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 week’s sporadic violence in Benghazi has led international investors to examine whether to place their bets on Libya due to security fears. The truth, however, is that many foreign nationals had already withdrawn their personnel following Tripoli’s mid-November militia battles. The decision to remove foreign staff is attributed to the deeply unpredictable situation that has developed in Libya. To that end, The Inkerman Group has noted the emergence of a delicate militia ecosystem, where some 1700 brigades balance out the power of their rivals, and ultimately, the power of the central authority: the administration of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and the General National Congress (GNC). This system is borne out of forty-two years of the absolute central command led by deceased dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, who controlled the lives of millions of Libyans. After decades of tyrannical abuse, it is perhaps understandable that Libyans, particularly those Islamists who felt marginalised under Gaddafi, or moderates who fought against the regime in 2011, would be reluctant to step away from their comfort zones – the brigades – and hand over their weapons to the administration of PM Zeidan. Indeed, whether the Libyan leader is Zeidan or Gaddafi matters not. Centrally controlled rule is frightening for many Libyans – a sentiment perhaps most understood by residents in the East who have been calling for more autonomy.
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.
Often referred to as the Arab or MENA regional barometer, Egypt has again found itself at the centre of political, security and economic discourse following a sustained uptick in nationwide civil unrest, terrorist incidents, and the inevitable security crackdown which has followed since July 2013.
- Anti–government protests opposing the continued detention of senior Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members and the removal of the current interim government and its military backers, continue on a daily basis across Egypt. Protest actions are set to increase in scope and scale in the week ahead as now shunned political and social elements aim to agitate against the recently imposed power structure.
- The battle lines between the Morsi camp and the military and its political backers have been drawn it seems with little-to-no compromise between both sides for dialogue. The MB continues to respond to the most recent deaths by calling for yet more protests as part of a dual strategy to gain inclusion in the political process, whilst also not dissuading some of its more anarchic members from carrying out insurgent campaigns.
- This is the scene in which Egypt itself today, a public relations battle between two polar opposites; one battling for its existence, another battling to control Egypt’s future. Posed this way, then, should the series of significant terrorist actions carried out on 08 October 2013, be seen as a direct response to another crackdown on political protests, or be seen as the start of a growing Islamist insurgency closer to major city centres from the Sinai?
Assassinations are proving to be, yet again, among the most problematic security issues facing Libya. With at least sixteen incidents recorded in September 2013, alone, officials are struggling to come to terms with the fact that the fallout from the 2011 uprising may not be over. As can be expected, the overwhelming majority of these security setbacks take place in the East, with Benghazi often playing centre stage to targeted killings. Here, local news outlets regularly provide updates on “unidentified” armed men opening fire on seemingly unsuspecting ‘Gaddafi’-linked judges, as well as non-regime-aligned security officers, activists and journalists. Elsewhere in Libya, ‘anonymous’ individuals have also been reported planting explosive devices underneath the vehicles of anxious police officers, or targeting unwary local businessmen.
Even to the casual observer of Libyan affairs, assassinations pose a significant problem to the security of the Maghreb state. What is more difficult to assess, however, is whether the situation is becoming worse; and who, exactly, is responsible for these horrific attacks?