The Inevitability of Egypt’s 2nd Revolution

On July 3rd 2013, the world watched history repeat itself as the Egyptian military rose up yet again and deposed Egypt’s sitting President. This second revolution was the result of months of growing animosity, and with the seed of the first revolution still present, this second revolution was, in fact, inevitable.

In January 2011, the Egyptian military sided with the people and ousted President Mubarak in show of determination to transform Egypt into a democracy.  This revolution was the result of years of growing animosity with the Egyptian government and the deterioration of conditions in Egypt. It sought to change the system, overthrowing the two systems of oppression: the state—by way of a highly centralized government, its suppression of Egyptians, and its silencing of its opponents, foresting a system of patrimony, corruption, and impunity; and religious extremism—the disjuncture in Islamic values created by the rise of Wahhabism, with Islamic teachers only teaching the formalities and rituals of Islam and not the concepts of freedom, justice, and equality which are at the heart of Islam.

When President Mohammed Morsi came to power on June 30th 2012, he was faced with an incredibly difficult task: balance the differences between the religious extremists and the liberal revolutionaries and slowing move the country away from dictatorship and towards democracy. To fast a movement and he faced opposition from the right; to slow a movement and he face outcry from the left. The entire process was like that of balancing on the edge of a knife. The revolution has created space. It had brought change from the time being, but what was done with that moment, how it was used, is the most critical component of creating lasting change. And it is in this way that Morsi truly failed.

Egypt’s pre-revolution society—the lack of political rights, police brutality, the implementation of emergency of laws, the rise of Wahhabism, the deterioration of the medical system, increased poverty, increased violation of human rights and violence against women, governmental hypocrisy, and the isolation of the President from the people—provided the spark fro revolution. In the 2 ½ years since the first revolution, and the year of President Mori’s rule, no significant ground has been covered. In fact, the economic situation in Egypt has worsened. The discontent of the masses has been evident for the past year, yet the government made little progress in address these grievances. Once again, the situation came to a boil and the world saw history repeat itself as Egypt underwent a second revolution.

This second revolution was inevitable. The first revolution caused a break in the system; a pause in which space was created for changes to be made. However, Morsi was not able to take advantage of this space. He was not able to bridge the gap between the two polarized groups, find a middle ground, and slowly initiate change. And are we surprised? Morsi was not the great Mandela type; the great unifying figure around which the country could assemble, with the capacity to mobilize Egyptians to create a better and brighter Egypt. From the beginning of his Presidency, Morsi was constantly hit from both the left and the right and it crippled him. He did not have the strength to stand up and unify them, and this, consequently, resulted in the creation of such discontent that revolution struck again.

Although Morsi was not the leader that Egypt needed him to be, this second revolution sets a dangerous precedent, one in which societal discontent becomes equivalent to the need for revolution. This leaves not room for the development of democratic processes and peaceful mechanisms of regime change; it only leaves room for violence. Egypt, right now, is at a critical point in its history. What happens next will determine Egypt’s future. Will Egypt now be able to seize the moment, use the space, start a dialogue between its polarized factions, and initiate real change? Or will it forever be plagued by cycle of violence?

 

Jolene Hansell is a Master’s Candidate of Conflict Resolution at Georgetown University. Her specific area of focus is transitional justice and rule of law. Currently she is in Arusha, Tanzania, working as a Legal Intern for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. You can email her at jah340@georgetown.edu or follow her on twitter @joleneh340

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Tanzania: An Unraveling Democracy?

This past week, with the UN compound bombing in Somalia, the ongoing crisis in Syria, the protests in Turkey, and the outbreak of protest in Brazil, story of the bombing in Arusha received little to no international media attention. When weighed against these other events, the June 15th bombing in Arusha seems like such a small and isolated event. Tanzania is perceived to be one of the more stable countries in the region and the recent events have been deemed by security personnel to be isolated incidents. However, when taking into consideration the political motivation of these crimes as well as the responses of both the authorities and the police, one can’t help but wonder if this situation is a glimpse of a greater problem, one that if not addressed, could threaten the stability of Tanzania’s democracy.

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On Saturday June 15th, Tanzania’s opposition party, the Party for Democracy and Development (CHADEMA) held a rally at the Saweto district stadium, in the Kalonlei area of Arusha city. The rally was the peak of the campaign for by-elections to fill the vacuum for representatives in six Arusha area districts, notably Kalolei, Themi, Elerai, and Kimandolu, origionally scheduled for Sunday, June 16th. What should have been a peace demonstration—exemplifying democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and free speech—quickly turned chaotic when grenade exploded near the center stage as Freeman Mbowe, the party’s leader, addressed supporters. The bomb killed four people, three of which were children, and resulted in approximately 50 to 70 additional causalities. Although the assailant(s) have not yet been caught and the motive has not formally been determined, it is believed that the attack was politically motivated, the opposition leaders being the intended targets of the blast. Arusha is a CHADEMA stronghold and this attack threatens to exacerbate already uneasy political tensions between CHADEMA and the CCM, the ruling party of the government. CHEDEMA officials have previously expressed complaints regarding government crackdowns against opposition demonstration and public rallies.  The National Electoral Commission cancelled the by-election in all six Arusha districts, citing insecurity. The by-elections have been rescheduled for Sunday, June 30th.

In response to this event, Tanzania authorities banned all public gatherings and deployed the Tanzania People’s Defense Forces to keep the area clam. Consequently, when a memorial service was held on Tuesday June 18th, to mourn the death bomb’s victims, the service was perceived as a security threat. The police, liable to disperse any unauthorized rallies, fired teargas into the ground, fired several rounds of warning shots into the air, and made several arrests as the attempted to disperse the crowd. Roadblocks were set up, movement around Arusha became increasingly difficult, and security became a pressing concern for Arusha residents. CHADEMA has long complained of unnecessary crackdown by the Tanzanian government, and this is yet another example. Four deputies of CHADEMA and a dozen supporters were arrested on charges of illegal assembly, but were released on bail on Wednesday, June 19th.

There have always been tensions between CHADEMA and CCM in northern Tanzania; however, these tensions have recently increased as support for CHADEMA has been rising in the region, making the party a serious contender in the next election. Tensions between the ruling political party and the opposition party are not abnormal in and of themselves. In fact, such rivalry is inherent in the democratic system. In a developing democracy such as Tanzania, the way in which the rivalry is expressed is of the utmost importance as it sets precedence for the handlings of a multiparty democracy in the future.

CHADEMA is an opposition party with growing popular support, particularly in northern Tanzania. In a free and fair democracy, if CHADEMA is able to bolster the majority support and win the next election, they should rightfully become the ruling party in Tanzania. The bombers of the CHADEMA rally remain unknown and until the perpetrators are caught, it is dangerous to make accusations regarding who the bombers were; however, given that the bombing took place at a political rally and is considered to be an isolated incident, the assumption remains that the bombers’ motivations were political. Who they were and what kind of association they have are undetermined.

The banning of political rallies by government officials in response to this bombing is concerning. Yes, there is an element of security involved, but there a fine line between national security and the infringement on human rights, which is often blurred. What is more striking was the dismantling of the memorial service. This was not a political rally—although largely CHADEMA supporters were in attendance—it was memorial service for those who had perished in the bombing. Moreover, the police were quick to employ violence and confrontational methods to break up this gathering, rather than first attempting to disperse the group through non-violent means. The overreaction of the police in this instance has the potential to insight further violence as some may feel compelled to respond/reciprocate their treatment by the police. And thus begins a cycle of violence that can quickly spiral out of control. This has not yet been the case in Tanzania, but with the underlying tensions between the political parties and the authorities’ use of violent methods there is festering potential.

Tanzania has been a relatively stable democracy since gaining its independence from colonial rule in 1964, especially when one considers the other countries in the region; however, it transformation into a complete and opened democracy is not yet finished. The next step in the process is the acceptance of alternative political groups and the willingness of the present party in power to relinquish power, when and if another party rightfully wins the majority. With growing opposition towards the ruling party, it is essential that they be granted a platform for the expression of their opinions and ideas. If suppressed, as the opposition party continues to grow, this could seek to threaten Tanzania’s democratic stability.

Jolene Hansell is a Master’s Candidate of Conflict Resolution at Georgetown University. Her specific area of focus is transitional justice and rule of law. Currently she is in Arusha, Tanzania, working as a Legal Intern for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. You can email her at jah340@georgetown.edu or follow her on twitter @joleneh340