The unfair targeting of Qatar exposes Client States in Africa.

The recent blockade and isolation of Qatar led by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt amongst others has exposed the harshness of politics in the Middle East. How did the situation reach this level in such a short space of time? What has led to some African countries to join in solidarity with Anti — Qatar forces? The answer to the first question is that Qatar has rejected political domination by these countries, Qatar will simply not give up its political and foreign policy independence. Except for Libya and Egypt, many Africans were irritated by certain African countries’ involvement in the current political spirt amongst “brothers”. Two days after the political rift erupted additional African countries namely; Mauritania, Mauritius, Senegal, Maldives and Gabon joined the frail, condemning and severing ties with Qatar.

Mauritania is one of the poorest countries in the world. The World Food Programme estimates 42% of the population is in poverty. Mauritania rely heavily on donor countries mainly from the Gulf to finance most of its projects including maintaining the lifestyles of many politicians in the country. Qatar Charity has been very active in Mauritania, it has given large sums of donations to alleviate hardship in that country. Recently a Qatari company inaugurated a large real estate project in Mauritania, the inauguration ceremony was attended by Mauritania’s Minister of Finance Mokhtar Ould Diay. There are really non-apparent reasons why Mauritania will be part the anti — Qatar Coalition. Mauritius on the other hand has signed a number of economic bilateral with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Furthermore Mauritians have very close connections with the wealthy Indian diaspora in the UAE particularly in Dubai, most have made substantial investments in Mauritius. UAE and Mauritius signed an important double taxation on income agreement in 2006. The two countries also signed an agreement on mutual encouragement and protection of investments in 2015. Senegal has an obvious axe to grind with Qatar. Karim Wade a politician from Senegal is exiled in Qatar. Wade was found guilty of corruption in a trial that most Senegalese regarded as politically motivated. The charges were brought two days after he announced his candidacy for the presidency of Senegal. He was sentenced to three years in prison and given a hefty fine. He has been living in Qatar for the past two years. Maldives as expected joined the coalition for variety of reasons including getting back at Qatar for the expose' by Al Jazeera Investigative Unit of a corrupt deep state in that country. The documentary Stealing Paradise, exposed a high level of corruption in the Maldives. It uncovered a $1.5 billion money laundering scheme involving Maldivians, Singaporean and Malaysian businessmen. The investigation also uncovered corruption at the heart of the tiny holiday nation involving a top judge and a former vice president in the embezzlement of state funds. Finally, Gabon has condemned Qatar but stopped short of severing ties with Qatar. Gabon is a member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The president of Gabon Ali Bongo Odimba whose family has ruled the country from 1967 narrowly won elections which were declared by EU and some observers as “”lacking transparency on the part of institutions organising the vote”.

The decision by these countries exposes the dangers of client state politics in Africa, many African countries remain indebted to foreign powers and they will do whatever it takes to please them. This raises very important questions around the future of the African Union (AU) and its ambitious project of promoting African unity and political consensus based on consultation. The AU has played a very important role in encouraging peaceful resolutions in the Middle East and has been very pragmatic on other issues as well. Africa has been speaking with one voice, making their case louder at certain international platforms where it mattered. The Go It Alone attitude of African client states when it comes to serious foreign positions will only weaken the AU. It threatens to resuscitate primitive mentality which has been detrimental to the African growth both politically and economically, it will destabilized Africa. African is still recovering from years of conflict, colonial imperialism and wars instigated by external forces. Therefore a unified position on such issues is very critical. Having said that it was encouraging that a number of African countries came in support of a peaceful resolution to this impasse. Sudan broke ranks and joined those calling for peaceful resolution, it is amongst the few function Arab states that has shown leadership. Similar sentiments were shared by the President of Somalia Mohamad Abdullahi Mohamed.

Common sense would dictate a different trajectory to the one currently embraced by these countries towards Qatar given the volatility on the region. Qatar has become one of the world largest producers of natural gas and oil, any disturbance to gas supplies is most likely to impact negatively on the world economy. The Gulf has been peaceful and economically prosperous. The region employs and provides refuge to a number of people from war torn countries in the Middle East. Further escalation might result in another sociopolitical and economic disaster in the Middle East.

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Senior Research Fellow Africa Asia Dialogues (Afrasid) and Research Fellow Al Sharq Forum

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Thembisa Fakude

Thembisa Fakude

Senior Research Fellow Africa Asia Dialogues (Afrasid) and Research Fellow Al Sharq Forum

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