All posts by Houssem Tefiani

Houssem is a Msc Security Studies graduate from UCL. Currently he serves as a freelance political analyst for North Africa and the Sahel region, and specializes in security related issues and the evolution of Al-Qaeda affiliates in the region.

Come la corruzione minaccia le conquiste democratiche della Libia

Solo una riforma globale del settore petrolifero potrà dimostrare la concreta volontà di combattere la corruzione e le pratiche illecite in Libia. Così facendo non solo si promuoverebbe l’immagine di una ‘governance responsabile’, ma aumenterebbe anche la fiducia che i libici ripongono nelle nascenti istituzioni democratiche.

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Corruption

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap] fine marzo, il ministro della Giustizia libico Salah Margani ha invitato il procuratore generale a rilasciare il redattore Amara Abdalla Al-Khatabi, che era stato arrestato il 19 dicembre 2012 a seguito della pubblicazione di un elenco contenente i nomi di ottantaquattro giudici presumibilmente corrotti.

La corruzione in Libia non è né fenomeno nuovo, né è esclusivo del Paese stesso. Tuttavia, la Libia registra dati sconfortanti in confronto al resto del mondo. Secondo le stime della NATO, Gheddafi e i suoi soci nascondevano all’estero circa 150 miliardi dollari. Nel 2012, la Libia si è classificata al 160° posto tra i 176 paesi analizzati dall’autorevole Indice di Percezione della Corruzione realizzato da Transparency International. Nonostante sia stato registrato un miglioramento rispetto all’anno precedente (2011: 168/176), la Libia si classifica ancora come un Paese fortemente corrotto.

La piaga della corruzione è stata a lungo considerata uno dei maggiori problemi  per il nuovo regime. In qualità di leader del Consiglio Nazionale di Transizione (NTC), Mustapha Abdul Jalil ha dichiarato che la Libia ci avrebbe impiegato anni per superare il “pesante lascito” della corruzione. Eppure tali accuse non sono mancate nemmeno durante il turbolento governo del NTC.

Nel 2012 sono emersi due scandali che concernevano i fondi istituiti per risanare il bilancio dei combattenti rivoluzionari e le relative cure mediche all’estero. Entrambi i fondi sono stati bloccati poi a causa di uso improprio e frode. Commentando lo scandalo delle cure mediche, l’ex ministro della Sanità ad interim Fatima Hamroush ha giustificato tali atteggiamenti sostenendo: “La paura nei confronti del dittatore faceva sì che l’ordine venisse mantenuto anche senza una legge. La legge non veniva applicata ma vi era ordine. Ora non c’è ordine ed è tutto un caos poichè manca la paura. “

Gli scandali attirano l’attenzione su due questioni relative alla corruzione in Libia. Innanzitutto, essi pongono l’accento su quanto siano inette le autorità nel contrastare la corruzione. In secondo luogo, mettono in evidenza come prevalga la ‘cultura della corruzione’. Il capo dell’Audit Bureau libico Ibrahim Belkheir ha riconosciuto quanto il problema sia diffuso tra i libici: “ne sono così abituati che per loro non sembra nemmeno che si tratti di corruzione.”

Anche se va ricordato che il Paese sta attraversando un periodo turbolento, la questione della corruzione così come la volontà del governo (o la mancanza della stessa) di affrontare il problema rimangono in prima pagina. Il 18 gennaio 2013 Il primo ministro Ali Zeidan ha annunciato una serie di misure adottate dalla sua amministrazione volte a combattere questa piaga. Tra queste si annoverano una stretta collaborazione con l’Audit Bureau, l’istituzione di un comitato centrale per gli appalti che miri a garantire la trasparenza nell’aggiudicazione delle opere, il contributo dei servizi segreti nelle indagini e nuove misure per prevenire l’assunzione irregolare di dipendenti pubblici. Il presidente ha poi esortato il popolo libico a fare la propria parte e di segnalare chi viola la legge.

Il governo di Zeidan si dice impegnato a contrastare la corruzione, almeno in apparenza. Il 23 febbraio 2013 è giunto a sorpresa l’annuncio del Primo Ministro relativo al licenziamento di un certo numero di funzionari governativi presumibilmente coinvolti in episodi di corruzione. Nomi e dettagli devono ancora venir fuori ma Zeidan ha tenuto così a sottolineare: “non permetterò l’uso improprio di fondi pubblici e metterò in atto le misure più severe contro la corruzione”. Per via dell’assenza di altri dettagli o di azioni conseguenti, tale affermazione rimane circoscritta alla retorica populista. Malgrado si auspichi che venga interpretata come un monito rivolto a tutti i funzionari, compresi quelli sotto indagine, le parole di Zeidan ancora non si sono trasformate in fatti, come ha sottolineato di recente un informatore.

Sembra che il governo non sia in grado o non voglia affrontare il problema della presunta corruzione. Il vice ministro della Cultura e della Società Civile Awatif al-Tushani ha annunciato le sue dimissioni il 7 febbraio 2013 citando presunte irregolarità finanziarie e amministrative nel suo Ministero. L’ex ministra sostiene di aver sollevato la questione al Primo Ministro e che non sia stato fatto nulla in merito. Inoltre, stando a quanto si legge nei verbali, l’ex ministra è stata costretta a dimettersi  e la sua presa di posizione contro le pratiche illecite al Ministero l’ha resa oggetto di molestie.

Sarebbe necessario che il governo libico affrontasse la questione con un approccio più organico. Secondo il Global Witness (l’Osservatore Globale del gruppo Internazionale contro la corruzione, NdT) il nuovo governo dovrebbe imparare dalle pratiche del regime precedente e attuare le riforme nel settore del petrolio e del gas, per via della loro importanza strategica.

Il “Modello per le Riforme” (2012) del Global Witness ” dovrebbe fornire le linee guida sufficienti a prevenire la corruzione su vasta scala nella nuova Libia. Le loro raccomandazioni includono la promozione della trasparenza attraverso la pubblicazione di tutti i contratti petroliferi esistenti e futuri, la collaborazione con le organizzazioni internazionali di auditing per migliorare i conti e la revisione contabile pratica all’interno della National Oil Company (Azienda Petrolifera Nazionale, NdT), per fare in modo che i ricavi siano quantificati con precisione e comunicati. Inoltre, l’impegno reale per la trasparenza dovrebbe essere sancito dalla nuova Costituzione, e tutti i contratti presenti e futuri dovrebbero essere soggetti al controllo parlamentare.

Solo una riforma globale del settore petrolifero potrà dimostrare la concreta volontà di combattere la corruzione e le pratiche illecite in Libia. Così facendo non solo si promuoverebbe l’immagine di una ‘governance responsabile’, ma aumenterebbe anche la fiducia che i libici ripongono nelle nascenti istituzioni democratiche. Infine, si incentiverebbe anche un cambiamento della percezione così radicata della corruzione, sia a livello istituzionale che sociale.

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Articolo tradotto da Valentina Mecca

Articolo originale: Corruption Threatens Libya’s Democratic Gains

Corruption Threatens Libya’s Democratic Gains

Nothing could indicate a stronger commitment to fighting corruption and illegal practices than a comprehensive reform of Libya’s oil sector. Not only promoting an image of ‘responsible governance’, but improving the trust of Libyans in their nascent democratic institutions.

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This week, the Libyan Justice Minister Salah Margani urged the Attorney General to release the newspaper editor Amara Abdalla Al-Khatabi who had been arrested on the 19/12/2012 following the publication of a list containing the names of 84 allegedly corrupt judges.

Corruption is neither new phenomenon to Libya, nor unique to the country. However, comparing Libya to the rest of the world paints a grim picture. NATO estimated that Gaddafi and his associates had around $150 billion stashed abroad. In 2012, Libya ranked 160th amongst the 176 countries covered by Transparency International’s authoritative Corruption Perception Index. An improvement from the previous year (2011: 168/176), but still classifying Libya as a highly corrupt country.

The scourge of corruption has long been identified as a major problem by the new regime. As the leader of the National Transition Council (NTC), Mustapha Abdul Jalil had acknowledged in that it would take years to overcome the “heavy heritage’ of corruption in Libya. Yet, allegations of corruptions surfaced during the turbulent period of NTC rule.

Two scandals emerged in 2012, surrounding funds set up to compensate revolutionary fighters and their medical treatment abroad. Both funds were eventually halted due to widespread misuse and fraud.  Commenting on the  medical-fund scandal, former Interim Health Minister Fatima Hamroush clarified the prevailing attitudes succinctly when she said: “there was a fear from a dictator and that’s why order was kept without law basically. Law wasn’t applied, but there was order. Now there’s no order, everything’s a mess because there’s no fear”.

The scandals draw attention to two issues concerning corruption in Libya. Firstly, they point to the authorities’ ineptness in curtailing corruption. Secondly, they highlight the prevalence of a ‘culture of corruption’. The head of Libya’s Audit Bureau Ibrahim Belkheir acknowledged the widespread nature of the problem amongst Libyans:  As they are so used to it, it does not seem to be corruption to them.”

While it is worth noting that this was a turbulent time for the country, the issue of corruption and governmental will (or lack thereof) to tackle it remains in the headlines. On 18/01/2013 Prime Minister Ali Zeidan announced a number of measures taken by his administration to fight corruption. These included close cooperation with the Audit Bureau, the establishment of a central bidding committee to ensure transparency in contract awards, enlisting the help of the secret service in investigations, and new measures to prevent irregular recruitment of government employees. He also urged the Libyan people to play their part and to report those who violate the law.

Zeidan’s government appears committed to curbing corruption, at least on the surface. The Prime Minister’s 23/02/2013 surprise announcement about the sacking of a number of government officials allegedly involved in corruption. Details and names have yet to emerge, but Zeidan did stress that he “will not allow the misuse of public funds and I will take the strongest procedures against corruption”. Due to the lack of details or subsequent action, the statement should be seen as more than populist rhetoric. It should interpret as a warning addressed to all officials including those under investigations. Zeidan’s words have yet to turn to action as a recent whistle-blower case indicates.

The government seems unable or unwilling to address public accounts of alleged corruption. The deputy minister of Culture and Civil Society, Ms. Awatif al-Tushani, announced her resignation on 07/02/2013 citing alleged financial and administrative irregularities in the ministry. She claims to have raised such issues to the Prime Minister, but no action was taken. Furthermore, reports indicate that she was forced to resign and that her stand against dishonest practices at the ministry made her a target for personal harassment.

A more comprehensive approach needs to be taken by the Libyan Government. The International anti-corruption group Global Witness says that the new government should learn from the previous regime’s practices and implement reforms in Libya’s oil and gas sector. The strategic importance of the sector and the prevalence of shady practices in the industry make this the most important area for reform the new government.

Global Witness’ ‘blueprint for reforms’ (2012) should provide sufficient guidance to prevent large-scale corruption in the new Libya. Their recommendations include the promotion of transparency through the publication of all existing and future oil contracts, to work with international audit organisations to improve accounting and auditing practice within the National Oil Company so that revenues can be accurately measured and reported on. Furthermore, real commitment to transparency should be enshrined into Libya’s new constitution, and all current and future contracts should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

Nothing could indicate a stronger commitment to fighting corruption and illegal practices than a comprehensive reform in the oil sector. Such actions would not only promote an image of ‘responsible governance’, but would improve the trust of Libyans in their nascent democratic institutions. It would also facilitate a change in the entrenched attitudes about corruption at both the institutional and individual levels.

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Libia: due anni dopo Gheddafi

Il governo libico, come ogni stato sovrano, deve riconquistare il monopolio sull’esercizio legittimo della forza. La sicurezza deve essere la priorità su cui basare la crescita di ogni altro settore.

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Libyan protestor Gaddafi

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[dropcap]M[/dropcap]entre si avvicina il secondo anniversario della rivoluzione libica, la minaccia di nuove proteste ha spinto il governo di Tripoli ad annunciare un piano per la sicurezza di alcune città, tra cui la capitale. Sebbene nuove proteste armate appaiano poco probabili, la pressione popolare per il cambiamento è stata così virulenta da suscitare reazioni da parte del governo. Il Primo Ministro Ali Zaidan ha manifestato le proprie preoccupazioni sul rischio di una seconda rivoluzione,  ventilata da molti cittadini nei centri di Beni Ulid, Bengasi e Tripoli. Vari gruppi della società civile, inoltre, hanno annunciato proteste contro la lentezza delle riforme governative. A fronte delle tante sfide che si prospettano per il governo, il proliferare di tali voci critiche è indice del crescente malcontento che serpeggia tra il popolo.

Il governo sembra  incapace di affrontare le più elementari questioni di sicurezza: lo dimostrano incidenti di alto profilo – come  l’attacco al consolato statunitense, avvenuto lo scorso settembre  a Bengasi – o  l’insubordinazione delle milizie armate. In molte città,  numerosi miliziani continuano a girare a piacimento per le strade, pretendendo inoltre un trattamento di favore in virtù del servizio svolto durante la guerra.

Città strategiche come Bengasi – centro economico della nazione e baluardo della rivoluzione – sono soggette al malfunzionamento delle istituzioni, che determina uno stato di semi-anarchia. Un’ondata di violenza ha investito la città, scossa da  rapimenti, bombardamenti ed omicidi che hanno spesso colpito personalità del governo e della polizia. Il problema della sicurezza impedisce l’esercizio di servizi basilari, come ad esempio la raccolta urbana dei rifiuti. I miliziani, formalmente integrati nell’apparato di sicurezza nazionale, continuano a controllare punti chiave della città, risultando più numerosi e meglio armati delle forze di polizia locali. Ciononostante, gli arresti effettuati sono pochi, per timore di rappresaglie o rapimenti di poliziotti.

La città di Bengasi, che ha sempre diffidato del governo centrale, ha ripreso ad invocare il ritorno ad un sistema federalista. Tali richieste, che se attuate indebolirebbero ulteriormente il governo di Tripoli, potrebbero essere imitate dalle altre province.

La sicurezza non è un problema che riguarda solamente borghi isolati o città devastate come Bengasi: anche Tripoli ha subito una certa dose di violenza. Sono all’ordine del giorno, nella capitale, tentativi di omicidio nei confronti di membri del governo o di ufficiali di sicurezza. Inoltre,  il Congresso Generale Nazionale   è stato più volte preso d’assalto da miliziani e dimostranti; il 4 gennaio, si è tentato l’omicidio del suo presidente Mohamed Magarief.

Secondo molti esperti, la violenza della rivoluzione ha avuto un impatto significativo sulla stabilità della regione magrebina, facendo confluire armi e truppe dal conflitto libico verso il Mali. Nonostante la chiusura dei confini nazionali, la Libia è ancora una base importante per i militanti islamici attivi nella regione, per cui continua a costituire uno snodo importante. Proprio le insufficienti misure di sicurezza sui confini libici hanno agevolato l’assalto ad un impianto di gas nella vicina Algeria.

A quasi due anni dalla caduta di Gheddafi, il governo deve ricostruire una nazione devastata dalla guerra civile, e al tempo stesso fronteggiare le esigenze della sua popolazione. Solo maggiori sforzi sul fronte della sicurezza e delle riforme potranno scongiurare il rischio di rivolte popolari o di nuove ondate di violenza.

Per far questo, il governo libico, come ogni stato sovrano, deve riconquistare il monopolio sull’esercizio legittimo della forza. La sicurezza deve essere la priorità su cui basare la crescita di ogni altro settore.

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Articolo tradotto da: Antonella Di Marzio

Articolo originale: Libya, Two Years After Gaddafi

Photo Credit: شبكة برق | B.R.Q

Libya, Two Years After Gaddafi

A monopoly over the legitimate use of violence- the hallmark of a sovereign state- must be regained by the Libyan government. Security issues should be the priority, as they prevent every other sector of the society from progressing.

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Libyan protestor Gaddafi

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As the second anniversary of the Libyan revolution approaches, threats of protests from angry citizens have prompted the Libyan government to announce a plan to reinforce security and surveillance capabilities around Tripoli and other cities.

Though the odds of an armed uprising remain relatively small, renewed calls for change have found enough resonance amongst the population to incite a response from the government. Prime Minister Ali Zaidan’s announcement came as a response to calls for a ‘second revolution’ from citizens in Bani Walid, Benghazi and Tripoli. Additionally, various civil society groups aim to organize protests against the government’s slow progress on reforms. The rise of critical voices points to growing dissatisfaction amongst Libya’s citizens and the myriad of challenges the government faces.

Perhaps the biggest issue remains one of basic security. Armed militias continue to escape the control of the government and High profile incidents such as the September attack on the US consulate in Benghazi only highlight the government’s inability to cope and provide the basic provision of security within its borders.

Armed militiamen continue to roam freely the streets of many Libyan towns, often demanding special treatment because of their ‘services’ during the war.

Strategic cities such as Benghazi-Libya’s economic hub and the bastion of the revolution- provide a stark example of broken institutions and lawlessness. Benghazi has witnessed a rising tide of kidnappings, bombings and assassinations, often targeting government and security officials. The lack of basic security hampers the ability of local authorities to provide basic social provisions such as garbage collection. Though symbolically integrated within the national security apparatus, armed militias outman and outgun local police and continue to control key parts of the city. Arrests are seldom made out of fear of reprisal attacks and kidnappings.

The town has historically been wary of centralized control from Tripoli. The inability of the government to meet the expectations of its citizens has renewed calls for a return to a federalist arrangement. This would significantly weaken the government and could set a precedent for other regions to do the same.

Security problems are not exclusive to isolated hamlets or destroyed cities like Benghazi. Tripoli has had its fair share of violence. Assassination attempts on government and security officials are common occurrences. The General National Congress (GNC) has been stormed by protesters and militiamen on a number of occasions, and its president Mohamed Magarief survived an assassination attempt on 4 January 2013.

The violence during the revolution already had a serious impact on the stability of the region. Many experts point to the flow of weapons and fighters from the Libyan conflict towards Mali as a major cause in the security deterioration in the Sahel. Despite having closed all borders, the Libyan territory continues to be a transit hub and the home of Islamist militants active in the region. The attackers of a gas facility in neighboring Algeria are reported to have crossed from Libya and to have benefited from the inadequate security provisions on the border.

As Libyans prepare to mark two years of rule without Gaddafi, the government faces the immense task of rebuilding a nation after a civil war that destroyed vital infrastructure and addressing the aspirations of the Libyan people at the same time. Avoiding a popular backlash or renewed violence requires greater action on the security front and a rapid application of political reforms.

The monopoly over the legitimate use of violence- the hallmark of a sovereign state- must be regained by the government. Security problems should be the priority, as they prevent every other sector of the society from progressing.

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Photo Credit: شبكة برق | B.R.Q

After Mali: Tunisia’s Foreign Policy

The current Tunisian government has to move from a mere opposition party to a governing regime, a task that is now further complicated by domestic issues, regional instability, and the weakness of its security apparatus.

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When the French Air Force began bombarding jihadist positions in northern Mali, the Tunisian Foreign Ministry expressed its opposition to the move. However, a more supportive stance was voiced later by Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem. This change in attitude and reports of contradictory views from other members of the government prompt a deeper look at the current regime’s foreign policy agenda and the impact the current crisis in Mali is having on the ruling establishment.

Historically, Tunisia’s foreign policy foundations were set by the country’s first President Habib Bourguiba. After independence from France, Tunisia’s diplomacy gained international respect and credibility. Notable diplomatic achievements include the election of Mongi Slim as the first African to hold President of the UN’s General Assembly and the hosting of the Arab League’s headquarters up to 1991 in Tunisia. Under Bourguiba, the country’s moderate credentials were boosted by joining the non-aligned movement and the development of close ties with the West.

Under Ben Ali, the Bourgubist pro-western stance continued to dominate the country’s foreign policy agenda, and somewhat deepened following the country’s economic liberalization. The country’s economy grew at an average rate of nearly 5% over the last decade. The stability of the country was based on a bargain between an authoritarian government that ensured large segments of the population benefited from social and economic gains; however, this broke down because the Ben Ali regime’s strategy did not provide enough employment for young, educated segments of the population, Mohamed Bouazizi being the perfect example.

The new government faces revolution-related disruptions as well as the effects of the Libyan conflict. Though a minority, Salafists have proliferated after the revolution and are routinely clash with other political groups. The ruling Ennahda party has been accused of pandering to the Salafists and using them to intimidate society. Dissatisfaction with the new government has increased since Ben Ali was deposed two years ago. Regional disparities, and a lack of employment (the same issues that brought down Ben Ali) continue to fuel protest actions against the Government.

Under the current regime, Tunisia’s foreign policy has witnessed a rapprochement with GCC countries, notably Qatar. This partially explained by ideological affinities on both sides, as well as the current government’s need of attracting foreign investors. Moreover, the visit of President Marzouki to France to mend diplomatic relations (France was a staunch supporter of the Ben Ali regime and is Tunisia’s biggest economic partner) indicates the primacy of economic issues for the post-revolutionary government.

How does this fit in with the conflict in Mali?

Tunisia’s response appears to be building on in its traditional foreign policy of non-alignment and preference for political solutions. However, an intervention in Mali raises the specter of political instability within Tunisian borders on three levels.

Firstly, via domestic jihadists, who have proliferated in the post-revolutionary climate. Such groups, could carry attacks against Western interests in the country, or against the regime if it is seen to be cooperating with the enemy. Furthermore, such attacks would not be reassuring to any potential foreign investors.

Secondly, there is as the risk of the country becoming a ‘corridor’ for weapons and jihadists from Libya operating in the region. Armed groups have been active on the border with Algeria even prior to the intervention, but the conflict in Mali is likely increase Tunisia’s exposure despite its distance from Mali.

Finally, reports indicate a number of Tunisian jihadists are fighting in Mali, and as revealed by the recent attack in Algeria where 11 militants out of 30 were Tunisian. The presence of active Tunisian jihadist groups in the conflict could have a ‘blow-back’ effect on the country. The Algerian jihadists that fought in Afghanistan and their role in the turmoil of the 1990s provide a  good lesson. Additionally, the context of widespread dissatisfaction with the current ruling regime amplifies this risk. The government’s inability to deliver on its promises after two years in power could create a large pool of disenfranchised youths ripe for recruitment by the jihadists.

As many parties brought to power with the wave of the Arab spring, the current Tunisian government has to move from a mere opposition party to a governing regime, a task that is now further complicated by domestic issues, regional instability, and the weakness of its security apparatus. Not only does this renders its position vis-a-vis the intervention in Mali incomprehensible, it also highlights the importance of the tiny nation in the Maghreb’s current climate of instability.

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Photo credit: Keith Roper

Further reading: Tunisia: Signs of Domestic Radicalization Post-Revolution / Tunisia’s Economic Challenges

L’intervento francese in Mali: una trappola fuori controllo

Se vuole evitare di rimanere intrappolata nel suo Afghanistan, la Francia farebbe meglio a darsi obiettivi limitati. 

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[dropcap]L[/dropcap]a Francia si è inserita nel conflitto in corso in Mali a seguito di un’improvvisa azione ribelle nel sud del Paese. Senza che l’esercito maliano fosse capace di contrastarne l’offensiva, alcune città strategiche sono cadute nelle mani degli Islamisti: per questo motivo, le forze militari francesi si sono mobilitate nella speranza di arginare l’avanzata ribelle verso la capitale Bamako. L’esercito francese ha bombardato le roccaforti di Gao e Kidal, schierando inoltre le proprie truppe attorno alla capitale e alla provincia di Mopti.

Quello malese ha tutte le caratteristiche di un conflitto moderno, che vede opporsi, ad un governo debole, una rete transnazionale di gruppi armati non-statali. Ciò avviene in un’area, quella del Sahel, attraversata da confini porosi: sono i residui del passato coloniale francese, in pratica linee immaginarie tracciate nella sabbia.

Il Ministro degli Esteri francese Laurent Fabius ha definito l’azione francese una misura temporanea: un intervento   di poche settimane, in attesa delle truppe dell’ECOWAS, per arginare l’avanzata dei ribelli. Ma tali promesse saranno difficili da mantenere, poiché la durata del conflitto è fuori dal controllo della Francia, che potrebbe rimanervi invischiata a lungo se non si atterrà agli obiettivi chiari e limitati dell’ONU.

Il piano originale, per motivi logistici e di coordinamento, non prevedeva l’impiego di 3.300 forze locali fino al settembre 2013; un numero reputato comunque esiguo da alcuni ambienti militari. L’attacco preventivo degli Islamisti ha cercato di approfittare di tale inferiorità, per conquistare più territorio e quindi anche maggiore credibilità  al tavolo delle trattative. Il precipitare degli eventi ha smentito il presidente francese Hollande, che aveva assicurato di non voler impiegare soldati sul territorio. Inoltre, dopo l’abbattimento di un elicottero militare, le autorità francesi hanno dovuto riconoscere che le milizie ribelli fossero meglio equipaggiate di quanto si pensasse inizialmente. Il piano attuale ha dunque dovuto aggiornarsi, prevedendo addirittura l’impiego di 2.500 unità aggiuntive.

L’obiettivo di Le Drian, Ministro della Difesa francese, sarebbe quello di estirpare dalla regione ogni radice terroristica: secondo recenti ammissioni, ciò  protrarrebbe notevolmente la durata dell’intervento. In aggiunta, Vincent Desportes, generale francese in pensione, ha dichiarato che gli obiettivi attuali della Francia sono quelli di securizzare la capitale e i cittadini francesi; rinforzare la propria linea di azione presso Konna (700 km da Bamako); addestrare, per la riconquista del nord del Mali, truppe dagli stati africani di Niger, Burkina, Benin, Togo e Senegal [nelle relazioni internazionali,  la securizzazione è l’impiego di mezzi non ordinari in nome della difesa della sicurezza. Elaborata da  Barry BuzanOle Wæver e Jaap de Wilde, la teoria della securizzazione combina pensiero costruttivista e realismo politico. Ogni atto di securizzazione si compone di tre elementi principali: un agente securizzante, un obiettivo minacciato e un pubblico, sui cui ricade l’effetto dell’azione securizzante, da convincere della sua necessità. NdT].

Nel breve termine,  la Francia ha quasi portato a termine i primi due; in ogni caso, l’imminente “africanizzazione” del conflitto,  che vedrebbe schierare truppe maliane e dell’ECOWAS,  potrebbe subire complicazioni legate all’anticipazione rispetto ai piani iniziali. Ma tale urgenza è richiesta dalla probabilità di espansione del conflitto, che  allo stato attuale  ha già coinvolto due Paesi confinanti. Il 16 gennaio, l’Algeria ha subito un’azione di rappresaglia per la concessione del suo spazio aereo: un attacco ad un impianto di gas, senza precedenti nemmeno nei tumultuosi anni ‘90:

L’Algeria,  pur avvezza a combattere gruppi islamisti armati sul territorio nazionale, aveva sempre espresso riserve sull’opportunità di un intervento  in Mali. Ma molto probabilmente l’attacco nel cuore del Paese, con i suoi numerosi ostaggi, farà desistere l’Algeria dalla volontà di un dialogo politico con il principale gruppo islamico Ansar-Eddine. L’impianto attaccato nei pressi di In Amenas è più vicino alla Libia che al Mali: e se i confini politici hanno poco significato, il teatro del conflitto si prospetta molto più vasto.

La Francia, però, non dovrebbe aspettarsi molto dall’Algeria, potenza militare egemone nell’area del Sahel, ma quasi esclusivamente nei confronti di Stati sostanzialmente deboli  come il Mali. L’intervento diretto dell’Algeria costituirà, molto  probabilmente, un incentivo per i francesi; in ogni caso, al di fuori del territorio nazionale, le capacità dell’esercito algerino sono tutte da verificare, anche perché ci si aspetta che  le stesse saranno impiegate per la difesa dei relativi confini.

Pertanto, è altamente probabile che la Francia si areni in un lungo conflitto in cui si ritrovi coinvolta tutta la regione del Sahel. Nel peggiore dei casi, il Mali diventerebbe l’Afghanistan della Francia; in alternativa, per la nazione si prospetterebbe un insuccesso simile a quello degli Stati Uniti in Somalia. L’impiego di truppe dell’ECOWAS resta determinante, sebbene il suo apporto effettivo rimanga da verificare. Se vuole evitare di rimanere intrappolata nel suo Afghanistan, la Francia farebbe meglio a darsi obiettivi limitati.

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Articolo tradotto da: Antonella Di Marzio

Articolo originale: Avoiding The Entanglement Trap Lies Beyond French Control

Photo credit: fdecomite

The Algerian Response, Motives & Consequences

In the aftermath of the operation of In Amenas, a number of questions remain to be answered including what exactly happened at the gas facility and how a security breach of this scale was ever possible.

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The Algerian National Press Agency had released a preliminary assessment on January 19th stating that 23 had been killed, 32 terrorists neutralized. Nearly 800 hostages were freed including 107 foreigners. However, The Algerian Minster of Communication Mohamed Said, said on 20/01/2013 that these were provisional figures, and the numbers of those killed is likely to be higher (press conference by Prime Minister Sella: 37 foreigners dead).

The assault came as a surprise to most outsiders, including Washington, London and Paris. All claim not to have been consulted by the Algerian prior to the assault. Yet following the release of information about the scale and overall results of the operation, all have expressed greater support for counter-terrorism efforts in the region.

Many observers have deemed the Algerian response heavy-handed  or brutal. The Minister of Communications summed up Algeria’s policy with respect to negotiations quite clearly when he stated: “No negotiation, no blackmail and no respite against terrorism”. However, an overview of Algeria’s historical legacy, the current regional dynamics and factors specific to the crisis at In Amenas provide a better understanding of Algeria’s hard-line policy and actions.

The Algerian Army launched the assault on the gas installation south  east of the capital Algiers after a group of Jihadists calling themselves the ‘Signers in Blood’; took over the installation and captured over 600 hostages including a large number of foreigners. The operation lasted over three days and details are starting to slowly emerge.

Historically, Algeria’s ‘dark decade‘ continues to shape the country’s counter-terrorism policy. Throughout the 1990s, the country’s armed forces fought Islamist militants in a bloody war with casualties including a large number of civilians. During the crisis, the ruling military establishment – Algeria’s core centre of power – was divided into two camps: those in favour of dialogue and the ‘eradicators’. Despite a return to civil rule, it is the latter that continue to hold key posts in the country’s security apparatus.

After more than a decade of fighting, and a brokered political solution, the country managed to push what it labels ‘residual terrorism’ south of major population centres and into the Sahel region. It is around this time that the rules of the game changed for both the armed Islamist – now franchised Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – and for the government. In 2003 European tourists were taken hostage and released upon an alleged ransom payment. The same group went on to perpetrate the country’s first suicide attack in 2007. Thus, Algerian authorities see any negotiation or interjection from outside countries as not only a breach of sovereignty, but also a direct security risk stemming from better armed groups.

The assault should also be seen in the larger context of instability in the region and the implications of this for the Algerian ruling regime. Firstly, civil war in Libya brought instability and heightened the threat of Islamist armed militants on the country’s eastern flank, where Algeria’s oil and gas operations are most concentrated. Furthermore, instability in Northern Mali became an additional source of insecurity. The vast porous borders – imaginary lines in the sand – and the inherent weakness of bordering states in the region create an ideal operating environment for armed groups. This helps both explain Algeria’s push for a political solution in Mali as well as its harsh response at home.

The attack on the gas installation itself constitutes a first in the country’s history. These were largely untouched during the instability of the 1990s. The country’s economy is largely based on its oil and gas exports, which account for over 90% of all exports. The In Amenas installation itself accounts for 10% of Algeria’s gas production and nearly 20% of its exports, all in an economy dominated by the public sector. Thus the oil and gas exports are not only the backbone of the economy, but the pillar of political and social stability for the country. The militant attacked a core interest or as Dr. Geoff Porter put it: ‘the golden goose that keeps the regime’In this light, the Algerian overwhelming response should be regarded as clear message to both militants and outside powers.

In the aftermath of the operation of In Amenas, a number of questions remain to be answered including what exactly happened at the gas facility and how a security breach of this scale was ever possible. Early reports indicate the use of embedded operatives by the militants to gain strategic intelligence inside the plant and the whereabouts of foreign employees. One Algerian employee reported that the militant knew their way around and had even known about a planned strike.

How this will affect Algeria’s stance on the Mali conflict? Past behaviour and the current policy points towards a more ‘hunker-down bunker-up’ Algerian response. The Algerian government is maintaining its usual silence, but greater involvement cannot be ruled out. Reports show the Algerian Air force has been put on standby, and additional troops have been dispatched towards the Malian border.

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Photo credit: Magharebia

Avoiding The Entanglement Trap Lies Beyond French Control

France is better off sticking to limited objectives in the short term, or faces the prospects of its own Afghanistan.

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France has entered the Malian conflict this week following a surprise rebel offensive in the south of the country. The fall of strategic towns in rebel hands and the Malian Military’s inability to contain the assaults prompted the French to mobilize troops and aircraft to stem the rebel advancement towards the capital Bamako. France bombarded rear rebel positions in their stronghold of Gao & Kidal and deployed ground forces around the capital Bamako and the Mopti Province.

The situation bears the hallmarks of a modern conflict: a transnational network of non-state armed groups fighting a weak government in an area that stretches across an entire  Sahel region with porous borders that are essentially imaginary lines in the sand: a remnant of France’s colonial past.

Commenting on how long his country will take the lead in the campaign “It’s a matter of weeks” declared French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The government insists that its current presence on the frontline of the conflict is a temporary measure that aims to contain the rebel advance until African troops from ECOWAS are deployed. However, such promises will be hard to keep as factors deciding how the conflict plays out lay beyond the French army’s control.  A closer look at the actors, the dynamics of the conflicts, suggest that the French army could easily be lured into deeper involvement if clear and limited objectives that fall within the UN intervention mandate are not maintained.

Due to the logistics and coordination necessary, the original intervention plan did not foresee a deployment of 3,300   regional forces (a number deemed too low by some military quarter) until September 2013. The preemptive assault by Islamist was an attempt to capitalize on this since the capture of significant territory would provide considerable strategic leverage on both  the ground and at the negotiating table. As stated previously, this is what precipitated French involvement, refuting earlier assurances by the French President Francois Holland that there would be “no French boots on the ground”. Moreover, French authorities acknowledged that the militants have turned out to be better-armed and equipped than initially thought after a French combat helicopter was downed by the rebels.  Current plans anticipate a deployment an additional 2,500 troops.

French Defense minister Le Drian described his country’s action in broader terms such as the eradication of terrorism in the region and has recently acknowledged the likelihood of a lengthy campaign.  According to retired French General Vincent Desportes, France is currently pursuing three objectives: the securitization of French nationals and the capital, holding the frontline around Konna (700kms from Bamako), and training troops from Niger, Burkina, Bénin, Togo and Sénégal to recapture the north of Mali.

In the short term, France has for the most part fulfilled the first two; however, the ‘Africanization’ of the intervention through full deployment, coordination and training of Malian and ECOWAS forces in short period of time is a significant endeavor with numerous hurdles. At this point in time the Malian military remains weak, with the French military like to bear the brunt of the work. Furthermore, the deployment of ECOWAS troops likely to arrive this week is also expected to encounter complications due to the premature timing vis-à-vis the initial plans. The conflict has already spilled over into neighboring countries, including the regional power Algeria that suffered an attack on a gas installation on 16 January 2013.

Algeria, who possesses experience fighting armed Islamist groups within its borders, has always expressed reservation with respect to a military intervention in Mali. However, its advocacy for political dialogue with the main Islamist group Ansar-Eddine is likely to be reversed following an attack deep within its territory in retaliation for opening its airspace. The attack resulted in numerous hostages constitutes a first for the country. Such installations never suffered even during the troubled 1990s. The distance of the base relative to the Malian border (near In Amenas) is closer to Libya, again reinforcing the relative insignificance of political borders in the region, their porous nature and the potential vastness of the theater of operations.

France should not expect much from Algeria. Despite have the strongest capabilities in the region these remain relative to inherently weak states in the Sahel such as Mali. Though direct involvement beyond its borders would provide a boost in capabilities, these remain untested beyond Algeria’s borders, and are likely to be dedicated to reinforcing the securitization of its own borders.

The dangers of France finding itself entangled in a long conflict that stretches across the Sahel are real, and lie beyond its control. Worst case scenarios for France would be the being sucked into its own Afghanistan, or a debacle similar to the US involvement in Somalia. The effect and quality of deploying of ECOWAS troops is a determining factor but remains to be seen. France is better off sticking to limited objectives in the short term or faces the prospects of its own Afghanistan.

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Photo Credit: fdecomite