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Tuesday, 2nd March 2021
10:52:26pm

North Africa

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The speaker of Libya’s eastern-based parliament has announced that the chamber will hold a special session on March 8 to discuss holding a vote of confidence on a new unity government.

Aguila Saleh, speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk, said in a statement late on Friday the meeting in the central city of Sirte will take place if a joint military commission is able to guarantee the safety of participants.

The commission consists of five senior military officers from the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and five from its rival, the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.

The North African country, a major oil producer, has been mired in conflict since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. The sometimes chaotic war has drawn in several outside powers and a flood of foreign arms and mercenaries.

Since 2015, Libya has been divided between the GNA and the HoR in Tobruk, allied to Haftar.

The two sides agreed to a permanent ceasefire in October after Haftar’s failed bid to wrest control of the capital from the GNA. 

“Parliament will convene to discuss a vote of confidence on the government on Monday, March 8, at 11am in Sirte if the 5+5 Joint Military Commission guarantees the security of the meeting,” Saleh said.

“If that provides impossible, the session will be held in the temporary seat of parliament in Tobruk at the same date and time,” he added.

It was unclear whether the vote itself would take place on March 8 or whether the meeting would be limited to talks.

But General Ahmad Abu Shahma, the head of the GNA’s military committee and member of the joint military commission, said in a statement on Saturday that the Tripoli-based administration’s forces would not be able to secure Sirte for the event.

“Sirte is still under the control of foreign forces and mercenaries. There is no presence of any legitimate forces to secure the city,” Abu Shahma said. 

“It is up to the members of parliament to select the convenient place in coordination with the relevant security authorities.” 

Meanwhile, interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah said earlier this week he had submitted to Saleh a “vision” for a cabinet lineup that would help steer Libya to elections in December, and that the names of proposed ministers would be disclosed in parliament during the confidence vote.

Parliament has 21 days to vote on the lineup, according to a UN road map.

Dbeibah was selected early this month in a UN-sponsored inter-Libyan dialogue, the latest internationally backed bid to salvage the country from a decade of conflict and fragmented political fiefdoms.

Saleh said on Friday Dbeibah should choose “competent people with integrity, from across the country, in order to achieve [national] consensus” for his government.

“Everyone should be represented so that [Libya] can emerge from the tunnel,” Saleh said.

If approved, a new cabinet would replace the Tripoli-based GNA, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, and the parallel administration in the east. 

The prime minister will then face the giant task of unifying Libya’s proliferating institutions and leading the transition up to the December 24 polls.

-Aljazeera

Egypt received 300,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in the early hours of Tuesday, the health ministry said in a statement.
The new batch from China was the second shipment of the Sinopharm vaccine to Egypt. The country received its first 50,000-dose shipment in December.
The North African country also got 50,000 doses of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca earlier in February as part of its program to vaccinate health workers.
Egypt began vaccinating frontline medical staff against COVID-19 on Jan. 24 using the Chinese vaccine.
Egypt will open an online registration process next week for other groups eligible for vaccination, such as the elderly and patients with chronic diseases, Mostafa Ghoneima, a health minister assistant, said.
Vaccination of these groups will start with the arrival of more shipments of vaccines, he said at the Cairo airport upon the arrival of the latest shipment of Sinopharm vaccines.
As of Monday, Egypt had confirmed 178,774 coronavirus cases, including 10,404 deaths, since the start of the pandemic more than 10 months ago.
However, health officials say the real number is likely far higher because of the relatively low rate of coronavirus testing and the exclusion of private test results.

 
-Arab News

Egypt is interested in hosting the next round of UN climate talks scheduled for 2022, a country official has told Climate Home News. 

Under the UN system of regional rotation, it is the turn of an African nation to host the Cop27 climate summit, which is expected to take place in November 2022, a year after Cop26 in Glasgow, UK.

Egypt has not yet made a formal application to UN Climate Change and other African countries could put themselves forward to host the talks. The African Group of Negotiators is expected to hold consultations to determine which candidate the group should formally support.

A decision on who will host the future climate summit is expected to be taken by countries during the Cop26 conference.

The Egyptian government’s interest in hosting Cop27 could be raised with UK Cop26 president designate Alok Sharma, who is visiting the country this week.

Egypt is a member of the Adaptation Action Coalition launched by UK prime minister Boris Johnson last month and also sits on the Energy Transition Council, which was co-created by the UK last year to support emerging economies in the transition to clean energy.

Cop26 has been billed as the largest diplomatic event the UK has ever hosted. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the UK was expecting over 30,000 delegates to attend the summit in Glasgow.

With ongoing high levels of Covid-19 infections in many parts of the world, the Cop26 summit is unlikely to be run like previous conferences. UN and UK officials are planning for a number of scenarios, with a hybrid format of in-person negotiations and online events a likely outcome, one UN Climate Change official told Climate Home.

As the world is learning to live with the risk of Covid-19 infections, the African host to the next talks may need to accommodate a range of options for the conference, from a large physical event to supporting virtual meetings.

Egypt is one of a few African nations able to cope with both eventualities, one African diplomat told Climate Home.

“There will not be too many African countries able to host the Cop as we used to know it,” and a large virtual conference “will demand a very sophisticated telecommunication network” which few countries have, they said.

The Egyptian government has previously shown an interest in hosting world leaders in highly publicised events. In 2015, president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi organised a lavish ceremony attended by heads of states to inaugurate an $8bn expansion of the Suez canal.

On Sunday, Egyptian health minister Hala Zayed announced the government would offer the coronavirus vaccine for a fee and the jabs will remain free for healthcare workers and government aid recipients. The move has led a lawyer to file a lawsuit against the prime minister and health minister, arguing the decision is unfair on poorer Egyptians.

-Climate Home News

Tunisian police took Ahmed Gam from the shop where he worked, accused him of looting during recent protests, and beat him so badly during his detention last month that he lost a testicle, he said.

Lying in bed in his parents’ home in Bennane, near the coastal city of Monastir, Gam, 21, could not stand without help and cried as he described police beating and burning his genitals.

His account was supported, in part, by a hospital report viewed by Reuters.

Tunisia is widely seen as the sole relative success story of the 2011 “Arab spring” revolts for its democratic advances. It holds regular elections and has a press that criticises the state.

But Gam’s case is one of at least 100 in which, a Tunisian and international rights group says, security forces recently used violent abuse after people engaged in protest and dissent, freedoms won during the revolution 10 years ago.

The protests, which began on Jan. 15, the day after the 10th anniversary of the revolution, have increasingly focused on abusive tactics by police.

The Interior Ministry, which has oversight of the police, said it would not comment on ongoing cases, including Gam’s, when asked by Reuters. But it denounced allegations against police as “attacks aimed to undermine the credibility of its structures” and said it sought a balance between upholding rights and enforcing the law.

“Some individual mistakes happen but ... we have maintained self restraint despite provocations,” said Jamel Jarboui, spokesman for the national syndicate of security forces, a police union.

A judge in Monastir is investigating Gam’s complaint of torture. The family gave the judge the report from Sahloul Hospital in Sousse describing Gam’s admission on Jan. 30 with “testicular trauma” and a decision to remove the testicle.

The document, viewed by Reuters, is stamped by both the hospital and the Monastir Court of First Instance and dated Feb. 4. An official at the hospital, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed Gam was hospitalised on Jan. 30 and his testicle removed.

The judge could not be reached for comment but the state news agency TAP cited a court spokeswoman as saying he had opened an investigation for torture which caused the loss of an organ after seeing the doctor’s document and hearing from the plaintiff.

The judge has asked three people to appear before him on Monday in connection with the case, TAP reported.

The recent unrest, which began on the day after the 10th anniversary of the revolution, started as clashes at night between police and youths in poor city districts before spreading to daylight protests.

 
While the protests initially targeted inequality, they later focused more on anger at police abuses, with demonstrators last week shouting: “police everywhere, justice nowhere”.

TORTURE

Gam denies having taken part in the protests as well as the accusations of looting. He said police seized him on Jan. 27 while he was at work and started hitting him in the face as soon as they put him in their vehicle.

They took him to a detention centre in Monastir, tied his feet to the legs of a table “like a chicken” and then beat him in the groin with sticks, he said.

“I told them I would die,” he said.

They then removed his clothes. “One of them took a lighter and put it to each testicle,” he said. The policeman stopped when a colleague told him to, Gam said.

A group of seven police continued to torture him for more than an hour, he said. He was then held for two days without medical treatment.

To end the assault, he said he told police he “stole everything”, a confession he told Reuters was untrue.

After two days police took him to hospital in the nearby city of Sousse, his testicle swollen and blackened. Doctors then removed it, he said.

After his operation he was returned to custody and still faces prosecution for looting. However, the judge ordered his release while under investigation because of his medical condition, he said.

Apart from viewing the medical records, Reuters was not able to independently corroborate his account.

ANGER

Monther Charni, head of the Tunisia Organisation Against Torture, said he knew of more than 100 cases of ill treatment in detention. Abuses also included beatings, rape threats, stripping detainees naked and fabricating charges, he said.

Amnesty International North Africa director Amna Guellali also said the organisation had documented eight cases and believed police abuses during the recent unrest to be widespread.

Mohammed Hdaya from Kasserine told Reuters by phone that police accused him of incitement against the security forces in Facebook posts in support of the protests. They arrested him, beat him, removed his clothes and photographed him, Hdaya said. He denies incitement and said the judge rejected the charges but police continued to harass him.

“Is this a country of law?” he said.

Hamza Nassri Jeridi, a prominent activist and blogger, told Reuters he was detained on Jan. 17 after being accused of taking part in an illegal protest. He was held for three days in a crowded and dirty cell with no mattress or blanket.

Water was only available from a dirty tap in the cell. Food was served during the day but because he was taken to court each morning and returned at night he was not fed for three days, he said.

As with the case of Gam, the Interior ministry said it would not comment on ongoing cases. Reuters was unable to independently corroborate Jeridi and Hdaya’s accounts.

-Reuters

Egypt is reviewing a final agreement with Germany’s Siemens AG to develop a 360 billion Egyptian pound ($23 billion), 1,000-km high-speed electric railway network, Egypt’s presidency said on Wednesday.

Work would start immediately on an initial 460-km section running from Ain Sokhna on the Red Sea to New Alamein on the Mediterranean coast, passing through a new capital under construction in the desert east of Cairo, according to a statement on the Facebook page of the presidency spokesman. 

The initial section would include 15 stations and be completed in two years, said the statement, published after a meeting between President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Siemens President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Kaeser.

It was not clear from the statement if the two sides had yet signed the agreement. 

Siemens built three 4.8 gigawatt electricity plants in Egypt beginning in 2015 at a total cost of $7 billion. Each of the three gas-powered plants was billed at the time as the biggest in the world.

-Reuters

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