Doha and Riyadh play out their rivalries in West Africa

Doha and Riyadh play out their rivalries along the Abidjan-Ouaga-Accra axis


The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, is in Dakar, December 20, 2017

December 20, 2017 – Though it has so far had limited repercussions on the continent, the six-month diplomatic stand-off between Qatar and Saudi Arabia is now being exported to West Africa. It remains largely a war of words, but tensions may shortly ramp up a notch when Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani embarks on a tour of the sub-region.

Business interests – Doha is now intending to increase its direct investment in the region, having for a long time operated at one remove through the intermediary of investment funds. Its strategy is centered on countering Saudi influence at a time when Riyadh is expanding its interests in the energy sector through the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD). Several heads of state have been responsive to Qatar’s overtures. Nigeria’s Mahamadou Issoufou and Burkina Faso’s Roch Marc Christian Kabore have visited Doha this year, and the Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara traveled there in 2013. Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will be visiting these countries from 20 December onwards, as well as Guinea, Senegal and Ghana, and will formalise relations by opening embassies and signing trading agreements and several investment contracts. Doha is seeking to gain the upper hand in the energy sector, and so Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is likely to use his stopover in Ivory Coast on 23 December to drive forward the project to supply the country with liquefied natural gas (LNG), of which Qatar is one of the world’s leading producers. An initial MOU was signed in Doha in May 2013 by the then oil minister Adama Toungara, Qatargas and Qatar petroleum. These companies undertook to invest over a billion dollars in various projects, including supplying LNG to the country’s thermal power stations.

Infrastructure – The Ivorian government will also be trying to negotiate funding for the Bouake-Ouagadougou highway, whose cost is estimated at €3 billion, and to drive forward the project to finance a university in San Pedro in the west. Another dossier pending is the arrival of Qatar Airways at Abidjan’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny international airport, where it is hoping to steal a march on Emirates, which operates daily flights between Dubai and Abidjan via Accra. For his part, Roch Marc Christian Kabore is encouraging Qatar Airways to enter into a partnership with Air Burkina, which is currently in search of a strategic partner after the withdrawal of Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). The Burkinabe president is simultaneously trying to persuade Qatar Mining to invest in the country in preference to the Emirates company Djillah Gold owned by Mohamed Hammoodi Hashim, which had been hoping to construct a gold refinery in Ouagadougou. The fact that the company was invited into the country by Yacouba Zida, Kabore’s vilified predecessor, does not however augur well for this project. Riyadh has instead contented itself with financing the future Donsin airport on the outskirts of the capital via the SFD, at a cost of $28 million.

Emissaries – This battle for influence has relied on interventions by a number of emissaries, including Nicolas Sarkozy and above all Mustafa Limam Chafi, who has championed Qatari interests in a sub-region he is intimately acquainted with. To prepare this tour, Blaise Compaore’s former special adviser met Ouattara in Abidjan in October and he has also met with the Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo, Qatar having opened an embassy in his country in November. In exile in Doha since his release, Karim Wade, the son of the former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, is also facilitating the tour by activating his networks, despite his well-known animosity towards Macky Sall. Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the father of the current Emir of Qatar, has also helped to arrange this tour through his top-level political contacts in several countries, in particular Nigeria.

Source: WAN, December 20, 2017.
 © Copyright 2017 Indigo Publications. All Rights Reserved.

Those who are opening the doors of Africa to the Emir of Qatar

Qatar-Ivory Coast

The Emir of Qatar hosted by President Ouattara of Ivory Coast in Abidjan, December 24, 2017. ©APANEWS

December 08, 2017 – The Emir of Qatar, Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani, is to visit West Africa from December 20 to 24. He is to go to Senegal, Guinea, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana in a tour which should lead to the signature of several economic and trade agreements, as well as some official embassy openings. The countries to be visited have been chosen because of their close relations with Morocco, a country which the Qatari authorities already use as a conduit for their investments.

Several personalities have approached to help organize the trip, among them former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy, who was recently brought in by Alassane Ouattara to promote Doha’s interests in Ivory Coast (WAN 764), took charge of the emir’s visit to Ivory Coast, where he is due to arrive in Abidjan on December 23. The other visits have been organized by Mustapha Limam Chafi, former special adviser to Blaise Compaore, who acts as a go-between between Doha and Rabat, where he officially resides.

Karim Wade, son of former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, who has been living in Doha since he was freed from Dakar’s Rebeuss Prison in 2016 (WAN 733), is also understood to have made use of his West African contacts on the emir’s behalf.

Source: WAN, December 08, 2017.
© Copyright 2017 Indigo Publications. All Rights Reserved.

Riyadh seeking to involve Sassou in its offensive against Doha

July 26, 2017 – On 15 July, Denis Sassou Nguesso received two high-ranking Saudi diplomats at his Oyo residence, where these days he is to be found from Thursday to Tuesday every week. According to our sources, the diplomats arrived from Riyadh in a private jet, accompanied by an official from the Islamic Development Bank (IBD). With the Congolese treasury no longer able to cover the costs of military operations in Pool province, Brazzaville is desperately casting around for new sources of income. It is hoping to find one such source in Saudi Arabia through the offices of Thomas Boni Yayi. A consultant for the Societe Nationale des Petroles du Congo (SNPC), the former president of Benin has helped to open some doors at various Saudi palaces and indeed he engineered the visit of the two diplomats. For Riyadh, this rapprochement constitutes a first attempt to rally Central African countries to its offensive against Doha.

Historically, Congo-B is the African heartland of the French multinational Total, and Qatar is one of the company’s most loyal shareholders. If their diplomats manage to recruit Congo-B to the anti-Qatar camp in exchange for financial assistance, Riyadh will have succeeded in driving a wedge between Doha and its economic partners. The visit by the two diplomats was supposed to have been followed by the arrival in Congo-B on 21 July of the Saudi minister of foreign affairs Adel ben Ahmed Al Joubeir, but his trip has had to be cancelled.

Source: WAN, July 26, 2017.
© Copyright 2017 Indigo Publications. All Rights Reserved.

Qatar and UAE use gold-plated diplomacy

November 26, 2015 – The United Arab Emirates and Qatar competed with each other for the favours of former US ambassador in Libya Deborah Jones using jewellery. This was revealed in the register of diplomatic gifts published on November 25 by the Department of State’s protocol gift unit. Qatari defence minister Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah, who is known for his support for the Libyan government in Tripoli, offered two Concord watches worth 4,900 dollars to the ambassador on November 14 2014. A few days earlier, United Arab Emirates president Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the main backer of the Tobruk government, gave her a necklace set and earrings estimated to be worth 3,200 dollars.

Four months into office, Tobruk government prime minister Abdallah Al-Thani also offered President Barack Obama a silver circular bearing the inscription “Interim Government of Libya” and a carpet, all together worth about 600 dollars. Not everyone can be an emir!

Source: MC, November 26, 2015
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