Africa — August 22, 2013 at 2:48 AM

Blood in River Nile

I saw it coming. While many cheered and jubilated openly at his downfall I watched the unfolding events with cautious optimism. Not that I didn’t want him to relinquish power after 30+ years in the saddle as Egypt’s henchman.  It was the manner of his ouster that bothered me. Now the chickens have come home to roost as Egypt boils.

Hosni Mubarak, as Egypt’s leader, strategically aligned his country with the West, especially the United States. In so doing he became opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s foremost fundamentalist and political group. He was adamantly against the Brotherhood’s extreme religious views and fought its members vigorously. Most members of the Brotherhood’s top leadership were jailed and others were on the run. The battle line was drawn and no love was lost between both sides.

Inspired by Tunisia’s successful revolution which was the start of the Arab Spring, thousands of Egyptians on January 25, 2010 started their own revolution. The chief beneficiary to the revolt was the Muslim Brotherhood which milked the situation for every ounce of milk it could squeeze out. Subsequently, the Mubarak regime fell.

Enter Egypt’s reconstruction and match-to-democracy phase. It was in this phase that initial missteps to Egypt’s current political crisis were taken. However, because many Egyptians and supporters across the world were still under the influence of an intoxicating high from a successful revolution, they could not see that a political time bomb had inadvertently been formed. It was a matter of time before the bomb went off.

With Mubarak gone and sensing the country was vulnerable like a child that has just lost both parents to a tragic accident, the Muslim Brotherhood opportunistically moved in to fill the void. Egypt’s first democratic election was later conducted and the Brotherhood won with 51.7 percent of the votes and Mohamed Morsi was sworn in as President. On the surface all looked well and it seemed business as usual, but the Brotherhood had a plan. A plan that was not in sync with the rest of Egypt’s populace.

One thing the Brotherhood made sure it did as soon as it took power was to go vigorously after Mubarak. As far as it was concerned it was payback time for the ex-Egyptian strongman. Mubarak was arrested and jailed. Morsi and his Brotherhood brethren governed like they owned Egypt and non-brethren opinions didn’t matter.  They no longer listened to the aspirations of the rest of the country. This was the beginning of a series of actions that would later set off the ticking political time bomb.

By last month, just a year after the nation’s first free election millions of decent Egyptian liberals were roaring in the streets for the military to oust Morsi and the Brotherhood. The army obliged and shoved Morsi’s regime aside July 3, 2013, and “bang!” the political bomb went off.

Some people condemn the Egyptian army for its action, stating that the army should have allowed the Egyptian people to vote Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood out in another election. I disagree. These individual don’t understand what is at stake. Democracy is not a foolproof system and Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were about to exploit democratic loopholes in the system to perpetuate itself in power “forever.” Had the Brotherhood been allowed to gain the strong foothold it was attempting to establish, it would have been more difficult, if not impossible, to remove it from power through the ballot box.

To think that a democratic process is without weaknesses that could be exploited by a dubious and determined person or group of persons, is naive. Robert Mugabe  is 89 years old and just “won” another term in Zimbabwe. You think Zimbabweans wouldn’t like to try another leader instead of Mr. Mugabe? So, how come uncle Robert keeps “winning”? This is what the Egyptian army doesn’t want to happen in Egypt.

A national army’s primary responsibility is to defend and protect its citizens, and that’s what the Egyptian army did. The Egyptian army is not some foreign entity or an abstract concept. It is a body of individuals who are themselves Egyptians. It knows its people more than the rest of the world. It knows what the Muslim Brotherhood was capable of doing and thus acted swiftly to put it in check. To criticize the Egyptian army from your ivory tower in faraway Europe or America is like trying to be more catholic than the Pope. You don’t know Egypt more than Egypt knows itself. Egypt knows Egypt. Yes, the army’s action is a coupe, but it is a coupe with special circumstance. The Obama administration recognizes this, which is why is has refused to call it a coup in the traditional sense of the word.

Currently, United States is leader of The Free World and therefore has an oversight responsibility. With that in mind, the Obama administration erred in the way it handled Mubarak’s ouster. Mubarak was a staunch American ally and did United States’ bidding in making sure that Al Qaeda or other terrorists groups were unable to successfully operate in Egypt.

Until Libya’s suspension from the Arab League at the beginning of the Libyan 2011 civil war, Egypt was the only state in the history of the Arab league to be suspended by the league due to President Anwar Sadat’s peace treaty with Israel. Mubarak upon succeeding Sadat after Sadat’s assassination in 1981 continued the peace treaty with Israel although in 1989, eight years after Sadat’s assassination, Egypt was re-admitted as a full member of the league, and the League’s headquarter relocated to Cairo. The crucial point to note is that Mubarak continued with the peace treaty signed by Sadat and which was opposed, at that time, by Egypt’s Muslim fundamentalists and most Arab nations.

When the U.S under President George Bush (Bush 41) was searching for military alliance to force Iraq out of Kuwait, Egypt under Mubarak joined the alliance without hesitation. Thus, Egypt was a member of the allied coalition in the 1991 Gulf War, and its infantry was among the first to land in Saudi Arabia to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Egypt’s involvement in the coalition was deemed by the US government as crucial in garnering wider Arab support for the liberation of Kuwait.

Indeed, Under Mubarak, Egypt’s laundry list of romance with America and the West is a long one. By aligning with the U.S Mubarak made a lot of enemies, one of them being the Muslim Brotherhood. You get the picture yet?

Against this backdrop, the Obama administration should have orchestrated and supported soft landing for Mubarak. I advocate the soft landing strategy not necessarily to perpetuate the ex-dictator in power but to enable him play some role in the formation of Egypt’s new democracy. Had Mubarak’s role been sort by the powers that be, maybe the Muslim Brotherhood would not have won the election and even if it did, perhaps a moderate leader would have emerged as its presidential candidate. And possibly this bloodbath in Cairo could have been avoided.

Although President Obama meant well to spread democracy to undemocratic Arab countries, he erred in assuming that democracy as practiced in the United States and other Western countries is the same elsewhere. In certain Third World and Arab countries, the initial formation of a democratic rule must be closely monitored and guided otherwise it may produce unintended consequences as is the case with Egypt.

President Obama shouldn’t have employed a hands-off approach during Egypt’s Arab Spring revolution. Rather than look the other way in Mubarak’s free fall, his administration should have made behind-the-curtain moves to prevent the free fall and use the revolution as leverage to pressure Mubarak into organizing and handing over to a democratically elected government.

Granted, we all wanted to see democracy gain foothold in Egypt, but to fall asleep at the wheel and sacrifice oversight was a costly miscalculation. Now, look at the consequence. The world’s most populous Arab nation is embroiled in a political nightmare of unimagined magnitude. The world’s cradle of civilization is in chronic distress. The pharaohs are moaning and turning in their tombs. There is blood everywhere in River Nile.

I hope a lesson was learned.

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