Amr Moussa’s memoirs make waves across the Middle East

September 24, 2017
Egypt\'s former foreign minister Amr Moussa. (Reuters)

Cairo- The memoirs of veteran Egyptian statesman Amr Moussa are making waves across the Middle East.

It took the former Arab League secretary-general and long-time Egyptian foreign minister and his biographer Khaled Abu Bakr two years to write the first volume of “Ketabiyah” (“My Testimony”). The memoirs present Moussa’s views of his years of serving Egypt.

However, the book has been met with fervent anger from sections of Egyptian society, particularly the family of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser and his supporters.

Nasser’s youngest son, Abdel Hakim Nasser, said he would not “stoop to Amr Moussa’s level” by replying to his claims in the book, including that Nasser, a diabetic, used to import expensive special food from Switzerland in the early 1960s. Moussa claimed that he had direct knowledge of this be­cause of his time as a junior em­ployee at the Egyptian Embassy in Bern. In a country then suffering extreme poverty and the threat of war, Moussa’s claim could tarnish Nasser’s man-of-the-people image.

Gamal Fahmi, a left-wing writer, said Moussa’s “views of Nasser weaken the credibility of his book. “Everybody knows that Nasser was a great leader, whose life was not ostentatious in any manner,” Fahmi said.

In the memoirs, Moussa de­scribed two brief encounters with Nasser and dwells on his style of rule, placing the perceived failings of the late revolutionary leader un­der the spotlight.

Moussa was working in the For­eign Ministry in Cairo during the Six-Day War in 1967 when the Egyp­tian and Syrian armies suffered a humiliating defeat at Israel’s hands and that resulted in the occupation of the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Syrian Golan Heights.

Moussa, in the book, attributed Egypt’s defeat to the army’s lack of preparedness, Nasser’s rashness and miscalculations. He also found fault with the late leader’s one-man style of rule.

“I am ready to prove everything I write in this first volume of the memoirs,” Moussa told The Arab Weekly. “I did not mean to defame Nasser in any manner but I am tell­ing the truth.”

Moussa has been a fixture of Egyptian and Arab diplomacy for five decades, having close personal relationships with many Arab lead­ers. He has had a front-row seat to the changes that continue in the Arab region.

The first volume of Moussa’s memoirs covers the period from his birth in 1936 to the day he left his position as Egypt’s foreign minister in 2001 after ten years as Egypt’s top diplomat. As he ascended the dip­lomatic ladder, starting in 1957 af­ter his graduation from law school to his becoming foreign minister in 1991, Moussa had a clear view of the events, policies and people that have made Egypt and the Arab re­gion what they are today.

He witnessed the tough times Egypt experienced following the 1967 defeat and the subsequent vic­tory in the October 1973 war with Israel. Moussa was close to the late President Anwar Sadat, played a small role in the peace negotiations with Israel and was at the heart of the diplomatic furore that followed Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Moussa was also at the centre of Arab diplomacy at a time of great ri­valry with regional powers Iraq and Turkey.

Abu Bakr, a senior editor at the private Egyptian daily al-Shorouk, described writing Moussa’s mem­oirs as “extremely tough.”

“This is a very senior diplomat who will leave nothing to the world but the record of the roles he played in the service of his country and the Arab nation,” Abu Bakr said. “This is why documenting everything he related and writing it in a correct manner was a matter of utmost im­portance.”

Moussa said he would not have written his memoirs but feared that he could repeat the plight of Osama al-Baz, a close confidant of former President Hosni Mubarak and Sa­dat, who died in 2013 without pro­ducing his memoirs.

Moussa described the memoirs as the “record” of his life as a politi­cian and a diplomat.

“They are the harvest of all the years of my work, my whole life,” he said.