By Mika Rekai - Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 0 Comments
Getting their just desserts
It’s been just over a year since Moammar Gadhafi was killed in Libya, bringing his violent, 40-year dictatorship to a sudden, brutal end. While the newly liberated country is still recovering from civil war and political unrest, some Libyan entrepreneurs are taking advantage of their new-found freedom—and for many, life is sweet. For the first time since economic sanctions were imposed in the early ’90s, the former Italian colony is finally indulging in the food it missed most—ice cream.
During the later Gadhafi years, it was almost impossible to acquire street-trading licences, and even more difficult to purchase the equipment and necessary ingredients from Europe. But since 2011, dozens of Italian-style ice cream shops have sprung up across the country. Every day, hundreds of Libyans brave long lines for brand-name flavours including Snickers and Nutella, and ice cream trucks are now common sights in city streets.
“There’s a market for it here,” Hussein Bannour, a gelateria owner from Tripoli, told the BBC. “Libyans are proud of things like this because we didn’t have it before.”
By The Canadian Press - Friday, January 25, 2013 at 5:26 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Canada joined several European countries Thursday in urging its citizens to immediately…
OTTAWA – Canada joined several European countries Thursday in urging its citizens to immediately leave the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi because of the fragile political situation there.
In an advisory posted on its website, the Department of Foreign Affairs also warned against non-essential travel to the African country.
“There is heightened risk of terrorism throughout Libya, including in Benghazi,” it warned.
“Terrorist attacks could occur at any time and could target areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.”
In addition to Benghazi, it said, the security situation in the town of Bani Walid and the regions of Sabha and Kufra is also precarious.
Earlier, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands warned of an imminent threat against westerners in Libya, days after a deadly hostage crisis in neighbouring Algeria. European officials said schools were among the potential targets.
The warnings came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified to Congress about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
They also came as French troops battled al-Qaida-linked militants in the West African country of Mali, and followed the deaths of at least 37 foreign hostages seized by extremists in Algeria.
Canada is supporting the Mali mission with a military transport plane. Ottawa said Thursday the C-17 Globemaster would continue to ferry military equipment and vehicles between France and the Malian capital of Bamako until Feb. 15.
_ With files from The Associated Press.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 3:56 PM - 0 Comments
Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of defence, is a former Republican senator, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran and, according to some of his critics, unfit to lead America’s military because of his supposedly anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic views.
Bret Stephens, writing in the Wall Street Journal, informs readers that prejudice, like cooking, has an “olfactory element” element to it, and the smell around Hagel is particularly ripe.
Hagel once said the “Jewish lobby” intimidates a lot of people in Washington. Stephens condemns this on the basis that the pro-Israel lobby is not exclusively Jewish, and because Jews are not a monolithic political bloc. Fair enough–but Stephens’ suggestion a few paragraphs later that Jewish Americans might want to re-consider their support for Obama because he’s no friend of Israel is built on the same assumption of Jewish groupthink. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 7:40 PM - 0 Comments
One morning this session, at the start of parliamentary business, Elizabeth May and Liberal MP Frank Valeriote ran into each other in the House of Commons. They had both been there late the night before for a debate. Valeriote apparently assumed that May had had the misfortune to be assigned a morning shift in the House. “He looked at me and he was so tired he forgot that I didn’t have somebody ordering me around,” May recalls. “He said, ‘Oh jeez, did you get House duty again?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, my leader’s such a bitch.’ ”
The joke, of course, is that Elizabeth May is her own leader. And the truth is that Elizabeth May doesn’t have House duty. Because, rather than putting in periodic shifts in the House of Commons, May is rarely anywhere else. The House of Commons is her office. “By the time you look at all the things that it’s possible to do as a right as an individual MP, I think the question isn’t why do I spend so much time in the House,” she says, “it’s why don’t other MPs spend time in the House?” Continue…
By Jamie Dettmer - Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Fraught with dangerous, unstable local politics. A spark can set the region aflame.
The Arab Spring once celebrated in Washington and other Western capitals turned nasty last week, souring the hopes of those who believed that overthrowing autocrats and holding elections would see a more stable relationship between the West and the Middle East, as well as a calmer region—one less given to eruptions and recriminations. The rage and violence ripping across the region, which claimed the lives in Benghazi of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans as well as dozens of protesters in Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan and Yemen, underscore how chaotic and unruly the Middle East is becoming, and just how easily jihadists can now foment upheaval. For U.S. policy-makers, it prompts a difficult question during an especially vitriolic race to the White House: what next?
The reaction in Tripoli on the morning that news of Stevens’s death broke was of stunned disbelief; most residents of the Libyan capital avoided the streets, preferring to stay close to the safety of home in such unpredictable times. “So sorry,” was the shamefaced, reflexive response on the streets when Americans—or any Westerners—were encountered. “This isn’t the true face of Libya,” said Ahmed Ahmeri, a 38-year-old father of two who owns a clothing store in the residential district of Gargaresh. “These people are a minority, fanatics.”
Stevens, who was fully integrated into the life of the city, was seen by many Libyans as “one of them.” And the country’s leaders wasted no time in condemning the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed him. Mohamed Al Magariaf, president of Libya’s national assembly, declared, “In the strongest possible words, in all languages, we condemn, reject and denounce what happened.” The country’s leadership respected Stevens, a strong supporter of the uprisings against Moammar Gadhafi; many counted him as a personal friend. The friendly, laid-back Californian could sometimes be spotted lunching or taking tea at favourite spots deep in the warren of streets that make up Tripoli’s ancient souk with no apparent security detail nearby. A well-known public figure, he felt “like one of the boys because of his role in the rebellion,” said a European ambassador sipping tea in his office overlooking Tripoli harbour. “He stood with us in Benghazi when everyone else was running away,” rebel leader Abdul Rahman El Mansouri explained. “Chris saved us,” Mansouri, a man not given to tears, added, dabbing his eyes.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 14, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister talks to a certain news channel.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 4:48 PM - 0 Comments
David Akin reports details of the conversation between the Prime Minister and Vladimir Putin during last weekend’s summit.
But none of this will surprise Russian President Vladimir Putin who as much warned Prime Minister Stephen Harper during their one-on-one meeting in Vladivostok on the weekend that the West should expect this kind of thing for “instigating” mobs in Egypt and Libya. According to officials in the room with the two men, Putin said Harper and other Western leaders are acting like “Trotskyites” – that was Putin’s line — for exporting revolution and promoting instability.
I’m not sure how Putin connects the dots between Stephen Harper and Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, but Putin’s basic point to Harper was that Western leaders were being dangerously naive by meddling in the affairs of the dictators of the Middle East.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 11:25 PM - 0 Comments
One of the unnoticed footnotes to the crisis in Libya and Egypt that threatens to rock the U.S. presidential election is the reaction of Canadian political parties to the events of Tuesday and Wednesday. From the government: John Baird says Canada “strongly condemns and deeply regrets yesterday’s senseless attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.” From the NDP: Paul Dewar says New Democrats “unequivocally condemn this brutal and senseless act of terrorism.” From the Liberals, over the signature of Bob Rae: “We condemn this violent attack against the American mission, and support the Libyan government in its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
There is nothing in any of the three main parties’ statements to match the subordinate clause that begins this sentence from U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement today: “While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.”
An NDP spokesman was cross with me when I pointed out today on Twitter that there was no reference to “efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others” in the NDP statement. Nobody’s statement included such language, a transparent reference to the amateurish film that many rioters in Benghazi and Cairo are citing as a provocation. The NDP guy meant the NDP statement was identical to the Liberals’ and the Conservatives, and that’s true. But indeed I cannot find any such reference to denigrating others’ beliefs in the statements from David Cameron, François Hollande, and Germany’s foreign minister. Continue…
By Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 11:22 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Attacks on a U.S. consulate in eastern Libya that killed the American ambassador and three of his staff were “senseless,” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Wednesday.
OTTAWA – Canada is reviewing the security situation at its embassy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli in the wake of the killing of American diplomats in the eastern city of Benghazi, says Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
“As you would expect, we’ll re-evaluate the environment as we regularly do for our personnel in Tripoli,” Baird said Wednesday from India, where he was on an official visit.
Baird spoke after extremists killed the American ambassador and three of his staff at a U.S. diplomatic post in eastern Libya.
“It’s an attack on diplomacy,” he said, adding that Foreign Affairs continually updates the security environment for Canadian personnel.
Baird said those responsible must be brought to justice.
Baird visited Benghazi in June 2011, shortly after the uprising in the north African country that resulted in the ouster and death of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
He returned to Tripoli in October 2011 to reopen the Canadian embassy, which had been closed for nine months after Canada joined NATO countries in launching air attacks on Libya to back rebel fighters trying to remove Gadhafi.
“Canada strongly condemns and deeply regrets yesterday’s senseless attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya,” the minister said in a brief, strongly worded statement.
“We call upon Libyan authorities to take all necessary measures to protect diplomatic premises in accordance with Libya’s international obligations. We also urge Libyan officials to ensure the extremists responsible are brought to swift justice.”
Defence Minister Peter MacKay called the attack “an act of violence that shocks us all.”
“Canada, of course, has a vested interest in ensuring that we see security and a greater sense of stability spread within Libya,” MacKay said.
“And we recommit ourselves and dedicate ourselves to that effort.”
Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, and three colleagues were killed when a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff.
One of the dead diplomats formerly served in the American consulate in Montreal.
“We grieve particularly for the death of information management officer Sean Smith,” David Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, said in a statement.
“Sean recently served at the U.S. consulate in Montreal. He and his family were a part of our mission family, and we extend to them our deepest condolences and sympathy.
“Each of us in the U.S. mission in Canada was shocked and saddened to learn of the deaths of our colleagues in Libya following the outrageous attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.”
Jacobson said Americans appreciate the support coming from the Canadian government and people.
Smith, described in reports as an online gaming enthusiast, was remembered fondly by one former State Department colleague as a devoted family man.
“He was a friend from the consulate and our children played often together when we were in Montreal,” said the fellow diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, calling Smith “a devoted father of his two children and a generous and committed U.S. diplomat.”
U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the attacks and ordered increased security at American diplomatic posts around the world.
Obama named Stevens and Smith, but said the families of their two fallen colleagues were still being notified.
“We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done,” Obama said.
The assault occurred Tuesday night in the eastern city of Benghazi when protesters with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades stormed the consulate in what officials say was an angry response to a short film that ridiculed Islam and its founder, Muhammad.
Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, and three colleagues were killed when a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed the deaths on a “small and savage group” of militants, and said the attack should “shock the conscience of people of all faiths around the world.”
Stevens is the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in an attack since 1979, when Ambassador Adolph Dubs was killed in Afghanistan.
On its website, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department is urging Canadians to avoid all travel to Libya, except for Tripoli and the Benghazi area, where only essential travel is recommended.
It was unclear Wednesday whether that advisory would be amended as a result of the attacks.
By Scaachi Koul - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 7:50 AM - 0 Comments
The U.S. ambassador to Libya has been killed along with three of his staff….
The U.S. ambassador to Libya has been killed along with three of his staff.
Chris Stevens went to the U.S. consulate in Banghazi, Libya, Wednesday morning to check on the safety of staff. He and his bodyguards were killed in a mob attack, the Libyan government has said. The U.S. State Department has declined to comment.
U.S. President Barack Obama has condemned the attack, the CBC reports.
“Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayer. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.”
The New York Times reports that Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur of Libya took to Twitter to condemn “the cowardly act of attacking the U.S. consulate and the killing of Mr. Stevens and the other diplomats.”
The protest has been linked to a short film by a California filmmaker.
Protesters in Cairo stormed the U.S. embassy in that city last night, climbing walls and hoisting a flag with Islamic inscription. The mob was protesting an Islamophobic film made in the U.S. by filmmaker Sam Bacile.
The $5-million movie, Innocence of Muslims, claims Muhammad was a fraud. Bacile, a real estate developer, defines himself as an Israeli Jew and believes the movie will help Israel by exposes Islam’s flaws. Footage of the obscure film has been posted online, and Bacile has since gone into hiding.
Prompted by the Cairo protest, armed militants in Libya set the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on fire, killing one American. Looting at the consulate has been reported by Reuters.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 11:27 AM - 0 Comments
Stuck in the middle of a dispute over the cost of the Libya mission, defence officials apparently started work on a screenplay for a satirical comedy about the inner workings of government communications.
“Unfortunately, the MND (minister of national defence) is now saying he did NOT know the cost estimates ($106M) when he did the CBC interview in October,” reads an email from senior public affairs adviser Lt.-Col. Norbert Cyr to Vance on May 15.
“This is not good because media are now asking who is saying the truth, the Minister or General Vance?”
“Wonderful,” Vance replied, adding: “Do we have an opinion on what MND knew or ought to have known?”
Cyr said finance officials were working to confirm what MacKay knew, but “bottom line is that if MND says he did not know, then he did not know.”
“If I was wrong I’ll certainly own up to it,” Vance replied.
“Not suggesting you are or were wrong,” Cyr answered in the last email of the chain. “A political truth can sometimes be different.”
No word as yet on whether any of the networks have expressed interest in the pilot.
By macleans.ca - Monday, July 9, 2012 at 11:19 AM - 0 Comments
Although the ballots are still being counted, provisional figures show that Libya has shut-out…
Although the ballots are still being counted, provisional figures show that Libya has shut-out the Muslim Brotherhood in favour of interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, head of the pro-west National Forces Alliance.
Jibril is reported to have have won close to 80 per cent of the vote in Tripoli, with strong results in the south and 60 per cent in Benghazi. With a masters and doctorate from the University of Pittsburg, Jabril is a markedly different candidate from those who won elections in other countries that took part in the Arab Spring. Islamic governments have risen to power in both Egypt and Tunisia.
Libyans turned out in large numbers on Saturday to vote in the first free election since 1969. Although some violence was reported on Saturday, the election process was largely peaceful.
On Monday morning, Jibril called for all of the nearly 60 parties participating in the election to come together in one grand coalition for the sake of national unity. Jabril has previously rejected descriptions of his NFA as secular and liberal, saying a commitment to Islamic law is one of the party’s core principles.
Related stories at Maclean’s:
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 11:07 AM - 0 Comments
A small group of Canadians are headed to the polls today, but they are…
A small group of Canadians are headed to the polls today, but they are taking part in no ordinary election.
Libyan-Canadians across the country are casting their ballots ahead of the Libyan national election, which will be held this weekend to pick a new national assembly in the formerly embattled country.This is the first time Libyans have gone to the polls since Muammar Gaddafi came to power in 1969. A new 200-member assembly will be chosen from 2,500 candidates who represent 142 political parties.The election carries extra historical significance as the new assembly will be tasked with writing Libya’s constitution.Canada is one of only six countries where citizens originally from Libya have the ability to vote for the new government. Libyans in Canada, the United States, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Great Britain were invited to vote due to their countries’ contributions to the uprising which ousted Gaddafi in 2011.
By Jamie Dettmer - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s reports from Tripoli
TRIPOLI — At the ripe age of 118, Nuwara Faraj Fahajan has become the poster-child of Libya’s upcoming general elections. Photographers from all over the world snapped frantically when she held up her registration card after signing up to vote in the town of Zliten, some 100 kilometres east of Tripoli.
It is anyone’s guess, though, whether the frail centenarian will still be around when the country actually picks its new leader.
Libya’s election commission has recently announced voting initially slated for June 19 may be delayed by several weeks. And even those elections would merely pick a constituent assembly to replace the current transitional leadership and oversee the drafting of a new constitution.
The time when Libyans will choose a new president and parliament is still months away, and an air of uncertainty is hanging over the country.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 11:58 AM - 0 Comments
Libya and the International Criminal Court are at war—over who gets to stage a trial for Saif al-Islam Gadhafi
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son and once presumed heir of deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, says he would rather face the death penalty from a trial in Libya than be tried in an international court that would spare his life.
The International Criminal Court has charged Gadhafi with crimes against humanity related to his alleged role in the suppression of last year’s uprising against his father’s regime. It has ordered Libya’s National Transitional Council to surrender him into its custody in The Hague, in the Netherlands. But the Libyan government insists it will try Gadhafi, and has asked the international court to drop its case against him and his co-accused, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, who is now in Mauritania.
Gadhafi sided with the former rebels he once described as “drunkards and thugs” when ICC investigators visited him in Zintan last month; he has been held by an anti-regime militia in the tiny Libyan city since they caught him apparently trying to flee to Niger. “I hope I can be tried here in my country, whether they execute me or not,” he reportedly said.
By Jamie Dettmer - Monday, May 21, 2012 at 8:13 AM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s reports from Tripoli
TRIPOLI — For most Libyans, the death from prostate cancer of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, closes an embarrassing chapter–the only man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people, was a reminder of a past they would rather forget.
The circumstances of Megrahi’s long-anticipated death–when he left prison in August 2009 he had been given just three months to live–were a far cry from the hero’s welcome he received on his arrival in Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya.
Since Gadhafi’s overthrow in the third revolution of the Arab Spring, Megrahi and his immediate family had maintained a low profile and were increasingly ostracized, even by elders of their own tribe, the Megraha. They remained holed up in a luxury villa in Tripoli, lavished on them by the former dictator. Its thick walls kept out journalists eager to record one last interview with the ailing bomber.
Megrahi was reportedly worried about mistreatment by the rebels, and his family concerned that the new Libyan authorities might strike a deal to have him a returned to jail in the U.K. or dispatched to the U.S. for trial, as some U.S. lawmakers have demanded.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
The mission in Libya cost significantly more than the Defence Minister once suggested. And the government recently described the purchase of 13 new armoured vehicles as a purchase of transmission parts.
In early April the government awarded a $105-million contract to a German firm, FFG, to build 13 Leopard armoured engineering vehicles for the Canadian Forces. The only information put out by government was a brief and inaccurate notice stating that the company had been awarded a contract to provide “vehicular power transmission components.” The notice also claimed the deal was only for one item. But defence industry sources say the government is misleading the public; the deal is actually for 13 specialized armoured vehicles, and not transmission parts.
In addition, the upcoming issue of the Canadian Naval Review published by Dalhousie University will report that the Defence Department’s Strategic Investment Plan, previously released by the Liberal government, is now considered “a classified document” and cannot be issued to the public. In April, DND informed the Review of the government’s new policy. The investment document outlines a 15-year plan for equipment projects, their budgets and delivery schedules.
In other news, it’s now been nearly 10 days since I asked National Defence for a response to the Auditor General’s suggestion that a 36-year lifecycle costing for the F-35 already exists. As soon as I receive a response, I’ll post it in its entirety.
By Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 2:12 PM - 0 Comments
The firm’s pickup trucks were a favourite among Libyan rebels
Zhongxing, a Chinese automaker, set a new standard for tin-eared marketing last week with an auto show display that billed its pickups as the go-to vehicles of the Libyan war. The exhibit at the Beijing Motor Show featured a 4×4 that rebels favoured for ferrying machine guns, along with the slogan “Tougher than war.” In the background: rolling footage, on giant LED screens, of Zhongxing’s battered vehicles amid the chaos of the uprising—including a clip showing rebels positioned on a desert highway in the trucks, wreckage around them and plumes of smoke in the distance. Other brands have gained similar notoriety (Libya’s border war with Chad in the 1980s was dubbed the Toyota War). But they at least sought to downplay their trucks’ adaptability to war zones. Not Zhongxing. The Baoding-based company highlighted the logos on the big screens in Beijing, lest its product be mistaken for someone else’s.
By Kate Lunau - Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 11:54 AM - 0 Comments
The ship that used to ran from Yarmouth, N.S., to Portland, Maine will be turned into scrap metal
For over 20 years, the Scotia Prince ferry ran from Yarmouth, N.S., to Portland, Maine; after its operations there ended in 2004, it went on to house hurricane Katrina survivors, then moved across the Atlantic to Europe and India (it was used to evacuate Indian citizens from Libya during the crisis). Now, the storied ship that many Atlantic Canadians and New Englanders still remember fondly has been sold to a Sri Lankan buyer. It will be dismantled and turned into scrap metal, according to Miami-based International Shipping Partners, its manager.
Keith Condon, co-chair of the Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership, who lives in Yarmouth, has fond memories of the Scotia Prince. In the summers, he says, there would be “floods” of visitors stepping off after the 10-hour trip from Portland. Riding the Scotia Prince was an experience: it could sleep more than 1,000 passengers, had a casino, a restaurant, and even live shows. “Some years we’d get up to 300,000 tourists flowing through here,” he says, many spreading across the province and into New Brunswick or P.E.I.
The abrupt end of the Scotia Prince’s Yarmouth-to-Portland service was blamed on a supposedly mouldy passenger terminal it leased in Portland (a lawsuit ensued). Another ferry, a high-speed catamaran, tried to fill the void, but its service ended in 2009, according to Condon, after a provincial subsidy was cancelled. “Since then, we’ve been trying to find a solution.” He calls it a “provincial issue.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 2, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Paul Koring tries to figure out why we might need to buy the F-35. Interoperability with our allies? Using different planes didn’t keep NATO from bombing Libya. To intercept or shoot down a terrorist threat? Any fighter plane will do. To protect our Arctic sovereignty? Drones could do that. So when might we need a stealth fighter? If we plan on bombing Iran or going to war with China.
While Lockheed Martin’s F-35 – a so-called fifth-generation strike fighter – is far and away the best available choice for flying bombing runs against a first-rate adversary (think China) in heavily defended airspace full of missiles and modern warplanes, it would be overkill against “softer” targets like Libya.
In other news, the first few F-35s could cost $104 million each.
By Chris Sorensen and Erica Alini - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 10:46 AM - 0 Comments
It’s not the first time the firm has been at the centre of a foreign scandal
In early January, Saloua Benkhouya stood in front of a packed room at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Armed with a Power Point presentation, the international director of strategy and infrastructure projects for SNC-Lavalin Inc. talked about the risks and mega-rewards of building highways, airports and other infrastructure in the Middle East and North Africa. Among her tips: the “critical” importance of befriending a local partner, someone who can “open doors” and make the necessary introductions. When the topic of the Arab Spring came up, she mentioned that SNC-Lavalin was forced to pull out of Libya, where it had signed deals worth nearly $1 billion with the late Moammar Gadhaﬁ’s regime. “We’re monitoring the situation and hopefully we can go back very soon,” she said.
Lately, though, it’s the dark side of what it may take to open those doors that’s drawing all the attention to SNC-Lavalin. The Montreal-based engineering giant has suddenly found itself embroiled in a deepening scandal about the extent of its ties to the deposed Gadhaﬁ regime—particularly third son Saadi Gadhaﬁ, a former footballer and international playboy who appears to have been the company’s key man in Libya. In the weeks since Benkhouya took the podium in Toronto, allegations surfaced that SNC-Lavalin spent millions lavishing Gadhaﬁ with expensive gifts, ranging from cases of champagne to hunting trips. More troubling are links that have emerged to a bizarre plot to smuggle Gadhaﬁ out of Libya into neighbouring Niger last August, in apparent contravention of a UN ban on his travel.
So far, two SNC-Lavalin executives have been sacked in apparent connection with the affair. The company is also probing $35-million worth of unexplained construction project payments, although it hasn’t said whether they are connected to Gadhaﬁ or Libya. Investors are nervous, sending shares down by more than 25 per cent over the past month. Some are even seeking a class action lawsuit that accuses senior management of being “engaged in unlawful activities in Libya.” SNC-Lavalin has denied any wrongdoing.
By Gustavo Vieira - Friday, February 10, 2012 at 10:52 AM - 0 Comments
Two senior executives of SNC-Lavalin Group who maintained ties to Saadi Gadhafi, the son…
Two senior executives of SNC-Lavalin Group who maintained ties to Saadi Gadhafi, the son of deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, have been let go by the company. In a short statement, the Montreal-based engineering firm said it is no longer employing executive vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa and accountant Stephane Roy. The company’s statement did not mention any specific reasons for their dismissal, only that “questions regarding the conduct of SNC-Lavalin employees have recently been the focus of public attention. SNC-Lavalin reiterates that all employees must comply with our code of ethics and business conduct.”
SNC-Lavalin had been the subject of criticism over the company’s close ties to the Ghadafi regime after doing business worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Libya. A National Post investigation in the fall revealed Ben Aissa’s involvement in a fact-finding mission financed by SNC-Lavallin that accused NATO of war crimes. The company initially denied any involvement with the trip, which included a Gadhafi clan bodyguard, but later confirmed it had hired Cynthia Vanier to report on the security situation last summer. Last week, SNC-Lavalin also confirmed that Roy had travelled to Mexico City in November on business to discuss water treatment projects there, and was present when Mexican authorities arrested Vanier for her alleged role in a plot to to smuggle members of the Gaddafi family into Mexico.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, February 6, 2012 at 6:15 AM - 0 Comments
Last year’s revolutions of the Arab Spring were, and remain, the greatest opportunity for the global growth of democracy since the end of the Cold War and the resulting spread of freedom in Eastern Europe.
Democracy promotion is ostensibly a priority for this government. In the 2008 Throne Speech, Canada was promised: “a new, non-partisan democracy promotion agency will also be established to support the peaceful transition to democracy in repressive countries and help emerging democracies build strong institutions.”
More than three years later, that promise is unfulfilled. But Canada still has the framework to pursue democracy promotion through the Canadian International Development Agency, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Both CIDA and DFAIT claim democracy promotion as part of their core mandates. It should follow, therefore, that the Arab Spring presented them with an unprecedented opportunity. Continue…
By Alex Ballingall - Friday, January 27, 2012 at 11:36 AM - 0 Comments
Human rights groups sound the alarm over abuses by the National Transitional Council
NATO planes aren’t dropping bombs on Libya anymore and Moammar Gadhafi, the infamously eccentric and cruel long-time dictator of the North African country, is dead and buried like a stray dog in an unmarked desert grave. But Libya’s no paradise now that it’s ruled—mostly—by the National Transitional Council, the political home of former anti-Gadhafi rebels. The group Médicins Sans Frontières raised serious concerns on Thursday when it pulled out of a Misrata prison, saying they’d been asked to treat prisoners showing clear signs of torture. Amnesty International, meanwhile, released a report about how detainees of the NTC government had recently died in custody, suggesting they had been brutally interrogated.
This news has brought Libya back from the periphery of attention in the Western media — at least briefly. In an editorial published this week, the Guardian lamented “that Libyans continue to live with the legacy of the old regime — weak or absent state institutions, no political parties or civil society institutions.”
The piece goes on to point out that, as Libyans struggle for direction and stability in the post-Gadhafi era, the Western nations that helped depose him bear a measure of responsibility in how the country gets on without him. As it stands now, Libya is by no means unified. On Monday, forces loyal to the previous regime freed Gadhafi officials from prison and captured the town of Bani Walid, 200 km southeast of Tripoli, Libya’s capital. In an unsettling display, they raised Gadhafi’s green flag of Libya over Bani Walid. Now, the forces of the new regime are gathering in a bid to retake the town.
By Colby Cosh - Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 7:45 AM - 0 Comments
Abstract: This paper helps explain the variation in political turmoil observed in the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] during the Arab Spring. The region’s monarchies have been largely spared of violence while the “republics” have not. A theory about how a monarchy’s political culture solves a ruler’s credible commitment problem explains why this has been the case. Using a panel dataset of the MENA countries (1950-2006), I show that monarchs are less likely than non-monarchs to experience political instability, a result that holds across several measures. They are also more likely to respect the rule of law and property rights, and grow their economies. Through the use of an instrumental variable that proxies for a legacy of tribalism, the time that has elapsed since the Neolithic Revolution weighted by Land Quality, I show that this result runs from monarchy to political stability. The results are also robust to alternative political explanations and country fixed effects.
I wouldn’t suggest taking this classic bit of political science too seriously, with its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink regressions on a small data set and its inherently dubious use of an “instrumental variable” to ferret out causation. That said: Victor Menaldo’s basic observations would be hard to refute. Monarchies in the Middle East and North Africa have been stable relative to their republican neighbours; the replacement of a monarchy with a republic rarely if ever makes the people better off; and the monarchies in the region tend to be more liberal economically, even if they don’t have particularly liberal political structures.
In the ci-devant monarchies of the Arab and Persian world, nostalgia for overthrown Western-friendly regimes of the past seems fairly common. When the Libyans got rid of Gadhafi last year, for instance, they promptly restored the old flag of the Kingdom of Libya (1951-69), and some of the anti-Gadhafi protesters carried portraits of the deposed late king, Idris. From the vantage point of Canada, constitutional monarchy looks like a pretty good solution to the inherent problems of governing ethnically divided or clan-dominated places. And in most of the chaotic MENA countries, including Libya, there exist legitimist claimants who could be used to bring about constitutional restorations.
The most natural locale for such an experiment would have been Afghanistan, where republican governments have made repeated use of the old monarchical institution of the loya jirga or grand council. The U.S. met with overwhelming pressure from Afghans to include ex-king Zahir Shah in the first post-Taliban loya jirga in 2002, but twisted the old man’s arm to ensure that his participation would be no more than ceremonial. At least one South Asia analyst, Shireen Burki, thinks this was a regrettable missed opportunity that can only be attributed to reflexive suspicion of monarchism by U.S. officials.
“We don’t do kings,” Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said when she was asked if restoration could help solve the problems of the south Slavs. “Pity you don’t,” the happy Commonwealth realms and the peaceable kingdoms of northern Europe might have added. The U.S. turned out to be more interested in easily-overwhelmed American clients like Ahmed Chalabi and Hamid Karzai; and how has that turned out?