Al-Ahram Weekly Online   19 - 25 January 2006
Issue No. 778
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Dialogues of Naguib Mahfouz:

Honouring ties

By Mohamed Salmawy

Naguib: The incident involving Sudanese refugees still bothers me. Something has gone terribly wrong and it must be mended. Our relations with Sudan should be cordial at all times and under any circumstances. When something goes wrong we need to fix it immediately.

Salmawy: A committee is investigating the incident and will decide what went wrong and whose fault it was.

Naguib: I am not interested in the details of who started it or who is to blame. That is for the investigators to decide. What concerns me is that a number of our Sudanese brothers died in clashes with the police in Cairo. It should not have happened. We must now find a way to make things right, quite apart from punishing those responsible.

Salmawy: The Sudanese refused to evacuate the park in Mustafa Mahmoud Square which, we are told, is why the security forces evacuated them by force.

Naguib: Last summer we saw how Israeli settlers resisted evacuation from Gaza. I imagine these Jewish extremists were more attached to Gaza than the Sudanese were to the park in question. But the settlers were evacuated, by force, with no loss of life.

Salmawy: Everything happened with the knowledge of the Sudanese diplomatic mission in Cairo. And the Sudanese government has not protested so far.

Naguib: That doesn't concern me in the least. When I talk about bonds with Sudan I am not referring to interaction among governments but to the cordiality Egyptians and Sudanese feel for one another. The two nations have extensive family ties, they have a great river that has linked them from time immemorial. I grew up in a culture that believed in the unity of the Nile valley in a way that affected all aspects of our political, social and economic life. When Egyptians are evacuated from southern Sudan in fear for their life then a problem exists between the two nations, and the problem was triggered by the tragic events in Mustafa Mahmoud Square. The Sudanese authorities can think what they want. It doesn't allay the shock felt by the Sudanese public.

Salmawy: So what is the solution?

Naguib: We should treat the Sudanese who lost their lives as we would Egyptian citizens. They should have the same rights as all Egyptians. Just as we compensate people who are victims of natural disasters or violence, or those who die on hajj, we should consider compensating the families of those who died in the confrontation with Egyptian security forces. This would be an apology and demonstrate good faith. We need to maintain the good relations between the two nations and honour the ties of unity that bind us.

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