By Ange Ngu Thomas
Egypt’s new president, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Adly Mahmud Mansour has vowed to “preserve the system of the republic, and respect the constitution and law and guard the people’s interest”.
There is one problem though…Egypt has no constitution.
Egypt’s Defence Minister Gen Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi effectively deposed it’s democratic leader Islamist Mohammed Morsi and have now placed him and his close associates under house arrest. The first thing he did was to suspend the constitution.
So was this a revolution or a coup?
The Oxford dictionary defines a coup as “a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government”
The same dictionary defines a resolution as “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system.
Both definitions sound like the same thing to me…we need to blame the British for this.
However, the USA needs to make the distinction between both words because its annual $1.5 Billion grant to Egypt will depend on how president Obama and his administration decides to describe what happened in Egypt.
Obama has said he was “extremely worried” with the change in government in Egypt but skillfully did not use the “C” word and he did not ask for the reinstatement of Mr Morsi.
After all, the former president was head of an Islamist government, long-time enemies of the USA. America went to war in Afghanistan and have been at daggers drawn with Iran for running Islamist states with their draconian laws and regulars.
More than ten million people went out on the streets to demonstrate on the first anniversary of Mr Morsi’s installation as president not because he was an Islamist leader but mainly because he could not provide food on the table.
His economic policies were ruinous but he subverted democratic principles on a number of occasions.
Re-defining democracy in Africa
World leaders have been choosing their words carefully and have not openly condemned the overthrow of a democratically elected president in Egypt.
Unlike most coup d’états that have an element of surprise, this one was conceived and executed in the public eye as everybody knew it was in the making.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a swift return to civilian rule, restraint and respect for civil rights without condemning the military take over.
Reacting to the coup d’état, Ban Ki-moon said “Many Egyptians in their protests have voiced deep frustrations and legitimate concerns … At the same time, military interference in the affairs of any state is of concern.”
President Barack Obama called for a swift return to a democratically elected civilian government.
“During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts,” Obama said after the coup.
Reactions on social media have been mixed and varied. Dan Hill tweeted “Those who believe that the military’s main objective is to preserve new freedom will soon be disappointed”
“A big, hearty welcome to the new leaders of Egypt… Sounds like the coup went smooth as the Nile. LOL!” tweeted Rainn Wilson.
Interestingly, the African Union has so far not issued a statement.
This overthrow of a democratically elected government in Egypt is a repeat of a similar situation in Algeria.
In December 1991, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), an Algerian political party, won national democratic elections, proving to be immensely popular.
However, before the parliamentary seats could be taken, the Algerian military violently overturned democracy.
The parliamentary elections results were simply annulled. This led to a ten year long war between the Algerian government and various Islamists armed groups in which up to 200.000 people died.
Like is the case in neighbouring Egypt, the Algerian army, backed by France, rounded up tens of thousands of Muslims who supported the winning party and threw them into jail.
As opponents of former president Morsi celebrate his downfall, they will be sleeping with an eye open because they will expect supporters of Morsi to react peacefully and if they decide to take up arms, Egypt, the most powerful state in the middle east will descend into chaos and this will affect the entire region
Defiant supporters and members of the Muslim brotherhood party have vowed to protest “until Morsi is returned to the presidency.”
Is the army the only way out?
The Egyptian army claims it was siding with the people to protect their rights after politicians agreed to disagree.
This is the same army that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 and they gave the same public interest defense for toppling Mubarak who had been in power for 30 years.
The army has carried out coups in many African countries including Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, Zaire, Central African Republic, Togo etc but it never managed to establish any democratic institutions. This is because the Military is by nature not democratic. It has a command-obey structure that is everything except democratic.
The Soviet Union army failed spectacularly in 1991 to seize power in the dying days of its super power reign.
Imagine the United States’ army rising up today to overthrow Obama? This cannot happen because these countries have strong enough institutions that can withstand any military coups.
If the army in Africa could intervene, they should be doing so in Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea where the various presidents’ just refuse to stand down despite being in power for more than a quarter of a century.