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ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing
Kristen Gillespie

A R A B I C A ارابيكا


EGYPT: PAST & FUTURE

*This survey polled more than 22,000 Egyptians to discover public attitudes about the upcoming March 19th referendum on constitutional amendments, whichwould loosen the grip of the longtime ruling National Democratic Party over the entire political process (from presidential down to municipal elections). Question 4 asks, "Will you vote yes or no" to the proposed constitutional amendments? A total of 35 percent say yes, 50 percent say no, 13 percent have not decided. Question 5 asks whether the referendum process will be fair and free of vote rigging. Forty-two percent say no, 33 percent say yes and 23 percent aren't sure.

*A political cartoon posted by Egyptian opposition leader Wael Ghonim called "The Three Knights' shows the former head of Hosni Mubarak's ruling party, Safwat Sharif, Zakaria Azmi, the former head of Mubarak's staff who was reported by Egyptian papers as recently being caught shredding documents in the Cairo presidential palace, and Mubarak confidante Ahmed Shafiq, who stepped down as prime minister following relentless protests. Ghonim calls for all three to be put on trial for "corrupting political life in Egypt and destroying the dignity of the people."

VIRAL COURAGE

* A young member of a Syrian tribe in the remote eastern desert town Deir a-Zor posted a video on YouTube calling on the public to take to the streets in order to gain the right to free speech and the right to live a dignified, peaceful life "without the interference of the state-security services." Faisal Fahad Andlus says he understands the risk of making a public statement. "I know what kind of effect posting this video will have on my future, my life, my family's life, on my friends and everyone I know," he says. "The citizen is not allowed to speak… but the country has fallen into corruption, the country has fallen into chaos… and many other things that we already know."

COMFORTING THE COMFORTABLE

*London-based, Saudi-owned A-Sharq Al-Awsat daily newspaper, generally one of the most respected sources for Middle Eastern news, begins a story on the Saudi advisory council (Majlis a-Shoura) with this: "Following its session on Sunday, the Saudi Majlis a-Shoura, headed by the sheikh and doctor Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim al-Sheikh, the head of the council, congratulated the Saudi leadership on behalf of the Saudi people for ‘protecting and preserving national security."" Continuing in formal Arabic, the article goes on to quote various senior members of the al-Saud family congratulating themselves and the public for being fortunate enough to live in a society in which "there is no separation between the leadership and citizens," in the words of Prince Sultan bin Salman, the powerful governor of Riyadh province. The Saudi leadership clearly is looking to send a message to the public, the spiraling financial markets and the world that, despite percolating pockets of pro-democracy dissent, the country does not face the same threats to stability as has occurred elsewhere in the Arab world.

March 14, 2011


photo credit: illustir


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photo of Senegal President Macky Sall coming out of his airplane

President of Senegal Macky Sall arrives Monday at Andrews Air Force Base for the U.S.-Africa summit. Md., Dec. 12, 2022.

U.S. Air Force, Airman 1st Class Isabelle Churchill
Alex Hurst

-Analysis-

Some 100 of the most important political eyes in Africa aren’t turned towards the U.S. this week — they’re in the U.S. For the first time in eight years, the White House is hosting 49 African heads of state and leaders of government (and the Senegalese head of the African Union) for a U.S.-Africa summit. Not invited: any nation that has recently undergone a military putsch, or otherwise not in good standing with the African Union, like Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Sudan.

It’s only the second such summit, after Barack Obama held the inaugural one in 2014. For African nations, it’s a chance to push for trade agreements and international investment, as reports FinancialAfrik, as well as to showcase their most successful businesses. According to RFI, dominant in its coverage of West Africa, on the agenda are: fighting terrorism, climate change, food security, and a financial facility intended to facilitate African exports to the U.S.

These themes are recurrent in national coverage and official diplomatic communiqués, from the likes of Cameroon (whose communiqué pointedly notes the U.S.’s “lack of colonial history” in Africa), which is seeking to regain access to the the U.S. market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, to Madagascar, which as an island nation, is particularly concerned with climate change.

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But is the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and the accompanying nice talk all just cynical cover for what are, in fact, purely U.S. strategic interests in its wider global competition with China? That’s certainly the message from Chinese media — but also a point of view either echoed, or simply acknowledged as matter of fact, by African voices.

“No matter how many fancy words the U.S. uses, the country still sees Africa as an arena to serve its strategic goal of competing with China,” Liu Xin writes for China’s state-run Global Times.

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