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Rev. Michel Louis, 61, a Boston pastor, and Lissa Alphonse, 39, of Everett, Mass., had been abducted, along with their guide, Haytham Ragab, as their tour group was traveling on a church trip to Mount Sinai.
The hostage-taker, an Egyptian Bedouin named Jirmy Abu-Masuh, told the Associated Press that he had handed the three over to security officials near the northern Sinai city of el-Arish on Monday after he was promised that authorities were working on his uncle's release. "We are a people of mercy and they don't have anything to do with this," Abu-Masuh said, referring to the Americans.
Gen. Ahmed Bakr, head of security in North Sinai province, confirmed the release and said the three were now in the protection of security officials in Sinai. In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell also confirmed their release and thanked Egyptian authorites.
Abu-Masuh had said he would not free the two Americans until his uncle was released from jail. He said his uncle was detained for refusing to pay the police a bribe.
Abu-Masuh also vowed to take more hostages, of different nationalities, if his demands were not met. Egyptian officials said earlier on Monday they would not release the uncle until he completes a 15-day prison sentence for possession of drugs.
The abduction took place along the road linking Cairo to the sixth-century St. Catherine's Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai where the Old Testament says Moses received the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. The route is a frequent target by Bedouins who abduct tourists to pressure police to meet their demands, usually to release a detained relative they say has been unjustly arrested.
Louis, a Presbyterian pastor, was on the trip with his wife, Fredrick Gladys Louis, who was on the bus with him at the time and remained in Egypt afterward waiting for his release, their son, Rev. John Louis, said. "She witnessed the whole thing, so you can only imagine," he said. "She's a fervent woman of God ... she told us to tell everybody that everything is going to be alright."
The family was concerned that the 61-year-old pastor was unable to take his diabetes medication with him when he got off the bus. His family said he takes natural medication, not insulin. Ragab, 28, told the AP on Friday from the captor's phone that he and the two Americans had been fed a roast lamb and were staying at Abu-Masuh's home in the harsh mountain terrain of central Sinai.
Officials say the captives were held 2 miles from Egypt's border with Israel.
Louis said he had been contacted by Massachusetts senators Scott Brown and John Kerry. Separately, a senior U.S. official said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton brought up the American's case when she met with her Egyptian counterpart in Cairo on Saturday. Another of the pastor's sons, Daniel Louis, said the other kidnapped American, Alphonse, is the mother of two children, a 10-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy.
Friday's abduction was the latest in a series of kidnappings in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula over the past year. Abducted tourists are rarely harmed and usually released within days.
U.S. women call Egypt captors "kind"
The Bedouins of the sparsely populated peninsula have long-running tensions with the government in Cairo and with the security forces in particular. Security officials say some Bedouin are involved in smuggling of drugs and migrants endemic to the peninsula.
The Bedouin, in turn, complain of state discrimination in the development of their region. Bedouin and Egyptian rights groups say the security forces are responsible for many abuses. Police hunting fugitives have staged mass arrests to pressure families to hand over their relatives. They frequently enter homes by force and detain women - particularly provocative acts in conservative Bedouin society.
There are also fears of an Islamic militant presence in the Sinai, where militants carried out a string of suicide bombings against tourist resorts in the mid-2000s. Israel says militants in Sinai are behind cross-border attacks into its territory in recent years.
Abu-Masuh said his uncle had been stopped and harassed on his way to the coastal city of Alexandria last week. When officials saw he was from Sinai, they harassed his uncle even more, Abu-Masuh said. He said his 62-year-old uncle, who raised him after his father died, suffers from back and heart problems as well as diabetes.
Abu-Masuh, of the Tarbeen tribe in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, told the AP that Egypt's Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri called him personally and asked him to release the Americans "who are guests in our country." He said his uncle called him from prison pleading the same and fearing police might arrest his children or wife to pressure Abu-Masuh.
After all said and done, Mohamed Morsi has finally been sworn in as the first democratically elected president of Islamic Egypt. The journey to the presidency was not sown in roses, President Morsi ‘s political party Muslim Brotherhood was banned for decades on Egypt political scene. Then finally came the Arab spring, the Egyptian revolution that swept off the old order and brought in the present reality.
It will be simplistic to say that Arab Spring was successful but it is more complex than that. Of course, former president Murbark was replaced but the Egyptian strong military was still in charge. The elected parliament was recently dissolved before the presidential election and the military has taken over the legislative duty of the parliament. In addition, a new constitution that will reflect the emerging democratic dispensation has not been written. A secular constitution or something close to that will fulfill the aspiration of the masses yearning for liberty in the emerging democratic Egypt.
President Mohamed Morsi has a lot of work and challenges ahead of him. A steady hand and prudency are needed to navigate through all the stormy weather that is confronting Egypt and the leadership. As of now Morsi is not really in charge, for the military has become his co-presidency.
Morsi has a difficult and complicated but a delicate task of working with military in order assumes the role of a true commander in chief of the armed forces of Egypt. This is not a child's play for the military is not going anywhere nor are they bowing out of the picture of governance. Morsi needs all the wisdom and prayer to make the military comfortable and secured without undermining the constitution and his mandate from the voters. The people anticipated a true democracy to take hold in the country because of the enormous effort and sacrifice they have made.
Election is not tantamount to democracy, to say that election of Morsi means that Egypt has become democratic is far from the truth. Election notwithstanding, a nation needs a functional constitution that protects the rights of citizens to gather, respect of religion and a constitution that enumerates the balance and separation of power among the branches of the government to become a true democratic nation.
During the campaign Morsi pledged to promote women's rights and to respect the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Accord. Promises can be easily made during political campaign but as one assume the leadership position with its challenges, keeping promises may not be that easy.
President Mohamed Morsi will rise or fall on the style and substance of his governance particularly on keeping the promises he made during the campaign. The 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty is important not just to the region but to the entire world. The keeping and maintenance of Camp David Accord will show that Morsi is a responsible leader and a man of his own words. Peace is the most important ingredient and condiment needed for the stability of the region. Therefore maturity of his leadership will be buttressed on his relationship with state of Israel.
President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood Party must show the ability to manage the Islamic radicals in Egypt and to make sure that minorities including Nubians (Black Egyptians) and Coptic Christians are allow co-existence and their constitutional rights protected especially the freedom for religious practice not given a lip service.
Then comes the economy, Egypt is a poor country with large foreign debt and high unemployment especially among the restive youths. Without a sound economy the emerging democracy may not take a hold and may fizzle away. Democracy is an expensive form of government and cannot thrive in poverty. An empty stomach and poverty can pose a threat to democracy. Therefore it is necessary to have a peaceful Egypt that is at peace with its neighbors which will enable and facilitate free flow of commerce and trade in the region.
The revolution and Arab Spring dealt a blow to Egyptian economy; GDP growth slumped or rather became stagnant and the already weaken national currency was destabilized; capital flight became imminent while attraction of investments were discouraged. Egyptian economy is in bad shape and economic reform is necessary.
President Mohamed Morsi has to convince the global market that Egypt is ready to do business with the rest of the world. He needs Obama administration to ensure that United States foreign aid will continue to flow in. The world will work with Egypt, if she is willing to work with the world. As Egypt respects international norms and her citizens, the peaceful comity of nations will welcome her back.
Emeka Chiakwelu, Analyst and Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol.
" Islamist Mohammed Morsi promised a "new Egypt" as he took the oath of office Saturday to become the country's first freely elected president, succeeding Hosni Mubarak who was ousted 16 months ago. At his inauguration before the Supreme Constitutional Court, Morsi also became the Arab world's first freely elected Islamist president and Egypt's fifth head of state since the overthrow of the monarchy some 60 years ago. He took the oath before the court's 18 black-robed judges in its Nile-side seat built to resemble an ancient Egyptian temple." - AP
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, center, stands as he is sworn in at the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, June 30, 2012. AP
In this image made from Egyptian State Television, judges from Egypt's Supreme constitutional court applaud Mohammed Morsi, center, after he was sworn in as President in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, June 30, 2012. Islamist Mohammed Morsi has been sworn in before Egypt's highest court as the country's first freely elected president, succeeding Hosni Mubarak who was ousted 16 months ago. (AP Photo/Egyptian State TV)
An Egyptian listens to Egypt's President-elect Mohammed Morsi speech at Tahrir Square, the focal point of Egyptian uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, June 29, 2012. Egypt's newly elected president has read that oath of office in Tahrir Square packed with tens of thousands of Islamists chanting against the ruling military council. In a strong-worded speech that meant to assuage popular anger at the military generals, Morsi showed defiance attempts to chip away from his own presidential powers. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President-elect Mohammed Morsi speaks to supporters at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, June 29, 2012. In front of tens of thousands of cheering supporters, Egypt's first Islamist and civilian president-elect vowed Friday to fight for his authority and symbolically read an oath of office on Cairo's Tahrir Square on the eve of his official inauguration. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abd El-Maaty, Egyptian Presidency)
Egypt's new president Mohammed Morsi delivers a speech during a cermony where the military handed over their power to him (reuters)
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (right) shook hands with Faruq Sultan, head of the presidential election commission, after taking the oath of office on Saturday. AFP PHOTO /EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY
Islamist Mohamed Morsy was declared Egypt's first freely elected president on Sunday, sparking joy among his Muslim Brotherhood supporters on the streets who vowed to continue to try to wrest power from armed forces reluctant to cede ultimate control.
But many Egyptians, and anxious Western allies, also urged Morsy to work fast to repair the economy and bitter divisions in society exposed since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak fractured the police state which had kept the country subdued for decades.
Morsy defeated former general Ahmed Shafik in a run-off last weekend by a convincing 3.5 percentage points, or nearly 900,000 votes, taking 51.7 percent of the total, officials said. It ended a week of disputes over the count that had frayed nerves.
Morsy succeeds Mubarak, who was pushed aside by his fellow officers 16 months ago to appease the Arab Spring revolution.
The military council which has ruled the biggest Arab nation since then, curbed the powers of the presidency by decree last week, meaning the head of state will have to work closely with the army on a planned democratic constitution.
The generals say they want to hand over to civilian rule but are plainly set on defending their privileges and suspicious of the ability of Egypt's fragmented, and long oppressed, political movements to establish a stable constitutional democracy.
The United States, the army's key sponsor and long wary of the rise of political Islam, joined other Western powers in congratulating Morsy and calling on him to form a government of national unity and to respect all Egyptians' civil rights.
Brotherhood officials, speaking as supporters turned Cairo's Tahrir Square into a roaring sea of flags and chants of "Allahu akbar!" (God is greatest), said they would press on with protest vigils to demand that the ruling military council cancel this month's dissolution of the Islamist-led parliament and a decree which gave the generals powers that will restrict the president.
"Morsy is the first truly democratically elected president in Egypt," the Brotherhood's Yasser Ali told Reuters.
"He has the legitimacy and will sit down with the military council and all the political forces to resolve the outstanding issues over parliament and the constitutional decree and the newly imposed emergency law."
"Speak! Have no fear! The military must go!" crowds chanted on Tahrir Square, seat of the revolt, although senior officials in the movement, the veteran adversary of the army for decades, said they wanted to avoid outright confrontation.
There were some isolated scuffles in parts of Cairo between rival groups. Several hundred Shafik supporters in the middle-class suburb of Nasr City chanted "Save Egypt! The Brotherhood will destroy it!", while soldiers tried to keep traffic moving.
Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who heads the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), called to congratulate the 60-year-old Morsy on his victory, state television said.
How these two men cooperate will determine Egypt's uncertain path from revolution to democracy and its relations with anxious Arab and Western allies: Tantawi was Mubarak's defense minister for 20 years and has been close to the Pentagon; Morsy, jailed more than once under the old regime, has a doctorate in engineering from the University of Southern California.
PROTESTS GO ON
Another official at the Brotherhood's headquarters, Gihad Haddad, said demonstrations would also continue to press the army: "The peaceful protests will continue in the squares and across Egypt. The struggle for a new Egypt is just beginning."
Those who voted for Shafik as a bulwark against a religious rule that they fear will mean intolerance and alienation from the West were fearful: businessman Maged Abdel Wadud, 45, who had gathered with others at a hotel hoping to greet a victorious Shafik said: "This is a very bad day for Egypt.
"I am so, so upset. I can't imagine this man becoming a president of Egypt. This is the beginning of the end for Egypt."
Some of those backing Shafik accused the military council and Tantawi of "selling out" to the Brotherhood. But a source close to the council itself insisted the election had been entirely fair, in contrast to those under Mubarak.
Describing it as "a true example of democracy to the world" the military council source stressed the pressure was now on Morsy to take responsibility - something many think might backfire on the Brotherhood if Egypt remains in crisis:
"The onus now is on the new president to unite the nation and create a true coalition of political and revolutionary forces to rebuild the country economically and politically," the source said. "The world is now watching the new president to see whether his tenure will reflect all political currents."
Western powers, and Israel, have been concerned about the Islamist turn in Egypt. But Washington and Europe, both big aid donors, have also pressed the military to accept democracy, while urging the Brotherhood to respect all Egyptians' rights - notably those of women and the large Christian minority.
"This is an historic moment for Egypt," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "I welcome President Morsy's statement that he intends to form an inclusive government that governs on behalf of all the Egyptian people."
In his congratulations, French President Francois Hollande said: "It is key today that the transition which started in February 2011 continues, so that a democratic and pluralist political system establishes itself in Egypt, guaranteeing civil liberties and political freedom to all citizens."
In Israel, at war with the Brotherhood's Palestinian offshoot Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he "respected" the democratic outcome in Egypt and expected to continue cooperation under the two states' peace treaty.
In Hamas-run Gaza, where Palestinians hope Morsy may end Cairo's cooperation with an Israeli blockade, celebratory gunfire rattled across the crowded coastal territory. Iran, which is at odds with most Arab states, welcomed what it called an "Islamic awakening" in Egypt.
Reformist Egyptian politician Mohamed ElBaradei, a former U.N. diplomat, tweeted: "It is time for us to all work together as Egyptians in a framework of national consensus." A senior Western diplomat in Cairo said: "This is a truly historic moment for Egypt - a triumph over the politics of fear and prejudice. Egypt has a civilian, democratically elected president for the first time in its history. The Muslim Brotherhood are far from a perfect organization, but Morsy's election represents a genuine result for the revolution."
He said he did not expect the movement to push its complaints so far as to provoke the military council to react and take from the presidency those powers it still has: "The Muslim Brotherhood will take what they've got - a prize unimaginable to them 18 months ago," the diplomat said. "An imperfect presidency is way better than none at all.
"It's part of the new and delicate act of political compromise, part of Egypt's new cohabitation."
Half of those who voted in last month's first round of the election backed neither Morsy nor Shafik and many who voted in the run-off voted negatively - either against Morsy's religious agenda or against Shafik as a symbol of military rule.
Hamdeen Sabahy, the secular leftist who finished a close third behind Shafik in the first round, called on Morsy to "swiftly form a national presidential administration and a government that expresses national reconciliation and represents all currents and the diversity of Egyptian society powers".
For Morsy a spokesman said: "This is a testament to the resolve of the Egyptian people to make their voice heard." Shafik, a former air force commander and Mubarak's last prime minister, offered no immediate reaction. He has said he would offer to serve in a Morsy administration.
Morsy won the first round ballot in May with a little under a quarter of the vote. He has pledged to form an inclusive government to appeal to all the 82 million Egyptians.
"President Morsy will struggle to control the levers of state," Elijah Zarwan, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said in Cairo. "He will likely face foot-dragging and perhaps outright attempts to undermine his initiatives from key institutions. Faced with such resistance, frustration may tempt him to fall into the trap of attempting to throw his new weight around," Zarwan told Reuters. "This would be a mistake.
"His challenge is to lead a bitterly divided, fearful, and angry population toward a peaceful democratic outcome, without becoming a reviled scapegoat for continued military rule."
Morsy has promised a moderate Islamist agenda to steer Egypt into a new democratic era where autocracy will be replaced by transparent government that respects human rights and revives the fortunes of a powerful Arab state long in decline. Morsy is promising an "Egyptian renaissance with an Islamic foundation".
Yet the stocky, bespectacled party official appears something of an accidental president: he was only flung into the race at the last moment by the disqualification on a technicality of Khairat al-Shater, the group's preferred choice.
With a stiff and formal style, Morsy cast himself as a reluctant latecomer to the race, who cited religious fear of judgment day as one of his reasons for running. He struggled to shake off his label as the Brotherhood's "spare tire".
Questions remain over the extent to which Morsy will operate independently of other Brotherhood leaders once in office: his manifesto was drawn up by the group's policymakers. The role Shater might play has been one focus of debate in Egypt.
"I will treat everyone equally and be a servant of the Egyptian people," Morsy said at his campaign headquarters in Cairo shortly after polling ended last Sunday. He gave up his membership of the Brotherhood after being elected. Turnout was only 51.8 percent of the 50 million-strong electorate, slightly up on the first round but indicative still of a nation unused to having its voice heard without risking punishment and uncertain of the worth of the candidates.
(Additional reporting by Marwa Awad, Tamim Elyan, Tom Perry, Edmund Blair and Patrick Werr; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Philippa Fletcher)
After the last-minute power grab Sunday night, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) pledged Monday to honor its promise to hand over power to the newly elected president by the end of this month. But the constitutional amendments stripped the president of almost all significant powers. The military decreed that it will have legislative authority after a court dissolved parliament, it will control of the drafting a new constitution and will not allow civilian oversight of its significant economic interests or other affairs.
Morsi represents the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic fundamentalist group which has emerged as the most powerful political faction since the uprising. The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party rejected the constitutional declaration, saying it was no longer within the authority of the military council to issue such a decree with less than two weeks left for the transfer of power.
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohammed Morsi, casts his vote inside a polling station, in Zakazik 80 Kilometers (50 miles) north of Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, May 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Ahmed Gomaa)
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman George Little urged the ruling military to transfer full power to a democratically elected civilian government, as it pledged to do in the past.
"We are deeply concerned about the new amendments to the constitutional declaration, including the timing of their announcement as polls were closing for the presidential election," said Little.
The constitutional declaration made almost simultaneously with polls Sunday night was the third major blow in a week to hopes for a democratic transition that arose from the uprising. On Wednesday, the military gave itself broad powers to arrest civilians even on minor offenses such as traffic violations. And on Thursday, a court stacked with Mubarak-era appointees dissolved parliament.
The Freedom and Justice party also rejected the dissolution of parliament. "The People's Assembly stands and has legislative and oversight authority," the party said in a statement posted on its website.
Maj-Gen. Mohammed al-Assar, a senior member of the ruling council, said the generals would transfer power in a "grand ceremony." He did not give an exact date or mention Morsi by name. He said the new president will have the authority to appoint and dismiss the government and that the military council has no intention of taking away any of the president's authorities.
"We'll never tire or be bored from assuring everyone that we will hand over power before the end of June," al-Assar told a televised news conference.
Though official results have not yet been announced, the Brotherhood released a tally that showed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood took nearly 52 percent of the vote to defeat Mubarak's last Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq with about 48 percent in a very close race. The count was based on results announced by election officials at individual polling centers, where each campaign has representatives who compile and release the numbers before the formal announcement.
The Shafiq campaign rejected Morsi's claim of victory and accused him to trying to "usurp" the presidency or lay the groundwork to challenge the official result if it shows Shafiq winning.
"What the other candidate has done threatens Egypt's future and stability," said the statement, adding that initial indications show that Shafiq is undoubtedly ahead with between 51.5 to 52 percent.
If Morsi's victory is confirmed in the official result expected on Thursday, it would be the first victory of an Islamist as head of state in the stunning wave of pro-democracy uprisings that swept the Middle East the past year. But the military's last minute power grab sharpens the possibility of confrontation and more of the turmoil that has beset Egypt since Mubarak's overthrow.
By midday, several hundred flag-waving supporters had gathered at Cairo's Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the uprising, to celebrate.
In a victory speech at his headquarters in the middle of the night, Morsi, 60, clearly sought to assuage the fears of many Egyptians that the Brotherhood will try to impose stricter provisions of Islamic law. He said he seeks "stability, love and brotherhood for the Egyptian civil, national, democratic, constitutional and modern state" and made no mention of Islamic law.
"Thank God, who successfully led us to this blessed revolution. Thank God, who guided the people of Egypt to this correct path, the road of freedom, democracy," the bearded, U.S.-educated engineer declared.
Since the reign of Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians have been at war with economic disparity, now with Mohamed Morsy, the official Muslim Brotherhood representative as the presidential front runner, Egyptians are now facing a war with an Ideology.
In Egypt’s first democratically led election in history, a vast majority of people chose an Islamist to lead their country for the next four years.
Morsy’s popularity has come at a time where security and stability are at an all time low for Egyptians, as the many youth and baby boomer generations are now being victimized by their own freedoms. The violence, chaos and disorder that have plagued Egypt for the past 18 months have been used as a trump card for an Islamist to gain popular support.
Mosy’s ability to capitalize on Islam as a political system, has not only marginalized Egypt’s secular society, but created further marginalization for Egypt’s Christian population, which currently stands at 10%.
Whether Mosy’s reign will create political problems for the West is now uncertain, as Western powers have enjoyed a long history of positive relations with Islamist governments. Think the Gulf, and how the U.S. established cooperative military, security and economic (oil and gas) relations with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Dubai, Bahrain and the U.A.E. Western Powers do business with Islamist governments all the time, and they do it well.
Egypt is a country rich in natural resources, petroleum, natural gas and electricity therefore, trading with the West would be a step towards strengthening Egypt’s failing economy. The threat to the West, however, cannot be adequately identified as more than an ideological one at the present time.
What is more apparent is that an Islamist government in Egypt will further infringe civil liberties, via the establishment of an Islamist police state, thus creating an even more suppressive regime than their predecessor. Morsy has said that he wants to foster positive relations with the US. However, the Muslim Brotherhood’s views are staunchly anti-Israeli.
Khaled Abdallah, 44, a religious affairs detective in Mubarak's Interior Ministry, warns that "blood will be spilled" if Morsy is to be elected as president of Egypt, "there will be executions" and a commitment to destroy "Israel and the Jews."
In an interview on May 20, a leading Fatah official expressed his concerns for Mohamed Morsy gaining power in Egypt’s Elections. Azzam al-Ahmed, a Fatah official responsible for reconciliation talks with rival faction Hamas said “Hamas would become more extreme should the Muslim Brotherhood candidate in Egypt’s election, Mohamed Morsy, win the contest.”
He added that “Hamas leaders do not want to resolve the political split because they believe a Brotherhood win in Egypt would put Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, in a more powerful position vis-à-vis Fatah, which governs the West Bank.” Ahmed Said.
In a speech on May 25, Morsy said that if elected he would “remove all borders between Sinai and Gaza.” This move would mean that weapons proliferation, illegal migration, free movement to (dormant) terrorist cells and bedouin tribes operating within the region. If enforced, this would cause further crime and weapons spilling into Egypt causing more damage to the already politically and socially unstable nation.
In addition to weapons proliferation and crime, this could perhaps breed a new kind of radicalization in Egypt. With criminal bedouin tribes and terrorist cells able to move freely in and out of Egypt, it would mean that societies most vulnerable could be victims of criminal gang and terrorist related recruiting. This radicalization not only has immediate consequences for Egyptians, but it has longterm ones for the West (US and Israel) also.
Elizabeth Pickworth is a journalist from Australia with a postgraduate degree in International Security majoring in Counterterrorism. She is currently based in the Gulf and undertaking research for her PhD. She writes at Policy Mic
A new day in the global village
If there was any lesson to be learnt from the recent crisis that ousted the former both Presidents Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was that the long standing policy of supporting dictators for sake of stability and continuity are no longer necessary, viable and sustainable. The need to continue to be backing vision less leaders for sake of stability is no longer necessary for this is a new day. Peoples of world are yearning for freedom and liberty. The end of cold war brought by the defeat of communism and the subsequent surging of democratic movements around the world is a testament of the new day.
There were three major factors that contributed to the fall of these governments and the impromptu uprisings were neither religious nor ethnic based movement. But a movement propelled by injustice and domination heaped on the masses by their overbearing and dictatorial leaders.
The neo-liberal economic policy of globalization that integrated the global economy also integrated the world cultures. Now more than any other time in history, people of all cultural backgrounds are coming in contact with each other, sharing ideas, food, views, and culture. People from developing countries are eating from the fruit of liberty and they like what they taste.
Secondly, technology has made the world small and one. The role of tweeter and internet cannot be overemphasized in the crisis of Tunisia and in the liberation in Egypt. Technology has allowed civic leaders to organize protest, inspire a great Diaspora movement, and provided a forum of breaking away from the culture of silence that looms large in developing countries.
Even without access to the internet, television set in any African village or any distant land does convey the lifestyle of the rest of the world and no one has to tell natives how bad are their condition. The awakening of the consciousness have been gathering momentum in modern times, not through the outdated radical communism but through television satellite dish that beams ‘The Young and Restless’ and soap operas , MTV Cribs, blockbuster movies and Coca Cola commercials.
Dehumanizing and oppressing of peoples of the world is no longer sustainable. At the dawn of 21st century - social justice, human rights and democracy have become accessible to the global village and the West should support the people and not put their lots on the decaying dictators.
The election of President Barack Obama ushered in a spirit of hope throughout the world and a promise of a better tomorrow, and the global impact cannot be underestimated.
Hosni Mubarak 82, resigned and Power transferred to Egyptian military
Switzerland has frozen the Swiss bank account and assets of Hosni Mubarak
The price of oil has fallen and Global markets are surging
The victory and accolades belong to the people of Egypt - youths, young and the old did not rest nor sleep until Hosni Mubarak, the 30 years Egyptian dictator bowed down from power. The streets and air of Cairo and Egypt have been filled with euphoria, ecstatic and thunderous joy as they celebrate the departure of Mubarak.
As Egyptians demanded his departure, out of omission or commission Mubarak read the tea leaf upside down and chose to bury his face in the sand. He went on state run television and told the desperate Egyptians that he will continue to be their president. The people of Egypt could not take that anymore and they marched in large masses to the presidential palace peacefully and the next day Mubarak turned in his resignation letter to his appointed vice-president Omar Suleiman.
Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic and dictatorial leadership has been the order of the day in his country for almost thirty years; he has managed successfully to suppress democratic impulse and instinct for a long time. Mubarak was able to convince the civilized world that without his presence and control that the Islamic radicals who were lurking at the corner will take over reins of power. On this cultivated gamesmanship as custodian of stability, he assumed the cloak of inevitability as he was seen as a stabilizing force in his region.
Hosni Mubarak (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)
A New day and beginning of a long journey
The people of Egypt needs and deserves their moment in the sun, they have made a history by driving out a dictator by themselves without any interference or help from outside. It was a great achievement indeed by any standard, with almost a velvet revolution a strongman of the land was made to give up power. The forces of change coupled with human will and dignity were too much to be marched by crude forces of brutality and darkness emitted by Mubarak regime.
Hosni Mubarak did not govern alone, with the support of his henchmen, secret police and military he overwhelmed his people with fear, credible threats and intimidation. The remnant of his leadership has not disappeared completely but the military have as well understood and have experienced the power of the common people. The military during the 18 days of the uprising was behaving responsibly and have respected the rights of the people to assemble and to march peacefully. And for this they deserved to be applauded for being the custodian of stability in Egypt. But the military by nature of their training are not competent to rule but to defend a nation.
Egyptian people must understand that the driving away of the dictator was an opening door to a long journey to democratic dispensation. Egyptians maybe in quick need of calling for an election, which is a good thing but election is not tantamount to democracy rather a building block to a democratic dispensation. A constitution is needed as a compass to democracy and rule of law. A secular constitution to be written that respects the fundamental human rights to speak freely and to gather freely without interference. Constitution that guarantees minority and religious rights is the core rudimentary of a prosperous democracy.
“Once you let the genie out of the bottle, you never get it back in.,” and this is the conundrum President Hosni Mubarak is facing at the moment as unrest claims Egyptian landscape. The ongoing uprising has both immediate political and economic implications for Egypt and its eighty million inhabitants.
The problem with this current uprising is attributed to 30 years of undemocratic and iron-hand rule of Hosni Mubarak regime together with increasing poverty that has absolutely decimated the Egyptian middle class. In some regions of the country poverty has approached 70 percent while the inflation rate is up to 11 percent at end of fourth quarter 2010 and rising. Although the economy is growing at about 4 percent but that is not adequate to make a substantial impact on the rising poverty and crushing high unemployment among the youths especially college graduates.
Bloomberg reported in December 2010: “The economy of the most populous Arab country expanded 5.6 percent in the third quarter, compared with 5.4 percent in the previous three months. Growth is still below the average of 7 percent achieved in the three fiscal years through June 2008, with the global financial crisis hurting revenue from tourism, foreign direct investment and the Suez Canal.”
The going unrest is dicey because if not safely channeled, the ramification can threaten the whole region and can bring in a period of instability in the region. When this situation is not managed properly and the radical Islamist captures power in Egypt, the region will become boiling water. It is more than enough having Islamic radicals in Iran but adding Egypt into that mix will be a disaster to the moderate states in the region and a huge threat to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.
Egyptian special force stands guard on Egyptian Museum in Cairo AP
We all have to be careful how we define this ongoing ‘revolution’, by no means this is neither American nor French revolution. Egypt does not have a history of Democratic Enlightenment period that predates both American and French revolutions that gave the roadmap to democracy and respect of human rights. For the ‘revolution’ to be sustainable Egypt must be transformed to a true democratic nation that respects fundamental human rights especially freedom of speech, the right to assemble and right to associate with a political body. A new Egypt needs a secular constitution that respects minority and religious rights of her citizen.
Sleepless in Cairo, an economic disaster
For some days Cairo the commercial nerve center of Egypt is witnessing sleepless nights, restive youths were busy parading every nooks and corners of the city. The security apparatus that kept the westernized city safe have disappeared; there were looting and angry mobs. A government most important function is to protect life and property, the Hosni Mubarak regime has failed on its most important responsibility.
Egypt economic growth is about to dramatically slow down because investors and capitalists do not send money and resources to trouble and insecured land. When Egypt continues to project and resembles a quintessential third world nation that is vulnerable to lawlessness and hopelessness, then Egypt is finish economically as an emerging nation. Patrick Werr of Reuters put it in perspective, “Egypt is vulnerable to a reversal of large flows of foreign portfolio investment that have been attracted by high yields on domestic government debt. Barclays Capital estimated foreign holdings of Egyptian assets before the protests were close to $25 billion, with roughly half held in Treasury bills and bonds.” The flow of investments are based on logic not emotion and investors are pretty logical.
Werr further stated that, “Foreign direct investment is based on long-term planning and is less likely to be influenced by the political unrest. Egypt drew $6.76 billion of such investment in the last fiscal year to June 30, of which $3.6 billion went to the petroleum sector. But the damage from any extended disruption to tourism could be considerable; Egypt earned $11.59 billion from tourism last fiscal year. It ran a current account deficit of $802 million in the July-September quarter of 2010, and because of tourism the deficit is likely to be much higher in the current quarter.”
All the major international rating agencies have downgraded Egyptian debt, currency and financial wellbeing by one notch negative. “S&P cut Egypt's long-term foreign and local currency ratings by one notch to BB and BB+ respectively, both with a negative outlook. Moody's downgraded Egypt by one notch to Ba2 with a negative outlook on Monday, saying the government might damage its already weak finances by increasing social spending to calm the protests. Fitch Ratings cut its outlook on Egypt's BB+ country ceiling to negative, saying the political turmoil was likely to undermine the country's economic reform programme,” Reuters reported.
Analysis and Commentary
Egypt, a North African country and the giant of the Arab world, is convulsing with unrest. Expert observers and analysts are not quite certain how this ongoing spontaneous civic uprising shall progress before any semblance of tranquility returns to this country. Some attribute this current mass public demonstration in Egypt's main population centers as a mere spillover from the recent Tunisian revolution which forced its former ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to flee the country. What is clear, at least for the interim, is that the Egyptian middle class appears to be driving the current mass protests while the Egypt-based Moslem Brotherhood, an Islamist political movement, is taking a back seat.
Egypt's number one foreign-exchange income source is derived from tourists who troop to the Lower Nile Valley in droves from all corners of the globe. The country also exports some petroleum and gas as well as agricultural produce. Other sources of revenue include the Suez Canal and the near US$2billion subvention that goes to the Egyptian treasury from the US annually since the country's former ruler, Anwar Sadat, signed a peace deal with Israel during the Carter administration.
Egypt's GDP grew by 5.3% and 4.6% during 2010 and 2009 respectively. During my visit to the country last month, I witnessed a large number of construction projects in all parts of the country, from Aswan to Alexandria. The road network and city streets are clean and free of potholes. Fresh agricultural produce is plentiful and affordable, particularly if purchased with foreign currency. The highways of Cairo are full of cars of all types. New residential and commercial buildings as well as shopping centers are popping up all over the place, especially along the recently established beltway constructed around Cairo metropolis. Egypt has unemployment rate of 9.7% which, in African terms, is not at all shabby. So, on the surface, one could easily get the impression that all must be well with the Egyptian middle-class population.
AP Picture : Egyptian anti-riot police confront Egyptian activist
But the problem of modern Egypt lies in its relative success in past few decades. The country can boast of having the largest middle class in all of Africa even though its population of 80 million is much less than that of Nigeria, for example. Egypt's literacy rate ranks high when compared to other countries in Africa and the Middle East. The downside is that this premier Arab nation has been ruled by a dictatorship since the overthrow by King Farouk by Gamal Abdul Nasser through a military coup in 1952. Till date, one can actually say that Egyptians have never known any democracy beyond what they have read in books.
The revolution spearheaded by the military was able to rescue the country from a quasi feudal system that was headed by the monarchy. The armed forces have, however, not devolved power to the citizenry for a variety of reasons. Initially, the compelling need to maintain a strong united stance against their erstwhile foe, Israel, was given as excuse for maintaining a strong centralized control by the top military brass. Shortly after brokering peace with Israel, President Sadat was assassinated in broad daylight by diehard Islamic radicals who sought to transform the Egyptian society by force. The new Head of State, Hosni Mubarak, soon positioned himself as a bulwark against Islamic radicalism in Egypt and this further endeared him with the West up till date. Some variant of democracy was instituted where Mubarak's rule is guaranteed through the National Democratic Party (NDP) which has retained control of government since it was formed by President Sadat. As is the case in most dictatorships, opposition parties are allowed nominally but barely tolerated.
It is awfully difficult to create a large middle class in any society and then turn around and deny it access to political participation in governance. That is the core problem with Egypt today. The pressure from the middle class has been building up for some time and it appears that repression of their desire for open egalitarian government cannot be sustained any longer, even with brute force. The Moslem Brotherhood, an Egypt-based radical Islamist movement founded in 1928, cannot be wished away either. In the last dispensation before the November 2010 elections, this Islamist group garnered as much as 20% of seats in Egypt's parliament. The military have laid low and have opted to play possum; but again, their man, Mubarak, has been at the hem for past three decades.
What is hard for anyone to predict exactly is what shall happen when the status quo is pended. Secular opposition leadership under El Baradei is most favored by the West to step in to fill the void if the patronage governance system run by Mubarak caves in under the intensifying pressure. The Moslem Brotherhood shall surely come to life, once more, as soon as the repressive lid imposed by the Mubarak regime is lifted. The Islamist movement has become so entrenched in Egyptian society that it might be impossible for anyone to govern without partnering somehow with it. There are fears, in some quarters that the Islamist radicals may emerge to take control, but such a speculation is without sound basis due to the sophisticated nature of contemporary Egyptian society. Besides, the army is on standby to assure that things won't completely get out of hand to the extent which can be exploited by radical elements, both on the secular and religious sides.
Egypt is currently convulsing to the level that it had never done before and lots of anxious eyes are watching worldwide. My guess is that the current unrest has surely woken up the Mubarak regime from its complacency and therefore, far-reaching changes are increasingly becoming inevitable. The West maintains a tacit approval of Mubarak, irrespective of public pronouncements to the contrary. With ongoing global war against terrorism, no one in the West is prepared to see Egypt degrade to the extent of being ungovernable. Somehow, I believe that some negotiations are already going on, behind closed doors, to provide some sort of soft landing for the incumbent government by opening up the political system and leveling the playing field to accommodate the opposition forces.
Dr. Okenwa R. Nwosu is the founder of WIEF (http://www.wief.net/).