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Egypt must embrace independent South Sudan

July 9, 2011

Having attended the referendum for Self-determination 6 months ago in South Sudan (and written that article back then), I would’ve loved to be there tonight as well! I will however content myself by sending my congratulations to the newest African nation and wish them luck. South Sudan is up against a difficult task, and international support will effectively dwindle in the years to come.

Egypt is both capable of, and in an excellent position to offer a brotherly embrace to the South Sudanese (and to the North Sudanese, too, but that’s a different issue). How we can do this is the topic of my latest op-ed in Al-Masry Al-Youm:

As the world warmly embraces South Sudan as the newest member of the global community, Egypt is not expected to give more than lukewarm wave from afar.

For years the Egyptian establishment has seemed bitter that its initiative – centered around maintaining the unity of the Sudan, was developed jointly with the Libyans and peddled by the Arab League – was passed on by Sudanese parties at peace talks in the early 2000s in favour of the US-backed IGAD initiative which had at its core the right of
self-determination for the Southern Sudanese.

While the merits of each initiative can be debated at length, as well as the intention of the late rebel leader-turned-vice president John Garang de Mabior to establish an egalitarian ‘New Sudan’ rather than splitting the country in two, the reality we must deal with is that we have a new neighbur to the south. Discussions of what could have been are long past.

Apathy, silent observation and sulking as events pass us by – the tenants  of Egypt’s African foreign policy – are no longer an option. This is particularly true for South Sudan: it is not just that its geostrategic importance is immense, if only for being a Nile upstream country, but because we have a unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set the parameters of our relationship with the nascent state. It is an opportunity not to be wasted.

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Read the rest of the article on Al-Masry Al-Youm (English Edition), and come back here for comments!

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