Egypt As A Role Model: An Opportunity Lost

مصر تسير على خارطة الطريق إلى القمع

open democracy-1Open Democracy – Rawia M Tawfik Amer, a lecturer at the faculty of Economics and Political science, Cairo University. She holds the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Oxford. She writes on issues of African political economy.

The January 25th uprising offered Egypt the opportunity to become a role model for peaceful transition in the region and beyond. But with the hijack of the will of the people almost completed, Egypt is moving further away from realising democracy.

The 25th of January 2011 revolution was not only about promoting the freedom and dignity of Egyptians at home, but also restoring the pre-eminence of Egypt regionally and internationally. Protestors who took to the streets for eighteen days were expressing their grievances against Mubarak’s domestic policies, and disappointment at their country’s declining role in regional politics. On the third anniversary of the revolution, Egypt seems to have lost its way towards democracy, and the opportunity to present a model of peaceful transition in the Arab world and Africa.  

The uprising promised to usher in a new phase in Egypt’s contribution to the struggle for democracy and socio-economic rights in the region and beyond. Leading Arab and African intellectuals and activists, including Khair El-Din Haseeb, Azmi Bishara, Larbi Sadiki, Mahmoud Mamdani, Horace Campbell, to mention a few, celebrated the revolution emphasizing the symbolism of Tahrir Square as a space that brought together Egyptians from different religious, political and social backgrounds to defend a common cause. In her keynote speech at the 4th European Conference on African Studies in Uppsala in June 2011, the noted African scholar Oyeronke Oyewumi criticised the media and academic labeling of the revolution as an ‘Arab spring’ insisting that it was also an ‘African spring’.

The mass demonstrations in Egypt triggered an ‘African Awakening’ that manifested itself in subsequent unnoticed protests in other African countries. In Cameroon opposition figures led demonstrations to contest Paul Biya’s life-time presidency a few days after the toppling of Mubarak. More than a year later, on the 30th anniversary of Biya’s rise to power, another wave of protests emerged, though on a more limited scale. Further north in West Africa, young activists in the Mauritanian opposition parties formed a coalition that organized protests to force the government of Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to introduce political and social reforms. The demands raised by the coalition included restructuring civil-military relations, reforming the electoral law, and introducing measures to combat corruption and nepotism. In Sudan, in spite of police crackdown against political activists, the new youth movements moved from pressuring for social justice to mobilizing for toppling the ruling National Congress Party.  In South African townships participants in service delivery protests referred to the site of their protest as Tahrir Square.

These examples, among many others, indicate that Egypt became a role model for nations seeking peaceful political and social change. In this sense, the revolution promised to help Egypt restore its regional role as an exemplar; a role that it had lost since the 1970s. For almost four decades, Egypt’s subsequent economic crises, coupled with mismanagement and bad governance, left it in an unfavourable position compared to oil exporting countries of the Gulf. Its role in conflict resolution had increasingly been challenged by other regional actors (Qaddafi’s Libya in the African continent and Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the Middle East). It was only through attempting to revive its soft power that Egypt could have stood a chance to improve its image. The January 25th revolution provided such a chance.

But where does Egypt stand three years after the revolution? To the frustration of revolutionaries who waited so long for change, democratic transformation was aborted by conservative forces at home and in the region. Young activists who inspired the world with their peaceful uprising are now targeted by the police and defamed in the media. Instead of promoting freedom and dignity, Egypt, especially after the 3rd of July 2103, is steadily moving along a ‘Roadmap to Repression’, to borrow the title of a recent report by Amnesty International.

At the same time, with an economy struggling under conditions of political instability, Egypt has become more reliant on loans and grants from Arab Gulf countries. The flow of cash from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, estimated around $17 billion in the last 6 months, has provided a temporary relief to the military-backed government. It has also meant that these countries have successfully contained the Egyptian revolution and sustained Cairo’s dependence on Gulf money.  

As far as Africa is concerned, the post-Morsi transitional government has been struggling to resume Egypt’s participation in the activities of the African Union which suspended Egypt two days after the 3rd of July military coup. According to the Union’s principles, the overthrow of a democratically elected president is an ‘unconstitutional change of government’ that entails the suspension of the country until constitutional order is restored. For the first time in fifty years, Egypt, one of the founders of the Organisation of African Unity and the AU, was not allowed to take part in the annual continental summit that took place in the last week of January. Moreover, the transitional government was not invited to attend the first African- American Summit that takes place in Washington in August this year. Egypt’s confrontation with the AU may get further complicated with the expected running of Field Marshall Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the Minister of Defense, and the key figure in the 3rd of July coup, for presidency. According to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, ‘the perpetrators of unconstitutional change of government shall not be allowed to participate in elections held to restore the democratic order or hold any position of responsibility in political institutions of their State’. Even if the new government manages to influence African governments to reverse Egypt’s suspension, it would do so in breach of the organisation’s principles. Thus, instead of presenting an exemplar in respecting AU’s principles and developing Africa’s international relations, Egypt is losing opportunities and tools for relating to the continent and representing it in multilateral fora.   

Interestingly, it is not only African governments that are having a problem understanding and accepting what happened on the 3rd of July and its aftermath, but also some African scholars and civil society organisations. South African trade unions that supported the move of the Egyptian masses on the 25th of January 2011 wondered how the same masses now celebrate the erosion of democracy and welcome the domination of militocracy on Egyptian politics. The Nigerian scholar Adekeye Adebajo described the coup as the ‘worst form of mob rule’. A few days after the coup, Horace Campbell rightly anticipated that the military and its allies would be ready to use ‘the excuse of violence and security to hijack the will of the people’.  

With this hijack almost completed, Egypt moves further away from realising democracy and, subsequently, loses an opportunity to be the model in regional politics.

أوبن ديمكراسي: مصر تسير على خارطة الطريق إلى القمع

rawya-tawfeqوطن – نشرت راوية محمد توفيق عامر المحاضرة في كلية الإقتصاد والعلوم السياسية في جامعة القاهرة  جامعة القاهرة تقريرا لها يوم أمس (على الرابط التالي) في مجلة “أوبن ديمكراسي” البريطانية جاء في ملخصه إن ثورة 25 يناير منحت مصر الفرصة لتصبح نموذجا يحتذى به في التحول السلمي في المنطقة وخارجها إلا أن عملية اختطاف الإرادة الشعبية قد اكتملت تقريبًا وباتت مصر تتحرك بعيدًا عن الديمقراطية

وتابعت المحاضرة تقول: أن ثورة يناير لم تعزز من حرية وكرامة المصريين في الداخل فقط، بل ساعدت أيضًا في استعادة هيمنة البلاد على المستوى الإقليمي والدولي، لكن مع الذكرى الثالثة للثورة يبدو أن البلاد قد فقدت طريقها نحو الديمقراطية والانتقال السلمي على المستوى العربي والإفريقي

وأضافت أن “الثورة الماضية يبدو أنها وعدت بالدخول في مرحلة نضالية جديدة من أجل الديمقراطية والحقوق الاجتماعية والاقتصادية في المنطقة وخارجها”، لافتة إلى أن كبار المثقفين والناشطين العرب والأفارقة مثل خير الدين حسيب وعزمي بشارة ومحمود ممداني وهوراس كامبل أكدوا على رمزية ميدان التحرير باعتباره الساحة التي جمعت المصريين من مختلف الخلفيات الدينية والسياسية والاجتماعية للدفاع عن قضية مشتركة

وأردفت أن “مصر قادت ما يسمى بـ “الصحوة الإفريقية” والتي تجلت في عدة دول مثل الكاميرون وموريتانيا وبلدات بجنوب إفريقيا، لافتة إلى أن هذه الأمثلة تشير إلى أن مصر باتت نموذجًا يحتذى به للدول الساعية للتغيير السياسي والاجتماعي، ليس هذا فحسب بل ساهمت الثورة في استعادة البلاد لدورها الإقليمي الذي فقدته منذ عام 1970 أي ما يقرب من أربعة عقود شهدت خلاله أزمات اقتصادية متتابعة مع سوء الحكم والإدارة كل هذا تركها في وضع حرج وذلك بالمقارنة مع الدول المصدرة للبترول في الخليج

ورأت المجلة أن ثورة يناير قدمت الفرصة كي تلعب مصر دورًا فعالاً في حل النزاعات الإقليمية تحسين صورتها وذلك بالاشتراك مع دول مثل ليبيا والسعودية وقطر. وطرحت تساؤلاً قالت فيه: “أين تقف مصر الآن بعد ثلاث سنوات من الثورة ؟”، لتجيب بأن عملية التحول الديمقراطي والثوار الذين انتظروا طويلاً من أجل التغيير تم دحضهم من خلال قوى داخلية، لافتة إلى أن الناشطين الشباب الذين أبهروا العالم بانتفاضتهم السلمية مستهدفون الآن من قبل الشرطة والتشهير في وسائل الإعلام بدلاً من الترويج للحرية والكرامة خاصة بعد ثورة يونيو

وتساءلت, ولكن أين تقف مصر اليوم بعد ثلاث سنوات من الثورة؟؟ إلى الإحباط الذي أصاب الثوار الذين انتظروا طويلا من أجل التغيير، تم إحباط التحول الديمقراطي من خلال القوى المحافظة في الداخل وفي المنطقة. الناشطين الشباب الذي ألهموا العالم مع انتفاضتهم السلمية الآن هم مستهدفون من قبل الشرطة والتشهير بهم في وسائل الإعلام.  بدلا من الترويج للحرية و الكرامة

ومصر لاسيما بعد 3 يوليو 2103، و تسير بخطى ثابتة على طول ‘ “خارطة الطريق إلى القمع”، وذلك وفقا عنوان تقرير صدر مؤخرا عن منظمة العفو الدولية

لافتة إلى أنه في الوقت ذاته, مع الاقتصاد المتعثر وفي ظل ظروف عدم الاستقرار السياسي، أصبحت مصر أكثر اعتمادا على القروض والمنح المقدمة إليها من دول الخليج العربي. و تدفق السيولة النقدية من المملكة العربية السعودية والكويت والإمارات العربية المتحدة، والتي تقدر بنحو 17 مليار دولار في الستة أشهر الماضية، قدمت كإغاثة مؤقتة إلى الحكومة المدعومة من الجيش. وهذا يعني أيضا أن هذه الدول المانحة قد عملت بنجاح على إحتواء الثورة المصرية وجعلت القاهرة تعتمد على اموال الخليج

2 comments to Egypt As A Role Model: An Opportunity Lost

  • Scott Shepard


    The pitiful decline of Egypt continues through yet another year. Once the strongest Arab Muslim state, the one other countries of the east had to respect. The slide began, perhaps, with Nasser’s failed war against Israel in 1967. But after that, at least Egyptians, and Arabs, knew that Egypt had courage, and Egypt knew who the bad guys were. But when Sadat followed the face saving ‘draw’ of 1973 up with a shocking peace treaty with Israel, that is when the slide truly began. Nothing has reversed it.

    Yes the generals managed to ruin the economy over the decades. But at least Egypt commanded respect and had to be feared, all that time. After Sadat’s shameful deal with Israel, Egypt vanished from the world stage. Israel never feared Egypt again, and soon nobody in the region paid any attention to Egypt any more. In exchange, Egypt had nothing to show for its deal. Some sand that it could have gotten back in other ways.

    Since that time Mubarak got used to treating Israel as some kind of partner of regional management. Israel and Mubarak had to rein in the Palestinians, like parents waving a long stick at naughty children. Perhaps because of the approval and assistance of the Americans, Mubarak thought this was a good deal, to help police the Palestinians.

    Then finally miracle of miracles we get rid of Mubarak and a Muslim country finally begins to live like a Muslim country. Morsi gets less than one year to fix all of the damage of forty years of military rule, and he could not succeed in that.

    I recall the cheering in the streets when the Brotherhood, after their months of elected governance, were driven from power, and Morsi whisked away. I don’t know the percentages of the population who thought Egypt was going to be improved by replace Morsi for the general. But I doubt it was a majority. Maybe it was like the Iranian ‘majority’ that still supports the Pahlavi dynasty, which is to say, about 10 or 20 percent.

    When the elected Brotherhood was driven out, I was immediately worried, and believed the result would be a dictatorship all over again. I could see no reason why the generals would submit to elections again. They can’t win.

    It turned out much as I expected. They are worse than Mubarak/Sadat/Nasser. They think they will crush the Brotherhood forever.

    And Egypt’s position in the world? Under Nasser, and the first years of Sadat, Egypt commanded respect, with all of its weaknesses. But it is the days of Mubarak all over again. Egypt is once again the toothless army that works for Israel, blowing up tunnels from Gaza, checking Palestinian IDs. Even Saudi Arabia, which never commanded fear in the region, has more influence today than Egypt. Egypt waits for handouts from Saudi Arabia. What a downfall.

    Meanwhile the Americans are so clueless they don’t know what to do. Obama, Clinton, Kerry, they think they want democracy but they so fear the Palestinians that they won’t criticize Abdul al Sisi. Even though Morsi was far more moderate than their wildest dreams, he was not cooperative enough. Never enough. But a dictator, that is something the Americans can take comfort in. Just as the Israelis. To sleep peacefully at night, the Americans and the Israelis need to know that dictators rule all the Arab and Muslim countries. Dictators they can bribe.

    So, will the Egyptian people continue to tolerate this humiliation? We shall see.

  • Hallo Frau Salam,

    Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it – that is a very true axiom.

    The history of Egypt that we are most concerned with begins with the Pan African partition in 1880 and the English colonizing war in Northeast Africa, THE EGYPT & SUDAN CAMPAIGN 1882 to 1898.

    Not bothering with the poem about the Hadendoa by the English Freemason, Kipling, let us go directly to the crux of the matter – the establishment of absolute colonial suzerainty in all of Africa as well as the world in replacement of the Slaving/Colonial era that ended formally in 1870 with the (European) formal universal renouncement of slavery worldwide.

    Slavery was an utter evil, but the real reason that industrialized nations supported an end to it was money. Give people, while managing them and their countries, a reason to produce crops and product and exert themselves in labor without having to drive them with a whip and more goods and product are produced and then eventually through trade, more money changes hands and that has a sizable share stay with the bankers who then can use the money they gain to rearrange the world by wars any way they choose. That was and is the raison d’être for colonial and post/neo-colonial policy. An example is the fact that Diamonds and Africa are still controlled by London, behind the scenes, despite what anyone says to the contrary.

    In the 1882-1898 campaign in Egypt and the Sudan the goal of the English was to secure all trade through the narrow nexus between the Levant and Africa and between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, and hence to all of Asia without rounding the horn. The more you lock it all down the more you posssess.

    The next stage in conquering the world (and this took a Priory of Sion Jew Freemason and Zionist and Jesuit and Templar [Gentile] Freemason and Court Jew Bankers of London and New York Bankers amalgam tp accomplish) was to erase Czarist Russia and the Ottoman Empire. The First World War accomplished this. The Second World War with the London arranged ‘Stalin the eagle with Hitler the Hawk in the Eagle’s claw’ Hegelian Dialectic of nation destruction/rebuilding produced the Naqba and Zionist invasion of Palestine – all planned and foreseen. It propelled the United States globally and for a short while Egypt locally, but in a very strategic area, into a controlling position with the same Nazis pulling many of the strings behind the scenes in both countries – especially via their military/intelligence agencies in both countries. Nasser did not consider himself beholding to those Nazis. Russia meanwhile played the other side of the Dialectical coin as the Communist Revolution exporter to the world. In the Middle East it was Nasser’s Egypt that was the prize and the Russian military alliance with Egypt kept things spinning for some time even when Nasser kicked the Russians out. The 1967 war was strictly the result and plan of the Zionist Israelis. They showed themselves capable of utter betrayal and brutality many times, the Lavon Affair etc. In 1963, Nahum Goldmann of the World Jewish Congress, David Ben Gurion of IsraHell and Jew gangster Meyer Lansky of Murder Inc. and Lyndon Baines Johnson vice president and crypto-Jew and companion of Antipope Paul VI another crypto-Jew, all criminal Jews, and others, had American President John F. Kennedy assassinated to pave the way to the 1967 Israeli attack on Syria and Egypt and especially to take Jerusalem. Egypt never attacked anyone in that aggression which was totally an Israeli aggression and nothing else. The Zionists even tried to sink the USS Liberty in international waters so they could falsely blame it on the Egyptians – it didn’t work.

    See Ahram Online Feb. 13, 2014 – Palestine Cry: ahramonline: Egypt, Russia pledge close bilateral relations

    Putin is now spinning things back to 1970 cold war era, which is when Heinz (aka Henry) Kissinger promoted the Sinai policy of his which in the early 1980s was transformed into Oded Yinon’s plan for Israeli conquest from the Nile to the Euphrates. Kissinger’s hands are covered with blood from throughout the whole world.

    Be utterly careful of anyone claiming to have a way to peace in the Middle East – that is not the Zionist’s plan at all.

    Free Palestine,



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