Written by Marko Milicevicic exclusively for SouthFront; Edited by Viktor Stoilov
On Wednesday Algeria and China signed an agreement worth 3.3 billion dollars regarding the Cherchell port, near the capital Algiers, which is going to be expanded.1 China became Algeria’s largest supplier in 2013, dethroning France. 8.22 billion dollars from a total of 58.33 billion dollars of imports bill ended up in China in 2015,2 making it the most important trade partner of Algeria. Thus it is quite understandable that the two countries have signed the port agreement because they want to strengthen their bilateral trade relations. Maritime logistic is still the most profitable way for international trade. On Monday Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal held talks in Algiers with the Libyan Prime Minister-designate Faiz al Siraj who came to Algeria on a working visit.3 This meeting represents a “continuation of Algeria’s efforts for a completion of the political consensus solution among Libyans, the only solution to preserve this brother country’s sovereignty, its territorial integrity, and the unity of its people”. As we can see, Algeria wants to take a neutral position in the Libyan civil war by refusing to give unreserved support to each of the two rival governments.
Egypt – on Saturday the Chinese President Xi Jinping finished a three-day visit to Egypt where he met the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Al-Sisi underlined the importance of the revitalization of the Silk Road project.4 Its importance lies at the root of the possibility to improve further economic and trade relations among Asian, African and European countries. China wants to build/renew the car and train infrastructure from Beijing through Asia to Europe (final destinations Berlin and Moscow) – top quality highways and fast trains would enable faster movement of people, services, goods and capital.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the explosion that took place on Thursday in the Haram area of Giza, in which nine people were killed and 15 injured.5 The presence of ISIS is growing rapidly in Egypt, especially in North Sinai. The 5th anniversary of the Revolution has been celebrated on 25th of January, resulting in dozens of arrests, military presence on the streets, aggressive rhetoric etc.6
Libyan Unity Government was formed on January 19, based on an UN-backed plan. Mayors of Libyan cities agreed to work together in order to stop the bloody civil war which is going on in Libya.7 The government shall be consisted of 32 ministers. Unfortunately, Libya’s internationally-backed parliament, which was forced from the capital of Tripoli into exile in the eastern town of Tobruk in 2014, rejected the plan with 89 of 104 votes against the power sharing agreement. The 32-member government is too big by their opinion, and they have called for moderators to put on the table alternative proposals within the next 10 days.8 The Government in Tobruk relies too much on the fact that they are the only internationally recognized government in Libya. If they continue to block the reconciliation process, they could easily lose their international support, which would bring them in a very uncomfortable position – one on one clash with the pro-Islamic government in Tripoli (Libya Dawn).
Morocco – Belgian national of Moroccan origin directly linked to the Paris attacks has been arrested in Morocco on Monday, January 18. The police have identified this man as Gelel Attar, and announced that he is likely to have ties to one of the organizers of the Paris attacks (Daesh).9 It is still unknown if he will face trial and where. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said on Thursday that she is in favor of census in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria.10 A group of the European Parliament members called on the EU last year to stop sending aid (annually around € 10 million) to Western Sahara refugees until a census is made. The Algerian estimate (supported by the Polisario Front) is about 165 thousand, but the Moroccan government contends that the total number of refugees is around 45,000 to 50,000.
South Sudan – The United Nations is seeking $1.3 billion in humanitarian aid for South Sudan.11 More than 10,000 people have been killed and 2.3 million displaced since the country’s civil war broke out in December 2013. On Thursday, the UN released a report stating that all sides have abused human rights and committed crimes punishable by international law.12 An ad hoc tribunal, like the ones created in the cases of Rwanda and Yugoslavia, could be created in the future where responsible officials of the government and rebels would face trial. The two sides have missed to form the Unity Government before the deadline on Friday.13 They are given a little more time to implement the August power sharing deal, but the patience of the international moderators (UN, USA, EU) is running low because they have seen too much irresponsibility from both sides.
The Sudanese government and the two armed groups from Darfur agreed on January 25 to continue informal discussions. The two armed groups, which are opposing to the Sudanese government are the Sudan Liberation Movement- Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The meeting was organized by the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and with the participation of the UNAMID chief who is also the joint chief mediator.14 The War in Darfur began in February 2003 when the two mentioned rebel factions attacked the Sudanese army. 13 years later 300 thousand have been killed and 3 million displaced (UN estimate). The Iranian embassy staff in Sudan have left Khartoum for Tehran on January 18.15 Sudan supports Saudi Arabia in their latest conflict with Iran. Cutting off diplomatic ties with Iran is a foreseeable move made by the Sudanese government, in accordance with the diplomatic practice.
The Tunisian authorities have imposed on Friday a nationwide curfew from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. for an indefinite period – until order is reestablished in the country.16 What started as a protest of the unemployed (mostly young) people, has grown to become a nationwide revolution against the government. All of this happens on the 5th anniversary of the start of the Arab Spring Revolution in Tunisia. 1,105 individuals arrested and 114 security officers injured, is the outcome of the latest wave of protests in the past week. We will be bringing you more information on this subject in next week’s North Africa Observer.
- “China, Algiers sign $7.1b port deal”, Fiji Times, accessed January 26, 2016, http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=338412
- “China ranks as Algeria’s largest supplier for third consecutive year”, Xinhua Online, accessed January 26, 2016, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-01/21/c_135029318.htm
- “Sellal holds discussions in Algiers with Libyan Premier”, Algeria Press Service, accessed January 26, 2016, http://www.aps.dz/en/algeria/10475-sellal-holds-discussions-in-algiers-with-libyan-premier
- “Chinese president heads to Tehran after concluding 3-day visit to Egypt”, Daily News Egypt, accessed January 26, 2016, http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2016/01/23/chinese-president-heads-to-tehran-after-concluding-3-day-visit-to-egypt/
- “IS claims responsibility for Giza building explosion”, Daily News Egypt, accessed January 26, 2016, http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2016/01/23/is-claims-responsibility-for-giza-building-explosion/
- “25 January 2016: Yet another militarized response to dissenting protest”, Daily News Egypt, accessed January 26, 2016, http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2016/01/25/25-january-2016-yet-another-militarised-response-to-dissenting-protest/
- “Libya forms unity government as its mayors meet EU city chiefs”, EurActiv, accessed January 26, 2016, http://www.euractiv.com/sections/global-europe/libya-forms-unity-government-its-mayors-meet-eu-city-leaders-321122
- “No Deal: Libyan Parliament Rejects UNSC-Backed Unity Government”, Sputnik, accessed January 26, 2016, http://sputniknews.com/africa/20160125/1033682679/libyan-parliament-un-security-council.html
- “Morocco Police Identify Belgian Citizen Arrested for Links to Paris Attacks”, Sputnik, accessed January 26, 2016, http://sputniknews.com/europe/20160119/1033341922/paris-attacks-morocco.html
- “EU Chief Diplomat in Favor of Census in Tindouf Camps”, Morocco World News, accessed January 26, 2016, http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/01/177833/eu-chief-diplomat-in-favor-of-census-in-tindouf-camps/
- “U.N. seeks $1.3 billion in humanitarian funding for South Sudan”, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southsudan-un-idUSKCN0UX2LD
- “All Sides in South Sudan Conflict Abuse Human Rights – UN”, Sputnik, accessed January 26, 2016, http://sputniknews.com/africa/20160121/1033499115/south-sudan-human-rights-abuses.html
- “South Sudan misses deadline to form unity government”, BBC, accessed January 26, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-35390796
- “Government, Darfur groups agree to pursue informal talks”, Sudan Tribune, accessed January 26, 2016, http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article57810
- “Iran embassy staff in Sudan leave to Tehran”, Radio Tamazuj, accessed January 26, 2016, https://radiotamazuj.org/en/article/iran-embassy-staff-sudan-leave-tehran
- “Curfew in Tunisia Imposed Until Order Reestablished – Interior Ministry”, Sputnik, accessed January 26, 2016, http://sputniknews.com/africa/20160122/1033558481/law-comment-ministry.html