Yesterday, Presidents Husni Mubarak of Egypt, Leader of the Revolution Qadhafi of Libya, and President Muhammad Ould ‘Abd al-‘Aziz of Mauritania, met in Khartoum with President ‘Umar al-Bashir of Sudan and his First Vice President (for now), Salva Kiir of southern Sudan, which will vote January 9 on whether to secede. They all promised to respect the results. (We'll see.)
But two key Egyptian papers' differing coverage struck me as interesting. Al-Ahram, government mouthpiece but also the paper of record, mentioned them all and shows them all (link is in Arabic):
Salva Kiir is the one wearing the cool hat.
But Al-Masry al-Youm, an independent and usually a better paper for actual news, reports a four-way summit as if it's between Mubarak, Qadhafi, Bashir, and Salva Kiir. (Article is in Arabic.) Their English page does the same and adds insult to injury by cropping the photo to exclude not only the Mauritanian but Salva Kiir as well:
(Note I'm dependent on the websites for now; the hard copy might be different.) Oddly, both Arabic articles call it a four-way summit in their headlines, but from one you'd assume they mean the four Presidents, and from the other three Presidents and a Vice President.
Now, General Ould ‘Abd al-‘Aziz is no hero of mine; he came to power in a coup and is no great democrat. But he's a fellow Arab head of state: why has he disappeared down the memory hole? I'm sure that a great many Egyptians are not even aware that Mauritania is an Arab country, and few think its leader ranks with Mubarak or Qadhafi. But to make him an unperson in the story? To ignore him completely?
I fear Mauritania, far from the experience of most eastern Arabs, is easily forgotten. Once my wife and I attended a reception for Arab military attaches. The Mauritanian attache was in a corner by himself, so we chatted him up. He was pleased we both knew where his country even was, though neither of us had been there. But clearly Mauritania gets no respect. (Except from Qadhafi, whose attentions are not always welcome.) Why the Mauritanian President was there is of course another question (I suspect Qadhafi is part of the answer), but even if he was a fifth wheel at the summit, at least acknowledge he was there.