All eyes on Libya
It’s been a rollercoaster few weeks for Libya. A spot of good news first: Libya is pumping oil at its highest rate in four years, an important boon for a country that relies heavily on the petroleum industry. Now for a bunch of bad: This week, a convoy from the UN Support Mission in Libya was ambushed and, according to reports, their staff taken at gunpoint. The UN now says its staff are all safely in Tripoli, but the incident is yet another a sign of the chaos in Libya, where multiple forces claim authority and there is heavy fighting in some parts of the country, including Benghazi. The UN has just appointed a new envoy to the country – a former Lebanese minister of culture – a process that took four months, after the US rejected a Palestinian appointee because of his nationality, followed by retaliatory objections to other candidates from Russia and other countries. UNISMIL and various UN agencies have been gradually increasing their presence on the ground in the dangerous country, but this week’s ambush is likely to be a major setback. And with Italy threatening to deny entry to foreign ships docking on its shores – an effort to force its European partners to do more about the massive influx of migrants, mostly coming from Libya – the internal divisions and external debate over Libya make it one to watch.
While it’s something to celebrate, the closure today of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) has also generated some concerns. Although Cote d’Ivoire is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, two mutinies this year by disgruntled soldiers suggests it has not fully healed from the 2002-2003 civil war and the post-election violence of 2010-2011. Human Rights Watch has called on the Ivorian government to address the rights issues at the root of past political violence, including the problem of impunity and the need to professionalise its security forces. It also pointed to the incomplete national reconciliation process and continued competition over land as potential flashpoints. With the peacekeepers’ withdrawal, a UN Security Council briefing noted the need for the international community to stay engaged. In a statement to the council, Sweden said the closure of UNOCI meant the “UN presence in the country is facing a ‘financial cliff’. This risks undermining the sustainability of the gains achieved.”
That’s the question at the heart of this new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. While Afghanistan’s downward spiral has been plotted meticulously by journalists and analysts, Central Asian states are often overlooked – to our potential peril, according to CSIS. The report notes that security has taken a nosedive throughout in Afghanistan in the past couple years, but asserts: “In the provinces of Afghanistan adjacent to Central Asia, the security situation has deteriorated even further than in Afghanistan as a whole on average.” That situation presents huge challenges to Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, which could become destabilized by smuggling, Taliban attacks and infiltration by extremists, among other threats. The report suggests some measures Afghanistan and its neighbours can take to mitigate those risks – including sealing borders and negotiating with the Taliban – but of none of them would be easy.
Seven more years
Few African leaders divide international public opinion as much as Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who will run for a third term in office in August, having overwhelmingly won a referendum to change the constitution in 2015. Kagame’s champions see him as the architect of stability and growth in a country where some 20 percent of the population was slaughtered in the 1994 genocide. They point to free basic education for all, the halving of infant and maternal mortality, and the emergence of a vibrant economy as achievements which merit his re-election. Detractors say Kagame’s authoritarian style and intolerance of opposition – some of whose leaders have been killed or disappeared, others accused of the cardinal sin of “genocidal ideology” – is a threat to democracy itself. Further evidence of this came in May, when politicians were told that all social media or online campaign content had to vetted by the National Electoral Commission 48 hours before publication. This rule was shelved a month later in the wake of domestic and international pressure, but the attempt to control the messaging will not be forgotten. Still, Kagame’s re-election is pretty much a foregone conclusion: he won with more than 95 percent in 2003 and 93 percent in 2010. Rwanda’s is one of four key African elections being held this year: the people of Kenya and Angola will also go to the polls in August, while Liberians will follow suit in October.
Did you miss it?
As scandals go, Mozambique’s $2.2 billion secret loan deal that crashed its economy was pretty bad (See IRIN’s report). But now we’re getting a handle on just how corrupt it all was. The recently-released executive summary of the Kroll audit report suggests that the Privinest Group – which was supposed to supply Mozambique with a tuna fishing fleet and maritime security vessels – overcharged by at least $700 million. For example, fishing boats were invoiced at $22 million each, but Kroll estimates the real price should have been just $2 million. And there’s more. Kroll says that $500 million “remains unaudited and unexplained”, on top of the $700 million overcharge. That’s partly because Privinest as well as the state security service, SISE, local banks and the Ministry of Finance all refused to provide the auditors with information requested. For more on the scandal, for which Mozambicans are being forced to pay the price as the economy totters and social services are scaled back, check out Mozambique News reports & clippings.
The unpromised land
Few places these days can be described as hospitable towards asylum seekers, but in recent years Israel has outdone most other states with its policies of deterrence and detention. Not content with keeping asylum seekers confined to so-called “open” detention facilities like Holot, starting in 2014, the authorities began offering one-way tickets to “safe” third countries in Africa. By the time IRIN reported on these “voluntary” deportations in April 2015, it was already clear that those who accepted the offer to go to Uganda or Rwanda, the two countries that had quietly stepped up to receive Israel’s unwanted asylum seekers, did not fare much better than those who opted to remain at Holot. This week, a year-long investigation into Israel’s “relocation process” by Andrew Green for Foreign Policy revealed that the vast majority of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers who are sent to Uganda and Rwanda from Israel are quickly smuggled into neighbouring countries where they have even less protection and live in undocumented limbo. Meanwhile, Ugandan and Rwandan officials continue to deny having made any agreement with Israel to receive asylum seekers.
Watch out for an upcoming IRIN film – Unwelcome Stranger - about the life of a Sudanese asylum seeker in Israel.
(TOP PHOTO: Two soldiers from forces operating under Libya's Tripoli-based government walking through the deserted streets of Bin Jawad. Tim Wescott/IRIN)