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Al Ahram Weekly – Egypt
Probably no other country in the world has followed so closely developments in Sudan as did Egypt and its people, only hoping that the brotherly, bordering nation with whom we share many historic and strategic ties will soon enjoy stability that would serve the interests of its people. Considering that we drink the same Nile water, it’s no wonder that ordinary Egyptians repeat that “Egypt and Sudan are one country.”
From that perspective, and amid rapid developments that ended up in the removal of president Omar Al-Bashir and his replacement with a supreme military council headed by Lieutenant General Abdel-Fattah Al-Borhan, Cairo took a principled position based on one of the key pillars of its foreign policy over the past five years: respect for the sovereignty of all countries, and non-interference in their internal affairs.
Moreover, Egypt has declared its full support for the choices of the brotherly people of Sudan and their free will to forge the future of their country.
It’s no secret that Egypt was never a great fan of Al-Bashir, who forged a close alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood group since he took over in 1989. While in power, Sudan’s reputation as a peace-loving nation suffered damage as he turned the country into a safe haven for some of the world’s worst terrorists, including late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, as well as the infamous international terrorist Carlos who was involved in kidnapping OPEC oil ministers many decades ago.
The atrocities committed against the people of Darfur, meanwhile, as well as the separation of South Sudan were among a long list of failures Al-Bashir was directly responsible for.
Egypt was affected by the dangerous shift in Sudan’s policy under Al-Bashir when Khartoum was reportedly involved in an attempt to assassinate former president Hosni Mubarak while on a visit to Ethiopia to attend an African summit in 1995. Armed members of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, an internationally recognised terrorist group that killed many Egyptians and foreign tourists over nearly a decade, were welcomed by Al-Bashir to reside in Sudan and use it as a launching pad for terrorist attacks in Egypt.
However, considering that Egypt has always placed the interests of the Sudanese people first, especially that over one million Sudanese people reside in their second country, Egypt, after fleeing wars and harsh conditions in Sudan, the former Mubarak regime agreed to overcome the crisis in relations that followed the failed assassination attempt, on condition that Khartoum would stop providing support to terrorist groups operating in Egypt.
Considering the many strategic interests that tie the two countries, that was the same policy adopted by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi after he took office in June 2014. Although it was common knowledge that Al-Bashir supported the Muslim Brotherhood group, and his hopes were dashed after the Egyptian people decided to oust the former Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013, Cairo recognised that it had no choice but to try to contain its differences with Khartoum in order to serve the interests of both the Egyptian and Sudanese peoples. Sudan’s involvement in the thorny and difficult negotiations over the building of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the River Nile also made it a must to deal with Al-Bashir, despite his support for the Muslim Brotherhood and offering his country as refuge for its members who fled from Egypt.
What adds to Egypt’s support for the latest changes in Sudan is its confidence and trust in the Sudanese military forces and the intentions of the new commanders of the military council. Like Egypt’s army in 2011 and 2013, the Sudanese army decided to side with the Sudanese people and protect the territorial integrity and unity of the country despite many challenges and difficulties. As the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in its statement the day Al-Bashir was removed, Egypt has “complete trust in the ability of the brotherly people of Sudan and its loyal, national military to overcome this defining phase and its challenges, in order to achieve their hopes and aspirations for stability, prosperity and development”.
In the coming weeks and months, Egypt will remain ready to do whatever it can to support the Sudanese people and their aspirations, whether on a bilateral level, or on the regional and international levels. As current chair of the African Union, Egypt will intensify its contacts with fellow African countries to support the new regime in Khartoum, and will also use its diverse and positive relations with world countries for the same purpose. Towards Sudan, Egypt has nothing but good intentions and sincere respect and admiration for its people.
Al Ahram Weekly – Egypt
By: Azza Sedky
In his recent whirlwind tour of West Africa where he travelled to Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, interspersed with a visit to the US, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi found time to visit the Gamal Abdel-Nasser University in Guinea where he unveiled a statue of the late Egyptian president.
Since the 1970s, when the university was named in Nasser’s honour, and even before, Egypt has played a fundamental role in Africa. Today, it is bolstering its leadership role in Africa once more.
Egypt is destined to take on this role, and the reasons for it are manifold. Not only is Egypt the axis of stability in the region, it is also endowed with a majestic history, a mighty military establishment, a kaleidoscope of experienced professionals, and a cultural wealth like no other on the African continent.
This leadership role also stems from the realisation that Africa is key to Egypt and vice versa. The Nile, Egypt’s backbone, joins Egypt to its fellow African nations for one thing. As other countries such as China, Israel, India and Brazil eye Africa’s prospects and venture onto the continent with their full weight behind them, Egypt must intensify its presence in Africa through collaboration, investment and diplomacy.
Over recent years, the Egyptian role in Africa has become somewhat blurred. This occurred after late president Anwar Al-Sadat’s peace treaty with Israel, during former president Hosni Mubarak’s tenure, especially after the assassination attempt in Ethiopia, and more importantly after the 25 January Revolution, when the focus was on domestic challenges in Egypt more than anything else. In 2013, after the ousting of ex-president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt was suspended from the African Union (AU).
So where is Egypt now and what will it take to revive Egypt’s leadership in Africa? As influential as Egypt is, it neither interferes in other countries’ business nor plays a partisan role in their affairs. Egypt aids in ending conflicts rather than in instigating them. It has no ulterior motive to overthrow a given regime, nor does it side with one faction against another. It can, however, be a catalyst that dampens crises and negotiates between adversaries. It stands firm in its belief in right and wrong, and it guides countries and steers them towards the right path.
Today, the important role that Egypt plays in support of the African countries is more pronounced than ever. The Africa 2018 Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh where over 1,000 African businessmen and policy-makers convened recently attests to that. It was the perfect platform to foster new partnerships and encourage joint ventures between Egypt and other African nations.
At the forum, President Al-Sisi called for urgency in tackling Africa’s needs. According to the magazine New Africa’s reporting on the forum, Egypt will establish “a risk insurance fund to encourage Egyptian entrepreneurs to invest in other African countries… A guarantee fund dedicated to investing in infrastructure, information technology and high-end digitisation of African economies, was also announced.”
In March this year, Egypt also assumed the chairmanship of the AU, and it is expected that it will use this responsibility in curbing illegal immigration and human trafficking and in concentrating on security and peacekeeping, all key factors towards ensuring Africa’s security and development. According to the website Xinuanet.com, “Egypt has undertaken a number of important initiatives to restore its role in Africa, including training for peacekeepers and military personnel, increasing security and intelligence cooperation.”
President Al-Sisi is earnestly taking on such responsibilities as his latest visits prove. In his efforts to strengthen Egypt’s role in Africa and cement ties with other African nations during his tenure as AU chairman, he has travelled to Africa more than any previous Egyptian leader. His trips to Africa account for 35 per cent of all his travels abroad, all of them intended to develop better relations and more solid ties.
Egypt is also opening new doors to trade and business with Africa. The Egyptian Arab Contractors Company has acquired seven road projects in Uganda and Cameroon with an estimated value of $400 million. Tanzania has awarded the Stiegler’s Gorge Dam project to Arab Contractors at a value of $3.6 billion. As they are given the green light to proceed, Arab Contractors and other Egyptian businesses will continue to compete on further infrastructure projects mutually benefiting Africa and Egypt.
In a further attempt to communicate with fellow Africans, the Egyptian State Information Serviced (SIS) has also launched a new portal in six languages, three of them African and including Swahili, Hausa and Amharic.
Egypt has been chosen to host the Africa Cup of Nations for 2019, another opportunity for it to shine. The last time Egypt hosted the event was in 2006, while in 2010 no African country voted for Egypt’s bid despite the late actor Omar Sharif’s moving speech in support of Egypt. In 2019, 16 of the 17 delegates voted in favour of Egypt’s hosting the 2019 African Cup of Nations.
Even after 2019 when it passes the AU leadership torch to another African country, Egypt will continue to capitalise on its involvement in Africa and lead the continent towards the safe haven it so justly deserves.