Tag Archives: Egypt

Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 11: Syria, Why Involve Assad

Why Involve Assad

(or “Why Assad Must Be Involved”)

By

Gabriel C Banda

WHETHER one likes him or not, the roles, with actions and reactions, of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad have great effect on present and future situations of Syria, the Middle East region, and the whole world.

I believe that the Syria war is such that neither the Assad administration nor the rebels, in their various formations, should expect to have a military victory and rule stably over the whole society. Defeat of other forces will not lead to acceptance of the conqueror as ruler.

Not all conquest is victory. Those opposed to the victor will not necessarily accept the rule of that victor. For no military victory can ensure acceptance and long support for the rule of the victor. No conqueror can rule for long without consent of others.

While key issues are unsettled, situations of parties may change and armed conflict may again rise, even in another generation.

The Assad and rebel forces both have significant local and external influence and support. The conflict is more than just about Bashar al-Assad and rebel commanders, but includes the various entities supporting the various parties to the conflict. Some influential supporters are offshore.

Whether they like each other or not, for long term stable agreement, the Geneva talks for Syria’s peace require the active involvement or presence of all key local and external parties in the conflict.

Key issue has been what role President Assad should play in a future Syria. Rebels and backers like governments of USA, Britain, and France have insisted that Bashar al-Assad should not be part of the next governance. The insistence of non-involvement of Assad creates seeds of later difficulties in concluding the talks and can complicate actual post- agreement governance and stability.

Assad’s current presidential term is scheduled to expire in 2014. I believe there are many reasons why Assad and his team should be allowed, if they wish, to participate in governance systems, processes, and practices that may come out of Geneva agreements. The population must be allowed to choose who they want to represent them.

A governance system must involve all members and representatives of a society. It must be inclusive and should not exclude and relegate to the margins some members of society.

Worldwide, issues like colour, religion and sect, language, ethnicity and cultures, location, origin, being male or female, health and disease, living with disability, and other factors are used to exclude or include some. But the excluded eventually want to assert their universal right to life and participation.

The talks on Syria’s future must not be about defeat and surrender but the building of paths and walks to peace. The great Truth and Reconciliation process of South Africa still allowed some who had been associated with the apartheid regime free to stand for elections.

Worldwide, members of societies must freely choose representatives. The constitution, governance systems, processes, and practices must be designed to lead to good and fair governance. Rulers must be committed and accountable to a just society that respects the humanity of all individuals arising from various backgrounds.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and even Egypt provide us with active examples of the effects of political exclusion of those coming from groups considered subdued by force.

A constant mistake in these conflict theatres was the exclusion of rulers and leaders who had significant support, local and external. This placed heavy weaknesses and gaps in transitions.

Vanquished or killed, there were no rulers and representatives available to negotiate agreement and future constitutions, systems, processes, and practices. A key weaknesses has been the belief and practice of hitting the shepherd and hoping the sheep will scatter.

Actually, killing rulers and symbols of groups has worsened situations. Supporters may be more resolved to fight when the leader they respect is humiliated or killed. Killing or excluding leaders also creates deep gaps.

In Iraq and Libya, the killing of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi in armed regime changes meant there was no ruler or leader available to negotiate with opponents and urge their own supporters to lay down weapons.

After Iraq’s regime change by invasion and occupation, the organised exclusion of Baath Party members from involvement in politics and governance contributed to the violence and war that continues over ten years after Saddam Hussein’s rule.

In Egypt, Mubarak had offered not to participate in elections scheduled September 2011 but be involved in transition processes. But the regime changers insisted on pushing him aside and on his non-involvement in the transition process. There had been a window of a few months, as time was approaching for Mubarak’s term to end, to have had government and opposition work out governance issues.

Egypt’s result was that although Mubarak was removed, there was no smooth transition. The Constitution, systems, processes, and governance practices were not agreed upon as Mubarak was pushed aside. Some results of Egypt’s poor transition are the current political difficulties in Egypt.

In Syria, even if it means offering to talk to very tough militants, including members of the determined al-Nusra group feared by some, parties involved in conflict must still offer discussion. The Syria government and rebels should not make conditions that exclude significant opponents they do not like.

All in Syria’s conflict, from President Assad to the rebels in various formations, must be involved in designing the way ahead.

The United Nations can rise above the tensions of the local and external warriors and help the parties to design some stable path towards ceasefire and peace. To work, Syria’s new governance must be actively inclusive of all members of society.

Without practices of deep prejudice, hatred, and exclusion, it is possible to talk and make advances benefitting all.

Geneva can be great opportunity. The United Nations and others supporting Good Will and Peace can help Syria’s government and opposition to put into place a governance system that enables inclusion, participation, and enjoyment of rights of all sections of the society.

                      –                       ginfinite@yahoo.com

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                                   Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in writing and the arts, social development, and peace issues. He holds an MA in Peace Studies, University of Bradford.

 

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Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 01: Egypt and Morsi, Transition Lessons

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               Gabriel Banda

Egypt and Morsi, Transition Lessons

By

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.

          ginfinite@yahoo.com          gabriel.c.banda@facebook.com

           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.