Weekly Roundup: Egypt prepares for a presidential election in March, the Israeli government deports African migrants from the territories it occupies, and Saudi Arabia converts Aramco into a joint stock company


Egypt

Egypt announced it will hold its presidential election over three days in March, in which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to win a second four-year term. Sisi has yet to announce his candidacy for the ballot, which is scheduled for March 26-28. The election will be Egypt’s third since the 2011 uprising that ended strongman Hosni Mubarak’s multi-decade long rule.

Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, who was believed to be the most serious potential challenger to Sisi, said on Sunday he was no longer considering running. Another presidential hopeful, lawyer Khaled Ali, faces a potential three-month prison sentence handed down in September for public indecency. Ali allegedly made a hand gesture outside a courthouse last year after winning a case which annulled Egypt’s transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. He may be disqualified from running if he loses his appeal on March 7.

Yemen

The party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the General Peoples’ Congress (GPC), chose a new leader on Sunday. In a statement condemning Saudi aggression, the party named Sadeq Ameen Abu Rass, the former agricultural minister, as Saleh’s successor. Saleh’s exiled son Ahmed Ali Saleh, who had promised to lead a campaign against the Houthi rebels, was not mentioned.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has changed the status of its national oil company Aramco to a joint stock company as of the January 1, 2018. Many see this as a key step in the transition towards an initial public offering (IPO) planned for later this year. According to a senior Aramco source, the change is a requirement for local companies in the Kingdom hoping to become publicly listed.

Jordan

On Sunday, Jordan approved a plan allowing humanitarian aid to be delivered to Rukban Camp, an informal camp containing between 50,000-100,000 individuals located in the desert region between the Syrian-Jordanian border. This is the first time the Camp is receiving supplies in six months, and according to Jordan will be “a one time only” arrangement.

Palestine & Israel

The Israeli government implemented a plan this Wednesday to remove its African population by paying African migrants $3,500 each to leave the country if they are there illegally. The plan will run until the end of March, at which point the Israeli government stated it will remove any migrants found without documents. In a statement released the same day, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated “We have expelled about 20,000 and now the mission is to get the rest out.”

Maghreb

On Wednesday, medical students in Algiers gathered in a sit-in protesting mandatory conscription. They also called for increased salaries and improved working conditions. Algerian police responded violently, and images on social media showed several Algerian medical residents bloodied and battered. Human rights groups condemned the violence, with Amnesty International’s Algeria branch stating, “We denounce the repression of the protest. The right to free expression and peaceful protest is guaranteed by the Algerian constitution.” Algeria’s Health Minister, Mokhtar Hazbellaoui, has called for dialogue with the nation’s doctors, but reaffirmed the necessity of their service.

Libya

Sixty-four migrants are presumed dead after a rubber dinghy sank off the coast of Libya on Saturday. The Italian coast guard confirmed it had rescued 86 migrants, while eight bodies were recovered and 56 remain missing. Libya is a key stop on the Mediterranean migration route, with tens of thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa passing through its borders each year. The route is also the deadliest in world, claiming 3,116 lives in 2017. Libya is also a hub for human trafficking, and footage of slave auctions held in the nation was obtained by CNN late last year.

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