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OPINION: Selling Cape Verde for dollars, using Alex Saab as a bargaining chip


OPINION: Selling Cape Verde for dollars, using Alex Saab as a bargaining chip

By Uthman Samad

Years ago, when vinyl LP records were the only way to properly listen to music and the Walkman and iPods were mere twinkles in the eyes of Akio Morita and Steve Jobs respectively, I bought the fifth Genesis album entitled “Selling England by the Pound”.

The album took its name from a phrase in a Labour Party manifesto of the time and referred to the primary theme of the album – the erosion of traditional English culture by American commercialism and consumerism disguised as a seductive embrace.

Watching events unfold in Cape Verde since 12 June 2020, the date on which Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab was unlawfully detained by Cape Verdean law enforcement, and the subsequent convoluted machinations of the government to justify the arrest has been exhausting. What drama! A global pandemic, questions about the role of INTERPOL, a larger-than-life Venezuelan businessman, an entitled and arrogant judiciary, a now discredited Minister of Foreign Affairs and a shadowy National
Security Advisor both with alleged links to alt-right organisations in Miami with an incredible supporting cast of characters.

Seen close up and in real time, accompanied by a soundtrack of “Selling Cape Verde by the Pound” has brought a certain poignancy to the unravelling of the Cape Verdean dream as it allows itself to be
enveloped by that same seductive embrace.

Reputations take years, even decades to build but can be destroyed in minutes. Ask Dominique Strauss Khan, one-time golden boy of the French intelligentsia , “the Man Who Saved the World” during the 2008/2009 global financial crisis in his role as head of the IMF. Or ask Rajat Gupta, consigliere to Fortune 500 CEO and former head of McKinsey, the global consulting giant, who parlayed his inside information for millions in illegal stock trading profits. Or, even Prince Andrew.

The tiny West African archipelago state of Cape Verde has spent the better part of the last two decades cultivating an image as the poster boy of African democracy – or what African democracy would look like if only those Africans would listen.

Recent events have, however, seen this façade (for it turns out that is all it ever was) peeling away and what is found below the surface looks and smells pretty rotten.

Cape Verde’s blatant disregard for centuries-old customary international law that governs the movement of diplomatic agents egged on by external pressure, if left unchallenged, will have serious long-term implications for the conduct of diplomacy.

That Alex Saab was a Special Envoy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela engaged on an humanitarian Special Mission at the time of his detention is irrefutable. That he had, and has, immunity and inviolability is irrefutable. His 24 December 2020 appointment as Deputy Permanent Representative to the African Union is irrefutable. That the unanimous decision of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice of 2 December 2020 is binding upon Cape Verde is irrefutable. That the US State Department has described Cape Verde’s prisons as “…life threatening” is irrefutable. That the house arrest directed by the Barlavento Court of Appeal on 21 January 2021 is a sham and violates so many of Ambassador Saab’s basic human rights as to be a cruel and inhuman joke is irrefutable.

It turns out Cape Verde hasn’t been sold by the Pound, it’s actually sold its soul for a Fistful of Dollars.

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