Monday, 30 June 2014

Abuja shopping centre hit

An explosion hit a busy shopping centre in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on 25 June, and casualties are reported. The explosion hit the Wuse district, shattering windows and causing people to flee the shops with blood on their clothes. It is not yet clear what was behind the attack.

Although most of its targets have been in the northeast, Boko Haram has hit Abuja several times before, including an attack on the UN national headquarters in 2011. In April, more than 70 people were killed in a bomb blast at a bus stop on the outskirts of the capital in an attack claimed by the extremist group. In May, a car bomb near a bus station in the suburbs killed at least 19 people and injured 60 others.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Iran: Boosting output at joint fields

Iran is planning to boost output at oil fields shared with neighbouring countries. An Iranian lawmaker said on 4 June that the Ministry of Petroleum has terminated contracts to develop domestic oil fields as part of a major plan to prioritise investment in joint fields.

Seyed Saeed Heidari, a member of the Majles Energy Commission, said Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar Zanganeh had issued an order to stop the development of domestic oil fields except for those that have already reached production and indicated that the Ministry will pay compensation for rescinded contracts.

‘Our neighbouring countries are extracting more than Iran in many shared oil and gas fields,’ Heidari explained. ‘We are markedly lagging behind.’

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Mozambique: Renamo's National Council meets without Dhlakama

As expected, Renamo’s National Council is meeting this week in the central city of Beira. The agenda is primarily to discuss their electoral manifesto for October's general elections. For the first time in Renamo history, party leader Afonso Dhlakama will be absent. The party spokesman has said, however, that Dhlakama will launch his presidential election campaign by telephone from his Gorongosa mountain hideout.

Dhlakama’s absence is important because the meeting will also see the election of representatives as prospective MPs, and also appoint the party’s presidential candidate. There is no doubt that Dhlakama will be proclaimed as Renamo’s presidential candidate but the party is still very behind Frelimo and MDM.

Renamo has not officially registered a candidate for October’s elections, and its members are yet to collect the supporting signatures that Dhlakama will need for his presidential bid. The question many are asking at this stage is whether Renamo will manage - in just three months - to assemble an effective electoral arsenal to win enough seats in parliament, or whether will it opt to continue to rely on bullets instead of the ballot to change Mozambique's political system.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

New branch of Central Asia-China gas pipeline comes online

New branch of Central Asia-China gas pipeline comes online

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) reported in early June that a third branch of the Central Asia–China gas pipeline, also known as line C, had been inaugurated on 31 May, with the first volumes of Turkmen gas now following a new export route across Uzbekistan to the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang.

The 1,830km pipeline runs parallel with lines A and B, starting at Gedaim at the Turkmen-Uzbek border and entering Chinese territory at Khorgos. Once in China, it interconnects with the third west-east gas pipeline, which was built by Beijing to take imported natural gas deeper into the country’s heartland and to the east coast where the bulk of its industrial production takes place. Construction of this additional line was started in September 2012 and welding was completed, as initially foreseen, at the end of last year.

CNPC expects that, on completion of all supporting facilities by early 2016, line C will reach its designed annual transit capacity of 25 billion cubic metres. This means that, if all goes to plan, the Central Asia–China gas pipeline will be able to deliver on an annual basis up to 55bcm of Turkmenistan-produced natural gas to Chinese customers. This will represent roughly 20% of China’s domestic gas consumption.

With this in mind, the authorities should proceed to a massive substitution of gas for coal. Reducing coal consumption by 73 million tons a year may allow China to cut its carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide emissions by 78 million tons and 1.21 million tons respectively. If Turkmenistan delivers on its November 2011 promise to supply as much as 65bcm of gas a year, millions of Chinese will see clearer skies.

For Turkmenistan, the expansion of the Central Asia–China gas pipeline system means that its revenues from the lucrative energy sector will remain stable in decades to come. Unlike Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, whose political stability has been compromised by high levels of poverty and the lack of economic opportunities, Turkmenistan has all it needs to remain a deeply autocratic regime with enough gas money to silence domestic critics and secure obedience from ordinary Turkmens.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Monday, 23 June 2014

Libya's 2014 Budget is finally passed

Libya's 2014 Budget is finally passed

On 22 June the long awaited 2014 Budget originally submitted to the Congress in January by the then Prime Minister, Ali Zidan, was passed. This came as a surprise to some Congress members who had expected to debate the issue in a session on the 22 June. Having waited almost all day for there to be enough members present to reach 94 - the required number of members present to be able to hold an official consultative session - the Congress was told that the budget had been passed on a technicality.

As Libya Politics & Security – 16.06.14 explained, the Al-Thanni government declared last week that the Congress had 120 days from the budget’s initial submission to debate the law, after which time the government had the right to issue a financial mandate to ratify it. Al-Thanni therefore scored a bit of a coup by getting the law passed in this way, despite the fact that certain Congress members were keen for the budget to be reduced. 

The Central Bank may, however, still object to the budget being passed in this fashion, although it is not clear whether it has a legal right to do so. The budget stands at LD56.5 billion (US$45 billion). Given the crisis in revenues caused by the disruptions at the oil ports, a significant portion of this money is expected to come from a reserve fund at the Central Bank that was set up by Colonel Qadhafi as a fund for future generations. Whether the Central Bank will agree to this fund being used also remains open to question. 

It is clear, however, that Libya cannot fund itself from oil revenues alone. The budget committee in the Congress based the 2014 budget on a projected annual oil production of 600,000 b/d but the country has clearly fallen woefully short of this. Thus drawing on this LD16 billion fund, plus some of the central bank’s foreign reserves, therefore seems to be the only solution.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Kenya's Eurobond success indicates improved appetite for African debt

Kenya's Eurobond success indicates improved appetite for African debt

Kenya has pushed ahead with its Eurobond while Nairobi's officials negotiated with their Nigerian counterparts on preferential pricing for oil and gas purchases. Market watchers are drawing attention to the parallels between Nigeria and Kenya in that they are politically important and dynamic economies facing growing security risks.

Kenya's Eurobond has gone ahead with outsized interest for the US$2 billion bond, apparently more than four-times over-subscribed. International investors seem prepared to accept yields of less than 6% for a five-year tranche and less than 7% for the ten-year tranche of the issuance. These rates were significantly below analyst expectations of 7.5% or more if Kenya were to raise as much as US$2 billion.

Eurobond issuances are less of a factor for Nigeria - which issued a US$1 billion Eurobond in May 2013 - than for smaller economies seeking to announce their impact on the capital markets. The low yields are, however, a notable indicator that - despite the US Federal Reserve tapering earlier this year - investor interest in emerging and frontier market (including African) debt is increasing which, in turn, may have implications for even non-sovereign African fundraising.

Africa may also be fortunate that the highest profile emerging market debt negotiations are currently in Argentina, as ruthless bondholder "vulture funds" circle. This continues the saga that once led to the 2012 impounding of an Argentinean navy training vessel at a Ghanaian port in 2012 following a pro-bondholder ruling by a US court.

Kenya, following Nigeria's lead, has also announced its revised GDP figures following its "rebasing" exercise. Its 20% revision increase is proportionally less than Nigeria's GDP rebasing announced earlier this year. The revised calculations of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicates, however, that Kenya's 2009 GDP was US$37 billion rather than US$31 billion which implies that its current GDP is around US$50 billion. This is according to investor disclosures in its Eurobond prospectus.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Friday, 20 June 2014

Algerian army "invades Libya"

Algerian army "invades Libya"

For the last two weeks we have been establishing whether or not Algerian troops have “invaded” Libya as was reported in the London Times on 30 May and in Algeria’s El Watan newspaper on 6 June. Last week, we said that we were “inclined to believe that that some, or even a large part, of these forces (5,000) have moved into Libya, possibly to secure a “cordon sanitaire” on the Libya side of the frontier by taking control of water holes and other strategic points, in order to ensure that there is no penetration of Libyan-based “terrorist” elements into Algeria.”

This week we received direct, personal confirmation from France’s former Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, that “the Algerian army has invaded Libya”. We have also received confirmation from other sources. Not only have these forces, believed to be at least 5,000 strong and backed up by air power, established, as we suggested last week, a “cordon sanitaire” on the Libyan side of the frontier, but it is widely believed that they have launched strikes deep into Libya against armed groups (generally referred to as “terrorists” or “jihadists”) that have set up base in southern Libya over the last year or so.

As the Algerian constitution prohibits its forces from taking part in military action outside its own territory, the government will almost certainly continue to deny that this operation is taking place, as it has done so far. For instance, on 10 June, Prime Minister Sellal told the Senate that the army will not undertake any operation outside Algerian territory, a principle, he said, that was enshrined in the constitution.

Besides the constitutional issue, many Algerians would find it totally unacceptable that its forces were engaged in concert with those of France and the US, especially in another Muslim country.

Thus, the longer the Libyan operation goes on, the more likely we are to hear the government talking about how Algeria’s borders are being threatened by terrorists and justifying troop movements and the like in the border areas. There have been several such articles in the Algerian media this week. For example, on 18 June it was reported that terrorists in Tunisia, Libya and Mali were trying to carry out attacks on Algeria. The Echorouk daily newspaper said that “The terrorist threat doesn’t stop planning attacks to sabotage Algeria’s security. To this end, Algeria, with its combined forces, expresses its determination to clean up its territory of terrorists.”

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Upcoming Mauritania presidential elections

Upcoming Mauritania presidential elections

Mauritanians go to the polls on 21 June to elect a new President. The incumbent, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, launched his re-election campaign on 6 June in the southern city of Kaedi, telling supporters that since he came to power the country had made ‘great strides’ in security and economic growth.

Abdel Aziz has the strong support of the West, notably the United States, France, and the UK, for his tough stance against terrorism. Also, at face value his economic claims are hard to dispute. Mauritania managed economic growth of 6 per cent last year, with the president claiming credit for the burgeoning mining sector and a drop in inflation to less than 5 per cent.

He has also brought a degree of stability and continuity, thereby reassuring international companies that have invested in the country.

Poverty is still widespread, however, and unless the country strikes oil and/or gas in good quantities fairly soon, its economic future is in the balance. 

The more radical opposition parties have formed themselves into a new alliance called the National Forum for Democracy and Unity (FNDU). They comprise the Islamist Tawassoul movement and the 10 opposition parties forming the Coordination for a Democratic Opposition (COD), which boycotted last November’s election.

The FNDU is boycotting the upcoming election because its members claim that the process lacks credibility and transparency. Other opposition parties, notably the Popular Progressive Alliance (APP), are also boycotting the election for the same reason.

The opposition parties have widely criticised Abdel Aziz for his authoritarian rule. Thousands of FNDU supporters demonstrated throughout Nouakchott on 3 June, protesting at his autocratic approach and at the way the elections have been organised.

His opponents claim, with good reason, that democracy has taken a backseat during his tenure. They accuse the president of using the government and state institutions as his own personal electoral apparatus. This month, six ministers went on vacation, reportedly ordered to do so in order to spend time helping to manage the president’s electoral campaign. Among them were the minister of justice and the government’s official spokesperson. 

Abdel Aziz’s response to the election boycott has been a defiant call for a 100 per cent turnout. The opposition, in turn, has vowed to ramp up its protests.

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

Ghana central bank eases restrictions on foreign currencies

Central bank eases restrictions on foreign currencies

Ghana's central bank has eased restrictions on the use of the US dollar and the euro in order to boost foreign exchange supplies and stem the continuing fall of the local currency. Companies have complained that the new rules had not had the desired effect of preventing the fall of the cedi and had, instead, harmed businesses and made dollars and euros harder to obtain.

The previous rules, imposed by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) in February in order to prevent Ghana becoming dependent on foreign currencies, required, among other things, that all companies use the cedi in local transactions; and that exporters convert takings from foreign sales into cedis within five days. They limited the use of dollars and euros to exporters and importers and set limits on who could have accounts denominated in foreign currencies.

BoG governor Henry Kofi Wampah told reporters that the relaxing of the rules means that foreign companies can pay local businesses using non-cedi currencies, and that exporters can keep 60% of proceeds in foreign-denominated accounts; the remaining 40% will have to be converted into cedis within 15 days, rather than five. It is hoped that the new rules will increase the availability of foreign currency on the market.

As a further means of ensuring a regular foreign currency supply, the BoG is recommending that the government compel firms operating in the oil and mining sectors in Ghana to keep part of their profits in the country. It is also encouraging those who do business in China to use the yuan instead of the US dollar as a means of shoring up the cedi.

Already, some of Ghana's commercial banks have established relationships with their Chinese counterparts. Zenith Bank has a representative office in China and Ecobank has a dedicated China desk in several of its branches. Ghanaian traders heading to China currently need to take dollars with them that are later converted to yuan. Doing business in the Chinese currency would ease pressure on the cedi, as well as decreasing the demand for dollars, Dr Wampah said.

Last year, the yuan surpassed the euro to become the world’s second most-used currency in global trade finance after the dollar.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

US-Egypt: strain in relations?

US-Egypt strain in relations?

The US has yet to officially extend an invitation to President El-Sisi following his inauguration on 8 June, including for a US-Africa Leaders’ Summit set to take place on 5-6 August. Although President Barack Obama has called El-Sisi to congratulate him on his electoral victory, his call came days after most countries had already extended their congratulations.

Illustrating the strain in relations between the two countries, a proposed Senate foreign aid bill would cut aid to Egypt by US$400 million (Egypt currently receives approximately US$1.5 billion in annual military and economic aid). While many Western states continue to harbour reservations towards the politics of Egypt’s new leadership, we do expect that as President El-Sisi’s administration settles into office, a slow rapprochement will begin to take place.

In our visit to Washington DC last week, it is clear that there is an element of discomfort about Egypt and its seemingly one-sided political process, heavy-handed judiciary and a lack of institution building. It seems to be perceived in several institutions in Washington that Egypt’s authorities do not really care about these concerns, knowing that the US government will not cut aid substantially for years.

There is hope in Washington that there will be a political calming in Egypt but there is also a high scepticism that the body politic will not be inclusive and that figures will create a one-sided narrative that does not allow for critique. It is clear that discussions in Washington about how to engage productively with Egypt will continue for some time, with frustration with a lack of process and real engagement set to rise.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

First oil discovered offshore East Africa

First oil discovered offshore East Africa

Pancontinental Oil and Gas (18.75%) announced on 17 June that its L10A joint venture - with BG Group (50% operator) and Thailand's PTTEP (31.25%) - has confirmed that the recently completed offshore Sunbird-1 well has intersected an oil column. This is the first-ever oil discovered off the East African coast.

The gross oil column is assessed to be 14m thick beneath a gross gas column of 29.6m in a reefal limestone reservoir in the Sunbird Miocene Pinnacle Reef in area L10A. BG Group is now continuing to analyse the well data and will recommend a future exploration programme using the well results.

Pancontinental’s CEO Barry Rushworth said, “The Sunbird-1 oil is the historic first-ever oil discovery offshore Kenya,” and “We believe that this is a play-opening discovery in Kenya’s Lamu Basin. Because of the Sunbird discovery, we expect to see a significant increase in industry interest offshore Kenya."

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Libya pushes ahead with plan for parliamentary elections

Libya pushes ahead with plan for parliamentary elections

Somewhat incredibly Libya is still pushing ahead with its plan to hold elections for a new parliament on 25 June. Despite the upheaval and chaos, some Libyans seem to believe that electing a new ruling body at this time will work as a sort of panacea and provide the country with the opportunity for a new start.

Even General Khalifa Haftar, who is battling it out against militants in the east, declared this week that he would halt all fighting for one day on 25 June so that the polls can go ahead.

Yet such optimism may well be misplaced. It is true that electing a new parliament will refresh the political scene. It is also likely to result in the Islamists losing some of their grip on power. This week the campaign poster of a Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Ali Bouzakok, was torn down by angry crowds in Benghazi.

While the Islamists will not disappear from the scene completely, it seems almost certain, given the ongoing hostility towards them, that they will not be able to dominate the parliament in the way they have been able to dominate the Congress.

However, with the country so polarised and with the central authorities still lacking in any real power or authority, it is difficult to see how these elections will really alter the status quo. Furthermore, some of the thornier issues, such as whether or not to elect a new President directly or indirectly, still have to be thrashed out, meaning that the potential for further deadlock is still a reality.

Added to all this the fact that the number of voters who have registered for these elections is still so low; it is difficult to see how this new parliament will have any real legitimacy.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Monday, 16 June 2014

Reshuffle in Yemen amid protests

Reshuffle in Yemen amid protests

An attack on Yemen’s electricity infrastructure in Marib led to a loss of power for much of the country on 10 June, leading the next day to demonstrations and a protest in front of President Abd Rubuh Hadi’s residence. This precipitated a long-expected cabinet reshuffle that came across as something of a panic.

Yemen has looked particularly fragile in the past month, with a major offensive in Abyan/Shabwa against AQAP, fighting in Amran between al-Huthi, supporters of Islah and an army brigade and continuing problems in the south. In Sana’a, fuel shortages have led to long queues for diesel and elsewhere exacerbated already severe humanitarian problems and led to protests in several Yemeni towns.

Criticism of the government had reached new heights before the electricity failure. Much of it was directed at Prime Minister Muhammad Basindwa, who nevertheless survived the reshuffle – perhaps because very few other politicians might be willing to take on the job at present.

The new ministers are:

  • Ahmad Ubaid Bin Daghr, deputy prime minister, minister of telecommunications and information technology;
  • Abdullah Mohsen al-Akwa, deputy prime minister, minister of electricity;
  • Nasser Taha Mustafa, minister of information;
  • Ahmed Abdul Kader Shaya, minister of oil and minerals;
  • Mohammed Mansour Zemam, minister of finance; and
  • Jamal Abdullah al-Salal, minister of foreign affairs.

They are thought to be close to Hadi, while representing the General People’s Congress/Joint Meeting Parties coalition in the cabinet. The new oil minister replaces Khaled Mahfouz Bahah, who was appointed to the job only three months ago, having been brought back from Canada to take up a post he had previously occupied three years earlier. Abu Bakr al-Qirby, the long-serving foreign minister, may have been surprised at his sudden exit, sweetened by an appointment to the Majlis al-Shoura (upper house of parliament). His replacement has done well as ambassador to the UN. The outgoing minister of finance has been appointed governor of Hodeida.

The president has also appointed Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak as a director of his office. He made his reputation as secretary general of the National Dialogue Conference. Mansour Ali Ahmed al-Betani was made secretary-general of the presidency.

The reshuffle will at best buy Hadi a little time. The armed forces will go after the saboteurs but problems with tribes in Marib are endemic and symptomatic of wider political, economic and social problems – and thus likely to recur.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Armed men target Kenya hotels

Armed men target Kenya hotels

On 15 July close to 50 people were killed and buildings set on fire after unidentified armed men attacked the coastal town of Mpeketoni in Kenya’s Lamu County. According to the Chief of Kenya’s police force, David Kimaiyo, the buildings targeted included several hotels, a bank and the town’s police station, which seems to have been attacked first.

Local reports say that approximately 50 heavily-armed men in three vehicles entered the town at around 20.30 local time (17.30 GMT), shooting people at random and storming various buildings before setting them alight. It is believed that most locals were in Mpeketoni’s cafes watching the World Cup match on television at the time. 

Late last night Kenya’s National Disaster Operation Centre released a statement attributing the violence to Somali militant group al-Shabaab. The group has been responsible for a number of attacks on Kenyan soil in recent years following Nairobi’s deployment of troops into Mogadishu on 16 October 2011 and its subsequent integration into the African Union forces fighting in the beleaguered Horn of Africa state. 

Lamu County is in the heart of Kenya’s tourist region, with Mpeketoni located just 30km south west of Lamu Island, a popular UNESCO world heritage site. Despite this, it appears that it was local residents that were targeted in this attack as opposed to foreigners, who constitute al-Shabaab’s typical victims. However, Mpeketoni is a largely Christian community and, being situated less than 100km from the Somali border, means that it is at high risk of cross-border attacks.

Al-Shabaab’s radio station in Somalia has broadcast messages denying responsibility for the attack. 

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Libya: New Oil Guard head

A new head was appointed this month to the Oil Facilities Guard. Colonel Ali Al-Ahrash as part of the agreement signed in May between the government of Acting Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thanni and Ibrahim Jedhran, who heads the politburo of the Cyrenaican Transitional Council (CTC).
This is the second time that Al-Ahrash has headed up the Guard. He resigned from the post in July 2013 after clashing with the government of former prime minister Ali Zidan, and most notably with former oil minister Ali Al-Arusi.

The government accused Al-Ahrash of not being in proper control of his forces. He retaliated, complaining that his forces were not being supplied with proper weaponry and equipment and that they were not being paid on time. His reappointment is a bid by Al-Thanni to prove to that he is still the rightful prime minister and, more important, that he is the only one who has the key to resolving the oil crisis.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Sudan denies arming Libyan militants

Sudan has hit back at allegations that it is secretly arming militants in Libya. These allegations arose after Libyan National Army’s spokesman, Mohamed Hijazi, told the Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath television channel on 7 June that “a suspicious plane carrying weapons landed at the Mitiga air base” on 5 June.

Although Hijazi asserted that he did not want to accuse the government in Khartoum or the people of Sudan directly, he made it clear that this was where the suspicion lay. He also claimed that this was not the first time that weapons meant for Islamist militants had arrived in Libya in this way, and hinted that Sudan had previously sent several such cargoes without the knowledge of the Libyan authorities.

The LNA spokesman claimed that over the past three years the Mitiga airport which is one of the main bases for militant Islamist brigades operating in Tripoli, had received some 270 weapons cargos that were channelled to extremist elements. He claims, however, prompted an official in the Sudanese Presidency to publicly deny the accusations.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Monday, 9 June 2014

Britain to host summit on northern Nigeria crisis

 The UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague is to use next week’s global meeting on conflict and gender violence to convene a special summit on Nigeria's crisis called “The London Ministerial Security in northern Nigeria”. Hague, regarded as one of the more effective ministers in Prime Minister David Cameron's cabinet, is taking advantage of the presence in London of over 40 foreign ministers, many from Africa and Europe, for the gender violence meeting.

Briefing journalists this week, Hague said the London meeting would build on – not replicate – the agreements and co-operation established at the regional summit on West African security hosted last month in Paris by President Fran├žois Hollande. That was attended by heads of state from Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin, as well as senior officials from the US, the EU and Hague himself.

Hague said that the London meeting for foreign ministers and their security advisers will go into more detail, as well as diplomatic and security strategy. While praising the civil society effort to publicise the #Bringbackourgirls campaign, he said there was much work to do in “policy and institutional terms” to shape “an effective response to the crisis”. Most importantly, the meeting would look at more “pre-emptive measures” to fight terrorism.

Foreign Ministers from Canada, the US, the EU and West Africa are all due to attend.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Friday, 6 June 2014

Algeria: Prime Minister unveils the government's five-year plan

Also on Sunday 1 June, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal unveiled the government's plan of action for the next five years. As so many of the government’s five-year plans have come to grief in red-tape, delays, postponement, corruption and general inefficiencies, and are little more than annual reiterations, they are no longer taken quite as seriously as in the early years of the Bouteflika era.
Nevertheless, the National Press Service (APS) gave it top billing alongside the start of Ouyahia’s constitutional consultations.

According to APS, the plan is particularly focused on national security and stability, as well as building an emerging economy. In tones reminiscent of the earlier and more optimistic years of the Bouteflika era, Sellal said that the plan aims to enhance national reconciliation by convincing militants to lay down their arms and return to mainstream society. At the same time, counter-terrorism will be reinforced to safeguard homeland security.

As part of that reconciliation, Sellal said that Bouteflika had decided to "lift the ban on leaving the country for some people suspected of terrorism”. Although Sellal declined to name these people, he was referring to the lifting of travel bans issued against members of the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), which was dissolved by court order in 1992.
Members of the now-dissolved FIS continue to oppose Bouteflika's government. It was strongly opposed to his fourth mandate, boycotted the April elections and is now boycotting the latest constitutional reform process.

Sellal also said that the government would hold regular dialogues with civil society and elected assemblies. He claimed the government was working to divide power among the judiciary, the legislature and the executive branches, pledging that reform will continue to improve public service of justice in a bid to make it fully independent and free. These are, however, all promises that Algerians have heard many times before and no longer pay much attention to.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Libya's security crisis worries Cairo

Since the election, few incidents of violence have been reported although one attack points to a growing security concern for the government. On Sunday 1 June, the military’s official spokesman reported that an attack on an Egyptian patrol along its border with Libya had left six guards dead. The attack allegedly occurred as an act of retaliation for recent arrests made by Egyptian security forces on a group of smugglers operating along the border. The military’s statement claims that the attack was the work of the smugglers themselves, although social media sites linked to the militant group Ansar Beit Al Maqdis, which operates primarily out of its base in the Sinai Peninsula, have claimed to be responsible for the attack as well. We have increased our attention on Egypt’s western border because of the rising instability in Libya. It is notable that various figures from within Libya’s body politic have flown to Cairo looking for help to calm the situation and, as we note below, the situation is only likely to worsen in the short term.

It is clear that disorder in Libya, whose government has struggled to control Islamic militant groups operating inside its border and is currently embroiled in a new crisis, has become a security priority for Egypt in recent weeks. On Tuesday 20 May, the military announced that it had temporarily closed Egypt’s border to Libya following similar moves by both Algeria and Tunisia. Envoys of the Egyptian and Algerian governments recently met to co-ordinate security arrangements in light of the renewed hostilities in Libya. This may eventual pose complications to Egyptians working in Libya who, according to unofficial estimates of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, number over a million, although expatriates have not yet been asked to evacuate Libya.

It was reported on Monday 2 June that a Libyan delegation of four ministers aligned with General Khalifa Haftar’s (a.k.a. Khafter) forces who launched an offensive against Islamist militants in Benghazi, including its Minister of Foreign Affairs, arrived in Cairo on a two-day visit aimed at soliciting help from the Egyptian government. President-elect El-Sisi raised Libya on several occasions throughout his electoral campaign as an issue of immediate concern and has suggested that Egypt would intervene in the conflict if it needed to, although the scope and scale of potential intervention has never been made clear. These comments have been welcomed by some Libyans, including General Haftar, who essentially posed an invitation to Egypt to intervene militarily during an interview he gave to a well-read Egyptian newspaper. We are concerned that as the security situation in Libya deteriorates, Egypt may be pulled into the conflict, thereby adding another dimension to its current overall security risk.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Tanzania: Sixteen suspected terrorists arrested in Arusha

Sixteen suspected terrorists were arrested in an operation in Arusha in northern Tanzania. The young men were charged in court on 29 May with the April bombing of an Arusha bar and with recruiting young men to Al Shabaab. Previous bombings in Arusha over the past two years were mentioned in police statements although they did not appear on the charge sheet. These include the June 2013 bombing of a CHADEMA election rally and a bombing of a Catholic church in the town the previous year.

Loose or informal connections between Al Shabaab and Tanzania are known to exist and Islamist groups are openly active. One Arusha resident was involved in the bombing of a bar in Uganda in 2010 and was arrested the following year. Given the extent of small scale mining operations in the area, particularly those for gemstones, there is also an easy supply of explosives in the general area.

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

© 2014 Menas Associates
 

Iraq: Natural gas delivery for Dohuk power station

The Kurdish government announced on its website this month the first delivery of natural gas via pipeline to the Dohuk power station from the gas field at Summail 40km away. The Summail field comes under the Dohuk production-sharing contract signed in September 2013 for supply of gas from the field to the 750MW power plant. It is operated by Norway’s DNO, which has a 40% stake, in partnership with Genel Energy which has a 40% interest. Long-term deliveries are expected to reach 120 million cubic feet a day.

Kurdish natural resources minister Ashti Hawrami welcomed the development, describing the delivery as “the result of win-win coordination and cooperation of the Ministry of Natural Resources staff, local Kurdistan companies and IOCs to deliver natural gas on a fast-track basis to the benefit of ordinary citizens”. He went on, “This important achievement shows that newly discovered gas in Kurdistan can be monetised on a timely basis, and that this is the beginning of creating a gas market in Kurdistan ... to enhance gas deliveries within Kurdistan to the domestic market.”

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