Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 7 August 2020

A diplomat moves centre stage in Algeria's political crisis

Sabri Boukadoum will leave the UN to become foreign minister

Weeks of protests against Algerian President Abelaziz Bouteflika led him to announce an interim cabinet on March 31, 2019. AFP
Weeks of protests against Algerian President Abelaziz Bouteflika led him to announce an interim cabinet on March 31, 2019. AFP

Sabri Boukadoum has proved a popular figure during five years as Algeria's permanent representative at the United Nations. A veteran diplomat, his promotion to foreign minister was greeted warmly on Monday by his contemporaries in New York.

The new job, however, will remove him from the usually convivial atmosphere of the UN and place him centre stage in the political drama and protests playing out in his country.

“He is very well versed and knows his stuff,” a senior Arab diplomat told The National of Mr Boukadoum's time in the US.

Aged 60, his most visible role at the UN has been in countering allegations that his country forcibly expelled thousands of migrants to Niger , and in outlining security challenges involving Boko Haram in West Africa. A UN special rapporteur in October last year said 17,000 Nigerien and West African migrants had been subjected to horrendous treatment by Algerian authorities.

Mr Boukadoum's appointment is especially significant because President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's shadow existence as the country's ailing leader – seldom seen in the past five years – has left a void. Algeria's foreign minister and other officials have filled it. That is likely to become more so while the nation deals with its uncertain political future.

At the UN, counterparts of Mr Boukadoum spoke of his prominence in seeking reform of the Security Council, as well as in debates on Africa issues.

“They're a big player on Africa and he has been strong in dealing with that,” the senior Arab diplomat said.

Mr Boukadoum was appointed as Algeria's permanent representative to the UN in December 2013. Prior to that he had been at the Foreign Ministry as director general for the Americas since November 2009. He is a former ambassador to Portugal (October 2005 to August 2009) and earlier held the same position in Ivory Coast.

His first diplomatic post at the UN, as a counsellor, began in 1988 and a series of promotions led to him becoming director of political affairs. He is married with two children.

Lebanon's permanent representative to the UN, Amal Mudallali, was among the first to comment on Mr Boukadoum's appointment as foreign minister. Like her, he is among top UN diplomats who go running together in New York.

“Congratulations to our friend and colleague Algerian Amb. to the UN Sabri Boukadoum for his appointment as foreign minister of Algeria,” she tweeted, alongside a picture of the group. “He will be sorely missed, especially his amazing personality, wit and good sense of humour. Good luck.”

Updated: April 1, 2019 08:24 PM



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