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Thursday, 21 November 2019

Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain: A look at the no-man’s land state declared on Egypt’s border

Not for the first time, a self-proclaimed state has been declared in the Bir Tawil area in northern Sudan. Is there more to this development than wishful thinking?

Mahmoud Aziz , Saturday 5 Oct 2019
Yellow Mountain Kingdom
The Flag of the Yellow Mountain Kingdom
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On 19 September, the official Facebook page of the “Yellow Mountain Kingdom” said the “Prime Minister” is proposing a tripartite summit with Egypt and Sudan to discuss diplomatic coordination and cooperation between Egypt, Sudan and the Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain. Neither Egypt nor Sudan has officially responded to this proposal by the newly declared “state.”

Earlier in September, a video statement widely circulated on social media for a lady  announcing the establishment of a new state between the Egyptian and Sudanese borders, under the name of The Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain, saying the new state lays its foundation on peace with the aim of solving the biggest problem facing humanity — the refugee crisis.

The lady introduced herself as Nadra Nassief, the “Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain.” She announced the official declaration of the kingdom’s foundation following a conference in Ukraine’s Odessa on 5 September, without providing further details on the participants in the conference, nor the identity of the kingdom’s ruler, whose name appears deleted by video editing.

Speaking in Arabic, the self-proclaimed prime minister of Yellow Mountain Kingdom said the kingdom was founded to be a role model in adopting a solution to the issue of the displaced and migrants, and to achieve the dreams of every Arab citizen, calling on the world to support the newly founded country and its humanitarian cause.

The state selected a green flag that bears a palm tree centred below an opening verse from of the Quran in Arabic, which reads “In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” The flag of the new kingdom is similar to that of Saudi Arabia.

The country’s official website is reportedly under construction at the moment. However, the apparent state has several accounts on social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

According to the kingdom’s official Facebook page, the kingdom is a sovereign Arab Islamic state located in the North East of the African continent, bordered by Egypt to the north and Sudan to the south.

“The kingdom’s foundation aims to put an end to the spread of refugees, immigrants and stateless persons in the world, which their number has reached 80 million, mainly Arabs and Muslims, through naturalisation according to certain legal policies.”

The national vision of the country is aimed at building a model with national economic output that qualifies it to be at the forefront of international economic development, raising the level of income of individuals and families according to a vision for 2030 and national programme for sustainable development.

The kingdom’s social media accounts name officials and ministers in many positions, like the ministers of interior, foreign affairs and other state officials. The head of state is not named.

According to a recent statement, “Prime Minister Nadra Nasseif” is to start an official tour of the Middle East. Another statement on Twitter said that the “King of Yellow Mountain” and a number of state officials are to appear soon in a press conference to talk in detail about the new state.

Nassief explained that the new kingdom relies mainly on education to build the state and provide a decent life to its citizens. On its Twitter account, the kingdom officially announced that it would start receiving citizenship applications at 30,000 applications per month, starting in October.

Sources of finance and support

At time of writing, no country in the world has officially recognised the newly self-proclaimed state, or declared financial or political support for the Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain.

“The source of funding for the state is the personal support of its founders for this unique humanitarian action,” said an informational video on a kingdom-related YouTube channel.

“The founders of the state are some of the Arab world sons who felt responsibility toward Arab nationalism, humanitarian principles and the principles of the peaceful Islam religion,” it added.

Who is the “Prime Minister” of the self-proclaimed kingdom?

In an exclusive interview with TRT Arabic channel, posted 14 May 2018, Nassief was hosted and introduced as a researcher in international education.

Nassief spoke in the 12-minute interview about educational issues in war and conflict zones for children in the Middle East, without making any reference to the Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain.

In the interview, Nasseif praised the Turkish president and state efforts to help refugees, especially Syrians, in the educational process in Turkey.

Beside the kingdom’s “declaration” statement on 5 September, and the TRT interview, Nassief’s previous media appearances are rare, and in all of them she is introduced as a researcher on education.

Nadra Nassief is reportedly Lebanese by birth and a US citizen.

Not the first time

Others have previously declared kingdoms or states in the unclaimed land in the Bir Tawil area between Egypt and Sudan.

In June 2014, a US citizen, Jeremy Hyun, announced the creation of a kingdom called the Kingdom of Northern Sudan, in response to the desire of his young daughter, who told him she wanted to be a princess in a kingdom.

One year later, a Belgian-born Iraqi citizen called Amir declared a state on the land of Bir Tawi by the name of Pearland.

What makes this attempt different is the strong possibility that certain forces and international powers may be behind this move, says political researcher Hani Raslan

Raslan, head of the Sudan and Nile Basin countries research unit in Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, says the project would be hard to implement, especially amid the challenges and difficulties facing the Arab region.

Conspiracy theories arise amid interpretations of the event, with some seeing the establishment of the “Yellow Mountain Kingdom” as “a new step in preparation for the so-called ‘Deal of the Century,’ or the establishment of an alternative state for displaced Palestinians and refugees in the Arab world.”

However, the country’s “official” statements contradict that possibility and affirm and recognise the Palestinian right of return, seeing Israel as an occupying power.

Response from inside Sudan

After the announcement of the Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain, a group of Sudanese people announced the declaration of “Kush Kingdom,” another new “state” established in the same area on which the Yellow Mountain Kingdom state is declared in Bir Tawil area.

Some interpret the foundation of Kush Kingdom as a response to the official silence of both Egyptian and Sudanese governments towards the declaration of the Yellow Mountain Kingdom.

“This area of Bir Tawil belongs to one the Nile Valley countries — either Egypt or Sudan — so we will not allow anybody to claim it, or a foreign party to establish a state there and impose its agenda,” said Omar Mohamed Nour, a well-known Sudanese human development trainer and primary campaigner for the establishment of Kush Kingdom.

Earlier, Nour named Sudanese Engineer Talha Nour Al-Galil as the Prime Minister of Kush Kingdom through the official page of the self-proclaimed state.

“We will work to fully establish an entity and create a media presence like they (The Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain) did, so that if they decided or managed to register or obtain acknowledgement of their state, they will engage with us in an international trial, because in this case, this area will become a land of dispute and not an unclaimed land, and this step will preserve the rights of both Sudan and Egypt,” Al-Galil says.

According to its founders, Kush Kingdom’s establishment also comes in response to frequent attempts to declare a state in Bir Tawil by people from Europe and the United States, the last attempt of which is the Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain.

In mid-September, the official page of Kush Kingdom announced that 1,115 persons from all over the world have registered to obtain Kush nationality and to obtain the electronic passport of the state.

Why is the land unclaimed?

The world’s newest self-declared state is established in Bir Tawil, a 2,060 km2 (800 square miles) area along the border between Egypt and Sudan, which is uninhabited and claimed by neither country.

The Bir Tawil area, where the alleged kingdom is established, is a point of contention between Egypt and Sudan. Egypt adheres to the 1899 dual governance of Sudan agreement with Great Britain in 1899, which laid the latitude 22 north of the boundary between the two countries, placing the Halayeb and Shalateen triangle inside Egypt and the area of Bir Tawil inside Sudanese territories. But Sudan claims that the Halayeb and Shalateen triangle lies inside the Sudanese border and places Bir Tawil inside the Egyptian border.

The Bir Tawil “No man’s land” status results from a discrepancy between the straight political boundary between Egypt and Sudan established in 1899, and the irregular administrative boundary established in 1902. Egypt asserts the political boundary, and Sudan asserts the administrative boundary, with the result that the Halayeb and Shalateen triangle is claimed by both and Bir Tawil by neither.

Security threat?

Would the establishment of such a state on Egyptian borders pose a threat to the country’s national security? The head of the Defence and National Security Committee in Egypt’s parliament, Kamal Amer, told Ahram Online, simply and bluntly, “No.”

“The establishment of a state in such way is just nonsense,” Amer said. However, he doesn’t discount the possibility that hostile forces and countries could be behind the step.

“I think the main reason behind the declaration of such an alleged state is to divert Egypt’s attention from its current regional role to other issues of non-importance, or to hinder Egypt’s development plan which started several years ago.

“The alleged Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain lacks any international recognition as well as the main elements of an established state, which are a government, people and defined boundaries,” Amer added, noting that the Egyptian state won’t give the issue more than minimal importance at the current time.

Amer said that the Defence and National Security Committee will discuss the matter only if required based on developments. Until then, he deemed the declaration a “senseless joke” or at most a “trial balloon” for the Egyptian state.

Others have called for seriously addressing the newly established “kingdom.”

Disagreeing with Amer, Ayman Salama, a political researcher, says the issue shouldn’t be considered a joke, or plain nonsense, and has to be approached with concern, as a state established on Egyptian borders, but completely inside Sudanese territories.

“International law doesn’t require a certain amount of people, so however small, we have to deal with it as a new state established on our borders, but this new state completely lies within Sudanese territories according to the 1899 border demarcation within the dual governance of Sudan agreement between Egypt and Great Britain, which made the international border line separating the two countries to be the 22 degrees latitude line until the Red Sea.”

“Legally speaking, international law doesn’t establish any sanctions on any person who declares a state under the condition state elements are fulfilled, which are a government, people and sovereignty. Then comes international recognition at a later stage,” Salama said.

“What concerns Egypt at this point is that the newly established kingdom lies in North Sudan, and adjacent to the Egyptian Halayeb, Shalateen and Abu Ramad triangle, and what makes the issue more doubtful and questionable is that Sudan — and especially under regime of the now ousted President Omar Al-Bashir — didn’t respond, comment or act in any way toward the frequent attempts to establish a sovereign state inside its territories,” he added.

“Egypt is not addressed by this, as officially and according to international agreements these newly established states lie outside of Egyptian territories, except if this state poses any kind of threat to Egyptian national security, or stages any sort of intervention in Egypt’s internal affairs.”

Salama stressed that the legal requirements of the establishment of a state include peaceful habitation without the use force on another country’s territories — which in this case is Sudan, which is considered to be a sovereign state since 1956 — to seize land on which to declare a state.
 

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