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PROJECTING POWER: THE SAUDI DESIGNS ON AFRICA

in AFRICA/MIDLE EAST/POLITICS by

Usually, when people talk about Saudi Arabia and its hegemonic policies, we tend to relate to the well-known rivalry between the monarchy and Iran, two capillary actors in the Middle East, who compete for the leadership in the region.

Recently, Riyadh has shown a deeper interest in other areas, such as the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa. The strategic importance of these areas is widely recognised: around 13% of the world’s global trade flows across the Red Sea, which is connected to the south to the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb, an 18-mile chokepoint that handles around 4.8 million barrels a day of crude oil and refined petroleum products directed to Europe, USA and Asia. To the north, there is the Suez Canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and allows 4 million barrels of oil and refined products to flow on a daily base.

Moreover, the Horn of Africa is rich in natural and human resources: hydropower and hydrocarbons have the same importance today as coal and steel in the industrialised Europe of the 1930s. The highlands of Ethiopia have a hydropower basin able to provide electricity to the entire region; oil and gas are also abundantly present in every country. However, infrastructure and investment are lacking, partly because of the instability and insecurity that dominate the region. Indeed, deep internal fractures and political instability plague several countries (including Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan), jihadist terrorism finds fertile ground for its expansion, Somali piracy threatens trade and security of the entire area and the war in Yemen worsens this already volatile scenario.

In recent years, the Saudi monarchy,  together with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has undertaken several projects in the area, to encourage regional cooperation and increase security conditions. If this general aim is true, it is also true that Riyadh has its own interest in intervening in this area. Recent events have, in fact, led King Salman to undertake new strategic paths. In the last period, we have seen Iran strengthening its position at the regional and global levels. Moreover, the killing of the journalist Khashoggi, the open criticisms of the US (with the exception of President Trump) and the accusations of the CIA against the Saudi sovereign have thrown a veil of uncertainty over the historic alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia.

Not to forget the latest decisions in Washington’s foreign policy, such as the withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) or the imminent withdrawal of troops from Syria that have floored its allies, especially in the region. Hence, if in past Saudi Arabia – and the other Middle Eastern countries – could count on the presence of the US Navy 5th Fleet in the Red Sea, today this guarantee would no longer be so granted.

These considerations and the desire to extend its influence in other territories, have pushed Saudi Arabia towards the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea, aiming to develop its own security doctrine. This new doctrine would include collaboration with different partners, such as the UAE and other nations of the MENA region.

Thus, Red Wave 1 took place, a series of military exercises carried out in the Red Sea, attended by numerous countries including Jordan, Egypt, Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen and Sudan, as well as Saudi Arabia. Thanks to the military assets provided by these nations, the exercise involved various naval units, as well as Typhoon-type fighter jets and units used for shooting air and naval targets.

The main objective of this project is certainly to improve the security of an artery of international trade, but also to strengthen the naval defence of neighbouring countries, protect regional waters, promote military cooperation and the exchange of expertise and know-how among the participants.  In addition, among the active projects along the Red Sea coast, there is a commercial area of $ 500 billion shared with Jordan and Egypt and the construction of luxury resorts, future tourist destinations.

Citing the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir “This is part of the Kingdom’s effort to protect its interests and those of its neighbours and … to establish the region that we live in and to try to create synergies between the various countries “. Furthermore, if cooperation between the countries of the region increases, the interference and negative influence by external actors may decrease.

In conclusion, from a Saudi perspective, interest in Africa has a triple rationale: to lay the foundations of a new national security strategy; to project its power and influence into vital strategic territories, thus increasing national prestige and its image as a leading player in the region; to limit the interference of third parties, especially Western players. Saudi Arabia will then act as an alternative to the big powers that usually dominate the world scene, gaining a leading position also at the international level.

 

Paola Fratantoni

 

Libya and US sign security cooperation deal

in AFRICA/DEFENCE by

The US and Libya’s Government of National Accord signed a security cooperation agreement, which includes a memorandum of intent for airport security and a letter of agreement to support Libyan policing, prisons and justice sector development. The agreement provide technical assistance in the field of criminal justice through training as well as the installation of a system to verify the authenticity of travel documents at airports and Libyan borders.

“Don’t send Nigerian refugees back to violence”, UN urges Cameroon

in AFRICA/POLITICS by

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged the Cameroonian authority not to send Nigerian refugees back to the Boko Haram violence they fled from. Despite warnings, Nigerian refugees and asylum-seekers who fled Boko Haram violence continue to be returned from Cameroon, underscoring the need to accord international protection to those in need. “We appeal once again to the authorities in Cameroon to refrain from further forced returns and to ensure protection to those fleeing insecurity and persecution in Nigeria […] This is in accordance with Cameroon’s national and international obligations,” UNHCR said.

Since the beginning of 2018, 385 Nigerians refugees and asylum-seekers had been forcibly returned from Cameroon, the majority of them in March. In total, the UN agency has registered some 87,600 Nigerian refugees in the country. UNHCR said: “The forced returns are in violation of the principle of no forced returns or non-refoulement.

 

CAR: outbreak of violence in Bangui

in AFRICA/Senza categoria by

BANGUI – At least 135 people have been injured in the worst outbreak of violence in years in the Central African Republic’s capital, aid agencies said on Friday, straining hospital trauma centres. At least 21 people died in clashes this week when United Nations peacekeepers and local security forces battled armed groups in Bangui’s PK5 neighbourhood – a Muslim enclave of the majority Christian city – over three days, a local official said. 

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it had treated 83 people since the weekend at a hospital and a health centre, while the Red Cross said 52 injured had arrived at another hospital.It is the worst violence seen in the capital since 2015, said MSF’s operational manager William Hennequin.”We are worried to see such level of violence and the impact it could have outside Bangui,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 

The head of U.N. peacekeeping said civilians killed were young people who had been “manipulated” and armed by criminal gangs to confront the peacekeepers and Central African Republic forces. 

Nigeria’s President Buhari will meet Trump in Washington

in AFRICA/POLITICS by

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria will meet Donald Trump in Washington on April 30 to discuss issues including “fighting terrorism” and economic growth, the White House announced Sunday. “President Trump looks forward to discussing ways to enhance our strategic partnership and advance our shared priorities: promoting economic growth and reforms, fighting terrorism and other threats to peace and security, and building on Nigeria’s role as a democratic leader in the region,” the White House said in a statement. Nigeria, West Africa’s largest economy, is among the countries combatting Islamist extremism with help from the United States. The nation is battling an array of security threats across its territory, from Boko Haram jihadists in the northeast to oil militants in the south.

Bria, at least 8 people taken hostage by some ex-Séléka

in AFRICA by

BRIA – In Bria, in the Prefecture of Haute-Kotto (east), eight members of a mission of awareness on peace and social cohesion would be held in hostage by an ex-Seleka group since April 11, in reaction to the disorders which have broken out in Bangui. 

The information gathered by RNL state that the sub-prefect of Yalinga, Edmond Sacko, and the two major responsible for Bria’s town hall would be among the victims of this abduction. Other sources state that there are also agents of the international ONG Oxfam working in the region among the hostages. 

When the mission was returning to Bria, 12 members have been abducted by a general ex-seleka and its group; of these, 4 would have been released on April 12. In Bangui, neither Minusca neither the authorities have still reacted to this abduction. 

CAR: attack in Bangui

in AFRICA by

BANGUI – The security situation was very confused in the night between Sunday 8 and Monday 9 April. Around 11:15 pm (local time), gunshot wounds were heard in the whole city. 

Soon there’ve been rumors among the citizens that that was an attempt of coup d’état against the residence of Faustin Archange Touadéra. Actually the headquarter of Egyptian and Jordanian peacekeepers (Campo Fidel) was attacked, which is found near the residence of the Head of the State.The attack lasted 30 minutes. The first hypothesis is that the assailants are the groups ex Seleka that responded to the operation Sukula, launched by Minusca in the PK5 on Sundays with the purpose to remove the groups of self-defence from the district, economic heart of the city. 

During this operation, three people have been killed and more than fifty wounds, among which a dozen of blue helmets. The Pk 5 is the neighborhood where the rebellion Seleka of Abdelaye Hissein started. The spokesman of Minusca, Vladimir Monteiro, was categorical: “the PK 5 will be cleaned up, the operation of Minusca will continue. The objective is to neutralize the gangs, these groups who call themselves vigilanteses but that are only criminals for us, people that live thanks to racket and extortion of money” 

Nigeria’s president Buhari visits London for a meeting with Theresa May

in AFRICA/ECONOMY by

President Muhammadu Buhari will leave Abuja on Monday for an official visit to Britain due to “hold discussions on Nigeria – British relations with Prime Minister Theresa May, prior to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings scheduled for April 18 to 20” the presidency said in a statement Sunday evening by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu. The president will also meet the Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Plc, Mr. Ben van Beurden in connection with Shell and other partners’ plan to invest $15 billion in Nigeria’s oil industry. These investment ventures will lay the foundation for the next 20 years production and domestic gas supply. Buhari will also meet the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, a good friend of the president, on inter-religious harmony in Nigeria.

Egypt: 16 natural gas projects worth $25 bn planned in Mediterranean

in AFRICA/ENERGY by

16 projects with a total investment estimated at over $25 billion are being planned to be implemented in the Mediterranean over the coming four years. Egypt continues to work on increasing Zohr gas production. Furthermore, the second stage of the West Nile Delta fields will start production at the end of the year. According to the minister of Petroleum and Mineral resources, al-Mulla, Egypt will achieve self-sufficiency in gas production by the end of 2018 and will stop importing liquefied gas.

Kaduna: new infrastructure master plan 2018-2050

in AFRICA by

The Kaduna State Government says it will require up to 65.5 billion dollars to address the state’s infrastructure challenges over the next 30 years. Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i stated this on Wednesday at the unveiling of the infrastructure master plan, 2018-2050, during the 3rd edition of the state investment forum in Kaduna. He stressed that the long term infrastructure master plan summarised the infrastructure target of the state aimed at providing job opportunities and making lives better for the people. 

The transportation sector which would require N8 trillion while N5.1 billion would be required annually in the education sector to build about 9,006 schools including tertiary institutions. “Other sectors include, the health system which would require N158 billion, while N100 billion yearly is targeted for the water sector; agriculture would require N53 billion, and 5,000 housing units would be developed annually all within the time frame of 2018-2050,’’ the governor said. 

According to him, the administration had attracted investments into the state in the last two years, with 79 percent coming from outside the country. “Due to the low percentage of domestic investment, we have decided to focus more on domestic investment, we need to attract businesses in Kaduna by providing skilled workforce […] to encourage domestic investment in the state, government’s first priority is to build human capital by engaging in different activities where the young people are willing to be employed in businesses.’’ 

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