North Africa Theater
The government of Rwanda, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the African Union on Sept. 10 signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a transit mechanism for evacuating refugees out of Libya. According to a joint statement, around 4,700 people are currently being held in detention centers in Libya and urgently need to be transferred to safety. Under the agreement, refugees and asylum-seekers currently being held in Libya will be transferred to Rwanda on a "voluntary" basis. Evacuees will then either be resettled to third countries, be helped to return to countries where asylum had previously been granted, be returned to their home countries if it is safe to do so, or be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is calling for an independent investigation of the "outrageous" bombing of a migrant detention center at Tajoura, outside Libya's capital Tripoli July 2. The attack killed at least 44 migrants and refugees, including women and children, and injured more than 130. Guterres noted that the UN had given its exact coordinates to the warring parties in the ongoing Libyan conflict. This was also emphasized by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, which said in a statement: "Coordinates of such centres in Tripoli are well known to combatants, who also know those detained at Tajoura are civilians." UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said, with requisite caution: "This attack may, depending on the precise circumstances, amount to a war crime."
For the past two weeks, thousands of protesters across Algeria have defied attempts by the security forces to seize Amazigh (Berber) flags after army chief Ahmed Gaïd Salah declared that only the national flag would be permitted in the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations. Police used tasers against protesters in the capital Algiers June 30, and made numerous arrests. Among those arrested for wearing a t-shirt with the Amazigh national symbol was 25-year old Samira Messouci, an elected member of the People's Assembly (regional parliament) in Tizi Ouzou wilaya (province). The Assembly has issued a statement demanding his release. (El Watan, MENA Solidarity Network)
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)