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Nigeria: Sanusi and Jonathan mend fences

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Until his recent appointment as Emir of Kano, former Central Bank Governor Sule Lamido Sanusi and his boss, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, had been embroiled in an acrimonious spat over the missing $20 billion oil money, writes Franklin Adesegha Sanusi got the sack in February after he accused the government of failing to account for the oil money. While investigations into the allegations were in progress, president Jonathan fired the outspoken former banker, accusing him of “financial recklessness”. Not only that, Sanusi’s passport was seized making it impossible for him to travel abroad.

Features | Franklin Adesegha | 1 July 2014 | Hits: 61

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East Asia Pacific urged to adopt social protection for Workers

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A new World Bank report urges countries in East Asia Pacific to address the prevalence of the informal economy by enacting labor regulations and social protection policies that benefit people no matter where or how they work. Modest, nationally-financed unemployment packages, for example, can help employers avoid costly severance schemes, lower labor taxes and encourage business to become formal, according to the report, East Asia Pacific at Work: Employment, Enterprise and Well-Being. Similarly, Thailand’s universal health care system has already lowered out-of-pocket costs for patients, led to wider user of medical services and reduced the risk of impoverishment caused by unexpected illnesses.

Features | NorthSouth | 1 July 2014 | Hits: 51

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Once a model for Africa, Ghana’s economy loses its shine

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Rising bond yields, mounting inflation and a weakening currency have taken the shine off Ghana, a country until recently hailed as a model for African growth. An oil boom helped fuel five years of GDP growth above 8 percent making Ghana an emerging market star, a stable democracy whose population of 25 million was moving steadily into middle income status. It is now, however, paying a steep price for not coming through with a new tranche of fiscal reforms. Political consensus is stymied, the public is dismayed by rising costs and the dream of new wealth is on hold. Analysts put the immediate difficulty down to a delay in announcing reforms, saying it makes it harder for the government to meet its 2014 economic targets

Features | NorthSouth | 1 July 2014 | Hits: 48

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China and Russia: A Developing alliance

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In May 2014, after years of negotiations, Russia and China signed an agreement under which Russia will supply China with $400 billion worth of gas over three decades. A 1500-mile pipeline from Russia to China should be completed with Chinese help by 2018. The deal did not attract the attention that its significance deserved. More than a commercial deal, it signalled a growing alliance between the two countries: they need each other.

Features | NorthSouth | 1 July 2014 | Hits: 47

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The Tunisian exception: Success and limits of consensus

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From July to December 2013, Tunisia experienced a political crisis that had two possible outcomes: violence or consensus. The January 2014 adoption of a new constitution confirmed that compromise had prevailed. With the nomination of an independent technocratic government to replace the An- Nahda-led Troika, the country’s transition entered a new phase – less troubled than the preceding one but with an outcome just as uncertain. The challenge is to prolong the consensus that emerged from the national dialogue and prevent the return of political polarisation, even through potentially divisive

Features | NorthSouth | 1 July 2014 | Hits: 53

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The Huthis: From Saada to Sanaa

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Continued fighting between Huthis and their various opponents could lead to a major conflagration, further undermining Yemen’s troubled political transition. In its latest report, The Huthis: From Saada to Sanaa, the International Crisis Group examines the shifting power balance in north Yemen at a sensitive moment in the country’s transition. The Huthis, arguably the biggest winners from the 2011 uprising against former President Saleh, successfully capitalised on state weakness and widespread frustration with old-regime elites to expand their political influence and territorial control.

Features | NorthSouth | 1 July 2014 | Hits: 51

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The Khat phenomenon

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When the United States sent the marines into Somalia during Operation Restore Hope in 1992, they were shocked to find that every Friday an aeroplane from Yemen came to Mogadishu to offload its weekly cargo of Khat. The drug was eagerly awaited by Khat chewers for whom it was part of their social life. Shocked at the public acceptance of Khat (like middle class English cocaine users at weekend parties) the military turned back the next plane from Yemen. Mogadishu came to a standstill as a result and the military were obliged to reverse their anti-Khat stand and the planes were allowed to bring their weekly cargo to Somalia despite the ongoing crisis in that country.

Features | Guy Arnold | 1 July 2014 | Hits: 48

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US forces capture suspect involved in Benghazi attack

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The United States captured last month a Libyan militant suspect in the deadly 11 September 2012 attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans including the ambassador Chris Stevens and triggered a political storm in Washington. Ahmed Abu Khatallah was captured on the outskirts of Benghazi in a secret commando operation carried out by US special operations forces, including some members of the Army’s Delta Force, according to a US official. “All US personnel involved in the operation have

Features | Ali Bahaijoub | 1 July 2014 | Hits: 51

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Background on death sentences in Egypt in 2014 according to Amnesty international

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On 23 June, Twenty people were tried in the case, 11 in absentia. Those in court included five Egyptian students arrested on 31 December 2013 in Cairo and Nasr City. Nine of the defendants are Al Jazeera staff, according to the network. Dutch journalist Rena Netjes does not work for Al Jazeera and left Egypt after she discovered she would face trial. The remainder are Egyptians. On 19 June, the Giza Criminal Court has recommended death sentences for 14 top Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Those convicted include the Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, and top leaders

Features | NorthSouth | 1 July 2014 | Hits: 45

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Iraq’s Jihadi Jack-in-the-Box

The jihadi surge is the tragic, violent outcome of steadily deteriorating political dynamics. Instead of a rash military intervention and unconditional support for the Iraqi government, pressure is needed to reverse sectarian polarisation and a disastrous record of governance, according to a brief by the International Crisis Group. Within days, the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) conquered parts of north-western Iraq and revealed the fragility of a country ruined by sectarianism, hollowed-out institutions and high-level, pervasive corruption. Accumulated grievances of Sunnis in the area meant that ISIL pushed against a house of cards. But its possibilities are limited and a kneejerk international military intervention risks stoking the conflict instead of containing it. ISIL’s advance has highlighted all that has been wrong with the Iraqi government’s Sunni strategy, which sacrificed political reforms in the interest of fighting “terrorism” – a term it has used for all forms of Sunni violence but not for Shiite equivalents.

Cover Stories | NorthSouth | 30 June 2014 | Hits: 51

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Kerry rules out air strikes in Iraq

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The American Secretary of State John Kerry also ruled out US airstrikes in Iraq so long as its government remains fractured along sectarian lines and incapable of combating extremist Sunni militants of the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Sham some times referred to as ISIL: Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant) who have captured several towns north of the country north and even reportedly seized Baiji, the largest oil refinery in Iraq. Kerry told CBS News that the US military was prepared to provide assistance to Iraqi troops, but launching airstrikes at this moment would constitute “a complete and

Cover Stories | Ali Bahaijoub | 30 June 2014 | Hits: 53

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Saudi warning against foreign intervention in Iraq

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In an article for the British Daily Telegraph newspaper, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud described the crisis in Iraq as a product of sectarian divisions within the country. As Washington considers an Iraqi request for air strikes against ISIS, which has seized a swathe of the north including the second city Mosul, the ambassador’s comments are also being regarded as a firm statement against Iranian involvement in the fight-back against ISIS. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s special forces, is reported to have been active in Iraq assisting Shia Muslim militias. “We oppose all foreign intervention and interference. There must be no

Cover Stories | Franklin Adesegha | 30 June 2014 | Hits: 56

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Iran and Saudi tension may ease

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Bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been strained for decades and clashed over interpretations of Islam, their aspirations for leadership of the Islamic world, oil export policy, their regional strategic interests and relations with the US and other Western countries. The struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional dominance has for years aggravated nearly every conflict across the Middle East as the two nations armed, funded and encouraged each other’s adversaries. Their relations have been problematic throughout the countries’ history due to differences in the interpretation of Islam. Saudi Arabia represents a “Wahhabi” Sunni Islamic government,

Cover Stories | Ali Bahaijoub | 30 June 2014 | Hits: 56

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Iraq on brink of disintegration?

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After tens of thousands of desertions following a relentless onslaught by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS), the Iraqi military is reeling from what may be described as psychological collapse, writes Franklin Adesegha The desperation is such that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is relying on volunteers, who are in some cases receiving as little as a week’s military training, to protect his evershrinking control of Iraq. Formed in April 2013, ISIS is a jihadist group active in Iraq and Syria. It grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) but has since been disowned by al-Qaeda. ISIS became one of the main jihadist

Cover Stories | Franklin Adesegha | 30 June 2014 | Hits: 61

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Rouhani said Iran ‘will help Iraq’ if asked

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Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran is ready to help Iraq in its battle against extremist insurgents, but sending troops is not an option on the cards. Speaking at a news conference, Mr. Rouhani said his country would certainly help the Iraqi government if asked. He also did not discount the possibility of working with the US to restore security to Iraq, but only if Iran saw that Washington was confronting what he called terrorist groups in Iraq and elsewhere. Iraq’s future is very important to Iran. It is a natural Shia ally, a neighbour, and the site of many Shia landmarks. The majority of Iraq’s population is Shia Muslim, as is Iran. Iraq is also home to the holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala, and to the Askari shrine.

Cover Stories | Ali Bahaijoub | 30 June 2014 | Hits: 58

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US considers al-Maliki divisive

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The American administration has already indicated that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has proved to be divisive and needs to be replaced by someone who would be able to unite all Iraqis of various ethnic and religious sects and mend sectarian rifts. Iraqi political leaders had started intensive jockeying to replace the Prime Minister and form a coalition government that would heal the country’s deepening sectarian and ethnic divisions. They have been prompted by what they called encouraging meetings with American officials signaling support for a leadership change.

Cover Stories | Ali Bahaijoub | 30 June 2014 | Hits: 59

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The Iraq Crisis deepens

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Calls by Islamist extremists for the recreation of the Caliphate are in reality calls for an Arab empire to replace the western dominance that was arranged at Versailles in 1920 when the Ottoman Empire was dismembered. The present ISIS onslaught aims to establish an Islamic state across Iraq and Syria. Whatever the outcome of the struggle that now dominates the Middle East, the West’s influence there will largely have been destroyed by the American and British invasion of Iraq in 2003. The US may order another aircraft carrier to the Gulf but present escalation of American involvement in the region will have as disastrous

Cover Stories | Guy Arnold | 30 June 2014 | Hits: 80

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Egypt’s shameful crackdown on journalists

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An Egyptian court last month convicted three Al-Jazeera journalists and sentenced them to seven years in prison on terrorismrelated charges after a trial dismissed by rights groups as a politically motivated. The unprecedented trial is tied up in the government’s fierce crackdown on Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood since the military coup of 2 July 2013 that deposedd the democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi and brought to power in June General Abdelfettah al-Sisi, who was defence minister and promoted himself to Field Marshal before he stepped down to stand for the presidency. The trial fuelled accusations that it was politically motivated partly because of the Egyptian government’s deep enmity with the Gulf state Qatar, which owns the Aljazeera network,

Features | Alan Brown | 30 June 2014 | Hits: 57

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