Posts Tagged ‘Morsi’

The Rule of Democracy or the Rule of the Mob

Egypt’s Fateful Day


Egypt is imploding. The old revolutionary groups are at each other’s throats. The unity of purpose displayed during the incredible eighteen revolutionary days in early 2011 is not only long gone, but it has been replaced with mistrust, acrimony, and hostility.

Almost immediately after their success in ousting the despised dictator Hosni Mubarak, the groups that carried the revolution on their shoulders parted ways on ideological grounds. At one end of the political spectrum are the Islamist groups led by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) movement and its political affiliate, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Since the revolution these groups have grown to more than 30 political parties ranging from the conservative Salafist parties such as Al-Noor, Al-Watan, Al-Raya, and the Salafist Front, to Jihadi turned political groups such as the Building and Growth Party, the political arm of the Islamic Group (IG), to moderate ones such as Al-Wasat (Center) and Al-Nahdha (Renaissance) parties.

On the other end are the secular and liberal parties which include the traditional Al-Wafd Party, as well as dozens of others such Al-Dustoor (Constitution) led by former IAEA head, Dr. Muhammad ElBaradei, the Congress Party led by former Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Mousa, the Popular Current led by former presidential candidate Hamdein Sabbahi, and Free Egyptians Party founded by billionaire and Egyptian Copt, Naguib Sawiris.

But ever since the ouster of Mubarak, the Egyptian political scene has been messy and confusing. The youth groups that led the initial uprising in late January 2011 have since been frustrated and marginalized by the political wrangling that engulfed the country. Meanwhile, the MB and their Islamist allies were able to dominate it by not only winning the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2012 but also by controlling the Constitutional Constituent Assembly that oversaw the writing of the new constitution, which was eventually approved by the Egyptian people earlier this year with 64 percent of the vote.

When the MB candidate Dr. Muhammad Morsi won the presidency a year ago, there was hope among the revolutionary partners that a new era based on genuine partnership and cooperation would ensue, particularly when Morsi was able to sideline the military’s control over Egyptian political life within a few weeks of being sworn in. Yet, by the end of the year, many opposition and youth groups, which have been wary or resentful of MB rule, became even more open in their antagonism and hostility.

With some merit, the opposition charges that the president and the MB have not fulfilled their promises of restoring security, instituting social justice, and sharing power. They also accuse Morsi of inexperience, if not outright incompetence, which they argue, exposed the country to national security risks. For instance, on several occasions the president made decisions and issued decrees, most notably the fateful constitutional decree last November- only to cancel them within few weeks, days, or even hours. The opposition also accuses Morsi of appointing MB officials or Islamists to the most senior positions in government without any regard to qualifications or power sharing.

Recently, he appointed a former leader of IG as governor in Luxor, an important tourist destination. During the 1980s, the IG embarked on a violent campaign that killed dozens of tourists before repudiating violence in the 1990s. Although well-intentioned, this insensitivity was not lost on the people of Luxor who never overcame their resentment of the group’s early violent campaign. In early June, Morsi abruptly cut off Egypt’s relations with Syria, citing the regime’s brutality towards its people. His critics charge that such a move was ill-advised since it would marginalize Egypt’s role in any future settlement at a time of fever-pitch sectarian conflict in the region. Last fall, Morsi proposed a regional-based engagement towards a resolution in Syria that would have involved such powers as Egypt, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. This idea is now dead. As for the crisis with Ethiopia over the Renaissance Dam that would substantially cut Egypt’s share of the Nile, the opposition accuses the president of badly mishandling the issue, seriously threatening Egypt’s national and economic security in the process.

On the other hand, Morsi and the MB point to their repeated attempts to engage the political opposition only to be rebuffed time and again. He called all the opposition leaders, especially within the National Salvation Front (NSF) that includes most of the secular opposition, to as many as ten separate meetings with minimal success. As for the appointments, Morsi’s political advisor Bakinam El-Sharqawi stated recently that whenever the president asked the secular groups for candidates for the most senior positions in government including ministers and governors, they refused to engage or send any nominees while the Islamic parties led by the FJP readily submitted their lists.

But what most political groups overlook are the terrible conditions the country has faced since the fall of the Mubarak regime. The deterioration in security and the lack of productivity have affected all aspects of economic life. Investments have almost stopped and tourism (a major source of foreign currency) has been seriously curtailed. Inflation and unemployment have soared. Services have deteriorated while electricity is erratic. Gasoline is scarce and rationed. Poverty has increased from 40 to more than 50
percent. The Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights reported that during 2012 there were 581 local protests, 558 demonstrations, 514 labor strikes, 500 sit-ins, and 561 highway robberies. Such protests and strikes have only increased in 2013 as the International Development Center in Cairo reported that in the month of May alone there were 55 different forms of protests including those surrounding several ministries and government agencies that disrupted government services as well as the refusal of many to pay taxes and electricity bills.

Throughout these tumultuous events, the fulool or remnants of the Mubarak regime were lying low during the first year of the transitional military rule. But by mid-2012 they had regrouped as they coalesced around presidential candidate Ahmad Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, who lost in the second round by a mere 2 percent. By year’s end the fulool groups have become part and parcel of the secular opposition groups and a major factor of the instability that has overwhelmed the country. Perhaps the most serious mistake committed by the revolutionary groups was to underestimate the dangers of the fulool lurking behind the scenes. Many of these groups loyal to the former regime are still largely in control of the security apparatus, most of the private media, the judiciary, as well as major industries and influential economic institutions. In short, they still had substantial power that could undermine any genuine efforts to carry out the objectives of the revolution.

In the ideological battle that ensued between the former revolutionary partners, the fulool were able to reinvent themselves and become major players on the side of the secular groups against the MB and the Islamists. Recently, ElBaradei welcomed all elements of Mubarak’s banned National Democratic Party to join his party and the opposition, while Sabbahi declared that the battle with the fulool now is secondary as the primary conflict today is with the MB and its Islamist allies.

Furthermore, throughout the first year of Morsi’s rule, the attacks by the opposition media on the MB rule has not only been ceaseless but in many cases vulgar. Meanwhile, the judiciary, led by the Mubarak-era Supreme Constitutional Court, reversed most attempts to build the country’s democratic institutions. They ruled as unconstitutional the elections of the parliament and subsequently dissolved the body on technical grounds. They ruled against the new election laws that would have paved the way for new parliamentary elections. They ruled against the appointment of the General Prosecutor and demanded the return of the corrupt Mubarak appointee who was dismissed by Morsi last November. The courts are even now looking into a lawsuit by Shafiq challenging the election and legitimacy of Morsi, a year after becoming a president. Adding insult to injury, the judiciary has either declared innocent or overturned the convictions of all senior officials of the Mubarak regime including Mubarak and his sons. Even low level security officials with overwhelming evidence against them of killing and torturing protesters have been released prompting Zakaria Abdul-Aziz, an independent and respected former judge who stood against Mubarak for many years, to say that 90 percent of Egypt’s judges are acting to overturn the gains of the revolution.

By this April, the country was at an impasse. The ruling party continued to demonstrate its unwillingness to share power or be magnanimous to its rivals for the sake of national unity and building consensus. Its main plan has been centered on winning the next parliamentary elections to consolidate its control and enable it to form the next government. Its central economic program is to finalize the IMF loan in order to secure more loans and capital from wealthy countries for investments and plugging the budget hole. It did not take seriously the opposition groups arguing that they were elitist and lacked popular depth and support.

On the other hand, the fractious opposition seemed not only divided but also devoid of real alternatives. What united them was their utter hatred and enmity towards the Islamists in general and the MB in particular. Some leaders such as ElBaradei and Mousa called on foreign powers, including the US, to take sides in the internal struggle and condemn the Morsi government. Others such as Sabbahi and Shafiq openly called on the military to overthrow the elected president and take over. Consequently, the public was further alienated and disgusted as its economic livelihood was squeezed and the country’s infrastructure was crumbling. Meanwhile, the head of the military appointed by Morsi last August, Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, publicly stated that the military would no longer be engaged in politics and dismissed all calls to topple Morsi. After more than twenty-five failed attempts in less than six months to mobilize the public against the MB, the opposition proved to be weak, divided, and in disarray.
Tamarrud vs. Tajarrud

Meanwhile, a new group called Tamarrud or Rebellion led by several revolutionary youth groups gained momentum when they declared at the end of April a new movement to depose Morsi and challenge his legitimacy. On April 28, Tamarrud announced that they would collect 15 million signatures from registered voters demanding early presidential elections on June 30, the first anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration. Within weeks, most secular and youth groups as well as the fulool embraced this central message. At least fourteen private satellite channels started a vast propaganda campaign and mobilization efforts promoting the day as a second revolution to cleanse the country from the MB rule. By mid-June Tamarrud’s co-founder and spokesman Mahmoud Badr announced that the movement has collected more than 15 million signatures which represented a million more people than those who voted for Morsi in the presidential elections.

Not to be outmaneuvered, the Islamist groups decried the secular opposition and denounced their undemocratic tactics and unconstitutional calls to depose Morsi before the end of his term in 2016. Asem Abdelmagid, a leading figure in the Islamic Group, an ally of the MB, initiated his own movement Tajarrud or Impartiality in order to counter Tamarrud. By the third week of June he announced that by the end of that month he would have collected over 20 million signatures in support of Morsi. Critics of both movements dismissed these numbers as unrealistic, observing that no one could actually verify their figures, especially when MB critic and poet Ahmad Fuad Negm said publicly that he personally signed Tamarrud’s petition 16 times.

Between Tamarrud and Tajarrud the Egyptian society has never been more polarized. On one side, most of the secular forces, youth groups, Christians, and the fulool are mobilizing for the showdown or a second revolution to depose Morsi and dislodge the MB. On the other side, most Islamist groups are vowing to defend Morsi’s legitimacy and rule by all means. On June 21, in an impressive show of force, the Islamists groups mobilized more than a million of their supporters in a Cairo suburb. This massive demonstration was dubbed “No to violence, Yes to legitimacy.” Although their rhetoric called for peaceful demonstrations and endorsed freedom of expression, their leaders tacitly threatened to declare a wave of Islamic revolution if the June 30 demonstration was successful in deposing Morsi.

Meanwhile, Tamarrud’s leaders announced that their plan on that day included protests by millions of people in the streets occupying major intersections, and surrounding the presidential palace demanding early presidential elections. Should Morsi refuse to resign, the group announced that it will escalate its confrontation by possibly storming the presidential palace and installing the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court as an interim president, annulling the new constitution, and forming a new government led by a independent politician or a technocrat.

Hence, there are three possible scenarios that might take place on this fateful day. First, the scenario envisioned by the MB according to which the call for mass mobilization would result only in modest numbers across the country and would fail to attract millions or sustain itself for days or weeks. Such an outcome, they hope, would vindicate their view and considerably weaken the opposition. A second scenario advocated by the youth groups and non-violent opposition is that millions of Egyptians would actually take to the streets in a massive show of support for Morsi’s resignation and the end of the MB rule. They hope that such protests across the country not only would be huge and sustained but concurrently joined by labor strikes and civil disobedience until Morsi gives in. A third scenario is the one tacitly promoted by the fulool groups. In this scenario, former regime loyalists led by former politicians and security officials, as well as corrupt businessmen, who readily financed thousands of baltagies or thugs, will join the demonstrations in order to spread chaos and anarchy. According to this frightful scenario, the role of the baltagies will be to kill hundreds if not thousands of demonstrators, torch MB and FJP buildings, and assassinate their leaders in order to force the military to take over the country and launch a new transitional period without the domination of the Islamist groups. Should such a scenario materialize, the Islamist groups vowed to send millions of their supporters to defend Morsi and the legitimacy of his presidency.

Furthermore, the role of the foreign powers should not be minimized, as there are several regional states, especially the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel, which are disturbed by the Arab Spring phenomenon and would like to curtail its influence if not totally defeat it. There are many credible reports that some of the Gulf countries have been very active in financing many of the anti-MB media outlets and the fulool groups. The U.S., on the other hand, has been working both sides of the equation in order to maintain influence and relevance. While Secretary of State John Kerry promised the military its $1.3 Billion aid package, the administration has been very slow in pushing the IMF loan critical to Morsi’s government. Meanwhile, American Ambassador Anne Patterson has been actively engaging government officials and opposition leaders alike. Ironically, each side accuses the other of serving the U.S.’s interest at the expense of the national interest.

Regardless of which scenario unfolds Egypt will be facing difficult times. But for wisdom and rationality to carry the day, Egyptians of all stripes must come to their senses and realize that no group can ignore or marginalize the others. The MB-dominated government must realize that it must be inclusive and transparent, while the opposition must respect the democratic rules of the political game. If the opposition succeeds in dislodging Morsi, no future president would be able to finish his term in office because the other side would also use the same disrupting tactics. If the opposition groups have millions behind them as they claim, they should head for parliamentary elections as soon as possible. If they win a majority of the seats, they not only could form the next government, but they could also change the constitution, and act as a check to the powers of the president in a democratic and civilized fashion that would earn the world’s respect. But if they opt for the use of violence or undemocratic tactics in order to have their way, then this remarkable revolution would have been in vain- a feat that would delight Mubarak loyalists and Egypt’s enemies.

Esam Al-Amin is the author of The Arab Awakening Unveiled: Understanding Transformations and Revolutions in the Middle East.


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President Morsi of Egypt needs to wake up from his day dreams of trying to stop the building of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and instead,  he and Egypt must thank God, that Ethiopia is a just country that believes in sharing the waters of the Nile equitably, albeit 87% of the water originates from  Ethiopia. Moreover, can Morsi understand how immoral it is, and hurtful to the psyche of the Egyptian masses to be adoring his colonial masters and their treaties?
Professor Mekonen Haddis
Egypt’s ‘dam stupid’ threats to Ethiopia

By Finian Cunningham
Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:13AM GMT
Ethiopia’s parliament this week voted to push ahead with the country’s controversial Blue Nile hydroelectric dam project. The move is bound to raise the political stakes even higher following threats earlier this week by Egypt that it would go to war over Ethiopia’s plan to build a $4.7-billion dam on the great river.

Egypt claims that construction of the dam in Ethiopia will cause grave detriment to its supply of fresh water and spell ruin to its economy.

Most of Egypt’s 85 million people live on the banks of the Nile and the country relies on the river for over 95 per cent of its fresh water supply. For millennia, Egyptian civilization has depended on the bountiful Nile – the world’s longest river, stretching more than 6,500 kilometers from its source in Central Africa to its outlet in the Mediterranean Sea, just north of Egypt’s capital, Cairo.

The Nile comprises two tributaries: the longer White Nile originates in Burundi or Rwanda (still a matter of dispute among geographers) and it meets with the Blue Nile coming out of Ethiopia. The meeting point is near Khartoum, the capital of North Sudan, and thence the Nile flows on to Egypt. However, it is Ethiopia’s Blue Nile that provides more than 85 per cent of the downstream water of the Lower Nile.

That is why the construction of the mega dam in Ethiopia has apparently provoked so much alarm in Egypt. Ethiopia’s Blue Nile hydroelectric project – the biggest in Africa – has been on the drawing board for several years, initiated by the country’s late prime minister, Meles Zenawi, who died last year. At the end of last month, Ethiopia began diverting the water of the Blue Nile to enable construction of the dam.

Egypt has responded now with dire calls of national emergency, led by its president, Mohammed Morsi. This week Morsi said that his country reserved the right to militarily defend its vital national interests.

“All options are on the table,” he said, adding that any drop of water lost would be replaced by Egyptian blood. Morsi has since toned down the war rhetoric towards Ethiopia.

But, nevertheless, the relations between Africa’s second and third most populous countries remain extremely fraught, especially in light of the latest move by Ethiopia’s lawmakers to push ahead with the dam. Some Salafist members of Egypt’s parliament have even called for covert sabotage of the dam, which at this stage is about 20 per cent complete. Those calls prompted the Ethiopians this week to summon the Egyptian ambassador in Addis Ababa to explain his country’s declared baleful intentions.

Ethiopia’s concerns will have only been underscored by talking points released also this week by the Pentagon-aligned think-tank, Stratfor, which weighed up Egypt’s options of military sabotage, including air strikes and demolition by Special Forces.

So, what is going on here? Nobody is denying that the Nile is a vital national interest for Egypt. But it seems a reckless and outrageous leap of hysteria by Egypt to launch threats of war against Ethiopia over the issue.

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, has vowed that the Blue Nile hydroelectric scheme is not intended to adversely affect the flow of water to Egypt or Sudan. His view is supported by a recent study conducted by technical people from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, which concluded that there would be no significant long-term reduction in downstream water supply as a result the dam.

However, without presenting contrary expert evidence, Egypt’s Morsi asserts that his country’s water supply will be curtailed by 20 per cent – a reduction that would indeed be catastrophic for the already drought-prone North African country. But this is the big question: is Egypt’s supply of fresh water really threatened? The scientific study so far would say not.

That raises the further question: why is president Morsi making such a big deal about Ethiopia’s Blue Nile project? The answer may be less to do with Ethiopia diverting water and more to do with Morsi diverting political problems within his own country.

Later this month, on 30 June, there is a mass opposition rally planned in Cairo to mark the first anniversary of Morsi taking office. The Muslim Brotherhood president has seen a very rocky first year in power, with many Egyptians not happy with his policies since he took over from the ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Top of the popular grievances against Morsi is his support for Salafist extremists in NATO’s covert regime-change war in Syria; his continuing collusion with Israel in its oppression of Palestinians; and, domestically, Morsi has been accused of doing little to improve the living standards of Egypt’s majority of impoverished workers and

Morsi’s belligerent rhetoric over Ethiopia’s Blue Nile project has sought to divert internal opposition to his government into an international dispute with a neighbouring African country.

In his fiery speeches recently, Morsi has been working the crowds with jingoism and nationalism, stressing that Egyptians are “at one” over their claimed rights to the Nile water. The obvious theme here by Morsi is to convince Egyptians to put aside their objections to his dubious governance and to focus instead on an ostensible external enemy – Ethiopia.

Let’s look at the issue from Ethiopia’s point of view. The Blue Nile is geographically a national resource of Ethiopia. It originates from the country’s northern highlands, which drain into Lake Tana, one of Africa’s largest lakes. From there, the Blue Nile meanders northwards on its long journey to the Mediterranean.

The river might be more accurately called the Brown Nile because of its muddy colour owing to the fertile minerals and organic matter that it leaches from the Ethiopian land. This is partly why the Nile has sustained Egypt’s agriculture for millennia – it is a river of natural goodness courtesy of Ethiopia’s rich soil.

But the way Ethiopians see it – and they have just cause – is why should their country not be the first beneficiary of the powerful and fertile water of the Nile?

After all, ask Ethiopians, does Egypt give away its natural oil and gas wealth to other countries for free? No, so why should Ethiopia permit its primary water resource to be freely accessed by others at the cost of its own pressing development needs?

Egypt claims that it has historic and legal right to the Nile. This refers to a treaty signed in 1929 between the 11 countries that share the Nile water. They include the downstream countries of Egypt and Sudan (North and South) and the upstream lands of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

That historic treaty gave Egypt and Sudan veto power over any of the upstream countries tapping water from the Blue and White Niles. The treaty also gave Egypt the lion’s share of the headwaters – some 70 per cent. Who instigated that 1929 Nile treaty? Well, wouldn’t you know? – It was the jolly-good-old British Empire.

It was the British who insisted that their former colonial territories of Egypt and Sudan should receive the abundance of the Nile from the sub-Saharan African countries – for free and forevermore.

The legal rights that modern-day Egypt refers to are, therefore, the legacy of British colonialism that was designed to disadvantage poor black African nations for the benefit of British capital in Egypt and Sudan. In other words, from a modern-day democratic and ethical point of view, the Nile treaty that Egypt lionizes is not worth the British blood-spattered colonial-era paper it is written.

Seen from this vantage, the Blue Nile is a vast natural resource that Ethiopia has not been allowed to avail of simply because of historic British-imposed laws.

While Egypt has for decades gained free water, soil fertility and has constructed its own hydroelectric dams on the river, Ethiopia and the other African source countries are barred from such benefits. And yet the needs of Ethiopia’s population are heartrendingly dire. The country of 85 million – on parity with Egypt – is one of the poorest in the world with some 70 per cent of the population subsisting on less than $2 a day.

A major factor in Ethiopia’s underdevelopment is the lack of electricity. Every day the country is subject to blackouts, a crippling impediment to humanitarian development. If the Blue Nile project goes ahead, it is projected to supply 6,000 megawatts of electricity – six times the output, for example, from Iran’s Bushehr power station working at full capacity.

But here is perhaps the winning argument. It is not just Ethiopia’s sovereign right to use its Blue Nile resource for the betterment of its people; and it’s not just the rejection of arbitrary unjust colonial-era laws. There is an all-important long-term ecological reason for why Ethiopia should go ahead with its hydroelectric plans. Ironically, this reason is also in Egypt’s long-term interest.

Meteorological data is backed up by anecdotal observations of Ethiopian elders that the country’s rainfall has been seriously declining over many years. The vital rainy season is becoming shorter and more erratic. This ominous climate change is directly connected with the fact that Ethiopia has lost some 90 per cent of its forests over recent decades.

This lack of tree cover has resulted in the land becoming more arid and barren posing a dangerous threat to not only food security in a famine-risk country, but also to the replenishment of Lake Tana and the Blue Nile. A primary reason for the deforestation in Ethiopia is the need for charcoal upon which most Ethiopians rely for cooking and daily sustenance. That need for charcoal and resultant destruction of forests and decline in rainfall arises because of the chronic lack of electricity.

If Ethiopia is to reverse its deforestation and dwindling rainfall that will require giving its people access to electricity in order to obviate the unsustainable use of charcoal as the primary domestic fuel.

The Blue Nile hydro-project gives Ethiopia a way out of that dilemma.

By allowing the country to develop electrical power and to repair its ecology and water management, the future of the Blue Nile will also be conserved. The present prevailing situation of deforestation and declining water supply to the Blue Nile is in nobody’s interest, including that of Egypt.

Instead of declaring war and threatening to send in commandos to blow up Ethiopia’s nascent dam project, Egypt’s president Morsi should step back and view the bigger picture, not just for the sake of Ethiopians, but also for the sake of his country’s long-term dependence on the continued viability of the Blue Nile. Then Morsi might realize that all his reckless bellicose rhetoric towards Ethiopia is ‘dam stupid’.

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