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EU Extends Security Training Mission in Mali Until 2023

Concerning the extension, the European Council said a budget of more than €89 million (US$108 million) has been allocated to the mission for the period from Jan. 15, 2021 to Jan. 31, 2023.

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The Council of the European Union will be extending the EU Capacity Building Mission in Mali (EUCAP Sahel Mali) for training the country’s security forces until January 31, 2023.

Concerning the extension, the European Council said a budget of more than €89 million (US$108 million) has been allocated to the mission for the period from January 15, 2021 to January 31, 2023.

Also decided by the Council is “the adjustment of the mission’s mandate by supporting a gradual redeployment of Mali’s civilian administrative authorities to the center of Mali,” according to the council’s statement.

The Council of the European Union also announced that the objectives of the Regional Advisory and Coordination Cell have been adapted to enhance “the cooperation and coordination between G5 Sahel structures and G5 Sahel countries and the regionalization of CSDP [European Union Common Security and Defense Policy] action.”

The Bamako-based EUCAP Sahel Mali is an EU “civilian mission” which was launched in January 2015 within the CSDP after an official invitation by the government of Mali at the time, seeking the EU’s support for its internal security forces in reasserting the authority of the government over the whole of the country when the crisis in Northern Mali had left large parts of the country under the control of various armed factions, according to the European Council.

EUCAP Sahel Mali provides assistance and advice to the country’s national police, the national gendarmerie and the national guard in the implementation of security reform in close coordination with other international partners, including the Delegation of the European Union and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

Starting January 2021, the Mission of EUCAP Sahel Mali has been headed by Hervé Flahaut, a French police General with over 30 years of professional experience.

There also are two CSDP missions present in the region as part of the EU’s integrated approach to security and development in the Sahel, EUTM Mali, which contributes to strengthening the capabilities of the Malian Armed Forces through the provision of military advice, training, education and mentoring, and EUCAP Sahel Niger, which supports the fight against organised crime and terrorism in Niger.

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Bread Crisis: Libya’s Central Bank Rejects New Letters of Credit for Flour

Governor of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) Al-Siddiq Al-Kabeer emphasised that the letters of credit, which were opened in 2020 for the supply of flour, were appropriate for the amounts consumed in Libya.

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In response to the Head of Presidential Council, Fayez Al-Sarraj’s regarding requests for new letters of credit to import flour, the Governor of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) Al-Siddiq Al-Kabeer has on Sunday issued a statement.

Al-Kabeer emphasised that the letters of credit, which were opened in 2020 for the supply of flour, were appropriate for the amounts consumed in Libya.

The General Union of Bakers in Tripoli shut down all bakeries in the city on Saturday, citing an increase in the price of ingredients. This move was justified by the union’s head, Saeed Boukhreiss who claimed the new prices were necessary due to the new prices of flour being linked to lack of supply by the mills’ company.  

The Governor explained that the PM’s call represents a grave breach of the country’s financial law and public spending controls, stipulated in the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). He further stated that the state’s balance of foreign exchange with the Libyan Foreign Bank (LFB) is linked to sovereign revenues.

Al-Kabeer also countered rumours suggesting that it had opened letters of credits for importing unnecessary food items.

He further reminds the GNA officials on their obligation to control the country’s borders and ports to curb the smuggling of subsidised goods, especially flour and fuel.

Bakeries reopened Monday after the Bakers’ Union reached an agreement with the control authorities. Bread prices have been impacted largely by flour shortage, the prices of wheat which increased globally by 40% and the new exchange rate of the Libyan dinar to U.S. dollar on the confectionary sector. Bakeries may face dire straits in the coming months if state authorities do not resolve the problem satisfactorily.

In 2018, inflationary pressure and dwindling oil prices among other factors saw bakeries in Tripoli abruptly shut for two weeks, thereby triggering a food crisis around bread – a staple for many Libyans.

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Chevron Nigeria, Host Communities Disagree over Reported Oil Spill in Bayelsa

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Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) has held divergent views with members of its host communities in Bayelsa on leakages reported at Funiwa Oil Fields operated by the oil firm off Bayelsa Coast.

The CNL’s host communities include Koluama 1 and 2, Ekeni, Ezetu 1and 2, Fishtown, Foropa and Sangan in Southern Ijaw and Brass Local Government Areas.

It would be recalled that fishermen operating near the Atlantic Ocean coastline had on Sunday reported an oil leak suspected to be from the Funiwa Fields.

Reacting to the development, Esimaje Brikinn, General-Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Chevron said that there was no oil leakage from its operations in Bayelsa.

“CNL, operator of the joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), (the NNPC/CNL JV), is aware of media reports suggesting an oil leakage from Funiwa field in Bayelsa.

“We wish to state that contrary to these reports, there has been no such oil leakage or spill incident at any of our facilities in Bayelsa State.

“Therefore, any observed crude oil in the environment is not from our operations. CNL remains committed to protecting people and the environment and conducting its operations reliably and efficiently,” he said.

However, Chief Young Fabby, a Community leader in Koluama 1, in an interview said that the denial by Chevron was merely a ploy to evade liability for the leakage and associated pollution.

He said that Chevron had deployed several helicopters to apply chemical dispersants to dissolve and breakdown the oil deposits on the water surface without the knowledge of stakeholders in a bid to cover up the spill.

“We are precise on the location of the oil discharge; it is at Well No 5, within the Funiwa field location. We have video clips of the leakage and wondered why Chevron is denying this incident.

“They have been using chemicals without first informing the regulators and the community, as we speak, I am at the coastline and we have a heap of nets stained with oil and the crude oil has hit the coast,” Fabby said.

Another community leader from the area, Mr Mathew Sele-Epri, said that there was ample evidence of the oil spill, adding that he personally went to the site to verify the claim.

He said that all the operators near the area had denied liability and that the community leadership would ask for the assistance of the Bayelsa Ministry of Environment to determine the source.

“All the companies near the spot, Chevron and Conoil have denied ownership of the oil and we now wonder who has the oil, we are going to engage the state ministry of environment to help us track the source.

“They will bring the regulators to take samples and match the ones we have taken and conduct a fingerprint test to find out which of the operators is responsible,” Sele-Epri said.

When contacted, Mr Idris Musa, Director General, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), said that the agency would dispatch its officials to the Funiwa field to ascertain the source and cause of the leak.

First Exploration and Production, an indigenous oil firm operating Oil Mining Leases 83 and 85 acquired from Chevron following its divestment from some of its assets in the area where it still retains interests in some fields.

Officials of Conoil and First Exploration and Production have yet to respond to requests for comments on the incident.

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Egypt’s First Flight to Qatar after Three Year Dispute

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Egypt’s national carrier, EgyptAir, resumed flights to Qatar on Monday following the settling of a regional dispute that erupted in June 2017.

The plane left Cairo en route to Doha carrying 38 passengers and is set to return later with 91 people on board, Cairo airport sources said.

The Egyptian and Qatari national carriers last week announced the resumption of flights between the Arab countries after a Saudi-led bloc including Egypt ended a boycott of the Gulf emirate.

Qatar Airways will also resume flights to Cairo on Monday, while flights to Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Alexandria are scheduled to start on Jan. 25.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt signed a declaration with Qatar ending a rift that lasted for three and a half years.

In June 2017, the quartet severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist militant groups, an accusation that Doha denies.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have announced the reopening of their airspace to Qatar.

Emirati low-cost airline Air Arabia is also scheduled to resume flights between the UAE’s Sharjah city and Doha on Monday.

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