Saudi Arabian Diplomat, Yousef I. Al-Bassam has clarified that his country’s relationship with Africa is not meant for religious influence on the continent, but for the purpose of development to uplift Africans and the continent out of poverty.
Ambassador Al-Bassam, whose country has signed a loan agreement with Liberia for the construction of the Roberts International Airport (RIA), told the Daily Observer in an interview in Kigali, Rwanda, that Saudi Arabia has relationship with more than 10 countries in Africa and the intent is to partner and help suffering people on the continent.
Saudi Arabia is a Middle-Eastern country rich in oil and is home to Mecca, the base of the Islamic religion. It has only one religion and it is Islam. It is reported that no one practices any other religion there except Islam.
Of recent, there circulated on the Internet a publication, a portion of which was published by the Daily Observer, that the country was allegedly funding some African leaders including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in order to Islamize West Africa.
In response to questions about this concern, Ambassador Al-Bassam said his country is interested in governments that want to work with Saudi Arabia in order to develop their societies.
According to him, Saudi Arabia has no interest in religiously influencing West Africa or the African continent.
He said the agreement between his government and others are made upon request from the countries themselves and put forward for considerations.
“We relate to countries not for any interest but for development, and there is no plan to impose religion on countries that are not of our faith,” Ambassador Al-Bassam noted.
The occasion on which the Saudi diplomat made the clarification was a soft loan signing ceremony between the Government of Rwanda and Saudi Arabia, a part of activities marking the 49th annual meeting for the African Development Bank in Kigali.
On Thursday, May 22, a soft loan agreement of US$14 million was signed between the two governments at the rate of 1%, with Rwandan Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Claver Gatete representing his country while Ambassador Yousef I. Al-Bassam, who also serves as Vice Chairman and Managing Director for the Saudi Fund for Development, signed on behalf of his country.
The loan according to the two governments will address the transportation sector of Rwanda, specifically the Huye-Kitabi Road Project connecting Rwanda and Burundi.