Thursday, March 31, 2011

Winter for Egyptian Democracy

Article first published as Winter for Egyptian Democracy on Blogcritics.

It is winter in Egypt. The days are overcast, and surprisingly cold. Whereas the United States is celebrating the arrival of the cherry blossoms, here we just have sand and more sand, punctuated by palm trees and formal shrubs such as arbor vitae, which all look like they need a bit more water. Overall, the news from Egypt is not that heartening, from the standpoint of ensuring democracy. The New York Times reports seem upbeat. I am an optimist, however, the coverage in Cairo gives me pause, and the mood is calm, but concerned.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for September. This gives political parties five months to form and prepare for elections. This short time line arguably heavily favors already established groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and the National Democratic Party. New parties will need the approval of at least 5000 voters from ten of Egypt's 29 provinces. I attended a lecture at the American University in Cairo on Tuesday night, in which the analysts said that this provision also requires publication in two major newspapers. The costs for this could run to one million Egyptian pounds, which would also disadvantage new parties.

A controversial law on political parties is also being bandied about that would disallow political parties with religious backgrounds. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) enacted a political party formation law which would ban parties based on religion. One potential problem with such a law is how one determines whether a party is based on religion. What criteria will be used for this determination? In my view, this law is potentially repressive. The presidential election has also been postponed.

After some highly questionable amendments to the repressive 1971 Constitution were rushed through in the past week without adequate time for national dialogue, Al Jazeera reports that an entirely new constitution will be drawn up after the election, but exactly when it will be put in place is unclear. The fact that a vote was held on the constitution was momentous, as was the high turnout, and the largely peaceful conduct of the vote. The amendments were written by a secretive group appointed by the military with no discernible criteria, and then were rushed through in four weeks. The vote  was held without adequate time or education for national dialogue in a country with a thirty percent illiteracy rate. I am concerned.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's Going On? Egypt Edition

I would like to take a moment to think about the relevance of Marvin Gaye's lyrics  to Libya and Egypt at this moment. Peace out. WMB

What's Going On
(M. Gaye, Renaldo 'Obie' Benson, Al Cleveland)
Tamla Records Original LP release: Jan. 1971
Album: What's Going On Deluxe Edition (2 disc)
Motown Record Co. 2001 LP MOTD 3404

Mother, mother
There's too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There's far too many of you dying
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today - Ya

Father, father
We don't need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what's going on
What's going on
Ya, what's going on
Ah, what's going on

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Updated Post on Facts of Libyan Crisis: Week of March 29, 2011

Dear readers

This post will pull together material on the Libyan crisis. (Libya is next door to Egypt, so it is relevant to this blog.) I am providing a chronology, not an analysis, although arguably my choice of what to read is a form of interpretation. I will pull from Al Jazeera, The Washington Post, and the New York Times. I will also add in information from the Egyptian paper Al Masry Al Youm. I will put up a new post on a weekly basis, or as needed. If you want more detail than I can give you here, check this out Al Jazeera Libya Live Blog WMB

Latest News (Updated Friday, April 1, 2011 12:00 p.m.)

On March 31, the Washington Post broke a story that the CIA gathering intelligence on Libyan rebels. The CIA is gathering intelligence on the identities and capabilities of Libyan Rebels. The Obama Administration has pledged that no Ground troops will be committed to Libya. However, the Obama Administration has not ruled out providing arms or other support to the rebels. There is mixed progress on the ground in Libya. Democracy Now reports that Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa has resigned his post and arrived in Britain. The rebels have lost control of Ras Lanuf, and Gadhafi's forces have taken Brega and Jawwad. Democracy Now also reports that a "former Nicaraguan foreign minister has been tapped as Libya’s new envoy to the United Nations. The Nicaraguan government claims to have sent a letter declaring Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann’s new role on Libya’s behalf. The 78-year-old D’Escoto has been an outspoken critic of the United States." An 18 month old civilian infant was killed in Libya by debris from Western shelling on an arms depot.

On April 1st, US Defense Secretary Gates stated in testimony to Congress that continuing coalition attacks should encourage top Libyan government officials to break with Ghadafi. According to the Washington Post, a senior European diplomat argues that what is happening in Libya is no longer a no-fly zone, it has gone beyond that. Gates stated that the Obama Administration aims to use military force to aid the Libyan opposition. A fledgling government has been formed in Libya named the Transitional National Council.

Detailed summary of February 15, 2011 until today on "read more."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Implement Better Development Regimes in the Arab World (Guest Blogger)

Views contributed by my brilliant colleague and social geographer, David Rutherford, and endorsed by me! Right on, Brother! WMB

Sixty percent of the people across the Arab world are under 30 years of age, and they have terrible prospects for the future, largely as a result of the autocratic regimes that have failed to concern themselves adequately with improving conditions in their countries. I just heard that one in ten people in Libya are affiliated with the secret police, working to maintain the status quo which has had enough oil money to marginally improve the lives of the people of the country while lining their own pockets and ruthlessly suppress any dissent.

As flawed as democracy is in the U.S. and the West-- and I believe it is deeply flawed and that we need to make significant improvements-- the principles of free speech, liberty, democracy, and others that this country and the West developed over the last 250 years or so are worth promoting globally. Of course, those principles are not going to look the same everywhere, and we must be more sensitive and careful than we have been in many cases in the past, but nevertheless, the West seems justified to me in working to advance those principles. 

Homesick Musical Interlude: Santa Ana Winds

Dear readers

I am really homesick. This song is by someone I grew up with, Shije Lynn. It reminds me of growing up in New Mexico. Makes me feel at home. WMB

Sunday, March 27, 2011

An Evening at the Souk

Article first published at Blogcritics. Photo of Khan al Kallili bazaar by Leo LaPorte.

Some of everyday politics is to be found in the market. Today was my day off. I went to have a dinner at an expatriate restaurant at the local market with a university colleague. The market, or souk, is the heartbeat of the community. If politics are going smoothly, as they are today, all the shops are open well into the evening. The market bustles. Men outdoors gather around a large screen TV to watch the latest soccer match. Women and children buy groceries and pick through the gorgeous vegetables displayed on the sidewalk. Music plays. Young women pass by in hijab, tight jeans and high heels, modest, yet provocative at the same time. My colleague and I walked to a small stand, and inhale one of the most delicious glasses of lemonade I have ever drunk. "Ishta" I say, with a thumbs up sign."Shukran." Delicious, thanks. The proprietor smiles broadly.

I did not see any tanks on the way to the souk, but inside the souk was a large truck with an open canvas back filled with soldiers in camoflauge. On the whole, I suppose their presence represents security, but in a country that is actually ruled by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, their presence also highlights the absence of democracy, and the utter absence of the pro-Mubarak police forces.

I remember the worst days of the Egyptian Revolution, probably February 2nd and 3rd, when I huddled in a Sudanese neighbor's house with my three children. My children loved this tense time, playing with Samira and Hamid's five children, ranging in ages from 12 to 6 months. The parents hunched worriedly around BBC World, trying to determine what was going on in this, our host country. The next day, I moved my children to Kenya, where they remain today, to their grandma and a bit of safety.

A bit over a month ago it was then. A phone call was impossible, and the souk, which today seemed so vibrant, was nearly closed, with only a few bread stores open, and lines stretching around the block for provisions. My thoughts lie with the Libyans who much be experiencing terrible food shortages. At the end of the evening, my taxi driver, Emad Ghoneem, takes me to a neighbouring area called Tagamoo. We pay some money inside of a nondescript looking corner store, and get back into the taxi to wait. The proprieter George brings me the desired contraband, a bottle of white wine. I return to my beautiful apartment, and pour the much anticipated glass of wine.  It is dry, and delicious, but leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste. Like the Egyptian Revolution, it has not yet matured

Friday, March 25, 2011

Text of Report by EASD on Egyptian Constitutional Referendum

You can view the website of the Egyptian Association for Supporting Democratic Development regarding the Constitutional Referendum here. The text of their report is not available on their website, so I am posting it here. I will put my comments in a separate post. WMB

The Egyptian Association for Supporting Democratic Development (EASD)

Report on Monitoring the Referendum on the Constitutional Amendments: The Beginning

Address; 5, 162 St, next to Hadayeq al-Maadi Metro Station

Tele: (02) 25288832 - 25288834



The Egyptian Association for Supporting Democratic Development (EASD) monitored the referendum on the constitutional amendments held on Saturday March 19 using 3700 volunteer monitors deployed across all governorates. EASD has vast expertise in electoral observation as it monitored various Egyptian elections, such as the presidential elections in September 2005 up until the November 2010's People's Assembly polls, which was marred by fraud and was seen as a trigger for the 25 January revolution. The recent uprising opened up vistas for rebuilding the country – which was hijacked by totalitarianism, and repression of freedoms – on the basis of democracy and participation. EASD underlines that this stage requires all efforts to be consolidated and underlines the need for establishing democratic values, which would further national development and reform, as well as allow Egyptians to play a role in governing their country In this context EASD reiterates its appreciation for the high turnout seen in the long lines outside polling stations since the early hours of the morning until the closing. This is a huge transformation never before witnessed in Egypt in 60 years and asserts that free and fair elections are the only means for peaceful transition of power in Egypt. Despite the fact that some irregularities - which indicated lack of capabilities and misadministration – were detected by EASD observers, they, under no circumstances, detracted from the fairness of the whole referendum. In this context, EASD calls on all Egyptians across all political spectrums to accept the results of the referendum. Maintaining this big turnout of ordinary citizens should be seen as a common goal by all parties as well as political and social powers, to safeguard any future attempts at rigging votes in any election.

EASD presents its report on the referendum to the Egyptian and international public and reiterates its concern and hope that this report will encourage larger turnout of Egyptian voters in upcoming elections. It is also hoped that this report will help enhance the electoral system and performance by different players, ensuring the implementation of approved international standards with regard to free and fair elections

EASD, through monitoring all details of referendum in polling stations, has made a number of conclusions, most notably:

First: Noticeably Insufficient Administrative Preparations for the Referendum

Lack of organization for the referendum was apparent throughout the day. As a direct result, several missteps occurred which, on some occasions, stalled the voting. the mistakes were not so serious, however, as to have a direct impact on the process. Some judges were not notified of the polling stations they were assigned to – until the eve of the referendum – which caused confusion, especially for those whose duty stations were located beyond the perimeters of Greater Cairo.

Most notable incidents:

• Delay in opening some polling stations across the country; some opened as late as 1:00 p.m. as in the districts of Naga Hamadi, Qus and Ra'yssia, Qena which prompted the Judicial Committee to send the judicial officers by military aircraft, upon the approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)

• Lack of glass boxes and use of wooden ones instead in some polling stations

• Lack of voting instructions placed outside polling centers

• Insufficient indelible ink as compared to the number of voters which led some of the heads of the polling stations to dilute it with water or to neglect using it altogether. This could have led to incidents of multiple-voting, in violation of the instructions of the Judicial Committee and the provisions of the law, especially as no voter registration lists were used.

• Many ballot papers were unstamped by the judicial committee supervising the referendum, which raised many questions and speculation about their validity and provided a chance for vote-rigging. EASD submitted a complaint to the judicial committee as regards this issue, which prompted the Judicial Committee chief to announce that judges' signatures would be sufficient to prove the validity of unstamped ballot papers. This underlined the fact that the Committee was unprepared to conduct the referendum. However this problem was further aggravated when some judges overseeing polling stations refused to affix their signatures to ballot papers, in contravention of the decision by the Committee's chief, rendering these votes invalid and discarded while counting.

• Lack of curtains that ensure secrecy of the vote inside polling stations, as one of the guarantees of fairness and transparency. Thus votes were cast before judicial officers and secretaries of polling stations. In some polling station secretaries cast the ballot on behalf of voters, which resulted in altercations and – in some cases – escalated to scuffles

• The Judicial Committee did not grant election-monitoring organizations a sufficient number of accreditations, in accordance with the lists provided to the Committee; EASD, for instance, had 3700 volunteer monitors yet the Committee accepted lists of only 1567 monitors, claiming it to be a large number. Late on Thursday night March 17, 2011, only 813 observers received accreditations, as the Committee cited it ran short of accreditations ready for distribution. On the whole, only 3000 accreditations were given out to Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and media professionals, which again suggested that the Judicial Committee was not ready for the referendum on the constitutional amendments.

Second: Performance by the Judicial Committee during the Referendum

In order for EASD to undertake its role in monitoring the referendum, in support of increased participation and concern with public affairs, it initiated a request to the Judicial Committee overseeing the elections and the SCAF to allow the observation of the referendum on the constitutional amendments.

As soon as the Committee announced the starting date for receiving monitoring requests by CSOs, EASD officials met with the Committee's members and demonstrated the Association's activities and monitoring expertise. The EASD officers made a request for 3700 observer accreditations yet encountered three problems while dealing with the committee:

- EASD was surprised to know that the first decision issued by the Judicial Committee did not approve "observation/monitoring", rather "following up". It also indicated the need for observers to get the permission of the head of polling station to do their job. The decision also gave the head of the polling stations the authority to specify the period during which monitors are allowed within, which is in total violation with international monitoring standards and does not differ from the restrictions imposed by the previous committees supervising elections prior to 25 January revolution.

- EASD requested 3700 observer accreditations yet the committee received lists of only 1567 monitors and refused to receive any more despite the fact that EASD had all the papers fulfilled. EASD was thus forced to present a complaint to SCAF and to the Committee, which refused to be served, and promised additional 1,567 accreditations within 24 hours.

- When EASD received the accreditations, they were surprised to learn that there was only one judge and another officer responsible for issuing the required accreditations. EASD’s offer to provide volunteers to assist with these procedures was turned down and the Association ended up with only 813 accreditations.

Regarding the attitude of polling station officers on the day of the referendum, EASD observers noted that:

- A number of monitors holding accreditations were denied access to polling stations

- A number of observers were ill-treated, and harassed in the vicinity of polling stations

Due to these incidents, EASD submitted a complaint at 15:00 hours. via email, requesting immediate intervention to protect and enable monitors to carry out their duties. Another complaint was lodged by EASD, in relation to the refusal by some judges to sign the unstamped ballots, in violation of the decision by the Judicial Committee chief, Jurist Mohamed Ahmed Attiya. Specific incidents were presented, yet the Committee took no action and did not intervene to investigate either complaint. While pointing out such instances, EASD is underlines that:

The attitude and procedures towards domestic electoral monitoring have not changed. The role of electoral observation is still not recognized as a basic practice that guarantees fair and transparent elections and upholds democratic values as the best option for the future of the country.

There is a serious need to establish an independent committee for electoral procedures. In this regard, EASD will submit a detailed proposal to SCAF, the Prime Minister, and the Judicial Committee overseeing the elections, with regard to the formation and mandate of the Judicial committee supervising the elections Third: Remarkable Voter Turnout in the Referendum Active political participation is a mainstay of democratic systems. It is inconceivable that there is a democracy without the active and effective participation of citizens. In the past, our reports regularly indicated that the Egyptian society underwent – as it were – a turnout crisis, as evidenced in low turnout rates in different polls. This suggested the unwillingness by the vast majority of voters to take part in public affairs, which is a national duty, as per the provision of article 62 of the Constitution. These low turnout rates moreover served to assert the lack of confidence and conviction in the state. The political process itself was mistrusted by the Egyptian public due to practices that lasted for over half a century where state agencies denied people all political practices, including the vote. Nevertheless, all Egyptians have now become concerned with Egypt's future. There is a renewed hope that Egyptians' aspiration to attain a better democratic future can be achieved. This referendum was a long-awaited dream and Egyptians indeed rose up to the responsibility laid squarely on their shoulders at this critical point in time. The greatest achievement of this revolution – although it was not on the demand list – is that it renewed a sense of ownership and revived awareness which was lost while the previous regime was in power.

The January 25 revolution ushered in a new era, a break with a past monopolized by a totalitarian power where citizens had no role to play. However, now all Egyptians from different walks of life and across all age groups proved that they are qualified for democracy, unlike what other figures from the old regime maintained.

Egyptians impatiently anticipated the March 19 referendum on constitutional amendments to express their future aspirations. The turnout rate, 41% of eligible voters, was unprecedented in Egypt's modern history, Formerly, turnout rate stood at 15% at best. The official figures indicate that 18,366,764 voters cast the ballot in 43,059 polling stations, with 18,366,764 valid votes, and 171,190 invalid votes. Some 14,192,577 votes endorsed the amendments while 4,174,178 ballots rejected them. EASD stresses the need to enact the right of Egyptians living abroad (up to 10 million) to vote, as they enjoy all citizenship rights, at the heart of which lies the right to participate in public affairs. The civilized conduct shown by the Egyptian public should be commended as laws, orders and instructions were duly observed. The bodies overseeing the referendum also have eased procedures for voters and removed obstacles which have always stood in the way between Egyptians and ballot boxes. Electoral bribery and violence almost disappeared, the credit for which should be given to the bodies administering the vote. What should also be noted and celebrated is the strong participation of women, youth and Copts - groups which were far removed from the political process.

Youth Involvement: Youth were always absent from the political scene and had to pay the price for the wrongdoings of previous governments, so much that many risked death in open seas en route to foreign countries – where there might be a slim chance to work – rather than live in Egypt. Young people's aspirations and dreams were always met with desperation which drove many of them to withdraw from participation in public affairs, dismissing it as futile.

Such notion, however, no longer holds true after the youth-led revolution, which managed to topple President Mubarak and his regime from power. Most touching was the feeling that Egyptians restored their control over the country. In order to safeguard the gains achieved during the revolution against the thugs of the old regime, young people organically formed popular committees to protect and secure public properties. On March 19, the youth not only strongly participated in the referendum on the constitutional amendments, they also invited everyone to take part in the vote. Added to that are their efforts in organizing voters in and out of polling stations and providing assistance to the bodies overseeing the polls.

Women’s Participation. Remarkable was the high turnout of women in the referendum, who came from all social, cultural, educational and economical backgrounds. It suggested that their former disengagement was due to the electoral process previously in place, which was marred by widespread fraud, violence and thuggery that might have endangered their lives. With most of these factors eliminated, women's turnout for the first time matched their voting bloc, which stands at 40% of all eligible voters.

Copt's Involvement. One of the most remarkable outcomes of the Egyptian revolution was the return of Copts' to the ballot boxes and public life, after long decades of disengagement. For fifty years, Copts withdrew from the political scene, except for rare incidents, with no effective or active participation. The church had replaced the state. Yet after January 25, Egyptians, both Muslims and Christians, retook possession of their country and expressed determination to work together for Egypt's progress.

Fourth- Escalation of Sectarian Tensions In the run-up to the referendum, heated arguments erupted among the Egyptian public, with some opposing and others endorsing the constitutional amendments. Every party was so excited to defend its view, a democratic practice which has been absent for so long. The majority of political parties and youth groups that emerged after 25 January as well as the Copts refused the amendments, while the MB, Salafists and the remnants of the National Democratic Party endorsed them. On the polling day, some MB and Salafists rallied before polling stations, which led to some tensions between MB members on one hand and Copts on the other hand. There were calls to endorse the amendments on the grounds that Coptic Christians wanted to revoke article 2 of the constitution which cites Egypt's Muslim identity. Similarly, Copts seemed to reject the amendments for fear that they lay the ground for a religious state endorsed by MB and Salafists.

Different groups tried to influence voters, most particularly MB members and Salafists who held up banners that read "Yes to the Constitutional Amendments". Some of the arguments they used were to convince people to endorse the constitutional changes because Copts rejected them. On the whole, the voting took a sectarian turn which led to scuffles between the two camps supporting and opposing the amendments. MB members in Hawamdia district, in the October 6 governorate, set up a sound system outside a polling station in Manial Sheha and called on people to say yes to the amendments for fear that Copts would control the country. This only increased the threat of sectarian tensions; however the fact is that not everyone who endorsed the amendments was affiliated to a religious group, nor everyone who rejected them is a Copt, or a secularist.

In fact, voting during the final hours of the referendum on sectarian basis in many areas detracted from Egyptians' excitement and celebratory mood. It moreover conjures up other similar crises that many countries underwent, especially when politics was run against a backdrop of religious conflicts as in Lebanon.

EASD reasserts the need for all Egyptians from across the social spectrum to build a modern civil state, based on citizenship, irrespective of religion, race, sexual orientation tribal and/or sectarian prejudices that threaten the unity of the nation and undermine the gains of the revolution.

Muslim Brotherhood March 2011

Dear readers:

Due to the enormous interest in the topic, I will be updating what I know on the Muslim Brotherhood regularly. What I will do to keep the conversation flowing, is to post one post on the Muslim Brotherhood monthly, with updated news and analysis, from both Egyptian and American sources, and of course, my favorite, Al Jazeera.

March 25, 2011
12:33 p.m.

In a long article in the New York Times on March 24, 2011, Michael Slackman and Nadim Audi argue that the Muslim Force is in a secret coalition with the military. I read this article with some surprise. It was my perception that Egypt seems predominantly secular, and most people are not comfortable with the MB slogan, "Islam as a Way of Life." My friend Manal Samra, who is a development expert with GTZ, tells me, however, that she is concerned some prior arrangement has been struck. 

When I reposted this article on Facebook, and wrote "I do not agree," Daniel Epstein, a Professor of Comparative Politics and a Fulbright Scholar asked me 

Does "do not agree" refer to the prediction that it will thwart fundamental changes? Or just that you do not agree with the goals and direction of the Brotherhood? Or that you don't think it's really taking the leading role?" 

Good questions, Dan. Well, I do not agree with the MB, that is obvious, but who cares, I am not Egyptian. I did not think they were taking the "leading role." Perhaps I am wrong on that, but let me keep researching. The Muslim Brotherhood certainly will attempt to thwart fundamental change. Rushing through the amendments, and rushing the elections helps the MB and NDP and hurts other democratic organizations in Egypt. I was also surprised that they were allowed to give voters food and oil while encouraging them to vote yes. This strikes me as bribes for votes, and seems like a serious violation of free and fair elections.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Humorous Qadaffi Musical Interlude

Dear readers. I am going to take a page out of Ezra Klein's Wonkbook, and give you a fun musical interlude. We all need a break here from the war coverage, don't you think? WMB

Musical Credit:
Zenga Zenga

Muammar Gaddafi - Zenga Zenga Song - Noy Alooshe Remix

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Muammar Qadaffi: Pan-Africanist Hero, or Genocidaire?

Dear Readers

Pan-Africanists (and Leftists) are in an uproar about the bombing of Libya. This post will examine the different sides of the issue.

My quick take

Qadaffi worked hard to defeat apartheid. He has struggled to position Libya as an African country, not an Arab country. He has supported the African Union. He should be praised for these notable accomplishments. Qadaffi has tortured journalists, cut off all communication with the outside world, and fired on innocent civilians. Libya is in a humanitarian crisis as refugees flood into Tunisia and Egypt. It looked like Qadaffi was willing to fire on his own people in order to stay in power. The bombing of Libya is justified. It should cease as soon as a no-fly zone is enforced. No troops should be used. The West should retreat, and turn over the enforcement to Egypt, Tunisia, and other African and Arab countries as soon as possible.

Review of Events

The unrest in Libya began on February 15, 2011. The main reasons for the protests were the lack of political freedom, the spread of corruption under the Qadaffi regime, and the need to expand freedom of speech. Thousands turned out peacefully in Benghazi holding signs and chanting to challenge Colonel Muammar Qaddafi's 41 year strongman rule. On February 26, 2011, The UN Security council called for a no-fly zone in Libya.

On March 3, 2011, The Arab League asked Qadaffi to stop the bloodshed. "The Arab resolution called on the Libyan government to respond to the "legitimate demands of the Libyan people" and to stop bloodshed. The Libyan authorities must lift restrictions on media and mobile networks and allow the delivery of aid." Libya was suspended from the Arab League. The Secretary General of the Arab League is Amr Moussa, a likely Egyptian Presidential Candidate. On March 13, the Arab League endorsed the concept of a no-fly zone over Libya. On March 17, 2011, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for military action in Libya.

According to the Nation, in an article entitled Libya and the Dilemma of Intervention Libya and the Dilemma of Intervention published on March 18, 2011, the UN Security Council took some diplomatic steps before authorizing military intervention. The UN Security Council mandated freezing the regime's assets, imposing sanctions on Qadaffi and his associates, and organizing humanitarian assistance.  (Thanks to Olga Martin for sensitising me to this issue)

On March 19, 2011, The US, France and Britain launched air strikes to enforce the no-fly zone. According to Kenya's Nation Newspaper, on March 20,The African Union's panel on Libya on Sunday called for an "immediate stop" to all attacks on Libya.The AU committee on Libya is composed of five African heads of state. But the Nouakchott meeting was only attended by the presidents of Mauritania, Mali and Congo. South Africa and Uganda were represented by ministers

On March 21, Libya Released four New York Times journalists. Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks, Lynsey Addario and Anthony Shadid were captured while covering the conflict between Loyalist and Rebel forces in Libya in the eastern city of Adjabiya. The journalists were tied up, all were punched on a daily basis. The female journalist was fondled, groped and beaten. They were threatened with death and denied food. According to the New York Times "Others have died. A Libyan broadcaster was killed Saturday while covering a battle near Benghazi. A cameraman for Al Jazeera was killed in the same area on March 12, the first death of a journalist in Libya during the current conflict."

On March 24th, according to Al Jazeera, air strikes are not deterring Qadaffi. Western war planes bombed Libya for a fifth night, but Libya is still shelling the opposition. The US says it has successfully established a no-fly zone over Libya's coastal areas. The allies have flown 175 sorties in 114 hours, and the US has flown 113 of those. The Washington Post reports the US and its allies are straining to maintain Arab support for the conflict in Libya. Egyptian officials are worried that the conflict will spill over the border. Qatar has deployed fighter jets in the region, and could help enforce the no-fly zone in coming days, although no action has actually been taken yet.

A Review of Positions:

Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda saysWhy Not Let Libyans Solve Their Own Problems?  Obviously, Museveni has a dog in this fight. He came to power by military means and he is an autocrat, although a benign one, who allows some kind of elections. He has been in power for a long long time (over two decades) He provides a review of Qadaffi's good points, some of which resonate with me, and some of which make me chuckle! These "good" points include the fact that Qadaffi is a true nationalist, he gave Museveni weapons during his own struggle for power, he helped raise the cost of Arab oil by encouraging cartel behavior, Qadaffi has made Libya a middle income country, and, Qadaffi is a secular leader. Museveni argues that it was proper to use force against the protesters, because they were "insurrectionists." He says the Libyan rebels should fight their own wars, lest they be called puppets. So bottom line - Museveni says No foreign involvement in sovereign countries.

Gerald A.Perreira writing in the Liberator on March 4, 2011 made an argument that is fairly compelling. His position shakes me down to my toes, and makes me wonder if I am wrong. He argues "The battle that is being waged in Libya is fundamentally a battle between Pan-African forces on the one hand, who are dedicated to the realization of Qaddafi’s vision of a united Africa, and reactionary racist Libyan Arab forces who reject Qaddafi’s vision of Libya as part of a united Africa and want to ally themselves instead with the EU and look toward Europe and the Arab World for Libya’s future." [Long sentence Gerald :-)] This is a strong argument and I am listening.

However, Qadaffi's decision to shut off all channels of information, and torture journalists from the Times strikes me as fundamentally undemocratic. Accordingly, I am going to maintain my position for the moment while I keep reading . . . .

March 24, 2011

Riz Khan, a journalist from Al Jazeera, reports that there is a growing chorus from developing and Bric countries including Turkey, China and India in opposition to the strike Putin says that the UN resolution is "a medieval call to crusade." Question to Prime Minister Putin, since the Arab League asked for the no-fly zone, how can it be a call to crusade? Puzzled . . . . .

Richard Falk has a good piece on the moral ambiguities of intervention. He argues that "But with respect to Libya there is no firm evidence of a genocidal intention on Gaddafi's, no humanitarian catastrophe in the making, and not even clear indications of the extent of civilian casualties resulting from the fighting." Very thoughtful analysis, and definitely made me reconsider my views. One issue I have with Falk's piece is that the West has already intervened, where do we go from here? We need action steps at this point, not analysis of past actions.

Juan Cole argues that the UN no-fly zone over Libya is risky but it can have a good outcome if it has an expiration date, if it is not a war, but is just a no fly zone, if it moves towards a diplomatic solution, and so forth.

The Ugandan Daily Monitor says that the African Union should move with the times and oppose Qadaffi's four decades of oppression. That paper says that they recognize the need to respect a nation's sovereignty, but they strongly disagree that sovereignty should be maintained when the people are at risk, and are opposing the government with their loves.

Writing in the New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof argues that the military intervention in Libya has averted a humanitarian catastrophe. He states that this intervention should be recognized under the United Nations' label of Responsibility to Protect. He suggests that it is much better to intervene quickly in Libya, than to wait and allow the slaughter to proceed as occurred in Kosovo [and might I add Rwanda. WMB] Kristof and I believe that most Libyans support foreign intervention. The costs of inaction, argue Kristof, were the slaughter of the civilian populations in Benghazi and Tobruk.

Comments on Positions by African Scholars

My colleague Matunda Nyanchama from the Kenya Studies Association says to the group in an email conversation "As I wrote in another forum, the Libyan strongman's time is long gone; he has overstayed the welcome. He has done terrible things (sponsoring terrorism, supporting murderous regimes such as Idi Amin's, etc.) and he hasn't opened up the democratic space (but who has in the Arab World?). On the other hand, Libya has invested heavily in Africa and in many countries like Italy . . . A time comes for leaders to go; having fed Libyans, offered good medical services and education, they are demanding better; and if he were a statesman, he would have stepped aside and hand over the baton. But again, he came to power by the sword; he could possibly die by the same.The question remains though [regarding] the criteria of intervention target selection by western nations. How come they aren't in Bahrain? Or Yemen?"

Matunda makes a valid point. Why is the West bombing Libya, but not supporting protesters in Bahrain? Indeed, the US is essentially allowing Saudi troops to crack down on civilian protesters in Bahrain with no comment. 

John Mulaa, a researcher and consultant at the World Bank, argues that "The simple fact is that foreign policy is never a fertile ground for perfect consistency. You do what you can, where you can, when you can. If theWest could topple the Iranian or North Korean regimes at no cost in lives or treasure whatsoever, they would do it tomorrow. But the West can’t. This is a game opponents of any intervention always play, “What makes X so different than Y?” The easiest answer is that we have a ripe opportunity in X and not in Y. Now, there may be good substantive arguments against intervening in Libya. But saying “Why not Bahrain, too?” is not one of them."

Kenyan attorney Bosire Maragia notes that each state has a set of foreign policies that define how it relates with other states.

My gut reactions

March 22, 2011

I am beginning to get a headache. Was I wrong to support intervention? I am questioning my own position now. Uggh, this is very, very difficult.

March 24, 2011
8:49 p.m. Feeling a little better about my position after reading Kristof's article. Headache subsiding.

March 25, 2011
11:00 a.m.
I am beginning to worry about how long this conflict is going to drag on. I am also frustrated that the other Arab nations are not stepping up and taking the lead on this. Of course, they are worried that they are next. Syria and Bahrain are very distressing politically as the crackdown on dissidents intensifies. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Where is Bahrain?

For a good overview of what is happening in Bahrain, check out a blog by Kashif Ilyas called My Notes.

You can also of course, check out Al Jazeera.

Here is a map of Bahrain.

Here is a map of the Region from a North African perspective

Here is a map of the region from a Middle Eastern perspective.

The Middle East Should Follow Egypt’s Lead Towards Democracy

A version of this article was published in the Clarion Ledger on March 27, 2011

Date: March 21, 2011

The change sweeping the Arab world is now entering into its second month. The people of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan are demanding political representation, free speech and democracy. Only one Arab government other than Egypt is responding to the protests sweeping the region in a manner which respects the right of its people to participate in government: Jordan.

Indeed, in countries such as Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, the people's demands for change are being met not with reform, but with force, and violence. Protests began in Saudi Arabia this Friday asking for political reform including more representation for the people, and action against poverty. The Saudi government responded to this action by arresting and beating protesters. In Bahrain, protests started in which the majority (Shia) people asked to be involved in government decision making. In a disturbing development the Saudi and Emirati governments did not send troops to support the rebels in Libya, but did send troops into Bahrain to crush the protests. Protesters in southern Syria are also asking for political reform, including free speech and economic growth. The Syrian government is reacting by arresting dissidents. In Yemen, protests began at the beginning of March asking their authoritarian “president” to leave now, and not wait until the end of his term. Violence broke out in Yemen when snipers shot peaceful protesters. The president then imposed martial law.

The journey towards democracy in the Middle East and North Africa will be long, and full of obstacles. I suggest that analysts and readers think of the transformation sweeping the Middle East as a process, not an event. To examine the potential risks and rewards of this transformation, I consider the cases of Egypt and Libya as point and counterpoint: one country is moving swiftly towards democracy, while the other country is in the midst of a bloody civil war, and humanitarian disaster.

Egypt has taken the first of many steps towards a democratic transition. On January 25th, the Egyptian people spoke out. They demanded a change in leadership, and asked that an autocrat of thirty years step down. Their actions were largely peaceful, and they used the tools of non-violent resistance. They were rewarded on February 11th when President Hosni Mubarak left office. The Egyptian people refer to this period as the “January 25th Revolution.” Theorists point out that in fact, Egypt has not experienced a true revolution. According to Professor Steven Levitsky, a democracy expert at Harvard University's Department of Government, what Egypt is currently experiencing is more accurately termed a regime transition. At the moment in Egypt, the military is in power. Accordingly, Egypt has removed a dictator in the person of Hosni Mubarak but is currently being ruled by the Supreme Committee of the Armed Forces. Egypt has not emerged as a full-fledged democracy. Arguably the Egyptian people are still living under a form of semi-authoritarian rule, all though that rule is certainly liberalized with comparison to the previous government.

Nonetheless, Egypt is making excellent progress on its journey towards democracy. A constitutional referendum was held on Saturday, March 19, 2011. This represents the first major election ever held in Egypt. The election was marred by some drawbacks, and in my view, was not totally free and fair. Most importantly, not enough time was given for Egyptians to understand the meaning of their vote. Voters were "encouraged" by the Muslim Brotherhood with rice and oil to vote “Yes.” There were inadequate numbers of polling stations. Some polling stations erupted into violence, as when Nobel Prize Laureate Mohammed El Baradei was attacked with stones and glass when he attempted to vote. Yet, the successes of the Egyptian Constitutional Referendum of March 19, 2011, greatly outweighed the problems. Egyptian universities worked hard to train election monitors. A peaceful rally was held in Tahrir Square in which people tried to educate each other about the meaning of their vote. Soldiers provided protection for the protesters. The election was hotly debated in the press and the television: free speech is emerging. Most polling stations were peaceful. Normally boisterous Egyptians queued quietly as they awaited their first opportunity to cast a vote that "mattered."

In contrast to the peaceful and promising transition in Egypt, Libya is experiencing a violent outcome in response to people's demands to political liberalization. The Libyan uprising is entering its fourth week. The Libyan people must be praised for their determination, and persistence in the face of unrelenting force. Libya's leader, Colonel Muammar Qadaffi has responded to peaceful protests with brutal violence, hiring mercenaries, and ruthlessly targeting civilians. The unrest in Libya began on February 15, 201. The main reasons for the protests were the lack of political freedom, the spread of corruption under the Qadaffi regime, and the need to expand freedom of speech. Thousands turned out peacefully holding signs and chanting to challenge Colonel Muammar Qaddafi's 41 year strongman rule. Qadaffi responded by firing on the protesters, turning the situation into a bloody civil war between loyalists and rebels.

A broad campaign of airstrikes led by France, England and the US began pounding the Libyan coast on March 19, 2011. US missiles are attempting to enforce a United Nations no-fly zone to keep Qadaffi from crushing rebel forces. Some critics have expressed concerns that military intervention against Qadaffi could backfire badly, causing resentment in the region. There is a need, as expressed by writers in the Nation, and in AlJazeera, to balance the desire to act in solidarity with the rebels against the risk of harming civilians. In addition, the desire to support the rebels must be balanced against the need to support Arab self-determination.

Overall, the weight of history, humanitarianism, and self-determination fall on the side of intervention in Libya. Qaddafi’s efforts to frame the rebellion against him as a "Western Plot," play on a well worn fear and paranoia present in Arab states that they are not fully in control of their own destiny. It is important for regime change to be organic, and driven by the citizenry. Indeed, the failure of democracy to take root in Iraq can be blamed in large part on the fact that democracy was imposed by the West, not asked for by the Iraqis. This is not the case in Libya, where the people have clearly asked for the removal of Qaddafi through protests, and by fighting bravely alone although they have been outmanned and outgunned.

Further, international opinion is firmly on the side of intervention. On February 26, 2011, The UN Security Council correctly called for a no-fly zone in Libya. Such a no-fly zone should help the anti-Qadaffi rebels to regroup, and should limit Qadaffi's ability to respond to the uprising. On March 13, the Arab League endorsed the concept of a no-flight zone over Libya. On March 17, 2011, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for military action in Libya. Obama wisely waited to initiate Western supported military action  until after the Arab nations agreed that a no-fly zone area should be enforced. This decision to wait until help was requested from regional powers respects the Arab need for self-determination, and also represents an international consensus that action was required.

A few key lessons can be drawn from the contrasting scenarios in Egypt and Libya. First, it is no accident that Egypt is one of the first Arab nations to liberalize. Egypt is basically a secular country. Egypt’s population includes Christians, and even a few Jews, and there is support for religious freedom for all citizens. Second, Rwanda taught us that genocide must be stopped. As Anne Marie Slaughter of Princeton has argued, the air strikes in Libya are in support of humanitarian grounds. Third, autocrats must not be tolerated, even if they are politically useful, or even if they have oil the West wants. In the short and medium run, human rights and democracy require that the United States stop tolerating autocratic and oppressive regimes such as those found in Saudi Arabia. Fourth, change must come from below. The Arab people have a right to self-determination. The West should respect that. President Obama and the UN were wise to wait to take action until they were asked by the Arab League. The UN has asked for a no-fly zone, not an international conflagration. The US should not commit ground troops, but should merely “soften the targets” so that the Libyan rebels have a fighting chance. Finally, the West can support protesters by sending money and supplies to non-profit organizations, political parties, and other civil society groups oriented towards reform. In addition, educational exchanges between academics and students can facilitate exchanges of ideas. Egypt should be viewed as a beacon for democracy in the region. Egypt is already exporting the idea of freedom by holding its historic vote this weekend. Any support the West can supply for democratization in Egypt can only lead to more reform and liberalization in the region.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Humor About African Leaders: Much Needed at this Point

This is a FORWARD from another list.While one can be old but young at heart... or young but old at heart...I noticed that Museveni is not on this list. Probably because, as he claims, he doesn't know when he was born!


Abdulai Wade - 83years
Hosni Mubarak ( Egypt ) - age 82
Robert Mugabe ( Zimbabwe ) - age 86
Hifikepunye Pohamba ( Namibia ) - age 74
Rupiah Banda ( Zambia ) - age 73
Mwai Kibaki ( Kenya ) - age 71
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ( Liberia ) - age 75
Colonel Gaddafi ( Libya ) - age 68
Jacob Zuma ( South Africa ) - age 68
Bingu Wa Mtalika - age 76.
Average Age: === 75.6
Approximately 76 years

Barrack Obama ( USA ) - age 48
David Cameron ( UK ) - age 43
Dimitri Medvedev ( Russia ) - age 45
Stephen Harper ( Canada ) - age 51
Julia Gillard ( Australia ) - age 49
Nicolas Sarkozy ( France ) - age 55
Luis Zapatero ( Spain ) - age 49
Jose Socrates ( Portugal ) - age 53
Angela Merkel ( Germany ) - age 56
Herman Van Rompuy ( Belgium ) - age 62
Average Age ===== 51.1 ~
Approximately 51 years
DIFFERENCE:---- 25 years

Blog Interview about the Constitutional Referendum with Abdel-Rahman Hussein, author of Sibilant Egypt Blog

Dear Readers: 

Today, we are very privileged to have the opportunity to speak to Abdel-Rahman Hussein. Mr. Hussein is a Cairo-based journalist who's written for Daily News Egypt, Al-Masry Al-Youm, Al Jazeera and the Huffington Post. He is author of the Sibilant Egypt blog.

Dear Mr. Hussein,

I just want to thank you for agreeing to speak with me about your election experiences. First of all, how does it feel to participate in possibly the first major real election in Egypt's history?

It felt surreal. This whole thing - since Jan25 - has been surreal and hasn't really sunk in. It's been a long time coming, that's for sure. It was a referendum though, not yet an election and as such was more clear-cut. Yes or No. It was also a bit anti-climactic in the sense that the outcome was accurately predicted beforehand.

I have cast many ballots in my life, but I understand that for many Egyptians, this was the first ballot they have ever cast. How did it feel to vote? Did you feel like your vote meant something?

Well I voted against the 2007 constitutional amendments knowing it would be futile, but I did it anyway. This time the turnout was much bigger, which was heartening. Though I voted for the losing outcome it did mean something in the sense that there is now a clearer representation of Egyptians. For possibly the first time we have a fairly accurate assessment of how many voted for or against a particular motion.

Do you believe that this election was truly free and fair?

There were, as ever, reports of irregularities yet it wasn't on the scale we've seen in previous elections. I think at the ballot box the result was relatively fair. As for what happened before people entered the ballot boxes, that's another story. The scare-mongering, the irrational reasoning for the yes vote was a disappointment. Yet anywhere else it would just be termed aggressive campaigning. I have no qualms with those who voted yes out of political conviction, but to vote yes as a pro-Islamic, anti-Coptic gesture or for purposes of the restoration of "stability" was sad for me. But I'll be told that “that's democracy isn't it?” Still within that framework, I believe there must be room to counter against bigotry, xenophobia (Article 75) and fear-mongering.

Following up on the last point, what specific violations did you see regarding elections? Were there enough polling places? Was anyone bribed? What do you think of the Muslim Brotherhood giving out food to encourage people to vote yes?

The Muslim Brotherhood campaigned aggressively - and successfully - in the days leading up to the referendum. There were reports of bribery, but irrespective of that they managed to get their message across. However, that shouldn't necessarily be seen as an indicator of equal success in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.

In your opinion, was there enough time leading up to the referendum to actually learn what the amendments mean?

No there wasn't. And there wasn't enough time for debate. However, more time doesn't mean that the outcome would have been different. In any case Egypt needs a new constitution, and it will get one.

To your knowledge, who was on the committee that drafted the amendments? Do you think their selection was fair?

The selection was safe, not too controversial (with the exception of the one Muslim Brotherhood member). And I see the logic in only amending the articles that were put up. To rewrite a new constitution would have meant an interminable delay, as there is disagreement on - among other things - article 2 for example. However, maybe that's what should have been done. In a way, the ideals of the revolution have been usurped, but that's how things go when a grass-roots movement turns into a political process.

Finally, in your view, what does a yes vote mean for Egypt? What is the way forward, what is the situation we are in now?

What a “Yes” vote means will only be apparent once the parliamentary elections have taken place and we see what candidates won out. It could be good or bad (depending on your personal political alignment). I would say that the power now lies more not with the people who braved the previous regime and risked their lives to overthrow it, but rather with the "silent majority" that the regime was bleating about before it was consigned to the dustbin of history. In any case, what's imperative now is that regardless of the overriding political direction, there needs to be guarantees pertaining to the protection of minority rights, women's rights and civil liberties. As has been seen on the streets of Cairo recently, dissenting voices have been silenced by force, whether at the hands of the army or regular citizens. For me, safeguards against that sort of thing need to be enshrined in any future constitution.

Many thanks for your time, and your valuable insights. It has been a real pleasure “blogging” with you!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Non-Scientific Sample of Egyptian Voting Experiences

Dear readers: 

We in the social sciences like samples to be big and representative. Egypt has 80 million people, so a representative sample would have to be very large, and drawn from many socio-economic strata, many areas, and many religions. I cannot provide that for you. What I can provide you with is anecdotal, but interesting, and rich data from the people around me.  WMB

4:42 p.m. March 19, 2011
One of my students called the election hotline and it sounds like the reports of violence in Giza are incorrect. Giza is very far from where I live, so I could not confirm those reports for myself.

I just attended the voting at Tagomoo neighborhood in New Cairo. That is the polling place nearest to my house. The polling place was a large club. Polls are supposed to stay open until nightfall. What I saw was a very peaceful situation. People were standing in a very orderly line waiting to vote. The line snaked all around the perimeter of the club. I found this amazing, because Egyptians are not good at standing in line, and tend to push and pile up. Some people were holding umbrellas, as the sun is very hot today, and some were holding Egyptian flags. Children played on patches of grass and families held picnics. Music was playing, and all in all, the atmosphere was extremely positive and peaceful.

10:50 p.m.  March 19, 2011
Thugs apparently attacked reform advocate and likely presidential candidate Mohammed El Baradei at the polling station in Moqattam when he tried to vote. Thugs threw stones, and glass, and attacked his car. There was a physical confrontation where a journalist was injured, and a female supporter badly beaten until rescued. Al Masryalyoum newspaper confirms what my student wrote about the Muslim Brotherhood trying to bribe voters with food. These violations are tarnishing the fact that this is a free and fair election. These are fairly serious occurrences.

12:01 p.m. March 19, 2011
Well, I am getting exhausted. It has been a very difficult and exciting week. Just a few more thoughts before I turn in. There are inadequate polling stations. I went to Tagomoo today to observe polling because there was NO polling station in El Rehab where I live. El Rehab must have on the order of 10,000 residents, so this is a fairly serious oversight. In addition, voters in Zamalek waited in line for more than three hours, because there was only one polling station on the whole Island. My guess is that the No vote should prevail, but I have no scientific polling data to back that up.

One of my students, RM, whose family is affiliated with the NDP is likely to vote yes. He said that he waited fifteen minutes in line to vote, which is a very short time. He says there were separate lines for men, women, those who were above 60. He claims that there were some fights inside the polling place itself. An old woman was shouting at the yes voters she said "you should say No, because the whole constitution is illegal and unethical. The people who died, you do not care about their blood, you want the NDP to come back." There were men with long beards telling people to vote Yes. He also says that his friends said that the Muslim Brotherhood was handing out food in the name of charity but telling people to vote Yes.

12:49 a.m.
Signing Off Now. God Bless Egypt. Viva la Democracia!Viva!

2:46 p.m. March 20, 2011
My friend MF, who is 46, and an educated businessman, says it his is first time voting because he had never felt that his vote meant anything before. He voted in the Aguza area near his mother's house in downtown. The lines were separate inside and outside for men and women.  He saw no Muslim brotherhood supporters. He said the mood was really nice. He said it took him one hour before it was his turn. He said that most of that time people were joking and laughing. People were very polite, there was no pushing. Anyone exceeding 50 years old could go in a shorter line as a matter of respect. He voted no but he thinks that it is more likely to go to a yes vote. He says we did not have enough explanation about the amendments. He thinks most people will vote yes to help ensure stability and security. He says that people are relating stability with "the saying of yes."  He says that the last two months have had no stability and no security, and if they vote yes, they think it will bring back the security. 

10:34 p.m. March 20, 2011
According to AlMasryalyoum English edition, official results are showing the majority of people backing the elections. Official results are indicating that 77 percent of the population are supporting the amendments.  About 14.2 million said yes, whereas only about 4 million said no. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

West Pounds Libya with Air Strikes

The Libyan Uprising has now entered its fourth week.

A broad campaign of airstrikes is pounding the Libyan coast. US missiles are attempting to enforce a United Nations no fly zone to keep Qadaffi from crushing rebel forces. Apparently France, Britain and the US are working together to keep up a barrage against Qaddafi, however, US air power is dominating. Tomahawk missiles are being fired from American warships. French Mirage and Rafale fighter jets have also conducted strikes.

Overall, I support the decision of the United States to enforce the no fly zone. I appreciate the need to support the Libyan rebels. Qadaffi has had a history of being a great ally of African causes, but he lost my support completely when he fired on civilians. The war is causing a humanitarian crisis on the border of Egypt, as refugees flee the fighting and attempt to escape to safety.Qadaffi claims he is observing the UN mandated ceasefire, but rebels claim he has continued attacks against them unabated.

It is excellent that no military action began until the Arab nations agreed that a no-fly zone area should be enforced. This helps to avoid the perception that the West is unilaterally moving against the Arab world. The secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, is a likely candidate for the Egyptian Presidency, and he called for an enforcement of the no-fly zone. Many Arab leaders have called for Qadaffi to quit.

I am very dissapointed that the Saudi Arabians have chosen to send troops into Bahrain instead of sending troops in to support the Libyan rebels. Obviously, the Saudi government is one of the worst examples of an oppressive authoritarian regime in the region, so it is no surprise that they are reluctant to remove another autocrat.

March 20, 2011 11:19 p.m.
In a slightly confusing development, Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, has criticized the coalition strikes against targets in Western Libya. He claims that the intention was to protect civilians, not bomb civilians. Apparently, the Arab League had said there was no need for military intervention.

March 22, 2011 12:16 p.m.
According to Juan Cole, "Reports of Arab League backtracking on Sunday were incorrect, based on a remark of outgoing Secretary-General Amr Moussa that criticized the taking out of anti-aircraft batteries. The Arab League reaffirmed Sunday and Moussa agreed Monday that the No-Fly Zone is what it wants."

US Missiles Strike Libyan Air Defense Targets, New York Times
West Pounds Libya with Air Strikes, Tomahawks, AlMasryalyoum
Amr Moussa Criticizes Allied Bombing of Libya, AlMasryalyoum
The Drawbacks of Intervention in Libya, AlJazeera
March 22, 2011 12:13 p.m.

Analysis of specific provisions of Proposed Amendments to the Egyptian Constitution

Guest Bloggers with the assistance of Warigia Bowman.
[This post contains contributions by Sara Samy, Ramona Cannan, Omneya Ali, Ansam Mohammed, Aya Karar, Perihan Koura, Dalia el Abd, Samah abdel Geleel, Hodah Salah and Nashwa Ghoneim. Many thanks for their thoughtful analysis.  They are the leaders of tomorrow's Egypt. I have edited it for both style and clarity, and added some language to make their points clearer. WMB]

Today, Saturday 19th of March 2011 is the date set by the Armed Forces for the national referendum on the constitutional amendments drafted by a committee of experts. The committee announced modifications on nine constitutional articles. Egyptian citizens will have to vote for “Yes” or “No” for the whole package of amendments. We recommend a No vote. This review does not go over all 9 amendments, but rather reviews some key points. 
Article 75
Article 75 introduces new eligibility requirements for presidential candidates. The president must be an Egyptian without dual nationality. A candidate would be ineligible to run for office if he or his parents has ever held citizenship in a country other than Egypt, or if he married to a non-Egyptian.
We do not support this change to the Constitution, because holding a dual passport, marrying a non Egyptian or even having non Egyptian parents should not be an obstacle to becoming the president of Egypt. These conditions are unaccepted discrimination against many potential candidates. In addition, the language of the article suggests that only a man can run for the Egyptian presidency. In our opinion, the amendments in the Constitution were put into place to achieve the goals of the revolution which is democracy. Unfortunately, the way they are written, these new conditions constitute discrimination against women and many others. In addition, the proposed amendments do not take into consideration the fact that in most of the democratic countries it is enough to be born on the country to apply for president.
Article 76
Article 76 was modified to ease the severe restrictions on presidential elections. The Commission decided on three methods for candidacy (1) the candidate should be endorsed by 30 members from one of the parliament’s two chambers, or (2) to be able to collect 30,000 signatures from Egyptians living in 15 provinces or (3) to belong to a party that has at least one seat in the People’s Assembly or Shura Council.
Our critique is as follows. The parliamentary elections should be held before the election of the President to apply the proposed text. It is not clear that the parliamentary elections are in fact going to proceed the presidential elections. In addition, the only two parties who are currently well established are the Muslim Brotherhood and the National Democratic Party. It is our view that having parliamentary elections so soon would unnecessarily favor these two parties.
According to Chief Justice Khalil Mostafa, article 76 as currently written breaches the principle of the equality party and independent candidate; article (7) of the political parties Act No. 40 of 1977 stipulated that one thousand members from 10 governorates to form a party, then it will be easier for the candidate to be one of the existing parties, or to belong or form a new party that nominates him (or her). 
Article 77
The old article 77 stated: "The term of the presidency shall be six years starting from the date of the announcement of result of the plebiscite. The President of the Republic may be re-elected for other successive terms. In the amendments they shortened the presidential terms to four years and limited presidents to a maximum of two consecutive terms.
Unfortunately, this new article appears to conflict with article 190, which will remain the same. The argument here is that article 190 was added in 1971 under the emergency situation of 1971. Yet, article 190 doesn’t specify date of coverage, so it is valid in any time. In other words, it is unclear how many terms the President will be able to run for office. 
Article 139
Article 139 amendment obligates Egypt’s president to appoint a Vice President within the first two months of coming to power, and in case he is unable to perform his duties for any reason, a substitute must be appointed.
This amendment is meant to correct for Mubarak's 30-year run without a vice president, but it will obviously do little to constrain executive power. Indeed, a very critical flaw of his amendment is that it does not state that the President could not appoint any of his close relatives as Vice President. If the Article does not include a restriction that the president cannot appoint any of his relatives, friends, cronies or associates, this means that this could open the door the coming president to replicate the scenario of presidency bequeathing power to a colleague. In addition, it is not clear why the Vice President is not either elected. It is also not clear why the Vice President would not be appointed at the exact time as the President.
Article 148
Article 148 which dealt with the declaration of the state of emergency has been modified too. The modified article makes the declaration of a state of emergency reliant upon the approval of the People’s Assembly. The Emergency Law cannot be applied for more than six months, which the old version failed to set this time limit.
Although this modified article is a step forward towards democracy, nevertheless, the declaration of a state of emergency is still not seen as necessary. Many countries have never declared a state of emergency. In particular, most democratic countries do not have a state of emergency provision in their constitution.  
Article 179
Article 179 dealt with terrorism in the country.
Terrorism is an abstract term which needn’t be included in any article in the Constitution unless previously defined operationally in specific measurable constituents. Clearly, it is incredibly difficult to find a workable operational definition. Under the name of fighting terrorism the President had limitless powers that deprived civilians from fundamental rights and freedoms. Additionally the allowance to submit any crime of terror to any judicial body the President might select from the Constitution or the law would allow the trial of civilians in military courts. Therefore, cancellation of this article is mandatory to embody a democratic regime.  This amendment seems reasonable.
Article 189
Unappointed members of the yet to be formed Shura Council and People’s Assembly are to form a founding committee to formulate a new Constitution within a maximum duration of six month of their appointment. The new Constitution will be later voted on by the public within duration of another six months. This is a problematic provision, because historically, the Shura (Senate) and People’s Assembly have been extremely weak. In addition, it is unclear who exactly should serve on the constitutional committee, and what qualifications they should have.
As constitutional experts have argued, the “radical” alternation, or indeed elimination, of the old 1971 constitution which supports an authoritarian system of government  is necessary to allow Egypt move forward safely through the gate for real democracy. The proposed amendments neither take into consideration the concept of citizenship nor adequately restrict the powers of the president. They might allow the few well known political parties like (MB and NDP) to dominate the upcoming parliament if elections are staged as early as planned.  This might threaten Egyptian people’s aspirations of having diverse multiples of political representation to select from for presidential elections in a free democratic manner whereby my majority interest should prevail. In order for parties other than the Muslim Brotherhood, or the NDP to prevail, there must be a broad-based opposition coalition for a joint list of candidates with a pre-determined quota for each political group.
The proposed amendments increase Copts’ and Christians’ fears that Egypt could turn into an Islamic state with religious foundations. This motivated Christians to speak up loudly after a very long period of silence and say NO to the amendments.
If the majority of the Egyptian people vote NO, one possible outcome is that a temporary constitution would be set according to which presidential elections will be run dictating the authorities of the temporary government and the civil presidential council. After the new President is elected, eligible voters can submit the new Constitution based on people’s will. Unfortunately, it is not totally clear that this is what will happen in the presence of a not vote. There is some uncertainty as to the likely next step. It is our belief that the new Egyptian Constitution should adopt civil freedoms, separates the three legislative, judiciary, and executive powers and uphold the value of citizenship in running state affairs.