Friday, 29 November 2013

EGYPT: Protest Law

Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in cities across Egypt and clashes erupted when police tried to break up some of the demonstrations, days after a hotly-disputed protest law was adopted. At least 70 people were arrested across the country on Friday, according to the interior ministry, which added that more arrests were expected throughout the night and that clashes were continuing in several areas.

Violence between police and protesters also broke out in the country's second largest city, Alexandria, after Muslim prayers, with security forces firing tear gas to disperse hundreds of people.
The Mediterranean city has been tense since a court handed down heavy sentences of 11 years in prison to 21 female supporters of the deposed president Mohamed Morsi, many of them juveniles, for holding a peaceful protest.

Egypt’s interim president will issue a full pardon to the group of 21 women and girls who were sentenced to 11 years in prison for a peaceful protest, the presidential office has said. "President Adly Mansour will issue a full pardon to the Alexandria females after the final judicial process is completed in accord to the constitution,” a presidential advisor said in a statement circulated to journalists on Friday. The legal process will still go through the appeal and cessation court processes, the statement added.

The new Protest law (restricting the right of peaceful demonstrations), passed last week by the government signalled the emergence of a police state. And shows the lack of cohesion and cooperation and political immaturity.

Under the Protest law, security forces must first verbally warn protesters at prohibited demonstrations to disperse before using water cannon or tear gas, and should only gradually escalate to the firing of birdshot if other means fail.

What else is it when peaceful demonstrators are attacked and shot at by armed tanks, and many are left dead or injured? It's not only people who have died in Cairo and Alexandria. So too have hopes that security forces will be willing to return Egypt to democracy. If they crack down with such brutality on the opposition, they will at best tolerate a puppet government, but not an independent one.

Analysts were puzzled by the law, especially since the revised constitution would guarantee freedom of expression. By passing such a law the government is creating opponents within its own camp.
It is alienating true young revolutionary groups such as Maher's April 6 movement and others who led the January 2011 revolution.

The military( through the interim government) is in the process of repeating the mistakes of the Muslim Brotherhood, arrogantly invoking a supposed "popular mandate" and pushing for a quick victory rather than a compromise. But the army cannot suppress the roughly 30 percent of Egyptians in the Islamist camp without limiting the freedom of all Egyptians. If it adheres to its course, the country could soon be under a military dictatorship.

It is as though the February 2011 overthrow never happened. Egypt is caught once again in a conflict that has raged for more than 60 years and has dominated the country since those eight bullets were fired on Nasser on Oct. 26, 1954, in a failed, and perhaps staged, coup attempt. At the time, Nasser banned the Brotherhood and imprisoned its leaders. In the ensuing decades, fear of the Islamists was used to justify the military's authoritarian control and the brutal tactics of the security services. In the end, however, the military created precisely what it had claimed it was preventing: even more radical Islamists.

The parallels are difficult to overlook. Once again, the army is arguing that its aim in passing the
''Protest Law'' is to protect the country from plunging into chaos. But the attacks on the Islamists are only creating more turmoil. Now all Egyptians are concerned and protested today along side Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

But a return to military dictatorship may not just mean a return to pre-2011 conditions, but in fact a return to even darker times. Under the regime of Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood was repressed, but the repression was never total. The Brotherhood, as the country's largest opposition force, was allowed room to operate, to contest elections, and to have seats in parliament.

The current military government is much more ambitious, with its aim to dismantle the Brotherhood and destroy it as a political force. To achieve this, the generals have tapped into real, popular anger against the Brotherhood. ... Continuous civil conflict, in turn, will be used to justify permanent war against an array of internal and foreign enemies, both real and imagined.

There are plenty of indications that this is indeed the case. Even before new ''Protest Law'' dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members were locked up, and former President Morsi has also been held, in an undisclosed location, for many months now.

The Egyptian armed forces have been pulling the strings of civilian politicians for decades. It initially looked as though the Arab Spring had put an end to that. But a return to old structures appears to be underway. It seems fair to say that what is currently happening in Egypt amounts to a counter-revolution.

The brute force employed by the Egyptian police and supported by the military in their attempts to quash protests seems to be a confirmation of peoples' worst fears: Interim government and the military are not to encourage a new democratic beginning for Egypt. They are actually helping the authoritarian forces of the old regime back into power.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP--The convicted women and girls received 11-year prison sentences for a peaceful protest-Photo