The declaration of a new nation in a pocket of “unclaimed” territory sandwiched between Egypt and Sudan is raising eyebrows in Egypt and elsewhere in the region, with many unsure how serious the announcement to be taken or what consequences the supposed new country could have.
The birth of the “Kingdom of Yellow Mountain” was declared by its “prime minister” – American-Lebanese Nadera Awad Nasif – in a brief video clip posted online last week.
Claiming to speak on behalf of the kingdom’s monarch, whom she did not name, she said the new nation would serve as a haven of justice and compassion for the world’s migrants, displaced and oppressed.
Reading from a prepared speech in Arabic, she said the kingdom will be “a nation of peace … founded on the principle of man’s right to live in dignity under an umbrella of civil and legitimate rights. An exemplary state in all its details.”
Significantly, Ms Nasif did not give any of the details associated with the birth of a new nation. These include how many people live there, what is the criterion for citizenship, what are its available resources and whether it will seek recognition from the international community.
She also did not say why she chose to announce the birth of the supposedly new nation while in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, rather than from the kingdom itself. The "Kingdom of Yellow Mountain" has an account on Facebook and another on Twitter. Posted online already is a brief documentary explaining the policy and objectives of the kingdom. It also has a flag, which is predominantly green with the image of a date palm tree at its centre below the opening verse of the Quran.
While an outline of the kingdom’s direction remains vague, Ms Nasif has pointed to the protection of the environment, sustainable development and the stability of the kingdom as two central tenets of the state.
In one English-language tweet, Ms Nasif describes climate change as the “key issue of our time” that “requires unprecedented effort from all sectors of society”. An account that purports to present the kingdom’s new interior ministry has also been established, where tweets about the future establishment of security and police forces have been posted.
Ms Nasif’s talk about the new nation being a haven for migrants and the displaced aroused suspicion among some in Egypt, who speculated, preposterously as some would argue, on whether its creation was linked to offering an alternative territory for a future Palestinian state.
Hany Raslan, a prominent Egyptian expert on Sudan, is among them. He views the declaration as a dangerous precedent that needs to be firmly and swiftly dealt with.
Interestingly, the new kingdom is adjacent to a triangle of Egyptian-controlled territory called Halayab and Shalateen in southern Egypt that is claimed by Sudan. The area is at the heart of a long-running territorial dispute between the two nations that has often poisoned their relations.
The territory on which the supposed kingdom is declared – an area of 2,060 square kilometres called Ba’ar Taweel – is located south of latitude 22, the circle of latitude that the Egypt-Sudanese border largely follows. This, in Egypt’s view, places the territory inside Sudan.
Neither the government in Sudan or Egypt has made a comment on the supposed new kingdom, perhaps an indication that they view the entire matter as inconsequential. However, the new nation was discussed at length on Egyptian and regional television talk shows, including one aired by Saudi-owned MBC television presented by prominent host Amr Adeeb.
“This supposedly new nation is neither a joke nor a farce. It’s serious … but Egypt is not at all concerned by the entire issue,” Egyptian international law expert Ayman Salamah told Mr Adeeb in an interview, alluding to the area’s location south of latitude 22.
“It’s a different story, of course, if that nation selects to meddle in Egypt’s internal affairs.”
It is not the first time that someone declared the birth of a new nation in Ba’ar Taweel, where the kingdom is to be located. In June 2014, an American called Jeremiah Heaton made the arduous journey to the area from Egypt.
Once there, he declared the birth of the “Kingdom of North Sudan” with him as its head of state and his daughter Emily, who was six at the time, as its “princess.” Nothing has since been heard from Mr Heaton.