Of Pharaohs, Pyramids and being stuck in the middle: Part 2
Let’s talk Modern Egypt, which is a beautiful mess of politics and identity politics.Modern Egypt is a regional power impacting both African and Middle East politics. Its geographic location is its biggest strength, being in the middle of Africa and the middle east and Europe.
This gives Egypt an opportunity to diversify their relations and alliances in all directions. However consequently, Egyptian politics is about balancing its policy between these various partners and geopolitical areas that surround it. With several countries in North Africa, Egypt shares the difficulty of reconciling their African and Arab identity and with its eastern shore of the Mediterranean, it has a hard time reconciling its Arab and Mediterranean identities. Egypt is always torn between its multiple identities and this tension is amplified by neighborhood turbulence like having to deal with refugees from Sudan and from the middle east conflicts and the likes.
For instance in the middle East political scene, Along with Jordan, Egypt is the only official gateway in the dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis, and therefore a key channel in any solution to this latent conflict. Egypt is trying to maintain control over the Palestinian issue and is facing competition from other countries in the region, including Turkey and Qatar. They also have to manage the sense of Arab solidarity with the Gaza Strip, despite it being managed by Hamas whose ideology is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that was the main opposition to the Egyptian government before the Arab spring.
On the Africa side, the most interesting political bit happened recently, in 2013, with the African Union. Remember those bunch of dictators who hang out and plot how to disenfranchise their people? They took an interesting stand on Egypt a few years back. So the Arab spring happened, then there was a new president but the unrest in Egypt continued and that president too, Mohamed Morsi was ousted from power by the military in less than a year. The AU treated the move as an unconstitutional change of government, and leveled the law of suspension from the organization that they use on such occasions. Never mind that there are some leaders sitting there who are in power from coup actions and what not.
I personally think the Arab spring was just a good time to get some publicity for the organization, not that they actually cared about the issue. This is very evident given the turn of events afterwards that led to Egypt’s reinstatement which was basically, Egypt using its massive diplomatic power on the continent and the AU ending up looking two-faced as no other nation in the past has ever been admitted back that fast.
Here is a great Al Jazeera article about the issue and I like it mostly for the analogies with Animal farm :). Check it out! http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/07/egypt-vs-african-union-mutually-u-2014714687899839.html
In conclusion, Egypt is important symbolically as one of the greatest African civilizations to have lived, and yet another illustration that we had our own sophisticated social systems before the Europeans came along and rewrote our history. Modern day Egypt wields great power on the African continent and is playing a balancing act in the middle east. Egypt is also in conflict over the River Nile, which is one of the more interesting resource wars on the continent.