WASHINGTON – Dozens have been killed, hundreds have been injured and protests have taken over city after city. On the second anniversary of the uprising that led to then-President Hosni Mubarek’s departure, Egypt continues to struggle building a democracy and installing institutions to lead the nation into the future.
The Voice of Russia American Edition hosted an international panel to discuss the latest developments in Egypt and the country’s struggle to transition to a new democracy.
Those who attended the talks today did include Mohammad el-Baradi and Amr Moussa, Former Egyptian Foreign Minister under the Mubarak regime. The words that came out after those talks – do they cause for optimism?
Fortunately, today just before we started we had a good clue or a positive thing. I think it’s a good start for a cause of optimism. But, unfortunately, we learn not to trust anyone too much. There were plenty of promises for dialogue and more understanding, but it never came as a practical step on the ground. So overall, I think we have to wait and see for the next couple of days, what is the actual reflection of today’s statements and how much influence does every part have on the ground. We have a massive big figure from the Egyptian church and there were Amr Moussa and el-Baradi. And they until very recently were refusing the dialogue with the government. So I think, in a way, that’s a good start.
And I suppose, the words that came from Sheikh Hamad Al Thani do give some kind of view on what needs to take the process ahead. He did say that political work has nothing to do with violence or sabotage and welfare of everyone and that the faith of the nation depends on respect for the rule of law. How do you interpret those words?
I think it’s catch-22, because after the revolution there’s the wipe of everyone speaking out and trying to make the point, be it in the media or in the streets or actually in private dialogue. And at the same time you need to see the Egypt as a government, a state, the police, the Foreign Ministry – these things that make every place a country. You need to see it. I think the balance between the two is very difficult. And it will need a lot of understanding from the nation, it’ll need very drastic measures from the government, the police applying the law. But I think that what he’s going to say – he’s not saying, “Don’t go out and protest!” I think he’s asking people not to be dragged into violent clashes, because we’ve had enough bloodshed. No matter who dies, they’re all Egyptians in the end.
But in terms of the clashes that you refer to, on the 25th of January, two years on from the start of the revolution, it’s a significant day. We’ve seen quite a significant bloodshed. What’s your feeling of the level of empathy on the streets? Could we compare it with the protests of two years ago? It does seem quite sinister, especially with people being shot. It’s quite a significant violence.
I totally agree with what you’re saying. And as I said, there’re many ways to look at it. It was totally different, because there was a political decision to stay in power and it was not based on the fact that Mubarak was not democratically elected. He only used the police to actually stop the protestors from expressing what they believe in. And even the violence that happened on 25th of January in 2011 – a huge part of it was planned by police, by opening the prisons. These are the very same folks and very same organized crime. It’s still active on the ground. There’re still hundreds of thousands of folks paid by the ex-Egyptian police and they’re still active. These people have taken a huge part in what’s taking place these days. So, on the ground you have peaceful protestors, it’s a big mix as well. And it makes the police position very difficult to deal with them. From what I have been collecting the last couple of days, yes, there was violence on part of the police, but it was not comparable at all to the way in was 2 years ago. On the other hand, there were attempts to break into prisons and there were attempts to burn public buildings. I think this is where we have to stop and think carefully. No one is immune anymore. If you let go with the bad stuff that happens without addressing it, it will carry on for the next few years.
Mohammed Omara: You cannot miss the hypocrisy on both sides really, I mean you are claiming to be a religious Government and you are breaking you promises, and you are doing a lot of usual political behavior. And on the other hand the opposition, they will tell you this constitution is bad and it is not illegible and it is not good enough for the Egyptians, and we should go down to the streets and protest. And then a week later they will go to the elections, the parliament elections. And the oath will include that they should have to respect the very same constitution that they were telling you is horrible like a couple of months ago.
I think we have to watch our terminology, either opposition or Government. We have to address our followers and our supporters in a different way. And I think the rest of the Egyptians are, we call them “the so far party”, people who are just sitting there and watching, I think they have a better view now after two years of who was pro who was against the revolution and what should work for everyone.
And I think the economy and security is a very good point, is a very good common ground for everyone to start from. And I think the big leaders of the opposition, either El-Baradei or Mousa, this generation, yes, it has very good to take from it but it also has a totally different way of thinking, totally different way than us, than their own people who want the change. And I think in the coming few months you will see a lot of new leadership in the opposition, and even in the current Government, who actually are turning against their leaders because they have seen how much the generation differences can affect what they really want to do, they are obstructing us.
Brendan Cole:But I guess that’s key to the antipathy, key to the agitation on the streets. Really, what you have after a period of dictatorship is that the big proportion of Egypt is young, they want jobs, they want opportunities and this is not going to happen overnight. That kind of job creation and giving young people a purpose and a career and all those kinds of things – that won’t happen for quite a long time. So, we can see this agitation continuing for quite some time, can’t we?
Mohammed Omara: It will definitely go on, as I’m saying, until the opposition and the Government decide to take things differently. So, everyone agrees that you have the right to protest, but there is an elected Government for four years, we have to work, we have to get the police back on its feet, we have to clear and purify the judicial system.
And once this happens you will have your own rights being implemented on the ground. When you have stability and security I think the economy will just be better. I’m not an economic expert but I think in any given situation you need political stability, you need a constitution that has been working for a few months at least. And you need a state, you have to deal with the Foreign Ministry, you have to deal with Internal Ministry, you have to establish this. And I think this will bring the economy and lift it up.
Brendan Cole:Well, let’s touch on the constitution and the economy later on. I want to go back to our studio in Washington with Rob.
Rob Sachs:Thank you so much Brendan. And I wanted to see if Dean Ahmad could maybe react to some of the things we heard, specifically thinking about the leadership in Egypt and how effective it has been in terms of bringing people together and stabilizing the region. I wanted to ask you to maybe focus on President Morsi’s leadership. We saw on the international stage he was lauded for his interventions into the conflict with Israel and Gaza. But then just a few days later he is having clashes with the judges there in Egypt. And now we are seeing him having to resort to calling the state of emergency to bring down these riots. How effective is he being and is he instilling confidence in people of Egypt and leaders abroad?
Dean Ahmad:Well, he is losing the confidence of the Egyptians, even of some of the people who voted for him. But I’d like to bring into the play here the comment that Mr. Omara made, that we outside of Egypt should be helping the Government. That’s not the same thing as taking sides among the factions. How we can help the Government? To advise them on how proper democratic principles can be implemented in the situation they are confronting. Morsi has made a number of major mistakes. For example, implementing the state of emergency was a very serious mistake. It turned what was an immediate problem about rioting into a situation which was evoking the memory of Mr. Mubarak.
Voice of Russia American Edition takes a fresh look at breaking news in the US and throughout the world, hosting talk programs and weekly shows to keep you entertained and up to date. Tune in and get the latest on news of the day.
All rights reserved. Fully or partially reproduced material must be attributed to the Voice of Russia and linked to Voice of Russia. The service may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. The portal has been developed with the help of Stack Telecom, Ltd.