Egypt and Morsi, Transition Lessons
Gabriel C Banda
THE turmoil in Egypt has been of great concern but not unexpected. For the seeds of the heated conflict around President Mohamed Morsi’s administration, elected one year ago, were actually laid during protest action to overthrow the Hosni Mubarak and NDP party administration.
As around Mubarak in 2011, current protests have been over the economic situation, basic needs, and governance systems and practices.
Now, there are significant numbers and forces of those who are dissatisfied with Morsi just as the Muslim Brotherhood and others show great support for Morsi. If not effectively healed now, the conflict will lead to deep instability in Egypt and the region.
A major reason the current situation has risen is because the uprising that threw out President Mubarak in 2011 was not well managed. The faults and defects were imbedded in the transition, or lack of it. The way things were done, or not done, contributed to the current script being played out in Egypt.
The anti-Mubarak forces acted in hurry to remove Mubarak and take over without allowing society to put into place some agreed stable processes and systems. Both opposition and ruling party members needed to work together to find processes, systems, and practices that would enhance governance and participation. There was need to effectively work out a fair Constitution.
While Mubarak had offered talks to work out things, opposition showed no trust in Mubarak and pushed to have him leave early. At regime change from Mubarak, critical governance issues had not been dealt with. It seems opposition concentrated on removing Mubarak and getting into government.
The Mubarak administration was late to reach out and respond to the issues of protestors and opponents, as President Dilma Rousseff has positively done in Brazil in recent days. However, Mubarak eventually offered opponents some talks and transition. He offered not to stand in the September 2011 elections. Opposition and protestors rejected his offers.
The opponents wanted Mubarak out right then and not to wait for the September 2011 elections. Even USA’s Obama administration, including CIA officials, began pushing Hosni Mubarak to immediately step down.
Thus major mistakes contributed to the current tense situation in 2013. Talks and agreement with Mubarak could have given chance for all involved to design relevant laws, processes, and systems to promote good governance and participation. Early 2011 to September 2011 was good time to work out things and prepare for elections, in which Mubarak had assured he would not stand.
What could have helped would have been the emergence of persons to represent various opposition groups in meeting Mubarak and regime members, with other non-partisan members of society, to work out, after considering various factors, the way forward for Egypt.
Sadly, although 2005 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Mohamed ElBaradei had great potential to take effective negotiator and mediator roles, he was more involved in his opposition role and calling upon Mubarak to leave office. Other persons could have been found to help mediate.
Opposition and protestors seemed to be in great hurry and anger, continuing to demand the immediate step down, and punishment, of Mubarak and regime. A culture of aggressive protests and forceful regime change was being built. And unresolved issues continued into the Morsi regime.
Morsi’s rule has passed through rigid and narrow decrees and actions opposition and protestors have been unhappy with. For many people, there are still issues around basic needs access and quality. Many in Egypt are frustrated. With a culture of aggressive regime change, there were efforts, supported by a petition of millions, to remove Morsi and regime.
Mohamed Morsi was rigid to accommodation. He may have been considering what happened to Hosni Mubarak, who has even been in court for charges that include attacks against protestors. The fate of other rulers since the “Arab Spring” may have influenced Morsi’s responses to opponents. He did not heed warning signs and adjust to be inclusive.
On Wednesday July 3, 2013, following the warning of forty eight hours before, military and defence head Gen Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi announced the removal of Morsi and mentioned measures to bring reconciliation and stability.
Yet, with strong forces for and against the Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood rule, there will be many reactions and implications. If there is no learning from past weaknesses in transition, then Egypt, the region, and the wider world, may face deep instability.
Egypt’s current situation of conflict is one price for impatience and intolerance. Unlike in the rough Mubarak regime change, Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood members must be allowed to be in discussions with opposition, protestors, and the military. Local and external forces should not insist on exclusion of some parties.
Good mediators and negotiators can be found. After considering current weaknesses, challenges, and disputes, anti-Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood members must together find the best way forward. Egypt’s unfinished task is still to work out, and agree, effective governance processes, systems, and practices. The current crisis is another window to sort out Egypt’s governance issues.
In a society in great conflict, where there are strong groups with significant support, no group can effectively rule others through mere conquest, political or military, and without the consent of other groups.
The interim rulers need to handle the protests and situation of the Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood supporters with more sensitivity than the hard approach that followed. The current harsh, narrow, and unaccommodating show of determination by both General Al-Sisi and pro-Morsi teams will only lead to further violence, hardship, and instability.
As in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, aggression begets aggression. Rebellions are not necessarily revolutions leading to democracy and wide participation. Multiparty systems and elections are not by themselves democracy and good governance. There is need to build blocks of stability and effective inclusion.
The lessons for transition are wider than just Egypt and Mohamed Morsi.
– Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in social development, peace issues, writing, and the arts.
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GCB, Lusaka. June, July 2013.