An as yet unnamed Egyptian official, widely believed to be the Deputy Minister for Environment, has stirred up a diplomatic storm of epic proportions after reportedly describing his comrades South of the Sahara as ‘slaves’ and ‘dogs’.
The bulging diplomatic incident reportedly occurred during a United Nations Environmental Summit held in Nairobi last week. During a heated discussion over the passing of a resolution on Gaza, the Egyptian Minister lost his cool and flung the invectives at the African delegations.
Kenya’s Ambassador to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Chair of the African Diplomatic Corps Technical Committee Yvonne Khamati, revealed the embarrassing incident in a memo to to the Dean of the Africa Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Kelebert Nkomani.
In the memo, Khamati described the incident, calling for Egypt, which currently holds the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) Presidency, to be barred from representing the continent in future endeavours.
According to the memo, which leaked online, the issue erupted because the resolution, introduced by the Egyptians, could not be passed because a quorum was not reached, unlike several other prior resolutions which were roundly passed.
“During the closing session of UNEA-2, 24 resolutions were adopted by member States, which was a triumph for most countries, especially African countries.” Khamati wrote.
“However, divisions arose when the resolution on Gaza was not adopted due to procedural issues, that is, a lack of quorum because most delegations had left. As a result, a few African delegations consulted with the delegation of Morocco, in their capacity as Chair of the Arab League and Egypt, with the view to dissuade them from nullifying the resolutions that had already been adopted before the issue of quorum was raised.
“During our consultations with Egypt, the head of the Egyptian delegation and current President of AMCEN dismissed our concerns by informing that they would speak in their sovereign capacity and to that extent, referred to Sub-Saharan Africa as dogs and slaves, in Arabic.”
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A host of nations are now calling for Egypt to be stripped of their position.
“…We believe that the utterances made by Egypt have the potential to undermine UNEP and Africa as its host. Moreover this shows their lack of loyalty towards Africa. Africa has lost trust and faith in their leadership and we do not believe that they have the moral standing to represent the interest of Africa….”
But Egypt has strongly refuted the allegations, with the Foreign Affairs Ministry balking at the allegations in a statement.
“[Egypt] completely rejects attempts to doubt its sense of belonging to Africa and its consistent defense of the continent’s interests.” The statement read, in part.
Mahmoud Ali Talaat Mahmoud, the Egyptian ambassador to Nairobi, told Kenyan daily The Nation that they are investigating the issue.
“If there was any insulting, it is something we are investigating, but we should not take any decisions or anticipate anything without knowing it. Because I don’t think he said these things,” Mr Mahmoud said in a telephone interview in Nairobi.
“Our concern now is that this letter is not talking about a person but Egypt in general. Egypt has always supported African states because we are all facing the same challenges,” he added.
Egypt, like a huge chunk of Northern Africa, is Arabian, and generally falls prey to the haughtiness to the black African that Arabs in general hold.
The entire concept of Sub-Saharan Africa kind of feeds into this mentality, where Africa South of the Sahara (or black Africa), is geographically and politically considered a separate entity from the Northern part.
Egypt are scrambling to contain the situation, due to its potential diplomatic consequences- but there undoubtedly remains a smidgen of this kind of tension between the two kinds of Africa.
For a generally impoverished continent, the lack of unity to fight for shared goals, something early leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta fought tirelessly for, has led to an inability to stand to the combined power of imperial nations, and thus diminished the bargaining power we hold on the world stage.
As usual, it is the petty prejudices that kill us.