Voices from Arab Press: Preserving our relationship with people of Sudan

What surprised me even more than people’s position on the Renaissance Dam dispute were calls made in Egypt to boycott Sudan, the Sudanese people and the Sudanese government.

Sudanese civilians gather outside the court during the sentencing of 27 members of the national intelligence service to death by hanging over the killing of a teacher in detention in February during protests that led to the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir, in Omdurman, Sudan December 30 (photo credit: REUTERS/ MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH)
Sudanese civilians gather outside the court during the sentencing of 27 members of the national intelligence service to death by hanging over the killing of a teacher in detention in February during protests that led to the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir, in Omdurman, Sudan December 30
(photo credit: REUTERS/ MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH)
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, March 13
What surprised me even more than people’s position on the Renaissance Dam dispute were calls made in Egypt to boycott Sudan, the Sudanese people and the Sudanese government. My surprise comes from personal experience: I still remember the days when we, the Egyptian people, and our government, maintained heartfelt and warm connections with other peoples and governments in the Nile Valley.    
The hateful words I have been hearing in the streets and reading on social media, directed against Sudan and the Sudanese people, have caught me truly off guard. I have tried a lot to understand where this anger comes from. Angry Egyptians have been calling for the expulsion of Sudanese nationals from Egypt, shutting down all border crossings with Sudan, and a complete boycott of the Sudanese economy.
Yes, there is a crisis in the relationship between the two countries due to the issue of the Renaissance Dam, and there is indeed a large difference between the Sudanese and Egyptian stances on this matter. But the right thing to do is to analyze the causes and the premises that led us to reach this point in our bilateral relationship and work to fix it. The rational and right approach to dealing with this crisis is to demonstrate interest and continued communication with Sudanese people of all political streams.
The recent visit of the head of the Egyptian intelligence services to Sudan is a step in the right direction. It requires the collaboration of many actors, chief among them, the media. Their role here is nuanced and complex. The media’s priority should be to change the negative rhetoric surrounding both countries and to refute the historical fallacies upon which these hateful comments are propagating. Our anger at the recent Sudanese stance on the Renaissance Dam should not turn into punitive action. We must not give up the important relationship between our two peoples. This process is difficult, yet it is very much necessary.
– Abdul Latif Al-Manawi

UNCERTAINTY IN TIMES OF CORONAVIRUS
Al-Etihad, UAE, March 12
All that can be said about the novel coronavirus has already been said, and I will not add anything to it because I cannot, as I have no real answers. But like you, I also have a lot of questions. Like you, I’m trying to balance long-term profits with the short-term costs. I’m trying to think of my own safety, as well as the safety of society around me. And I need help differentiating between what is dear to my heart and what I think will benefit others.
I need help to make informed guesses about events with major consequences, how others will behave, and how institutions will react. In this regard, economics tends to provide us with useful frameworks to think through difficult questions of trade-off. After all, economics is the science of decision-making under constraints and uncertainties. I live in New York City, which is a large and diverse city. Not owning a car here is a sign of freedom; not having a washing machine at home is the status quo; living very close to others is of the essence. It’s a place with freedom and flexibility, but this flexibility may come under pressure when people begin suspecting that the person sneezing next to them in line for coffee might have coronavirus.
When do we give up our daily necessities? When do we reduce our exposure to others? At what point do we all agree that our individual benefit isn’t worth the collective risk we’re posing on our community? It seems as if the responsibility of reducing transmission is on our shoulders. I remember a sleepless night in 2014 when the Thai Army decided to stage a coup, while my wife and newborn baby were in the middle of a flight to Bangkok. I didn’t know what would happen once they landed.
Thankfully, it ended well: Even the Thai rebels realized that destabilizing the tourism sector would be a dangerous idea, and they allowed tourists to travel freely. In contrast, coronavirus does not follow this kind of logic. It will disrupt and destroy anything in its path. Sadly, people have been consuming false news that pushes them to respond in irrational ways. This, perhaps, is what concerns me most: the fear of not knowing how misinformation might spread around the world, and how people, and governments, might react to it. – Gernot Wagner

A LITTLE HUMILITY IS WHAT LEBANON NEEDS

Al-Arab, London, March 13
It is useful from time to time to resort to a little bit of modesty and ask ourselves: How could we have done better? I am saying these words in light of the speech delivered by Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab last Saturday, in which he announced Lebanon’s refusal to pay back the debt it owes to its creditors.
The Lebanese government issued international, euro-denominated, bonds, against which it borrowed. But since then, it has become unable to pay its debt because of its ongoing economic crisis. We’ve already discussed here at length the role corruption played. What is important now is to understand whether the Lebanese government has a way out of its crisis, rather than just blaming previous governments.
The worst thing about Hassan Diab’s speech is that he is too focused on the past. Instead of delineating a clear government policy moving forward, he is pointing fingers at those who led to Lebanon’s economic collapse. Lebanon’s growing international isolation, brought upon by Hezbollah’s warm embrace of Iran, rendered Diab’s speech insignificant. The prime minister spoke to no one but himself.
This is the first time that Lebanon, which has a large public debt amounting to about $90 billion, refrained from meeting its debt. But the question that arises is: Is the country even in a position to negotiate a restructuring of its debt in a way that is acceptable by international financial institutions or friendly Arab states to which Lebanon turned its back?
The prime minister has no choice but to confront Lebanon’s current reality instead of running away from it. The truth is that there is no future for Lebanon without external support. Yet Diab cannot obtain this support for two obvious reasons: the first is that it is not acceptable to Arab states, and the second is that he is barred from dealing with the International Monetary Fund due to Hezbollah’s veto. Unfortunately, economic reforms will be impossible to achieve in a country ruled by a movement reporting to the Iranian regime and serving its expansionist agenda. Ultimately, Hizbullah does not care whether or not Lebanon prevails; it is only interested in what Iran wants.
Lebanon is held hostage by an Iranian regime that is facing a deep crisis, from which it will be difficult to emerge safe and sound. Certainly, Diab’s government will not be able to find a way out of this turmoil without mending its ties with the West. Diab could use a lesson in looking at one’s self in the mirror. He shouldn’t preach to the countries that have historically supported Lebanon. Gratitude and humility would suffice. – Kheir Allah Kheir Allah

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.