

Meanwhile, a consortium comprising Algeria’s state-owned Sonatrach International (Sipex), Oil India, and the Indian Oil Corporation made the second discovery. The gas discovery was made at well C1-96/01 in contract area 95/96 in the Ghadames basin, 650 km southwest of Tripoli.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Algeria: Some electoral statistics

According to government sources the electoral roll, which cannot be  accessed by candidates or electoral monitors for reasons of “data  protection” (see below, fraud), listed 22,880,678 voters of which  21,871,678 are registered in Algeria while 1,009,000 are registered  as living abroad. The authorities mobilised 11,756 polling centres and 49,971 polling stations, including 167 mobile stations. 398 of these polling stations were abroad.

Some 460,000 civil servants were mobilised to officiate at the elections. Polling centres and stations were open from 8 am to 7 pm. Wallis had the discretion to open one hour earlier and extend voting by one hour.

Algerians abroad could vote from last Saturday up until Thursday. Nomads in remote areas (e.g. Tamanrasset, Illizi, Adrar) could vote at 167 mobile stations between Monday and Thursday. Some 59,000 nomads are involved. Bouteflika cast his vote at El Biar in Algiers and was helped into the polling station in a wheel-chair. It was the first time he has appeared in public since his election address at Setif on 8 May 2012 which is almost two years ago. 

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Egypt: Electricity supplies cut to mosques

Separate, but linked to the question of energy subsidies, is the question of energy supplies. The gap between supply and demand for gas is growing rapidly, and the authorities have taken steps.

Limits have been set for the use of electricity at mosques. The religious endowments minister has ordered mosques not to run air conditioners before 15 May and after that date to use air conditioning only during prayer time and half an hour before and after the call to prayer.

Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa was reported by the state-run Al-Ahram as saying that he would also ensure that electricity meters were installed at mosques that do not have them.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2014 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Growing concerns in Ghana about a regional security rebound

The escalation of the bombing campaign by the Nigeria-based Boko Haram militia with attacks on Abuja and threats against mass population centres is ringing alarm bells in Ghana, Nigeria's closest regional ally. On several occasions, President John Mahama has warned about such regional threats after being briefed by the national intelligence service.

The other big threat pinpointed by Accra-based security analysts is insecurity in neighbouring Burkina Faso where incumbent President Blaise Compaoré looks determined to retain power at all costs. He is currently financing a bogus movement calling for a change to the constitution to allow him to stand for yet another term after holding power for almost 30 years. Three years ago, Compaoré narrowly escaped being overthrown by an army mutiny. This time, he may not be so fortunate.

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.
© 2014 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Yemen: Redeveloping Aden

The head of the Aden refinery has said that it is upgrading facilities, building a new power station and enhancing storage capacity as part of a long-term development plan. It is a key demand of southerners that more is invested in ,the port, which has suffered continual decline since its heyday in the mid 1960s.

Despite its great advantages as a port, Aden has fallen so far below the performance of regional competitors that it will be difficult to catch up, except in the very long term – and that requires political stability and massive investment. The opening of the new Omani port of Duqm adds to the now intense competition among regional ports as dropping off points for the very large container ships.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Monday, 14 April 2014

Libya: Notorious Islamist militant is killed in Derna

Ali Bin Tahar, also known as Al-Faar, and was one of the most feared Islamist militants operating in Derna, was killed this week.  Tahar was shot, reportedly receiving seven bullets to the body. He was also reportedly attacked with knives in an assault carried out in front of his brother.

Tahar was a notorious figure in Derna. He had led armed attacks on a Derna polling station during the elections for the constitution committee. He was also one of the leaders of the new militant group that announced itself in Derna last week. As Libya Politics & Security – 07.04.14 reported, a group calling itself the Majlis Shura  Shabab Al-Islam fi Derna (the Shura Council of the Youth of Islam in  Derna) announced its existence by staging a military parade in the  town and posting footage of it on the internet. This parade comprised at least 26 military vehicles and more than 120 armed elements.

It is unknown who was behind Tahar’s death. Some have speculated that he was killed by some of his fellow militants as a result of differences over money. Others are claiming that his killing might have been an act of revenge for the many executions and assassinations he has been responsible for. Either way, Tahar’s death prompted jubilation among ordinary residents in Derna who could not believe that he had actually gone.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.
© 2014 Menas Associates

Ghana takes robust line against Nigeria on trade

As the new Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) chairman, Ghana’s President John Mahama is prioritising the implementation of the regional group's Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS). But he accused Nigeria of foot-dragging and said that Nigerian protectionism was damaging efforts the complete the deal.

Boosting regional trade would be a boon to exporters, and even importers could realise significant savings. Mahama pointed to Nigeria's salt imports: it buys one million tonnes a year of Brazilian salt while nearby Ghana struggles to upgrade its salt sector.

“Nigeria has nothing to fear from Ghana in terms of competition," said Mahama. "Nigeria has nothing to fear from Côte d'Ivoire in terms of competition. Nigeria has nothing to fear from Benin or Togo or Niger.”

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Sahara: Chinese fined for environmental violation

Following a recent strike by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) workers, the Chad government announced on 21 March the imposition of a US$1.2 billion fine against the Chinese oil company for repeated environmental damage.

In a tough call, Environment Minister Mahamat Issa Halikimi said, ‘As a result of non-compliance with its obligations and repeated violations of environmental standards … the government requires CNPC International to repair the damage and pay a fine of US$1.2 billion.'

This is a remarkable, and some might say welcome turnaround by a government that, only a decade or so ago, was complicit in allowing appallingly sloppy environmental practices at the Doba oil fields, not to mention dangerous environmental safety shortcuts made for financial reasons in the construction of the Chad–Cameroon pipeline.

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

Friday, 11 April 2014

Algeria: Violence greets Bouteflika's campaign in Bejaïa

The most violent demonstration against President Abdelazi Bouteflika’s campaign was probably that of Saturday 5 April in Bejaïa in the mainly Berber Kabylie region. Protesters stormed and broke up the Bouteflika campaign rally being addressed by Abdelmalek Sellal. They took over the platform, set fire to Bouteflika’s portraits and burnt down much of the venue; attacked a television crew covering the event, injuring four of them, and stoned the Bouteflika cavalcade as it left town.

Three days later, hundreds of students staged a more peaceful protest against Bouteflika in Bejaïa, marching from Bejaïa University campus to the local government headquarters, calling for a boycott of the presidential election on 17 April and urging citizens to mobilise for “peaceful change".

Sellal abandoned the Bejaïa rally and, perhaps unwisely, moved on the next day to the Berber capital of Tizi Ouzou where he and his entourage were greeted with similar animosity. Dozens of students tried to demonstrate ahead of the rally chanting "Free and democratic Algeria!" and "Boutef, pull out!", before the police moved in and arrested about 20 of them. 

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Cameroon: Biya's security tightened for Africa-EU Summit in Brussels

President Paul Biya’s security was beefed-up at the Africa-European Union Summit in Brussels because of a determined team of Cameroonian activists who planned to disgrace him by throwing tomatoes and chanting anti-Biya slogans. The demonstrations were led by renowned activist Moise Essoh, leader of the activist group known as “Le Code”.

At the Brussels Meridien Hotel, where Biya was staying, members of Le Code flooded the area on 2 April to demonstrate against him.  “Our plan had been to make the world know that Biya is a president of risk,” Essoh said on several interviews posted on the internet and carried by several authoritative local newspapers. “But we were stopped by some 40 armed Cameroonian men in black who had been planted around the hotel.” He added that the Belgian police were drafted in with the Cameroonian security to avoid trouble.

The episode at the summit is another demonstration of the ongoing opposition that Biya faces both at home and abroad for persisting to rule the country for more than 31 years with no sign of him being prepared to step-down.

Biya particularly faces challenges from the younger generation who have been side-lined from decision-making circles in a country of more than 20 million where – despite the poverty, unemployment and nepotism – the gerontocracy has taken the entire governing mechanism hostage which naturally frustrates the younger generation.

For more news and expert analysis about Cameroon, please see Cameroon Politics & Security.
© 2014 Menas Associates

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Political parties set to fight each other in parliamentary elections

Political parties may jump on the Abdel Fattah El-Sisi bandwagon now but they will fight each other in the parliamentary elections later this year.  The political parties, many of which are new, are weakly organised outside Cairo and have limited resources. It is possible that El- Sisi’s supporters may attempt to create a political alliance that they will present to the electorate candidates that would broadly support his policies.

A number of political parties are advocating that parliamentary elections should be held on “a closed party list” system rather than the open system that the regime seems to prefer. The objective is to find a way of getting voters to make their selections on the basis of policies rather than powerful individuals.

The dissolved National Democratic Party recruited leading families and locally important individuals to help ensure its electoral victories. These families still remain, particularly in the rural areas, and may be tempted to stand as independents and then negotiate their way into parliamentary blocs and, perhaps, ministerial jobs.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2014 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Central Bank governor downplays Fitch's recent downgrade of Ghana’s outlook

Central Bank governor downplays Fitch's recent downgrade of Ghana’s outlook from stable to negative while maintaining the key policy interest rate at 18%.

Bank of Ghana (BoG) governor, Dr Henry Kofi Wampah, told reporters in Accra that Fitch's assessment is shallow and too narrowly focused on long-term prospects and that it ignores the more positive outlook for the short and medium term. Answering questions from journalists following Fitch’s latest decision he said he also disagreed with its prediction of a 20% depreciation of the cedi in 2014.

 Last week, the BoG maintained its policy interest rate at 18% following a 200 basis point adjustment in a bid to halt the decline of the local currency, on the grounds that the government's recent monetary policies had yet to make their impact felt.

Analysts argue that, given current investor concerns about the fiscal outlook, it is unlikely that further raising interest rates will do much to attract new inflows and an increase in the policy rate would negatively affect the government’s debt-servicing costs and GDP growth.

The Central Bank has also raised bank reserve requirement to 11 per cent from 9 per cent in a bid to stem the cedi’s fall and rein in inflation, a move which, according to some, would not prevent the local currency from further depreciating but would only increase short-term interest rates.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Judge orders SSS to return Lamido Sanusi’s passport to him

Judge Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the State Security Service (SSS) to return the passport of the suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Lamido Sanusi, to him and pay N50 million (US$305,000) in damages for detaining him.

Sanusi was suspended by President Goodluck Jonathan on 21 February after Sanusi had raised some uncomfortable questions about the US$20 billion that he said the state-owned Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to remit to the government.

Sanusi, who had been in Niger at a meeting of regional central bank governors at the time, was greeted by SSS agents on his return to Lagos, where he was detained and his passport confiscated.
Sanusi's problems are, however, far from over. He is challenging his suspension in court; not, he says to get his job back but instead to make the impropriety of his effective dismissal a matter of record. At the same time, he still faces questions from his opponents about his tenure at the CBN. Sanusi and his team - retired deputy governor Tunde Lemo and deputy (now acting) governor Sarah Alade - appeared before the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, to respond to questions about alleged irregular transactions in 2011-2012.

Meanwhile, the new Central Bank governor, Zenith Bank’s CEO and Group Managing Director Godwin Emefiele, was confirmed on 26 March after a speedy Senate hearing. He takes over from Sarah Alade in June.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Qatar's Emir also visits Algeria

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, visited for two days this week on an invitation by President Bouteflika. The Emir was accompanied by Qatar Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Mohammad Al-Atiyya. In what was foreseen as something of a diplomatic faux pas, the visit coincided with that of John Kerry.

Sheikh Tamim arrived in Algiers late on Wednesday 3 April as part of a tour that had earlier taken him to Jordan and Sudan. He left for Tunisia later on Thursday.
Attending the meeting broadcast on Algerian state television were Algerian Parliament Speaker Abdul Qadir bin Saleh, head of Algeria's national assembly Al-Arabi Ould Khalifa and Algerian Finance Minister Karim Djoudi.

The exact details of the bilateral talks were not revealed in a statement issued on the visit by the Algerian Presidency. However, the visit is widely believed to been an attempt by Qatar to seek support in its current isolation in the Gulf Region as a result of its conflicts with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE. Although relations between Qatar and Algeria have at times been tetchy, the Emir’s family has extremely close relations with Bouteflika.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Still no progress on the formation of a new government

It seems that congress is no closer to forming a new government or to agreeing on a new Prime Minister. The issue was supposed to be discussed by congress on 6 April, but the topic was postponed to allow for further talks among the political blocs. The blocs are clearly unable to agree on a candidate that is acceptable to both sides. Reports that leaked out of congress this week suggested that a deal had been struck and that the former head of the Integrity Committee, Omar Al-Hassi, was to be made Prime Minister.

Given that Al-Hassi is an Islamist and known to be close to the Muslim Brotherhood, it was also reported that, in return for his being appointed as Prime Minister, the Islamists had agreed to sacrifice Nouri Abu Sahmaine and to allow his more liberal leaning deputy, Izzadine Al-Awami, to become head of the congress.

Such reports would, however, appear to be unfounded. It is unlikely that the liberals, particularly the National Forces Alliance (NFA), would accept the idea of the Muslim Brotherhood having one of their allies as premier. Similarly, it is difficult to see that the Islamists would be willing to accept the congress being dominated by anyone from outside of their own current.

The congress is still in deadlock, which means that the most likely solution will be for Abdullah Al-Thanni to remain in the post, probably until new elections are held.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Swiss will not release US$791 million in frozen assets because of concerns over human rights

The death sentences handed down to the 528 - or 529, because there is still confusion in judicial sources - defendants in Minya may cost the country dear. The Swiss authorities have said that, because of the death sentences, they are unlikely to return to Egypt the 700 million Swiss francs (US$791 million) in assets that were frozen in 2011 after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime believed to have been deposited by members of Mubarak’s family and close entourage.

The head of international law at the Swiss foreign ministry, Valentin Zellweger, said that developments in Egypt “are reflected in our proceedings”. He said that it was necessary to proceed more carefully because Swiss law requires that human rights are respected. Zellweger said that, in spite of current developments in Egypt, the Swiss government’s ultimate goal is to return the money to the Egyptian government provided it can be proven that the money was stolen.

Meanwhile, in another case, two of President Morsi’s supporters -Mahmoud Ramadan and Abdullah el-Ahmedi - have been sentenced to death for throwing two young men off a roof top in Alexandria during protests after Morsi was ousted last year. Footage of two young men being thrown from a roof to their deaths was widely broadcast at the time. This is one incident seized upon by the authorities and large sections of the public as evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood is essentially a violent organisation.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates