This week in the Diplomat’s Corner, The Patriot interviewed Algerian Ambassador to Namibia, His Excellency Sid Ali Abdelbari, to determine what he makes of Namibian and Algerian relations.
The Patriot (TP): Please briefly tell us about your career and personal life
SAA(Sid Ali Abdelbari): First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the launching of your newspaper which will certainly enrich the Namibian and African Medias and to thank you for giving me the opportunity to address Namibian readers.
With regard to my career. I am a career diplomat. I started at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 34 years ago. I am married and father of three children.
TP: On which missions were you sent before being posted to Namibia?
SAA: Before being posted to Namibia, I served in different positions in Austria, Kenya and Russia. Let me tell you that I am very proud and happy to serve in the land of the Brave as the Ambassador of my country Algeria to contribute to the strengthening of the relations between our two countries.
TP: What are the main tasks of the Algerian Embassy in Namibia?
SAA: Algeria opened its Embassy in Namibia in 1992, The main tasks of the Algerian Embassy is, of course, to ensure the strengthening, development and promotion of the relations with Namibia in various fields: political, economic, trade, cultural sport, training, and capacity building and more. Another mission is to promote the image of Algeria in Namibia to bring the people of the two countries closer. Besides, the role of the Embassy is to provide assistance and protection to the Algerian citizens living in Namibia even if they are not so many.
TP: How can Namibia- Algeria business and cultural ties be strengthened?
SAA:The potential of cooperation between Algeria and Namibia is very important in many fields. You mentioned business where there are real opportunities that both countries should promote and develop. You mentioned the cultural field too. Indeed, as African countries we shares some common values, traditions and customs and it is important that the People of both countries know each other better through arts, music, literature which implies a need for the development of cultural exchanges. I will work hard to achieve this objective in close cooperation with the Namibian part.
TP: What are the current state of Namibia and Algeria’s bilateral relations in the political, economic and bilateral trade spheres?
SAA: Algeria and Namibia enjoy excellent relations built during the common struggle of our two countries against colonialism and apartheid. Once independent, Algeria helped and assisted the Namibian People in their struggle against the apartheid regime, providing political, military and diplomatic support. The first weapons that enable SWAPO to launch the liberation struggle came from Algeria. The SWAPO regional Office for North Africa was located at that time, in Algiers. Let me also remind that it was under the chairmanship of the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is now the President of the Republic H.E. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, that the United Nations General Assembly expelled the apartheid regime from the GA, in 1974.
Our two countries are now working for the development and the promotion of our friendly relations, in various fields economic, trade, training, namely Higher Education where Algeria offers each year, 20 scholarships for Namibian citizens who wish to study and train in Algeria mainly in Sciences and technology fields.
A number of Namibian students study in different Algerian Universities. They are a very important links between the two countries and the two people. Currently around 40 Namibian students are studying in Algeria. We are proud to contribute to the strengthening of the Namibian capacity building through Education. Let me add that one the student was head of the list when graduated from the Telecommunications Institute.
Moreover, Algeria showed its concrete solidarity with Namibia during the devastating flood in 2011 and the drought that the country experienced in 2013 by providing financial and humanitarian assistance.
We are looking forward to broadening and strengthening our cooperation in various fields such as Energy, trade, Industry and agriculture, Education and other important areas. In this context, I would like to mention that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International relations and Cooperation, Honorable Netumbo Nandi- Ndaitwah, visited Algeria last February 2016 to further boost our relations in the above mentioned fields. Her announcement on the opening of a Namibian Embassy in Algiers, in the very near future, is an important step in strengthening our ties.
Allow me just to add that our two countries share the same positions on many regional and international issues of common interest such as Western Sahara conflict, Palestine issue, UN Reform, terrorism, climate change and desertification.
TP: Which industries in Namibia have the most potential for increasing their business with Algeria?
SAA: Let me tell you that both parties are working together to identify sectors in which we can establish a mutually beneficial cooperation. I myself, since my arrival in Namibia, have been initiating contacts with ministries, and other institutions such as NCCI in order to better identify the existing opportunities.
TP: What according to you are the challenges that are hindering the prospects of the two countries maximizing their cooperation?
SAA: Frankly, I do not see any challenges that could hinder the prospects for an exemplary cooperation since the political will is present from both sides. That is a fact. We do have to strengthen the current legal framework. We are working on it.
TP: Are there any keys areas of cooperation in this relationship-Namibia and Algeria-which are looking to strengthen during your tenure in that country?
SAA: For a fruitful cooperation, we have to explore all possible areas. Both Parties will identify and agree on a common ground which h fields they want to promote. It is the purpose of our presence here.
TP: What do the two countries trade mostly and which avenues do you think can still be exhausted to enhance trade between the two nations?
SAA: So far, the economic and trade exchanges are modest below of the qualitative relationships that exist between our two countries. However, as I mentioned before, we are in the process of identifying the sectors to promote and develop our trade relations bearing in mind the need to reinforce our bilateral legal framework. However, there are many avenues that can be exploited: I will mention as examples Energy, mining, agriculture, food industry, industry, including electronics and pharmaceuticals products.
TP: Which well – known people do you most admire?
SAA: Without hesitation, I will mention all the African Leaders who fought for the emancipation of Africa from all forms of colonialism and who sacrificed their life to that purpose.
Let me add that I admire the most is one of our national Heroes, Emir ABDELKADER EL JAZAIRI, who led for more than 15 years, the Algerian resistance against French when they invaded Algeria, in June 1830. He was also the founder of the modern Algerian State. He was not only a freedom fighter but also an outstanding strategist using guerilla techniques to harass the French troops, a great humanist who treated his enemies with humanity laying the first rules of the International Humanitarian Law. He was a clever and skilled politician, a philosopher, a writer and a poet. He fascinated and amazed his enemies who respected him. When he went in exile in Syria where he spent the rest of his life until his death in 1883, after having been in captivity in France, he defended Christians who were persecuted in Syria, in 1860, by protecting and receiving them in his home, risking his own life. After this courageous position, he received awards from a number of European Monarchs mainly Russia, UK and France, in recognition of his action.
Let me just add that one of the city in IOWA (USA) called ELKADER, is named after this Great man.
TP: Terrorism continues to threaten peace and stability all over the world. In your view, what can be done to eliminate terrorism?
SAA: As you rightly pointed out terrorism is a global threat that needs a global and coordinated response through a sub- regional, regional and international cooperation to effectively and efficiently face this scourge because no region is spared. The responses need to be given through security measures but also of economic, social, educational, religious and spiritual ones. We need and should address the root causes of terrorism which are poverty, ignorance, economic and social inequalities. Terrorist organizations are often exploiting theses scourges to attract people living in distress.
Algeria was one the first African and Arab countries to be targeted by terrorism in the 90’s using one of the most sacred values of the Algerian People, namely their religion, Islam for killing and destruction. Algeria fought alone this terrible violence in an ocean of international indifference and sometimes complacency despite Algeria’s warnings on the global nature of terrorism which ignores boarders. Algeria stressed the fact that terrorism has no religion, no race, no nationality.
Algeria won the war against terrorism which was defeated thanks to the mobilization of the People together with the security forces. In the same time, the President of the Republic, H.E. Mr Abdelaziz Bouteflika took then the initiatives to propose to those who did not commit blood crimes and /or rapes to come back to the Algerian society and their family through the Civil Concord in 1999 and the Peace and National reconciliation Charter in 2005, which both were adopted by referendum. These two initiatives made possible the return of peace, security and stability in the country and the launching of ambitious socio economic development programs. This is to say that the fight against terrorism requires a multifaceted mobilization which should associates security and development.
The trial that Algeria endured enabled it to get a better knowledge of the terrorist phenomenon in all its manifestations and a unique experience in fighting it. Algeria is sharing this experience and knowledge at various levels: bilateral, regional and international. It has also got an experience to share with others in the de-radicalization which remains an important component in the fight against terrorism.
Algeria is now a safe and stable country. Algerian authorities are deploying tremendous efforts to preserve its security and stability in a very difficult regional environment due to the situation in North African and Sahel regions. Algeria has now become an important element of stability in these regions. This situation has incited Algeria to exert more efforts in order to stabilize the neighboring countries such as Mali, Libya and Tunisia by helping them in their efforts to regain peace security and stability through dialogue and negotiations between involved Parties with the exclusion of terrorist groups which should be fought without concession.
Algeria strongly believes that conflicts should be settled by peaceful means. It led an international Mediation in Mali which enabled the Malian Parties to reach an Agreement on Reconciliation signed in June 2015, in Bamako. Algeria deployed intense efforts in trying, within the UN framework, to gather the Libyan parties to reach a compromise which preserves and ensures peace, security and stability in Libya. To that end, Algeria expresses its full support to the Government of National Accord established recently in this country.
Moreover, the fight against terrorism needs to target the financial resources at the disposal of the terrorist groups in order to dry up their funding. One of the most important financial sources are ransoms payment in hostage taking, In this regard, the international Community should take a firm position by prohibiting the payment of ransoms to terrorist groups because it allows the continuation of their criminal activities and harm innocent people. This can be achieved through a UN Security Council Resolution or through a legally binding instrument such as a Protocol to the existing UN Convention on the Financing of terrorism.
TP:Your Excellency, thank you!