North Africa

Berber language rights at issue in Libya, Morocco

The Libyan Amazigh Supreme Council, representing the country's Berber ethnic minority, has decided to boycott the referendum on the country's newly released draft constitution, in protest of the lack of provisions for their language and cultural rights. Berbers want their language to be official in the Libyan constitution, given equal status with Arabic in administration and education. Meanwhile in Morocco, Berber leaders are protesting a move by the city of Agadir to remove street names in the Berber language, Tamazight. The Agadir city council voted to change Tamazight street names to the names of Palestinian cities, ostensibly as a show of support for Palestinians. Abdullah Badou, head of Morocco's Amazigh Network, said: "We do not have a problem with Palestine. Certainly, we support the Palestinians, but we do not agree with those who ignore the nature of the area and the history of Morocco." (Photo of Agadir port via Morocco World News)

North Africa

Crisis resolved at Libyan oil terminals —for now

Libya’s Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC) lifted the state of force majeure it had declared at four export terminals in the country's eastern "oil crescent," after the forces of eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar agreed to withdraw from the facilities. Exports are set to resume, and global oil prices began to fall as the news broke. The ports were all handed back to NOC control without any obvious concession being made to Haftar. The Guardian reports that Haftar had been pressing privately for Saddek Elkaber, the governor of the Libyan central bank, to step down, claiming that Elkaber was funnelling monies from the oil industry to militias opposed to him. A warning from Donald Trump that he would take legal action against those responsible for the impasse may have prompted Haftar's capitulation. (Photo: Libya Observer)

North Africa

Paralysis at Libya oil ports jacks up global price

Oil prices rose above $75 a barrel for the first time since November 2014, as Libya's National Oil Corporation declared force majeure at its principal oil ports, which continue to be battled over by rival armed factions. Prices for West Texas Intermediate crude rose to $75.27 a barrel before dropping back down to $72.73. After years of depressed global oil prices, analysts are again talking of a possible new "oil shock." Growing tensions between the US and Iran, and other factors, were also cited. Libya's Union of Oil and Gas Workers meanwhile issued a statement saying that the country's oil is the collective property of all Libyans, and should be removed from all political, regional and tribal disputes. (Photo: Libya Observer)

North Africa

Morocco: harsh prison terms for protest leaders

Angry protesters massed in front of the Moroccan parliament building in Rabat after the sentencing of several leaders of the 2016 uprising in the country's marginalized Rif Mountains. Demonstrators chanted "We are all Zefzafi," "Freedom, dignity, justice," and "Long live the Rif." Among 53 sentenced was Nasser Zefzafi, who became the symbol of the al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or "Popular Movement,"which demanded jobs, regional development and a crackdown on corruption. Zefzafi was among four activists who were sentenced to 20 years in prison for "plotting to undermine the security of the state." A march against the sentences was also held in the capital of the Rif region, Nador. Some protesters carried Amazigh (Berber) flags in the demonstrations. (Photo: Arab Reform Initiative)

North Africa

Podcast: Homage to Lounes Matoub

In Episode 12 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg pays homage to the martyred Berber singer and songrwiter Lounes Matoub on the 20th anniversary of his assassination. It remains unclear to this day if Matoub was killed by agents of the Algerian state or militants of the Islamist opposition—as both were equally opposed to the Berber cultural renaissance that he represented. The Berbers, or Imazighen (singular: Amazigh), are the indigenous people of North Africa, whose language and culture have been suppressed to varying degrees by Arab-dominated regimes from Morocco to Libya. The 1980 "Berber Spring" in the Kabylia region of Algeria was key to Matoub's politicization, and his assassination was followed by a second round of "Berber Spring" protests in 2001. This presaged the international Arab Revolution that broke out a decade later—which in North Africa was really also a Berber Revolution. The 2011 ptotests and uprisings resulted in advances for Berber cultural rights and autonomy in Algeria, Morcco and Libya alike—a sign of hope amid the current atmosphere of counter-revolution and reaction throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image via Le Matin d'Algéria. Lounes Matoub shown accosted by Algeria's ruling generals on one side and the Islamist opposition on the other.)

North Africa

‘Disaster’ seen as Libyan oil facility burns

Libya's National Oil Corporation is warning of an "environmental disaster" following clashes at the country's Ras Lanuf oil terminal that set storage tanks on fire. “Further damage to these oil sites could have a huge impact on the Libyan oil sector and the national economy.," the statement said. The Petroleum Facilities Guard launched an operation in Libya's "oil crescent" last week to take the Ras Lanuf and Sidra terminals from the Operation Dignity militia alliance, which they termed a “a terrorist entity.” Operation Dignity and the affiliated "Libyan National Army," led by commander Khalifa Haftar, are loyal to Libya's unrecognized eastern government. (Photo: Libya Observer)

North Africa

Libya: protest against siege of Derna

Protesters marched in Libya's capital Tripoli demanding that renegade general Khalifa Haftar lift his siege of the eastern city of Derna. Demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of the UN mission to demand an international response. Protesters demanded UN pressure on Haftar to open a corridor at Derna to allow evacuation of the wounded and ill. Derna has been under siege for nearly two years, but the situation has worsened since Haftar launched a new offensive this month against the Islamist factions that control the city. (Map: IRIN)

North Africa

ICC to Libyan authorities: hand over ‘executioner’

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor called upon Libyan authorities to surrender military commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli, who is accused of war crimes including mass executions and summary killings. Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council that Werfalli, along with Saif al-Islam Qaddafi and Al-Tuhamy Khaled (intelligence chief under the Qaddafi dictatorship), has yet to be handed over to the court. Despite the warrant out for his arrest, she said there are now "credible allegations" that he has committed further murders which may also be prosecuted as war crimes. "The Libyan people deserve answers," Bensouda said, adding that suspects cannot continue to be "sheltered." (Photo via Middle East Eye)

North Africa

Western Sahara headed back towards war?

The UN Security Council extended the mandate of the peacekeeping force for Western Sahara (MINURSO) through the end of October 2018, while calling for Morocco and the Polisario Front to finally negotiate an end to the decades?old conflict. Western Sahara is claimed by Morocco, while the Polisario Front seeks independence for the territory. The territory has since the 1975-1991 war that followed its independence from Spain been divided by a series of sand berms and a "buffer zone." These separate the territory's Morocco-occupied west and a Polisario-controlled eastern strip. Recent months have seen growing tension between Morocco and Polisario over the borders of the buffer zone, with Polisario seeking to expand control into contested areas. (Photo: MINURSO via Yabiladi)

North Africa

UN decries arbitrary detentions in Libya

A UN report detailed the conditions of thousands of people are being held in Libya, describing them as human rights violations. According to the report, released by the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, about 6,500 people are held in official prisons, but thousands more detained in facilities controlled by armed groups, with varying degrees of loyalty to official authorities. One facility, which holds about 2,000, is run by a militia nominally loyal to the internationally recognized government, at Mitiga airbase in Tripoli. It is said to subject detainees to torture and unlawful killings, while denying adequate medical care. Additionally, the report asserts that people are arbitrarily being detained because of their tribal or family background or perceived political affiliations. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

North Africa

ICC takes Mali war crimes suspect into custody

The International Criminal Court announced that al-Hassan ag-Abdoul Aziz was surrendered to the court's detention center in the Netherlands by Malian authorities. He is accused of crimes against humanity in Timbuktu  as de facto leader of the "Islamic police" force after the city was taken over by jihadists in 2012. He allegedly took part in the destruction of the mausoleums of Muslim saints. He is also accused  of participating in forced marriages involving Fulani women, which resulted in the reduction of women and girls to sexual slavery. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

North Africa

Environmental protester shuts Libyan oil-field

The company operating Libya's biggest oilfield, Sharara, announced that it had been shut down after a citizen closed the pipeline that pumps the field's oil. The field is run by a joint venture between Libya's National Oil Corporation and several multinationals. The individual claimed the pipeline caused environmental damage to his lands, and had also closed the pipeline last year to press his demands for a clean-up. With this latest closure, Libya's oil output dropped to a six-month low of 750,000 barrels per day. National Oil Corporation chairman Mustafa Sanallah described those who shut down oil-fields as "terrorists." (Photo: Libya Observer)