Egyptians awoke up on Thursday to an uncertain new political order, a day after the military deposed and reportedly detained the country’s first democratically elected president, put a top judge in his place and suspended the constitution.
The coup that toppled Mohamed Morsy as president on Wednesday prompted hundreds of thousands of people in the streets across Egypt to both applaud and assail the generals’ decision to step into the country’s political fray for the second time in a little over two years.
It also left a series of significant questions unanswered. What will happen to Morsy, who insists he remains the country’s legitimate leader, and his key supporters? Will the sporadic outbreaks of violence that reportedly killed at least 32 people on Wednesday spread into wider unrest? And what hopes remain for Egypt’s messy attempts to build a multiparty democracy?
“I think there are a lot of challenges it faces,” Sabra said, noting the threat of more violence, possible divisions within the anti-Morsy coalition and Egypt’s economic woes.
On Thursday morning, Tahrir Square in Cairo was quiet. The huge crowds that had celebrated Morsy’s ouster with horns, cheering, fireworks the night before had thinned out.
Morsy, a Western-educated Islamist elected a year ago, “did not achieve the goals of the people” and failed to meet the generals’ demands that he share power with his opposition, Egypt’s top military officer, Gen. Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, said in a televised speech to the nation Wednesday.
The head of the armed forces pledged new elections as part of a road map ironed out during a meeting with liberal opposition groups before Mursi’s removal was announced. Liberals welcomed a relaunch of the transition to democracy, which they felt had been hijacked by Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Adly Mansour, head of the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court, will replace Morsy as Egypt’s interim president, said El-Sisi the Army Chief. Mansour had become head of the court just two days earlier following a decree last month by Morsy. He was sworn in as interim president in Cairo on Thursday.
New parliamentary elections will be held, and Mansour will have the power to issue constitutional declarations in the meantime, he said.The military has not so far publicly commented on Morsy’s whereabouts. But Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said the deposed president was under “house arrest” at the presidential Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo.
The state-run Middle East News Agency said the two top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party had been taken into custody, and another state-run outlet, the newspaper Al-Ahram, said another 300 were being sought by police.
The Egyptian military has controlled the country for six decades and took direct power for a year and a half after the ouster of the former ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011 amid widespread street protests.
As demonstrations swelled this week against Morsy, who opponents have accused of authoritarianism and forcing through a conservative agenda, the military on Monday gave him 48 hours to order reforms. Morsy’s approval ratings plummeted after his election in June 2012 as his government has failed to keep order or revive Egypt’s economy.
As the deadline neared on Wednesday, he offered to form an interim coalition government to oversee parliamentary elections and revise the constitution that was enacted in January. But that failed to satisfy the generals. Analysts said that was too little, too late.
The army’s move against Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood, the long-repressed political movement that propelled him to office, provoked wildly conflicting reactions.
In Tahrir Square, now the epicenter of two Egyptian upheavals, a vast gathering of Morsy’s opponents erupted in jubilation and fireworks when El-Sisi made his announcement.
During his time in office, Morsy has squared off against Egypt’s judiciary, the media, the police and even artists. Egyptians are also frustrated with rampant crime and a struggling economy that hasn’t shown improvement since Mubarak resigned. Unemployment remains high, food prices are rising and there are frequently electricity cuts and long fuel lines.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a leading opposition figure, said the plans announced by the military Wednesday were “a correction for the way of the revolution” that drove Mubarak from office.
But Abdoul Mawgoud Dardery, a former member of parliament allied with Morsy, criticized the military’s decision to take matters into their own hands. “I don’t know how can anyone with common sense support a military coup in a democracy,” he said. Egyptians “will never recognize a coup d’etat,” he said.
Across the Nile River from Tahrir Square, Morsy supporters chanted “Down with military rule” and “The square has a million martyrs.”
One pro-Morsy protester in Cairo said he felt demonstrators would stay there “until Mohamed Morsy is once again president of Egypt.”
“We’re not violent, but at the end of the day we want peaceful change of power,” said El-Haddad, the Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “But if democracy gets derailed every time that way, what other option is the people left with?”
Morsy himself remained defiant. “The world is looking at us today,” he said in a taped statement delivered to the Arabic satellite network Al Jazeera. “We by ourselves can bypass the obstacles. We, the sons of Egypt, the sons of this country — this is the will of the people and cannot be canceled.”
Shortly after Morsy’s statement aired, Al Jazeera reported its Cairo studios were raided during a live broadcast on Wednesday and its presenter, guests and producers arrested.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the long-repressed political movement that propelled Morsy to office, said its broadcast outlets had been shut down.
“A return to Mubarak-era practices of mass arrests and politically-motivated imprisonment of Muslim Brotherhood leaders will have the worst possible effect on Egypt’s political future,” said Human Rights Watch, the U.S.-based advocacy group.
Despite the apparent moves against the Brotherhood, the military suggested Thursday it would provide the movement’s members with protection. The military said it would not allow any attacks or intimidation against those who belong to an Islamic group, state-run Nile TV reported.
Morsy said he remains open to negotiations and dialogue, and he called on supporters to demonstrate peacefully.
But 32 people were killed in clashes in Egypt on Wednesday, health officials told Nile TV. Hundreds more were reported to have been injured.
The sporadic violence at times pitted Morsy’s supporters against the opposition and the military, raising fears of spiraling unrest.
Some observers warned of the risk of an extremist backlash.”The major lesson that Islamists in the Middle East are likely to learn from this episode is that they will not be allowed to exercise power no matter how many compromises they make in both the domestic and foreign policy arenas,” said Mohammed Ayoob, Michigan State University professor emeritus of international relations.
Some analysts think this is likely to push a substantial portion of mainstream Islamists into the arms of the extremists who reject democracy and ideological compromise,
The U.S. government, meanwhile, took a cautious stance on the upheaval. President Barack Obama said the United States is “deeply concerned” by Morsy’s removal and the suspension of the constitution. But he stopped short of calling the military’s move a “coup.”
He also didn’t call upon the military to restore power to “the democratically elected civilian government,” but rather to “a democratically elected civilian government.” In other words, it need not be Morsy’s administration.
Washington has supplied Egypt’s military with tens of billions in support and equipment over more than 30 years, and under U.S. law, that support could be cut off after a coup.
He said he had ordered “the relevant departments and agencies” to study what American law would mean for U.S. aid and urged the generals to hand power back to an elected government “as soon as possible.”
Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali
Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.
In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.
“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.
“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”
“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.
Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”
Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”
“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.
He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”
As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our
country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.
The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”
On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.
Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA
Harris accepts VP nomination
Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”
Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”
“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”
“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.
That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”
Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”
Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself
The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.
In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.
“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m
The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.
The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.
But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.
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