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Thursday, 2nd December 2021
9:25:03pm

North Africa

Articles related to North Africa

Many people in Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of Tunisia's 2011 revolution that launched the Arab Spring, see President Kais Saied's power grab as a necessary evil.

But there are also fears that last month's dismissal of parliament, sacking of the prime minister and Saied's assumption of sweeping powers may bring Tunisia one step closer to another dictatorship.

It was in this large town of central Tunisia on December 17, 2010 that Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit and vegetable salesman angered by police harassment, set himself ablaze.

 

His suicide sparked an unprecedented uprising that left some 300 people dead and toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

But more than a decade later, hopes for a better future have given way to anger and disappointment over the North African country's politicians' failure to improve living standards.

The chants of "Dignity!" and "Work!" that filled the air during the revolution have again sounded at recent demonstrations.

Ahmed Ouni is 36, unemployed and not at all happy with his lot.

"These last 11 years have been worse than 23 years under Ben Ali! Parliament and the government smothered us in poverty, so good riddance to them!" he said.

"Because the Tunisians chose Saied, he has their endorsement to lead the country and do what has to be done. We have confidence in him," Ouni told AFP.

- 'Go for it' -

Sidi Bouzid's infrastructure has improved and more businesses have opened, but some people still feel marginalised and look to Saied to make their lives better.

"Go for it," said Ouni. "The people are with you."

Saied, a retired professor and specialist in constitutional law, was elected president in 2019.

On July 25, the president invoked the constitution as he granted himself full powers, having suspended parliament for an initial 30 days.

On August 23, he announced that these measures would continue indefinitely.

"This is necessary surgery to stop the bleeding," said Abdelhalim Hamdi, a 47-year-old construction worker with a degree in history who has also organised protests in Sidi Bouzid.

"The politicians in power have stolen our dreams and ambitions," he said, adding that he backed abolishing the constitution because it was "drafted to serve narrow interests".

Many believe that suspending or repealing the constitution -- hailed internationally on its adoption in 2014 -- is inevitable.

"It's a necessary evil to save the country, even if it will probably lead to an authoritarian regime," said Sami Abdeli, 38.

He was speaking in central Sidi Bouzid, close to the sculpture of Mohamed Bouazizi's vegetable cart on which is marked the word "Freedom".

Residents of the town are normally quick to engage in conversation about politics, but many appeared reticent to comment on Saied's actions.

"We can see that self-censorship is back," said Mounira Bouazizi, blogger and coordinator at the Sidi Bouzid office of the International Observatory for Media and Human Rights.

- Anti-corruption purge -

"People no longer want to express themselves freely and say what they really think."

She said that on social networks Saied's supporters "use violent speech and do not accept any criticism of the president".

Yossra Abdouni, a 25-year-old engineering student, voiced caution.

"The idea that one person has all the executive power scares me," she said. Saied "is vague about his intentions -- he hasn't presented any programme".

"Even if the economic and social situation has become worse and the political class is fragmented, at least we had freedom and democracy," she added.

President Saied's move last month was condemned by Ennahdha, the Islamist party that is the largest in parliament, as a coup.

Since then, parliamentarians, magistrates and businessmen have been targeted with travel bans and house arrest in an anti-corruption purge that has raised fears of a decline in freedoms.

"Saied is moving towards an individualist and dictatorial regime. He hears only his own voice," said Rabeh Zaafouri, who heads the Tunisian Human Rights League office in Sidi Bouzid.

"So far he has taken only populist and chaotic decisions which threaten the democratic process and are an obstacle to political life."

Zaafouri said Tunisians would "never allow a return" to the conditions of before the 2011 revolution.

-Africa News/AFP

Egypt has told Hamas that it will close its Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip from Monday, a Hamas spokesman said.

“We were informed by the Egyptian authorities that the Rafah crossing will be closed tomorrow, Monday, in both directions,” Iyad al-Bozom, a spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Gaza interior ministry, said in a statement Sunday evening.

Security sources in Egypt confirmed the move to AFP, saying the crossing would be closed until further notice, without offering details or saying why. 

The Reuters news agency quoted Egyptian security sources as saying the closure was for “security reasons.”

The move appeared to be an expression of anger from Cairo after the Hamas terror group held violent protests on the border with Israel, during which an Israeli soldier was shot and critically wounded. Forty-one Palestinians were injured in the clashes.

Egypt has been trying to broker an extended ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and the weekend violence was seen as a setback in the efforts.

 -Times of Israel

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Ethiopia seeks to impose "a fait accompli" on Egypt and Sudan, two downstream Nile basin countries, by attempting to continue filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) built on their shared Nile River.

Egypt voiced its opposition to Ethiopia's determination to carry out the second phase of filling the GERD later this year because of "the threat it poses to the interests of the Egyptian and Sudanese peoples and the impact of such unilateral measures on security and stability in the region," said Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez in a statement.

The statement came in response to the remarks made on Wednesday by the Ethiopian ministers of water and foreign affairs that Ethiopia would implement the second filling of the GERD in the coming rainy season starting July as scheduled.

Ethiopia, an upstream country, carried out the first phase of filling the dam in July 2020 despite the concerns of Egypt and Sudan, which have repeatedly called for a prior tripartite legally binding agreement on the rule of filling and operating the controversial dam.

"International rivers are a joint property of the riparian states, and it is impermissible to extend sovereignty over them or seek to monopolize them," Hafez said.

Ethiopia started building the GERD in 2011, while Egypt is concerned that the dam might affect its 55.5-billion-cubic-meter annual share of the Nile water. Sudan has recently been raising similar concerns over the 4-billion-U.S.-dollar dam.

Over the past few years, tripartite talks on the rules of filling and operating the GERD have been fruitless, including those first sponsored by Washington and then by the African Union.

Egypt and Sudan propose forming an international quartet to be led by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), currently chairing the African Union, to help achieve a tripartite agreement over the GERD in the coming few months.

"Egypt and Sudan have stressed the importance of an active involvement of the international community in negotiations, led and run by the DRC, through an international quartet that includes the United States, the European Union and the United Nations," the Egyptian spokesman said in the statement.

-Xinhua

Israeli and Egyptian officials held talks in both countries Sunday aimed at bolstering the Cairo-brokered ceasefire that ended the latest deadly flare-up of violence between the Jewish state and Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel in Jerusalem to discuss "strengthening cooperation" between their countries, Netanyahu's office said.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi tasked Kamel and his delegation, who were also to visit the occupied Palestinian Territories, with hammering out a permanent ceasefire deal, senior Egyptian security officials told AFP.

On the same day, Israel's Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi made the first official visit by an Israeli top diplomat to neighbouring Egypt in 13 years, for talks with his counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

Ashkenazi tweeted on his arrival that they would "discuss establishing a permanent ceasefire with Hamas, a mechanism for providing humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Gaza with a pivotal role played by the international community".

The Egyptian foreign ministry tweeted that the ministers' talks were "part of Egypt's relentless and continued efforts to revive the peace track and to build on the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip".

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was also expected in Cairo for talks, senior Egyptian security officials said, without providing further details.

Egypt played a pivotal role in negotiating the May 21 ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that brought an end to 11 days of deadly fighting.

Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, health officials said.

Rockets and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, medics said.

-News24

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

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