Yesterday, Wednesday, saw Colonel General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, ask Egyptians to take to the streets on Friday 26 July to give him a public mandate to fight the violence and terrorism waged against the Egyptian people by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supporters of Egypt’s overthrown
president Muhammad Mursi.
“I ask all honourable Egyptians,” said an ardent, confident Sisi in dark sunglasses and full military uniform as he addressed a military graduation ceremony near Alexandria, “to go down [meaning take to the streets] next Friday. This will be to give me a mandate and command to end terrorism and violence.” He insisted he desired an end to bloodshed, and urged national reconciliation.
What is legitimacy?
Sisi said that he was protecting the legitimacy of the people’s will. “Legitimacy stems from the people will,” he said. “The ballot box is only a means to achieve that will and root legitimacy. But the pivotal point here is the people’s will. If the numbers on the street express that will, so be it.”
Sisi said he would stick to the political roadmap jointly drawn up by the military and Egypt’s civic forces in the wake of the 33-million strong nationwide public protest on 30 June. This people action led the military to give Mursi a 48-hour ultimatum to resolve the deadlock between his regime and his opponents. When Mursi rejected the ultimatum, the army stepped in on 3 July with the roadmap, and put Mursi under house arrest.
That roadmap has already been put into effect by the swearing in on 4 July of an interim president, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court Adly Mansour; the formation of a panel to review Egypt’s constitution; and the establishment of a new cabinet of technocrats. A nine-month timeline has been announced during which the new constitution would be approved by the people, a new parliament elected, and finally a civilian president.
A spokesman for President Mansour later said Egypt “has begun a war on terrorism”, and that Sisi’s call for protests was aimed at “preserving the state”.
Fed up with the Islamists
The Egyptian [non-Islamist] street went wild with excitement at Sisi’s speech, vowing to go down in force on Friday to give him the mandate he requested. Egyptians have suffered hard from the noisy, violent attacks waged against them by Mursi supporters who, in retaliation for the Mursi ouster, launched a war of terror against Egyptians. Despite their smaller numbers, they are armed and violent; they go down in rallies that viciously attack civilians and police and, once the assaulted side retaliates the MB cry foul and cast themselves as victims. They planted bombs in busy spots in Cairo and in front of police stations, and are waging a war against Egyptian police and army personnel in Sinai, who suffer daily casualties.
Adel Samir, a young man who went down to Tahrir Square last Monday told Watani of the details. Samir had gone down to join the crowd gathered in Tahrir that afternoon to guard the square against the Islamists who went to occupy it. The MB demonstrators approached the civilian crowd and began shooting at them and beating them with clubs, sticks, and knives. “The man next to me shouted at me to push them back. ‘With what?’ I cried. I was not armed and had nothing to protect myself with, neither did any of those around me. I quickly looked around, found some stones, picked them up and started pelting the attackers. The police and army arrived then and succeeded in pushing the Islamists back.”
No ‘remote’ military
So when Sisi made his speech on Wednesday, it was welcomed with relief by all non-Islamists. Many men and women who were on holiday outside Cairo or other towns—it is midsummer in Egypt now and many go to the beaches or resorts—plan to cut short their holidays and return home to take part in the Friday protest.
“Thank God! We were wondering when the army would make its move and release us from the chaos and horror the Brotherhood is causing,” Ahmed Mohamed, a 76-year-old pensioner, in central Cairo told Reuters.
It must be noted that, for Egyptians, the military establishment is not some remote body that is isolated from the people; the fact that most of its soldiers are conscripts and that it deals in non-military activity such as industry makes it very close to the people, if not practically part and parcel of the people.
The Islamists, however, accused Sisi of asking for a licence to kill. “This is an invitation to civil war and the spilling of the people’s blood in the streets,” the Brotherhood said in a statement published on Facebook, denouncing Sisi as head of a “military dictatorship”.
Underscoring the potential for trouble, they announced plans for 34 marches in and around Cairo on Friday.
The interior ministry said it planned “unprecedented security” to protect the Friday rallies, and the health ministry said it was on high alert.
No hint of conciliation
Egyptians outside Egypt; in the Netherlands, France, and Belgium; hastened to give Sisi their authorisation to act against the terrorists.
Watani’s Fady Labib talked to the politician and former presidential candidate Abul-Ezz al-Hariri who said that the army was required to perform its duty in protecting Egypt against those who wished to ruin it, meaning the Islamists. He commended the fact that Sisi reached out to the Islamists in a conciliatory gesture when he gave them 48 hours to revise their positions, and when he insisted he cared to bring about national conciliation rather than confrontation. “The will of the army has joined that of the people,” Mr Hariri said, “and this must be manifested by the numbers who take to the streets tomorrow.”
The writer Hala Mustafa told Watani that the struggle between the Islamists and non-Islamists in Egypt was now a fact on the ground, and the Islamist terror is all around. “There appears on the horizon not a hint of national conciliation,” she said, “which should push people to take to the streets on Friday to demonstrate their will.”
For his part, the judge Amir Ramzy expressed his high respect of the courage and integrity displayed by Sisi, as well as the excellent communication he built with the Egyptian people. The call for a mandate on Friday, Mr Ramzy said, is tantamount to a poll on his popularity and the public respect he enjoys.”
Sisi: national hero
Mursi’s MB rule had succeeded with flying colours in polarising Egyptians along an Islamist line, but the 33-million strong 30 June protest which two days later led to the military-led ouster of Mursi made it very obvious that the Islamists are now in the minority. The wide majority of Egyptians are determined they will not live under Islamist rule, and Sisi is now seen as a national hero. His thoroughly Egyptian patriotism comes along in flagrant contrast to the Islamist loyalties of Mursi and his MB supporters. It was these Islamist loyalties and the support the MB freely offered to other Islamists outside Egypt—major among whom were the Palestinians and the Syrians—which always came to the detriment of Egypt, that made the MB lose all public support, especially as the economy went into free fall and Egyptians suffered heavily.
Livid at US
Citing the “current situation”, the United States said President Barack Obama had decided to delay delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to the Egyptian army, signalli’g deepening concern in the West over the course taken by the Arab world##s most populous country.
The US and other Western nations are calling for the release of Mursi who the Egyptian army says is “in a safe place”. Mursi faces the prospect of being tried on several charges not least among which is conspiring with foreign parties and escaping prison when Hamas and Islamist elements broke into the Wadi Natrun prison where he was detained and released him and other prisoners in January 2011.
Egyptians are livid at what they perceive as US pressure to bring in the Islamists. Today, the National Union of Human Rights Organisations denounced what they described as “US persistence in supporting terrorism in Egypt”. They were especially alluding to a recent meeting between US ambassador to Cairo Anne Patterson and leaders of the global MB movement Muhammad Ali Bishr and Amr Darrag at the Four Seasons hotel in Cairo.
On its official online page, the Armed Forces posted, under the title “The last chance”, what it described as the meaning of Sisi’s request for a public mandate on Friday. It meant, the post said, that those who conducted violent and terrorist acts had been given a 48-hour ultimatum to revise their stance and join the national ranks. It was also meant to prove to the whole world that the change in regime in Egypt was the result of public will not a military coup. The post also said that Sisi’s request meant that the MB plans for terrorist attacks in Egypt had been uncovered and would be firmly confronted; and that its strategy in dealing with the terrorists will take on a different dimension following the Friday public mandate.
25 July 2013
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