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Intelligence Report Warns of Increasing Ethnic Tensions in Nigeria, Hits Morocco on Algeria

Political risk consultancy, Menas Associates, has warned that the simultaneous trials of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader, Nnamdi Kanu, and his counterpart, Sunday Adeyemo (a.k.a. Sunday Igboho), who is agitating for a Yoruba nation will undoubtedly increase ethnic tensions in Nigeria.

The political risk consultancy also knocked hard on Morocco, claiming that it is deliberately exacerbating tensions with Algeria

However, Nigeria’s two main separatist leaders were due to appear before two different judges on 26 July 26. Igboho’s trial is in the Benin Republic while Kanu was due to appear in Abuja but was unexpectedly adjourned until October 21.

In its latest intelligence report on Nigeria, Menas Associates says Western Nigeria politicians are facing a delicate situation with Igboho’s arrest and the Buhari administration’s attempt to have him extradited from Benin to Nigeria.

‘’A potential trial in Nigeria would put enormous pressure on regional leaders and their political fortunes are likely to be shaped by how they respond to it. Many perhaps secretly hope that he will be jailed in Benin which would be less controversial than his extradition to, and trial in, Nigeria’’, the intelligence report says.

According to the report, ‘’Igboho’s situation is also a huge threat to the political ambitions of the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is the presumed frontrunner to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.

‘’Some believe that he is using the Igboho situation to put pressure on APC to choose him as its’ presidential candidate. In the South-West, however, he is viewed as a traitor who has been ignoring the Igboho case because of his own personal political ambitions.

‘’President Buhari has to take action to address the widespread perception that he is being soft on armed bandits in the North but, by contrast, is unnecessarily hard on non-violent separatists in the South. This perception increased by the fact that he has just is increasing ethnic tensions in the South.

‘’Kanu and Igboho’s simultaneous arrests and anticipated trial have succeeded — for the first time in the country’s post-independence history — in uniting the two major tribes in the South around the quest to break up the country.

‘’Sympathy for their demands continue to grow in the region because their prosecution is seen as an overkill when compared with how the bandits in the North have been treated by President Buhari’s government. It was therefore perhaps surprising that he left the country on 26 July for a two-week trip to London to see his doctors.

‘’The president’s inner circle is putting pressure on him to become more involved in the decision-making process about who should succeed him in 2023. While they use the argument that this will ensure that Buhari’s legacy is protected, the main reason is that they are worried that, unless they get one of their own to succeed him, they could be threatened by the increasing number of petitions that are being filed against the government at the International Criminal Court (ICC).’’

On its monthly intelligence report on Morocco, Menas said in July renewed tension erupted with Algeria after Morocco’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Omar Hilale (b.1951), made a series of controversial comments during a virtual meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement on July 13.

Referring to Algeria’s Amazigh (a.k.a. Berber) population, he called for the, ‘right of self-determination for the people living in the Kabylie region.’ He also asserted that the, ‘heroic Kabyle people, who suffer from the longest foreign occupation, deserve to enjoy self-determination.’

Hilale’s comments were in response to an intervention by Algeria’s newly reappointed and highly experienced Foreign Minister, Ramtane Lamamra. Although the discussions at the meeting were meant to focus on a range of issues affecting member states, including the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lamamra used the occasion to veer from the agenda and allege that the military conflict in the disputed Western Sahara had resumed.

Hilale hit back, denying that there was any conflict in the territory and stating that the Western Sahara was quiet. He then went much further and deliberately raised the highly sensitive Kabyle issue, in a move that stunned and infuriated the Algerians.

The latter have long been struggling with demands for autonomy and self-rule in the Kabylia region of north-eastern Algeria. These demands have been articulated since 2001 by the Mouvement pour l’autodétermination de la Kabylie (MAK) which is a relatively small and radical fringe organisation which emerged out of protests that shook the Kabylie region at the time. Even though there are many, including in Kabylia itself, who dislike the MAK’s demand for self-rule, it has more support among both the Kabyle youth and in the Kabyle diaspora.

Although it could easily be crushed, the MAK is useful for the Algerian regime. It is trying to quell support for the huge peaceful Hirak movement — which until the COVID-19 pandemic had held huge weekly demonstrations for over two years — by claiming that it is led by both the MAK and the Europe-based Rachad opposition movement. Although they are certainly not, it has therefore proscribed both as terrorist organisations.

‘’For Morocco to publicly express its support for Kabylie self-determination at this time could not be more provocative. This is because this month’s deadly forest fires — especially in the Kabylie region — and the growing water shortage crisis are fuelling a growing sense of anger which is becoming increasingly prevalent throughout most of the country’’, the intelligence report says.

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