Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1299, (9 - 15 June 2016)
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1299, (9 - 15 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

In quest for the truth

The Foreign Ministry rejects allegations by a Kenyan diplomat that an Egyptian representative used insulting language, reports Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Foreign Ministry spokesman has said Egypt’s representative did not use offensive language against African countries at the recently concluded Nairobi environment meeting.

Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a written statement that an investigation had proved the representative of Egypt did not say inappropriate or offensive words against African countries at the Nairobi environment meeting.

Abu Zeid said intensive investigations conducted by the ministry over the past few days had shown that accusations against the representative of Egypt at a General Assembly United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) conference in Nairobi proved baseless and false “as the representative did not utter any inappropriate or offensive words against African countries”.

He added that the minutes of the meeting and video and audio tapes proved that the accusations against the head of the Egyptian delegation were fabrications.

The ministry statement also called for the dismissal of the Kenyan coordinator from her position.

Abu Zeid said that instructions given to the Egyptian Embassy in Nairobi rejected attempts to settle the matter without taking action against the Kenyan coordinator “in light of the damage that was unjustly caused to Egypt and its people”. He stressed that Egypt will always be proud of its African roots and respects its African brothers in the country.

The Foreign Ministry statement came in reaction to a memorandum issued by the Kenyan coordinator of the African Diplomatic Corps (ACDC) Technical Committee at the UNEP conference in Nairobi, Yvonne Khamati, in which she accused the head of the Egyptian delegation participating in the meeting of making racist comments by referring to Africans as “dogs and slaves” during the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in Kenya.

The incident caused widespread anger on popular and official levels and made some believe that it was orchestrated.

“Looks like someone pushed her to take that action to embarrass Egypt,” said Ahmed, a gardener.

Ali Salem, a microbus driver, did not rule out a personal element in the matter. “I assume that there was a personal conflict between her and an Egyptian person either on a professional or personal level. And she decided to seek revenge from all Egyptians,” he said.

A diplomat who talked on condition of anonymity did not rule out the role of an external hand. “Israel and Turkey have a strong presence in Kenya. However, we cannot blame either state. We can only blame ourselves for not being present enough in African states,” he said.

However, the positive side is that it was a chance for Egypt to reassert its ties with Africa, he added. Shortly after the incident the ministry issued a statement expressing Egypt’s “complete rejection of any attempts to cast doubt on Egypt’s belonging to Africa and its defence of the continent’s interests”.

After Khamati’s memorandum in which she called for punitive measures against Egypt, the ministry ordered an immediate investigation, stressing that all the information available to the ministry thus far indicates that the Egyptian representative at the meeting of the African Group did not use any unacceptable language.

The ministry also tasked the Egyptian Embassy in Nairobi with directing a memorandum to the Council of African Ambassadors in Nairobi, to be distributed to all African countries and groups in regional and international organisations, expressing Egypt’s rejection and denunciation of the African coordinator’s exceeding of her mandate, as well as Cairo’s rejection of the offenses towards Egypt contained in the memorandum.

Egypt also demanded an apology for the content and tone of the memo written by a Kenyan coordinator.

Egypt’s memorandum also asked for any official recorded evidence of the session in question to be provided to Cairo, in relation to the allegations made regarding the Egyptian representative that could help in the investigation.

The Egyptian Embassy in Kenya denounced the memorandum and rejected its language, saying that [we] “express our categorical rejection, disappointment, and dismay at the inappropriate content of the aforementioned memorandum”.

In addition, Assistant Foreign Minister for African Affairs Mohamed Idris met with African ambassadors to Cairo last week to tell them that the Kenyan diplomat’s memo included mistakes and generalisations.

He asserted that the records of UNEA-2 did not include the allegations made by Khamati.

Idris pointed to the fact that Egypt will always be proud of being part of the African continent and will always support African states in their search for development and a better future for their peoples.

On the official level, Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told her Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukri on the phone that the Foreign Ministry had not known anything about Khamati’s memorandum before it was issued. She added that an investigation in the matter will be held.

Khamati’s memorandum in Nairobi at the conclusion of the UNEP Assembly stated, “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.”

She communicated the recommendation that “the Arab Republic of Egypt, at the highest level, unreservedly apologise to Africa,” and that they resign as president of AMCEN.

She called for punitive measures against Egypt in a number of international forums due to what she said was Egypt’s unsuitability to represent Africa in these forums.

Speaking later to Capital FM News, Khamati explained that a number of those in the delegation that approached Egypt on Friday had served in Arab speaking countries and thereby understood the reference to them as “dogs and slaves”.

UNEA-2 came to a close late last month when 120 governments agreed on 25 resolutions aimed at remedying air pollution, the illegal trade in wildlife, the effect of marine litter, debris and micro-plastics on oceans, among other issues.

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