More than fifty years ago when I was a teenager, I developed a deep conviction that the main factor or major force that will lead to progress and development was through the unity of Arab states. This conviction and belief increased and it became part of my academic mission to advocate that strategy.
Arab unity is not a new thought, but it was part of Arab history for more than seven centuries, since the rise of Islam during the 7th century A.D.
I recently read two articles titled “New Federation Between Egypt, Libya and Sudan” (almasry-alyoum.com, 4/18/2011) and “Persian Gulf States Federation to Stop the Iranian Aggression” (shorouknews.com, 4/20/2011). Regardless, the content and emphasis in both articles seems to be that the impact of Arab uprisings, which have been going on since December 2010, have begun to create new political, economic and cultural thoughts, especially among the young generation in the Arab world. Arab youth’s mode of communication was reflected verbally during their protests in support of the political uprising going on in various Arab states.
The young Arab generation is more aware than their parents of the cultural bonds that connect them with their peers in various Arab states. Their vision, politically and culturally, transcend the political boundaries that Western colonialism created, especially since the end of World War I.
The idea of federation between Egypt, Libya and Sudan is very logical for several reasons. First, the three states share natural boundaries where, throughout history and until recently, the populations in these three countries moved freely. As a matter of fact, the tribal social structure in Eastern Libya and Western Egypt still exist despite the political boundaries. Also, it should be recognized that the number of Egyptian workers in Libya has been estimated to be between 1.5 and 1.7 million people before the beginning of the revolution a few weeks ago. This number equals to almost ¼ of the Libyan population.
Second, similar situations politically, economically and demographically have existed between Egypt and Sudan throughout history. Until the mid-20th century, Egypt and Sudan were part of one kingdom.
Third, people’s mobility among the three states was reflected in the millions of workers, especially Egyptians in Libya and Sudan and vice versa. Libyans keep talking a bout their tribal relatives not only in Western Egypt but also in its rural parts as well.
Fourth, the economic and natural resources in addition to the demographic factors tend to compliment each other. Sudan’s agricultural lands and water availability are a very important environmental, political and economic asset not only to the proposed federation, but to the Arab world as a whole.
At the present, not a single Arab state could be classified as food self-sufficient. Sudan’s area size is equal to 2.5 million square kilometers and a population of 31 million as of 2010. Egypt possesses the know-how, the technology and the skilled manpower needed for the agricultural investment. Libyan oil resources and parts of its income form the sale of oil could provide part of the capital needed for agricultural development.
Libyan oil reserves have been estimated at 40 billion barrel, in addition to 50 trillion cu.ft of gas. Its income from oil exports exceeds $40 billion per year. The total population of Libya as of 2010 is around 6.5 million people and its size is 1.77 million square km.
The three states compliment each other. Sudan provides the rich agricultural lands and water. Libya provides the financial funds for investment. Egypt provides the know-how, the agricultural skilled labor and modern agricultural technology needed, as well as the engineering skills to build infrastructure needed for agricultural developments.
There are other factors that compliment the proposed federation, such as that the population in the three states share the same religion (Islam), they speak the same language (Arabic) and they share many cultural characteristics.
However, there is one requirement needed to make this dream a reality, which is the liberation of Libya from the authoritarian corrupt regime of Gadhafi.
It has been reported by foreign press that the Egyptian government sent light arms to the rebels in Libya, but the military High Council has denied that. In the meantime, the Egyptian National Lawyers Association, at a press conference, called on the Egyptian government to support the Libyan Rebel forces. It has also called on Dar-il-ifta to issue a fatwa to encourage people to go to Libya and support their war efforts. In addition to that, the Lawyers Association is preparing a suit against the Gadhafi regime, which is using Egyptian workers in Libya as human shields against the rebels.
This by itself justifies Egyptian interference and support for the liberation of Libya. At the same time, some of the NATO members, Britain and France, have been calling for more military help to protect the Libyan population from the savage attacks Gadhafi’s troops have been mounting against unarmed civilians.
It has been reported that more than 10,000 civilians have been killed and nearly 55,000 have been injured since the war started (al-masry-alyoum.com, 4/20/2011). Furthermore, the Gadhafi troops have used cluster bombs, which is prohibited by international law. Israel used cluster bombs against the Lebanese people in 2006. I wonder if they supplied Gadhafi’s army with such weapons