Even before North Africa’s recent political earthquake, Algeria’s vital energy sector was on the rocks. Despite substantial hydrocarbon reserves, the country’s production had steadily declined in recent years due to dwindling interest from foreign firms. A mix of industry instability, unfavorable revenue agreements and institutional corruption had made it difficult to justify the risks of operating in the country. Making matters worse, European demand for natural gas was declining with the financial crisis and U.S. purchases were wavering amid the North American shale boom. By the time political movements ousted long-standing leaders in neighboring Libya and Tunisia, putting pressure on the country’s leadership, Algeria was already fighting a dangerous narrative of industry decline. For a country so completely dependent on energy revenue and exports for every level of government spending, this wasn’t just bad news – it was destabilizing. While Algeria largely avoided the kind of violence and instability that forced leadership changes in Tripoli, Tunis and Cairo, their post-Arab Spring experience has not been without challenges. In addition to domestic pressure for labor and political reforms, mostly in the form of targeted protests, the country’s energy industry has faced pressure from outside its own borders. In January, militants from Mali crossed the border and targeted a BP and Statoil gas facility near the Libyan border. Touted as a response to Algeria’s support for European action against a Mali-based separatist movement in the north of the county, the raid and ensuing government response left scores dead, including dozens of foreign workers. Coupled with concerns about the country’s energy industry, including wide-spread corruption allegations at state firm Sonatrach, the raid chipped away at the confidence in Algeria’s already beleaguered energy sector. So, it would seem that recent news of a fresh agreement with the EU that, “establishes a framework for co-operation, which covers… oil and gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency, legal and regulatory reform, progressive energy markets, infrastructure development and technology transfer”, could not come at a better time. For Algeria, the new agreement means a vote of confidence from one of its largest customers, despite declining gas demand that is not expected to return for another two to three years. For Europe, it means a further step towards stabilizing a resource line from North Africa and meeting long-term goals of reducing dependence on less favorable resources, most notably Russia. Further, by casting Algerian reserves as “a priority area” for Europe’s strategic energy interests and security, it helps pave the way for EU infrastructure funding that has become increasingly elusive in recent months. Five years in the making, the new agreement is welcome news for both sides of the Mediterranean. Still, details of the new partnership remain vague and it is unclear whether EU support will mean more enthusiasm from European firms that have expressed concern about operating in Algerian in recent years. Six months on from the gas facility attack, both BP and Statoil have resisted sending foreign workers back to the project site. Earlier calls for policy reforms and …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Forbes Latest
At least one person was killed in ethnic clashes in Mali’s northern city of Kidal, officials said on Friday, complicating efforts to restore order ahead of the planned presidential election next week.
The fight broke out late Thursday between a Tuareg, the lighter-skinned ethnic group which is dominant in Kidal and whose members tried to declare independence last year, and a member of the Songhai ethnicity, a dark-skinned, sub-Saharan ethnic group whose members support the Malian state, said Mossa Ansari, a medical worker at the local health center. Ansari said that several people were injured, though only one came to seek treatment at the health clinic.
“A Tuareg hit a Songhai. The Songhai went to go get his friends. This is how the fight started,” said Ansari. “One Songhai was killed and at least one Tuareg was wounded. The body was brought to the center, and the wounded man came to get treatment. We have been told that there are several more wounded.”
French forces stationed in Kidal shot into the air to disperse the two groups, said an elected official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Kidal is the last city in Mali that remains largely outside government control. It was seized last year by Tuareg separatists who declared independence, and briefly raised the flag of their new nation — which they call Azawad — over the city. They were driven out by Islamic extremists who were in turn pushed out by a French-led military intervention this January.
Although the French succeeded in flushing out the Islamic radicals, who are linked to al-Qaida, they allowed the Tuaregs’ National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad to return to Kidal. For weeks leading up to a June accord, the NMLA blocked the return of Mali’s government officials to Kidal. It was only last week that the governor of Kidal was able to return to resume his function, after more than a year’s absence. Malian troops have also returned to the city, accompanied by United Nations peacekeepers, though the Tuareg rebels remain armed and at-large on the outskirts of the provincial capital.
Kidal’s participation in the upcoming July 28 presidential election is seen as crucial to ensuring the legitimacy of Mali’s next president, but so far only one of the 28 candidates in the race have deemed Kidal safe enough for a campaign stop.
The fight between the separatists …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara says Nigeria is withdrawing some of its 1,200 troops in Mali to fight an Islamic uprising back home.
The announcement comes 10 days before elections in Mali, which is fighting its own uprising by Islamic extremists.
The Nigerians were in a force of 12,600 African troops in Mali under a U.N. peacekeeping mandate preparing to take over from 4,500 French soldiers.
Ouattara told to reporters Thursday as chairman of a summit of West African nations in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
Nigerian military sources indicated most troops would be returning home. They spoke on condition of anonymity because formalities have not been completed with U.N. officials.
Troops fighting under a state of emergency in northeast Nigeria have complained that they have not been rotated for months.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
Nigeria plans to withdraw some of its troops from Mali because they are needed back home, where the country is battling a deadly Islamist insurgency, officials said Thursday.
It was not clear how many troops would be pulled from the troubled west African nation, where Nigeria currently has some 1,000 troops, a Nigerian military source said.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, current chair of the 15-nation West African bloc ECOWAS, told reporters the withdrawal was because Nigeria needed its soldiers back home.
“It’s because of the domestic situation,” Ouattara said after an ECOWAS summit in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
“I received a letter from the president. Nigeria needs some of its people. They are not withdrawing everyone. They are withdrawing part of the troops. A good part of the troops are going to be there.”
However, the military source said troops would pull out because the country felt “shabbily treated” under the new UN force in Mali.
A Nigerian commanded the previous African-led force in the country, but the UN mission is being headed by a Rwandan. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, has the biggest military in west Africa.
“Nigeria feels shabbily treated … when it became a UN outfit,” the military source said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.
“…A non-Nigerian was appointed as force commander while we are putting so much into the mission. So we think we can make better use of those people at home than to keep them where they are not appreciated.”
He added that “it is not all of them that will be withdrawn,” without providing specifics.
The UN mission integrates more than 6,000 west African soldiers into its ranks and is charged with ensuring security during and after July 28 elections in Mali.
It is to grow to 11,200 troops, plus 1,400 police, by the end of the year.
French forces intervened in Mali in January to push out Islamist rebels who had seized the north. The UN deployment has allowed France to start withdrawing most of its 4,500 troops.
Nigeria approved the deployment of 900 troops with the capacity to increase to 1,200 under the previous African-led force.
Nigeria’s military has been stretched thin back home.
Violence linked to an insurgency by Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, mainly in Nigeria’s north, has left some 3,600 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News