Egypt is crossroad of civilisations, says academic

Cairo- Egypt (PANA) -- Egypt is well placed to represent the interests of Africa as well as the Arab and Muslim worlds, according to Hicham Mourad, a political scientist and a lecturer at the University of Cairo in Egypt.
Mourad, regarded as one of Egypt's most prominent African affairs specialists and the editor in chief of the weekly Al-Ahram newspaper, said his country had an exceptional place by being at the crossroads of multiple civilisations.
The fact that the country is rooted in Africa, is at the centre of the Muslim world and is historically linked to the Near East is an asset, he said.
But it is on purely African issues that Egypt's bid will be rated and it is perhaps here where problems will arise, he noted.
Mourad said if Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser has played a leading role in the continent's fight for independence, his heirs have rather tended to stay aloof from African affairs, blaming this regression on late President Anwar Sadat.
"It was during the era of Sadat that Egypt abandoned African issues.
The Arab-African summit of 1977 marked Egypt's last diplomatic gesture in Africa.
"There has always been a will of rapprochement with African countries, but since Sadat's rule, the country has exclusively turned toward the Middle East and the Western world.
"All this was done to the detriment of the Nasserian policy and his Third World-oriented role," Mourad argued.
But an Egyptian diplomat in request of anonymity disagreed.
Egypt did not on its own turn its back on Africa but was driven away from the continent by the crises in the Middle East to which the Arab nation was closely linked.
Alluding to the last two decades, the diplomat recalled "Egypt has always committed itself to Africa even though it was involved in Middle East issues for its own security.
" He added: "Since then, it has fully come back to the African scene and is involved in the COMESA, the Nile Basin Countries Initiative, the NEPAD, the African Union and many others.
" Though hailing President Hosni Mubarak's genuine pro- African orientation, Mourad said his country was under threat of paying hard for past negligence if the Sirte summit reaches consensus on African candidates for the UN Security Council.
The academic said South Africa will doubtless get unanimous approval, while Nigeria and Egypt are set to compete for the second place with a certain advantage for Abuja, which can boast of a more constant commitment to the continent.
"Egypt secretly hopes that the Sirte summit will not usher in a compromise in choosing the two African candidates.
" Mourad argued that the AU should define clear criteria for the candidacies, adding that "there is no clearly established choice criteria" for the bidders.
"Should the AU have to use strict criteria, Egypt would have better chances" due to its demographic and military powers, he added.
"Population should be considered and Egypt is among Africa's two most populated states.
Then the country has a powerful army, certainly the most powerful in Africa.
This element is key to ensuring peace missions at the African level," Mourad said.
He recalled that an Egyptian contingent has been in southern Sudan for a week to uphold the cease-fire between the Sudanese army and the rebels.

04 july 2005 21:03:00




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