Arabian power play
Since Sunday, the public have been captivated with unprecedented news. This time around it was not about the internal political unrest in the country, it was rather the arrest of Ethiopian-born Saudi tycoon Mohammad Hussein al-Amoudi by the Saudi Arabian government.
Al-Amoudi was arrested along with dozens of ministers, high profile officials and prominent Saudi businesspersons and members of royal family. They were detained because of being allegedly involved in corrupt activities.
Al-Amoudi, who is the owner of MIDROC, is involved in a range of investments including petroleum, agribusiness, property, industry and industrial services, engineering and construction, tourism and trade and investment.
The 71-yesr-old business mogul has investments across Europe, Saudi and Ethiopia. In Ethiopia under its MIDROC Group to mention few of them owns a number of companies involved in mining, agriculture, agro processing, real estate and hospitality.
The company in addition to its success story, it has been under a number scrutinizes for taking a large plot of land particularly in Addis Ababa for a years and doing no investment.
In addition to other investments, the company acquired a large tract of land in the Gambella Regional State under its farming investment under it subsidiary Saudi Star Agricultural Development PLC.
This company was established and set majorly to support the then king of Saudi King Abdullah’s Food Security Program, in order to supply rice to Saudi.
In regards to his arrest in alleged corruption crimes sources close to Al-Amoudi told The Reporter that the business tycoon is currently detained at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh and is in contact with one family member over the phone.
The corruption crackdown, which is being led by Mohammed Bin Salman, crown prince of the oil-rich kingdom is said to be a part of a reform by the Saudi government.
Political commentators who are closely following the development in Gulf countries particularly in Saudi see the crackdown in two ways.
“For me the action taken by Saudi is a part of reform as well as consolidation of power by the new Crown Prince, who is expected to be next King,” Leulseged Girma, a geopolitical analyst on Middle Eastern Affairs said.
He also expressed his concern that the current rivalry between Saudi and Iran might have an impact in the Horn of Africa.
Given its ambition to be the Middle East’s superpower Saudi Arabia might also try to control ports across the Red Sea which will have an impact on Ethiopia, he said.
It is to be recalled that in the aftermath of the corruption crackdown the Prime Minister of Lebanon unprecedentedly resigned from his position. Some media outlets in the Middle East attribute his resignation to a rising influence of Iran through the Hezbollah.
This week a number of gulf countries called their citizens to leave Lebanon fearing an escalation of tension in the region.
As a matter of fact thousands of Ethiopians currently reside in Lebanon.
The Crown Prince is trying to introduce a number of reforms which the Wahabists, ultraconservative side of Saudi, who are also rich, are not happy about, he said.
Following the arrest, the Saudi government has also announced that it will freeze the assets of those who are not detained but have connections with the alleged crime.
This announcement has also echoed to Ethiopia where many fear that Ethiopia may feel the brunt in the future.
In connection to this issue, during a press conference with local media outlets, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn said that there is no request of freezing MIDROC’s asset in Ethiopia from the Saudi side.
He also said that his government is following the issue.