26 March: Hannibal romps over the Alps, as Swiss feel Schengen’s sting over Libya fracas
- Branko Brkic
- 26 Mar 2010 07:36 (South Africa)
Also today: Homes demolished near Mogadishu airport, fears of al-Shabaab attacks; Comorans back to their political wars over arrests; UN fights UN in Somali aid row; Nigerians approve $31 billion budget.
Hannibal romps over the Alps, as Swiss feel Schengen’s sting over Libya fracas
Switzerland says it’s ready to lift a travel ban on about 180 Libyan citizens, to ease tensions in Schengen countries that have been drawn into a row that started with the arrest on one of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s sons. Hannibal Gaddafi (spot the irony) was arrested (and quickly released) some time back for allegedly abusing his servants while in Geneva. This caused the Libyans to withdraw tons of cash from their secret Swiss bank accounts, arrest two Swiss businessmen in Tripoli, cut Swiss oil supplies, and impose tit-for-tat bans on Swiss nationals and those from 24 other European countries. Hannibal now rejects a Swiss offer of compensation and wants an international tribunal to hear his case. The West has long been trying to rehabilitate Libya, once dubbed the “archsponsor” of global terrorism. But now Libya’s just freed more than 200 Islamist inmates as part of its own rehabilitation programme for militant groups. Another Gaddafi son, Saif al-Islam, who oversaw the release, is a well-meaning Western-educated “democrat”. Hannibal’s a bling playboy, who’s managed to get the Swiss bowing and scraping. Photo: Reuters.
Homes demolished near Mogadishu airport, fears of al-Shabaab attacks
About 500 shacks have been demolished by Somali security forces near the airport in the capital, Mogadishu, leaving hundreds of people with nowhere to go. The city’s mayor claims the dwellings could be used for attacks by the radical Islamist al-Shabaab group, but the BBC reports that assaults on the airport have never come from this particular suburb. The mayor’s not necessarily paranoid, as the militants recently tried to bring down Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s plane, but most sane authorities would relocate people first and demolish homes afterwards. Half of Mogadishu's population has already fled the city to escape two decades of conflict, so it’s deeply ironic that those who stay get treated this way. But nobody knows who’s who in Somalia, and al-Shabaab – which pledges allegiance to al-Qaeda – has just hijacked radio stations in other cities under their control.
Comorans back to their political wars over arrests
Comoros police have arrested 10 opposition politicians who reject a new law extending the president's mandate on the coup-ridden islands, says Reuters. Same old, same old, with “Big Men” trying to stay in power for life. Tensions have been running high on the Indian Ocean island chain following parliament's vote to extend President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi's mandate. His supporters say he’s an Islamist reformer, and claim the move was just meant to streamline local and federal elections to save money in the cash-strapped nation. Opponents saw otherwise, claiming Sambi’s trying to prevent rotation of the presidency between the fractious islands. Now the government has sent hundreds of troops to quell growing unrest on an island that should have got the presidency next time round, and banned public meetings and protests across the archipelago.
UN fights UN in Somali aid row
A UN report that said aid for hungry Somalis had been diverted to Islamist militants has caused UN and other aid to dry up, even though the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Jan Egeland, claims the allegations are unsubstantiated. That’s hugely ironic, and shows such reports should be more carefully worded. Now, Washington is withholding millions of dollars of aid fearing it’ll go to radical Islamist al-Shabaab militants, who recently claimed they were part of al-Qaeda’s global jihad. Reuters says the report by a UN panel of experts caused the in-country UN team to become concerned that the claims weren’t based on fact, but rather on hearsay. What’s even more ironic, is that al-Shabaab has told the UN’s World Food programme to leave Somalia, because aid is killing off peasant farmers. It seems the chaos in the anarchic country is highly contagious.
Nigerians approve $31 billion budget
Nigeria's senate approved a $31 billion budget proposal for 2010, assuming an average oil price of $67 a barrel, oil production of 2.35 million barrels a day and economic growth of 5.47% -- on the back of a US-dollar pegged exchange rate. The country’s been in the political wars of late, after President Umaru Yar’Adua took ill, leading to federal court cases, rallies in cities and power-plays over whether his deputy Goodluck Jonathan would replace him. As good luck had it, Jonathan is now firmly, but controversially, ensconced in power. In the interim, many feared that an amnesty for rebels in the oil-rich Niger Delta went awry – along with government’s ability to function. The verdict’s still out on that issue, but it’s important, because past rebel attacks stopped Nigeria pumping nearly one-third of its oil capacity. Renewed attacks on oil installations have now resumed, and Jonathan’s just nominated a new cabinet which doesn’t look anything like the old one -- which was fired and is being run by bureaucrats. So, where the $31 billion might eventually go, is anybody’s guess.