Category Archives: Africa

Ebola Outbreaks in Senegal and Nigeria Contained

Posted on in Africa, Ebola, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, West Africa title_rule

While the deadliest Ebola epidemic ever has now killed 2,793 people in West Africa, World Health Organisation (WHO) officials disclosed Monday that outbreaks in Senegal and Nigeria have been basically contained.  A statement released by the UN health agency also published the results of the latest meeting of its Ebola emergency committee.

According to new figures released by the WHO, as of 18 September a total of 5,762 people have been infected with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in five Western countries.  Guinea, where the outbreak initially began at the art of this year, along with neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone currently account for the most cases and continue to see their numbers rise.  Liberia has especially been the hardest hit, with 3,022 cases and 1,578 deaths.

The WHO did note however “the outbreaks in Senegal and Nigeria are pretty much contained.” According to officials, Senegal has not reported any new cases of the deadly virus since it registered its first and only case on August 29 – a Guinean student who has since recovered.  Meanwhile Nigeria, where twenty-one people have been infected, eight of whom have died, has not reported any new cases since September 8.  While no reports of new cases in Senegal and Nigeria does signify that both countries are slowly recovering, the WHO has not yet deemed them transmission free as the incubation period for Ebola is 21 days and double this time must pass without any new cases arising before a country can be deemed transmission free.

In a statement released Monday, the WHO also indicated that during a meeting of its Ebola emergency committee last week, officials had determined that the outbreak remains to be a “public health emergency of international concern.”  The WHO has disclosed that the committee reiterated its opposition to general bans on international travel or trade, noting that people infected with Ebola, or those who had come into contact with Ebola patients, should not be permitted to travel.  The committee also warned that blocking flights to or from affected areas and other travel restrictions only served to “isolate affected countries, resulting in detrimental economic consequences, and hinder relief and response efforts risking further international spread.”  The emergency committee did stress that in cases where measures like quarantines are deemed necessary, countries must ensure that “they are proportionate and evidence-based, and that accurate information, essential services and commodities, including food and water are provided to the affected populations,” insisting that “adequate security measures” should be put in place in order to ensure the safety and protection of heath workers, who face high infection rates and sometimes violence from frustrated and frightened populations.  Last week, eight members of an Ebola education team, said to include local health officials and journalists, were found dead after they were attacked by angry locals in southern.  This is the first such incident where health workers combatting EVD were killed.

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2014 Ebola Outbreak – Security Review for Travellers and Companies in West Africa

Posted on in Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, West Africa title_rule


The current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is the most severe in terms of the number of human cases and fatalities since the virus was discovered in 1976. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. On 25 August, the Democratic Republic of Congo confirmed two Ebola deaths however officials believe the cases are unrelated to the outbreak in West Africa.

On 8 August 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) formally designated the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. This designation invokes legal measures pertaining to disease prevention, surveillance, control and response.

The WHO has announced that the current Ebola outbreak is likely to continue for another six months before it is completely contained.

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

Genus Ebolavirus is a virological taxon that is included in the Filoviridae family (filovirus), order Mononegavirales. Genus Ebola virus comprises of five distinct species in which four of these cause the EVD in humans: Bundibugyo ebolavirus (BDBV); Ebola virus, formerly known as Zaire virus (EBOV); Reston ebolavirus (RESTV); Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV); Taï Forest ebolavirus (TAFV).

The five known virus species are named for the region where they were originally identified. Although Bundibugyo, Reston, Zaire, and Sudan ebolavirus have been associated with the large Ebola virus outbreaks in Africa, Zaire ebolavirus is the virus with the highest mortality rate of the ebolaviruses and is responsible for the largest number of outbreaks of the five known members of the genus, including both the first documented outbreak in 1976 and the outbreak with the most deaths (2014).


EVD is a severe acute viral illness that is often characterized by the sudden onset of fever (greater than 38.6°C/101.5°F), intense weakness, muscle pain, severe headache, abdominal pain, lack of appetite and sore throat. This is then followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired liver and kidney function, and in some severe cases, both internal and external bleeding. The incubation period, which is the time interval between infection with the virus to the onset of symptoms, is 2 to 21 days however symptoms commonly appear between 8 – 10 days.

The virus is believed to originate in fruit bats, which carry and spread the virus without being affected. EVD is believed to occur after the ebolavirus is transmitted to an initial human by contact with an infected animal’s body fluids. Human-to-human transmission occurs via direct contact with bodily fluids, including blood, faeces and sweat. Transmission can also occur by touching an infected deceased person during embalming, or by contact with contaminated medical equipment, particularly needles and syringes. Spreading of the virus through air has not been documented. People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus.

Laboratory tests must be carried out in order to confirm an Ebola virus diagnosis as the virus displays similar symptoms to malaria, typhoid fever, shigellosis, cholera, leptospirosis, plague, rickettsiosis, relapsing fever, meningitis, hepatitis and other viral haemorrhagic fevers. Samples taken from possibly infected patients pose an extreme biohazard risk; therefore testing should be conducted under maximum biological containment conditions.


No specific treatment for EVD is available and the disease has a high risk of death, killing between 50% and 90% of those infected with the virus. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. ZMapp is an experimental biopharmaceutical drug that is currently under development as a treatment for EVD. It has been given to several patients infected with the virus however it is not widely available. 

2014 West Africa Ebola Virus Outbreak

Unlike previous Ebola outbreaks, which have occurred in isolated areas, the current West Africa epidemic erupted in places where there is more traffic, trade and freedom of movement, effectively making it easier for the disease to spread. Myths about the Ebola outbreak have also made combatting the disease more difficult.


Guinea was the first nation to report cases of Ebola in the current outbreak. Researchers believe that the first Ebola case emerged in late 2013 however it was not reported, nor confirmed, to international authorities until March 2014. This lag period effectively enabled measures to not be enacted and resulted in the outbreak spreading throughout the country and then into Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Land borders with Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone have been closed. Health screenings at all border crossings have been set up and all travellers displaying a fever, or EVD-like symptoms, will be subject to quarantine and/or denied entry, or exit, from the country. Expect to experience delays at land border crossings. Enhanced screening measures have been introduced for outbound passengers at Conakry airport.

Hospital response and isolation/treatment centres:

  • Conakry: MSF is running the ETU in Donka Hospital
  • Gueckedou: MSF treatment centre in Guinee forestiere
  • Macenta: The WHO and MOH have set up a transit centre. Confirmed EVD patients are transferred to Conakry or Gueckedou for treatment.
  • Telimele: The MSF treatment centre in Basse-Guinee was closed in July after no new cases were reported for twenty-one days.

Due to the Ebola outbreak, general medical facilities throughout the country are currently under strain and are unable to provide the same standard of healthcare as in Western countries. Dedicated healthcare facilities for Ebola are also under pressure.


Liberia has experienced two Ebola outbreaks in 2014. The first was reported in late March in Foya district, Lofa county. The virus later spread to Monrovia and Margibi and by early April, cases were reported in Nimba and Bong counties. Although in mid-April, suspected or confirmed cases were reported in six counties: Bong, Grand Cape, Moount, Lofa, Margibi, Montserrado and Nimba, by mid-May there were no reports of new suspected or confirmed cases. The country at this time was on track to declare the outbreak over. Although 42 days passed with no new cases reported, at the beginning of June, suspected cases were again reported in Lofa county. This effectively launched a second outbreak of the deadly virus, with cases being reported in Foya and Monrovia.

The Liberian government has declared a state of emergency and since 20 August, security forces are enforcing a nationwide curfew. Between 9PM and 6AM every night no movement is allowed anywhere in the entire country. Liberian authorities have set up road blocks in a bid to restrict movement around the country while security forces have been deployed in order to enforce quarantine for certain areas, including Lofa county. In Monrovia, the army and police have sealed off the neighbourhood of West Point with the area being placed under quarantine. There have been a number of outbreaks of violence, with civilians rioting at hospitals and attacking health workers.

All borders of Liberia have been closed, with the exception of major entry points, including the Roberts International Airport and James Spriggs Payne Airport. The Bo Waterside Crossing to Sierra Leone remains closed along with the Foya Crossing to Guinea. Any remaining border crossings may be closed with minimal notice. The Liberia Airport Authority has introduced enhanced screening measures for both inbound and outbound travellers at airport facilities.

Hospital response and isolation/treatment centres:

  • Foya, Lofa County: Borma Hospital Ebola Treatment unit is being run by MSF.   It has a capacity of 40 beds, with expansion to 80 beds currently underway. A mid-level isolation unit has been established in Telewowan Hospital, Voinjama. It is also managed by MSF. The centre will expand to 40 beds however no estimated date for completion has been set.
  • Monrovia: ELWA Hospital Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) is run by MSF. The new 120-bed facility was opened on 17 August. There are plans to expend it to 300 beds by 2 September. The facility in JFK hospital is functioning as a full ETU.
  • Montserrado: West Point holding unit has been established.
  • Nimba: Renovation of the holding facilities at G.W. Harley and Ganta Hospitals is underway as of 20 August.
  • Bong: As of 22 August, a new ETU is being constructed however it has not been determined how the clinic services will be run.
  • Bomi: Bomi county Health Team (CHT) opened three, two-room, quarantine units with a 12-bed capacity.

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has established hotlines for the public to get basic information on Ebola: Call 0770198517 or 0777549805 or 0886530260 or 0886549805.

General medical facilities throughout the country are currently under severe strain as a result of the Ebola outbreak. Dedicated healthcare facilities for Ebola are overwhelmed and may not accept further cases.


Nigeria’s first Ebola case was an imported one. In July a Liberian man, Patrick Sawyer, flew from Monrovia, Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria, via Lome, Togo, despite displaying Ebola-like symptoms. He arrived in Nigeria on 20 July and died five days later while in quarantine. In response to his death, which was later confirmed to have been the result of Ebola, the Nigerian government placed all of those who had contact with the man under observation.  All confirmed Ebola cases have been linked to Mr Sawyer. On 28 August, Nigerian authorities confirmed that a doctor has died from Ebola in the south-eastern city of Port Harcourt. This is the first case of the deadly virus to be reported outside of Lagos.

On 8 August 2014 Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a national state of emergency. Since then, the Nigerian government has introduced measures for passengers departing from and arriving at all airports.

Hospital response and isolation/treatment centres:

  • Lagos:   Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, has an isolation facility for Ebola cases.
  • Delta State: Seven hospitals have been identified to be isolation centres for Ebola Cases. These include Warri Central Hospital; Ughelli Central Hospital; Sapele Central hospital; Agbor Central Hospital; Oleh Central Hospital; Eku Baptist Government Hospital and Delta State University Teach Hospital Oghara.
  • Niger State: A quarantine centre is being established in Minna, with containment centres being established in the three Senatorial districts.

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone’s first Ebola case occurred in late May, in Kailahun district near the border of Guinea. The deadly virus later spread to Port Loko district and then to Kenema, Kono and the Western Area. Kenema and Kailahun have been the most affected areas. Ebola affects twelve out of thirteen districts in Sierra Leone however the epicentres of the deadly disease are in the Eastern Province, near the borders with Guinea and Liberia.

On 30 July, President Koroma declared a state of public emergency, which is expected to last between 60 – 90 days. This measure effectively enables the military to enforce quarantine zones, restrict public movements and limit public gatherings. There is currently a nationwide ban on public gatherings. Increased restrictions on movement of people and vehicles have been placedin the districts of Kailahun and Kenema. All land borders with Guinea and Liberia have been closed. Health screenings have been introduced at all border crossings and all travellers displaying a fever or EVD-like symptoms will be subject to quarantine and/or denied entry, or exit, from the country. Over the weekend of 25 – 27 July, reports emerged that demonstrations and local disturbances had occurred in Kenema and Freetown and were related to the Ebola outbreak. Further such demonstrations cannot be ruled out at this time.

Hospital response and isolation/treatment centres:

  • Kenema: The isolation facility in Kenema Government Hospital is to be relocated outside the township of Kenema, a few miles from Hanga. All new cases will be treated at the centre in Kailahun until the new facility is open. The Red Cross is establishing a new facility, with officials reporting on 22 August that it is expected to be functional soon.
  • Kailahun: There is an 80-bed facility that is operated by MSF. The villages of Koindu and Buedu have referral units, where patients displaying symptoms of Ebola are isolated and evaluated for the disease. If it is determined that they have Ebola, they are then transferred to the isolation facility.
  • Freetown: An isolation unit has been established at Connaught Hospital.
  • Bo: MSF is constructing a 35-bed isolation centre that is expected to be functional by 28 August. A transit centre in Gondama is run by MSF.
  • Western Area: A holding facility is being established in Lakka and a facility is being constructed in Kerry Town. Monrovia: ELWA Hospital ETU is run by MSF. The new 120-bed facility was opened on 17 August. There are plans to expand it to 300 beds by 2 September

Democratic Republic of Congo

Authorities in the DRC have confirmed two deaths related to the Ebola virus. Officials have disclosed that two of eight samples from the northwest Equateur province have come back positive for the deadly disease, with officials believing that Ebola has killed 13 people in the region, including five health workers. An epidemic has been declared in the region of Djera, in the territory of Boende in the province of Equateur. Officials however believe that the infections are of a different strain to those in the outbreak in West Africa.   One of the two cases tested positive for the Sudanese strain of the disease, while the other tested positive for a mixture between the Sudanese and the Zaire strain. The outbreak in West Africa is due to the Zaire strain.

 Ebola Myths and Impact on Outbreak

A number of myths that have materialized over the past few months have greatly impacted the spread of the current outbreak. In turn, a lack of understanding about what causes Ebola and how it is passed on has effectively resulted in the region developing into a fertile ground for speculation and mistaken beliefs.

Officials at the WHO have confirmed that the already difficult conditions are made more difficult by public misunderstanding caused by “rumours on social media claiming that certain products or practices can prevent or cure Ebola Virus Disease.” In Nigeria, at least two people died as a result of drinking salt water after stories circulated that doing so would protect against the deadly disease. Other supposed cures for the virus include raw onions, coffee, condensed milk and holy water. Some civilians have opted to hide infected family members at home, or prefer to take them to local doctors instead of to an Ebola treatment centre. Health officials in Sierra Leone disclosed in August that the Ebola outbreak spread from Guinea after an herbalist in the remote eastern border village of Sokoma claimed to have powers to heal the deadly virus. Officials have confirmed that the virus spread in Sierra Leone after cases from Guinea crossed over the border, seeking treatment.

Fears over the deadly virus have also sparked riots and attacks on health workers. As the Ebola outbreak continues, such attacks may spark similar reactions to those carried out against polio workers.

At the start of the outbreak, a team from MSF had to stop working at an isolation ward in Guinea after local residents mistakenly believed that they had brought the virus with them. Groups of health workers from MSF, the Red Cross and from the ministry of health have been pelted with rocks as they attempted to reach Ebola-hit areas. In Liberia, a number of Ebola patients escaped a healthcare facility after it was attacked by rioters.

Due to the region’s recent history of bloody civil war, some believe that the army’s deployment to control the affected areas is a sign that the government is deliberately infecting people in a bid to have an excuse to enforce martial law.

Economic Impact

While the Ebola epidemic has been an urgent health crisis, it has also had a devastating impact on the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Due to travel restrictions, and a growing fear of human contact, markets and shops throughout Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been forced to close, leading to the loss of income for producers and traders. The Ebola crisis has also resulted in many people moving away from the affected areas, which in turn has disturbed agricultural activities.  Road blocks and quarantines manned by police and military have prevented the movement of farmers and labourers as well as the supply of goods, resulting in the cost of farm produce doubling in a matter of weeks. Officials at the UN are now warning of a looming food crisis in eastern Sierra Leone because of the acute shortage in farm labour.

Tourism within the affected countries and regionally has also been directly impacted. Despite WHO officials advising against suspending flights to the affected region, several airlines have temporarily suspended flights to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone while a number of airlines have opted to suspend flights to regional countries where no Ebola cases have been reported. In early August, Korean Airlines chose to suspend flights to and from Kenya in a measure aimed at preventing the spread of the Ebola virus. The closure of borders and the suspension of flights have had a detrimental effect on trade as the move has severely limited the ability of countries to export and import goods. A number of foreign companies have chosen to withdraw non-essential personnel.  Some mining companies in the region have imposed travel restrictions on their workers, deferred new investments and cut back their operations.

The Ebola epidemic has had a severe impact on the three West African nations, especially Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are still in the process of emerging from civil wars and are attempting to rebuild their economies.

Forecasts of economic growth in the region have been reduced as the outbreak has strained the finances of a number of governments. An initial World Bank-IMF assessment for Guinea projected a full percentage point fall in GDP growth from 4.5 percent to 3.5 percent. While Liberia’s economy had initially been expected to grow by 5.9% this year, the country’s Finance Minister has disclosed that this was no longer realistic as the Ebola crisis has slowed down the transport and service sectors and has resulted in the departure of a number of foreign workers. Sierra Leone’s Agriculture Minister has also disclosed that the country’s economy has deflated by 30% because of the Ebola outbreak, noting that the agricultural sector was the most impacted as 66% of the country’s population are farmers.  On 26 August, the African Development Bank disclosed that the worst-ever Ebola epidemic could cut the economic output of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast by between 1 percent and 1.5 percent of gross economic product.

 Advice for Companies/Employees in Affected Regions

MS Risk currently advises all to reconsider their need to travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. This is due to the current Ebola outbreak, the challenges in containing it, the limited emergency care options that are available and the increasing travel restrictions, which have significantly reduced the freedom of movement throughout the region. MS Risk advises all those in the affected countries to consider leaving while limited commercial flights continue to operate.

MS Risk advises all travellers and those working in the affected countries to closely monitor the advice provided by local health officials and the WHO. MS Risk advises all to maintain strict standards of hygiene, including following strict hand washing routines; avoiding contact with symptomatic patients and their bodily fluids; avoiding contact with corpses and/or bodily fluids from deceased patients; avoiding contact with any objects that may have been contaminated with bodily fluids. Travellers should also avoid close contact with live or dead animals and should not eat or handle raw or undercooked animal products, such as blood and meat. Travellers should avoid consumption of bush meat. All companies should be aware of the symptoms of Ebola and should brief all workers. Whenever possible, companies should implement screenings for workers, especially in highly affected areas. These include enforcement of regular hand washing routines and the measuring of temperature. If an employee develops symptoms, he/she must be quarantined immediately and a healthcare provider must be contacted.

A number of airlines have changed or suspended flights to West Africa as a result of the Ebola outbreak. These include:

  • Arik Air and Gambia Bird – Suspended services to Liberia and Sierra Leone
  • Asky Airlines – Suspended flights to and from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
  • Air France – Suspension of flights to Freetown, Sierra Leone beginning 28 August.
  • British Airways – Suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone until the end of this year.
  • Ceiba Intercontinental – Suspended flights to West African countries
  • Emirates Airlines – Suspended flights to Guinea
  • Kenyan Airways – Temporarily suspended flights from Liberia and Sierra Leone into Nairobi
  • Korean Airlines – Suspended flights to and from Kenya
  • Royal Air Maroc and Brussels Airlines are still operating however on modified routes and schedules
  • Delta continues to operate as normal however the airline is due to cease flying to Monrovia, Liberia at the end of August.



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Libya Update: 28 August, 2014

Posted on in Africa, Egypt, Libya title_rule

On 24 August, a group called Fajr Libya (translation: Dawn of Libya) an Islamist militia group from Misrata, announced the capture of Tripoli International Airport after over a month of fighting. The airport’s capture effectively gives them control of the nation’s capital.

Since the 2011 fall of Libyan dictator Moamar Gadhafi, Tripoli and its airport had been under the control of the government-allied liberal Zintan militia, one of the largest and most disciplined militia groups in Libya. The capture of the region served as a huge blow to the Zintan militia and the government. Fajr Libya has also announced their control of cities adjacent to Tripoli, adding that they have pushed Zintan nearly 60 miles out from the capital.  The weeks of fighting in Tripoli have seen the worst violence in the country since 2011, destroying large parts of the airport and causing chaos in the city. Many diplomats, NGOs, foreign nationals and Libyan citizens have evacuated the country.

Early on 24 August, fighters from Fajr Libya also attacked the Tripoli-based studios of private television station Al-Assima, which supports the Zintan nationalists. The militiamen destroyed station equipment and kidnapped some of the staff, according to Al-Assima.

Government Turmoil

Fajr Libya’s capture of Tripoli International Airport effectively gave the group control of the seat of the nation, which has serious implications for Libya’s faltering government. The group has refused to recognize the transitional Libyan government that was elected in June. Rather, Fajr Libya has called on the outgoing government, the Islamist dominated General National Congress (GNC) to resume operations. The militant group summoned the GNC to meet in Tripoli.

This action essentially created two rival and hostile centres of government power, both of whom consider the other to be illegitimate. Mohamed Bouyassir, a senior adviser to the Libyan army, said there could be “two parliaments and two governments.” The western government would be dominated by Islamists, including members the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a militia group that has been designated as a terrorist organization by the US and was sanctioned by the UN. Supporters of the GNC government  have been accused of “rejecting the democratic process,” calling the GNC “remnants of the post Gadhafi leadership who were refusing to surrender their hold on power.” One official adds that under the GNC, state funds were diverted to Syria and Iraq, and that “the whereabouts of huge amounts of money were not known to anyone apart from them.”

In the East, the government would be controlled by the House of Representatives (HoR), which was elected in June to replace the GNC, reportedly to put an end to political dominance by factions linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. The House of Representatives has fled to Tobruk in eastern Libya to conduct government operations; among the first orders of business was their declaration of Fajr Libya as a terrorist organization. The HoR is relying on support from ‘rogue’ General Khalifa Hiftar’s and his Libyan National Army (LNA) to combat the militants in the region. On 24 August, the Tobruk government issued a statement calling the LNA “the official army of the state.” The statement represents a huge shift; the GNC had accused Hiftar’s group of attempting to stage a coup. The LNA has focused primarily on combating militias in Benghazi; however they claim to have launched a series of airstrikes against Fajr Libya fighters. The LNA is reportedly increasing their capabilities in hopes of restoring national security.

Adding to the friction, on 25 August, the GNC appointed a new prime minister over Libya. The group elected Islamist-backed Omar al-Hassi as prime minister, a parliamentary spokesman and lecturer in political science at the University of Benghazi. Hassi has been charged with forming a “salvation government”. Local television stations reported that 94 politicians attended the meeting, a sufficient number for quorum.

Mysterious airstrikes, Egyptian proposal

Further complicating matters, airstrikes by unidentified warplanes have struck the positions of Islamist militias in Tripoli, killing 13 fighters. The Fajr Libya militia accused Cairo and United Arab Emirates of being behind the airstrikes. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has vehemently denied those claims, adding, “There are no Egyptian aircraft or forces in Libya, and no Egyptian aircraft participated in military action inside Libya.” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri echoed Sisi’s denials, calling the accusations “unsubstantiated rumours,” and adding that Egypt “respects Libya’s popular will and elected parliament.” Emirati officials have not commented.

Despite the denials, Western officials believe that the airstrikes were conducted in a joint Egypt-UAE effort. In a joint statement, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy cautioned, “outside interference in Libya exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition.” Though the statement did not directly accuse any country of the airstrikes, one anonymous official said that Washington was aware of the plans for an Egyptian-Emirati operation and warned the countries against following through. The US said they had no prior notification of the attacks, nor do they believe it was conducted with authorisation from the Libyan government.

Meanwhile on 25 August, a day after the accusation of airstrikes against Tripoli, the Egyptian government presented a proposal to disarm rival militias in Libya. The proposal was backed in a Cairo-based ministerial meeting with leaders from Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Niger and Chad. All attendees agreed to back Libya’s “legitimate institutions, especially the parliament”, including in the rebuilding of the country’s military and police.

In a press conference after the meeting, Shoukri said, “The initiative reached a number of governing principles, the most important of which is respecting Libya’s unity and sovereignty, rejecting any intervention in its domestic affairs, abiding by a comprehensive dialogue, renouncing violence, and supporting the political process.”

The Egyptian proposal, which will be submitted to the United Nations and the Arab League, provides a framework for Libyan militias and armed factions to gradually lay down their arms. It adds that foreign parties should refrain from exporting and supplying the “illegitimate factions” with weapons, and foreign intervention “should be avoided.”

Libyan lawmakers, for their part, have voted to ask the United Nations to intervene in the ongoing militia battles. Libyan Ambassador to Egypt, Faid Jibril said, “Libya is unable to protect its institutions, its airports and natural resources, especially the oilfields.” Leaders in Libya have also added that they do not necessarily require military intervention; Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz called on assistance in training Libyan troops in order to prepare the Libyan army to combat the armed elements. Further, they seek international assistance in preventing the violence from spreading to other nations.

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MENA Update: 17 June 17, 2014

Posted on in Africa, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, MENA, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen title_rule



17 June – Egypt’s New Cabinet Sworn In

Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahleb was sworn in on Tuesday, retaining his position at the head of President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi’s new government. Al-Sisi also retained key economic and security ministers, and created a new post for Investment Minister to attract funds to the Egyptian economy. Egypt’s government is facing a long task of economic rejuvenation. The economy is forecast to grow at just 3.2 percent in the fiscal year that begins on July 1, insufficient to create new jobs and ease poverty. The government must re-stimulate tourism, close the deficit gap, address long-standing corruption and reassess a costly subsidy system. Ministers will provide Mahleb with a weekly plan to review at cabinet meetings.

Egypt’s new Investment Minister is Ashraf Salman, the co-founder and co-CEO of Cairo Financial Holding. The new Foreign Minister is former ambassador to Washington Sameh Shukri, and the Minister of International Cooperation is university professor Naglaa El Ahwany. The ministers of ministers for finance, defence, interior, planning, oil, electricity, supplies and communications have remained in place from the previous regime.

16 June – Journalist Abdullah Elshamy to be released

The Egyptian government will release Al Jazeera’s journalist, Abdullah Elshamy, because of his deteriorating health stemming from his hunger strike. Elshamy was arrested on August 14, the day that soldiers and the police used deadly force to break up Islamist protest against the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi. He had been detained without charges and began his hunger strike four months ago. Egyptian state news said that prosecutors were releasing 11 others, who were not identified.

Next Monday, a judge will rule on charges against three Al Jazeera journalists. Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Peter Greste, and Baher Mohamed were accused of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to broadcast false reports in order to bring down Egypt’s new military-backed government. The prosecution has not disclosed any evidence regarding the charges. Al Jazeera is currently the only broadcaster in Egypt that is sympathetic to the MB; supporters of the military-backed government have called the news station a terrorist organization.


17 June – British Embassy may re-open in Tehran

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague is expected to announce a plans leading to the re-opening of the British embassy in Tehran, after all diplomatic relations between the UK and Iran were suspended in 2011. The unexpected move comes as Iraqi forces clash with the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which has captured several cities in Iraq over the past week. The speed and organization of ISIS has created a shared interest in among the UK and Iran in confronting the group. Relations between the two nations under former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were extremely tense; however in 2013, the election of more moderate President Hassan Rouhani proved a vital step in improving relations between Iran and the West, particularly after Iran’s agreement to scale back its nuclear programme earlier this year. The UK government is still concerned about Iran’s role in supporting the Assad regime in Syria; it is expected the relationship born of necessity may experience tensions.


17 June – ISIS advances spark discussions of separatism, action

The Sunni Islamist militant group, ISIS, have made major advances in the past week. New reports indicate the group has taken over parts of Baquba, 37 miles from Baghdad. If the group successfully captures the city, they will have uninterrupted access down major highways into Baghdad.  On Monday, ISIS claimed control over the city of Tal Afar, which lies between previously captured Mosul and the Syrian border. News reports show the air strikes being conducted by the Iraqi Air Force in the strategic region.

The prime minister of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, Nechirvan Barzani, believes Iraq may break into separate regions, saying it will be hard for Iraq to return to the situation that existed before ISIS took control of major cities last week. He added that Sunni Muslims in the region are angered due to their neglect by the Shia-dominated Iraqi government. Barzani believes a political solution is the only way forward, possibly leading to an autonomous Sunni region: “We have to leave it to Sunni areas to decide but I think this is the best model for them as well. First they have to take a decision: what they want exactly. And in our view… the best way is to have a Sunni region, like we have in Kurdistan.”

US President Barack Obama has announced that 275 military personnel are being sent to Iraq to defend US citizens and the embassy in Baghdad, and will attempt to relocate embassy staff to consulates in Basra and Ibril. Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to fight ISIS, but has left the door open for targeted drone strikes. The aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush has been deployed to the Gulf, accompanied by two more warships. On their path through Iraq, ISIS fighters have conducted mass executions, with images and footage being aired on international stations, and confirmed as real by the Iraqi military.


17 June – Jordan’s UN Ambassador Elected High Commissioner for Human Rights

The UN General Assembly has unanimously Jordan’s UN ambassador and permanent representative to the UN, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, as the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. He will begin his four-year mandate on 1 September, 2014. Zeid al-Hussein will be “the first high commissioner from the Asian continent and from the Muslim and Arab worlds.” He is currently

The UN Human Rights Council promotes and protects global human rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, including the right to development. The High Commissioner functions as the UN official with principal responsibility for global human rights efforts.

Kuwait/ Lebanon

16 June – Kuwait to Provide Housing to Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Dr. Abdullah Al-Maatouq, Chairman of International Islamic Charity Organization (IICO), has announced that Kuwait will provide 1,000 housing units to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The units will be integrated with necessary services, including clinics, schools, and mosques. Al-Maatouq and others called on the Lebanese government to specify the location for the new housing units. Lebanon hosts more than one million Syrian refugees, comprising nearly a quarter of its population. Lebanon, one of the smallest countries in the region, is now hosting the largest numbers of refugees. The IICO has previously built 2,000 houses in the Zaatari camp in Jordan and 2,000 houses in a camp in Turkey.


15 June – Hiftar Launches another Offensive in Benghazi

Renegade Libyan general Khalifa Hiftar launched another offensive against Islamist militants in Benghazi, resulting in 12 deaths, 18 wounded, and causing dozens of families to flee the area. In fighting on Sunday, large parts of Eastern Libya suffered a disruption of power supplies after rockets hit a power station near Benghazi’s airport. Hiftar’s spokesman, Mohamed El Hejazi, said his forces had detained five leaders from militant groups. Hiftar has declared war against militants in Benghazi, and while he has no official authority, several Libyan army units have joined forces with him.

Some analysts believe that Hifter is supported by neighbouring nations, including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which are worried about Islamist militants exploiting the chaos in Libya. At a news conference on Sunday, Hiftar praised Egypt’s new president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for his work in cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood, which Hiftar called an “international spy network”. He also accused Qatar of fuelling Libya’s chaos: “There is no doubt Qatar supports the militias in Libya,” later adding that Qatar was hampering the formation of a national army and police force in Libya.

The latest fighting in Libya comes less than two weeks before a parliamentary election. Libyans hope the elections will put an end political infighting and install an authoritative government.


14 June – Guards stop Illegal Migrants from Crossing Spain/Morocco Border

Nearly 1,000 African migrants were halted in their attempts to storm a three-tier, barbed wire border fence separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave Melilla. Moroccan security forces drove back the migrants in the latest attempts to cross into Spanish territory. Illegal immigration has reached crisis levels in recent years; estimates by the Interior Ministry in Madrid suggest that nearly 40,000 sub-Saharan Africans are waiting for an opportunity to go to Spain. In addition, there are increasing numbers of boats attempting to reach Europe from North Africa. These boats often originate in Libya amid the chaos in the nation. A majority of migrants have come from Syria, Eritra, and other impoverished regions in Africa.


17 June – UN Report Suggests Sectarian War Engulfing Iraq and Syria

In a report released on Tuesday, UN human rights investigators say the Middle East appears on the brink of wider sectarian war engulfing Iraq and Syria. Militants from ISIS have seized the north of Iraq in the past week, linking it with territory previously taken in eastern Syria. In Syria, the report states, “Growing numbers of radical fighters are targeting not only Sunni (Muslim) communities under their control but also minority communities including the Shi’ites, Alawites, Christians, Armenians, Druze and Kurds,” and adds that ISIS kidnapped nearly 200 Kurdish civilians in Aleppo at the end of May. “ISIL has shown itself willing to fan the flames of sectarianism, both in Iraq and in Syria. Any strengthening of their position gives rise to great concern,” the report said.

“The international community, and specifically the (UN) Security Council, have yet to demand that the individuals perpetrating crimes against the men, women and children of Syria are held responsible. Through their inaction, a space has been created for the worst of humanity to express itself,” the report said.


16 June – Tunisia proposes Autumn Parliamentary and Presidential Elections

Tunisia’s election authority has proposed a parliamentary vote in October and the first round of presidential polls in late November. The nation has been run by a caretaker government since 2011; the government that saw through the adoption of a new constitution and has been lauded as a model of democratic evolution in an unstable region.

The proposal suggests holding parliamentary elections on October 26, and the first session of the presidential vote on November 23, with the second session on December 28.The proposal is widely accepted to be approved within coming days.

In the first post-revolution elections in 2011, the moderate Islamist Ennahda party won, but came under fire for perceived mishandling of the economy and lenience towards radical Islamist groups. Backlash against the party escalated sharply after the assassination of two secular opposition leaders in 2013, which caused the party to resign and hand control to a technocratic caretaker government.

Ennahda, and the secular party Nida Tounes, are expected to be the strongest election contenders in October. Nida Tounes will be open to a governing coalition with Ennahda if the next elections do not produce a clear majority. The Ennahda party said that Tunisia must be governed by consensus over the next five years to anchor its fragile democracy.

Elections commission chief Sarsar said last month that the new electoral law would assure a free and fair vote, with more than 1,000 international observers invited to monitor it.

United Arab Emirates

12 June – UAE Begins Compulsory Military Service

The UAE has instituted a compulsory military service law aimed at safeguarding peace and stability in the Gulf and combating terrorism. The law applies to all males between the ages of 18 and 30 and in good medical health. Men who have a high school degree or its equivalent will serve nine months, while those who do not have a high school diploma will serve for two years.

The law was imposed to protect UAE strategic resources and prepare for threats, and also to “teach its people, men and women, of solidarity through military service,” said Mousa Qallab, a senior researcher for the Orient Research Center in the UAE.

The small Gulf nation is in the centre of a politically instable region, with many surrounding nations experiencing significant upheaval. In addition, the UAE has a territorial dispute with Iran, over three Gulf islands controlled by the Islamic republic.

Apart from the UAE, the government of Qatar in 2013 also approved a draft bill making it compulsory for males to enlist for military service for a period of up to four months. It is believed that Kuwait is also debating drafting legislation for mandatory military service.

Qallab added, “It is important that the Gulf States strengthen their military forces. Regional security must be ensured because here we have over half of the oil reserves in the world, and we export about 35 percent of them to industrialized regions across the world.”


16 June – Yemeni President orders Removal of Artillery

Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has ordered the removal of heavy artillery from hills surrounding Sana’a over fears of a coup led by his predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh and his supporters. Saleh ruled Yemen for 33 years before being ousted in 2012 and replaced by his long-time deputy.

A statement by the Yemeni army said, “The military leadership has dismantled heavy artillery and rockets that were positioned on hills around Sana’a following information of a coup plot [by Saleh] whose loyalists continue to infiltrate the army.” The weapons had been stationed on the hills to secure Yemen from al Qaida insurgency, a northern rebellion and a southern separatist movement.

The decision to move the weapons comes after the Hadi’s presidential guard, backed by armoured vehicles, surrounded a mosque controlled by ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana’a late Saturday. It is believed that weapons had been stored in the large mosque in the city and were being guarded by gunmen loyal to Saleh. A tunnel connecting the site to the presidential palace had also been discovered. Hadi ordered that the mosque and its surroundings be handed over to the presidential guard.

The mosque siege came days after authorities closed the Yemen Today newspaper and television channel. Both stations are owned by Saleh and have often been accused of biased coverage of the post-Saleh government and of inciting protests in Sana’a against power cuts and water and fuel shortages. Analysts have accused Saleh of impeding Yemen’s political transition.

Warnings Issued in Africa as Threat of World Cup Attacks Increases Across the Continent

Posted on in Africa, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda title_rule

As the FIFA World Cup football tournament kicks off in Brazil, security warnings have been issued for a number of African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda. UK officials have also issued warnings for Djibouti, stating that they have credible intelligence that al-Shabaab insurgents may be planning to carry out further terrorist attacks against targets that include “Western interests.”

East African nations are currently on high alert over fears that Somalia’s al-Shabaab may launch attacks on World Cup screenings over the next month. Previous attacks throughout the region have targeted places where football matches are being viewed. Crowded areas, including hotels, restaurants and bars and transport hubs are possible targets.


There is currently a high threat from terrorism throughout Ethiopia. Attacks could be indiscriminate and can occur at any moment, including in places that are frequented by foreigners. Previous terrorist attacks in the region have targeted places where football matches are being viewed.


There is a high threat from terrorism in Kenya, mainly from al-Shabaab. The militant group has issued public threats against Kenya, due to the country’s military intervention in Somalia, and has recently stated that they are shifting the war and will now focus on Kenya. There have been a number of small-scale grenade, bomb and armed attacks in Nairobi, especially in the Eastleigh district, Mombasa and Northern Eastern Province. Methods of attacks have included shootings and bombings, including car bombings, as well as the use of grenades.

Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo has promised “sufficient security measures” to ensure the safety of fans, however he has noted that bar owners must take their own precautions, stating, “owners of such social places must ensure that every person is thoroughly screened before entering their premises.” Attacks could be indiscriminate and will likely occur in places that are frequented by foreigners, including bars, sports bars, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, sporting events, supermarkets, shopping centres, beaches, buses, trains and transport hubs.


Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose country is a key contributor to African Union (AU) forces fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia, has cautioned fans “to be alert as they enjoy football, bearing in mind that the country is threatened.” A statement issued by Ugandan security forces has urged that people are screened prior to viewing soccer tournaments. The move is being enforced in a bid to avoid a repeat of attacks that occurred four years ago during the World Cup final, when al-Shabaab militants bombed two restaurants in the Ugandan capital, killing at least seventy-six people.


Officials in Britain warned earlier this week that al-Shabaab insurgents are planning further attacks in Djibouti, after last month’s suicide bomb attack on a crowded restaurant. According to a statement released by the UK Foreign Office, “there are credible reports that al-Shabaab plan, and have the capability, to attack targets in Djibouti, including western interests,” adding “there is a high threat from terrorism” in the port city. The statement further notes “Djibouti and Western interests within Djibouti may be seen as a legitimate target by al-Shabaab because of its support to the Somali government and its participation in the African Union peacekeeping mission.”

Djibouti has troops deployed in Somalia, as part of the African Union force that is battling the militant group, however the Horn of Africa nation’s port also serves as a key base for ships taking part in international anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. Last month, at least one person was killed and several others wounded when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a restaurant, the first attack in Djibouti to be claimed by al-Shabaab since the country joined the AU force in 2011. Days after the attack, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility and indicated that the attack was carried out in retaliation for Djibouti’s hosting of the United States’ largest military base in Africa, which is used for operations across the region, including drone strikes against Islamists in Somalia. France also has a base in Djibouti.


Nigerian officials have taken additional steps in order to prevent any World Cup related terrorist attacks from occurring. Soldiers in the capital of Yola, Adamawa state, have shut down all venues preparing to screen live World Cup matches in the hopes to stave off attacks. The Nigerian government has also advised resident of the capital city, Abuja, to avoid public viewing centres.  Minister Bela Mohamed has issued a directive for Abuja, ordering high vigilance in places such as motor parks, restaurants, markets, supermarkets, shopping malls, banks, churches, mosques, hotels, viewing centres and hospital.

While over the past five years, the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have seen a number of deadly terrorist attacks, in recent months, Boko Haram militants have carried out an increasingly bold series of assaults, which has included the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in April. Since then, the militants have carried out a number of attacks on villages, including a recent car bomb that was set of at a centre in the settlement of Gavan, in the north-eastern state of Adamawa. O June 1, at least eighteen people watching a game on television were killed. A week before that incident, a suicide bomber set out for an open-air screening of a match in Nigeria’s central city of Jos. His car blew upon the way, killing three people. Such assaults on television viewing centres across Africa have raised fears that militant groups will target supporters gathering to cheer on the global football contest.



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