Op-ed review: State militarisation and revolution mistakes

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Fahmy Howeidy

Between militarisation and civil war

Al-Shorouk newspaper

Columnist Fahmy Howeidy writes on the events that took place on the morning of Monday 8 July. He begins by saying that he considered the two main challenges of Mohamed Morsi’s ousted government were the stabilisation of security and reviving the economy. “However, after the coup that removed Dr Morsi, our priorities changed. We are now facing two new challenges that are more pressing: protecting the path of democracy and prevention of bloodshed,” Howeidy writes.

He continues to say that he never expected the Egyptian people to be divided into “two camps after they were untied against the tyranny of Mubarak’s regime”. He expresses his fears that the Egyptian state would be converted into a militarised one. He mentions that there were many factors that hinted at the militarisation of the state in 2011, beginning with the Al-Selmy constitutional document, which “provided the armed forces with a special status, and turned the military into an untouchable force above any constitutional power.”

He explains that Article 9 considered the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) a separate entity from the state, with a separate budget and management. It also gave the SCAF the right to accept or refuse any legislation concerning the army. Howeidy adds that the SCAF gave itself the power to review the articles of the constitution and “in case it did not like it, it had the power to form a new constitutional committee to put a new constitution that pleases it.”

He adds: “those documents [including Al-Selmy documents] which were not enforced were some sort of balloon tests.” However, he explains that army leaders were pleased with the documents. He claims that the constitution that was put in place last November reduced the state of confidentiality of the army, since Article 197 stated that the National Defence Council had to be consulted in laws concerning the armed forces.

He explains that the armed forces were keen on being present in the political scene after the election of Morsi, and considers the statement of Defence Minister Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi on 3 July as evidence supporting this claim.

Howeidy writes: “The statement highlighted the effort exerted army leaders to contain the internal situation and create national reconciliation between the [different] political powers. The statement also stated that the military has offered, more than once, its own recommendations concerning internal and external situations, but the president did not consider them.”

Howeidy explains that the removal of Morsi happened in an atmosphere of a “political vacuum” indicated by the lack of political organisations to “represent society”. He adds that the armed forces acted like the central power, and the only political frame of reference to rule Egypt.  “There is a difference between ruling and governance. The one who rules sets policies and a general framework, and the rest, no matter how powerful their positions are, carry them out,” Howeidy explains.

“I detect the atmosphere of militarisation in the security procedures they quickly enforced after the coup, which were represented in a series of arrests and confiscations of the podiums of expression, which they were not pleased with. [It was also represented] in their tolerance of violence that affected people and headquarters,” Howeidy explains.

He adds that the military is siding with one party over the other, and that many people have started to recommend candidates of a military background for the coming presidential elections. He explains that a sense of polarisation has increased dramatically as some people are calling for the exclusion of those who supported Morsi, with the Muslim Brotherhood at the top of the list.

He mentions the clashes that occurred at dawn on Monday in front of the Republican Guards headquarters in Heliopolis as proof of the extent of the polarisation. “It turned a political conflict into a civil war which severed bonds and led to bloodshed,” Howeidy writes.

He adds that the problem also lies in the lack of a reconciliatory party capable of dissipating the conflict even though there are many level-headed people in Egypt.

He concludes that as long as there are “victims of the civil war”, the country will never stabilise.

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Suleiman Shafiq

Egypt, between the Brotherhood’s arrogance and revolutionaries’ mistakes

Al-Watan Newspaper

Columnist Suleiman Shafiq begins the article with recalling the letdowns of 2011, when the people were disappointed with the army due to the lack of transparency and leadership. He then lists the mistakes that happened during the past two and a half years.

He first mentions the lack of leadership and vision. He explains that the SCAF conducted 214 meetings during the transitional period, meaning that it conducted seven meetings a month, with two weekly meetings. Shafiq explains that the division between the revolutionaries and the decision makers was a major setback.

He deduces that the SCAF, led by Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, had no choice but to cooperate with the Brotherhood because they were well-organised. Accordingly, the Brotherhood was the only party included in the roadmap of the transitional period, while the revolutionaries chanted “down with military rule,” which increased the gap between revolutionaries and the SCAF. He adds that while revolutionaries were concerned with “side battles”, the Brotherhood was able to deepen their hold on the people, allowing them to obtain the majority votes in elections.

Shafiq also explains that the lack of foresight from some voters allowed them to fall in the Brotherhood’s trap, and the conversion of revolutionaries into media figures allowed them to be even more removed from the Egyptian streets.

Another mistake was the Brotherhood’s arrogance, who considered themselves in a higher status than that of the revolutionaries. “They considered Egypt in their grip, and acted accordingly,” writes Shafiq. He adds that they neglected the Egyptian culture and heritage as much as they neglected the Egyptians. He explains that many people feared that the Egyptian state had become an Islamist emirate, and part of the Brotherhood project to establish a caliphate state.

Shafiq wonders whether Egyptians have learnt their lesson, and are ready to create a genuine reconciliation instead of encouraging exclusion. He also demands that state institutions be given enough time to fix themselves up, specifically the police and judiciary.

“In any case, the flair for vengeance must be expelled, and we have to adopt a spirit of tolerance in the framework of the law,” writes Shafiq. He then explains that there has to be a sense of nationalism that makes room for the world outside. He explains that the Brotherhood were able to create ties with the external world in order to use them internally for their benefit. However, the revolutionaries and civil powers failed at doing the same.

He concludes that the country is at a crossroads, and the Brotherhood is trying to drag the army into side battles, and to “show the world outside that it is like the Syrian army.” He does not exclude the Brotherhood’s intention to lead the country to “civil division by playing the role that they have perfected, that of the victim.”

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