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Winners and Losers of Red Sea Politics in Sudan – African Arguments

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Debating Ideas is a new section that aims to reflect the values and editorial ethos of the African Arguments book series, publishing engaged, often radical, scholarship, original and activist writing from within the African continent and beyond. It will offer debates and engagements, contexts and controversies, and reviews and responses flowing from the African Arguments books.

Credit: Arab Weekly

 

Current tensions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE have encouraged a deepening of  diplomatic relations between the Saudi government and the transitional authority in Sudan. However, these foreign policy developments have not engendered a shift in the military’s approach and attitude towards its civilian counterpart for the benefit of the transition period.

Saudi Arabia is deepening its influence in Sudan. As chair of the Friends of Sudan Conference in August 2020, the platform allowed it, among other things, to influence the Sudanese Revolutionary Forces (SRF)—a coalition of armed groups who represent the peripheries of Sudan—to sign the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA). Recent tensions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE will further encourage Saudi foreign policy interventions in Sudan through deepening its relations with both the civilian and armed components of the transitional government. This move comes with the possibility of the Sudanese military abandoning its alliances with the UAE, allowing Saudi Arabia considerable influence over Sudanese foreign policy.

Saudi Arabia’s recent foreign policy interventions in Sudan started with it announcing a $3 billion bilateral increase in funding to Sudan’s various sectors. Notwithstanding that the country is pressed for foreign reserves, these funds come with a concern that Sudan is caught between Saudi Arabia and UAE tensions, polarising competing segments of the transitional government, and further undermining the transition period.

An additional source of concern is the Sudanese military’s recent restoration of relations with both Turkey and Qatar, signalling the military’s intentions to continue to hold power in Sudan through positioning itself with the Gulf’s interests beyond the supposed conclusion of the transition period in 2023–24.

Soft power: the promise of agricultural investments

Saudi Arabia’s proactive interventionist approach to Sudanese domestic and international affairs is not just about managing regional power axes. Saudi initiated agriculture investments in Sudan to protect its own food security while tactically taking steps to reduce UAE’s influence over the Sudanese government. The interest of both countries diverged with Saudi Arabia giving priority to its national interests that are tied to Saudi Vision 2030 over its alliance with the UAE. Sudan tilts the balance of regional power because of its geo-strategic location between the Red Sea, and East and West Africa—areas that the UAE has been steadily expanding its political and economic influences into.

To exert its influence, Saudi Arabia used its financial clout to encourage creditors, partners of the World Bank, to approve Sudan’s debt relief at the Paris Conference on 17 May. As a result, and in a step that demonstratedSaudi’s deepening influence over Sudan’s new political elite, Hadi Idriss, a member of Sudan’s Security Council and chairman of the SRF, paid a visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2021 where he met with Saudi officials. The outcome of the meetings was an agreement that Sudan and Saudi Arabia will create a joint company to coordinate $3 billion worth of investments in Sudan, and that Saudi will commit to sending relief teams to various regions of Sudan.

Meanwhile, the UAE’s influence over the transitional government is exerted primarily through the military leadership of the transitional council; Lt. General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and Lt. General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemetti” whom Saudi Arabia backs as well. Leaders of the civilian arm of the transitional government, the Freedom and Change Collation (FFC), currently members of Prime Minister Hamdok’s cabinet of ministers’ members of the Sovereign Council (SC)—Sudan’s highest transitional body—are also part of these regional arrangements.

Saudi Arabia’s backing of Sudan has encouraged Saudi agriculture companies such as the Rajhi Group to invest further in Sudan. It was reported that its executives held meetings on 17 and 28 June with Minni Minawi, Darfur’s new governor as per the JPA, member of the SRF and head of the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minawi (SLM-MM). Further to that, Minawi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in June was meant to encourage Saudi investments in the war-torn region of Darfur.

With Sudan being admitted to the World Bank’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) on 30 June paving the way for substantive debt forgiveness of Sudan’s debts by the international community, which stand at around $60 billion, Saudi’s investments in Sudan are safeguarded for the foreseeable time. That is because the main impediment to Sudan receiving debt relief was the country being included on the US State Sponsor of Terrorism (STT) list that discouraged foreign banks to carry out transactions with Sudan in order to comply with US laws. Sudan being removed sends a signal to foreign banks and companies that doing businesses in Sudan will not result in them facing legal challenges with US authorities.

Based on these developments, both Gibril Ibrahim of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)—a signatory armed faction to the JPA—and Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, who is also a leader within the SRF, and Al-Hadi Mohamed, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, held a joint conference on 9 July with Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund and 40 Saudi companies in Saudi Arabia. The outcome of the conference is an agreement to open 15 branches of Saudi banks in Sudan and to establish a ministerial committee with the intention to facilitate more investments in Sudan, further encouraging Saudi Arabia to increase its influence in Sudan above the $35 billion invested in Sudan as of 2020, with $26.5 billion previously invested in agriculture alone.

Soft power in the Red Sea

To further its own interest of expanding tourism on the Red Sea coastline to meet its Saudi Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has doubled down its influence in Sudan, the troubled and conflict ridden Red Seastate, through investments and development projects. Sudan’s 750 kilometres coastline adjacent to Saudi Arabia makes the region and the state prone to Saudi’s domestic and regional interests.

Another intention of the investments is to compete with the UAE over control of the Red Sea port. The competition became more visible since Saudi investors shared a plan to build a new port in Sudan’s Red Sea coast thereby challenging the UAE’s Dubai Port conglomerate to control Red Sea ports leading to the Bab Al-Mandab straits and securing the Gulf of Aden. BothSaudi and the UAE are competing over acquiring ports in the Red Sea region. That is because the UAE has transformed Jabel Ali port into an influential port between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.[i]

These competitive bids over Red Sea and regional politics through foreign policy interventions are not unique to Sudan. Saudi Arabia is developing deeper ties with Oman through a number of agreements and the opening of a direct 800 kilometre highway between both countries. The highway should allow Saudi Arabia to reduce its dependence on exporting its oil through the Strait of Hormoz, exposing Saudi trade to Iran’s blockades as was previously the case.

The competition over controlling Port Sudan is more likely now than ever before with Saudi Arabia reaching an agreement with Sudan to develop an extensive industrial free zone around the port that includes connecting it to 800,000 hectares of arable area in the southeast near the Atbara river in Sudan.[ii]

Loss of the UAE

It seems that the UAE hast lost its influence over both Lt. General Al-Burhan, the chairman of the SC, and the commander of the Sudanese military and his deputy Lt. General Hemedti who follow Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy direction for now. UAE’s move to restore its  relations with Qatar and improving relations with Turkey this year are a direct response to its tense relations with Saudi Arabia.

This will engender a dramatic change in Sudanese foreign policy caught between oscillating Gulf politics as it was the UAE that engineered the boycott against Qatar. The restoration of relations, especially with Qatar, seemed to have been encouraged as a result of Saudi Arabia ending its boycott with Qatar in January earlier this year.

Further proof that the UAE has been losing influence over Sudan is Lt. General Al-Burhan refusing a proposal by the UAE to divide the disputed Fashaga lands with Ethiopia while the border areas are disputed. The UAE tabled a proposal of dividing the Fashaga lands as 40% for Sudan, 40% for UAE, and 20% for Ethiopia as part of the initiative to end border clashes between Sudan and Ethiopia. Al-Burhan’s decisions are domestically motivated as well; his fear of plummeting popular credibility will undermine his plans to undo Sudan’s transition to democracy, starting border clashes with Ethiopia that he cannot win, all in support of his own presidential ambitions.

Although there are tensions arising between Saudi Arabia and the UAE in their vie to control the Red Sea region, Saudi Arabia overtaking UAE’s role in Sudan does not change much of the Sudanese military plans to control the country’s transition process or take charge of Sudan after the transition period ends, even though an extension of the transition period is more likely than not.

EndNotes

[i]Author interview with an opponent to the former Bashir regime (phone interview 22 July 2021].

[ii]See Africa Intelligence: SUDAN/SAUDI ARABIA : Riyad looks to set up shop in Khartoum (africaintelligence.com)

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In defense of office politics – Smartbrief

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(Image credit: Pexels)

“Office politics” often gets a bad rap. It’s thought of as the domain of catty gossip, shady backroom deals or sycophantic compliments reminiscent of the movies “Office Space” or “9 to 5.”

Thankfully, in real-life, office politics is often much tamer — and also unavoidable for anyone with the ambition to advance.

Why? Because, at its core, office politics is about relationships with colleagues and decision-makers. And nurturing those relationships can go a long way toward advancing your career goals.

What is office politics?

While politics is often derided as purely a popularity contest, there are actually two components — being popular and getting things done.

Let’s think about “real” politics for a moment. You can be very good at getting things done, but if you’re unpopular, you’re not going to be elected in the first place. On the other hand, if you get elected because you’re popular, but fail to accomplish anything, you’ll probably find yourself voted out in the next election.

In office politics, exactly as in “real” politics, you can often get small things done without the support of others. But the more impactful your goals, the more you need to get other people on board to make them happen.

Liked + Trusted + Respected = Influence

To have influence, colleagues need to like you, trust you and respect you.

If you’re not liked, well, that’s pretty much curtains for influencing decisions, unless you’re already the boss. It’s worth noting that to be liked, you must first be known.

If you’re liked, but not respected, you might be involved the discussion, but your view won’t carry any weight. We could call this “Charlie Brown syndrome” after the classic Peanuts character.

If you’re respected but not trusted (think of a well-qualified politician whose agenda you dislike), you may be consulted on an issue but colleagues may have misgivings about your motives.

To influence behavior and decisions in the office requires all three. Liked + Trusted + Respected = Influence.

Can office politics drive value?

Everything we do at CareerPoint is based on our philosophy that career success is driven by the value you create for your employer.

We talk about value creation by referencing eight drivers of value. You could think of these as the atomic elements of employee value. It’s a framework you could use to analyze almost anything in relation to HR or career advancement. Why? Because anything that affects your value as an employee influences both the success of your career and the success of your company.

What we know as “office politics” touches on several of these value drivers, but let’s focus on just two: Relationships and positioning.

Nurturing relationships

Of all the categories of relationships that drive value for a company, none are more significant than customer relationships. If customers like, respect and trust you, they are more likely to highly value your services, keep buying them and recommend them to others. They’re also likely to be patient with you when things go awry, as things inevitably do.

The value of customer relationships can be tremendous and long-lasting. In a law firm, a single relationship can be worth tens of millions of dollars. Relationships are so important that when a partner moves from one firm to another, they often take the relationships with them. In fact, it’s hard to think of an industry where good customer relationships can’t move the dial on company success.

This means good customer relationships are a source of influence for employees. If customers highly regard you, the business won’t want to lose you and ought to value your opinion. If, on the other hand, no customer would notice or care if you left, your influence on decisions and events will be more limited.

Positioning yourself for advancement

The value driver most closely aligned with office politics is the one we’ve named Positioning. It’s all about navigating office politics to position yourself for advancement. After all, you could be the hardest working and most valuable employee in the business but fail to secure advancement if you don’t understand the politics.

The best way to think about this is to imagine a meeting of your company’s management team. Your potential promotion is being discussed. What do you want everyone to say and do?

Obviously, you want everyone to say that you are the best choice for the role. But will they?

There’s nothing you can do at this moment. It’s too late to influence any further.

In some ways, the discussion is a culmination of everything you’ve said and done since you’ve joined the company. The decision will be made largely on how the participants feel about you and the idea of you in a new, more influential role.

This is no idle abstraction. This is exactly how most advancement decisions are made. If you want to advance, the advocacy of every person around the table is what you’re solving for in the game of office politics.

5 tips for becoming an effective office politician

Here are five quick tips you can use to help build trust, respect and likeability in your workplace.

  1. Get involved with projects and initiatives outside of your team and department whenever possible. This will help you begin to widen your network.
  2. Avoid overusing email with new connections. It’s impossible to establish a relationship over email. Use the phone or arrange a quick Zoom/Teams/Webex meeting.
  3. Aim to impress every single new person you work with, both inside and outside the organization. First impressions count and impressing people is often easier than you think.  Just be reliable, responsive and helpful. Do things faster or better than they expect.
  4. You don’t build influence by being a weathervane who simply goes along with everything, but you don’t build influence by opposing everything, either. The middle course is to articulate your position clearly, call the pros and cons as you see them, accept that others will see it differently and get on board with decisions you don’t agree with.
  5. Do favors for people when it helps them without expecting anything in return. If you are generous by nature, you will build a network of influence and appreciation, and you’ll be seen as a team player. This network will help you get things done down the line.

Remember, no matter how much you hate it, office politics is a part of office life we all have to contend with. Instead of avoiding it, put your best foot forward, take smart risks, make mistakes, and learn from them.


To find out how CareerPoint can help you and your team navigate office politics and create the win/win relationships you need to succeed, visit CareerPoint’s website today.

Originally from the west coast of Scotland, Steve McIntosh is a recovering accountant (ICAEW), HR professional (GPHR) and MBA (University of Oxford). After starting his career with global accounting firm KPMG in 1998, Steve founded offshore financial services recruitment firm CML in 2004, which he led as CEO for 16 years.

In 2020, he founded CareerPoint.com, the virtual coaching platform that helps companies and their people get ahead of the curve. With customers and coaches in more than 30 countries around the world, CareerPoint is well on its way to achieving its twofold mission to help a million young people advance in their careers and level the playing field for underrepresented groups.

McIntosh is a “zealous convert” to the value of HR as a driver of business value and the author of “The Employee Value Curve: the unifying theory of HR and career advancement helping companies and their people succeed together.“

If you liked this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free email newsletters on HR and leadership. They’re among SmartBrief’s more than 250 industry-focused newsletters.

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Czechc Republic: President grants 103 citizens permission to join the Ukrainian military

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Prague, Czech Republic- As the war between Ukraine and Russia rages on, the Czech Republic has now become the latest country to offer military support to Ukraine.

According to the Czech Republic Presidency, President Milos Zeman has granted 103 citizens a special exemption, allowing them to join the Ukrainian military.

Some 400 volunteers had applied for a waiver with the goal of fighting for Ukraine against Russia.

The country requires special permission signed by the President and the Prime Minister to serve in a foreign military force. Otherwise, they face prosecution at home and potentially a five-year prison term.

In addition, the Defense Ministry then reviews each case individually in cooperation with the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry before forwarding the paperwork to the President’s Office for approval.

At the same time, the United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a US$39.8 billion package of military and other assistance to Ukraine.

“Ukrainian people are fighting the fight for their democracy, and in doing so, for ours as well. With this aid package, America sends a resounding message to the world of our unwavering determination to stand with the courageous people of Ukraine until victory is won,” said House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

The package is expected to provide US$6 billion for weaponry, intelligence support, training and other defence assistance to Ukrainian forces, as well as US$8.7 billion to replenish American equipment sent to the country. It will also allocate US$3.9 billion for European Command operations, including intelligence support and hardship pay for troops in the region.

In addition, Legislation also set aside US$13.9 billion for the State Department, with the bulk going toward the Economic Support Fund to help Ukraine’s government continue to function, another US$4.4 billion for emergency food assistance in Ukraine and around the world as well as US$900 million to assist Ukrainian refugees, including housing, English language, trauma and support services.

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Braid: Twin battles of Alberta in hockey and politics set for Wednesday – Calgary Herald

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There’s no certainty at all that the political fight ends Wednesday, even if Jason Kenney wins a majority

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Premier Jason Kenney’s backers sincerely hope their Battle of Alberta ends the very night the monumental Flames-Oilers version begins.

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Kenney will hold an event at Spruce Meadows for supporters, with media also attending, starting late afternoon Wednesday. The results from a vote on his leadership are expected by about 6 p.m.

“We’re anticipating a very exciting and intense evening with the eyes of the entire province glued to a bitterly contested battle, the result of which will reverberate across Alberta maybe for years to come,” says key Kenney campaigner Brock Harrison.

“Oh, and we’re also going to finally see the result of our leadership review.”

The count will come from Cynthia Moore, the UCP president, and chief returning officer Rick Orman.

Shortly after that, the Flames and the Oilers face off at the Saddledome for Game 1 of the second round of Stanley Cup playoff action.

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  1. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announces construction of a major highway project in Leduc, Alberta on Thursday, May 12, 2022

    Whether Kenney wins or loses on May 18, the UCP is still headed for a showdown

  2. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks to United Conservative Party members at the party's special general meeting in Red Deer on April 9, 2022.

    Braid: The tiny, tightly controlled event that launched the Kenney leadership vote

Harrison says, “Although our results won’t be known until the early evening, we will absolutely make sure we’re all wrapped up in good time for people to settle in and watch the game.”

The unforgivable political sin for the next two weeks would be to interfere with the real Battle of Alberta.

In hockey, unlike politics, conflict is right out there on the ice. There’s a serious chance of sportsmanship breaking out, and we know it will be over by May 30 at the latest, with one team clearly the winner.

There’s no certainty at all that the political fight ends Wednesday, even if Kenney wins a majority and can technically stay on as party leader and premier.

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Brian Jean speaks to the media after being sworn in as an MLA on April 7.
Brian Jean speaks to the media after being sworn in as an MLA on April 7. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia

Many of his opponents are in no mood to fall into line. New UCP member Brian Jean may not accept the result.

Other caucus members like Peter Guthrie, Angela Pitt and Leela Aheer are unlikely to reconcile with Kenney, even if he has a substantial majority.

The premier is being advised to purge the whole group from caucus, sending them to sit as Independents with already expelled members Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes.

Kenney may not follow that advice right away. Some effort at conciliation is possible.

But after all that’s been said and done in recent months — the anti-Kenney letters and comments from his own MLAs — it’s hard to imagine a sudden burst of goodwill popping up with the spring tulips.

And there’s a chance that the premier doesn’t get a majority and must resign; or that his majority is so small he would still be under extreme pressure to quit.

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One curiosity is that the political result, unlike the hockey series, is already decided and has been since May 11.

That was the cutoff date for returned mail-in ballots to reach the auditor, Deloitte Canada in Edmonton. No ballots received later were allowed.

This return mail has been examined for voter verification but the actual ballots remain in their sealed envelopes. They will be opened and counted starting the morning of May 18 — this Wednesday.

Suspicion that envelopes were improperly handled may actually have been amplified by the party’s running livestream of voter ID verification. The sight of people repeatedly opening envelopes and discarding some paper seemed mysterious.

But even Kenney opponents who did some of the work (they were allowed by the party) say there’s no way the verification could have been gamed.

Once voter ID was established, the ballot envelopes were packed into clear plastic boxes, each sealed with a unique code.

When the votes are counted Wednesday, dozens of people will be present including scrutineers from hostile UCP riding associations.

That doesn’t answer questions about membership sales, some of which are now being investigated by Elections Alberta. In today’s political climate, there’s always doubt.

That’s one reason the hockey series is so welcome. At least we’ll be absolutely sure who won.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald

Twitter: @DonBraid

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