Western sahara Major events

Polisario Panicking as African Summit Nears

Sahara News - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 18:12
As the 28th Summit of the African Union (AU) planned for the end of January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, nears, panic is gripping the Polisario leaders who fear to see their pseudo-Sahrawi republic shattered, according to experts knowledgeable of the Western Sahara conflict. The Polisario leaders’ agitation is exacerbated by the return of Morocco to […]

Spain: Civil Society Increasingly Hostile to the Polisario

Polisario-confidential - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 12:59
According to well-informed sources in the Tindouf camps, the Polisario leaders no longer hide their desperation as hostility towards the Algeria-backed Sahrawi movement in its historic stronghold in Spain is growing and as accusations of torture and violations of human rights against its leaders are mounting. After the judicial proceedings launched in November by the […]

SDX Energy Set To Acquire Circle Oil’s Egypt And Morocco Assets

Western Sahara Worldnews - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 08:24

Proactive Investors
by Jamie Ashcroft

“Circle’s assets present an attractive opportunity to add material production and reserves at an attractive price,” says SDX Energy boss Paul Welch.

SDX Energy Inc (LON:SDX, CVE:SDX) revealed it has agreed to acquire the Egyptian and Moroccan assets of failed AIM firm Circle Oil.

A non-binding heads of terms agreement has been signed, and it gives SDX 30 days exclusivity to finalise a deal.

Circle Oil’s AIM quoted shares were suspended in June amid financial turmoil and its investors were warned a number of times through the second half of 2016 that there would be ‘little or no value left’ for equity holders.

Whilst Circle’s debt problems have long been publicised the group’s asset base appears to have remained attractive to Egypt based consolidator SDX Energy.

“We have made clear our firm intentions to create shareholder value by growing SDX into a profitable mid-tier E&P company,” said SDX chief executive Paul Welch.

“Circle’s assets present an attractive opportunity to add material production and reserves at an attractive price.”

Welch added: “We remain excited about the near term activities from our existing portfolio, including the near term South Disouq exploration well, and look forward to keeping our shareholders appraised of all developments.”

The proposed Circle Oil acquisition is subject to due diligence, SDX completing an equity funding, and other customary conditions.

SDX told investors that there can be no guarantee that the either an acquisition or equity fundraising will proceed.

Operationally, the group said it is entering into an exciting period with drilling slated at the high impact South Disouq exploration project in early 2017, and workover programmes due to further enhance the group’s existing production activities.

SDX Energy may be poised for its best ever year

In November, a quarterly results statement provided further evidence that the Egypt focussed petroleum firm has weathered the worst of the storm.

Thanks to a quality asset base comprising low-cost production it has been able to keep tight grip on its operations and, crucially, being debt free kept the group away from the perils that befell Egypt peers such as Petroceltic and Circle Oil in 2016.

“We couldn’t control oil prices but we could control costs,” chief executive Paul Welch told Proactive Investors.

“We could keep costs down, at less than US$10 a barrel, and so that meant even in the low, low price environment seen in February we were still cash-flow positive at asset level.

Welch added: “We were cashflow positive, we didn’t have any debt. We were much stronger into this downturn than perhaps some other companies were.”

At the moment the financials are a bit of a distraction for investors who are more readily anticipating new of upcoming drilling in the South Disouq exploration project which is located in an exciting area of the Nile Delta.

South Disouq is located at the southern fringe of what’s known as the Abu Madi-Baltim, a trend that is already host to major gas projects – estimated to have 6.3 trillion feet of gas and a 100mln barrels of liquids.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the primary target here is gas, indeed the concession is presently estimated to contain some 1.3 trillion cubic feet of resource potential. New seismic work, which is still being interpreted, has however unearthed an unexpected ‘blue sky’ opportunity.

This year’s 3D seismic indicates deeper exploration prospects which, significantly, could hold oil rather than gas.

It adds a new dimension to South Disouq, and is suspected to be the reason the project has suddenly got the attention of high-calibre operators that are now interested in taking a stake in the project.

SDX has 55% of South Disouq, its share of drilling costs are already carried by its partner, and according to chief executive Paul Welch a second farm-out wasn’t part of the plan – nonetheless, the names that have been enquiring causes some pause for thought.

“We’ve been approached by some very serious companies,” Welch added.

by Jamie Ashcroft

The Seeds Of The Next Arab Spring

Western Sahara Worldnews - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 03:41

Open Democracy
Kareem Chehayeb

A new report suggests that Arab youth continue to be neglected – and that demographic shifts are incubating another political crisis.

An Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters sleeps on the wheels of a tank in Tahrir square, Cairo. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)   The 2016 Arab Human Development Report (AHDR) by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was focused on the region’s youth – those aged between 15 and 29 – a significant group that keeps on growing. This is the first report of its kind to be released after the Arab Spring, and details how young people are more politically aware and motivated to achieve their civil and human rights. Yet they face considerable challenges, primarily economic and security-related. The poor economic planning by the existing regimes is only prolonging and worsening these problems, as a more politically-conscious population grows.

The unemployment plague

Youth unemployment among those aged between 15 and 24 was at its highest in 2014, at almost 30%, more than double the global average. By 2019, an even greater disparity will emerge, as estimates project the global average to decline, with the Arab world’s rate increasing steadily. Considering that the region’s population growth is the largest worldwide, over 60 million jobs will need to be created by 2020 simply to stabilize youth unemployment.

The Countries With The Best And Worst Gender Pay Gap Expectations — And How The U.S. Stacks Up

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 17:01

Forbes
Jeff Kauflin
I cover leadership, management and careers.

In the U.S., we hear a lot about the gender pay gap. Across the globe, there are countries where women expect to make just as much or more than men, and others where women’s salary expectations are significantly grimmer.

H.R. consulting firm Universum Global recently released its annual research on salary expectations. It surveyed 302,807 business students in 57 countries and asked what they expect to make in their first year after graduation.

We’ll first look at the countries with the narrowest gender gaps in pay expectations, and then those with the widest differences.

Morocco was the only nation surveyed where women expected to earn more than men. That doesn’t mean they have equal economic status—only 27% of Moroccan women are in the labor force at all, compared with 78% of men.

In the UAE, women expect to earn nearly as much as men, but only 42% of females participate in the labor force, compared with 92% of males. The women who work in the UAE and Morocco tend to have higher education levels, a factor that partly drivestheir higher relative income.

In the U.S., women’s salary expectations are 91% of men’s, and the actual gender pay gap is about 80%.

Bulgaria has the widest gender gap in pay expectations of any country, although more women participate in the labor force there (65%) than in Africa or the Middle East.

In Saudi Arabia, the nation tied for the second-largest gap in expectations and where women can’t legally drive, only 21% of women work or are seeking work.

If you’re a woman assessing your current or future salary, research the averages in your city and industry with tools like Glassdoor and PayScale. For a pay raise, remember that if you started at a lower base than your peers, even a 20% bump could mean you’re still underpaid.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffKauflin.

China’s Global Times Chooses Morocco, ‘Best Potential Destination’

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 03:48

The North Africa Post

Morocco won the prize of “Best Potential Destination 2016” awarded by the Global Times Forum, an annual event held in Beijing by the leading English-speaking media outlet in China, the Global Times.

The Prize is awarded every year to the best destination on the basis of three criteria: visa procedure, tourist attraction rate and tourist satisfaction indicators, Morocco’s tourism promotion office (ONMT) which represented the Kingdom in the event said in a statement.

Morocco was distinguished as a future promising destination for Chinese tourists despite the fierce competition from leading tourist destinations such as France, Germany and Thailand.

The ONMT aims at attracting 100,000 Chinese tourists by 2018 following the adoption of recent incentives such as lifting the visa requirement on Chinese tourists.

In this respect, the ONMT teamed up with Abu Dhabi’s carrier Etihad Airways to help attract Chinese tourists.

The Global Times, with 2.4 million copies issued daily, is a leading media outlet in China on a par with the national news agency Xinhua News.

POSTED BY NORTH AFRICA POST

US Misjudged Appeal Of Western Democracy For Middle East During Arab Spring – CIA’s Brennan

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 18:38

RT

The administration of US President Barack Obama made a mistake when it hoped to impose Western values and Western-style democracy in the Middle East during the Arab Spring, according to outgoing CIA Director John Brennan.

“I think there were very, very unrealistic expectations in Washington, including in some parts of the administration, that the Arab Spring was going to push out these authoritarian regimes and democracy is going to flourish because that’s what people want,”Brennan said in an interview with CNN.

Earlier this year Brennan, who spent years stationed in the Middle East, already admitted that the Arab Spring uprisings that began in late 2010 created fertile ground for terrorists. But in his latest comments, he said the focus should not be solely on the “symptoms of the problems” like terrorism and violence, but rather on the underlying factors such as governance.

‘US-supported Arab Spring created power vacuum across Middle East’

Assessing the prospect of Western-style democracies taking root in Middle Eastern and North African states, he concluded that what the people of these areas actually want is freedom “for themselves, or their group, or their tribe,” while the “concept of democracy is something that really is not ingrained in a lot of the people and the cultures and the countries out there.”

The CIA head also discussed the ongoing crises in the Middle East, noting that some of the decisions Washington has made over the past two decades may have contributed to the current state of affairs.

For instance, he pointed at the 2003 invasion of Iraq as “the reason why there was the tremendous slide into violence and bloodshed in that part of the world,” adding that “history would have been different” if the US had not fully withdrawn from the country in 2011.

Echoing his previous comments, Brennan said he sees the move to leave Iraq as “a contributing factor” to the instability in the region and the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“If we knew then what we know now in terms of what ISIL was able to do, in terms of just this explosive growth in Iraq that then was able to lop over into Syria, would we have pursued the same course? Probably not,” the official stated.

READ MORE: ISIS, sectarian conflict & chaos: Iraq 10 years after Saddam Hussein’s death

Brennan also said the Syrian civil war could have played out differently had the US provided more active help to the Syrian opposition when the crisis first unfolded – as US critics of the Obama administration suggest should have been done.

“If additional support was provided by various international actors to the […] Free Syrian Army, early on, might that have made a difference? Maybe. Because at that time, the Syrian regime was reeling and was more vulnerable,” the official noted.

Read more

‘Brennan’s crocodile tears over scorched Syria give hypocrisy a bad name’

Brennan warned, however, that providing military support to the Syrian opposition earlier would have presented its own challenges, with the opposition being an unstable, “very eclectic” mix of secular and extremist groups.

“Supporting the opposition blindly and throwing weapons over the transom into Syria could have led to a worse outcome than today,” Brennan concluded.

The CIA chief recently slammed Russia’s anti-terrorism efforts in Syria as a “scorched-earth policy” far from “something that the United States would ever do.”

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov last week said that the operation does indeed differ from the actions of the US coalition, which are focused on “methodically and steadily destroying Syrian economic infrastructure.”

President Vladimir Putin, in an interview with Russia’s NTV channel in December, said that the Arab Spring itself and the negative consequences for the region occurred because key nations “preferred not to observe” the norms of international law “to satisfy their geopolitical interests.”

Putin noted that the late Russian Prime Minister Evgeny Primakov warned about the possible harmful effects of the Arab Spring, but stated that at the time Russia “could not influence directly and practically the development of events, or our opportunities to influence those events were rather limited.”

The so-called Arab Spring was a revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations, protests, riots, coups and civil wars in the Arab world that began in December 2010 and spread throughout the countries of the Arab League and its neighbors. It led to the overthrow of the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, and caused civil wars in Libya and Syria, as well as mass disorder in Algeria, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, and other countries.

Futuren Aims At 200 MW Of Wind Energy In Morocco

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 18:36

SeeNews Renewables
by Mariyana Yaneva

French wind power producer Futuren SA (EPA:FTRN) has doubled its plans for wind energy development in Morocco, now chasing after of target of 200 MW under operation by 2020.

According to a report in Moroccan daily L’Economiste, the French company is currently working under a contract with Moroccan power utility ONEE to repower the 50.4 MW wind farm Koudia Al Baida near Tanger which has been operating since 2000. The site currently has 84 wind turbines of 600 kW each. By installing new, more powerful turbines, the overall capacity of the site is expected to reach 100 MW in 2018.

Furthermore, an additional renewable energy capacity of 200 MW could be built in neighbouring sites by 2020 and Futuren is considering taking on the development of at least half that capacity.

The French company currently operates 732 MW of wind power plants in four countries: Germany, France, Morocco and Italy. In its nine-month revenue report it noted the pipeline of projects that are fully permitted or under construction stood at 181 MW, which will be commissioned during the next 3 years.

by Mariyana Yaneva

Mariyana is a founding member of the SeeNews Renewables team. With nine years of professional experience in renewables she has built strong expertise in the wind industry and French-speaking markets.

Morocco ‘Bans The Sale And Production Of The Burka’

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 13:59

BBC NEWS
AFP

Morocco has not made any official announcement on the policy.

Morocco has banned the sale, production and import of the burka, according to local reports.

Letters announcing the ban were sent out on Monday, giving businesses 48 hours to get rid of their stock, the reports stated.

There was no official announcement from the government, but unnamed officials told outlets the decision was made due to “security concerns”.

It is unclear if Morocco is now intending to ban the garment outright.

A high-ranking interior ministry official confirmed the ban to the Le360 news site, adding that “bandits have repeatedly used this garment to perpetrate their crimes”.

Guide to Muslim headscarves

The Islamic veil across Europe

The burka, which covers the entire face and body, is not widely worn in Morocco, with most women favouring the hijab, which does not shroud the face.

Women in Salafist circles, and in more conservative regions in the north, are more likely to wear the niqab, which leaves the area around the eyes uncovered.

The decision has split opinion in the North African kingdom, led by King Mohammed VI, who favours a moderate version of Islam.

Reuters

The burka is not popular in Morocco. Pictured: Women in Afghanistan wearing burkas Hammad Kabbaj, a preacher barred from standing in parliamentary elections in October over his alleged ties to “extremism”, denounced the ban as “unacceptable”, mocking the “Morocco of freedom and human rights” which “considers the wearing of the Western swimsuit on the beaches an untouchable right”.

Meanwhile, the Northern Moroccan National Observatory for Human Development said it considered the measure an “arbitrary decision that is an indirect violation of women’s freedom of expression and wearing what reflects their identities or their religious, political or social beliefs”.

But Nouzha Skalli, a former family and social development minister, welcomed the ban as “an important step in the fight against religious extremism”.

Morocco On Track To Achieve Ambitious Renewable Plan

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 13:46

Trade Arabia

A high-level official delegation from Morocco will travel to Abu Dhabi to attend the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), to be held from January 16 to 19, as the North African nation moves to generate 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources.

As host of the COP22 climate change conference in November, Morocco was one of 48 nations in the Climate Vulnerable Forum to commit to reaching 100 per cent as ‘rapidly as possible’.

Other Mena states to sign the pledge included Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.

In 2009 Morocco set a target of producing 42 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2020, and has since revised that upwards to 52 per cent by 2030. The nation is well on track to achieving its ambitions, having reached 35 per cent during 2016.

“In 2008 we developed our famous energy policy, which is now brought to fruition through the installation of the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the world,” said Hakima El Haité, Minister of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment of the Kingdom of Morocco, ahead of the opening of COP22. “In 2011, we wrote sustainable development into the Constitution, and today Morocco has its sustainable development law and its green investment plan.”

First held in 2008 and hosted by Masdar as part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), WFES has played an important role in building the market for renewable energy.

The 2017 event is on track to be the biggest ever, expecting 38,000 attendees from 175 countries – three times the number of the first edition – and 880 exhibiting companies from 40 countries. It includes a dedicated Solar Expo, as well as co-located events for water security, waste management, and energy efficiency.

As well as Morocco, the four-day event will host official delegations from major renewables markets including Saudi Arabia, India, Jordan, Egypt and the UAE – countries with more than 200 gigawatts worth of sustainable energy projects in the pipeline.

“Capacity building, combined with meaningful technology transfer, is the backbone of the success of our efforts in the fight against climate change,” said Hakima El Haité. “Together, we will demonstrate that climate change can be transformed from one of mankind’s biggest perils into one of humanity’s most promising and transforming challenges.”

Morocco plans to complete around 2,000 MW of solar energy projects by 2020, including around 400 MW of photovoltaics (PV), and there is also great potential for wind and hydro power. As of 2016, Morocco had around 480 MW of wind generation, with another 300 MW close to completion, and another 150 MW to be awarded. Hydro power is currently the most-used renewable resource, with around 1,700 MW and another 525 MW expected to be completed during 2017 and 2018. Plans include 464 MW of pumped hydro storage – storing the excess energy generated by other renewables and saving it for when output drops – and around 75 MW of micro hydro.

Best known among Morocco’s renewable energy projects is the vast Noor Solar Power Complex on the edge of the Sahara. Noor became the biggest CSP facility in the world when it opened its first stage in February 2016, the 160 MW Noor Ouarzazate I. Noor Ouarzazate II and III will generate 200 MW and 150 MW respectively and are expected to come online during 2018. A series of PV projects begins with Noor Ouarzazate IV, and will include three facilities with a total capacity of 170 MW. – TradeArabia News Service

Harris Corporation To Supply Electronic Warfare Systems To Royal Moroccan Air Force

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 13:37

Yahoo Finance News
Business Wire

Harris Corporation (HRS) has been awarded a $91 million IDIQ contract by Warner Robins Air Logistics Center to provide AN/ALQ-211 Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite (AIDEWS) systems to the Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF). The contract was awarded during the second quarter of Harris’ fiscal 2017.

Harris will supply AIDEWS systems, spares and support equipment and services to Morocco to help protect the RMAF F-16 aircraft fleet against current and evolving electronic threats. The combat-ready ALQ-211(V)4 EW system is a low-risk, modular solution that provides powerful capabilities and mission-based adaptability that have made it the top choice for 5 other international allies.
“AIDEWS’ integrated radar warning and RF countermeasures defend against modern sophisticated electronic threats,” said Ed Zoiss, president, Harris Electronic Systems. “Harris is committed to rapidly fielding this proven capability to support the Royal Moroccan Air Force’s pilots and enable their mission.”

About Harris Corporation

Harris Corporation is a leading technology innovator, solving customers’ toughest mission-critical challenges by providing solutions that connect, inform and protect. Harris supports customers in more than 100 countries and has approximately $7.5 billion in annual revenue and 21,000 employees worldwide. The company is organized into four business segments: Communication Systems, Space and Intelligence Systems, Electronic Systems and Critical Networks. Learn more at harris.com.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements that reflect management’s current expectations, assumptions and estimates of future performance and economic conditions. Such statements are made in reliance upon the safe harbor provisions of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The company cautions investors that any forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results and future trends to differ materially from those matters expressed in or implied by such forward-looking statements. Statements about the value or expected value of orders, contracts or programs are forward-looking and involve risk and uncertainties. Harris disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

Remembering Algeria 1992: The First Arab Spring That Never Became A Summer

Western Sahara Worldnews - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 22:30

Middle East Eye
Peter Speetjens

The forgotten Algerian civil war that killed as many as 200,000 people set the tone for the ‘Arab Spring’ and the paradox of democracy.

On 11 January, it will be exactly 25 years since Algeria’s military staged a coup to prevent the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) from winning the first multi-party elections after the country’s independence.

What could have been the start of an early Algerian spring – years before anyone dared speak of a so-called Arab one – instead triggered a cruel and dirty decade-long civil war.

Murder, torture, disappearances and the slaughter of whole villages became commonplace. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people were killed in what is today a by and large forgotten chapter.

An Algerian spring

Unfortunately, the Algerian conflict bears some remarkable parallels with the events that have been unfolding in the Arab world since the end of 2010.

For example, it all started in a very similar fashion with a series of mass demonstrations and riots.

As the oil price fell and Algeria’s economy went into crisis mode, the country’s disenchanted youth in 1988 took to the streets in protest against rising unemployment and poverty levels. This, in addition to a widely shared belief that the country’s immense gas and oil riches never reached the pockets of the common man.

In response to the protests, which saw hundreds of people killed, the National Liberation Front (FLN), Algeria’s sole political entity, amended the constitution to allow for free multiple-party elections for the first time since independence.

Thus, in 1989, the FIS was born. Strongly influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, the party quickly gained in popularity. It became the biggest party in the municipal elections of June 1990 and went on to win the first round of the parliamentary elections in December 1991 with twice as many votes as the ruling FLN.

Supporters of the FIS gather in the streets of Algiers a day after the first round of Algeria’s free parliamentary elections on 27 December 1991 (AFP)

The latter, however, has always been intimately linked with the military, which by then had become seriously concerned at the prospect of losing power and privileges. They were not the only ones that started to worry.

Blessings of the West

The Americans were not pleased with the FIS’s outspoken opposition to the first Gulf War, nor its pro-Palestinian stance.

Algeria’s former colonial ruler France, which continued to have a strong hand in the country’s economy, grew increasingly nervous about the FIS’s rhetoric to phase out French language, culture and influence.

Hence, Washington and Paris gave the green light for the Algerian military on 11 January 1992 to cancel the parliamentary elections’ second round and declare a state of emergency. Two months later, the FIS was banned altogether.

A member of Algerian security forces arrests two FIS sympathisers in the Bab el Oued quarter of Algiers on 31 January 1992 (AFP)

Seeing the Egyptian coup of July 2013 and subsequent ban of the Muslim Brotherhood, it seems the Egyptian military had not forgotten the early Algerian spring.

“We pursued a policy of excluding the radical fundamentalists in Algeria even as we recognised that this was somewhat at odds with our support of democracy,” former US Secretary of State James Baker later explained.

The Algerian people were to pay a heavy toll for the America’s selective love of democracy. Following the coup, tens of thousands of FIS members and sympathisers were arrested. Those who did not end up in a Sahara detention camp went into exile or took up arms.

Arrival of the mysterious GIA

At first, the struggle was dominated by the Armed Islamic Movement (MIA), which was linked to the FIS. Soon, however, the mysterious Armed Islamic Group (GIA) appeared.

Operating in and around Algiers, it was mainly the GIA that committed the most gruesome atrocities. Decapitations, for example, were a regular occurence in Algeria long before the Islamic State (IS) videotaped them and shocked the world through YouTube.

While nominally Islamists, it is today painfully clear that the GIA was infiltrated by Algeria’s secret services. Several former Algerian intelligence officers have admitted as much.

The aim of committing atrocities was to show the country’s Islamists in a bad light, break their support base and force the Algerian people to embrace the regime as the lesser of two evils. Some argue that the Syrian regime, at least to some extent, has taken played a similar game with IS.

One could argue that from an Algerian regime point of view the strategy worked. Gradually, the violence declined and the war ended with the death of the last GIA emir Antar Zouabri in 2002.

Repressive legacy

The country is still ruled by a triangle composed of the military, FLN and security services. Although the state of emergency was lifted in 2011, it is they who decide on the country’s main policies, postings and spheres of influence.

Illustrative of the general state of affairs in Algeria is that for many years the country’s most powerful man was General Mohamed “Toufik” Mediène, head of the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS). From 1990 until 2015, Algeria’s spy chief could make or break anyone.

Meanwhile, Algeria has hardly moved an inch up the liberty ladder. The freedoms of expression, association and assembly are severely restricted.

One journalist in 2016 was detained for questioningPresident Bouteflika’s health, another for questioning corruption.

Corruption is rampant in Algeria. In 2010, the Sonatrach scandal erupted. Good for some 98 percent of the country’s foreign currency receipts, Algeria’s state-owned oil company has excelled in bribes and kickbacks for people linked to those in power.

One Italian firm, for example, allegedly paid company officials $207m to obtain a contract worth $8.4bn. The country’s main highway connecting east and west is said to be the world’s most expensive road ever built.

Still, while countries such as neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt were confronted with popular uprisings, Algeria in recent years remained relatively quiet.

A mix of minimal political reforms and a rise in public sector expenditure seems to have done enough to keep people happy and off the streets.

The question is for how long? In terms of freedom, fair representation and equal distribution, hardly anything has changed in the country since the late 1980s.

Yet, as in the late 1980s, the oil price has crashed and Algeria is confronted by a growing economic crisis.

Exports in 2015 nearly halved, the local currency decreased in value, while the fiscal deficit nearly doubled and youth unemployment increased to close to 30 percent.

If the authorities are forced to cut some of the many subsidies that keep the poor on their feet, 11 January 1992 may suddenly seem a whole lot less than 25 years ago.

– Peter Speetjens is a Dutch journalist who lived in Lebanon for 20 years, regularly travels to India and has a special interest in how 19th-century writers helped shape our conceptions of the world today.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Several thousands of FIS supporters attend a campaign rally at the Algiers Olympic Stadium, three days before the first round of legislative elections on 23 December 1991 (AFP)

Chariot Oil & Gas Looks Forward To Drilling Now Morocco Deal With Eni Is Complete

Western Sahara Worldnews - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 15:19

Proactive Investors
by Jamie Ashcroft

“This agreement continues to demonstrate Chariot’s ability to deliver on its strategy of securing third-party validation through partnering, and we are excited that we will now take one of our priority targets through to drilling,” said Chief Executive Larry Bottomley.

Chariot Oil & Gas Limited (LON:CHAR) has confirmed that its farm-out deal with Eni, bringing the Italian major into the Rabat Deep project offshore Morocco, is now complete.

Eni now becomes the operator and a 40% stakeholder in Rabat Deep where a well is planned for 2018, following an environmental impact assessment and the hiring of contractors.

Chariot retains 10% of the project.

The terms of the farm-out deal mean that Chariot’s participation in the proposed well will be paid for by Eni.

Chariot Chief Executive Larry Bottomley said: “We are pleased to have satisfied all conditions precedent and welcome Eni as the operator of the Rabat Deep acreage.

“This agreement continues to demonstrate Chariot’s ability to deliver on its strategy of securing third-party validation through partnering, and we are excited that we will now take one of our priority targets through to drilling.

“Retaining a 10% equity interest in this well has the potential to create transformational value in the success case due to the large scale prospective resources, excellent contract commercial terms and robust economics.

“Success will also materially de-risk other targets we have identified within our neighbouring Mohammedia permits in which we hold a 75% interest.”

Tourism Revenue Of $6 Billion Boosting Moroccan Budget

Western Sahara Worldnews - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 13:23

Tourism Review
Top story

Morocco reported record tourism revenue for 2016 – 59.4 billion dirhams (about 5.8 billion dollars) at the end of November 2016.

The Kingdom of Morocco announced the biggest tourism revenue on the African continent. Abderrafie Zouitene, Director General of the Moroccan National Tourist Board, said in an interview: “Before, Morocco received on average 800 to 1,000 tourists per month, and today our resorts welcome more than 6,000 visitors per month.”

According to the American channel CNN, Marrakech is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. The city was even named 7th destination to visit this year by the famous British channel National Geographic as well as 3rd world destination worth visiting according to Trip Advisor. No doubt, Marrakech is popular, and not only for stars!

It should be noted that Morocco is already making more use of the tourism industry with 52 hotel projects already launched, another record on the continent.

Morocco: Security Services Gains As Terror Threat Grows

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sun, 01/08/2017 - 13:13

Modern Tokyo Times
by Lee Jay

Moroccan investigators arrested an alleged jihadist with links to al-Qaeda in the city of Azrou in November. The man, a computer engineer, had disseminated jihadist propaganda and was suspected of involvement in online banking fraud that had allowed him to seize large sums of money, according to the authorities.

Reports quoting the interior ministry linked the man to al-Qaeda and Jabat Fateh al-Sham in Syria (Morocco World News, November 20).

The arrest follows the successful dismantling in June of a supposed Islamic State (IS) terrorist cell, composed of six people with links to IS in Libya. The group was operational in the cities of Agadir, Amzmiz, Chichaoua and Laqliaâ and was planning suicide attacks, according to Moroccan authorities (Tel Quel, July 2016). In May, the security services arrested a 33-year-old Chadian man accused of leading an IS cell in Tangiers. He was suspected of planning an attack equivalent to the devastating Casablanca bombings in 2003, in which 33 people were killed; in November, a court jailed him for 20 years on terrorism charges (Morocco World News, November 11).

Morocco has seen a number of attacks since the 2003 Casablanca bombing, including one blamed on al-Qaeda that killed 17 people in Marrakesh in 2011. But for a country that is a key exporter of Islamist recruits to jihadist causes abroad – by some estimates at least 1,500 Moroccans are fighting for IS in Syria and Iraq, and that number may even be higher – its security services have proved relatively successful at countering terrorist threats at home (Daily Sabah, November 8, 2015). Its foreign intelligence service also maintains good relations with its European counterparts. Following the attacks in Paris in 2015, the Moroccan authorities tipped off French police leading to the raid on the flat where the attacks’ alleged mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgium national of Moroccan origin, was hiding out.

The success is partly a matter of experience – the authorities have been tracking Moroccan fighters at least since the 1979–1989 Soviet-Afghan war, in which hundreds of Moroccans took part. But Morocco also benefits from having one of the region’s more open political landscapes, which has allowed it counter negative socio-economic factors such as high youth unemployment. Morocco’s successful weathering of the “Arab Spring,” and its measured response to the recent protests over the killing of a fisherman – he was crushed to death in a garbage truck after refusing to pay a bribe to police – are a testament to this (New Arab, October 30).

Nonetheless, the Moroccan authorities must remain vigilant. In an audio recording obtained by al-Jazeera in May, the head of the so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, threatened attacks on Morocco (al-Jazeera, May 4). While it is highly doubtful al-Sahrawi’s group has that kind of capacity, the recent arrests indicate Morocco remains at risk from attacks by domestic terrorist cells.

The Jamestown Foundation kindly allows Modern Tokyo Times to publish their highly esteemed articles. Please follow and check The Jamestown Foundation website at http://www.jamestown.org/

https://twitter.com/JamestownTweets The Jamestown Foundation

https://jamestown.org/program/briefs-255

Photo Source: Site of the 2011 Marrakesh bombing (Source: Reuters) provided in the original article by The Jamestown Foundation.

Publication: Terrorism Monitor
By: Alexander Sehmer
The Jamestown Foundation

$10m Grant To Mohammad V Foundation In Morocco

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sun, 01/08/2017 - 05:51

Gulf News

Shaikh Mohammad’s gesture comes in line with the strong relations binding the leaderships and people of the two countries.

Abu Dhabi: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, granted $10 million to the Mohammad V Foundation for Solidarity in Morocco.

Shaikh Mohammad’s gesture comes in line with the strong relations binding the leaderships and people of the two countries and their cooperation in various fields, especially in humanitarian work.

The foundation’s board members extended their profound thanks to Shaikh Mohammad for his gesture.

Fears On ‘Arab Spring’ Seeping Into Algeria

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sat, 01/07/2017 - 15:05

ASHARQ AL-AWSAT

Algeria- Seven years ago, a regional wave of protests to topple authoritarian regimes in the Arab world came to be known as the ‘Arab Spring.’

The same popular uprisings against corruption in power have become a great threat to order in the North African state Algeria.

Algeria’s government loudly sounded its concerns following street protests that witnessed acts of arson and vandalism of public and private property.

Imams across the nation have complied with the government’s request on delivering a Friday speech which raises awareness on the down side to compromising national security. Imams are the religious priests which not only lead prayers at mosques but also deliver speeches concerning the Muslim community.

All Imams had received a statement from the Ministry of Religious Affairs on Thursday night which gave a number of directives that strongly stress the importance of security and stability, also as a core principal to Sharia law, and a religious duty that falls upon all citizens.

The directives relayed to national Mosques keep in line with the strong language used by Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal when commenting on the protests ripping through eastern provinces on Monday and Tuesday.

Speaking during a ceremony for the 2015 copyrights fee payments at the Culture Palace in Algiers, the Premier said that “unknown parties are behind the recent protests that occurred in some regions of the country, notably in Bejaia, and which try to destabilize the country.”

In his first remarks since the outbreak of these protests, Sellal said that “Algeria is a stable country,” and that “any attempts to destabilize it will not be successful,” adding that these protests “are not related to the Arab Spring.”

The State “will block any attempt aiming the destabilization of Algeria,” he underscored.

Describing those incidents as “positive lessons” which will incite his government to work more, the minister welcomed the position taken by the Algerian youth and families, and the reactions of the organizations and the political parties-from all tendencies- which have shown “political maturity during these incidents.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

Arab Winter: Dispatch From Algiers – OpEd

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sat, 01/07/2017 - 14:56

Eurasia Review
by Vijay Prashad

At the mouth of Algiers’ fabled Casbah sits the decommissioned Serkardji prison. During the struggle to free Algeria from French rule, combatants and militants found themselves housed in this awful jail. “It is hell,” wrote Rabah Bitat, one of the founders of the National Liberation Front (FLN), who had spent time in the prison. “Men are beaten with iron bars, the heat is horrible and they are given salted water to drink.” The prison sits silent now and is being turned into a Museum of National Memory.

Commemoration of the war of independence is everywhere inside Algiers. A short walk from Serkardji, inside the Casbah, is a water tap encased in a beautiful tile overhang. The plaque above says that the water tap is in honour of four militants, each of whom was guillotined in Serkardji in 1957: Touati Said, Radi Hmida, Rahal Boualem and Bellamine Mohand. Certainly, streets are named for the great heroes of the FLN—Larbi Ben Mahdi and Mourad Didouche—and there are statues in the major squares of the great figures of national liberation such as the 19th century rebel Abdelkader. But these are memorials of the state. The little water tap is a more modest, more popular memorial. So too are pictures on the walls of restaurants and shops. A restaurant at the Circle of Martyrs is named for Abderrahmane Taleb, a young chemistry student who was the main bomb-maker for the FLN in Algiers in the 1950s. Taleb was guillotined at Serkaradji in 1958. “For Algerians,” Taleb said at his trial to his French judge, “the guillotine will henceforth have the same significance as the cross in your churches.”

Down the road from the water tap, past many men on crutches, veterans of one war or another, is the workshop of the carpenter Khaled Mahiout. On his wall, he has pictures of old Algeria. In the midst of the gallery is a shrine to Zohra Drif, the woman who had bombed the Milk Bar, a frequent stop for French settlers between trips to the beach and their homes. That bombing deepened the French attack on the Casbah, the heart of the resistance inside Algiers. The bomb blast was in retaliation for the killing of FLN militants at Serkadji. When challenged about the bombings of civilian areas, the FLN leader Abane Ramdane said: “I see hardly any difference between the girl who places a bomb in the Milk Bar and the French aviator who bombards a mechta [village neighbourhood] or drops napalm on a zone interdite [restricted zone].”

The morality of the anti-colonial war was stark. Harsh racism and violence was visited upon Algerians. It was common for the French to refer to the Algerian as sale raton, dirty little rat, which morphed into ratonnade, the rat hunt, which was the French phrase for their massacres of Algerians. “We were not brought up to hate,” said Zohra Drif many years later. She remembered Larbi Ben Mahdi’s interaction with a French journalist, who asked him if it was not cowardly to use “women’s baskets to carry bombs”. He answered, “Doesn’t it seem even more cowardly to attack defenceless villages with napalm bombs that kill thousands of times more? Obviously, planes would make things easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets.”

Akram’s caution

A young boy, Akram, runs past me. He is on his way home from school. The Casbah is known as a place of great poverty although what one sees is a great dignity. Corrugated iron roofs are repaired with strips of plastic, held down with bricks. TV dishes sprout like mushrooms beside colourful bedding, which is drying in the winter sun. Old buildings seem perilously close to collapse. Children run through the streets, cheerful. Akram is like them. I ask him innocently: “All good with you?” He bristles at my question. “How can we be good? You know our situation,” he says with his hands gesturing to the area.

A decade ago, Boudina Mustapha, a former death-row prisoner at Serkadji who escaped the guillotine, told the government newspaper El Moudjahid about his concerns for the youth. “It’s a disaster,” he said. “Today we see 20-year-olds throwing themselves into the sea to flee this country. While I, when I was the same age, was sentenced to death.” To commemorate the foundation of the country is one thing; to provide hope to young people in the present is another.

A new report titled “Researching Arab Mediterranean Youth: Towards a New Social Contract” shows that Algeria suffers from a youth unemployment rate of 32 per cent. This is a striking figure. Mustafa Morane, who teaches sociology and population studies at the University of Khemis Miliana, authored the chapter on Algeria. He says that the government’s approach to youth unemployment is to offer grants for entrepreneurship. But the education system, he says, does not “provide the minimum needs of the labour market”, meaning that the youth do not have the skills necessary to take advantage of the loans. Migration, Morane writes in his study, is a “last resort” for the youth. There is a great deal of potential for the youth in Algeria, an oil-rich country, says Morane, but the government does not have a policy for the youth.

Meeting Abdelhakim Bettache, Mayor of Algiers Centre, provides a window into the problems faced by the country. Bettache is sitting across from the old post office, which is closed and which will be renovated into another museum. I ask him about the situation of the unemployed, almost one in three young Algerians. “They are the luxury jobless,” he says with a smirk. “They have a packet of cigarettes, an iPhone and a cup of coffee.” There is, Bettache says, “no problem of the unemployed. There are no protests for jobs.” His certainty is unnerving.

There is no point raising the issues of the Mouvement des Chomeurs (the Movement of the Unemployed) with Bettache. On July 5, 2012, Tahar Belabes, from the provincial town of Ouargla, led a protest in Algiers’ May 1 Square. The protest was the first major action of the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of Unemployed Workers. The state arrested some of their key activists. They are still in operation, hoping to bring the question of the youth, such as young Akram, to the centre of discussions about Algeria’s future.

War and Oil

The Casbah is marked not only by the Algerian war of independence against the French but also by the “black decade” of the 1990s when the Algerian state plunged into war against extremist elements (formed around the Islamic Salvation Front and the Armed Islamic Group). In 1962, a popular slogan that echoed across Algeria was Seba’a snin, barakat! (Seven years, that’s enough!). The slogan suggested the exhaustion of the Algerian people with the privations and dangers of the war of independence, which lasted from 1954 to 1961. But three decades later, Algeria lurched once more into a terrible war that claimed tens of thousands of lives. There are few monuments to this war. It is not only an embarrassment but also a festering sore.

No stomach for rebellion

The Arab Spring did not come full-throated into Algeria largely because of the experience with civic disorder in the 1990s. What has happened to Libya and to Syria further discourages any kind of rebellion. There is no stomach for it. Extremism was not expelled from Algeria. The army was able to defeat the Armed Islamic Group with ferocious violence, but its hardened fighters lurk on the margins of Algeria (which is a vast country, four times the size of France). One of its allies, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda and became the core of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The AQIM operates in the Sahara, across terrain that cuts through southern Algeria to link Libya to Mali. Old veterans of the “black decade” in Algeria and of the Afghan wars—such as Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abdelhamid Abou Zeid—led the AQIM to victory in northern Mali and then led attacks on Algerian oil installations. Their presence dampens any possibility for protests in Algeria.

In 2013, Belmokhtar’s unit seized the gas fields at Amenas in southern Algeria and took 800 people hostage. The Algerian army fought them off but only after considerable loss of life. Striking the gas and oil fields in the south points a finger at Algeria’s great vulnerability—it relies on oil and gas to maintain its social peace. With energy prices low, Algeria’s state exchequer suffers. Any attack such as this threatens the stability of the country. Foreign investment will dry up and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will downgrade Algeria’s ability to borrow money to cover its fragile balance of payments.

Over the past decade, the Algerian government has hoped to enter into private-public partnerships to reinvigorate its energy sector. Foreign energy companies and the IMF have urged Algeria to liberalise its economy. In 2000, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika selected Chakib Khelil to run the Oil Ministry, Abdul Latif Benachenhou to be the Finance Minister and Abdulhamid al-Tamar to be the Minister of Privatisation. These were the “economic reformers” who would deliver Algeria to globalisation. In 2005, these men, with backing from the army, pushed a new hydrocarbons law that allowed foreign domination of Algeria’s essential sector, energy. The Workers’ Party, led by Louisa Hanoune, and others fought against the sale of oil and gas to foreign companies. A few years later, the government changed its mind. The “reformers” found themselves out of job and Algeria retained its old laws.

Samia Zennadi, who runs the publishing house APIC Editions, told me about the role played by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in this struggle. When Chavez heard that Algeria, a crucial country in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), was going to privatise its oil, he made an unscheduled visit to meet Bouteflika. Chavez made the case that selling the oil would weaken Algeria and open it up to colonial intervention. Bouteflika, who had not taken the protests as seriously as he should have, listened intently to Chavez. The oil and natural gas reserves are located in the south of the country. Chavez warned that foreign interference would push for the partition of the country, just as in Sudan, with the oil wealth in the hands of a weak pro-Western government and poverty to be managed in the other half. Bouteflika reversed his decision.

There is no Chavez to counsel Bouteflika now. Khelil, who was sacked in the middle of a corruption scandal in 2013, is back at the helm of the Oil Ministry. He will once more push to liberalise the oil industry. None of these “reformers” will take seriously the Mouvement Anti-Gaz de Schiste (Movement against Fracking of Natural Gas). Samia Zennadi believes that the political contest within the ruling bloc is not settled. Many people still believe that Algeria should not sell off its oil and gas reserves. Whether they will prevail is to be seen.

Small Voices of History

In a basement in Algiers is the office of the Democratic and Social Movement (MDS), the former Communist Party of Algeria. The party’s leader, Hamid Ferhi, and a young activist of the party, Fahem Dahi, tell me about their aspirations for Algeria. In January 2011, during the high point of the Arab Spring, the MDS joined other parties to form the National Coordination for Change and Democracy. Yacine Teguia of the MDS told journalists at that time: “We are sick of seeing young people having no prospect but to kill themselves. Today, we have workers who are threatening to commit collective suicide. We can either get together and express ourselves democratically and develop collective solutions, or we can leave people facing a wall, facing death.” The pressure by the organisation moved Bouteflika to end the state of emergency that had been ongoing for two decades. But Bouteflika did not allow any demonstrations to take place.

The MDS, nonetheless, has been involved, says Ferhi, in a number of initiatives on a consistent basis. The shadow of the “black decade” hangs over our conversation. Fahem shows me around the MDS office, which is being converted into a people’s art gallery with a coffee shop and a performance space. One room has bundles of clothes and a washing machine. Fahem tells me that this is for homeless people. The party has to do something for the social crisis. Fahem has a warm smile. These small gestures pave the road for something grander. He has great hope for Algeria.

This essay originally appeared in Frontline (India).

About the Author

Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT. Prashad is the author of seventeen books. He can be reached at: vijay.prashad@trincoll.edu

Morocco Eyes AU’s Membership

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sat, 01/07/2017 - 12:48

Nigeria News Agency NAN

Botswana has supported moves by Morocco to return to the African Union, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has said.

After 32 years of absence, Morocco is expected to re-join the Africa Union (AU) during the block’s summit this month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, APA said on Saturday.

According to statement, Venson-Moitoi said “only by working together, will we minimize the obstacles hindering the pursuit of good living opportunities for our peoples.”

Venson-Moitoi revealed this following a meeting with Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Salaheddine Mezouar in Rabat.

“During this meeting, we discussed various aspects of cooperation between Morocco and Botswana, with the aim of strengthening and developing this cooperation to serve the interests of our two peoples,” Venson-Moitoi said.

She expressed her conviction that Morocco and Botswana could serve as a “model to follow for the African continent”.

The Botswana minister also hailed the strong commitment of the Moroccan presidency of 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in favour of environmental protection.

She called for the two countries to join forces to face poverty and create employment for young people.

Moroccan leader recently embarked on diplomatic shuttle to African countries, including Nigeria, to drum support for the country’s bid to re-join AU.

Morocco’s Economy Grows 1.2 Per Cent In Fourth Quarter

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sat, 01/07/2017 - 03:38

Gulf Today
Reuters

Morocco’s economy grew 1.2 per cent year-on-year in the fourth quarter, the country’s planning agency said on Thursday, at the end of a year in which a harsh drought hurt the key agriculture sector.

The agency forecast national output would expand 3.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, buoyed by a surge in farming output which slumped 12.3 per cent in the final three months of 2016 following North Africa’s worst drought in decades.

Morocco said 2016’s cereal harvest plummeted 70 per cent to 3.35 million tonnes from 2015’s record 11 million tonnes. Agricultural output would increase 11.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, the agency said.

Farming accounts for more than 15 per cent of Morocco’s more-than $100 billion economy and is the country’s biggest employer.

Growth in Morocco’s non-agricultural sectors accelerated to 2.5 per cent in the fourth quarter from 1.9 per cent in the previous three months, the agency said. Morocco’s central bank predicts economic growth will jump to 4.2 per cent in 2017 from an estimated 1.2 per cent last year on the back of a sharp increase in agricultural output.

Morocco has done more than most North African countries to make painful reforms required by international lenders to curb deficits, such as an end to fuel subsidies and a freeze on public sector hiring.

It is also preparing to introduce a flexible exchange rate system later this year.

Reuters

Pages