Friday, March 9, 2012

The Long and Winding Road for Democracy in Egypt Part 3

Part 3 Seven Deadly Sins of SCAF

Despite the highly praised performance of the Egyptian army in the 18 days of the revolution, the Supreme Council of Armed forces (SCAF) have managed to commit some of the worst mistakes that can be made in a post-revolution transitional period.  Some even would go as far to believe that even Egypt’s worst enemies couldn’t have done worse to the country during the transitional period if they were in charge.
While the army cannot be denied of their goodwill in some of the post revolution events, their actions have been in many cases tainted by a great some of questionability towards their real goals and agendas.
The old proverb  “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” does manifest itself completely in the way SCAF handled the transitional period post the ousting of the former . The fact that the army officers are a group of patriots who fought for the country through several wars and were victorious during the glorious war of 1973 is unquestionable. Therefore, the question of their integrity and patriotism should be off the table. SCAF members have been fighting for this country and maintained the security of its border before over 60% of the current population of Egypt was actually born.
However, while SCAF adopted initially the revolution ideals and supported the ousting of Mubarak thus gaining popularity within both the rebels and mainstream Egyptians alike, they committed a large number of political sins throughout the post revolution period that effectively have crippled the revolutionary process of change.
In Christianity exists seven deadly sins that a human should avoid committing wrath, greed, sloth (laziness), pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. While SCAF have not literally committed the above mentioned sins, they have committed their counterparts politically during the transitional period that was supposed to pass peacefully should the general internationally known guidelines of any democratic transitional period were applied and they are: a constitution followed by a Parliamentary and presidential elections. Yet the political sins of SCAF have made this seemingly easier path looks much harder now and lead to the current state of agitation among all Egyptians.
The political sins committed by SCAF can be described as follows:


From the very first day in power, SCAF have utilized the old colonial tactic of divide and conquer.  Initially, while declaring the military junta full support of the demands of the revolution, they managed to stall the implementation of the demands of the rebels of a new constitution and the complete fair trial of the key figures of the old regime.
The constitution writing process seemed to be a dilemma to implement in the eyes of SCAF and instead of opting for a rational call for the  establishment of a committee to write the new constitution, SCAF proposed the most controversial proposal that led eventually to the biggest diversion in opinions in Egyptian recent history.
Instead of a new constitution, they proposed a constitutional declaration of 9 articles that limits the power and the number of presidential terms in Egypt and called for a general referendum about it.  These 9 articles were proposed by the notorious Counselour Tarek El Bishry and his committee with Islamist background has led to some of the most controversial articles including prohibiting any Egyptian with dual nationalities to ever run for president even in the case he/she gives up their second nationality.
These moves SCAF have disintegrated the unity of the nation and every party till this date is suffering from the clash of all factions among themselves and against SCAF. The Referendum results which consolidated the power of the Military Junta by public vote have effectively killed the Egyptian revolution at its birth with the power momentum of the revolution shifting from Tahrir towards the military junta by the will of the people who succumbed to SCAF declarations that they want to hasten the transitional period.
In reality, referendum results extended the period from a supposedly 6 months SCAF earlier declared to a minimum of year and half according to the latest SCAF communiqué.
Egyptians, who usually have religious tendencies especially in the past 2 decades when it became quite prevalent, voted for a “Yes” which led to them swallowing bait that was set to divert the powers of the revolutions into factions and giving SCAF a much needed legitimacy to control the fate of the revolution.  However, the result of this referendum was not a declaration of complete dominance over revolution as SCAF hoped it to be since it led to further skirmishes between the revolutionaries and SCAF from that date and onwards.


SCAF declared numerously that they stand on equal distance from all parties and groups in the Egyptian political life, yet their actions have shown that they allowed more space for Islamist forces like Salafis fundamentalist and Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) more than they did for Liberals, Leftists and other groups. The Committee that formulated the 9 articles for the referendum was comprised mainly of the Islamist sympathizer Tarek El Bishry and Muslim Brotherhood leader Sobhy Saleh to be in control of a committee whose decisions and declaration will affect the future of Egypt certainly seemed fishy for most Egyptians especially with limited background about constitutional laws.
This has reinforced the truth of the theory that the Military Junta forged a deal with Islamists to allow them to control the Parliament in favour of leaving the president’s position to other forces that SCAF can coordinate with.
Furthermore, after the vote for “YES” in the March 19th referendum about 9 articles to be added to the old constitution. SCAF found them falling in their own trap and found out that it’s not logical to reissue the 1971 constitution and adding those 9 articles to it without committing a constitutional violation.
Therefore, they decided to cancel the 1971 constitution and decided to use the 9 articles they have submitted for voting in the referendum while adding another “54 articles” and announced in what they called a “constitutional declaration” to the already voted for 54 and thus rendering the controversial referendum completely useless since the Egyptians never had the chance to review those 54 articles and vote for them In a “Yes” or “NO” .
The deception was fully revealed when the truth about the real duration of the transitional period became obvious to everyone that it’s not going to be 6 months as originally announced by SCAF but not less than 18 months and counting. However they promised to hand all their authority to an elected president by June 30th 2012. We have to wait and see if this will realize that or not.

Abuse of Power

SCAF have announced numerously that they as the interim rulers of Egypt will never resort to force against Egyptians. In reality , force was used in several occasions to the extent of brutality against protestors for whereby Central security forces belonging to the police joined forces with Military police units to crush most protests in Tahrir and other areas like Maspero and Kasr El einy.
During a Coptic Christians protests near the state national TV building a huge number of military troops backed by armoured vehicles rushed through the protestors and ran them over killing and wounding dozens of civilians.
A similar incident took place at Mohamed Mahmoud Street located nearby Tahrir square only without the armoured vehicles, this time live bullets as well as shotgun slugs were fired at some protestors and a third one at the gates of the Prime ministry offices all of which resulted in bloodshed.
Scenes of a women being dragged, kicked, stampeded, dress was torn and her bra shown on camera sparked a world – wide condemnation of a Military Junta that is losing control and resorting to violence to overshadow a catastrophic failure in handling the transitional period post revolution in Egypt.
The Abuse of power exercised by SCAF is not just a physical one, but a political one. Being the supreme authority in the transitional period and the acting interim president, SCAF have abused the political powers of their position immensely. They have issued controversial laws against Protests and the right for sit-ins and demonstrations. Also, tried to manipulate the way constitution is written by issuing what is known to be “Supra-constitutional” or articles.
The articles were fine theoretically in order to protect the country from any fascist or religious tyranny through democracy, but they included 2 articles that grants the army some unprecedented powers politically and rendering them being a separate entity from the state or in other words “A state within the state”.


Over 12,000 civilians have been detained and been sent to trial in front of military tribunals which is against the constitution and international human rights laws. While acknowledging the fact that most of these civilians were detained during raids targeting smugglers, illegal weapons traders and thugs, a good number of those detained were activists and rebels who were caught during the clashes between Military police or have been detained from their homes and sentenced to prison through military tribunals.
Among those detainees are prominent bloggers like Maikel Nabil who was sentenced for 2 years in military prison for publicly criticizing SCAF leaders in his online blog. Also, Alaa Abdel Fattah , a famous blogger who was imprisoned before during Mubarak’s era in 2005 and now found himself being accused on instigating violence against SCAF during the Maspero massacre that resulted in the killing of dozens of Copts and injuring hundreds. Abdel Fattah was released temporarily after media pressure but will face charges but  dozens  others still facing charges..
Other forms of tyranny were demonstrated in the infamous case of “Virginity tests” that were administered to many girls / women who detained during a raid to clear the Tahrir square on March 2011. These cases were initially denied by SCAF categorically, then later under pressure from the victims they were acknowledged and the army apologized for what they called a “mistake”.
Furthermore, accusing rebels in Tahrir and other squares all over Egypt of treason and working for foreign powers with hidden agendas was almost a daily declaration in the past few months from SCAF spokesmen.
The last chapter of the tyrannical acts was on December 29th 2011 when Police backed by Military forces and few judges raided 17 NGOs offices located in Cairo in search for evidence of illicit foreign funding for these NGOs. The move resulted in a worldwide condemnation and press statements against SCAF.
The signs of tyrannical rule are still evident in SCAF actions and they have a long way to prove and clear their already tainted reputation in the upcoming months before they hand the country to civilian rule according to their own declaration.

Fear Mongering

Since SCAF seized power in the name of the revolution, fear mongering became the daily diet in the state owned TV and press. The fear of the economic collapse have been preached throughout the media since day one and in all fairness it became a self-fulfilling prophecy due to the actions and policies of SCAF as well as those of the rebels. The economic status of Egypt is far from comfortable now with the Stock market loosing 200 Billion Egyptian Pounds equivalent to 33 Billion dollars with Egyptian national reserve down by 39% in the past 10 months.
The fear mongering of a presumed plot and conspiracy against Egypt have been mentioned by SCAF officers and state owned media incessantly for months. However, the details of that plot were never revealed to the public and the general speeches of SCAF directly or through their communiqué’ just states that there is a master plan to destroy Egypt integrity and unity forged by rival countries and enemies with any evidence or details.
Moreover, regardless of the existence of a plot or not against Egypt, it can’t be worse than the reckless political actions of SCAF in the past months which have led that these conspiracies becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.
The internal disputes, sectarian violence and the state of lawlessness in the country are to be blamed to a big extent on SCAF handling the country in the past period. Despite this fact, SCAF even being in power cannot be blamed entirely for these problems which they inherited due to the bad status of the country under Mubarak’s regime.
Yet, they have not made the correct choices in trying to resolve these critical issues with necessary prudence and tact.  On top of these issues is the security and the sectarian violence issues. As a matter of fact in many cases SCAF was a catalyst in these issues to their indecisiveness of their political actions.
Furthermore, Egypt possessing one of the most famous intelligence agencies in the world The Egyptian General Intelligence Services (GID) which rivals the most famous intelligence bureaus like CIA or MI6 shouldn’t have a problem dealing with national security issues like the ones facing Egypt at the moment.

Indecisiveness in political decisions

If we can sum up the 11 months history of SCAF being in power in one word, it will be certainly “Indecisiveness”. For an army of this size, power, capability and history, the last thing that any observer could have anticipated from them is this complete indecisiveness of actions and inability to pave the way for a new democratic Egypt through their contradicting and mostly controversial political resolutions.
Furthermore, their indecisiveness in handling the security issues have been very obvious starting from the attack and burning of the Church of Soul(Small village in Giza) and their inability to take actions against the violent attitude and crimes committed by some groups of the Salafis Islamists have opened the Pandora’s box to further cycles of violence in Egypt. The blocking of railways in Upper Egypt from certain groups as well as the siege of the Governor’s office in Aswan because Salafis decided that they don’t want a Christian governor in office.
Further incursions and provocations from mainly Islamists groups against government authorities and regular people were met with so much timidity and indecisiveness which was perceived as a message that it’s fine to do such acts. While the rebels in Tahrir and other activists were not met by the same courtesy from SCAF and hundreds have died in clashes with military police aside from thousands wounded. These imbalanced reactions from SCAF have given the impression to most observers that SCAF is not pro-revolution . Their actions intentionally or unintentionally are almost entirely counter revolutionary to say the least.
It’s noteworthy, that the scare tactics inherited from Mubarak regime era playbook have worked. The mainstream Egyptians are now furious with the actions of the rebels who also didn’t help to paint a good image of themselves in the past few months due to some impulsiveness from some of them.
In response, the people voted extensively for the Islamists parties who pledged allegiance to SCAF from day one for spite against some of liberals, leftists and activists demonstrating in Tahrir.
SCAF incessantly have called some of the rebels as rioters, bullies, vandals who are working with foreign agendas against the higher interests of Egypt. While some rebels may have committed some acts of violence recently, the core and majority of the rebels are still peaceful ones.
Retractions from press releases and declarations seem to be the main syndrome that SCAF is suffering from at the moment. An officer giving a press statement and then negated just the next day is quite common. All of these actions have lead to further confusion not just among politicians but the general public who can’t get heads or tail about what is the next move for SCAF.

Complacency and pertinacity

The two words can easily describe the state of denial that SCAF officers have suffered from in the past 10 months. Complacency and Denial on one hand that they are doing a fantastic job in handling the country transitional period to democracy and pertinacity that whatever decisions they are taking are the best for the national interest.
In all fairness, SCAF officer in many cases have held meetings with dozens of activists groups of different political affiliations and key political figures in an attempt to achieve a sort of consensus on their future political decision. They have formed the ill-fated “National accord” then “National dialogue” committees which were later replaced by the latest “Counselors committee”.
These attempts resulted in very limited successes and decisions from SCAF seemed in most cases to contradict the recommendations of all of these committees. This could be easily noticed in the laws regarding Elections, Labour laws, salaries and the ticking time bomb “The new constitution”
SCAF member and legal consultant Lieutenant General Mamdouh Shaheen statements and declarations , have done nothing throughout the past 11 months but expand the rift between the revolutionary powers and SCAF and SCAF insistence that he handles this very delicate position remains an unsolved enigma in the current political life in Egypt.
Furthermore, it has been notable that SCAF may have two colliding factions within the armed forces council, one has certain tendencies towards the Islamists or at least a sympathizer and the other is towards the more secular powers. If this is true, this rift within the ranks of SCAF can be disastrous. Despite SCAF in appearance look unified, the conflicting declarations and statements throughout the past months can indicate otherwise. Struggles within the council will only have the worst consequences for the country’s future.
In conclusion , all of the above resulted in almost all political powers are pushing on daily basis that SCAF would leave office and hand the power to civilians very shortly if not Immediately . Everyone is in agreement that the longer they stay in power, the more mistakes or Sins will be committed and the army’s old good reputation will be tarnished forever.
Yet the problem remains, that most of the solutions provided by politicians are quite impractical and to a great extent most of the activists are still young and politically inexperienced to provide viable solutions to get Egypt out of its current political turmoil.
Solutions like handing the power to the now Islamists dominant parliament is not practical and can lead to further negative consequences without having a constitution at hand limiting the powers of that parliament from taking the country toward theocratic dictatorship similar to the Iranian model.
Without a clear statement of the Civil/secular nature of the country in a newly written constitution , handing power now to the parliament or any forces that doesn’t believe in the accords on human rights, civility of the Egyptian state will be a highway to hell for Egypt’s future and the future of the middle east.
Muslim Brotherhood and El Nour party recent declarations and press statement are alerting and not promising at all in most cases, that one would wonder what they will actually do when they are in charge of the country.
SCAF maybe despite all the horrendous political sins committed in the past period is the lesser of two evils until a consensus on a modern democratic and civil constitution is set as SCAF vowed numerously to do.

As much it is essential for Egypt brighter future that SCAF should leave power as soon as possible, it’s essential as well that they pave the way for modern democratic state and not a theocracy that they paved the way for till this point. Till then they have to stay to rectify the results of the seven deadly sins they committed.

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