The Saudi connections of two detained male associates of Prince Hamzah have sparked speculation about Riyadh’s relationship with Amman
 
Former head of the royal court Bassem Awadallah was arrested by Jordanian forces on 3 April for "security reasons". (Pictured June 2006, AFP)sharethis sharing button

On Saturday evening, Jordanian forces carried out a large-scale arrest campaign reportedly targeting at least 14 people accused of "undermining the security" of Jordan, including Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, the half-brother of King Abdullah II and former crown prince of Jordan.

While Jordanian authorities have stressed that Prince Hamzah is not under arrest, the Jordanian royal released a video on Saturday evening in which he said he had been instructed by the army chief of staff to limit his movements and communications while an investigation was ongoing.

Those arrested are reported to include people close to the former crown prince - including his office manager, bodyguards, and palace manager - in addition to  a number of former state officials.

So far, Jordanian authorities have revealed only the identities of two detainees: Sharif Hassan bin Zaid and Bassem Awadallah, as Jordan's state news agency Petra reported that both had been "arrested, among others, for security reasons".

Prince Hamzah, the son of late King Hussein and his last wife, Queen Noor, is a well-known figure who has reportedly been critical of the Hashemite monarchy under his half-brother's reign.

There has been much speculation about the others accused of involvement in what some have described as an alleged coup attempt. 

Both bin Zaid and Awadallah's strong ties with the Saudi leadership have led to speculation inside Jordan about what role, if any, Riyadh may have played in the recent events.

Who is Bassem Awadallah?

Awadallah served as economic secretary to the Jordanian premier from 1992 to 1996. He was appointed head of Jordan's royal court in 2007, before being sacked from the position less than a year later. 

Following his dismissal, Awadallah moved to Dubai and established a company, Tomouh, reportedly living between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

According to the records of Companies House in the UK, Awadallah has extensive partnerships with Saudi businessmen in the Arab National Bank (ANB) and heads the bank's London branch, along with a number of Saudi partners.

He is also known for maintaining a network of prominent business connections, including through his presence on the board of directors of Al Baraka Banking Group in Bahrain.

Awadallah is reported to have spent the last few years working as a consultant for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with some news outlets calling him one of the masterminds of the privatisation of Saudi Arabia's energy giant Aramco

Awadallah, 56, appeared alongside bin Salman at the annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) held in Riyadh in January.

Who is Sharif Hassan bin Zaid?

Sharif Hassan bin Zaid al-Nasser is a somewhat obscure member of the Jordanian Hashemite royal family, who is known to be close with Prince Hamzah.

Unconfirmed reports have states that bin Zaid formerly served as King Abdullah's special envoy to Saudi Arabia.

He is also said to have significant business ties to Riyadh. Jordanian news website al-Ghawas reported that bin Zaid "lives and owns investments in Saudi Arabia".

Some Jordanian news outlets have reported that bin Zaid holds dual Jordanian-Saudi citizenship.

Speculation on Saudi connection

Shortly after news broke of Saturday’s arrests, Saudi Arabia issued an official statement to express solidarity with the Jordanian king, making it the first country to comment on the recent turbulence. 

"We stand with Jordan and support the decisions of King Abdullah to preserve the security of his country," the Saudi royal court said.

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The connections between Awadallah, bin Zaid and Riyadh have raised some eyebrows, but Jordanian MP Omar Al-Ayasra ruled out the possibility of Saudi Arabia's involvement in internal Jordanian tensions.

"I do not think that what happened has any external ties or has anything to do with neighbouring countries," he told Middle East Eye. "The theories about [Prince Hamzah’s] ability to replace the king are internal files par excellence. I do not think that any foreign party can bet on him because he lacks the necessary qualities that could allow him to dethrone the king and take his place."

The deputy attributed the crackdown to claims that "Prince Hamzah has become a source of inconvenience for the political system, with the presence of social forces and some protesters who sympathize with him, which prompted the authorities to take firm measures to contain the issue once and for all".

King Abdullah II himself is no stranger to Riyadh. As recently as 8 March, the monarch flew to Saudi Arabia, accompanied by his son, Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah. Little information came out about the purpose of the meeting, with Jordan's royal court only stating that King Abdullah had met with the influential Saudi crown prince, for whom Awadallah has done consulting work.

Saudi Arabia's quick response to Saturday's events may have two explanations, Ayasra hypothesised.

"First, the nature of relations between the two countries has always been characterised by mutual and unconditional solidarity on any given file," he said. "The second reason is explained by the implication of Awadallah in the case, which made Saudi Arabia rush to dismiss any doubts about its role in what is happening in Jordan."

As the story of the alleged coup unfurls, more light may well be shed on the allegations currently levelled against Awadallah and bin Zaid - as well as on Prince Hamzah. By MEE Correspondent, MEE

Photo The New Times

 

Cardinal Antoine Kambanda, Archbishop of Kigali has warned Christians against jumping on the bandwagon, urging them to stick to what is right, even when they are to stand alone.

The message was contained in the prelate's sermon while leading mass on the Eve of Easter Sunday, which was broadcast on Rwanda Television, and Pacis TV of Catholic Church in Rwanda.

He cited the biblical message where Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jacob, who stuck with Jesus even after he was condemned, up to the time he was crucified where he eventually died.

They were not intimidated by the fact that majority at the time supported Jesus' condemnation.

Those women, he said, showed a good example of how to stick to what is right and shun the wrong irrespective of the numbers that have embraced it.

“These women gave us a strong example of clinging to Jesus even when other people mock at you; you rather stick to the truth of Christ because he is the rescuer,” he said, advising people against fearing the ‘eyes’ instead of fearing sin and death.

Kambanda said that sometimes a Christian fears being judged and follow others in sin, just because they are majority.

“You realise that some people are letting sin, hatred, discrimination, misbehavior, and ethnic segregation reign,” he said.

And, destruction of marriages is being accepted, Kambanda said, pointing out that there are countries where people are surprised at the older spouses still in union.

“They see it as unusual as if they (the older married couples) are the ones who have a problem,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Kambanda told Christians that wealth and wellness in this world is not complete because a person who enjoys them is bound to die as their lifetime is limited.

“No one escapes death forever; it dwarfs all the attempts of humanity including scientists trying to fight it,” he said.

Why death and suffering

Kambanda said that sometimes people encounter problems, suffering and diseases such as the current Covid-19 pandemic which has ravaged the world, and even death.

He said that death is associated with sins such as jealousy, adultery, pride, selfishness, greed, discrimination, among others.

“All this that happens to us, especially with death being their culmination, and we wonder why God let that happen yet he is almighty and loves us,” he said.

He said that God created a person who he loved, and still loves, and cherished him/her by enabling them to live in paradise.

However, he said that the person was tempted to desire to be equal to God so that he/she is no longer under the governance of God, rather be independent. 

Yet, God had given to the person everything to lead a decent life, including the power to govern all the creatures and resources in the world.

He said that Easter is a reason for joy because it symbolises the victory of Jesus over death, which implies that as he resurrected, the deceased righteous will also rise from the dead to have a happy everlasting life.

On Easter Sunday, Christians will be allowed to attend church but in observance of the standard operating procedures in place to fight Covid-19.

Among the measures include having a congregation of not more than 30 per cent of the capacity of the church. - Emmanuel Ntirenganya, The New Times

Tanzania's new President Samia Suluhu Hassan takes oath of office following the death of her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli at State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania March 19, 2021. Photo Reuters

 

Gender inequality remains a global challenge to women seeking political leadership. With several countries making progress to achieve gender parity, the swearing-in of Samia Suluhu Hassan as the president of Tanzania, brings a new dawn to women’s leadership in Africa. 

Born on January 17, 1960, a native of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago, Suluhu made history of being the first female president in East Africa. She took over power after her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli died in office.

Suluhu completed her secondary education in 1977, a time when many girls were not allowed to go to school in Tanzania. She advanced her studies and graduated with advance diploma in Public Administration from the Institute of Development Management (Mzumbe University) in the year 1986.

In 1992-1994, she graduated with a postgraduate diploma in economics from the University of Manchester. In 2015, she obtained her MSc in Community Economic Development through a joint-program between the Open University of Tanzania and the Southern New Hampshire.

Suluhu started her political career in 2000 when she was elected as special Sect Member to the Zanzibar House of Representatives. She became the only high-ranking woman minister in the Cabinet when President Amani Karume appointed her as a minister.

In 2010, she contested for the Makunduchi parliamentary seat and won by a landslide after getting more than 80 per cent of votes. President Jakaya Kikwete appointed her Minister of the state for Union Affairs. In 2014, she was elected as the Vice Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the country’s constitution.

Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) presidential nominee John Pompe Magufuli chose her to be his running mate during 2015 presidential elections. She became the first female presidential running mate in entire history of CCM party.

On November 5, 2015, she became the first female vice president in the history of Tanzania when Magufuli was declared duly elected president.

In the history East Africa, Suluhu is the second woman to become vice president after Specioza Naigara Wandira of Uganda who was in office from 1994 to 2003.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, women’s participation in politics stands at (23.8%). Rwanda is amongst the highest globally with (61.3%) of women holding parliamentary seats in the National Assembly. Since 2008 elections, Rwanda became the first developing country to have majority of women in the National Assembly.

In Kenya, quite a number of women leaders were elected competitively to various political offices from gubernatorial, Senators, Members of the National Assembly and county assemblies during 2017 elections. This was a great milestone on women participation in politics under a new dispensation.

During 2015 Summit on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), world leaders adopted that women’s empowerment and equal participation in politics is essential to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

According to a global monitoring report by UN-Women Agency on Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, the agency made it clear: “There can be no Sustainable Development without Gender Equality.”

With women facing a number of challenges in their quest for political power, Ms Kaja Kallas are among few women leaders breaking political ceiling in a male dominated societies. She was elected as Estonia’s Head of State and Government and took office on 26th January 2021.

When US Vice President Kamala Harris congratulated Suluhu she underscored the importance of women scaling up their participation in political processes. - Gerald Lepariyo, The Standard

THE International Monetary Fund on Friday said its board had approved new three-year financing arrangements for Kenya valued at $2.34 billion to help the African country continue responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and address its debt vulnerabilities.

Approval of the new loans under the Fund’s Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility will enable immediate disbursement of about $307.5 million that Kenya can use for budget support, adding to $739 million it received in emergency COVID-19 aid in May 2020, the Fund said in a statement.

The IMF said Kenya’s debt remained sustainable, but it was at high risk of debt distress, and authorities should focus their near-term agenda on urgent structural policy challenges.

For nearly two years, Kenya has abandoned expensive commercial debt to cut back on ballooning repayments, while revenue collection has been squeezed by the pandemic.

It also faces huge budget deficits that have been deepened by the coronavirus crisis.

“The program supported by EFF/ECF arrangements with the Fund provides a strong signal of support and confidence,” IMF Deputy Managing Director Antoinette Sayeh said in a statement. “The Kenyan authorities have demonstrated strong commitment to fiscal reforms during this unprecedented global shock, and Kenya’s medium-term prospects remain positive.”

Kenya was hit hard at the onset by the COVID-19 pandemic, but its economy has been picking up after likely posting a slight contraction of 0.1% in 2020, the IMF said.

It said it forecast a sharp swing to growth of 7.6% in 2021 and 5.7% in 2022, but said Kenya continued to face challenges in the return to durable growth, and its past gains in poverty reduction had been reversed.

The COVID-19 shock had also exacerbated the country’s pre-existing fiscal vulnerabilities, the IMF said, although Kenyan authorities had taken action to hold the fiscal deficit and debt ratios to 8.7 and 70.4% of GDP, respectively, this fiscal year.

Support from a Group of 20 moratorium on debt service payments and development partners will help Kenya close its financing gap in 2021 along with financing from capital markets.

Sayeh said Kenya was taking steps to reduce debt-related risks, but should continue to provide necessary support to the economy and focus on urgent structural policy challenges, including financial weaknesses in some state-owned enterprises. ZBC

Photo Anadolu Agency

 

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Friday said 58 women and children, who were abducted last year during vicious intercommunal fighting in Jonglei State, have been reunited with their families.

In a press statement, it said the exchange of abducted women and children came following a community-led goodwill agreement between the Lou Nuer, Murle and Dinka Bor ethnic communities.

“Abductions are a horrific aspect of conflict in this area,” said David Shearer, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan and head of UNMISS.

“However, the agreement reached to release the abducted women and children is an essential step to build trust and avoid the cycle of revenge. I applaud all those involved for their efforts to reunite these innocent victims with their families,” he added.

Intensive efforts to broker peace between the three communities have been underway since December 2020, backed by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, working together with agencies supported by the UK and the US.

The UN helicopters have been shuttling between Pibor, Pochalla, Pieri and Juba to pick up groups of women and children and return them to their communities.

The Director General of Information in Pibor Administrative area, Yasir Babakir, told Anadolu Agency by phone that authorities of Greater Pibor Administrative area have handed over 27 abducted children to authorities in Central Equatoria, Pochala County and Nuer community of Jonglei State.

He said their authorities have handed over 14 abducted children to Nuer, seven to Anyuak and six to Central Equatoria state.

He revealed that after handing over 14 children to Nuer community of Jonglei, Nuer also returned 14 children of Murle.

“Administration of Pibor is working hard to implement the resolutions of the peace conference held in Juba sometime back by people of Jonglei and Pibor. We want to have peace with all our neighboring states,” Babakir said. - Benjamin Takpiny, Anadolu Agency

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