British Arab Network Chairman speaks about Egypt on Aljazeera English06 Dec 2014, by In the Media -
On 5th December, Dr. Wafik Moustafa, Chairman of the British Arab Network, was interviewed as a panel member on Inside Story on Aljazeera English. The programme was titled ‘Buffer or barrier to Egypt-Gaza relations?’
Egypt plans to double the size of a buffer zone along its border with the Gaza Strip.The government says the measure is intended to put an end to the movement of armed fighters and weapons from Gaza to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.The first phase of the operation began in October, days after 30 Egyptian soldiers were killed in a suicide attack on a checkpoint close to the Gaza border.Thousands of people in northern Sinai were ordered to move out. Their homes were then bulldozed and bombed.The buffer zone runs for about 13 kilometres along Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip.The first phase cleared an area 500 metres wide, destroying homes – and tunnels used for smuggling.The security buffer is now being extended, to one kilometre. The programme asked: is Egypt’s overriding justification one of national security? Or are there regional and international pressures at play?
Asked will this recent measure be more effective than those in the past?
Dr. Moustafa said:
“…Of course I am all for any measures to secure the borders of Egypt. It could have been done with better intelligence and policing…I feel it is political posturing…There are a lot of big wider issues about security and good governance in Egypt itself. I’m not sure it will produce good results. It may improve the relations with Israel and probably with the United States to some extent. But how effective it will be, time will tell…Sinai itself is turning into a very difficult area. The people themselves are quite isolated from the rest of Egypt… It’s not a good picture at all particularly bordering the Suez canal…There’s a lot of turbulence in the country right now, which I think should be the priority for Egypt and not demolishing homes at Rafah and making people homeless or having difficulty as we have seen. I think they should change their priority to create … an environment for political stability.”
Asked in light of the grievances of the people in Rafah, could the Egyptian Government’s actions in Sinai lead to arms groups and militants fighting back?
Dr. Moustafa said:
“It certainly can backfire… that’s why the broader picture in Egypt is important…diversion tactics does not pay. It might work for a short period of time. But the very important thing in Egypt now is that they have to settle the issue of rule of law, improving their economy…making people confident in the government and making the outside world feel confident…so far there is a problem…Sinai is not an isolated problem from Egypt…Millions of people are living in sub-poverty levels…”
Asked do you think the Egyptian Government might be running out of reasons to extend its military arm?
Dr Moustafa said:
“Yes certainly human rights is a big issue, as we know about 200 people have been sentenced to death a few days ago…there a lot a of issues, I think the the rule of law has to be implemented properly. I call upon President Sisi to really look seriously about how Egypt is going to develop over the next 12 months because things cannot go on, we cannot just have political posturing all the time. Egypt is sinking as a country, politically, economically and in the eyes of the world.”