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The poor are paying the price of Sisi’s dreams in Libya

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi (C) meets East Libya-based military commander Khalifa Haftar (L) at Al Ittihadiyah Palace in Cairo, Egypt on 14 April 2019. [Egyptian Presidency / AFP / Getty]
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi (C) meets East Libya-based military commander Khalifa Haftar (L) at Al Ittihadiyah Palace in Cairo, Egypt on 14 April 2019. [Egyptian Presidency / AFP / Getty]

The leader of the military coup in Libya has visited Cairo for a second time in a month. This visit coincides with the continued military operations launched by Haftar’s forces on the Libyan capital and the headquarters of the legitimate government. Despite the defeats of his forces, Haftar’s visit lasted three days, leaving his forces in the midst of battle and visiting Cairo to seek support from the coup leader in Egypt.

There is no doubt that Egypt plays a great role in the Libyan issued, especially after the major support Haftar receives from the government in Egypt, after he was offered to the head of the counter-revolution council as the godfather of the coup and the executer of these countries’ plans to eliminate the Arab Spring revolutions. The Egyptian government’s support for Haftar is not limited to logistical or tactical support, but includes action on the ground in the form of air strikes and ground operations carried out by Haftar’s forces under the guidance of the Egyptian army’s military leadership.

The regime in Egypt dreams of controlling Libya’s eastern oil, or at least getting concessions for their support to Haftar, as well as a respectable share of the multi-billion dollar reconstruction package after things settle down.

However, this dream opens the door to debate amongst observes in the general Egyptian public regarding the government’s bias towards a specific party in the conflict’s equation in Libya. Especially since the party it is bias in favour of is not internationally recognised. After the EU foreign minister stated that the attack on Tripoli and the subsequent escalation pose a threat to world peace, this means that the Egyptian government’s chances of achieving its goal will drastically increase. This basically means that the chances of the Egyptians, who are suffering from difficult economic conditions, will diminish in light of the companies associated or managed by the army’s control over investment opportunities and working inside Egypt.

READ: Who’s fighting their proxy wars in Libya?

Given the unconfirmed reports that state the Egyptian government has indefinitely closed the land border with Libya, the hopes of Egyptian investors, as well as the Egyptian labour force which had hoped for a window to breathe from under the rubble of unemployment, recession and inflation accompanied by insanely high prices, have been crushed.

According to the website Trade Map, the Egyptian exports to Libya (especially construction materials) is considered one of the main pillars allowing the private sector to participate in the reconstruction of Libya. Egypt’s export of ceramic, cement, aluminium, electrical appliances, furniture, carpets, iron and steel to Libya amounted to about $150.7 million in 2018. While this amount may seem modest compared to Egypt’s total amount of exports to the world, amounting to about $29.4 billion in 2018, according to the same site, the exports to Libya remain an important source of income for Egyptian manufactures.

It is logical for the legitimate government in Libya to refuse to allow Egyptian companies to participate in reconstruction, or even export the necessary supplies for this due to the government’s support for Haftar’s government, which is unwanted by the public and the international community. While Almehdi Alameen, Minister of Labour and Rehabilitation at the Government of National Accord, visited Egypt and pledged to give priority to Egyptian competencies, the government’s latest position, unlimited support for Haftar, and using its air forces to open the way for Haftar’s forces has made it completely unlikely that Egyptian labour force would have a share in the Libyan market, especially as the Egyptian government’s hands will be stained with Libyan blood. Anything this government becomes involved in and touches only brings about destruction to the people and even its neighbours.

Hence, (as usual) the leader of the coup trades in the dreams of the poor in order to create a glory he will not win. As soon as the people come out of one shock that shakes the foundations of their lives, the government throws them into another. The records of failure have languished, and rightly so, as they have grown tired of recording the history of so many failures by this government that only knows how to destroy. How can the military, which has mastered destruction, build anything?

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 14 May 2019

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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AfricaArticleEgyptLibyaOpinion
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