Worry over Tunisia’s long-term prospects grew this week, after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on 02 December 2013, that the country would continue to suffer from loan delays, unless it ameliorates both its budget deficit problems and its security situation. The announcement, which came in the form of a statement made by mission chief Amine Mati, also reiterated the concerns of foreign investors, noting that there remains a “wait-and-see” approach to interest in Tunisia.
The IMF has arguably exacerbated the North African nation’s Catch-22 scenario. With dwindling investments, comes a declining economy. As the economy spirals, so too do the jobs numbers. The lack of occupational opportunities, particularly those for young men, has led to a greater attraction toward extremist groups among individuals who feel marginalised and without purpose. This has led to an apparent surge in applicants interested in Ansar al Sharia, an organisation which, aside from being blamed on the 2012 attack on the US mission in Libya, has also been accused of planting hundreds of homemade explosive devices near Mount Chaambi.
This has not stopped the IMF from trying. As recently as 07 June 2013, the international organisation approved a grant of US$1.74 billion, US$150.2 million of which had already been dispersed to Tunisia that same month. The IMF even promised further instalments – security permitting – over the next two years at the enviably low interest rate of 1.08%. Two sweeten the deal, in June 2013 it announced that Tunisia would not have to start paying back the loans until 2018. So why amid this cycle of violence-turned-investor retreat, does the IMF seem so adamant about supporting Tunisia? The answer may be found within the halls of Washington, DC.
This post is part of a series on Yemen. The first, second and extra parts can be found here.
“Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar. Here goes the martyrdom seeker,” are the words from the video’s narrator, as a vehicle hurtles into the military base and disappears within an immense explosion. The clip documents the most significant attack carried out by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in well over a year. At least fifty Yemeni soldiers died in the raid, which took place on 20 September 2013, and marked the beginning of a spate of meticulously planned and well-executed attacks on military bases and personnel across Yemen’s southern governorates by the terrorist organisation. Noticeable shifts in AQAP tactics in recent months raise questions about the strategy that the group is following and the goals that it is pursing.
This post is part of a series on Yemen. The first and second parts can be found here.
As if Yemen’s economic and political quagmire were not sufficiently complicated by a vocal secessionist movement in the south and an increasingly active terrorist presence, tribal tensions in northern governorate of Sa’dah have erupted into violent clashes in and around the town of Dammaj that have left over 200 dead since 30 October 2013. Several ceasefire agreements have been signed, only to disintegrate hours later, and the violence has threatened to entrench sectarian conflict throughout the country.
Clashes have erupted intermittently since the Houthi rebellion began in 2004, but the conflict has increasingly taken on sectarian overtones as the Zaidi Sh’ite Houthis have been challenged by Salafist tribesmen, and tensions have been heightened by the conflict in Syria. This most recent round of fighting began when Houthi fighters accused Salafist tribesmen of amassing an army of foreign fighters in Dammaj, an allegation which is strongly denied by Salafists who claim that the foreigners are students who have travelled to Dammaj to study Islamic theology at the Dar al Hadith institute. The violence has threatened to entrench sectarian conflict throughout the country, as a prominent Sunni Sheikh preached that jihad against “Houthi infidels is better than the jihad against the Jews”, and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a statement vowing revenge attacks against the Shia community. Members of the Islah Party, which has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, have also stepped up their involvement, setting up blockades on roads into Sa’dah Governorate to stop food and fuel from reaching Dammaj.
Amid reports that the French Government paid as much as US$27 million to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in order to secure the 29 October 2013 release of four French hostages, much media speculation has publicly criticised the French Government for paying off the terrorist group, despite the government’s repeated insistence that it did no such thing. Nonetheless, that message, no matter how many times French President Francois Holland doubles down on it, is clearly only intended for public consumption. The reality is that the French Government has regularly paid ransoms to free its citizens; a Nigerian Government document allegedly states that it also paid US$3.15 million to free seven French hostages in April 2013. That payment – nine times lower than the payment allegedly issued by France to AQIM – reportedly resulted in widespread anger amongst the British diplomatic community. In response, Prime Minister David Cameron was reportedly able to convince Hollande to sign a pledge at the June 2013 Group of Eight (G8) summit in Northern Ireland not to pay ransoms to terrorists. Nonetheless, opinions remain highly divided as to whether the UK and US method of dealing with terrorist kidnappings through their shared “no negotiations – no concessions” policy is more effective than engaging in negotiations, and occasional payments, with terrorists.
More in-depth coverage of incidents, including security forecasts, can be found in The Libya Daily and Monthly Reports. Email Cassie.Blombaum@Inkerman.com for more details.
Their name may be synonymous with terror – particularly the embassy-attacking kind – but that has not stopped the infamous Ansar al Sharia Brigade from trying to elicit support from the public. Indeed, despite being vilified by the international media, as well as the US, Libyan and Tunisian governments, the Brigade appears to be have unleashed a new marketing campaign, one that shows the ‘softer, cuddlier’ side of the hard-line Islamist organisation. Over the past few weeks Libyans have noticed that Ansar al Sharia, a group widely suspected of orchestrating the 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, has stepped up its “volunteering activities” by handing out food and other supplies in the days leading up to, and following, the Islamic holy day of Eid al Adha.
To make sure the public is aware of its good deeds, in early October 2013 Ansar al Sharia circulated videos via social media which showed its members delivering sheep, to be used for slaughter during Eid al Adha, to Cyrenaica’s underprivileged citizens. Not stopping there, images highlighting Ansar al Sharia’s recruitment efforts, which involved the extremist group offering free footballs to those who signed up for the organisation, were also recently published online. These tactics, however, are only the latest in a series of publicity stunts aimed at shoring up domestic support.
It was a decision that would bring him comparisons to the likes of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe; nonetheless, the choice appeared to satisfy Gambia’s own long-reigning leader, President Yahya Jammeh. On 02 October 2013, Jammeh suddenly announced his country’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth, declaring that the West African nation would “never be a member of any neo-colonial institution”. Then came accusations of a foreign coup conspiracy. Just six days after confirming The Gambian departure, President Jammeh released a statement via a state-owned television channel, in which he claimed that both the UK and US had launched “a vigorous smear campaign” against his leadership. For Jammeh, this campaign consisted of “outrageous lies and false allegations”, a game of dirty politics he believed were part of a grand design to remove him from office. What followed next was perhaps predictable. Both the US and UK denied the allegations, whilst the Gambian diaspora have since tried to call attention to the plight of their fellow citizens from abroad. Jammeh, meanwhile, has chosen to stand by his convictions that he is coming under fire from foreign interests which would like nothing more than to unseat an authoritative African leader in order to achieve their unspecified neoliberal agenda. The President’s defiance perhaps begs the question: what are his motives?
Whilst the nature of Jammeh’s personal ambitions may be impossible to confirm, the evidence suggests that the President could be trying to deflect domestic criticism in order to maintain his fledgling grip on power. Indeed, President Jammeh’s history of human rights abuses, combined with his questionable foreign policy, could be the real catalyst for his undoing – and not, as he claims, the conspiratorial goals of Western powers.