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North Africa | People to watch in 2019

Posted on Tuesday, 29 January 2019 10:55

LIBYA | Fathi Bashagha
Misrata man in Tripoli

If plans to replace the prime minister, Fayez al-Serraj, with a three-person presidency are successful, interior minister Fathi Bashagha is in a good position to take his place. He has a military background, having joined the air force before leaving the armed forces for the business world. His base is in his hometown of Misrata, where he had been spokesman for the Misrata Military Council and later led the city’s largest militia, the Halbous Brigade. As interior minister since October 2018, Bashagha will play a critical role in the Tripoli-based Presidential Council’s attempts to improve security in the capital and beyond.

By John Hamilton
Photo: All rights reserved

EGYPT | Alaa Al Aswany
Talking about a revolution

A polarising force in Egypt’s literary circles, author Alaa Al Aswany is back in the headlines for his book The Republic, As If, which tackles the 2011 revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak through many lives, like his 2002 hit The Yacoubian Building. Several Arab countries have banned it. After taking heat for saying that a military dictatorship would not be as bad as rule by the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Aswany remains critical of the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. He tells sister publication Jeune Afrique: “The political effects of dictatorship are less dangerous than its cultural and social ones.”

By Marshall Van Valen
Photo: Miguel Al Asbani

TUNISIA | Noureddine Taboubi
Upright union leader

Since taking over as secretary general of the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail less than two years ago, Noureddine Taboubi has been a critical voice on the country’s economic direction. He has been a key player as the government tries to push through tough reforms, seeking to get the best deals for public and private sector workers. The 57-year-old labour leader is opposed to the government’s privatisation plans, which are backed by the International Monetary Fund. With elections planned for 2019, he will be upping the pressure on both the government and company bosses.

By Frida Dahmani
Photo: Zoubeir Souissi/REUTERS

ALGERIA/FRANCE | Dalila Dalléas Bouzar
Blooming rose

The striking pink tones on the faces of women and children show Dalila Dalléas Bouzar’s focus on the flesh. It is a theme throughout much of the Oran-born and France-based artist’s work. She tells sister publication Jeune Afrique that her childhood frustration at the lack of equality between the sexes in Algeria lives with her today: “I believe in the performative power of art; an image can create a new reality.” She says that she does not like to stay long in Algeria because of that, but she returns frequently to give painting classes at women’s associations.

By Marshall VAN VALEN
Photo: Alexandre Dupeyron

MAURITANIA |Cheikh Ould Baya
Man in the wings

The new president of the national assembly is pegged as a potential successor to President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is constitutionally barred from running for a third term. Abdel Aziz insists he will retire, but his supporters are calling for him to stay in power. Cheikh Ould Baya, a rich former colonel who was previously mayor of the city of Zouerate, will play a key role in cementing Abdel Aziz’s legacy – but could also scupper any attempts to change laws to allow him another run. The government scrapped the senate, so the national assembly is the country’s only legislative body.

By Kissimou Diagana
Photo: Twitter

MOROCCO | Aziz Akhannouch
Boycotted business baron

The billionaire investor, agriculture minister and founder of the centrist Rassemblement National des Indépendants sees a future as a potential prime minister should the current Islamist-led government fall. Along with his wife Salwa Idrissi – a powerful businesswoman in her own right – Akhannouch is one of the Moroccan government’s heavyweights. But as the chief executive of the Akwa Group, one of the largest conglomerates in Morocco, Akhannouch is the target of the popular boycott movement aimed at politically connected businesses. Consumers accuse the Afriquia chain of petrol stations of using its position to gouge customers.

By Nicholas Norbrook

This article first appeared in December-January 2019 print edition of The Africa Report

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