Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Governance, Accountability and Stakeholders in Egypt

This semester I am teaching a class at the American University in Cairo called "Governance, Accountability, and Stakeholder Negotiation. It is a masters level class in public policy. It is a lot of fun, and we have been doing a lot of reading on how to improve governance in the Middle East and Africa. For example, we have read the Ibrahim Index as well as the World Bank MENA governance News and Notes.

This week, we were very lucky to have a special guest. Dr. Samer Soliman came and spoke to our class. He is the author of an important book just published by Stanford University Press. The book is titled The Autumn of Dictatorship: Fiscal Crisis and Political Change Under Mubarak.  In this book, Dr. Soliman evaluates the Egyptian budget to get lessons about allocation patterns, and the character of the authoritarian Egyptian state.

Here are some of his comments (paraphrased) on governance and accountability.


The main issue of the Army is the budget. The second issue is that the Army has an economic empire. The military empire is off budget. If you examine the details of the Egyptian budget, you will not see it, but the evidence is all around us. One concern for the transition is that the Egyptian military is trying to prevent the new president from having power over the budget. 

It will likely take a while to move the military to its proper place in society. In Spain, the transition to democracy took 15 years. Currently in Egypt, we are operating under an interim constitution. At the moment, there is no article in the constitution that has a popular monitoring of the budget.  

We need an army, and we need a state. There has actually been a long term weakening of the Army since Sadat. The Nasser regime was really a military regime. This is less true today. In Iraq under Saddam, there was no distance at all between the regime and the state. This is also true of Syria today. In Egypt, there is some distance. The military is not divided along sectarian lines, like the Syrian military. It is important to get the military budget into the state budget. Right now, there is a lack of civilian control of the budget. 

Taxation plays an important role in accountability. Taxation in Egypt is currently corrupt and inefficient. Democracy facilitates the task of taxation because it enhances popular legitimacy. We also need progressive taxation. 


With regard to stakeholders under the Mubarak Regime, there were no real political parties. There were just pressure groups. The opposition parties had no chance to rule. New political parties are emerging. In the future, we will have real political parties in Egypt. Syndicates will be much more important. There was no real syndicate life under the old regime. The syndicates can play an important role as an instrument of bargaining and problem solving. Many social groups in Egypt do not have real power. The Egyptian diaspora is important. Civil society will be more important in the new period. The SCAF is pushing the diaspora aside because they are dangerous. They are a huge asset in terms of their money, their knowledge, and their connections. 


It is not correct that the SCAF will be appointing all 100 members of the task force to write the constitution. Rather, they will set the criteria of how people for the task force are selected. The parliamentary elections will be in November. Then, there will hopefully be presidential elections, although it is vague. The constitution should be drafted within 6 months after the presidential elections. There is no guarantee that the constitutional drafting will be finished in the transition period. 

Egyptian Social Democratic Party

The party I belong to is the SDP. It is objectively, the best party in Egypt, and you should join it. {laughter}. We respect the market economy, but we also believe in a welfare state, and we support social justice. Our party is based on the assumption that economic development needs to create opportunities for the poor, but still be based on the market. We want to give people the instruments and means to defend their rights. It is creative conciliation between the market, and social democracy. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The plot thickens

Egyptian politics gets more and more dramatic. On Sunday, the SCAF approved new amendments to the elections law. As a result, two thirds of constituencies will be allocated according to the list-based system, and one third according to the single-winner system. Further, the SCAF has reduced the number of seats in the People's Assembly from 508 to 498.

As a colleague explained to me yesterday, having one third single-winner system makes electoral districts bigger. So, if 1/2 of the candidates are under a single-winner system, then the 80 million people of Egypt will elect 249 members of the People's Assembly via a list, and 249 via single-member districts. If 1/3 of the candidates are under a single-winner system, then the 80 million people of Egypt will elect 166 people as individual candidates. That means that the electoral districts will be divided among 166 candidates. The electoral districts will be larger, which will favor established, wealthy, well-known candidates, (NDP and MB) and disadvantage candidates from new parties.

Further, this mysterious workers and farmers requirement was explained to me. To be named a "worker" or a "farmer" you have to get a certificate which acknowledges you as such from the Egyptian government. This is essentially a back door way of favoring local notables, people like the sherif, or omda, or people from wealthy families.

My colleague is Samer Soliman, of the Social Democratic Party of Egypt. 

Egyptian Social Democratic Party

According to Al Masry Al Youm today, "Under Mubarak, all candidates ran as individuals in an electoral system which critics argued ensured solid majorities for the NDP." (Ahmed Zaki Osman, "Military seeking to hamstring parliament through elections law amendments," Al Masry Al Youm, September 27, 2011) Thus, the list based system is a partial victory for new parties.

Around eight political parties established by members of the former regime have been granted legal status.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Confusion over electoral districts

Dear readers

I would be lying if I said I understood all the fine points of Egyptian election laws, but Allah knows I am trying!

Again, on September 21, 2011, Assistant Defense Minister Mamdough Shahin announced that the parliamentary elections will be held as scheduled, under a mixed system of 50 percent list-based and 50 percent single-winner candidacies. People's Assembly elections will be held separately from those of the Shura Council. The People's Assembly elections will be held at the end of November over three stages of two weeks each. 

Somehow, Egyptian law as recently passed by the SCAF requires that 50 percent of parliament should be made up of farmers and workers. I like this sentiment. I think it is great. But as an academic, I wonder who decides exactly who is a farmer or a worker? Who makes the decision? What is the test? Are we looking for small farmers, fellaheen, or will anyone with land under cultivation do? This creates a post-modernist dilemma for me? In whose hands does the decisionmaking lie?

Further, there is unhappiness over electoral districts. There is a military backed electoral law regarding the mapping of electoral districts. Many parties are unhappy with it, including Egypt Freedom, Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Free Egyptians and Wasat party. The law, apparently, seems to help the old NDP. Once I understand what the law actually says, I will be sure to let you know.

The 25 January Revolution Youth Coalition as well as the Muslim Brotherhood-led Democratic Alliance for Egypt may announce their lists of candidates before the parliamentary poll scheduled for November.

Adel al Morsy, head of the Military Judicial Authority, has announced that the State of Emergency will continue until June 30, 2012. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

List system in upcoming elections?

Election related news round up from Al Masry and Al Jazeera 

Today, Tuesday, Presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei called for the exclusive use of a list-based candidacy system in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

On Twitter, ElBaradei wrote, "Even if it requires the amendment of the Constitutional Declaration, the implementation of the list-based system for 100 percent [of parliamentary seats] is the best guarantee for the representation of all groups following decades of absence of democracy."

Speaking in Damietta at a rally, Presidential hopeful Amr Moussa has called on the ruling SCAF to swiftly hand over power to an elected civilian president. He also emphasized his opposition to the extension of the emergency law.

Youths in Daqahlia Governorate attacked Moussa and called him a remnant of Mubarak’s regime.

Political parties, election dates, and other news you can use

According to my favorite newspaper, Al Masry Al Youm, the SCAF plans to announce the exact dates of the People's Assembly  (lower house) and Shura Council (upper house) elections on September 26, 2011.   Taken together, the People's Assembly and the Shura form the Egyptian parliament.

The SCAF is likely to set November 21, as the starting date for parliamentary elections, according to Al Ahram, the state-run newspaper. However a different source said that the the People's Assembly elections may be on November 21, 2011 and the Shura council elections on Feb 22d, 2012. Each election will be associated with a series of runoffs.

No date has been set for the presidential poll. 

Minister of Local Development Mohamed Ahmed Attiya, according to Al Masry Al Youm, has expressed concerns that the SCAF may cancel the single winner voting system, and only allow elections based on proportional list-based voting.

Various political parties expressed concerns that rules may allow loyalists of the NDP to reemerge. The Muslim Brotherhood has pushed for an election based on proportional lists. Under this system, parties or alliances draw up a list, and voters choose between the different lists, rather than the individuals. South Africa uses such a system.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party announced on September 19th that it will compete for more than 40 percent of the 504 seats in the parliament.  This is down from their previous estimates that they would compete for 50 percent of seats. The MB is seen as one of the most organized political forces in Egypt. Other Islamist parties include al-Nour which follows the strict Salafi school of Islam. Further, Egypt's Shia minority, which was oppressed and kept out of both social and political life under Mubarak, has announced that it will form a party. Experts say the Shia may represent less than 100,000 Egyptians. The Shia party will likely be called the Unity and Freedom Party.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Letter to Donald Horowitz (long version)

Dear editors, 

I am writing to comment on an excellent article by Donald Horowitz about Egypt published in the Summer 2011 issue of the Wilson Quarterly.

I write not to quibble with Horowitz' largely thoughtful analysis, but to provide some new information and some nuance. In that article, Horowitz makes the following arguments. He argues that due to the short time table for the current elections, the well organized Muslim Brotherhood  (MB) and some reconstituted version of the old regime's National Democratic Party (NDP) will win a large share of the 508 seats in Egypt's lower house of parliament (the People's Assembly). He also notes how important it is to determine the rules that govern how elections are structured. The proportional list system, argues Horowitz, will be beneficial to liberal, secular parties.Finally, he points out that lessons from other nations teach us that the greater the number of individuals involved in drafting a constitution, the higher the resulting level of democracy.He makes an important note that the technical rules around drafting the constitution matter, and can lead to a higher level of democracy.

I would like to make the following three points in response to his article.

First, I agree that the MB will likely benefit from earlier elections. It appears, however, that parliamentary elections will not be held in September. Nor will candidacy even begin in late September, as previously thought. Previously, we had thought elections would be held in November. Now, however,  fluidity remains in the scheduled election dates. Mohammed El Baradei and other presidential candidates have asked for Presidential elections to be held in February because they need time to regroup.

Many analysts say that the MB, Islamists, and the remnants of the old regime wish to have elections as soon as possible, because their forces are more organized. The sooner elections are held, they argue, the better the MB and NDP will do. By contrast, later elections will assist the secular groups, and leftists.

The risk in delaying elections is that due to delay, there will  be no elections. Perhaps I am wrong, but personally, I would prefer a government which includes representation from an elected Muslim Brotherhood pressured by moderate forces to a government run by decree by an unelected SCAF.  By delaying elections, the SCAF is left in place, which increases the period of time during which Egypt is ruled by a military junta. The Muslim Brotherhood is not the most radical of Islamist forces on the ground in Egypt. Further, the Muslim Brotherhood has shown both the ability and the willingness to converse with secular forces. Finally, it is likely that the Muslim Brotherhood will win far fewer seats than outside observers fear.

Second, I would like to note that the Egyptian political scene is vibrant and varied. With the advent of the Revolution, new leftist parties have emerged. These include the Public Social League, or the Coalition of Socialist parties (Al Tahalof al Shabee Al Eshterakee).  They are firmly committed to the civil state, the rights of women, improvements in health care and education, and supporting the farmers, the workers, and the youth. This group has solid intellectual credentials, significant experience, and a sophisticated long-term strategy. They may not win an enormous amount of votes in the first election, but they are certain to be influential on the Egyptian political scene in the coming years. Another moderate leftist party in the vein of the British Labor party, or the German Social Democrats, is the Egyptian Social Democrat party. This party includes many Anglo Christians and Copts, but is styled in the grand old tradition of European moderate left.

In addition to the more leftist parties, a new generation of liberal, free market parties are emerging in Egypt. These include the Free Egyptians (Hezb Al Masreen Al Ahrrar) party. This party was established by telecommunications mogul Naguib Sawiris, and supports free enterprise principles. It supports improved equality for women and Copts, a civilian government, and major efforts to reduce poverty. Another important liberal party is the Democratic Front Party (Hezb Al Gabha Al Democrateya). This party was extant under the Mubarak government, but refused to participate in parliamentary elections. It fought for measures to secure fair elections under Mubarak. The party participated in the Egyptian Revolution, and is popular with middle-aged Egyptian voters. Amr Hamzawy — a perennial favorite among the youth due to his good looks, charisma, and impressive intellectual credentials — is currently affiliated with the Egyptian Freedom Party (Masr Al Horeya). He has returned from his post with the Carnegie Endowment in Beirut to help build political awareness in Egypt and is currently teaching at the American University in Cairo. The Egyptian Freedom party supports democracy, delegation of authority, the sovereignty of law, equality, and a reduction in social classes. The party also supports decentralization and more autonomy for governorates.

My final observation is that who selects the people on the Constitution drafting task force is extremely important. Originally, the representatives from the task force were to come from parliament. Currently, the SCAF is stating that it will select all 100 members of that task force. This is extremely problematic. As Horowitz points out, it is important for a multitude of groups to be involved in drafting the constitution. If the SCAF selects the groups in the constitutional task force, it will drastically limit diversity of composition, as well as views. The referendum task force, for example, had no women. Obviously, Copts need representation on this task force, but so do people from Upper Egypt, Nubians, women, leftists, secularists, and other minorities. At this point, the SCAF seems committed mainly to perpetuating its own existence as the head of Egyptian government. Accordingly the most important details to get right at this point,  are ones of process and inclusion. A broad swath of the Egyptian people need to have some say in who writes the constitution. And the Egyptian people need a hand in helping to determine which procedures will be used to ensure free and fair elections.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

When will the Egyptian Parliamentary and Presidential Elections be Held?

The million dollar question is when will elections be held in Egypt? The short answer is that it is not yet clear.

Presidential hopefuls, including Mohammed El Baradei have asked that the SCAF hold the upcoming Presidential elections in February. Seven presidential candidates met on Tuesday.

Al Masry al Youm reports

Presidential hopefuls Mohamed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa, Mohamed Selim al-Awa, Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Hazem Abu Ismail took part in the meeting, in addition to Hesham el-Bastawisi, who participated via telephone from abroad.

On September 14, the SCAF said that it is willing to amend the law on parliamentary elections currently scheduled for November. The Egyptian parliament is composed of two houses: The People's Assembly and the Shura. However, it says that 50 percent of seats should go to workers, and 50 percent to farmers. This is interesting, because who will decide and define who workers are and who farmers are.

In July, the SCAF passed a law suggesting that half the parliament should be elected on an individual basis and half the parliament should be elected on a proportional closed list basis. The press says that the "Military council passed a law." However, in the absence of a parliament, perhaps the correct terminology should be that the "military council issued a decree."

In August, Egypt's High Election Commission formed six subcommittees to manage the oversight of parliamentary elections. These subcommittees are in charge of 1) voting and balloting stations 2) voters lists including names and IDs 3) candidates campaign logos 4) investigating and addressing elections related complaints 5) the participation of election observers 6) rules regulating electoral propaganda.
The Muslim Brotherhood, however, does not want any delays. They say that the legitimacy of the transitional period will end on September 27th.

However, many analysts say that the MB, Islamists, and the remnants of the old regime wish to have elections as soon as possible, because there forces are more organized. The sooner elections are held, the better the MB and NDP will do. Later elections will assist the secular groups, and leftists. The risk, however, is that delaying elections will result in no elections.  Further, by delaying elections, the SCAF is left in place, which increases the period of time during which Egypt is ruled by a military junta.

Meanwhile, in another ominous portent, Al Jazeera's Mubashr Misr channel has been shut down and new satellite channels will not be authorized. Without a free media, it is difficult to hold a free and fair election. Some analysts worry that this media crackdown is an effort to prevent coverage of vote-rigging and other anti-democratic practices.


AUC Strike: Drums and Drama

AUC students and workers strike. Photo Credit, Al Masry Al Youm

Dear readers

In a previous post, Back to Campus Egyptian Style, I mentioned that a strike had started on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at the American University in New Cairo, where I teach public policy.

Today is Thursday, and the strike has gotten successfully bigger, more dramatic and stressful. A few days ago, the students and security guards let in all the students' cars, even those who had not paid parking fees. The result was a massive traffic pileup. I asked the bus driver to let me out, and I walked with my three year old over the sand and through Gate 4 onto campus. A kind student held one of my son's hands, and I held the other one, to make sure he did not get run over or trampled.

There are a host of constituencies and a host of demands. Among the demands are that the recent 9% increase to student tuition be reduced. The students believe it is too high. The custodians, security guards and desert landscaping crew want two days off a week, as well as a minimum wage of 2000 Egyptian Pounds (roughly 400 dollars). I am more sympathetic to the workers' demands, and less sympathetic to the students' demands.  There is no question that the workers at the university are underpaid and overworked, as I discussed in a previous post.  The Custodian Project.

Custodians at AUC make about 1100 EGP (roughly 200 dollars).  That being said, 1) the University faces a punishing deficit of over 8 million dollars 2) President Anderson increased wages of all essential workers as one of her first acts of coming into office in January and 3) AUC workers are paid far more than workers in similar positions at comparable universities. Essentially, the students and staff want the university to reduce revenues, while increasing costs. This does not work. It does not work in the United States Congress, it does not work in my house, and it won't work at AUC.

Yesterday there was a meeting in Bassily Hall. The University President, the Vice President for Planning and Finance, and the Provost were all there to answer questions. I attended that meeting. From my perspective, I felt that the President was listening and I felt that she was reasonable. She said that the University agreed that they needed more transparency in budgeting, and that they needed to resolve negotiations with striking groups such as the security guards, the custodians and the desert landscaping team more quickly. She also said they would consider freezing tuition for incoming students.  Some custodians spoke, some students spoke, and some security guards spoke. There were many faculty present, but none spoke.

At the same time as the meeting in Bassily Hall, there was a "counter-meeting," in HUSS. The students and workers set up an opposite meeting at the same time as the president's meeting. They came and got students out of our meeting, and marched towards HUSS. They were accompanied by some wonderful drum playing Folkloric Musical students. There was some fantastic drumming, a little dancing, and a lot of revolutionary spirit. It was quite a show. I felt a pang of guilt as I saw some academic colleagues walking in the other directions with the students, while I walked the other direction, towards the administration.

I am a union person, and in my heydey, when Lisa Anderson was my professor at Columbia, I participated in protests against my university. Out of solidarity, I attended the first rally on Sunday.  I cannot gainsay the students' spirit. I am really happy to see the students and workers working together. That is wonderful. I think they have some points, but I also feel really badly for the administration, which has been slashing costs, retiring and firing staff, and cutting faculty wages. I wonder if I was like this twenty years ago? Did I not listen, or try to hear the administration's perspective? Was my cause more just, and the Columbia administration less responsive? Memories.

I also want to note that the administration opened negotiations with all the constituencies, and the response of the students was to not attend the negotiations but to simply provide a written list of demands. 

Yesterday, the students occupied the administration building. There has been plenty of local news coverage of the strike, which generally exaggerates the size of the crowds. It also does not seem to be giving correct figures re salaries. The average custodian at AUC makes 1100 EGP. After deductions, that person may take home 750 EGP. It is important to note that the custodians struck in 2010, and did receive a raise at the first of 2011. 

Here is some press coverage

AUC students on strike 

AUC students and workers launch strike against soaring fees and wage cuts

Here is an email from President Lisa Anderson to the AUC Community, dated September 13, 2011. 

Dear AUC Community,

As I wrote in yesterday’s message, several members of the senior administration and I all cleared our schedules today in anticipation of meetings with each of the groups who had identified grievances and articulated demands in the protests of the last few days, as had been arranged by their representatives.

This morning, however, new sets of representatives, whose members are listed below, emerged and instead of participating in the scheduled meetings, they chose to submit sets of written requests. Over the course of the day, we reviewed each set of requests, and our responses are also outlined below.

I am pleased at the progress we have made today and applaud the skill of each of the groups in articulating a clear set of concerns. We are aware, however, that there are other groups of workers, in the library and elsewhere, whose concerns are not represented in any of these discussions, and we are committed to continuing this kind of consultation as a mechanism to identify and address shortcomings or areas in need of improvement at the University.

To allow all members of the AUC community the opportunity to discuss the current events on campus, I would like to invite you to attend what will now be our first University Forum of the year during assembly hour in Bassily Auditorium. To ensure ample time for discussion, we will hold a special extended session, from 1 to 3 pm.

Below are the representatives for each group who have identified the issues that are listed, as are the demands they brought forward and the University administration’s response.

Thank you,

Lisa Anderson
Sector Representatives

Desert Development Center: Antar Nageh, Seoudi Hassan, Khaled Eid and Hossam Mohammed
Custodial workers: Walid Shebl, Mostafa Mohallel, Nasr El Saqa, Andil Ashour and Mohamed Khamees
Students: Ahmed Ezzat, SU vice president; Mohammed Hassan, student; Ahmed Alaa, SU president; and Marrie France, student
Security: Khaled Ibrahim, Ahmed Saad, Hemya Sayeed, Mohamed Saad, Ayman Sayed Aly and Ahmed El Sayed Ahmed
Faculty adviser: Sameh Naguib, adjunct faculty, SAPE

Demands and Responses

Desert Development Center/Campus Landscape

1-   “Meal allowance of LE 200”
The monthly meal allowance of LE 200 was included in the November 2010 pay scale revision with the understanding that no additional meal allowance would be considered.

2-    “Friday and Saturday off”
All workers at the DDC currently have Friday off. Those who work on Friday do so at their request. Otherwise, official working hours for Level 2 and 3 staff are full days Sunday through Thursday, and a half day on Saturday. As long as the required 43 hour working week is met, however, working hours can be adjusted to permit staff to have longer weekend breaks. In fact, non-irrigation staff are encouraged to work these 43 hours during the five-day period Sunday through Thursday. For irrigation staff, a rotation will be established to permit individual staff members to work five days a week while ensuring that the landscape is irrigated several days a week.

3-    “Change the uniforms”
Uniforms are ordered once a year, and the uniforms for 2010-2011 were ordered in June 2011. We are looking into the possibility of canceling the order for the half of the uniforms that have not yet been received so that we can consider alternative designs. A committee composed of managers and staff will be formed by the end of this month to deliberate on alternatives that may be available within the present budget allocation.

4-    “The switch of temporary hires to permanent full-time employees”
Due to the current hiring freeze at the University, the DDC is not able to move all workers to regular employee contracts. Moreover, it is typical of any operation of this size to rely on the use of non-permanent employees in a number of areas. All staff on a temporary basis are clearly informed of their provisional status at the University when they are hired. The DDC landscape unit has a number of vacant positions presently "frozen" due to budgetary constraints. When these positions are open for recruitment, seasonal workers with appropriate experience are invited to apply for the positions. When there are applicants of equal merit, an applicant with previous successful work experience at AUC will be given preference.

5-    “Replace the bus”
The University administration has agreed to include the landscape and irrigation staff bus within its AUC administered transportation service. The contract between the DDC and the present service provider will be cancelled with appropriate notice in the next two months, and the DDC workers will be provided transportation through the University’s contractors.

6-    “Minimum wage of LE 2,000”
All DDC workers receive, at a minimum no less than LE 1,180 as a base salary, which is the market rate for landscaping and gardening workers in New Cairo. AUC reviews its pay scale periodically and makes adjustments to reflect labor market changes.

1-    “Raise the level of wages from Level 2 to Level 4”
Security guards at AUC are spread across Levels 2 to 5. The determination of level is contingent upon years of service and performance. As of September 2011, the market salary for Level 2 security officers is LE 1,320 and the market salary for Level 4 security officers is LE 2,630. To be eligible for movement to Level 4 placement, security officers must have at least 10 years of experience. All security guards at AUC who are at Level 2 have been working for the University for less than five years, and can expect to progress in the levels as they accumulate experience at the University and good performance reviews.

2-    “Return of the additional 60 hours of overtime”
In the past overtime was often used not to compensate staff who worked exceptionally long or late hours but to reward good behavior (and it was withheld to punish bad behavior). We do not believe that it is healthy or safe for staff to routinely work 60 hours of actual overtime a month and hence we are moving gradually to ensure that overtime is paid for time actually worked, and is allocated fairly and safely. Therefore, this year we have moved the individual monthly overtime limit to 48 hours, instead of 60.

3-    “Provide risk allowance”
The job specifications and requirements are reflected in the placement of the job on the appropriate level on the pay scale. All security guards receive medical and life insurance. The University regularly evaluates the risk level for each job and the market rate in determining the appropriate level.

4-    “Shift to the technical level”
There are discrepancies in the benefits packages provided to staff at the same level which are the legacy of an older and now discarded system that categorized workers as Staff A or Staff B.  We are aware of this inequity and expect that the report recommending a mechanism to rectify it will be ready by November 1, 2011.

5-    “Shift security on the buses to permanent employees”
After the January 25th revolution, the University added security guards on buses as a temporary measure, which was deemed a necessary but additional unanticipated expense. All security guards on buses were brought on with the full understanding that they are temporary employees, and that their contracts would end.

6-    “Consideration of years of experience and sequence of degrees in the hiring process”
The University deeply appreciates all members of its security force, especially those with more than a decade of dedicated service. In light of this, the University reviewed the distribution of guards across levels. Seven cases were identified of guards on Level 3, who have worked at AUC for more than 10 years and should have been on Level 4. The University will move them to Level 4, effective September 2011. In addition, 20 security guards in Levels 4 and 5, who have been working at AUC for more than 10 years, were not receiving salaries consistent with their time and level, and they will receive increases to bring them to the market value for their level (which will be above their colleagues on the same level who have less experience). To fund these increases, the University will reallocate a portion of the overtime budget and will not fill vacancies in the security office.

7-    “Return of terminated security personnel”
No security guards have been terminated this year. Several contracts have not been renewed; a decision that may reflect either performance-based issues or changing operational needs of the University. The termination of an employee, on the other hand, requires an elaborate process and the approval of not only the direct supervisor, but also the area head.

8-    “The departure of Dr. Mahmoud Zouk”
The University does not discuss the employment of specific individuals.


1-    “LE 200 for meal allowance”
The monthly meal allowance of LE 200 was included in the November 2010 pay scale revision with the understanding that no additional meal allowance would be considered.

2-    “Take Friday and Saturday off”
All custodial staff currently take Friday off. In September of 2010, Saturday was a regular workday for all custodial staff. After negotiations with custodial workers last year, the University began in November 2010 providing all workers with one Saturday off per month. This means that workers have a five-day work week once a month. AUC is now prepared to arrange an additional five-day work week in each month, thereby moving half way toward giving all custodial staff two days off and a 35-hour work week. The second day off will not be a Saturday for all workers, but will be provided on a rotating schedule to ensure the University is able to maintain the required level of custodial service on Saturday. This will be achieved through the reallocation of resources in the housekeeping unit.

3-    “Appointment of casual hire workers”
The use of temporary employees is a common management method to cover fluctuations in University needs during peak periods. All staff on a temporary basis are clearly informed of their provisional status at the University when they are hired.


1-    “Removal of 9 percent tuition fee increase for 2011-2012”
Any continuing student not able to fund his or her tuition will be provided with assistance sufficient to permit him or her to complete his or her degree. This is thanks to the larger pool of financial aid, which is about $26 million, including a recent million dollar gift earmarked for this purpose. There are still ample funds available and all students requiring assistance should apply. As explained in earlier messages, the University is not able to cancel the increase.

2-    “A ceiling on tuition fees for continuing students”
A ceiling will not be placed on tuition fees for continuing students. Once again, however, the University will ensure that no student is prevented from continuing at AUC because of financial need. Payment plans will be introduced next semester that will allow our students and parents to select from a range of more flexible payment options.

3-    “Effective representation of students during the decision-making process in strategic decisions that impact the lives of all students”
The University currently has student representation in the University Senate, including on the Senate Budget Committee, but would strongly encourage more active participation on the part of students in the decision making process. The administration reiterates a standing offer to student representatives to contribute their creative problem-solving skills in helping to address the current budget deficit. The University’s 2012 budget will be reviewed in an open forum on September 20 and the associated documents placed on the Web site. Any and all suggestions on how the University can meet its deficit and enhance its services are welcome.

4-    “Take into account the general principles of human and employee rights in matters of personnel affairs”
The University subscribes fully to all principles of fairness and human dignity in all of its practices. Any situations where policies or practices do not reflect that belief should be identified and will be remedied. 

5-    “Development of educational services at the University in order to upgrade the status and name of AUC”
Provost Medhat Haroun recently sent an e-mail to the AUC community providing an overview of the current plan to further enhance the University’s academic programs. We encourage all students to read the e-mail overview and interested students may also request a copy of the plan from the provost’s office. All comments and suggestions are welcome.

6-    “Prevent any security interference in the political activities of students”
The University’s new freedom of expression policy expressly prohibits interference in the expression of any view, political or otherwise, by anyone as long as the regular operation of the University is not disturbed.

7-    “Do not hold students accountable for absence during the protest”
All members of the AUC community, including students, are accountable for their actions and the associated consequences. Students who elect to miss class do so of their own volition and fully knowing the associated consequences. It is not consistent with the mission of the University or its level of academic excellence to expect that the administration would interfere with academic policies regarding class attendance.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Egypt's Emergency Law

A rally was held on Friday, September 9th, in Tahrir Square. Termed "Friday of Returning to Course," the protesters took issue with the ongoing military trials of civilians which have plagued Egypt. ("Opposition Slams Key Political Laws," Al Ahram Weekly, September 8, 2011) Further, protesters expressed their dissatisfaction with the military rule of Egypt in general. Most of the protesters were secular activists and leftists. The MB boycotted the event. Some of those present included the Democratic Front, and Mohammed El Baradei. ("Egyptians Protest Against Military Rule," Al Jazeera, September 9, 2011.)

Perhaps the Islamists are not all bad. They are putting some muscle behind their efforts to expand the rights of Egyptians, and are willing to face down the SCAF on some key issues.

The emergency law has been extended in Egypt. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) had added new powers to the Emergency Law on Sunday, September 11, 2011. This action has been condemned by the Muslim Brotherhood ("MB"), their affiliate, the Freedom and Justice Party, and the Jama'a al Islamiya. ("Islamist Groups Condemn Expansion of Emergency Law," Al Masry Al Youm, September 12, 2011) The emergency law has been in force for the past 30 years in Egypt. Removing the Emergency Law was one of the key demands of the Jan 25th Revolution. ("Despite Revolution, Emergency Law Remains in Force," Al Masry Al Youm, July 17, 2011)

The SCAF said Sunday that it will use the Emergency Law to punish new infractions like blocking roads, publishing false information, and weapons possession. The Emergency Law allows wide powers of detention, and military trials. ("Egypt Said to Toughen Emergency Laws," Al Masry Al Youm, September 12, 2011)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reflections Upon September 11, 2011 from Cairo

Yesterday was September 11. It was the ten year anniversary of that fateful day. I am sure many others are more eloquent on this topic than I am, so I will keep my remarks brief.

Ten years ago on September 11, I had just started my doctorate at the Kennedy School of Government, at Harvard University. I was living in a very cute, if slightly remote beach house in a town called Nahant, outside of Boston. Some workers were doing remodeling repairs on the house. I was home for the day. We had the radio on. I heard the report on the radio. At first, we really thought it was a joke. It was just too difficult to believe that someone could have flown a plane into the twin towers.

We listened to the radio, and finally walked over to a friend's house, where we all sat glued to the television all day. I remember calling all my friends in New York, where I had gone to college, to see if they were safe.

I remember that we had economics class the next day, and the Professor, who was very good, was at a loss for words. I do not really know exactly how 9/11 affected me. However, it affected our family. My sister enlisted in the Army Reserve, and was sent to Guantanamo Bay. I opposed the Gulf War in 1990, and I opposed the one that took place after 9/11.  Although I did not support the war in Iraq, I thank our veterans for their loyal service to their country, and they deserve our respect and admiration.

Living in the Middle East now, I guess one thought that I have is that I wish the People of the Book and the Children of Abraham understood each other better. It goes without saying that my American students rarely know anything about Islam. However, now that I am teaching in Egypt, I realize that my Christian and Muslim students do not know much about each others' religion either.  I wish that Jews, Christians and Muslims could all educate themselves, and each other about their respective religions. Reading the Bible and the Quran carefully, and with an open mind, and a critical lens would be a great start.

Islam is not the problem. Extremism is the problem. There are as many denominations of Islam as there are of Christianity. The people who committed that atrocity were very far out of the mainstream of Islam, and were roundly condemned by religious leaders from their community.

I guess upon this anniversary, I would like to call for religious tolerance, and education. I also think the US should rethink its support for undemocratic regimes like those in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Bahrain. These governments incubate religious extremists, oppress women, suppress democracy, and encourage politically intolerant people, like the hijackers of 9/11. The US should carefully rethink its alliances with these authoritarian governments. 

Musical Interlude: Garden Party

At the beginning of the semester President Lisa Anderson had a garden party at the President's house. The President's house is located in Maadi, on Road 19. My taxi driver and my nanny and I dropped the children off at a friend's house. We then spent over half an hour trying to find the President's Residence. It is a beautiful villa, with an enormous gate, and spacious grounds. The party was for new faculty. I was invited because I did not get to attend the party last year. Tables and chairs were set up, like at a wedding. The chairs had beautiful cloth chair covers on them. The party was catered, and the food was really nice. There was a lot of seafood, and some tasty vermicelli. Most importantly, in my opinion, there was an open bar, with good wine. I made some new friends, like Professor Mohammed Al Masry and his wife Rania, and I saw some old friends, like Professor Kim Jackson. Anyway, I have not been able to get this song out of my head since then. Enjoy. ~WMB

Garden Party

- Artist: Rick Nelson
- peak Billboard position # 6 in 1972
- inspired by Rick's experience at a Madison Square Garden concert
- Words and Music by Rick Nelson

I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories and play our songs again
When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name
No one recognized me, I didn't look the same

But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself

People came from miles around, everyone was there
Yoko brought her walrus, there was magic in the air
'n' over in the corner, much to my surprise
Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan's shoes wearing his disguise


lott-in-dah-dah-dah, lot-in-dah-dah-dah

Played them all the old songs, thought that's why they came
No one heard the music, we didn't look the same
I said hello to "Mary Lou", she belongs to me
When I sang a song about a honky-tonk, it was time to leave


lot-dah-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah)

Someone opened up a closet door and out stepped Johnny B. Goode
Playing guitar like a-ringin' a bell and lookin' like he should
If you gotta play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck
But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a truck


lot-dah-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah)

'n' it's all right now, learned my lesson well
You see, ya can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Back to Campus: Egyptian Style

The semester has started. Classes are in full swing. I am teaching three classes this semester which feels like a lot. I am teaching a class in Principles of Public Administration, one on Governance, Stakeholders and Accountability, and a final management class that will tackle themes of urbanization and the environment. This semester should be challenging, but interesting.

The students are back on campus. There seem to me more of them. Perhaps that is because so many students pulled out during the Revolution. Another difference in Egyptian education is that there are far fewer private colleges than in the US. This also helps to keep attendance levels at public universities high. This is particularly the case because private universities such as American University in Cairo are incredibly expensive by Egyptian standards. Additionally, there are less opportunities for students to attend online college courses such as the ones on this site that offer accredited college degrees accredited college degrees for distance learning students.

There is going to be a student strike today at American University in Cairo to protest rising tuition. As a result, when I took the bus in this morning, all the gates were blocked. The bus had to go around the "Back 40" of the campus to drop us off. The strike starts at Assembly Hour, or in about forty minutes. We will see what it is like.

The students look similar too, but not identical too American college students. First of all, they wear more clothes. Many of the girls here do wear jeans, and tight ones at that, however, you will never see an exposed belly button, or even exposed shoulders. Oh, there is a lot of status to what you wear. We have a lot of Louis Vouitton and Coach bags in evidence, and many hijab that say Chanel or Gucci. We have no Nekabi, but many girls "cover" or wear hijab. Some of them will wear long sleeves, and high necks as well, which, it goes without saying, is hot.

It seems that all Egyptians smoke, and in fact, they smoke in the cafeteria. Not very appetizing in my opinion. In terms of styles, Egyptian male students love t-shirts. I saw one t-shirt that said fiscally Republican, socially Democrat, sexually liberated . . . . I have seen a t-shirt about Voltaire, and more than one about Jimmy Hendrix. On the ladies, long hair is preferred, and most young women wear their hair long. It is quite unusual to see short hair. Most girls have black or brown hair. Some of it is curly, some of it is straight, and some of it is in corkscrew curls. One occasionally sees a young lady with blonde or light colored hair, although that is the exception. The young men wear their hair short. They often have their hair with a peak in the middle, like a modified, mellow mohawk. Sometimes you will see a big 70 style picked out Afro, because many Egyptians are Africans, with hair to match. Occasionally you will see someone who we Black Americans call a "Redbone." Lots of freckles, and bright red hair.

For breakfast this morning I tried a traditional student breakfast of fuull and eggs, which is fava beans and a boiled egg in a pita. Very affordable, and pretty tasty. The fava beans are boiled until soft, and are a staple food in Egypt. 6 pounds or 1 dollar. I will have to try it again, and step away from my expat lifestyle.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fall back into politics

It appears that the SCAF plans to designate September 27, 2011 as the opening day for candidacy for the parliamentary election. Al Ahram reports that a law regulating electoral constituencies is likely to be announced as well, which will likely decrease the number of constituencies. Liberals and leftists dislike the law and have called for postponing elections, whereas the MBs and Salafis, as well as the Wafd, welcomed this news.

The lower house of parliament in Egypt is called the People's Assembly. According to Sarah Carr, writing in Al Masry Al Youm, Saad Eddin Ibrahim predicts that the Muslim Brotherhood will be the largest bloc in parliament, but will not have a majority.

There may be some large protests on September 9th calling for a civil state, an end to military trials, and protection of basic freedoms. The National Association for Change has called for a protest this Friday to rescue the Revolution. It calls for purging the police apparatus and ending thuggery, removing corrupt figures from government, ending military trials of civilians, and supporting judicial independence.

Mohammed El Baradei has called for a road map for the current transitional period of military rule in Egypt. Al Masry Al Youm reports that the Egyptian opposition is concerned about the Interim Constitution. The SCAF believes that it ensures a smooth transfer of power. The opposition things that it is not a sufficient guarantee for a handover of power to a civilian government, because it does not specify dates for elections.  I tend to side with the opposition, because the SCAF rules by decree, and sets dates as it suits them.

Blogger Mikel Nabil Sanad has been imprisoned for "insulting the armed forces" since April. Reporters Without Borders have called for his release.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Is Libya Free Yet?

Photo Credit: AFP. Libyan rebels fight off Qadaffi.


Tripoli seems to be controlled by the rebels, but we still have not found Qadaffi. Hard to know what is going on.

According to the New York Times, "Aug. 31, 2011 Rebel fighters claimed to have cornered Colonel Qaddafi the desert town of Bani Walid, about 150 miles from Tripoli. Rebel leaders confirmed reports that a Qaddafi son, Saadi el-Qaddafi, had offered to negotiate a coalition government, but that the rebels rejected that out of hand. Another Qaddafi son, Khamis, was reported killed."

Also according to the NYT, The CIA was apparently very cozy with the Libyan intelligence unit. Charmingly, the American government would send terrorism suspects to Libya for questioning, despite the country's reputation for torture. This was part of the US rendition program.  Nice to know what the US government is spending my taxpayer money on . . .. James Bond's friends at the British MI-6 also were pretty lovey dovey with the Libyans, and the Americans even assisted Qadaffi with speechwriting. Files Note Close CIA Ties to Qadaffi Spy Unit . 

Egypt is prepared to help Libya as much as it can, according to Al Masry Al Youm. Libyans (which ones?) have reportedly asked Egypt's assistance in the fields of education, health and training. Further, Egypt's government (such as it is, or is not) says that Egyptian companies have a chance to share in Egypt's reconstruction.(Of course, everyone wants to get their hands on those tasty Libyan oil fields).

Also according to Al Masry Al Youm, as many as 100,000 have fled Libya streaming into Egypt and Tunisia, and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. Refugees include Tunisians, Libyans, Chinese, Asians. There are almost certainly some Black Africans in there somewhere, but it was not in the news report I read.

According to Democracy Now, Col. Qadaffi's main compound has been captured by the rebels, however, the whereabouts of the new "desert fox" are unknown. At least he is keeping them guessing. I was soooo dissapointed by Saddam Hussein cowering in a pit. Keep the romance alive, Muammar! Britain may unfreeze Libya's assets to assist the National Transitional Council. Professor Gilbert Achar of SOAS says no one really knows who the Libyan rebels are. 

Human Rights Watch has asked that the Libya Contact Group put human rights at the top of the agenda in discussions with Libya's National Transitional Council. HRW also has asked that all political, ethnic and cultural groups should be included in building the new Libyan state. HRW: Put Rights at Top of Agenda 

Well, Ramadan is over folks. It is on.. . .


Friday, September 2, 2011

The End of Eid

Dear readers

I hope you had a nice Eid. And, if you are Jewish, Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner. Christians will have to wait a while for our next religious holiday!

So, Ramadan is hard, really hard. Fasting from food is doable if difficult, but not drinking anything is nearly impossible, at least for me. However, millions of Muslims world wide do it successfully. I find it very difficult to get up before the first prayer to eat the Suhoor, so I usually sleep through it. I admire the discipline which lies behind Ramadan, and I like the idea of remembering the hungry, so relevant this year as the famine in the Horn of Africa wears on. It has been very very hot in Egypt lately, which makes it even more difficult to fast.

Ramadan ended this week. Eid Kareem! Where I live, in El Rehab City, the Mosque near me spread out persian rugs, and beautiful tapestries to create extra room for people to pray. Ramadan brings out unusually large crowds for prayer. In the evening, people break fast with dates and milk. Some neighborhoods share candy, or have food outside. Tragically, mine was not one of them.

In my neighborhood, people decorated their porches and trees with flashing lights of different colors. People shot of fireworks for eid, and many people had parties to celebrate the breaking of the fast. People stay up late at night, and kids play until midnight.  Last night, some boys were still busy with the firecrackers. I guess it is hard to let go of the fun.

I celebrated Eid ul fitr with my Sudanese colleague, Hamid Ali and his family. They are from Darfur. My children and my nanny,Feba, who is from South Sudan, went to Hamid's house on Tuesday. The end of Ramadan is determined astronomically and it ended on about August 30, 2011 this year. Apparently, there has been some controversy this year, as some say Saturn was seen, not the moon, and Eid did not really end on August 30th.

At my colleague's house, there were about 40 to 50 Darfuris present. I love the women's dress. I think I could wear it. They have colorful, very light cotton cloths which they tie around their shoulder and wrap around them, creating a built in, but very relaxed hijab. Some wear a separate piece of chiffon as hijab. I wore one to fit in, but my five year old daughter told me I looked weird. Then she tried one on herself.

We ate tripe carefully cleaned and chopped and mixed with onions. I think that they had soaked the tripe with salt to clean it, because it had no smell left. Of course, Mexicans love tripe. They call it Mondongo. My husband loves tripe. In Kenya, we call it Matumbo, which means stomach, in Swahili. The tripe is cleaned overnight, and then boiled. It is then chopped into small pieces. It was mixed with pieces of chopped stewed sheep meat, and some strange element of the sheep anatomy that I am not familiar with, and then the whole thing tossed with raw onions. I am not a fan, but this version was okay, and fairly neutral. We had a nice salad of tomatoes, cucumber and lemon juice. We also had some tasty stewed sheep which was served on a bed of torn pita, with stew poured over it, and red pepper on the side.

The men sat in the living room. Most had on white galabeya and white round turbans on their heads. Some had more (to my eyes) African looking white long tunics with white long pants underneath. The women sat in a different room together and discussed jealousy and children. I did not understand that much due to my poor Arabic, but my nanny translated. The house was full of children, and they had a grand time running around and screaming. When we women were not discussing ladies matters, we were in the kitchen cooking. When the tripe was prepared, there was a moment of gender mixing, as some men came in to clean and cut the tripe and help prepare it.

Anyway, as today is the last day of Eid, we can expect politics in the region to really pick up. WMB