It’s the newest update of the SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence’s weekly product “North Africa Observer”. Our contributor, Marko Milicevic, describes developments in the North Africa region.
Algeria’s Minister of State, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ramtane Lamamra presents a key player in terms of that country’s foreign policy action in the last week.1 He attended the 13th Algerian-Emirati Joint Committee in Abu Dhabi where he signed with his counterpart Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan several agreements concerning bilateral cooperation in the commercial, cultural and religious fields.2 Strong Algeria-UAE bilateral relations might be beneficial as a guidance and role-model for other Arab countries, if they want to achieve economic growth and political stability in the future. Lamamra also stated on Friday that Algeria is not going to pick sides in the Libyan civil war as long as Tobruk and Tripoli-based rival governments make moves that don’t harm the interests of Libyan citizens.3 He visited Oman on 15th and 16th of November where he chaired with his counterpart from Oman Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah the 7th Algerian-Omani Joint Commission, which culminated in the signing of nine cooperation agreements between the two countries. Two ministers share the same position regarding the Syrian crisis, the situation in Yemen, Iraq and Libya, and the fight against terrorism following the recent attacks in Paris.4 Algeria will host two counterterrorism conferences in 2016, Minister of Maghreb Affairs, the African Union and the Arab League Abdelkader Messahel announced this Monday in Algiers.5 It is one of few stable countries in the region and fully committed to the fight against terrorism.
Russian Federal Security Service confirmed on Tuesday that the plane crash in Sinai, Egypt was caused by a terrorist attack. The conclusion is based on traces of explosives found in the remains of Airbus A321.6 Following a ban by Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency on passenger flights to Egypt since November 6, top Russian airline Aeroflot will suspend flights to and from Egypt from 1st of December 2015 to 27th of March 2016. Further, Russian authorities suspended Egypt Air from landing in Moscow.7 The ban could pose a huge blow for Egypt’s tourism (vital for its economy, about 15% of GDP) because Russian citizens represent a large proportion of tourists visiting this country. As an indirect consequence, governments and air companies from other developed states could make similar decisions in the near future. In the recent period, Russian and British tourists alone have comprised 70% of Egypts total visitors.8
Libya – The New York Times published a leaked e-mail from a senior UAE diplomat saying his own country “violated the U.N. Security Council Resolution on Libya”. The resolution imposed an arms embargo in 2011 during the Arab Uprising.9 UAE, as well as Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and most Muslim states, strongly support the internationally recognized government in Tobruk, which is considered “moderate” unlike the pro-Islamic government in Tripoli. Outgoing UN envoy Bernardino Leon neither denied nor confirmed these allegations. Martin Kobler, former German ambassador who is going to replace Leon in the coming days, will probably have to carry the burden of this scandal and will have to explain to the public the real truth behind the scandal. On November 14, the Pentagon said a US air strike targeted and probably killed the leader of the Islamic State (IS) in Libya Abu Nabil, former al-Qaeda operative.10 If proven true, IS in Libya would suffer a severe blow but probably won’t disintegrate because IS leaders know their presence in Libya is crucial in order to maintain influence in Northern Africa. IS still firmly holds Sirte and its outskirts, as well as one part of Benghazi and some less significant towns and villages.
Morocco announced a New Economic Model to be implemented in its Southern Provinces (also called Western Sahara) – nearly 77 billion MAD (Moroccan Dirham) will be invested in Laâyoune, Dakhla, and Tarfaya in the following sectors: Fisheries, Agriculture, Tourism, Infrastructure and Renewable Energy.11
Moroccan officials keep constantly repeating that they will not accept anything more than autonomy for Western Sahara. With this economic plan, Morocco will try to tighten control over the disputed territory, thus creating facts on the ground important for future talks about the status of Southern Provinces/Western Sahara. According to Spanish think tank Real Instituto Elcano, acts of terrorism in the Maghreb region have dramatically increased since the beginning of the Arab Spring. Morocco is the only exception, which hasn’t suffered a terrorist attack since the attack in Marrakech in 2011.12 The United States has granted Morocco US$7 million in military aid for the 2016 budget of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces.13 In contrast to military aid given to Tunisia (US$20 million) and Egypt (US$1 billion), US will have given to Morocco a much smaller amount. This is most likely the result of strong pressure from the Algerian-Western Saharan separatist lobbyists in the U.S. Congress. The irony lies in the fact that Morocco has shown more willingness and better results in the fight against terrorism.
As mentioned in the previous review, South Sudan‘s main opposition, the People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) is recruiting members of “advance team”, which is going to be sent to Juba.13 The team’s task, in coordination with the government, will be a full implementation of the IGAD-Plus agreement signed in Ethiopia in August, which aims to resolve the conflict by political means. A first step towards a peaceful solution should/will be a Hybrid Court.14 The urge to constitute such a special court follows African Union’s Commission of Inquiry report on human rights abuses in South Sudan, which presented solid evidence that all sides (government, SPLM-IO and other, local rebels groups) have committed war crimes since the beginning of the conflict in 2013. Setting up a political dialog between the warring factions proves to be a difficult task in the light of constant mutual accusations of violations of the peace agreement.
Sudan‘s government confirms complete commitment to the Doha peace agreement15 signed in July 2011 between the government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement. This agreement represents the basis of the peace process in Darfur. War in Darfur so far resulted in more than 300,000 killed and 3,000,000 displaced (UN estimate). Somewhere around 166,000 people have been displaced by conflict and tribal violence in this region.16 Blue Nile and South Kordofan states are also affected by the ongoing conflict. Khartoum and the rebel movements have officially approved to participate in talks on security arrangements in these three states, officials of the African Union (AU) stated on Wednesday.17 Hopefully this can lead to the long awaited cessation of hostilities. Sudan refugees are one of the bigger groups making their way to Europe in search for a normal life. Stopping the civil war would only be the first step towards a complete stabilization of Sudan. War crimes, devastated economy, inadequate medical treatment of deceases are only some of the problems. Not to mention a chronic instability of Northeast African countries that surround Sudan.
The main event of the week in Tunisia is certainly the arrival of US Secretary of State John Kerry.18 His arrival coincides with the decision of 31 resigning deputies of secularist Nidaa Tounes to suspend their resignation from the party’s parliamentary bloc until the organization of the Executive Board meeting on November 22, 2015.19 Kerry likely had an impact on the resigning deputies because it is very important to the United States to maintain order and security in Tunisia, the “shining example” of the Arab Spring. To do so, it is necessary that Nidaa Tounes retain power because the alternative is the Islamist Ennahda Party. Even moderate Islamists in government might take Tunisia closer to a path that led its neighboring countries to civil and tribal wars, economic decline, deaths and migrations.
1. “Lamamra on official visit to UAE on 12-15 November”, Algeria Press Service, Accessed November 16, 2015, http://www.aps.dz/en/algeria/9336-lamamra-on-visit-to-uae-on-12-15-november
2. “Algerian-Emirati Joint Committee in Abu Dhabi culminates in signing of several agreements”, Algeria Press Service, Accessed November 16, 2015, http://www.aps.dz/en/algeria/9370-singing-of-several-agreements-following-algerian-emirati-joint-committee-in-abu-dhabi
3. “Situation in Libya: Algeria doesn’t support any side to the detriment of another”, Algeria Press Service, Accessed November 16, 2015, http://www.aps.dz/en/algeria/9374-situation-in-libya-algeria-doesn’t-support-any-side-to-the-detriment-of-another
4. “7th Algerian-Omani Joint Commission: Several agreements signed”, Algeria Press Service, Accessed November 16, 2015, http://www.aps.dz/en/algeria/9417-7th-algerian-omani-joint-commission-several-agreements-signed
5. “Algeria to host two counterterrorism conferences in 2015, announces Messahel”, Algeria Press Service, Accessed November 16, 2015, http://www.aps.dz/en/algeria/9414-algeria-to-host-two-counterterrorism-conferences-in-2015,-announces-messahel
6. “Russian plane crash in Sinai a terrorist attack – Russian Security Service”, Russia Today, accessed November 17, 2015, https://www.rt.com/news/322393-russian-plane-crash-terrorist-attack/
7. “Top Russian airline bans flight to Egypt until 27 March”, Daily News Egypt, Accessed November 16, 2015, http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2015/11/14/top-russian-airline-bans-flight-to-egypt-until-27-march/
8. “70% tourism loss for Egypt if Russian, British visitors leave in aftermath of plane crash – ministry”, Russia Today, accessed November 16, 2015 https://www.rt.com/business/321127-egypt-flights-tourism-loss/
9. “Leaked emails suggest UAE violated Libya arms embargo”, Al Jazeera, accessed November 16, 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/11/leaked-emails-suggest-uae-violated-libya-arms-embargo-151113065628129.html
10. “Islamic State leader in Libya ‘killed in US airstrike’”, The Guardian, accessed November 16, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/14/us-airstrike-isis-leader-libya
11. “Morocco’s New Economic Model in its Western Sahara”, Morocco World News, accessed November 16, 2015, http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2015/11/172448/moroccos-new-economic-model-in-its-western-sahara/
12. “Terrorism Increases in the Maghreb, Morocco Only Exception: Spanish Think Thank”, Morocco World News, accessed November 16, 2015,
13. “U.S. Grants Morocco $7 Million in Military Aid”, Morocco World News, accessed November 16, 2015, http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2015/11/172451/u-s-grants-morocco-7-million-in-military-aid/
13. “SPLM-IO states leadership select members of advance team to Juba”, Sudan Tribune, accessed November 17, 2015, http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article57012
14. “EU vows to support Hybrid Court on South Sudan”, Sudan Tribune, accessed November 17, 2015, http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article57051
15. “Sudan’s government confirms complete commitment to Doha peace agreement”, The Peninsula, accessed November 17, 2015, http://thepeninsulaqatar.com/news/middle-east/359162/sudan-s-government-confirms-complete-commitment-to-doha-peace-agreement
16. “166,000 displaced in Sudan’s Darfur in 2015”, New Vision, accessed November 17, 2015, http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/675831-166-000-displaced-in-sudan-s-darfur-in-2015.html
17. “Sudanese government and rebel groups to meet Wednesday: AU”, Sudan Tribune, accessed November 17, 2015, http://sudantribune.com/spip.php?article57063
18. “Kerry in Tunisia to offer support to fledgling democracy”, Tunis Daily News, accessed November 17, 2015, http://tdailynews.net/story-z6999110
19. “Nidaa Tounes resigning MPs suspend resignation until holding of Executive Board meeting”, Tunis Daily News, accessed November 17, 2015, http://tdailynews.net/story-z6999140