Writing about businessmen has always been risky because it's open to many interpretations and explanations, but this time I will give up my cautiousness and try to ignore the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) principle that stresses the need to avoid suspicion and write about the "mindset" of Naguib Sawiris, and let commentators explain this article as they wish.
At the end of 2002, I visited Algeria and stayed there for 13 days between the capital and the city of Batna, in the south-east, and then came out with the impression that it was a virgin country for investment in all directions, and at the same time, I also realized that the political system in the country that sacrificed one million people for its independence is "very complicated "and that one needs supernatural assistance to understand its intersections and complexities, and I realized also that the success of any man who works there - whether Algerian or foreign - requires a special kind of "relationship" with the people running the the government from behind a curtain not the obvious senior officials.
When the conflict between Sawiris and the Algerian authorities on the "Djezzy" company he owned first escalated, I realized that there are some "undeclared issues" behind this crisis. This conflict is not just about taxes that suddenly appeared after the relationship between Egypt and Algeria suffered a "temporary" strain after the Algerian national football team qualified for the World Cup at the expense of Pharaohs, and the associating events, both in Cairo and Omdurman, and this is what Orascom Telecom tried to promote in its press releases when the crisis started.
It is also not linked to irregularities in the financial transfers carried out by "Djezzy", the financial arm of Orascom in Algeria, but it – I think – was intended to "oust" Naguib himself – not the other Egyptian investments there – of the country. It also tried to get him out without getting even dollar profits – if possible – for his company that he founded and nurtured over the years, until it turned into one of the most important pearls to the crown of his empire around the world.
Sawiris is no longer welcomed in Algeria, and the parties that embraced him before are now fighting against him in every possible way, and it's our turn now to guess the reasons.
I remember that, "Mr. Naguib" – as his top assistants call him – confirmed at a special moment during the celebration of the fifth anniversary for "Mobinil" in the presence of a large crowd of journalists, that he managed to "run out for his life from Africa due to the high political risk for investments there", he was talking about the deal in which "Orascom Telecom" sold some of its subsidiaries in the west of the continent. I remember that he also spoke about how he had discovered in some countries that the strong person is not the head of state, but may be an officer in the army; I remember that he said jokingly, "There were a head of state that calls me and I didn’t care but when I just have one ring from another entity I call at once".
And because Sawiris is very stubborn as he is always proud of, I do not think that he may give up easily in this bone-breaking battle with the Algerian brothers, so he resorted to the Russians who has strong ties with the military force and the ruling group in Algeria, but it seems that the Russians "bullies" and their company "VimpelCom" did not succeed in resolving the "fight" yet, which reveals the depth of the conflict and its complexity.
It is said that the strong man in Algeria, Ahmed Ouyahia, the prime minister, is behind the failure of any settlement with Sawiris. It is also said that Ouyahia persuaded president Bouteflika not to accept the Russian mediation to contain the crisis, although the President was flexible.
I am convinced that sooner or later the settlement will be made and that the resolution of the crisis depends on the pressure exercised by the Russian side on Algeria; the chances of failure of the Sawiris-VimpelCom deal are very limited, but the victims of this completion will be many, who are mostly small traders in the Egyptian stock exchange.
But this is another issue.
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