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Egypt at the Forefront of Arab Anti-Colonialism

Egypt at the Forefront of Arab Anti-Colonialism

Al-Etihad, UAE, July 31

The statements made by Libya’s eastern-based parliament regarding the “welcoming” of Egyptian military intervention in the country’s civil war to counter breaches of Libya’s sovereignty brings back memories from the era of national liberation. The use of this anti-imperial rhetoric – statements like “defeating the occupiers,” “confronting the invaders,” or “liberating the country” – were commonly used during the decolonization era of the 1940s and 1950s, when Arab countries began fighting their foreign occupiers. Egypt played a central role in supporting national liberation movements around the Arab world; a historical fact that makes this current development in Libya extremely symbolic. Perhaps it is a matter of historical coincidence that Libya was the first Arab country that Egypt supported in gaining independence following World War II. It was Egyptian diplomatic assistance to Libya that eventually forced European powers to grant it independence. Italy, which had colonized Libya since 1911, in cooperation with Britain in March 1949, tried to convince the United Nations to accept the Bevin-Sforza Plan, which would have granted trusteeships over Libya to Britain, Italy, and France for a ten-year period. However, Egypt supported the efforts of the Libyan people to oppose this plan, succeeding in convincing the General Assembly to reject it and thwart the attempt to prolong the colonial regime in the country. This gave birth to a landmark decision in November 1949 to grant Libya independence no later than January 1, 1952. As soon as Libya gained its independence, other liberation movements reared their heads elsewhere in the Maghreb region, and Egypt rushed to support the Moroccan people in their exiling of King Mohammed V to Corsica in 1953. Cairo then expanded its support to Algeria and Tunisia with the formation of the Arab Maghreb Liberation Committee that emerged from a conference to which the Maghreb parties were invited and hosted by the Arab League in April 1954. Therefore, it seems inconceivable that, given its historical experiences, Libya would once again find itself fighting against foreign invaders. However, Turkey, which has become a major source of tension and unrest in the region in recent years wanted to exploit the plight of the Libyan people in order to impose its control over the country and exploit its rich natural resources. It is only fitting for Libyan national forces that fear the armed takeover of their country to turn to Egypt for help. Similarly, it is only natural for Egypt to positively respond to this request and demonstrate its full preparedness to stand by the Libyan people in their war against Erdoğan and his mercenaries. Egypt has historically stood at the forefront of the battle against colonial powers in the Middle East. It supported local liberation movements in the Arab world militarily, through the provision of weapons and trained fighters, but also politically, through negotiations and shuttle diplomacy. This support even extended to African liberation movements elsewhere in the continent – including in places like Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia, Cameroon, and South Africa – whose opposition groups established headquarters in Cairo, where they could successfully and freely operate. This was the case several decades ago and it continues to be the case today. – Waheed Abdul Majeed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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