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Africa update: What’s happening in Algeria?

Algeria’s parliament passed a law criminalising domestic violence against women
Algeria’s parliament passed a law earlier this month criminalising domestic violence against women. The law also safeguards the financial interests of married women and introduces the concept of harassment.

The law makes inflicting injury on one’s spouse punishable with up to 20 years in prison, and allows a judge to hand down life sentences for domestic violence resulting in death.

The bill, adopted in a vote attended by more than half of Algeria’s 462 MPs, drew the ire of some of the assembly’s Islamists. Naamane Belaouar of the Alliance for a Green Algeria said the law was “contrary to koranic precepts and aims to break up the family.”

Justice Minister Tayeb Louha defended the Islamic orthodoxy of the law, concluding that “koranic verses protect the honour of women and do not permit” violence against them. “Violence against women in our society exists and is growing,” he said.

2014 police figures showed that 58% of cases involving violence against women resulted from domestic incidents and between 100 and 200 women die each year from domestic violence, according to statistics published by local media.

Amnesty International called for an amendment dropping a clause which allows the survivor of domestic violence to pardon the perpetrator, warning it was “a dangerous precedent”. Amnesty International stated that “[t]he provision fails to confront the reality of the power relations and inequality between men and women.”

Changes in the Algerian oil industry
Algeria’s state energy firm, Sonatrac, has named Amine Mazouzi as its new CEO to replace interim head, Said Sahnoun, who had been appointed less than a year ago.

Mazouzi, a younger-generation manager in Sonatrach’s production development department, will take the helm as Algeria seeks to draw more foreign oil investment and offset a fall in world crude prices.

Sonatrach operations are the motor of Algeria’s economy. A drop in world oil prices since last summer, has prompted some measures to curb spending, including Sonatrach asking service suppliers for a 10-15 percent discount on prices. OPEC member Algeria, a key gas supplier for Europe, failed to draw a lot of foreign investor interest in its most recent energy bidding round last year. Oil companies have complained about offer terms and bureaucratic red tape. Still Algeria needs foreign investment to help ramp up stagnating energy production. Oil output has been at around 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in recent years.

Mazouzi’s appointment came just days after a new energy minister and finance minister were named in a sweeping cabinet reshuffle by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The reshuffle was intended to combat the fall in oil prices as well as several high-profile corruption trials, some of which have involved Sonatrach, and its joint ventures with foreign firms such as BP and Repsol in Algeria.

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