Becoming another Rwanda
Darfur, the ICJ ruling and the Egyptian government reshuffle received the most attention in the Arab press. Gamal Nkrumah
digs out the details
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Sticking out his tongue, Ariel Sharon flaunts the ICJ ruling on the wall of separation. Al-Hayat's Habib Haddad; The old-guard is packing up and new Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif is saying good-bye. "Don't forget to take with you smog, bread lines, muddled up school years and price hikes." Mustafa Hussein in Al-Akhbar
The rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the western Sudanese province of Darfur grabbed a good number of headlines in the Arab press this week. Sudanese papers, in particular, focussed on the threat by the United States to impose comprehensive sanctions on Sudan because of its handling of the situation in Darfur. They also highlighted the fears and concerns of the Sudanese authorities.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail's angry response to threats made by US officials to impose sanctions on Sudan was given prominence in the Sudanese press. "There is a conspiracy targeting Sudan, its identity and political structure and we have to be vigilant and ready for every possibility," Ismail told the independent Sudanese daily Al-Ra'i Al-Aam.
Ismail warned "those voices which have drawn the world into the Iraq war not to drag it into a new war which will be difficult to disengage from".
The disastrous conditions in Darfur caught the attention of papers in other Arab countries. The Saudi daily Al-Jazira warned that Darfur was becoming another Rwanda. Al-Jazira reminded its readers that a decade after the Rwandan massacres, a new African tragedy is in the making. The paper was severely critical of the Arab response to the Darfur disaster. It urged the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council to come to Darfur's rescue and step up emergency relief assistance.
The Saudi daily Okaz also dwelt at some length on the humanitarian catastrophe fast unfolding in Darfur.
In its Saturday edition, the London-based Pan-Arab daily Al- Hayat featured a front page story on Darfur. The paper's correspondent in Darfur Fayez Al- Sheikh Al-Sleek stressed that the security situation was deplorable and that humanitarian assistance was not reaching the impoverished and landlocked region. Al-Sleek painted a bleak picture of the war- torn Sudanese province. "Waves of refugees are fleeing Darfur and heading towards the Chadian border. Our vehicle went into the depths of Darfur; the landscape was that of a deserted wasteland with burnt and twisted corpses of dead cattle enveloped with sand dunes and dust."
Another topic that grabbed the attention of the Arab press was Egypt's ministerial reshuffle. The London-based Pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat questioned the ability of the new government of Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif to cope with the colossal economic and social challenges facing Egypt. "What can the new government do to fulfil the aspirations of the country's 50 million youths?" the paper rhetorically asked.
The Egyptian theme was also taken up by Lebanese papers. "The influence of President Mubarak's son Gamal in the new government is minimal," assessed the Lebanese daily As-Safir. But another Lebanese paper, An-Nahar, disagreed, hailing the new government as a big boost for the Egyptian leader's son. "The government reshuffle was a triumph for Gamal Mubarak" and a "huge defeat for the old guard".
Al-Hayat, too, provided extensive coverage of the shake-up. "What attracts attention is that seven of the 14 new ministers that joined the cabinet are members of the ruling National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat headed by Gamal Mubarak," wrote Hazem Mohamed in yesterday's issue. "This hints at the growing influence of a new and younger generation and the infusion of fresh blood and of new cadres in the country's highest executive body. However, it also points to a persistent crisis of the state in its quest for modernisation, reform and a credible change of guard."
Arab papers unanimously hailed the verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declaring the Israeli-constructed wall on occupied territory in the West Bank illegal. The papers concurred that the verdict was a humiliating and long-overdue international setback for Israel. "Will the Palestinians succeed in capitalising on the verdict?" wondered the Ramallah- based Palestinian writer Mamdouh Nofel in Al-Hayat. "Will those who espouse suicidal operations impose their views on all and wreck any real chance for peace?" He concluded on a rather grim note: "history is ruthless".
Hassan Nafaa, writing in Al- Hayat, warned, "If the United States uses the veto against the ICJ verdict it would be regarded as a naked obstruction of international law and by implication a threat to international peace and security."
A quick scan of Arab papers this week revealed that news about Iraq subsided somewhat and was for the most part relegated to the inside pages. Here and there was found a short interview with an Iraqi official peppered with speculation about the country's political future. One such report appeared in Wednesday's issue of Al-Hayat. "[Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar] Al-Zubeiri pleads for NATO assistance," ran the front page headline. "Hundreds arrested in Baghdad and a joint American-Kurdish assault on three Iraqi cities," ran another headline in Al-Hayat.
On Tuesday, Al-Hayat comically captured the total abandon and recklessness of Muammar Gaddafi. A front page article caricatured the curious antics of the Libyan leader while on a visit to Cairo. "Gaddafi causes commotion in Heliopolis because he fancied a sugarcane drink," ran the front page headline of Al-Hayat 's Tuesday edition. The paper's Cairo correspondent Mohamed Saleh drew an analogy with the old film Saheb Al-Galala (His Majesty) starring the late superstar Farid Shawqi.
"Gaddafi left President Mubarak's residence at 10pm... All of a sudden the Libyan leader asked which suburb he was in. 'Heliopolis', came the answer. Gaddafi expressed his admiration at the cleanliness of the northeastern Cairene suburb and demanded he go for a stroll. His entourage was alarmed, fearing that it was a grave security risk. More was to come. Gaddafi spotted a fruit juice shop and asked if he could be served a glass of chilled sugarcane. Those who heard him broke out in laughter and the women from the balconies overlooking the shop broke into shrill ululation."