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Posts tagged ‘Africa Section’

Ethiopian, Eritrean leaders at concert for diplomatic thaw

July 15, 2018

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — At least 25,000 Ethiopians are at a concert where new, reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afweki are expected to celebrate the new friendship between their neighboring countries.

The concert on Sunday highlights the end of years of hostility between the two arch-foes in East Africa, who fought a bloody border war from 1998 to 2000. The antagonism ended last month when Ethiopia accepted a peace deal originally signed in 2000.

Eritrea’s longtime leader arrived in Ethiopia on Saturday, his first visit in 22 years. Isaias is reciprocating the Ethiopian leader’s trip to Eritrea last Sunday. Isaias was greeted by Ethiopia’s Abiy in a red carpet welcome. People danced at the airport when Isaias arrived and Addis Ababa residents lined main streets to see Isaias’ motorcade.

Near the airport, some residents chanted songs criticizing the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front, which used to be Ethiopian ruling coalition’s strongest political party until Abiy came to power at the beginning of April.

The thaw with Eritrea began when the 42-year-old Abiy announced in June that Ethiopia would fully accept the 2000 peace deal that ended the two-year border war which killed tens of thousands and separated families. The decision, which hands some key disputed border areas to Eritrea, was Abiy’s boldest move yet in a wave of reforms in which he aims to end anti-government protests in Africa’s second most populous country, which has 100 million people.

The of the state of war between the two countries has been praised by the United States and the United Nations. The U.N. Security Council called it a “historic and significant development with far-reaching positive consequences for the Horn of Africa and beyond.”

The Eritrean leader is expected to re-open his country’s embassy in Addis on Monday. On Saturday Isaias visited an Ethiopian industrial park in southern Ethiopia. Tiny Eritrea, with a population of about 5 million, is located on one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and across the Red Sea from the Arabian Peninsula. It has been ruled by Isaias since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, after years of rebel warfare. In recent years, many Eritreans have fled to Europe, Israel and African nations to avoid military conscription and what human rights groups say is harsh rule.

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Moroccan protest leader’s 20-year sentence sets off marches

June 28, 2018

TANGIERS, Morocco (AP) — Hundreds of protesters marched in Morocco’s capital Wednesday to denounce the convictions of a charismatic protest movement leader and three other activists, all given the maximum prison sentence of 20 years over mass demonstrations touched off by the death of a fish seller.

The show of public anger over the convictions signaled anew that the discontent among Moroccans, originally anchored in the northern Rif region, was shared around the North African kingdom. Protesters in the capital, Rabat, gathered in front of the parliament building and then marched up a central avenue. Earlier in the day, there were protests in the northern town of Hoceima, the center of the Hirak Rif movement that represents the biggest challenge to the kingdom since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

“Take us all to jail,” “We are all Rif” and “State, beware” were among the chants repeated by the many hundreds of protesters in Rabat as dozens of police office surveyed the crowd. Hirak Rif leader Nasser Zefzafi and the three activists were convicted late Tuesday of threatening state security. Fifty other activists in the 2017 Hirak Rif protests received sentences ranging from one to 15 years for lesser charges.

Mohammed Ziane, who represented the activists before they suspended their legal defense, said they would appeal. “The verdict will certainly not comfort spirits, especially since the Hirak demands have not been met,” Ziane said. “To send people to prison for 20 years for asking for their rights is clearly meant to scare. But we can already see it’s not scaring people.”

Protesters demanded that King Mohammed VI fulfill promises he made last year to build a school, a university and a hospital in the neglected Rif region. “May the people live, and may those who abuse power fall,” protesters cried out.

Zefzafi’s father told The Associated Press by telephone that his son received news of his conviction and sentence in a Casablanca prison five hours after the verdict. “He told me when I visited today that he doesn’t care if they imprison him for 20 or 30 years as long as he still believes in the cause,” Ahmad Zefzafi said.

He said his son smiled, adding that “hearing that the people are rallying behind him in protest makes him prouder to be where he is.” The seeds of the protest began in October 2016 when an impoverished fish seller in the Berber Rif region was crushed to death trying to retrieve a valuable swordfish seized by police and tossed into a garbage truck.

Zefzafi, who was arrested in June 2017 after a manhunt, quickly became the movement’s public face, demanding development and the creation of jobs in the Rif region, which has lagged economically. The uprising briefly spread to other parts of Morocco.

The Rif maintains a strong identity apart from Morocco, due largely to a brief stint as an independent republic from 1921-1926, when its legendary rebel leader, Abd el-Krim, defeated the Spanish army.

In 1959 and 1984, the current king’s father, Hassan II, crushed uprisings in the Rif — and never set foot in the region. Son Mohammed has traveled there. Soon after the 2017 protests, the Moroccan monarch promised development projects for the region and pardoned some of the hundreds of protesters who had been detained.

Sirte urges its IDPs to return home

June 17, 2018

The Municipality of Sirte has called all the displaced people of the city in Libya and abroad to return to their city and open a new page.

On its Facebook page on Friday, the municipality said that it will coordinate with the Ministry of Local Government, the Ministry of Displacement and Displaced People’s Affairs, and the Ministry of Interior to facilitate the return of the displaced people of the city.

The municipality hinted in its statement to the possibility of providing passports to the citizens of Sirte displaced abroad who do not have one, calling on them to take this opportunity in the Eid to come to terms and move forward.

Source: The Libya Observer.

Link: https://www.libyaobserver.ly/inbrief/sirte-urges-its-idps-return-home.

Sudanese rebels are fighting alongside Dignity Operation in Libya’s Derna

June 17, 2018

Militants from the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) headed by Minni Minnawi are fighting alongside Khalifa Haftar’s forces in the Libyan city of Derna, Sudanese news website Bajnews reported Saturday, confirming that a number of them were killed.

The news website quoted a cousin for one of the militants as saying that his relative was killed with other Sudanese rebels while fighting under Minnawi armed group to support Haftar’s forces in Derna.

The website added that the family of the killed militant is currently receiving condolences on his death in Darfur.

The Sudanese Government has accused the armed rebel movements of fighting in Libya in exchange for military equipment and money; however, the SLM movement denied these allegations and confirmed their presence on Sudanese territory.

Source: The Libya Observer.

Link: https://www.libyaobserver.ly/inbrief/sudanese-rebels-are-fighting-alongside-dignity-operation-libya%E2%80%99s-derna.

Attack shuts major Libyan oil ports, slashing production

JUNE 14, 2018

BENGHAZI, Libya/LONDON (Reuters) – The major Libyan oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider were closed and evacuated on Thursday after armed brigades opposed to the powerful eastern commander Khalifa Haftar stormed them, causing a production loss of 240,000 barrels per day (bpd).

At least one storage tank at Ras Lanuf terminal was set alight following the early morning attack, an engineer told Reuters. Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) declared force majeure on loadings from both terminals.

The clashes between forces loyal to Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and rival armed groups continued throughout the day south of Ras Lanuf, where the LNA was targeting its opponents with air strikes, local sources said.

Military sources said the LNA had withdrawn from both ports.

The LNA took control of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf along with other oil ports in Libya’s oil crescent in 2016, allowing them to reopen after a long blockade and significantly lifting Libya’s oil production.

More than half the storage tanks at both terminals were badly damaged in previous fighting and have yet to be repaired, though there have been regular loadings from Es Sider.

Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said it had evacuated all staff from the two terminals “as a precautionary measure.” The immediate production loss was around 240,000 bpd and the entry of a tanker due at Es Sider on Thursday was postponed, it said.

NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said the output loss was expected to rise to 400,000 bpd if the shutdown continued, calling it a “national disaster” for oil-dependent Libya.

A military source said the three-pronged attack was launched by the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB), a group that has previously tried to take the oil crescent and advance on Benghazi, which has been fully controlled by Haftar since late last year.

The NOC blamed Ibrahim Jathran, who headed an armed group that blockaded oil crescent terminals for three years before being forced out by the LNA, and who appeared in a video posted on social media on Thursday announcing the start of a campaign.

“We announce the preparation of our ground forces and supporting forces in the oil region, and our objective is to overturn the injustice for our people over the past two years,” he said, standing in a camouflage jacket in an unidentified desert area.

“The past two years have been catastrophic for people in the oil crescent because of the presence of the system of injustice which is the other face of terrorism and extremism.”

BILLIONS LOST

The NOC says Jathran’s previous blockades cost Libya tens of billions of dollars in lost revenue. He is sought by judicial authorities in Tripoli for the blockades and attempts to export oil independently.

Repeated previous attempts by the LNA’s opponents to retake the oil crescent have failed, and it is unclear how much military and local, tribal support Jathran or BDB forces currently have.

However, the LNA, which is the dominant force in eastern Libya and rejects an internationally recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, stirred some resentment with arrests when it moved into the oil crescent in 2016, and has recently been stretched thin.

Since last month it has been waging a campaign to take control of Derna, the last city in the east to elude its control.

France, which hosted an international summit last month to set a roadmap for elections in Libya, said it “condemned with the utmost firmness the offensive conducted today by extremist elements in the oil crescent”.

Thursday’s clashes were not affecting any oilfields, the military source said. The LNA had at least five men killed and around six wounded, he said.

A local resident said he had heard the sound of heavy clashes and air strikes at dawn and had seen a large fire at the Ras Lanuf tank farm.

Crude exports from Ras Lanuf stood at 110,000 bpd in May, while exports from Es Sider were around 300,000 bpd, according to oil analytics company Vortexa.

The Minerva Lisa oil tanker, which was due to arrive at Es Sider to load a crude cargo on Thursday, was advised to stay outside the port, a source familiar with the matter said.

The tanker, chartered by trader Petraco, was seen turning away from the port on Thursday morning without loading, according to Reuters ship tracking.

A second tanker, the Seascout, is expected to arrive at the port on June 18.

Libya’s oil production recovered last year to just over 1 million bpd and has been mostly stable, though it remains vulnerable to shutdowns and blockades at oil facilities.

National output is still well under the more than 1.6 million bpd Libya was producing before a 2011 uprising led to political fragmentation and armed conflict.

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli, Ahmad Ghaddar, Aidan Lewis and John Irish; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Mark Potter, David Evans and Diane Craft

Source: Reuters.

Link: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-oil/attack-shuts-major-libyan-oil-ports-slashing-production-idUSKBN1JA23I.

Official warns of frenzied campaign against Algeria economy

June 19, 2018

The President of Algeria’s Agricultural Chamber in the El Oued Province, Bakar Hamid, said his country is experiencing a frantic propaganda campaign aimed at damaging the national economy.

The official made his remarks during an interview with local eChorouk newspaper after some countries returned agricultural products imported from Algeria.

Hamid explained that it is necessary to counter such campaigns with all available means so that Algeria can impose its presence in the global market to improve its economy.

He explained that none of the products exported from El-Oued province had been returned, adding, however, that one exporter has exported dates to 12 countries and none of them were returned.

Hamid added that Algeria applies international health standards and any product destined for export should be granted a health certificate in accordance with the agreement signed between the two countries.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180619-official-warns-of-frenzied-campaign-against-algeria-economy/.

Italian minister emboldened by Libya visit, migration curbs

June 25, 2018

ROME (AP) — Italy’s populist interior minister returned from a quick trip to Libya on Monday expressing confidence in his decision to close Italian ports to migrants while pressuring the rest of Europe to help the North African country secure its borders.

Matteo Salvini chose the Libyan capital of Tripoli for his first official visit abroad to hammer home his commitment to suppressing the mass migration that has fueled anti-migrant sentiment across Europe and brought his xenophobic League party to power.

Salvini called for United Nations-backed and European Union-funded centers to screen asylum applicants in nations that border Libya — primarily Chad, Niger and Sudan — but not in Libya itself or Italy.

He also vowed to help Libyan authorities assert control of their territorial waters to prevent Europe-bound migrants from departing and to keep migrant aid groups based in Europe out of the way. “This is the point of absolute convergence with Libya: Block the business of clandestine migration,” Salvini told reporters in Rome after he returned home.

Libya was plunged into chaos following the 2011 uprising that ousted and led to the slaying of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The country now is split between rival governments — one, backed by the United Nations, based in Tripoli, the other in the country’s east — and each is supported by an array of militias.

It also has become a common jumping off point for migrants who try to cross the Mediterranean Sea to escape poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East. Other spots in North Africa also have become alternative points of departure for boats attempting to navigate the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain.

Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service reported that it rescued more than 600 people Monday, for a total of 1,400 in three days. Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska plans to travel to Morocco on Thursday to discuss the influx.

Libya’s coast guard rescued some 1,000 migrants on Sunday, including dozens of women and children. Ahmed Maiteeg, the deputy prime minister of the U.N.-backed Libyan government, said during a news conference with Salvini that all of them received humanitarian and medical aid and were taken to a naval base in Tripoli and a refugee camp in the town of Khoms.

Salvini praised the Libyans for their “excellent work” and vowed to halt European aid groups with rescue ships in the Mediterranean. The Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms complained that Italy refused its offer Sunday to help bring to safety the people who ended up with the Libyan coast guard.

Amnesty International condemned the Italian government for handing over responsibility for the mission to Libya, alleging the migrants would be tortured anew in Libyan detention centers. Salvini denied migrants were being tortured, branding reports of widespread human rights violations in Libyan centers as “lies and rhetoric.” He said he toured a new U.N.-run facility due to open next month and that it had the same amenities as an Italian migrant holding center.

Italy is committed, he said, to “blocking the full-on invasion of those associations that would like to substitute the government and authorities, and in fact help illegal migrant traffickers.” Salvini has accused private aid groups of operating as sea taxi services for Libya-based smugglers and closed Italy’s ports to their ships, including one from the German aid group Mission Lifeline that has been stuck off Malta since Thursday with 234 migrants aboard.

The Italian minister challenged France — a loud critic of his anti-migrant policies — to open its port in Marseille to the Mission Lifeline ship, saying: “There’s a boat full of migrants in Maltese waters that’s waiting to be welcomed.”

Late Monday, another ship with migrant passengers — the Danish-flagged container ship Alexander Maersk — was given permission to dock and disembark in Sicily after four days at sea. The International Chamber of Shipping, an industry trade association, has voiced concern about Italy’s crackdown on non-governmental organizations, The chamber says the move will put a greater burden on commercial merchant ships to carry out rescues and ultimately affect trade.

Libya’s Maiteeg announced Monday that a migration and security conference will be held in Tripoli in September. Salvini readily endorsed the program. He promised to return before then to hand over new equipment for Libya’s coast guard and said a technical committee would soon be meeting on Libya’s southern border to assess the creation of asylum-screening “hotspots” to prevent migrants from entering Libya in the first place.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged EU member states to contribute to an Africa trust fund to finance the screening centers, mirroring a 2015 deal that was designed to encourage Turkey to stop refugees setting out for the Greek islands.

Salvini said he thought a reasonable funding target for the African hotspots would be 6 billion euros ($7 billion, around double the cost of the Turkey deal. Before Italy’s new coalition government was installed on June 1, Italy already worked to bolster the Libyan coast guard’s ability to patrol its coasts and to bring back migrants who launched from its shores.

Human rights organizations have criticized the practice, alleging that migrants are abused in Libya and the North African country hardly constitutes a “safe” port of call, as called for by international law.

Associated Press writer Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.

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