In Africa, praise for Saudi Arabia reveals diplomatic dance

2018-10-24 13:42
People hold signs during a protest at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

People hold signs during a protest at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

As shocking details in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi approached a crescendo, the war-torn nation of South Sudan this week issued a rare foreign ministry statement. It praised the Saudi position to defuse the crisis as "honourable" and assured the kingdom of its commitment to strong relations.

South Sudan isn't the only African nation to support the Saudis at a time when much of the world is shying away. Whether pressured to speak up after receiving assistance or making a diplomatic play for more, a few countries have bucked the global trend while others appear to waver in the face of billions of dollars in Saudi funding.

Their statements reveal the balancing act many African countries, notably in the Horn of Africa, are making these days as more of the world's powers see the continent as a strategic investment.

On Tuesday, Ethiopia's deputy prime minister sat next to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, exchanging a warm handshake, during the Saudi investment forum that many have shunned over the Khashoggi affair.

'Full solidarity'

It was a highly visible moment for one of the world's fastest-growing economies and a close US security partner. Some Ethiopians were furious. Others said their country needs a rich ally these days.

Somalia, which struggles to maintain a neutral stance amid regional powers including Turkey and Gulf nations, is another example. After its prime minister visited Saudi Arabia, the foreign ministry last week issued a statement expressing "full solidarity" with the kingdom against "all those who seek to undermine its role". An uproar among Somalis at home and around the world followed. The government backed off, saying the statement was simply general support.

Tiny Djibouti, an increasingly popular location for global military bases and across a narrow strait from the Arabian Peninsula, issued a statement "firmly condemning the media campaign seeking to tarnish the image" of its brotherly nation. A later statement praised the kingdom's attachment to "fraternity, justice and tolerance."

Across the continent in Mauritania, the Islamic republic has twice issued statements in support of Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi's disappearance, saying: "Mauritania is also confident in Saudi justice." Another foreign ministry statement denounced the "campaign of false allegations".

Biggest surprise

Even South Africa, often praised for its outspoken support for human rights after the long fight to defeat apartheid, almost saw its state security minister attend the Saudi forum before President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered the trip to be cancelled, the Sunday Times newspaper reported.

Facing questions about whether possible Saudi investment in a state-owned defense conglomerate was keeping South Africa from speaking out on Khashoggi's disappearance, the government last week issued a brief statement expressing "concern".

But troubled South Sudan's support of the kingdom might be the biggest surprise.

"Nobody pressured us to put out that statement. Like any other government in the world we have the right to make statements," Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Baak Wol told The Associated Press. "We wanted to express our opinion on something that is a concern for everyone in the world."

Critics said otherwise, suggesting that the government is looking elsewhere for friends as ties with top humanitarian donor United States turn chilly over South Sudan's failure to end a devastating civil war. The US successfully led the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo earlier this year and has threatened to withdraw millions in aid.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

"Why should the US give development assistance to governments that will squander it or will put it in its pockets?" the top US diplomat for Africa, Tibor Nagy, told reporters on Tuesday in response to a question about the country.

Political analyst and University of Juba professor Jacob Chol said South Sudan's statement is likely "reactionary diplomacy, feelings that Saudi Arabia may support South Sudan financially. Opportunism."

"The government of South Sudan is desperate for diplomatic relations and is clutching at anything to reconnect to the US," said Wol Deng Atak, a former member of South Sudan's parliament who now lives in exile. "This letter suggests the extent to which the regime is willing to go."

Read more on:    jamal khashoggi  |  djibouti  |  somalia  |  south sudan  |  saudi arabia  |  east africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

SQL Reporter

Cape Town
Communicate Cape Town IT
R10 000.00 - R12 000.00 Per Month

Reporting Accountant

Cape Town
Network Finance Professional / Prudential
R310 000.00 - R360 000.00 Per Year

Cluster Financial Manager

Cape Town
Network Finance
R950 000.00 - R1 000 000.00 Per Year

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.