Libya’s weak UN-backed government is bracing for an offensive on Tripoli by the country’s strong eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, generally referred to as a “renegade general.” Haftar ordered his forces amassed on the outskirts to advance on Tripoli and “conquer” it whether by peaceful means or force. Militias loyal to the “official” government are scrambling to erect defenses. This comes weeks after hundreds of Chadian rebel fighters were expelled from southern Libya by Hafter’s forces, and reportedly surrendered to Chad’s French-backed military. Already backed by Russia, Haftar now appears to be making a bid for French support as the man who can bring stability to Libya.
Algerians flooded into the streets in celebration as long-ruling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his resignation following weeks of protests across the country. The ailing Bouteflika clearly stepped down to avoid being deposed by military. Hours before his announcement, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, commander of the National Popular Army, called for “immediate” application of Article 102 of the constitution, which calls for the removal of a president who is too incapacitated to serve. The resignation also came four days after some million protesters filled the streets of Algiers for a “Friday of the Seadfastness”—the sixth consecutive Friday of demonstrations calling for an end to Bouteflika’s rule. But a popular chant at the protests was “We want the implementation of Article 7″—which stipulates that “the people are the source of all power.” The movement is demanding an end to the entrenched military-dominated regime altogether.
A report by the UN High Commissioner on Libya described the ill-treatment of migrants and refugees in the North African country, including rape and torture by smugglers, traffickers, Libyan officials and armed groups. Migrants and refugees freed from detention in Libya testified about the extortion technique whereby the perpetrators force them to call their families, who will hear the screams until they pay a ransom. Migrants from Africa pass through Libya to reach European countries, who work with the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrant ships at sea. The report urged European Union member states to reconsider aid to the Libyan Coast Guard, and to end the restriction on migrant rescue operations by nonprofit organizations. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)
Canadian opposition parties are crying foul after an investigation into the corruption scandal rocking the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was shut down by a parliamentary committee dominated by his ruling Liberals. The affair concerns Quebec-based construction giant SNC-Lavalin’s apparent attempts to secure leniency from the Trudeau government in various criminal investigations it faces. Obstruction of justice charges were stayed earlier this year against Lavalin executive Sami Bebawi, on the ostensible basis that too much time had elapsed since the offense under investigation—which involved alleged bribes to the Moammar Qaddafi regime to secure construction contracts in Libya in 2011. The company is best known within Canada for controversial mega-projects under contruction from British Columbia to Labrador. (Photo: BC Hydro via Journal of Commerice)
Following weeks of mass protests across Algeria, long-ruling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he will not run for a fifth term—but also said elections that were set for April will be postponed, with no new date set for the polls. There has also been a government shake-up, with the prime minister stepping down. But protesters vow to keep the pressure, demanding that Bouteflika cede power immediately, and, increasingly, that his entire government resign. The protests are on a scale unprecedented since the 1990s when a military coup aborted a democratic process, precipitating a civil war. Algeria's army chief invoked this period in a stern warning to the protesters. "There are some parties who want Algeria to return to the era of extreme pain," Lt. Gen. Gaed Salah said. (Photo via Albawaba)
Tens of thousands of Algerians took to the streets to oppose plans by long-ruling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to seek a fifth term in office. Police fired tear-gas at protesters in Algiers, and more than 50 officers were reported injured, with at least 45 people arrested. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has meanwhile declared a national state of emergency in response to ongoing protests across the country. Last week he dismissed his entire government and sacked all state governors, replacing them with high officials of the security forces. But protesters have continued to take to the streets and clash with police, in defiance of the state of emergency. (Photo via Sudan Tribune)
Migrants and refugees in Libya are facing severe human rights violations, according to a UN report. The UN Support Mission in Libya and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights collaborated to generate the report, which is based on some 1,300 first-hand accounts, detailing human rights violations by state officials and armed groups, as well as abuses committed by smugglers and traffickers. The report finds that Libya “criminalizes irregular entry into, stay in or exit from the country with a penalty of imprisonment pending deportation, without any consideration of individual circumstances or protection needs.” This policy has resulted in arbitrary and abusive detention of migrants, with widespread forced labor, torture and sexual exploitation. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)
Libya's National Oil Company (NOC) declared force majeure at the country's largest oilfield, a week after announcing a contractual waiver on exports from the 315,000-bpd Sharara field following its seizure by armed militants. The Sharara facility was seized by a force of desert tribesmen under the banner or the Fezzan Anger Movement, which is demanding better living conditions for the remote and impoversihed southern region of the country. Sharara is located in the Fezzan region, which produces most of Libya's oil but lacks basic services such as electricity and hospitals. The Fezzan militants were actually joined by members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, demanding back wages be paid by the UN-backed Government of National Accord. Oil production in Libya has been repeatedly paralyzed by unrest, and the NOC is still struggling to restore output to pre-2011 levels. (Photo: Libya Observer)
The Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al-Qaeda’s branch in West Africa and the Sahel, claimed its forces were responsible for a suicide bombing in the northern Malian city of Gao. The suicide truck-bomb detonated in a residential area of Gao, killing three (not counting the attacker) and wounding another 30. The JNIM statement claimed the target was a base of “Crusader invaders” from the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. However, all of those killed were civilians and local Malians. Four of the wounded were foreign employees of the United Nation’s Mine Action Service, working to remove landmines in the area. A video later released by JNIM confirmed that the mine dismantling headquarters in Gao was the intended target. The video stated that “this operation demonstrates that the mujahideen are continuing upon their covenant, which they had made to their lord, until they achieve one of the two good ends, victory or martyrdom.” (Image via Long War Journal)
Armed street clashes have rocked Tripoli over the past week, as militias linked to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) have vied for control of the Libyan capital with rival militias that have launched an offensive on the city from the southeast. The most significant of these is the 7th Brigade from the town of Tarhuna, which has rejected a truce, vowing to continue fighting until it "cleanses Tripoli of militias." The city's electricity has intermittently gone out amid the fighting, and access to Facebook—the only news source for most Libyans—has been blocked, although it is unclear by whom. The GNA has declared a state of emergency in the city, and Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has formed a "crisis committee" to try to broker peace. But warlord Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi, who is loyal to Libya's unrecognized eastern government, anticipated the fall of Tripoli, saying that "liberating the Libyan capital is inevitable." (Photo: Libya Observer)
In Episode 16 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses how Berbers, Palestinians, Sahrawi Arabs and other subjugated peoples of the Middle East and North Africa are pitted against each other by the Great Game of nation-states. Berbers in North Africa and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories face identical issues of cultural erasure, yet the Arab states' support for the Palestinians and retaliatory Israeli support for the Berbers constitute an obstacle to solidarity. The Sahrawi Arabs meanwhile fight for their independence from Morocco in the occupied territory of Western Sahara. But the Arab-nationalist ideology of their leadership is rejected by the territory's Berbers—leading to Sahrawi-Berber ethnic tensions in Morocco. Yet there are also signs of hope. Arabs and Berbers were united in the 2011 "Arab Revolution" protests in Morocco, and greater Berber cultural rights were a part of the constitutional reform won by those protests. And the new protest wave in Morocco's Rif Mountains over the past year has again united Arab and Berber. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image of Berber flag via Kabylia Information Agency)
A Libyan appeals court sentenced 45 former pro-Qaddafi militiamen to death by firing squad for their involvement in murders that occurred during the 2011 uprising. The defendants were accused of opening fire on a crowd of demonstrators calling for the end of Moammar Qaddafi’s regime in the Abu Salim district of Tripoli. An additional 54 people were handed five-year prison sentences, and 22 of the militiamen were acquitted. The Abu Salim massacre was part of the wave of repression that tipped Libya into civil war in February 2011. (Photo: 2011 protests in Libya via WikiMedia Commons)