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24 Hours Across Africa

Libya crisis hikes as Khalifa orders military forces into attacking Tripoli.

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Source: Reuters

Eastern Libya commander Khalifa Haftar has thrown much of his military forces into attacking Tripoli, but the outcome of the offensive could be determined by a separate battle — to keep open the parallel finance system that funds his soldiers.

Mobilizing Libya’s biggest military campaign since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, Haftar has advanced on the U.N.-backed administration in the capital from a bastion in the east, where he has a parallel government and central bank branch.

The general has funded his eastern state with a mix of unofficial bonds, Russia-printed cash and deposits from eastern banks, accumulating debt worth around 35 billion Libyan dinars ($25.18 billion) outside the official banking system.

But diplomats and banking sources say that those sources of support might be closing, as the Tripoli-based central bank, which controls the country’s energy revenues, has taken steps to curtail the operations of banks in the east.

Those banks have in recent months struggled to meet minimum deposit requirements, which could give the Tripoli central bank allied to Tripoli Premier Fayez al-Serraj the excuse to shut off access to hard currency, they said.

“There is a looming banking crisis that could undermine eastern authorities’ ability to fund themselves in the near future,” said Claudia Gazzini, senior Libya analyst at International Crisis Group.

“The crisis was already in the making before the war broke out.”

Haftar has built up his Libyan National Army (LNA) with the help of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt supplying heavy gear such helicopters, according to U.N. reports.

But Gulf countries such as the UAE have preferred not to give cash directly to Haftar, fearing it will end up being used for the wrong purposes, several diplomatic sources told Reuters.

That has forced the septuagenarian leader to use merchants to import vehicles and other gear, using hard currency obtained from the Tripoli central bank and paid out by eastern commercial banks issuing letters of credit, military sources said.

There is no public data on the costs of Haftar’s war, but he has sent more than 1,000 troops west plus support staff like drivers or medics, military sources and residents said.

Fuel is not a problem, costing just 0.15 dinars a liter, with state oil firm NOC serving the whole country.

But in its attempt to capture Tripoli the LNA has used hundreds of vehicles, with convoys going west non-stop from Benghazi, carrying anything from soldiers to ammunition to food.

In addition, every day two flights with Russian-made transport planes go from Benghazi to Jufrah in central Libya, his main base. Seriously wounded soldiers are flown to Tunisia.

The offensive has stalled, and so the LNA has vowed to move in yet more troops.

Haftar’s finances face another potential vulnerability.

In November, the House of Representatives allied to Haftar approved a law to set up a military investment authority which gives the LNA control — like in Egypt — of parts of the economy including civilian activities such as scrap metal.

The investment vehicle’s companies are exempted from taxes and import duties, as part of a welfare state envisaged by Haftar, but they need banks to deal with partners abroad and expand their businesses, analysts say.

“If the banks fail, Haftar’s welfare state will come under pressure,” said a Western diplomat.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Rwanda ban Burundi,s music star ahead of annual festival

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Burundian musician Jean Pierre Nimbona, popularly known as Kidum, has told the BBC he is confused by Rwanda’s decision to ban him from playing at the upcoming Kigali Jazz Fusion festival.

Kidum is one of Burundi’s biggest music stars and has performed in Rwanda for the past 16 years.

But a police official phoned the musician’s manager to warn that he would only be allowed to make private visits to Rwanda.

“[My manager was told] Kidum is not supposed to perform, tell him to leave. If he comes for private visits fine, but no performances,” the musician told BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.

The mayor of Rwanda’s capital said that in this instance permission had not been sought from the authorities for him to perform at the festival in Kigali.

Kidum was a leading peace activist during Burundi’s civil war between 1993 and 2003 and used his songs to call for reconciliation.

The 44-year-old musician said he had never had problems with Rwandan authorities until recently when three of his shows were cancelled at the last minute – including one in December 2018.

That month Burundi had banned Meddy, a musician who is half-Burundian, half-Rwandan, from performing in the main city of Bujumbura.

Kidum said he was unsure if the diplomatic tensions between Burundi and Rwanda had influenced his ban.

“I don’t know, I don’t have any evidence about that. And if there was politics, I’m not a player in politics, I’m just a freelance musician based in Nairobi,” he said.

He said he would not challenge the ban: “There’s nothing I can do, I just wait until maybe the decision is changed some day.

“It’s similar to a family house and you are denied entry… so you just have to wait maybe until the head of the family decides otherwise.”

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24 Hours Across Africa

Zimbawe’s doctor goes missing after masterminding strike

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Fearless Zimbabwe’s minister of health has called on the government to address insecurity lapses that has lead to the disappearance Peter Magombeyi, the head of a doctor’s union, who disappeared on Saturday.

Fears are rising over the fate of Zimbabwe medical doctor Dr Peter Magombeyi after he sent a message to say he had been abducted in that country by unknown persons – apparently for demanding a “living wage”.

An AFP report earlier on Sunday quoted the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctor’s Association (ZHDA) as saying Magombeyi had not been heard from since he sent a WhatsApp message on Saturday night saying he had been “kidnapped by three men”.

Zimbabwe doctors, who earn a miserly equivalent of about R3 000 are on strike to press for better wages, equipment and medicines in state hospitals.

The ZHDA has reportedly accused state security forces of abducting the doctor because of his role in organising work stoppages.

This week some doctors said the death of deposed Robert Mugabe, 95, in a Singapore hospital on 6 September was an indication of how bad health services in Zimbabwe

“Dr Magombeyi’s crime is only to ask for a living wage for his profession. This is a reflection of the troubles born out of refusal to implement Political Reforms.”

The Zimbabwe government led by Emmerson Mnangagwa has not publicly commented on the doctor’s disappearance

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