North Africa Theater
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 "Libyan National Army" 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. (Libyan Express, Al Jazeera) Tellingly, the newly-formed Western Region coalition of anti-Hafter forces are calling their operation to defend the capital "Wadi [Ouadi] Doum 2." This is a reference to an airstrip built by Qaddafi in northern Chad to support local rebels, where Hafter was defeated and captured by Chadian government forces in 1987, in an operation backed by French support. (Libya Herald) Today, the tables have turned, and both France and Hafter oppose the rebels fighting the current Chadian government. Several hundred fighters from Chad's rebel Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD) were expelled from southern Libya by Hafter's LNA last month, and reportedly surrendered to the French-backed Chadian military. (Defense Post)
Algerians flooded into the streets in celebration April 2 as long-ruling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his resignation following weeks of protests in cities across the country. The ailing Bouteflika clearly stepped down to avoid being deposed by armed forces. Just 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 Steadfastness"—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 of the constitution"—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 UN report released March 21 described the ill-treatment of migrants and refugees in Libya, including rape and torture by smugglers, traffickers, Libyan officials and armed groups. UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour presented the report by the High Commissioner on Afghanistan and Libya. Gilmour said that evidence of systematic rape and torture of men, women and children in detention centers were the most harrowing accounts of human rights violations he has ever heard. 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.
Canadian opposition parties are crying foul after an investigation into the corruption scandal rocking the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was shut down this week by the parliamentary Justice Committee—dominated by Trudeau's ruling Liberals. His cabinet's justice minister, Judy Wilson-Reybould, has already stepped down over the affair, which concerns Quebec-based construction giant SNC-Lavalin's apparent attempts to secure leniency from the Trudeau government in various criminal investigations it faces. Buried in Trudeau's 2018 omnibus budget bill was a provision allowing corporations charged with certain offenses to avoid prosecution by entering into "remediation agreements." In place of convictions, fines and prison terms, companies and executives would merely be obliged to admit to wrongdoing, and return any funds involved. The amendment was adopted after an aggressive public-relations and lobbying campaign by SNC-Lavalin.
Following weeks of mass protests across Algeria, long-ruling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced March 11 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 Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia to be replaced by Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui, who has been tasked with forming a new administration. But protesters vow to keep up the pressure, demanding that Bouteflika cede power immediately, and, increasingly, that his entire government step down. 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. (Middle East Eye. North Africa Post, BBC News)
Tens of thousands of Algerians took to the streets March 1 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. The mass demonstration—dubbed the Million Man March—followed week-long protests in more than 30 cities against incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's reelection bid for a fifth term in office. On Feb. 26, the University of Algiers camus was locked down by riot police as hundreds of students Around 500 students shouted "No to a fifth term!" and "Bouteflika get out!" (BBC News, Al Jazeera, AhramOnline)
Migrants and refugees in Libya are facing severe human rights violations, according to a UN report (PDF) released Dec. 20. 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.
Libya's National Oil Company (NOC) declared force majeure at the country's largest oilfield Dec. 18, a week after announcing a contractual waiver on exports from the 315,000-bpd Sharara field following its seizure by protesters and militants. The Sharara facility was seized Dec. 8 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 (GNA). Oil production in Libya has been repeatedly paralyzed by unrest over the past years, and the NOC is still struggling to restore output to pre-2011 levels. (OilPrice, Reuters, Gulf Times, TeleSur, North Africa Post)