By Col. Jamal Ahmed
I remember it was about ten years ago. Ethiopians from across the world and from different parts of the country were gathered in Addis Ababa to celebrate their new year. It was not like the other new years the country that uses Julian calendar has been celebrating. This one was once in a thousand year celebration – the Millennium. Thanks to the Ethiopian born Saudi Billionaire Sheik Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi, the celebration was so colorful with performance of one of the world’s best dancer and singer Beyoncé.
At the time Al Amoudi reportedly paid over a million dollars to bring Beyoncé. Her music, with those moves has made the evening so sensational and unforgettable for those of us who enjoyed that celebration at the Millennium Hall.
Several months have passed since Al Amoudi is locked in Saudi Arabia hotel prison. He was jailed in early November 2017 by the new crown price Mohammed bin Salman along with many Saudi Arabia’s tycoons and officials who allegedly involved in corruption and abusing state funds.
Reports show that he was jailed for taking an advance payment of $4 billion from Saudi Arabia government some years ago by promising to cultivate one of the best rice in Gambella Region of Ethiopia and feed the people of Saudi Arabia. He failed to deliver on his promises in relation to land grabbing issues as well as other internal and external complications.
The new Prince of Saudi reportedly demanded all the detainees to put on the table 70% of their asset in exchange for their freedom. Some were released through such settlement while Al Amoudi still remains in custody.
Today Al Amoudi, who once was among the top 70 billionaires of the world on Forbes, is becoming history. No one seems to care or talk about him after few months of his arrest.
Even his motherland, which is a host for several dozens of companies ranging from gold mining to textiles manufacturing, to construction company and one of the luxuries hotel in Ethiopia – the Sheraton Addis – seems to care less about his whereabouts.
During the first few weeks of his arrest there were rumors about Ethiopian government’s discussions with the Saudi Prince to set free Al Amoudi. Meanwhile nothing happens so far. And it has been months since the local media mentioned his name. It seems Ethiopia, which has been busy in trying to resolve its own internal political turmoil, preferred to ignore the issue of its top investor, at least for a while.
Some observers suggest that it is better for Ethiopia to stay away from raising the issue of Al Amoudi, whose popularity has been declining in Ethiopia after he was seen wearing the ruling party labeled t-shirt during the 2005 controversial and deadly national election.
While others consider the silence of Ethiopian government as betraying its investment darling who has been the backbone of the regime from at the time of rebel fighting, to the critical times of navigating the regime through several tough times of hard currency crunches.
I don’t know about how you- the reader of this article – think about this dude, I miss him. I missed his charity to those beautiful artists and beautiful ladies in Addis Ababa and all those rumors.
Though I am skeptical like many Ethiopians about his businesses independence from those corrupt officials of the ruling regime, I believe he still deserves concern from his motherland – Ethiopia.
Of course we hear that there will likely be court cases waiting for him in Ethiopia by the new leadership, which has been trying to clean the mess made by the former corrupt leadership. But I didn’t say, “well if he is corrupted in his fatherland, why not in his motherland?”.