DP World hired notorious lobbyists for Sudan port access

DP World hired notorious lobbyists for Sudan port access
DP World hired notorious lobbyists for Sudan port access

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - ports operator DP World has paid a controversial former Israeli intelligence official $5 million to lobby the US government for support in its bid to operate Sudan's largest port terminal, Al-Monitor reported on Tuesday.

DP World, one of the largest ports operators in the world, signed the contract with the Canada-based Dickens & Madson lobbying firm in November.

The $5 million contract, for which $1.5 million was paid upfront, requires Dickens & Madson to lobby Sudan's transitional government for a 20-year concession with the South Port Container Terminal in Port Sudan, the country's main port city which lies on the Red Sea.

The contract also calls on the Montreal-based firm to lobby the administration for a grant to "maintain and develop" the port, according to lobbying filings seen by Al-Monitor.

Dickens & Madson is headed by former-Israel intelligence official Ari Ben-Menashe.

Among Ben-Menashe's controversial list of former clients are former Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and rogue Libyan general Khalifa Haftar.

The lobbyist returned into the spotlight in June last year when it emerged he had entered into a $6 million lobbying deal to clean up the image of feared Sudanese paramilitary leader Mohammad Hamdan Daglo, widely known by his nickname Hemedti.

Read more: Canada lobbyists paid $6m to promote Sudan's ruling military

That deal, which has triggered investigations by Canada and the United Nations, allowed Ben-Menashe to gain connections with Sudanese officials.

Sudan struck a $2.4 billion deal for Port Sudan with a Phillipine port operator that was later scrapped by the transitional government that took charge after the ousting of former dictator Omar al-Bashir in April.

DP World, which is mostly owned by the Emirate of Dubai, had sought to operate the port under Bashir.

With Ben-Menashe's help and connections within the Sudanese transitional government, the ports giant now hopes to make headway in securing rights to operate the port.

Ben-Menashe now represents Sudanese interests through the transitional civilian-military council rather than solely through Hemedti, he told Al-Monitor.

The lobbyist says he represents the goal of creating a "Sudanese Union" between Sudan and South Sudan, which gained independence from its northern neighbour in 2011.

"South Sudan has the oil," Ben-Menashe said, "and it cannot be exported, only through Sudan going north."

By developing Port Sudan with a grant from the US government, both countries will be able to increase the flow of good and energy exports, he said.

The eventual hope is to create a European Union-like bond between Khartoum and Juba, Ben-Menashe explained.

Dubai is not the only foreign power to have sought influence on Sudan's Red Sea coast.

Turkey reached a deal with Khartoum in 2017 for the reconstruction and restoration of Suakin island near Port Sudan.

Ankara in April last year confirmed its work with the Sudanese government was ongoing despite the change of hands. Qatar also signed a deal in March last year to develop the Suakin port.

Turkey has continued to refute speculation that Suakin will emerge as a new military base for Ankara as Turkey, Qatar and rival powers in the region Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt vie for influence in the increasingly important Horn of Africa and Red Sea region.

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