Weekly Update: Monday, December 5, 2022

Tunisian Libyan Partnership

By William Lucht

Last Wednesday Tunisian President Kais Saied welcomed Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah for an official two-day visit. President Saied met with not only the Libyan leader but also other high-level delegates such as the Prime Minister Najla Bouden, Central Bank of Libya Director Seddik Kebir and other officials from both countries.

The meeting is perplexing and important as Saied and his Prime Minister Ms. Bouden took to the press to declare this opportunity to solidify a common destiny for both countries. This comes at a time when west and east Libya are at a current gridlock surrounding current state leadership.

Since 2011 the state has been at a political standstill following the overthrow of former leader Muammar Qaddafi. The more recent turmoil surrounds the refusal of Mr. Dbeibah to step down from leadership in Tripoli. The countries eastern-based parliament is currently headed by an internally elected official by the name of Fathi Bashaga. These two men both claim control over the country and the west and east rivalry has contributed to violence and destabilization.

It is because of this reality that it is perplexing that Tunisia, a state which struggles with authoritarian rule and democratic backsliding following democratic gains from the Arab Spring, has chosen to align itself with either Libyan leaders. The proximity of Tunis and Tripoli may be one reason Saied has chosen to align himself with the western based leadership. Currently, future goals of President Saied’s stance to ally himself with Dbeibah is unclear.

Issues felt in the Maghreb region caused by Covid-19 and other economic struggles also were discussed between the two states. Economic stability in Tunisia is shacky and mass migration out of the country by young men and women has put increased stress on the labor force. This, coupled with Islamic extremism and other threats that may spill over from a weak state like Libya, may point to the rational to build stronger relations with the western leadership in Libya, as Libya shares a border with Tunisian on it’s western side.  

South Africa’s President Faces Impeachment

By Osetemega Iribiri

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who came into power with the mantra of combatting corruption, is under pressure to resign over corruption allegations in the Farmgate scandal. South Africa’s former spy chief, Arthur Fraser, accused the president of money laundering, corruption, and covering up large theft of cash. He said the president tried to conceal the theft of $4 million stuffed into couches at his Phala Phala farm in 2020.

On Thursday, December 1, the investigation report criticized Ramaphosa for failing to inform the police and choosing to entrust the matter to the head of his presidential protection unit. This perceived misaction led to the parliamentary panel citing a potential conflict between the president’s business and official interests, indicating a severe violation of the constitution. Ramaphosa, however, denied any wrongdoing. He insisted that the money was proceeds from selling buffalos at his farm. He said he reported the theft and added that the money stolen was $580,000, not $4m.

Consequently, opposition leaders and party rivals have called for his resignation/impeachment. The president, however, maintains his innocence, is steady in his stance of not resigning, and desires reelection. On the other hand, lawmakers will debate the allegation report on Tuesday. After that, they will vote on whether to proceed with impeachment proceedings. Fortunately for Ramaphosa, ANC lawmakers are a majority in Parliament and may push back against attempts to impeach their leader. However, if lawmakers decide to forge ahead with an impeachment process, the next stage would be the creation of an impeachment committee.

The clamor for him to step down is barely a month before the ANC’s upcoming conference, where Ramaphosa would seek reelection as the party leader. His reelection would enable him to run for South Africa’s presidency a second time in 2024. Conversely, the speculations of his resignation or impeachment caused the Rand to fall more than 3% against the dollar. This uncertianty in the presidency’s political future also threatens investor confidence in the country.

FIFA World Cup in Qatar Shows Double Standards

By Bushra Bani-Salman

Qatar is about the size of Connecticut, with less than three million people residing in the country, and 88 percent of the population are foreigners. The tournament in the country was questioned due to the country’s disapproval of LGBTQ people, as well as their mistreatment of migrant workers, which account for 95 percent of the country’s labor force. Most of the migrant workers come from South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Qatar has spent at least $220 billion to prepare for the tournament. 

According to the government, 15,000 non-Qataris died in the country between 2010 and 2019. These deaths are associated by heat exhaustion, suicide, physic and mental strains from long hours, and bad living conditions. The government claimed these deaths were due to natural causes and cardiac failures, making it hard to really understand the cause of death without investigation. 

Europeans and the Western world alike have been very vocal about Qatar’s treatment of the LGBTQ and migrant workers. Both autocracies are loved by Arabs, but only the UAE has touched the hearts of Westerners. Singers have refused to perform in Qatar, but have performed in the UAE, despite their human rights violations. Qataris are frustrated with the double standards, asking why Europeans buy natural gas from their country if they believe the country is too tainted to watch the tournament there. Qataris believe the campaign’s criticism stems from racism, Orientalism, and Islamophobia. 

A professor of journalism at Qatar’s Doha Institute for Graduate Studies says reporters abide by ignorance and Orientalist tropes, lumping all Arab countries together, despite their unique differences. When a French reporter was asked about his impression of Qatar, he responded with, “There are a lot of mosques.” In another instance, The Times of London said, “Qataris are unaccustomed to seeing women in Western dress in their country”, despite the fact that women wearing jeans and short dresses are common since foreigners make up a majority of the population.

Barbados Leads Talks on Climate Disaster Financing

By Ciara Perez

Developing nations have been vocal in their burden of the financial costs of climate change – from rebuilding infrastructure when natural disaster strikes, to investing in cleaner industry to combat greenhouse emissions, to paying 3x the interest rates on loans than wealthy nations.

The Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, has proposed a new process for lending money to developing nations. The plan was initially proposed at COP26 in Scotland last year but has since gained support and momentum. The debt within the developing world has grown, and Mottley’s plan “would make it easier for countries…to get funds to beef up defenses against warming and put off debt payments when disasters strike”. The plan, which “calls for special loan clauses that allow for suspending payments when a county is hit by a natural disaster or pandemic, has been named the Bridgetown Initiative.

The adoption and implementation of the Bridgetown Initiative would accomplish the following:

  1. The deferment of payments to creditors, should a developing country be hit by a natural disaster or pandemic, allowing governments to focus funding on relief and rebuilding efforts.
  2. A change in risk ratings used by the World Bank and the IMF, lowing interest rates for developing countries.
  3. The creation of a Climate Mitigation Trust, backed by $500 billion in special drawing rights, allowing developing countries to take additional private sector loans at low rates “for investment in big climate mitigation infrastructure projects”.

In proposing this plan, Mottley has addressed the root of the issue, which is that poor countries face higher borrowing costs. She told the press that while wealthier countries pay 1-4% interest rates, developing countries pay 12-14% interest rates, creating a disparity. French President Emmanuel Macron is the first leader from a wealthy country to support this initiative.

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