Monday, 5 March 2012

Spring: Libya; Egypt

"You've got to learn Arabic."

This advice came from a surfer-journalist with volcanic qualities, who'd found out I was interested in 'the Arab spring.'

"You've got to learn Arabic," he said. "You've got to study thousands of years of history before you can begin to understand. And you've got to tell the truth, although it won't get you very far."

Admittedly I've not learned Arabic yet, but I'm increasingly fascinated by the changes taking place across the Middle East and North Africa because we can talk all we like about 'political' revolution or a revolution of 'ideas', but I'm beginning to feel that what happens next could be made or broken by...

1) Guns
2) Money

So let's continue on this note.


I have no unifying narrative for such a densely-populated country, but it's come to my attention that the UK is waving a £100,000,000 bill at Egypt but has not disclosed what the debt is made up of.

E.g. 'Here is a huge bill. Please pay it.'
'What are you billing me for?'

A question that this group are working on and if you're interested there's a meeting at the Grayston Centre in London on Thursday.

While debt saddles the economy, it's notable that $1.3 billion USAid per annum and the guns in Egypt are owned by SCAF, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, leaving Egyptian activists concerned that military power could override any elected government. One family have been yelling about this very thing outside the Egyptian embassy every day for more than a year now, and told me that their house in London is being watched.


My understanding is that citizen hoarding of both guns and money is widespread, but there have been some striking *dams* in the flow of money during transition.

I attended a lecture at SOAS where the Libyan ambassador to UAE said that there is now a 'multitude of voices', as opposed to *one voice* (the State's).

This was echoed by a UK-based Libyan (with close connections to the freedom fighters) who claimed to me:

"Every day there is a fight, every day there is an argument and people die because of clashes between different people and because what we called the fifth column, the Gaddafi groups infiltrating everything and causing problems between the different freedom fighter groups.

"They are getting what we call the electronic army, they are invading our Facebook websites. They are invading everything and anyone who stands up to them, they will ruin his reputation by accusing him of stealing or of being with the regime."
I also heard that the people working for the revolution hadn't been paid in months - and that the people running the country had been paid, or hadn't been paid, depending on who you speak to. It was only much later on that word of a cash shortage emerged from the haze.

The latest Exaro article:

I interviewed the Libyan transitional government's former health minister, Dr Nagi Barakat for Exaro News (my investigative journalistic employer). Despite Libya being an oil-rich country, he claimed to have no formal budget during transition.

This was, he said, partly due to their being 'no cash' (meaning 'actual, physical cash') in Libya, partly due to corruption, and partly due to money being located outside the country.

We're talking about the period from March to the end of November last year and among other things, I'm now looking at whether the problem is ongoing.