Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

LDESP Africa News Update – January 2012

LDESP NEWS CENTER: NEWS UPDATE FROM AFRICA (4 January 2013)

Note: This update is a summary of various news articles from open sources relating to African countries threatened by political instability or civil unrest, impending humanitarian crisis, emerging security threats and terrorist activities, energy security activities and economic and/or security cooperation efforts. Please click on the links below to access the complete article from the internet. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries given below highlight only the portion of each article that is relevant and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Please note that the update includes articles, which use the British English spelling. Articles are taken from diverse regional, American and European media sources, reflecting a range of political views/biases, and are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. Opinions expressed in the articles/commentaries do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP Staff.

Review of 2012

What Africa Did Right in 2012: Africans are Getting Better at Finding their Own Solutions to African Problems (Foreign Policy)

AFRICOM

U.S. Military Builds Up its Presence in Africa
An Army brigade from Fort Riley, Kan., some 4,000, soldiers, will begin helping to train African militaries. The idea is to help African troops beat back a growing terrorist threat posed by al-Qaida. The American troops will head over in small teams over the course of the next year. The Dagger Brigade returned to Kansas last year from a deployment to Iraq, where it trained and advised that country’s security forces. Now unit commander Col. Jeff Broadwater is preparing to do the same kind of mission but in a different place. So Broadwater is scouring his brigade for unique skills. “We’re fortunate enough to have some African speakers, Swahili,” Broadwater says. Swahili is spoken in much of East Africa. And the colonel says he’s also happy to have a handful of soldiers with first-hand experience on the continent. “We do have some soldiers who either came over from Africa and went to school here and then joined the military or came over with their families,” Broadwater says. The brigade is expected to deploy in small teams beginning next spring throughout Africa. The soldiers will take part in military exercises and train African troops on everything from logistics and marksmanship to medical care. Meanwhile, the Defense Intelligence Agency is already placing more of its military spies in Africa. The top American commander for Africa, Gen. Carter Ham, says this is all new. He spoke recently at an appearance in Washington: “Africa has not been a part of the world in which we have focused a lot of attention, certainly not during the majority of my career.” (…) But what’s going on in the continent, says Africa expert Richard Downie, cannot be addressed by just providing military training and equipment. There are underlying causes of unrest and extremism: poverty, lack of health care and education, and predatory governments. Downie says those are the challenges the U.S. and other countries must tackle. “Terrorism is really a symptom of a lot of other problems that really the military is not the best organization to solve,” he says. (…) The military is the organization with the biggest budget. That is why the Dagger Brigade will be able to take part in nearly 100 separate training and military exercises next year, in nearly three dozen African countries. Some of those efforts by the Army teams will last a few days, others a month or more. These soldiers will not be allowed to take part in combat missions with African forces. That would require high-level Pentagon approval. (NPR)

AFRICOM Announces it Will Have Rapid Reaction Force
In the politically charged aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi, in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed, it emerged that something crucial was missing from the structure of U.S. Africa Command: a rapid reaction force. Not anymore. In response to a question during a recent speech at George Washington University, AFRICOM boss Gen. Carter Ham said his command is now outfitted with a new capability. “With regard to a response force, when the command was initially formed there was a sharing arrangement with what’s called the Commander’s in-Extremis Force with European Command. That was a good relationship that up until the 1st of October of this year was a shared arrangement,” Ham said. “And now we have our own.” Why did it take so long for AFRICOM, which became fully operational in 2008, to get its own quick strike force like other Combatant Commands? “It was just a matter of availability of forces, principally because of commitments in other parts of the world,” Ham said. However, when it comes to rapid response, location is key. Particularly in Africa, where AFRICOM is responsible for U.S. military interests in a territory roughly three times larger than the United States. So where will AFRICOM’s new Commander’s in-Extremis Force be located? In Fort Carson, Colo., according to an AFRICOM spokesman. (Stars and Stripes)

AFRICOM Headquarters to Stay in Germany Dempsey Says
U.S. Africa Command isn’t going anywhere, at least for now, according to the U.S. military’s top officer. Since it became fully operational four years ago, perhaps nothing about AFRICOM has been a source of more controversy than its location. From the outset, numerous African countries pushed back against the idea of an AFRICOM headquarters on the continent while political leaders in the U.S. have steadily lobbied for the command to be relocated to their home districts. However, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint chiefs of Staff, during a town hall meeting with servicemembers and civilians at AFRICOM’s Kelley barracks headquarters on 17 December, said he thinks the command should stay right where it is, in Stuttgart. “We think for operational reasons — unless there is a huge (cost) disparity — operational reasons should dominate” the debate about location, Dempsey said. (Stars and Stripes)

Gen. Carter Ham US AFRICOM Commander in Nigeria, Meets Jonathan, Others
The Commander of the United States’ Africa Command (AFRICOM), Gen Carter Ham, on 11 December met with President Goodluck Jonathan and other Nigerian political, security and defence leaders in Abuja where they discussed regional and global security, including counter-terrorism, maritime security and peacekeeping. During his meeting with Gen Ham, President Jonathan expressed appreciation for “the commitment of the United States to assist in ensuring that the world is safe and secure”. He called on the US to support Nigeria in finding lasting solutions to the security challenges such as Boko Haram, policing the nation’s extensive maritime borders, crude oil theft and kidnapping. The President briefed Gen Ham on his visit to Mali and the efforts by ECOWAS to resolve the conflict in that country, adding that “the situation could still be contained if the right steps are taken quickly.” Gen Ham, who delivered a paper on security to Course 21 of National Defence College, Abuja, told President Jonathan that he was in Nigeria to hold talks with security agencies on ways to strengthen the partnership between Nigerian and American forces. (…) Ham said the US was ready to cooperate with Nigeria in areas such as maritime security, communications, development of civil-military capabilities, and resolving the conflict in Mali. (…) ‘With over 20 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population, as one of 10 largest global producer of oil, and among the five largest global contributor of forces to peacekeeping operations, Nigeria is a regional power whose trajectory has consequences for Africa, the United States, and the entire international community.” (AfriqueJet Actualite Afrique)

AFRICOM Helps with C. African Republic Evacs
The State Department has closed its embassy in the Central African Republic and ordered the ambassador and his diplomatic team to leave the country as rebels there continue to advance and violence escalates, U.S. officials said on 27 December. A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, said that at the State Department’s request, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had directed U.S. Africa Command to evacuate U.S. citizens and designated foreign nationals from the U.S. Embassy in Bangui “to safe havens in the region.” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the U.S. Embassy had temporarily suspended operations, but not diplomatic relations with the country. “This decision is solely due to concerns about the security of our personnel and has no relation to our continuing and long-standing diplomatic relations” with the Central African Republic, Ventrell said in a statement. Shortly after announcing the evacuation on 27 December, the State Department warned U.S. citizens against travel to the Central African Republic, saying it could not “provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens” and urging Americans who have decided to stay to “review their personal security situation and seriously consider departing” on commercial flights. Four days earlier, the State Department had issued a warning recommending against travel to the country and authorizing its non-emergency personnel in Bangui to leave. (Army Times)

African Union

African Union Tells Central African Republic Rebels to End Uprising
The African Union on 31 December warned rebels who are threatening to oust the Central African Republic government that they would face isolation in Africa, suspension from the organization and sanctions if they do so. Nkosana Dlamini-Zuma, commission chairwoman of the AU, warned the coalition of rebels called Seleka, or the Alliance, that other African nations would not tolerate the removal of a government by force. Dlamini-Zuma called on the rebels in a statement to end their uprising and commit to negotiations. Central African Republic President Francois Bozize met on 30 December with Yayi Boni, president of the AU, and said he was willing to include the rebels in a government of national unity. He promised not to seek another term when his current term expires in 2016. However, rebel spokesman Eric Massi on 31 December rejected the overtures in television interviews. He told France 24 television that the rebels’ aim was not to join the government. Massi also told BBC that the coalition didn’t believe Bozize’s promises. “Know that Seleka’s aim today is not to enter into a government but to allow the people of Central African Republic to be able to drive the country toward development and self-fulfillment,” he said, according to France 24. The AU’s solution to disputes over power or elections is often to establish national unity governments, which have had mixed success. While such arrangements might end immediate violence or fighting, they can lead to governmental paralysis, with political opponents struggling for dominance in a unity cabinet. Or they may simply paper over the cracks between opponents without resolving the conflicts, leaving disputes to fester and explode some time later. (…) Seleka is a coalition of three rebel groups from the north of the country that accuse Bozize of betraying agreements he made with militias in 2007 to end a war that had been raging since 2003, when he seized power in a coup. The rebels have swept across the country in recent weeks seizing towns with little opposition from government forces. Seleka now controls a large swath of the country and appears on the brink of taking control of the capital, Bangui. The Central African nation, situated in one of the world’s most volatile neighborhoods, has seen years of misgovernance, corruption, warfare, armed uprisings and military coups since independence from France in 1960. Though the nation is rich in resources such as diamonds, gold, timber and uranium, most of the population survives on less than $2 a day. The rebels claim that hundreds of their supporters have been abducted by security forces, a charge Bozize — who has twice been elected since seizing power, most recently in 2010 — has denied. (Los Angeles Times)

Congo-Kinshasa: African Union Seeks Rwanda Support on Peace, Security Agenda
The African Union (AU) Commissioner for Peace and Security will be visiting DR Congo and Rwanda to discuss over peace and stability, exchange views on how best Rwanda can help furthering the AU peace and security agenda in its capacity as a new non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The AU’s official, Ambassador Ramtane Lamamra who will be visiting the two neighbouring countries (…); is scheduled to meet high-level officials with whom he will discuss the situation in the Great Lakes and efforts to foster peace, security and stability in the Region. The Eastern Congo dispute is expected to be one of major issues that the meeting will focus on, as the AU official will also pay a visit to Goma; considering the long term presence of armed rebel groups in the DR Congo East; including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) Raia Mtomboki and M23 among many others causing the instability. Prior to the AU Commissioner’s visit, On 31 December 2012 while Rwanda had few hours before taking the UN’s most crucial body, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on the M23 and FDLR rebel groups in an attempt to combat the DR Congo conflict particularly in the eastern part. While the Council took the decision, U.S. Ambassador to the Council Susan Rice welcomed the unanimous agreement saying the United States believes the new sanctions “will directly help advance the goal of a sustainable peace” in eastern Congo. She called the sanctions against the FLDR “a critical step toward ending impunity and advancing peace,” noting that for years the FDLR has committed atrocities against civilians. (All Africa)

Congo-Kinshasa: UN and African Union to Seek Increased Funding for Strategy Against the Lord’s Resistance Army
The United Nations and African Union (AU) will seek increased funding early next year for a strategy against the armed group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its impact on communities in Central Africa, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council 18 December. (…) UNOCA is the world body’s regional office charged – along with the African Union (AU) envoy on the issue, Francisco Madeira – with helping coordinate a regional strategy to deal with the armed group, amongst its other tasks. (…) The LRA was formed in the 1980s in Uganda and for over 15 years its attacks were mainly directed against Ugandan civilians and security forces, which in 2002 dislodged the rebels. They then exported their activities to Uganda’s neighbours, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. The group is notorious for carrying out massacres in villages, mutilating its victims and abducting boys for use as child soldiers, while girls are often forced into sexual slavery. Although current estimates suggest that the LRA comprises less than 500 combatants operating under the leadership of Joseph Kony, its capacity to attack and terrorise and harm local communities remains, according to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). This past year has seen the armed group active in areas such as the eastern DRC. (All Africa)

African Union Plans to Open Office in War-Torn Somalia Capital
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud said the African Union plans to open an office in the capital, Mogadishu, where security has improved since Islamist rebels were driven out by African troops last year. The African Union’s ambassador to Somalia, Annadif Mohamat Salah, said his office will relocate from its base in Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya, according to an e-mailed statement 18 December from Mohamoud’s office. It’s “an important step for the development and improvement of Somalia,” Mohamoud said. “I also urge other international organizations to open their offices in Somalia.” The Africa Union follows the United Nations Political Office for Somalia, which moved top-ranking officials to Mogadishu in January, including special envoy Augustine Mahiga. Turk Hava Yollari AO, the carrier known as Turkish Airlines, began twice-weekly flights to Mogadishu in March. African Union troops and Somali forces drove fighters from the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab group from Mogadishu in August 2011, though the militia still carries out sporadic suicide bombings and grenade attacks in the city. Troops have also advanced into south and central Somalia, capturing key towns including Afgoye and the ports of Merka and Kismayo, even as al-Shabaab maintains control over swathes of territory. Somalia has had no effective central government since rebels overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. That triggered 21 years of civil war where warlords, regional administrations, Islamists and pirates fought for dominance, while a series of transitional governments failed to quell the disorder. (Bloomberg)

African Union, Somali Troops Capture Islamist Stronghold
African Union troops and Somali forces seized the formerly Islamist-held town of Jowhar 9 December, wresting control of one of the largest remaining towns held by the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab, officials said. The loss of Jowhar is a significant blow to the Shebab, who have lost a string of towns in recent months to the 17,000-strong AU force, as well as to Ethiopian troops who invaded Somalia last year from the west. “We took control this morning and are now establishing security in Jowhar,” Colonel Ali Houmed, a spokesman for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), told AFP. “AMISOM troops alongside Somali National Forces entered the town, there was little fighting as the Shebab largely fled ahead of us.” Shebab spokesman Abdiaziz Abu Musab confirmed to AFP that the extremist forces had pulled out of the town, which lies some 90 kilometres (55 miles) north on a key road from the capital Mogadishu. “We have withdrawn our troops from Jowhar for strategic reasons,” Abu Musab said, adding that the forces had pulled out without suffering any casualties and remained “close by” to the town. (…) But while the fighters have largely retreated ahead of each assault, some are reportedly relocating to the Galgala region of the northern Golis mountains in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region. The Golis mountains, straddling the porous border between the autonomous state of Puntland and self-declared independent Somaliland, are honeycombed with caves and difficult to access. The northern mountains have long been under the control of warlord, arms dealer and Shebab ally Mohamed Said Atom, who has been hit with UN Security Council sanctions for “kidnapping, piracy and terrorism.” (France24)

African Union to Support New Mali PM
The African Union (AU) has condemned the military intervention in Mali, but will support the new interim prime minister, Diango Cissoko. The African Union Peace and Security Council met 13 December at AU headquarters to discuss the ongoing turmoil in Mali. Director of the Peace and Security Council El Ghassim Wane says the AU is looking forward to working together with Prime Minister Cissoko. “As much as we strongly condemn the conditions under which the prime minister was compelled to resign, we also believe that we need to be forward looking and support the new prime minister and assist him under the authority of the interim president in ensuring absolute civilian oversight over the military,” said Wane. Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra resigned on 11 December after the military junta that led the coup against the government in March arrested him. There has been international criticism of the circumstances under which Diarra had to resign. The AU Peace and Security Council further calls on new interim Prime Minister Cissoko to continue the ongoing AU efforts to stabilize Mali. (Voice of America)

UN and African Union Announce New Head of Joint Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, on 20 December announced the appointment of Mohamed Ibn Chambas of Ghana as their Joint Special Representative for Darfur, and head of the joint UN-AU peacekeeping mission in the west Sudanese region, known by the acronym UNAMID. His responsibilities also include those of the AU-UN Joint Chief Mediator. Mr. Chambas brings to this position extensive experience after a long and distinguished career in both international and governmental fora, most recently serving as the Secretary General of the African, Caribbean, Pacific Group of States (ACP), according to a statement provided by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson. Prior to his ACP experience, Mr. Chambas was the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) from 2006 to 2009 and the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS from 2002 to 2005. He has also served as a Member of Parliament and in the Ghanaian Government. Mr. Chambas replaces Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria, for whom both Mr. Ban and Ms. Dlamini Zuma reiterated their “deep appreciation” for his service with UNAMID. (UN)

EAST AFRICA

Irregular Migration Continues Unabated
More people from the Horn of Africa region, especially Ethiopia and Somalia, are crossing international borders as irregular migrants – lacking official documentation or approval – drawn by the promise of a better life in the Arabian Peninsula. “A growing number of Ethiopians opt to undergo a perilous journey through the Gulf of Aden, hoping to get to the Middle East via Yemen,” Demissew Bizuwerk, a communication officer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Ethiopia, told IRIN. “A significant proportion of these migrants travel with little or no information about what they would be encountering, and they are, in one way or the other, misled, mistreated and often abused,” he said. Between 1 January and 30 November 2012, a total of 99, 620 migrants arrived in Yemen, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). By comparison, 103,154 people arrived in 2011, 53,382 in 2010, and 77,802 in 2009. Of the 2012 arrivals, 78 percent were Ethiopian and just under 22 percent were Somali.  (IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis)

U.S. Africa Command SEL Discusses East Africa Importance during Djibouti Visit
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jack Johnson Jr., U.S. Africa Command senior enlisted leader, held an enlisted call at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti on Dec. 7, 2012, to discuss his views on leadership and the importance of the mission in Africa. Johnson spoke of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa’s mission and America’s role in strategy and security for Africa, reinforcing the command’s efforts to promote security and stability throughout the region. (…) Johnson next focused on the importance of CJTF-HOA’s mission. “The world started looking at Africa and looking at the importance of what we are doing,” Johnson said, “But more and more now, America knows and appreciates what’s happening – the work that Americans and America are doing.” (…) “Africa is important to the security of our nation,” Johnson said. “What leads the way is the footprint we have here and what you do here in Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.” (DVIDS Hub News)

Ethiopia

Ethiopian Police Says Qaida Terror Cell Arrested
Ethiopia’s spy agency says that security forces have arrested 15 people alleged to be members of a terror cell linked with al-Qaida. The spy agency says military training manuals, videos and weapons were seized from the suspects. The agency announced the arrests late on 2 January. Authorities said the suspects were trained by al-Shabab militants in neighboring Somalia and Kenya. They alleged the group was planning to launch attacks based in Ethiopia’s Somali and Harara regions. On 1 January the country’s federal high court convicted 10 people on similar terror charges. (ABC News, Associated Press)

Ethiopia Earns Over US$35 Million From Five Months Textile Exports
The Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Institute has announced that the country earned US$35.6 million from textile exports in the first five months of this financial year. Ato Bantihun Gessese, Public Relations Officer of the Institute, said this had been earned from the export of clothing, ready-made garments, sheets and yarns, to African, Asian, European and US markets. Australia, Austria, Germany, Canada, China, Japan and Israel are major importers of these products. According to the Institute, the total exports for the year 2012-2013 are expected to amount to US$ 227.5 million. There are ninety textile factories currently operating in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Institute has been established to provide support for investors interested in textiles, and is responsible for facilitating the provision of land for factory construction, credit and power supplies. (All Africa)

Ethiopia Hoping to Attract More Investment from Chinese Manufacturers
Ethiopia hopes to attract more investment from Chinese manufacturing companies due to the increasing cost of labor and resources in China said Seyoum Mesfin, Ethiopian Ambassador to China. China is one of the most significant investors in the development of infrastructure in the country as well as being a notable technology provider but it is also expected that an increasing number of Chinese manufacturers will take advantage of the opportunities available in Ethiopia he said. The Ethiopian embassy in China is planning to host week long events in Beijing to promote investment opportunities in the country and to enhance cultural exchange between the two countries. There currently several Chinese companies assembling goods in Ethiopia to be shipped back to China because production costs are much less according to Seyoum. Important factors that make Ethiopia an attractive investment destination include, low energy costs, abundant labor supply and high quality raw materials he noted. Ethiopia seeks to duplicate the model of China in making use of similar resources to create a successful export driven economy. (2Merkato)

Ethiopia Reduces Duty on Textile Sector
Ethiopia reduced duties on imported materials for the textile and garment sector according to Sufian Ahmed, Minister for Finance and Economic Development. The decision was made a meeting arranged between Sufian, and Mekonnen Manyazewal, Minister for Industry as well as senior representatives of the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority, the Textile Development Institute and the Ethiopian Textile and Garment Association Duties on imported textiles were reduced to 20 percent from 35 percent for garment manufacturers while no duties will be suspended for all imported spare parts required by textile and garment manufacturers. The 10 percent excise tax charged upon production remains in place but in the form of a sales tax to be paid after the sale of their products said Sufian at the time who cautioned investors not to misuse the privileges. The decision was based on research conducted by a consultant hired by the Textile and Garment Association to study the constraints on the sector. The study was submitted to the Ministry of Industry and forwarded to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development for decision. A committee composed of experts from the TIDI, the MoFED and from the MOI to review the findings of the research. There are currently about 25 companies in the textile sector with the capacity to produce 46,249 tons. (2Merkato)

Ethiopia: Ministry, Ezana Sign Gold Production Agreement
The Ministry of Mines (MoM) and Ezana Mining Development Plc, one of the subsidiary companies under the Endowment Fund For Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT) signed an agreement that would enable the latter to produce gold in late December. The agreement enables Ezana to produce 2,000Kg of gold within two years at an estimated cost of 393.7 million Br. Currently, 135 local and foreign investors are running 250 exploration and production projects in Ethiopia. Ezana Mining Development Plc is an Ethiopian owned private company established in June 1993 with a capital of 14 million Br.The company has been conducting mining exploration in the northern part of the country in the past 20 years. (All Africa)

Ethiopia: Prime Minister Hailemariam Says No Change of Policy on Eritrea
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam responded to questions raised by MPs’ in a special Parliamentary question and answer session. Questions covered a wide variety of subjects including the performance of the Growth and Transformation Plan, transport problems in Addis Ababa, human trafficking challenges, the recent restructuring of the executive and questions on foreign policy. MPs asked whether the Prime Minister’s recent statement to Al Jezeera that he was willing to negotiate with the Eritrean government even in Asmara was indicative of any change of policy. Prime Minister Hailemariam in his reply made it clear that Ethiopia’s policy towards Eritrea has not changed over the past eight years since it issued its Five Point Peace Plan in November 2004, accepting in principle the Eritrean Ethiopian Boundary Commission’s Decision. The Prime Minister said that despite the continuing belligerent behavior of the regime in Asmara and its destabilizing activities, Ethiopia’s position had always been for peace. Equally, of course, it was always necessary to defend the nation when necessary. He added that his reference that he was ready to travel to Asmara underlined his complete commitment for peace. On Somalia, the Prime Minister said, his government would continue working with the new government of Somalia to help consolidate peace across large parts of Somalia. The Prime Minister also outlined the peace efforts made by the government of Ethiopia, including his own recent visits to Khartoum and Juba, to bring the two Sudan’s to the negotiating table on the remaining post independence issues. He noted that “the two sides have now agreed to hold discussion on the implementation of the Addis Ababa Agreements which cover 90% of the issues and negotiate on the remaining issues “. (Nazret)

Ethiopia and Sudan Negotiating for Energy Trade
Ethiopia and Sudan are in negotiations to balance the revenues earned from Ethiopia’s sale of electric power to Sudan with the equivalent expenditure of oil imported from Sudan to Ethiopia, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Addis Ababa. After the completion of the Ethiopia-Sudan transmission line in February Ethiopia has, in a test run, started exporting 100 megawatts (MW) of hydro-power generated electricity to Sudan. Sudan will initially be provided with 100MW but this is expected to increase over time. Ethiopia imports most of its fuel from Sudan, spending over 50 percent of the 4.4 USD made from the country’s total 2012 export earnings to meet nation’s fuel demand. Ethiopia sells electricity at a price of 0.6 Ethiopian Birr per Kilo Watt. This is equivalent to 0.07USD for Kwh. Sudan was already a large importer of Ethiopian agricultural products before the electricity deal. Ethiopia also supplies 80 percent of Djibouti’s electric power. Ambassador Dina Mufti, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the power deals Ethiopia is making with neighbouring countries “will also have an important role in supporting the African Union’s efforts towards continental integration”. The Ethiopian official did not detail where the talks were taking place but he said the state utility, Ethiopia Electric and Power Corporation (EEPCo) is handling it and is already working with Sudanese officials. The Horn of Africa nation is spending billions of US dollars constructing power plants including the dams on the Blue Nile, which have proved controversial with Egypt and to a lesser extent Sudan. As part of the country’s five year Growth and Transformation Plan, Addis Ababa is aiming to boost its power production capacity from 3,000 MW – its current level – to 10,000 MW by 2015. (Sudan Tribune)

Ethiopia Moving to Address Doctor Shortage; Critics Say Corners Being Cut
Ethiopia has struggled with a shortage of qualified doctors for years. In an effort to resolve that, it’s vastly increased the sizes of existing classes and opened 13 new schools. But critics say Ethiopia is training a generation of woefully unqualified doctors. (…) There aren’t a lot of doctors here, but there is one group of people that seems to be everywhere: young, white-coated medical students. Until recently, Ethiopia had just one physician for every 100,000 people, but now the country is dramatically increasing the number of doctors it produces. This year, the government opened 13 new medical schools, which more than doubled the number in the country. Ethiopia has also been increasing enrollment at existing schools. Many doctors leave Ethiopia for higher-paying jobs overseas, and those who stay tend to work in the cities and in the private sector. That means the 85 percent of Ethiopians who live in rural villages may never see a doctor. Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopia’s foreign minister, says the government’s solution is to deliberately overproduce doctors and flood the country with new physicians. (…) But some say this huge increase in the quantity of doctors is compromising quality. Dame Endalew, a medical student at St. Paul’s, says the sharp increase in enrollment has made it difficult to learn. “There’s a scarcity of resources,” Endalew said. “We don’t have books, computer labs, lecturers. Every time the number of students increases, these things become worsened.” He says he often can’t complete assignments because all of the books and computers are in use. He had to share a cadaver with 30 peers. And he often interviews patients who have already seen 10 or 15 other medical students. (Public Radio International)

Ethopia: 4 Journalists Win Free Speech Prize
Four Ethiopian journalists have received the prestigious Hellman/Hammett award for 2012 in recognition of their efforts to promote free expression in Ethiopia, one of the world’s most restricted media environments. Eskinder Nega Fenta, an independent journalist and blogger; Reeyot Alemu Gobebo of the disbanded weekly newspaper Feteh; Woubshet Taye Abebe of the now-closed weekly newspaper Awramba Times; and Mesfin Negash of Addis Neger Online were among a diverse group of 41 writers and journalists from 19 countries to receive the award in 2012. Eskinder, Reeyot, and Woubshet are imprisoned in Ethiopia; Mesfin fled in 2009. All four journalists were convicted in 2012 under Ethiopia’s draconian anti-terrorism law. “The four jailed and exiled journalists exemplify the courage and dire situation of independent journalism in Ethiopia today,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Their ordeals illustrate the price of speaking freely in a country where free speech is no longer tolerated.” (Human Rights Watch)

Uganda

Mentorship Promotes Partnership between U.S., Uganda Soldiers
Kentucky Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion 138th Field Artillery Regiment service members partnered with civilians from the African Contingency Operations Training Assistance mission at Singo Peace Support Operations Training Center, Uganda, to provide mentorship to the Uganda People’s Defense Force Oct. 1 to Nov. 9, 2012. The ACOTA mission helped strengthen the partnership between the United States military and the UPDF. It also demonstrated Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa’s continued commitment to the ACOTA program, which is funded and managed by the U.S. Department of State and designed to improve African militaries’ capabilities. “The mentorship between the U.S. and Ugandan forces was conducted to prepare the UPDF’s 11th Battle Group for their upcoming deployment to the African Union Mission in Somalia.” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Crump, 2/138th FAR brigade targeting non-commissioned officer. (DVIDS Hub News)

Uganda’s Hidden Role in Congo’s Conflict
Despite Uganda’s denial of involvement in the Congo conflict, Kampala and the DRC’s histories are entwined, with ethnic and political alliances that go way back to a guerilla war that ousted Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. The Ugandan government continues to deny a UN report accusing it of involvement in the armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ibrahim Abiriga, the representative of the Ugandan president in the border district of Arua, told DW that his country is being falsely accused. “(…) “Our president (Yoweri Museveni) is the oldest in the region, he wants peace and development, ” Abiriga added. President Yoweri Museveni’s regional strategic alliances date back to the overthrow of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Tutsi refugees from Rwanda and the Congo at that time joined the rebels from Uganda. Together they overthrew the dictator, and brought Museveni to power.  Later some of these troops fought in the civil war in Rwanda, ending the genocide of the Tutsis. There, they brought the present government of Paul Kagame to power. Now the two countries are supporting their old allies in the DRC. The Tutsis in Uganda have remained close to the government. They currently hold many positions in the military and police. Noah Achikule is familiar with the background. Having initially fought in Idi Amin’s army, he later joined a rebel organization based in the Congo. Today he is an international election observer and advises the Kampala government on security issues. “A Tutsi-led government in Congo would be a privilege for Uganda, and a privilege for Rwanda,” Achikule said. “And a Tutsi regime in this part of the DRC would give them the ability to access large amounts of mineral resources. It would also act as a retreat position in case chaos break out in Uganda or Rwanda”. (…) In December 2005, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ordered Kampala to compensate Kinshasa.  The court  found the Ugandan state guilty of plundering natural resources during its five-year occupation of the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The latest report by the UN group of experts gives an account of how Ugandan politicians and Congo’s military brass have enriched themselves. It says the Ugandan military is cooperating with various rebel groups, including the M23, who help smuggle goods such as gold and precious tropical hardwoods out of the country. (…) President Museveni is fighting for his political survival. He has been in power for over 25 years. Opposition groups and international donors are demanding the democratization of his regime. Ugandan journalist Moses Odokonyero explained to DW what drives Museveni to play such huge a role in the region. (…) Uganda’s internal political development is highly dependent on the opinion of Western countries. The US alone accounts for almost half of Uganda’s national budget.  Uganda’s threats to pull out its troops from peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo should be seen in this context. They may not be serious; however they could change Uganda’s negotiating position considerably. Some Western countries have already frozen their budget support to Kampala. Whether more radical sanctions will follow is yet to be seen. (Deutshe Welle)

DRC, M23 Peace Talks to Resume in Uganda 4 December
A spokesman for Uganda’s government says talks between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the M23 group are scheduled to resume 4 January, despite threats by the rebels to pull out. The talks would be held in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Spokesman Fred Opolot says Uganda’s defense minister, Crispus Kiyonga, will be mediating in the talks and is working closely with the two sides to help resolve some of their differences before they start. “The regional bloc has been working extremely hard to ensure that both parties come to the table…for the peaceful resolution as far as the conflict in the eastern DRC is concerned,” said Opolot. The talks were suspended over the December holidays. Opolot says representatives of the government and the rebels unanimously agreed on the rules and procedure and agenda for the talks. (Voice of America)

Uganda: Oil Industry Regulations Passed
Lawmakers passed legislation on 7 December intended to regulate Uganda’s nascent oil industry, but critics say it gives too much authority over the industry to the nation’s energy minister. The legislation, which has been debated for more than a year, is meant to pave the way for oil production in Uganda. But Global Witness, a group that highlights the links between the exploitation of natural resources and human rights abuses, said that the new legislation would give the president and his energy minister “total control over the sector” and warned that it would “perpetuate the status quo of secrecy, excessive ministerial control and corruption allegations.” Uganda is estimated to have enough oil reserves to become a middle-tier oil-producing nation. But its oil industry has been plagued by accusations of corruption and court cases that have delayed the start of production. Pumping is now expected to begin in 2014, industry officials say. (New York Times)

Uganda: Economy Shows Recovery Signs
Although inflation has risen for the second consecutive month, Bank of Uganda has kept its key monetary rate, the Central Bank Rate, at 12%, in yet another indication that boosting private sector credit to stimulate economic growth remains a key priority for the Bank. In keeping the CBR at 12%, the Central Bank is sending out a message to the market that the current rate of inflation – at 5.5% for headline – is not that serious to warrant a drastic tweak of the CBR. Dr Adam Mugume, the executive director (Research), says the public shouldn’t read too much into the increase in inflation. “Prices picked up in December due to largely seasonal factors, the festivity; so, we don’t think this will be maintained.” (…) Jane Bagyenda, Bank of Uganda executive director for supervision, standing in for the Governor, pointed out that inflation will stabilize around the 5% target for much of 2013. Ramping up private sector credit has been a critical concern for Bank of Uganda as it tries to turn around the economy’s grim outlook. That assignment has been made harder by commercial banks reluctant to reduce lending rates. Gross Domestic Product growth is expected to remain below 5% for the current fiscal year, far below the expected standards, as businesses struggle to stay afloat due to the high lending rates. (…) Much of this growth is driven by the construction industry, which has been a big consumer of credit, according to Mugume. The global recovery especially in Europe, a key export market for Uganda, is also contributing to the country’s economic growth. Investors in the government securities market – a goldmine for commercial banks – are not expected to be overly excited about BoU’s move to keep the CBR at 12%. Foreign investors looking for a good yield on government treasuries are usually attracted by a raised CBR as that pushes up the yield. With foreign investors staying away, the strength of the shilling then comes into question. Less dollar inflows into the market lead to the depreciation of the shilling. At the moment, the shilling is floating around the Shs 2,700 mark, the lowest mark in five weeks. (All Africa)

Tanzania

Tanzania: More Opportunities Seen as Dar es Salaam TV Goes Digital
TANZANIA’S long awaited journey to digital broadcasting began with Dar es Salaam amid earlier concerns that the pricing of decoders would prevent millions of viewers from migrating to the new and clearer transmission platform. While some had expressed fears that decoders were beyond the reach of many homes, a number of providers reported in late December that sales made ahead of the switch off date overwhelmed the stock they had. “We got the right sales volumes as thousands turned up to buy the gadgets needed to switch to digital,” said Mussa Mohammed, a dealer in Kariakoo. The switch from analogue to digital broadcasting requires both broadcasters and consumers to buy new equipment that converts analogue signals to digital. In an interview with state Broadcaster TBC, Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) Manager for Communications, Mr Innocent Mungy, said the new era would open opportunities, noting that the migration to digital broadcasting is expected to unlock the frequencies logjam and break the long queue for licences by those seeking to invest in the country’s vibrant broadcasting sector. “Anyone can now invest in this industry. Even journalists can now make their own programmes and sell to any interested station and make money out of their efforts,” he said. He said a single analogue frequency could carry as much as eight channels on the digital platform, offering the TCRA the opportunity to end the long queue of investors who always wait to enter the broadcasting market. (All Africa)

Tanzania: Zanzibar to Inaugurate 67 Development Projects
ZANZIBAR is having a weeklong head start to its 49th revolution anniversary celebrations beginning with a nation-wide sanitation exercise on 4 January. As part of the celebrations climaxing on 12 January, about 62 development projects have been set for either inauguration or laying of foundation stones. The First Vice-President, Hamad, will be the guest of honour at the opening of a new secondary school building at Wawi, Chakechake and a medical laboratory at the Micheweni cottage hospital, while Ambassador Iddi, Second Vice-President will cut a ribbon to open a hostel for students at the Zanzibar Agricultural Institute. On 13 January, Dr Bilal will officiate the opening of the newly built five-star tourist hotel in Nungwi Village, north of Unguja, while on the same day Ambassador Iddi is expected to open another hotel, Manta Reef Resort and water project at Chokocho in Pemba. Retired presidents Amani Abeid Karume and Ali Hassan Mwinyi have been assigned to open schools and President Kikwete will be in Zanzibar on the eve of Mapinduzi (Revolutionary day) to open a new school named Mlimani. Minister of State (National Events), Mr Mohamed Aboud Mohamed said that about 600m/- will be spent on the celebrations, as critics including some members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives think the celebrations are unnecessarily costly. “Revolution is important to Zanzibar, we cannot avoid it. But we should not think the money is spent lavishly, it is spent on development projects,” Mohamed said. Meanwhile, Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) has donated several items to Mnazi Mmoja Hospital, Zanzibar’s main hospital in order to boost its service delivery. (All Africa)

Tanzania: Dar es Salaam Plans to Reduce VAT on Cell Phones
The government plans to reduce Value Added Tax (VAT) on mobile handsets to improve the country’s communications sector and the economy. Addressing a news conference in Dar es Salaam, the Director General of Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA), Prof John Nkoma, said tax would also be reduced on computers. “We are planning to reduce taxes on mobile phone handsets and computers to allow the public easily purchase them since the majority relies on their mobile phones and computers to conduct their businesses,” he said. (All Africa)

Tanzania Set to Become Top Buyer of Kenyan Goods
Tanzania looked set to start the year as the second largest destination for Kenyan goods after Uganda even as Chinese and Indian products flooded its market. Official data shows that Tanzania’s consumption of Kenya’s exports went up by 3.4 per cent at the end of third quarter of last year, catching up with the United Kingdom which has been second. The data prepared by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that Tanzania and the UK each accounted for Sh30 billion that Kenya exported to various destinations of the world by the end of September, narrowing Uganda’s lead of Sh44 billion. But India and China —the two sources of products that have dominated Kenya’s market in the last five years — have maintained their lead with 2012 imports rising to Sh125 billion and Sh127 billion respectively by third quarter. (Business Daily Africa)

Tanzania Lowers Petrol Prices to Lessen Inflationary Pressures
Tanzania has lowered the prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene in a move seen as aimed at lessening inflationary pressures in the east African country. The Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory (EWURA) attributed this move to a stronger local currency and lower world market prices. Petrol prices would fall 5.96 percent to 1.993 shillings in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam with immediate effect. (…)  “These changes of petroleum products prices have been attributed to a decrease of prices in the world market and a slight appreciation of Tanzanian shilling,” EWURA said in a statement. Tanzania’s year-on-year inflation rate fell for the eleventh straight month in November to 12.1 percent from 12.9 percent in October. This was largely to a slower rise in food prices. Food and energy prices are the main drivers of consumer prices in Tanzania. EWURA noted that in line with the prevailing sector legislation, prices of petroleum products were governed by rules of supply and demand. EWURA promised to continue encouraging competition in the sector and avail petroleum product prices including caps to keep consumers informed so that they are not inclined to pay higher prices. (Ventures Africa)

Djibouti

Senior CPC Official Pledges Closer Ties with Djibouti
Li Yuanchao, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, on Tuesday met with a delegation of the People’s Rally for Progress of Djibouti, pledging to boost cooperation between the two countries. The delegation was headed by Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh, minister of economics, finance, industry and planning. Djibouti is a good friend of China and the two countries have enjoyed healthy and stable development since they established diplomatic ties, Li said, adding that the two sides have also expanded cooperation in all fields. Li said the CPC attaches great importance to its relationship with Djibouti and is willing to strengthen cooperation with Djibouti in all fields, enhance communication regarding governance and promote friendship between the two peoples. Ilyas said the People’s Rally for Progress has a long history of friendly relations with the CPC and the two sides’ cooperation is built on mutual benefit. He said his party hopes to learn from China’s development experience, deepen pragmatic cooperation with China in economics and trade and boost bilateral relations to a higher level. (Global Times)

China Merchants Buys into Djibouti Port
China Merchants Holdings (International) has entered into an agreement with, among others, Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority (DPFZA) to acquire a 23.5% stake of Port de Djibouti SA (PDSA) for $185m. The investment is in a politically unstable, yet strategic location for Chinese shipping.  PDSA includes a multi-purpose terminal, a container terminal and a dry port. China Merchants has earlier invested in Lome, Togo, and Lagos, Nigeria in West Africa, plus a container terminal in Sri Lanka. (SinoShip News)

Poor Rains Push Djibouti’s Hungry Pastorialists toward the City
Successive years of poor rains have eroded the coping mechanisms of pastoralists in Djibouti’s rural regions, as high food prices and unemployment rates afflict the country’s urban areas. These factors are increasing vulnerability to food insecurity and spurring migration. The area of Balbala, about 10km outside Djibouti City, has become home to families fleeing both harsh conditions in the countryside and dwindling livelihood opportunities in the city. (…) About 70,000 people in rural Djibouti are food insecure. More than 60% of household food supply is being met by food assistance in the north-west pastoral zone, according to an October 2012 to March 2013 food security outlook by the famine early warning systems network (Fewsnet). (…) A lack of jobs is causing city residents to migrate to peri-urban areas such as Balbala. (…) Meat prices have increased from 800 francs to 1,200-1,400 francs, according to Fewsnet. Water is also more expensive. A jerrycan of water sells for 150 francs, up from 50 francs last year, according to Balbala residents. “The water companies say water is more expensive due to the high cost of fuel required to bring it in,” said a resident. (…) Food insecurity and drought are contributing to high rates of malnutrition among children, according to Mohamadou Bachir Mbodj, the chief of child survival and development at the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) office in Djibouti. Also contributing to child malnutrition are low rates of exclusive breastfeeding. A 2010 survey found that, although 98% of nursing mothers in Djibouti breastfed their infants, only 24.5% did so exclusively, Bachir said. “The challenge is: how can we narrow the gap between the 98% and the 24.5%?” For every 1,000 children born in Djibouti, 73 die before their first birthday, according to Unicef. Good child-feeding practices could help to lower these numbers. Unicef is using “grandmother counsellors” to encourage exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, as well as good weaning practices. (…) “There is a need for more integrated strategies in water, agriculture, health and nutrition for sustainability,” said Mario Touchette, the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) Djibouti representative and country director. (Guardian)

Djibouti Holds Seminar on Corruption
Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh oversaw a seminar on integrity and fighting corruption in Djibouti on December 9, 2012 Djibouti’s al-Qarn reported. In addressing the session, Guelleh emphasised his government’s commitment to eradicating the scourge of corruption and vowed to undertake comprehensive administrative reforms, beginning with the development of an e-government service. “No company in the world can boast of having eliminated all forms of corruption within it,” Guelleh said. “Nonetheless, we should strive to reach this goal and to continue a policy of zero tolerance towards all corruption. To achieve this, we must examine our behaviour and the standards followed by our society. It is imperative that we work to develop fair and sustainable methods of deterrence.” New penal codes have been passed since 2009, including a procurement code, a procedure manual, bidding codes and a code of ethics, he said, according to Djibouti’s La Nation. He said he would follow up with audits in 2013. The United Nations Development Programme co-sponsored the session. (Sabah Online)

SOUTHERN AFRICA

South Africa

Optimism Opens the New Year in South Africa
Last year, the rainbow nation further solidified its status as an asterisk to the Africa growth story. High unemployment of 25 percent persisted, companies horded more than ZAR 520 billion, foreign investment was down, and a general malaise engulfed much of the country. South African corporations are among the most efficient and profitable in the world, leading many to blame–perhaps incorrectly–the government for the nation’s economic woes. In spite of this, in quiet corners of South Africa’s business community, cautious optimism is beginning to resonate around the prospects for 2013. South Africa in 2012 was marked by the muting of a vocal and potentially explosive opposition voice in Julius Malema; big issues such as mine nationalization, the seizure of white-owned farms, and a business super tax have all been taken off the table; the unions are increasingly having difficulty materially influencing pivotal issues such as the e-toll debate; and the country weathered a series of devastating and debilitating mining strikes. South Africa survived a difficult year, and given the inter-country dynamics, probably did so with aplomb. Perhaps the most promising development for 2013 is that the tone of the dialogue between big business and government has suddenly improved. Recently, thirty-three prominent business figures in South Africa called for unity to halt South Africa’s economic decline. In a country with an especially cozy relationship between big-business and government, such pronouncements shed light not only on the thinking of private sector participants, but also on new government objectives and party platforms. The well-publicised election of Cyril Ramaphosa as deputy president is another encouraging sign of the times. (Council on Foreign Relations Blog)

South Africa’s President Defends His Record
Defending his government’s record and calling for an end to corruption, South African President Jacob Zuma addressed the opening session of the ruling African National Congress’ national conference, at which he expected to comfortably be returned to party leadership. Zuma faces competition from Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe for the leadership post, which essentially determines who will be the South African president after elections in 2014. But he appeared confident of maintaining power on 16 December, as the hall erupted with deafening cheers and battle songs during his appearance. Wearing the ANC colors of yellow, green and black, Zuma danced and sang about Nelson Mandela, the party’s elder statesman who is in the hospital recovering from a lung infection and surgery for gallstones. South African news media reported the Zuma camp was furious that Motlanthe is contesting the leadership. Zuma seized power from his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, at a similar conference five years ago. The ANC is so deeply divided that some party members in several provinces have taken party officials to court over allegations of voting manipulation or other improprieties in recent elections. Zuma himself once faced more than 700 corruption charges, which were dropped two weeks before the 2009 general election, opening the way for him to become president. Businessman and Zuma ally Cyril Ramaphosa, running as deputy ANC president on Zuma’s ticket, is also likely to win, which would automatically make him South African deputy president, positioning him to succeed Zuma as president in 2019 elections. (Los Angeles Times)

Mine Closure Hit South Africa Social Programs
mine’s owner provide them with jobs and housing. Many got both, though not for long. In September, the mine’s owner, the South African subsidiary of Canadian-listed Great Basin Gold Ltd. filed for bankruptcy protection. Most of the mine’s 1,400 employees were fired. Projects the miner had agreed to take on to improve this mostly black township in northern Mpumalanga province—a 500-unit housing development and a school for disabled children—were left unfinished. For years, South African authorities have required global miners to help prop up public services. Now, as economic and labor troubles shake up the mining industry, communities are facing a double hit: With many companies closing mines, rural communities are grappling not only with large-scale job losses, but also with a blow to social services the mining firms supported. That leaves local governments to fill the void in areas that are already struggling to cope following a half-year of labor actions over wages and poor living conditions, often shacks without running water or plumbing. “They have left a huge gap in the community,” says 27-year-old Yolanda Nkosi, a former Burnstone mine employee. (Wall Street Journal)

Education Experts Lament South Africa Test Results
They were the first “born free” generation, children whose births in 1994 marked the year that South Africa elected Nelson Mandela’s government in its first truly democratic election. So when the results of their high school graduation exams were announced 3 January, it was another opportunity for the country to assess how far it had come in creating a new and more equitable society. The answer: not nearly as far as many would like. Of the 1.1 million children who were born in 1994 and later entered first grade, fewer than half made it far enough to take the graduation exam. Of those who did, the percentage who passed was 73.9%, up from 70.2% in 2012. But some education experts despaired even of those results, given the relatively low bar set for passage. Students in South Africa are offered a choice of dozens of tests in subjects as varied as each of the 11 national languages, a plethora of foreign languages, math (and a separate exam in “math literacy”), history, accounting, various sciences, visual art, dance and so on. Students must pass six to earn their diploma, called a National Senior Certificate. (Los Angeles Times)

South Africa: Government Says Mandela is Recovering
The recovery of Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, is “on track” at his home, the government said 2 January in its first statement since Mr. Mandela was released from a hospital a week ago. Mr. Mandela, 94, spent nearly three weeks in the hospital in December for treatment of a lung infection and surgery to remove gallstones, his longest stay for medical care since his release from prison in 1990. “We are now in the phase where if we do not hear from his doctors, we assume he is all right,” a spokesman said. (New York Times)

Zuma Expresses Concern over Central African Republic
“President Zuma deployed Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to go and assess the situation on 31 December,” spokesperson Clayson Monyela said in a statement on 2 January. The move was part of South Africa’s contribution to efforts to bring about peace and stability in the CAR. “South Africa condemns the continued attacks on several towns perpetrated by the coalition of armed groups, which undermine the Libreville comprehensive peace agreement and threaten the civilian population, as well as the stability of the Central African Republic.” He said South Africa demanded the armed groups immediately cease hostilities, stop advancing on Bangui, and withdraw from captured cities. “We call on all parties to refrain from any acts of violence against civilians and to respect human rights.” (Mail and Guardian)

NORTH AFRICA, SAHARA/SAHEL REGION

Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco Follow Different Paths Towards Reform in Arab Spring
Two years after an itinerant Tunisian fruit-seller set himself on fire to protest government injustice and ignited uprisings across the Middle East, the three nations of the Maghreb — the former French colonies of North Africa — have taken vastly different paths. Tunisia has seen wholesale political change. In oil-rich Algeria, it’s business as usual. Somewhere in the middle is Morocco, which has trumpeted what it describes as a third way of controlled change as a model for the region. These outcomes sum up much of the Middle East’s disparate reactions to the Arab Spring — and their success or failure may hold lessons for the whole region. Morocco and Algeria seem remarkably stable, despite the social tensions boiling beneath their calm facade. Resource-strapped Tunisia seems to have fared poorly, with a struggling economy and dire predictions of chaos. Yet it’s also the country that has made the most progress toward a more open society.

MOROCCO:
On the surface, Morocco seems to be the Maghreb nation that has fared the best in the Arab Spring, with massive protests by the pro-democracy February 20th youth movement bringing a swift promise by the king to reform the constitution, devolving more powers to elected officials. A referendum on the amended constitution was approved by 98 percent of the people and in early elections, a moderate Islamist party long in the opposition won the right to head the new governing coalition. (…) Yet on Nov. 18, in Morocco’s capital Rabat, a few dozen activists attempted to rally in front of the parliament to protest the king’s $300 million personal budget, one of the largest for a monarchy in the world and a serious burden for the struggling economy. Even before the protesters could gather, they were set upon by club wielding riot police and chased through the elegant art-deco streets of the capital. Yet, just a week earlier, thousands had been allowed to protest against the prime minister. Despite a new constitution and promises of reform, the hereditary monarchy ruling this nation of 32 million for the last 350 years remains in charge and above criticism.
(…)

ALGERIA:
The energy giant has been referred to as the exception to the Arab Spring. Early protests calling for reform fizzled and were quickly repressed by highly vigilant security forces. While President Abdelaziz Bouteflika went on to promise a host of reforms, including in the laws governing the media and political parties, little has been achieved over the past two years. Dozens of new parties were legalized but it made little difference in parliamentary elections in May 2012 or November’s municipal elections, which were poorly attended and just strengthened the ruling party. For the most part life has returned to the way it was before the Arab Spring. With its enormous oil and gas reserves, Algeria also has vast financial resources lacking to most Arab Spring countries, allowing it to douse potential unrest with large amounts of cash. “There was an attempt to buy a social peace — don’t ask political questions and we’ll sort out your economic needs,” said Algerian sociologist Nasser Djabi. “The government … played for time and it seems to have worked.” The ruling party has only widened its control over the various elected bodies, and as neighboring Tunisia and Egypt looked more and more unstable, Algeria has come under increasingly less pressure from Europe and the U.S. to reform, he added. The rise of radical Islamic groups in the Sahara and especially northern Mali has also made Algeria and its powerful military an attractive partner in the war on terror. Meanwhile, talk of amending the constitution has been shelved for the near future. According to Nourreddine Benissad, head of Algeria’s main human rights group, political freedoms are on the wane and the elections have been far from free and transparent. “It’s practically illegal to demonstrate or even gather,” he said. “There is no real political will to carry out social, political or economic reforms.” Instead, any change in Algeria is expected to come only in 2014 when President Bouteflika’s latest term ends and he is expected to step down. At that point, there should be an opening for a new political generation, and a power struggle between the military and members of the ruling party is expected.
(…)

TUNISIA:
Of the three Maghreb countries, the birthplace of the Arab Spring has appeared to be closest to the brink of violence and even a new uprising. Over the past few weeks, there has been a rising confrontation between the main labor union and the moderate Islamist party that won elections after the overthrow of the dictator. (…) After a relatively rocky transition, Tunisians surged to the polls in record numbers on Oct. 23 and gave the most votes to Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party that had been an implacable foe of the old regime. The Islamists went on to form a coalition with two other secular parties and promised democracy and jobs. (…) A year later, political tensions have soared to new heights. There is constant talk that the coalition is set to fracture; disaffected youths demanding jobs riot in town after town; and radical Islamism is on the rise. (…) The ability to achieve agreement amid searing acrimony may be what saves Tunisia’s experiment in democracy. Kamel Labidi, a long time campaigner for human rights and freedom of expression, attributes this strength partly to high education levels and the military’s historical lack of a role in the country — as well as the presence of a labor movement to balance out the Islamists. “The Islamists understood it was in their interest to make concessions,” he said. (Washington Post)

Tunisia, Algeria Sign Security Pact
Tunisia and Algeria want to strengthen security co-operation along their common land border to counter potential attacks from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). (…) The agreement came after Tunisian authorities thwarted an attempt by AQIM to establish a terror cell in the western regions of Kasserine and Jendouba. The group was planning to carry out sabotage activities targeting institutions in both Tunisia and Algeria. (…) They also discussed ways to ease the customs department work in transit areas, to enforce border protection, in addition to the creation of joint patrols. Additionally, the meeting dealt with co-ordinating bilateral security activities between the two countries in order to address issues of terrorism, smuggling and illegal immigration, as well as to share best practices in the field of security. The ministers agreed to secure the common land border and to address border infiltrations of criminal groups active in terrorism and affiliated with al-Qaeda, the statement published by the Tunisian interior ministry read. The governors of the border areas between the two countries also met to create an “action plan for the development of these areas and to facilitate consular services such as the free movement of persons, and the right to property and residency”, Ould Kablia noted. As to the situation in Mali where active militant groups control the northern part of the country, Larayedh said that Tunisia and Algeria “have agreed completely and have already clarified their joint stance rejecting any military intervention”, adding that a military solution “only complicates matters”. The length of the common land border between Tunisia and Algeria is about 1,000 kilometres, and serves as a vital link for the smuggling of goods, fuel, drugs and weapons. Tunisians praised this agreement, all the while deeming it insufficient. Confronting AQIM should be a regional effort to be conducted by the five Maghreb countries, some commented. (Magharebia)

Expected Resumption of Commercial Activity of Libyan Merchants in Tunisia
Libyan merchants are expected to resume their commercial activity in Tunisia starting 1 January, Hamadi Mayara, the governor of Medenine, in south eastern Tunisia declared to Tunisian national TV, al Watania 1. This comes after disruption of commercial activity between Tunisia and Libya and growing concern about future trade between the two countries. Angry protest of Tunisian traders from the border town of Ben Guerdane over new customs measures imposed by Libyan authorities on them and subsequent attacks on Libyan truck drivers in the area between Ras Jedir and Ben Guerdane in Tunisia were behind the closure of the two Tunisian-Libyan border crossings of Ras Jedir and Dhehiba-Wazen. The Ras Jedir border crossing is expected to start its activity on the Tunisian side only, while the Libyan side will remain closed for Tunisian merchants entering Libya. The crossing was expected to open for Libyan truck drivers yesterday after Tunisian auhorities pledged to provide the necessary guarantees to its Libyan counterpart of the security and safety of Libyan merchants in Tunisian territory, reported  Radio Tataouine. (Libya Herald)

Algeria

Algeria Readies for ‘Guerrilla’ Warfare
The Algerian military is running combat simulation exercises on rocky terrain, ahead of possible confrontations against armed Islamists and terrorist brigades from northern Mali. Since al-Qaeda and the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) are well-armed with weapons smuggled from Libya and stolen from within Mali, the Algerian army is taking an unconventional approach similar to guerrilla warfare. Algerian army, air force, national gendarmerie and special operation forces have trained all month in ways to conduct large-scale battles against armed groups, El Khabar reported on 23 December. These drills, which involve the use of modern communication devices and strategies, will run for a whole year. The Algerian defence ministry mobilised ground forces towards southern provinces at the beginning of the month. Military vehicles and heavy equipment were moved to the border provinces of Adrar, Tamanrasset and Illizi. The ministry aims to implement a shield plan along the southern border with Sahel countries. The decision was made as part of arrangements made by Algeria’s security agencies to prepare for any possible military action by African forces in northern Mali. Algeria’s security agencies have also taken other measures to tighten control over the border with Mali, Libya and Tunisia. One such move is to crack down on groups that provide militants with information, money and supplies. The security agencies have also imposed a security cordon on border areas to prevent terrorist groups from entering northern Mali to join the Islamist groups. (All Africa)

Algeria Tightens Security Near Tunisia Border
The recent discovery of al-Qaeda cells in the western Tunisian regions of Kasserine and Jendouba led Algeria to boost security along its border, El Watan reported on 24 December 24. The national gendarmerie created a special task force and increased aerial surveillance in the border regions of Tebessa and Souk Ahras. Sixteen new gendarmerie guard posts will also be created along the 965km frontier, Liberte reported. (All Africa)

Blast Kills Two Teens in Algeria’s Bouira: Reports
A bomb intended to take out soldiers killed two youths from the same family in the restive Bouira region of central Algeria, newspapers said on 27 December. The two, aged 12 and 14, were on their way home from an olive grove when one of them trod on the explosive device which had been buried in the ground, some reports said. Others said it had been placed in a bag under a tree. The bomb was planted to target troops who use the area as a shooting range, said the newspapers, adding the security forces launched a hunt for the offenders in the nearby Ahl Regueb forest. On 20 December, an army colonel was killed in a gun battle between troops and Islamists in the Bouira region, 125 kilometers (80 miles) southeast of the capital Algiers. The clash reportedly broke out during a search operation for a “terrorist group” in the mountainous region after the arrest of a senior Al-Qaeda member in the area. (Al Arabiya, AFP)

Algeria: Thirteen Terrorist Killed in Algeria
Algerian terrorists suffered two major blows within the first 24 hours of 2013. A total of thirteen terrorists were killed in two separate operations carried out by security forces in the province of Boumerdes, 30 kilometres east of Algiers, on 31 December and 1 January. Over the past few months, security forces have been closing in on small terrorist groups still in hiding within the Boumerdes-Tizi-Ouzou-Bouira triangle, the traditional stronghold of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). (…) According to figures published by El Khabar, security forces killed 198 terrorists and arrested 350 members of AQIM in 2012. Several terrorist leaders were killed or arrested during the course of the year. The most recent incident occurred on 16 December, with the capture of AQIM number two boss and main spokesman Salah Gasmi. (All Africa)

Algeria Ruling Party Loses Senate Majority
Algeria’s ruling party National Liberation Front (FLN) lost its majority in the senate after a partial election on 29 December, local newspaper reports said on 31 December. The FLN, which has a majority in the lower house of parliament with 208 of 462 seats, won just 17 out of the 48 seats that were submitted to a vote. It now has a total of 39 seats, down from its previous 56 in the 144-seat upper house. The FLN’s ally in the government, the Rally for National Democracy (RND) of former premier Ahmed Ouyahia, won 24 seats, an interior ministry statement was quoted as saying. The RND now has 44 seats in the senate. The senate or National Council is composed of two-thirds elected senators (96 members) and one-third (48) appointed by the head of state. Senators serve for six years and half of the senate is re-elected every three years. The Socialist Forces Front of veteran dissident Hocine Ait Ahmed won two seats in the senate election but Islamists did not bag any, the results showed. (The Daily Star)

Algeria’s Salafis Seek Approval of New Political Party
Algeria’s Salafis, who adhere to an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam, requested Interior Ministry approval to form a political party, a spokesman said. Rejecting the application could have serious consequences, said Abdelfattah Hamadache Zeraoui, a Salafi spokesman, in a telephone interview. “If the regime doesn’t accept peaceful Salafis, then only Salafis that believe in violence will emerge,” Zeraoui said. “We represent a large portion of the population and will operate peacefully within the law.” Zeraoui is a former activist with the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), a political party banned in Algeria in 1992 after the military intervened and canceled elections FIS was poised to win. It led to the Algerian civil war. (Bloomberg)

Algeria Mediates Peace Deal with Azawad Arabs
Less than two weeks after the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and radical Islamist group Ansar al-Din signed a Mali peace treaty, Algeria is trying to convince the Arab Front for the Liberation of Azawad (FNLA) to join the agreement. Algeria’s objective is to isolate al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and minimise the fallout of any intervention in northern Mali on neighbouring countries, especially Algeria, Mauritania and Niger. “We’ve been in Algiers for a week, upon an invitation from the government, for new negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement similar to the December 21st accord between Ansar al-Din and the MNLA, to stop hostilities with Mali and try to consolidate security,” FNLA spokesperson Mohamed Mouloud Ramadhan told Magharebia. Ramadhan added that his organisation, which represents Arabs in northern Mali, sought “real results” from the negotiations that would secure its “legitimate right as a local movement in northern Mali that renounces violence, rejects alliance with local terrorist groups and stands up against drug trafficking and chaos”. The FNLA spokesman, however, confirmed the movement’s rejection of any foreign military intervention in northern Mali because of its possible negative consequences. “If the world has already decided to do that, we hope that it would only take place after much preparation and deliberation,” he added. The new negotiations are welcome because they include a strong faction that has received little attention up until now, namely the Arabs of Azawad, Mali expert Mohamed Ould El Zain said. “The media coverage given armed Touareg groups over the past months made the world forget about another time bomb, which is the FNLA,” he added. “This has prompted the elements of this movement to carry arms and declare a compromise position between the Islamic radical group and the secular group.” (All Africa)

French President Says Algeria Suffered Under ‘Brutal’ Colonialism
French President Francois Hollande said on 20 December that Algeria suffered under the “profoundly unjust and brutal system” of colonialism, but he stopped short of apologizing for French rule of the North African state. “I recognize here the suffering that colonization inflicted on the Algerian people,” Hollande told Algerian lawmakers on the second day of his symbolically charged trip to the former French territory. As Algeria marks half a century of independence, politicians have pushed for a French apology for its repression during its 132-year rule and the bloody revolution that wrenched the country out of French control. The number killed is disputed; Algerian estimates exceed 1 million. Upon his election in May, the leftist Hollande promised to confront French colonial history, but an apology is fiercely opposed by French citizens who once fought Algerian insurgents. Last month, a former French defense minister made a vulgar gesture in reaction to a call to recognize colonial abuses, an outburst that was caught on camera and infuriated the Algerian media. In his speech, Hollande spoke of three massacre sites and called for colonial archives to be thrown open to historians, according to French news reports. (Los Angeles Times)

Algeria: EU Examines Ways to Add Values to Algerian Agricultural Products
The European Union and the Algerian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have organised a conference in Mostaganem on ‘organic farming and enhancement of agricultural products through distinctive quality labels’. The conference took place last week with the support of the wilaya of Mostaganem, and with the participation of Mr. Rachid Benaissa, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Mr. Silva Rodriguez, Director-General of the Agriculture and Rural Development DG at the European Commission. This event bore witness of a shared will to develop relations and trade between Algeria and the European Union in the agricultural field. The recommendations that resulted from the presentation of concrete cases and the exchange of experiences between speakers and participants aimed at defining an action plan to add value to agricultural products in Algeria and at underscoring the importance of this issue in the cooperation with the European Union. (EU Neighbourhood Info Centre)

Algeria Transfers $26m to Palestinian Authority
North African country, Algeria has transferred $26 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA), it was announced in early January. This money is meant to alleviate the PA’s ongoing financial crisis, the Arab League official said. This prompted another call from the PA to Arab states to set up the Arab financial safety net and pay pledged funds to the PA. It is understood that the authority needs $240 million a month to be able to fulfill its obligations as long as Israel continues to withhold its funds. In early January, Algeria deposited transferred money to the Palestinians, the state-run Palestinian news agency WAFA reported, citing deputy Arab League secretary-general Ahmed Ben Helli. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby has sent letters to Arab governments to speed up $100m of monthly payments to the Palestinians agreed to at an earlier summit in Baghdad. The $100 million in assistance represents the equivalent amount of Palestinian tax revenues that should come through Israel, which the Jewish state has withheld after the authority successfully applied to become a non-member state of the United Nations. The Palestinian Authority has been struggling with a fiscal crunch since mid-2012 and been unable to pay employees’ salaries. (Ventures Africa)

Turkish Energy Minister to Visit Algeria
Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz will pay a two-day working visit to Algeria. (…) The Turkish minister will discuss with his Algerian counterpart Yosif Al-Yosifi Algerian-Turkish cooperation in the energy field, and a change in a deal on Algerian gas exports to Turkey, Algerian Ministry of Energy and Mining said in a statement. Last November, the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced during a similar visit to Algeria that the gas agreement needs a review and expansion to be implemented fully in 2014. Algeria and Turkey are also keen on improving and doubling trade exchange between the two countries, currently stands at USD 4 billion a year and the goal is to reach USD 10 billion. (Kuwait News Agency)

Salehi Calls Iran-Algeria Ties ‘Amicable’
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has described the relations between Iran and Algeria as “good” and “amicable”.  He made the remarks during a meeting with the chairman of the Algerian parliament committee on foreign affairs, Ibrahim Boulahya, in Tehran on 31 December. Salehi stated that the two countries are seriously determined to help facilitate expanding ties, especially in economic areas. He also said that Iran is ready to transfer and exchange its experiences in  various fields with the brotherly nation of Algeria. For his part, Boulahya expressed satisfaction over the relationship between the two countries which he said is based on common interests, and urged the parliaments of Iran and Algeria to help promote ties. He also said that the mutual visits and consultations on regional and international issues would serve the interests of the two countries and the Middle Eastern region. (Tehran Times)

Algeria’s Draft Amended Oil, Gas Law Offers New Tax Breaks
Residents near the Burnstone gold mine here burned tires three years ago as part of a protest to demand the New oil and gas exploration in Algeria has all but dried up in recent years because of international company disappointment with the terms on offer for exploring the country’s vast conventional resources. Given the poor state of its new upstream activity, Algeria started revising its hydrocarbon law at the start of 2012 in an attempt to encourage more international investment in exploration. The law’s amendments, which will apply to all new developments in the country, were approved in September last year by the government and are now before Algeria’s national assembly for the final go-ahead. (Platts)

Algeria Sees Oil and Gas Output by Foreign Partners Dipping, APS
Algeria expects a slight decline in oil and natural gas produced by foreign firms in the north African nation as a result of an output decline in some fields, the chief executive officer of state-run Sonatrach said. Abdelhamid Zerguine also said the economic crisis in Europe is prompting the company’s clients to seek discounts “because they can’t sell the gas and generate their profit margin,” according to the state-run APS news agency. He said the company was not under pressure to revise the price of gas delivered under long-term contracts. Sonatrach expects to produce 200 million tons of oil equivalent this year, compared with 206 million toe in 2011, Zerguine said. The El Merk oil field will be commissioned in the coming months, he said. The project is jointly operated by Sonatrach and its partners, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Eni SpA, Talisman Energy Inc. and ConocoPhhillips, and is expected to have an output capacity of 100,000 barrels a day. He said new fields will also go into production in the Berkine Basin’s Menzel Ledjmet East project, APS reported. (Bloomberg)

Libya

Libya’s Year in Review
The year 2012 was not a normal year for Libya. During that year, Libya held its first genuine multiparty democratic election after decades of authoritarian rule by Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who was overthrown and killed in 2011 by a NATO-backed popular uprising. But despite the elections, which happened peacefully, the country has suffered political, regional and tribal chaos largely due to problems inherited from the previous regime as well as increased activity by so-called Salafist-jihadist groups that seek to implement Shariah law in the new Libya. The year 2012 is ending in the same way it started: The authority is in the hands of both the Transitional National Council (headed by Mustafa Abdul Jalil) and the transitional government (led by Abdul Rahim al-Kaib), which are trying to achieve some stability amid the chaos that followed the bloody revolution against Gadhafi. But the council and its government are carrying the heavy burden that was bequeathed by the former regime to the new “free” Libya. Serious problems have emerged between the cities and tribes, especially in the country’s west and south. The problems are the result of some Libyans choosing to take Gadhafi’s side during the revolution. Since the revolution ended with a winner and a loser, the victors are naturally trying to shape Libya’s future according to their vision by seeking to control the government, which used to be the exclusive preserve of individuals and tribes loyal to Gadhafi. (Al Monitor)

Militias are Taking over in Post-Gadhafi Libya
Dozens of armed groups have stepped into the role of overlords of cities and towns since Gadhafi was killed and his regime deposed in October 2011. The transitional government that replaced the regime has done little to impose security on its own, leaving many Libyans under the threat of militias that compete for territory and terrorize those without arms to fight back. “We have to proceed down two paths simultaneously,” said Abdurrahman Sewehly, the president of the Libyan National Congress’ defense committee. “On the one hand, we have to work with the brigades because they are the only ones capable of ensuring security in Libya,” he said. “On the other, we have to start to create a professional army — but with a view to the long term.” The militias refused to disarm after the revolution, saying at the time that they needed to protect themselves from rival tribes held in check by Gadhafi for decades or to ensure that regime sympathizers did not reorganize. But militias, which are sometimes acting on behalf of a tribal clan, have since gone on the offensive, setting up operations across Libya. (USA Today)

Attack in Libya at Coptic Christian Site Kills 2
An explosion early on 30 December at a building belonging to a Coptic Christian church in western Libya killed two Egyptian men and wounded two others, a military spokesman said. Attackers threw a homemade bomb at an administration building belonging to the Egyptian Coptic Christian church in Dafniya, close to the western city of Misurata, said Ibrahim Rajab of the Misurata military council. It was the first major assault on a Christian target since the revolution. The Egyptian consul in the city, Tareq Dahrouj, said he had visited the church and the building where the two men, who were church workers, were killed. “The explosion seems like it was very strong, and I have started making my investigations with Misurata officials,” he said. Libya has small communities of Egyptians, Greeks and Italians who account for most of the Christian minority in the predominantly Islamic country. Libya’s new rulers have struggled to impose their authority on numerous armed groups who helped oust Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi last year but have yet to lay down their arms. In Egypt, following the removal in 2011 of President Hosni Mubarak, Coptic Christians have become increasingly worried after an upsurge in attacks on churches, for which they blame Islamists. (New York Times, Reuters)

Tribal Clashes in Libya Kill 2
Two Libyans were killed on 2 January when fighting erupted between rival tribes in the southern oasis of Sabha, a local official told AFP. “Two people were killed in clashes today,” said Ayub al-Zarroug, president of the local council of Sabha, 750 kilometres (465 miles) south of Tripoli. “A personal problem escalated into fighting between the Gaddadfa and Awlad Suleiman tribesmen. The army is now in control of the situation,” he added. Toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi hailed from the Gaddadfa tribe. Tribal clashes last year claimed hundreds of lives in southern Libya, and the government is trying to provide better security for the country’s sparsely populated but oil- and gas-rich desert region. In December, the authorities slapped martial law on the south and ordered the closure of land borders with Chad, Niger, Sudan and Algeria. (The Daily Star)

Libya Looks to Solar Power in the South
The Ministry of Electricity is constructing a solar panel plant in southern Libya to generate power using the sun’s rays, undersecretary for the ministry Dr Mohamed Ali revealed. Ali told Libyan news agency LANA that it would be an excellent opportunity to experiment with new technology and to create jobs for young people in the region. He explained that the new power station of the south for which the foundation stone was laid down in Obari on 2 January at a capacity of 650 megawatts, will supply a large proportion of the southern region with its power needs and enhance its entire network capabilities. He stressed, ” This station is considered a major achievement in the electricity sector and within the ministry’s plan to develop energy sources in the southern region. (Libya Herald)

Libya Rediscovers its Hidden Talent
For decades, Libya appeared to be starved of talent. The entertainment industry is still virtually non-existent. But since the uprising that toppled the only man allowed to be famous in the country – Col Muammar Gaddafi – Libyans are leaving nothing to chance. In a small music shop tucked in a street in central Tripoli, the owner is busily tuning a guitar. Rows upon rows of instruments line the store’s walls. The gleaming, colourful electric guitars are in a league of their own against other instruments, including the traditional darbuka (drum). This is where a heavy metal band that recently re-grouped meets three times a week after sunset. (…) Tripoli’s decrepit Soviet-style theatre hall was once known as The People’s Hall and mostly used to declare unshakable allegiance to Col Gaddafi. Earlier in 2012 it was the venue for a public talent show where Libyans went to show off their skills at everything from freestyle football, abstract paintings and portraits of Hollywood and MTV celebrities, to singing about Islam. The theatre gradually filled up with a curious public of men, women and children, including a young former fighter who told me: “I’m here to forget the war.” The novelty of events like this becomes glaringly obvious with all the system failures – and backstage and on-stage mayhem that drew a few laughs. (…) Libya does not have many famous voices, artists and poets. But that could change, as a country that was robbed of creativity and passion for decades starts to rediscover its hidden talents. (BBC)

WEST AFRICA

Nigeria

Nigeria Emerges as Center for Pirate Attacks
The bureau tallied 27 attacks off Nigeria’s coast in 2012, up from 10 in 2011 and 19 the year before, a resurgence in the years after Nigeria’s 2009 amnesty deal with militants. The rise could lead Africa’s most-populous country to lose port business, analysts say. It also tarnishes the image of oil-rich Nigeria, one of Africa’s fastest-growing states, whose waters are considered, by insurers, a piracy risk comparable with Somalia’s. Unlike Somalia, Nigeria boasts some of Africa’s most impressive naval assets: locally built warships, a German-manufactured flagship frigate, a fleet of surveillance drones, and 200 boat troops trained by the U.S. Navy. In January, the U.S. gave the country a retired 378-foot, 3,000-ton Hamilton-class Coast Guard cutter, which Nigeria rechristened NNS Thunder. But the U.S.-trained boat troops have been dispatched to fight terrorists in the market towns of Nigeria’s landlocked north, officials from both countries say. (…) The disorder is the legacy of official corruption, said Leke Oyewole, the senior maritime adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, who was elected in 2011. “We have found so many anomalies,” he said, adding that Mr. Jonathan is the first Nigerian president who is “taking charge of the maritime sector.” On land, Nigeria faces expensive and higher-profile security challenges. Crime syndicates steal hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil from pipelines each day, companies and the government estimate. In the north, several thousand people have died since 2009 as Nigerian soldiers have attempted to battle the Islamic insurgency Boko Haram. (Wall Street Journal)

U.S., Nigeria Collaborate to Develop Nigeria’s Offshore Logistic
The United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has unfolded plans to help Nigeria meet the logistical and engineering needs of its emerging offshore oil and gas industry. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency said it planned to provide a grant to Nigeria for the development of an electronic management platform in order to provide 24-hour support to offshore operations such as loading and unloading ships, cargo and equipment. According to a statement issued by USTDA, its Director, Leocadia I Zak, signed the grant late last year, is coming through Integrated Logistics Free Zone Enterprise (LiLE), a private sector logistics provider in Nigeria. LiLE supports the country’s oil and gas operations through its Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL). Zak described the grant as an opportunity for LADOL to continue its support for Nigeria’s burgeoning deep-water offshore industry as well to connect with U.S. expertise and solutions. (The Guardian Nigeria)

Gunmen Attack Nigerian Police Station, Kill 4
Gunmen overran a police headquarters and a government building in northeastern Nigeria early on 3 January, killing four people, including two civilians, officials said. About 100 gunmen attacked the divisional police headquarters and the local government secretariat in the town of Song, in Adamawa state, police spokesman Mohammed Ibrahim said. The attackers set both buildings on fire, he said. The fire spread to a house near the police station, where a 64-year-old woman and her 4-year-old granddaughter died. A soldier and a police official also were killed. Attacks by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have been reported in the state before, but the group did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack. (CNN)

Nigeria to Acquire 30 Aircraft to Boost Local Operators
Nigeria plans to buy 30 aircraft as part of measures to boost the operations of the aviation industry, according to a latest report from the government. The fund would be sourced from part of the aviation intervention fund of the government, spokesperson for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria Yakubu Dati said during an inspection of the renovated Benin Airport on 3 January. Dati said the new development entailed buying and distributing aircraft to domestic airline operators unlike the old practice of giving out aviation intervention funds to them which they allegedly misused. He said the procurement of the aircraft would be funded by the Central Bank of Nigeria in conjunction with Bank of Industry, adding that the initiative would help reduce the cost of traveling by air in the West African country. (Global Times)

Mali

Northern Mali: A Violent Islamist Stronghold
This past spring, Islamic extremists allied with al-Qaida took control of northern Mali after a coup destabilized the country. Adam Nossiter, the West Africa bureau chief for The New York Times, has been reporting on the Islamist takeover in the north — but has had to do so by telephone. The kidnapping threat for reporters covering the conflict is virtually 100 percent, he says. “If a Westerner like myself were to show up in northern Mali right now,” he tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, “we would be certain to be kidnapped, held hostage for ransom and probably, possibly, executed.” The Islamists have become wealthy thanks to the ransoms they’ve collected from kidnappings. They have earned an average of $2 million to $3 million per hostage from governments that pay, which has added up to an estimated $90 million over the past decade, according to Nossiter. In these phone conversations, Nossiter has heard the Islamists in northern Mali justify, without remorse, the forced amputations they have carried out.

On the United Nations resolution to send thousands of African troops into Mali that was passed in December
“The resolution says to the neighboring African countries who have been agitated about this, ‘Yes, OK: Go ahead, assemble your force, and you have our authorization to intervene.’ But it does not say, ‘We’ll pay for this.’ It does not … give a timetable for this, and it doesn’t say, ‘The West will help you in this, this and this matter.’ So it’s all still in the offing. It’s all still rather vague. I think the principle import of it is that the Security Council agrees that there needs to be military intervention in northern Mali.”

On the response of Algeria, a key player in the region
“They’re very reluctant to get involved, and the reason for that is the Algerians have come up with a strategy for dealing with the al-Qaida extremists that works for them, and that is a sort of modified containment. They keep these people outside their borders. … Generally, now, [al-Qaida in Mali] don’t bother the Algerians [with some exceptions] and that worked for the Algerians. As long as they’re outside the borders of Algeria, the Algerians don’t really care what they do elsewhere, and so it has been difficult for Western powers … to get the Algerians very excited or interested in what’s going on immediately to the south of them.”

On a possible role for France, the former colonial power
“The French recognize that they can’t simply themselves go into northern Mali and take out the Islamist extremists because, you know, then they’re simply back in their old role of colonial power. They don’t want to do this. On the other hand, the Malians, under their breath, wish that they would. But were the French to do so, the political consequences would be severe, disastrous.”

On al-Qaida in Mali’s efforts to suppress culture in the region
“The al-Qaida group, especially in Timbuktu … has set about the systematic destruction of the above-ground mausoleums — some of them centuries old — that the local people … venerate because they contain the remains of people considered saints in the Sufi religion. And so they’ve systematically taken pickaxes and hammers to these monuments and leveled them, and this has been very, very shocking for the people in Timbuktu. They’ve expressed their horror to me over the phone shortly after having witnessed this. They’ve also banned any kind of music — and, of course, Mali has a very rich musical culture — but even so far as banning musical ring tones on cellphones. If they catch you with a cellphone that plays a tune, they’ll confiscate it and they’ll punish you. The only thing you can have on your cellphone is a verse from the Quran.” (NPR)

Video: Mali Instability Leads to Economic Hardship
Months of instability have hit Mali’s economy hard since the country’s president was overthrown in a coup last March. The resulting power vacuum has seen Islamist militants take control of the north with 400,000 civilians forced to flee. Efforts are underway by the regional bloc, Ecowas, to send troops to help Mali’s government retake the region, but for many civilians the intervention will come too late. Chakuchanya Harawa reports. (BBC)

Mauritania Eyes Impact of Mali Crisis
Mauritania’s economic and cultural ties with Mali run deep, but the threat of war in the neighbouring nation has everyone on edge. To address their shared challenges and concerns, Mauritanian party leaders, diplomats, journalists and academics met with representatives of Mali’s National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) in Nouakchott on 15 December for a unique symposium. (…) Dr.Yahya Ould Barra noted that “Islam spread in both regions via the same religious school of law.” “The Islam that united Mauritania and northern Mali was characterised by a moderate and centrist approach, an approach incompatible with extremism and fanaticism,” he added. “The clerics who spread Islam did not find any difficulty in making people embrace this religion because of its moderation and centrism.” Dr. Abdul Salam Ould Horma also addressed the challenges facing the region. His presentation was followed by comments from Ahmed Ould Al Wafi, president of the Forum of Thought and Democratic Dialogue. Participants agreed on the need to provide assistance to the civilian population of northern Mali. (All Africa)


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LDESP Staff
ldesp_staff@nps.edu

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