Slowly but surely, the rift between Egypt and Libya is once again widening, thanks to political misunderstandings and systematic social media campaigns that are determined to turning the Egyptian and the Libyan public against each other. While the Egyptian state is actively involved in supporting the United Nations’ mission to bring Libya to political unity and stability, more efforts need to be exerted to expose the sinful hand that has been hammering a wedge between the two North African neighbors, for a while.
When the Libyan parliament forced the installation of a new government, under the leadership of former Minister of Interior, Fathi Bashagha, in parallel to the existing Government of National Unity (GNU), Egypt was one of the first countries to support the decision. Unfortunately, Egypt’s unexplained diplomatic rush to assure allies in eastern Libya, including Warlord Khalifa Haftar, by praising the controversial decision of the Libyan parliament, has put to waste the best efforts exerted by the Egyptian intelligence bureau, over the past year, to create balance in Egypt’s relations with all the contending factions in Libya’s political elite. In addition, this further pushed the GNU, and its leader Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, to the side of Turkey, which stands on the opposite edge from Egypt on the spectrum of Libyan politics.
In parallel to the diplomatic tension, a systematic distortion campaign against has been running on almost all social media platforms that reaches out the Libyan audience. They mainly spread well-crafted rumors to portray Egypt as an evil neighbor that is trying to steal Libya’s wealth and hurt its people.
One of these rumors was distributed in the form of a Libyan citizen filming himself complaining about the dominance of the Egyptian labor over businesses and trade in the eastern territories of Libya, and their mistreatment of the Libyans working for them. Meanwhile, the truth is that the total of the Egyptian citizens working as foreign labor in Libya exceed 2.5 million individuals; barely a handful number of them are business owners.
Another interesting rumor was promoted by a Libyan journalist, who is known to be a long-time supporter of Haftar. He published a map for the Kufra basin, which is located in southeastern Libya, claiming that Egypt agreed with the GNU to use this basin for irrigating its agricultural projects in the Egyptian western desert. He even called upon the Bashagha government to immediately intervene to prevent the so-called disaster. After the rumor instigated fights between Egyptian and Libyan users of social media, it was proven false.
Last week, the distortion campaign reached a new level, when an Egyptian political activist, in the diaspora, who is also identified as a sympathizer of the Muslim Brotherhood, published a video on his popular YouTube channel claiming that a policeman with dual Libyan and Egyptian nationalities is torturing an Egyptian citizen. He claimed that this policeman is working for Haftar militia, at the same time he is serving in the Egyptian police. However, the truth is that the Egyptian law make it impossible for a citizen with dual nationality to serve in the police or the military forces. Let alone the obvious lie about a policeman being a militant for a militia that works from another country. Eventually, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior published a statement confirming that this video is an acting scene and that the police has arrested the persons who participated in filming it.
Luckily though, those systematic distortion campaigns on social media are not stopping the Egyptian state from being actively involved in solving the ongoing political stalemate inside Libya. Over the past two days, Cairo hosted the American Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland’s separate meetings with the Libyan Speaker of the Parliament and the Head of the State Council to discuss settling the political scene in Libya and accelerating the process of holding elections. Two weeks before that, Cairo hosted the meetings of the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Libya, Stephanie Williams, with Libyan parliamentarians and politicians to discuss the constitutional basis for the delayed elections.
Libya is, allegedly, the most important country for Egypt’s stability and security. Egypt shares its longest border of 1,115 kilometers with Libya. If you look at the map, you may easily blur the line between Libya and Egypt to see them as one piece of land, with a vast desert in the middle, and a wide sea above. The economic power of the two countries as two of the prominent producers and exporters of oil and Natural Gas in the Mediterranean qualifies them, if they choose to coordinate, to make the most benefit from the current global energy crisis, especially in Europe.
Coordination rather than hate and despise is what the two countries need to focus on for the good of their peoples. Such hate-spreading social media campaigns are not only causing an unwanted popular and diplomatic tensions between the Egyptians and the Libyans. Most worrying is that they are preventing the two geographically and culturally close neighbors from effectively cooperating on using their resources to push against and benefit from the quickly expanding global economic crisis.
Also, read on Sada Elbalad