Monday, March 27, 2017

The Ides of March

         Although there has been no shortage of depressing news with regards to politics in 2017, the release of the modern pharaoh  Hosni Mubarak on March 13 is some of the worst, in my view. Al Ahram put it better than I could have, noting 

"The former autocrat ruled Egypt from 1981 until a popular uprising ousted him on 11 February 2011."

In a somewhat incredulous statement, Mubarak's lawyer Farid al Deeb claims that his client owns no money or property outside of Egypt, and is now borrowing American President Donald Trump's phrase of "false news" in defense of his client. Meanwhile, amidst these denials, a Swiss bank states that they have frozen close to 500 million in Egyptian assets linked to the Mubarak family. 

          In 2012, relatively free elections ushered into power the Islamist leader, Mohammed Morsi’s administration, which was short lived as his leadership was deposed by General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in 2013.  Since then, the Sisi administration has drafted draconian laws that prevented illegal protests, which was a strategic law to prevent any dissenting views hence increased the number of political arrests. The police made more recent arrests of Muslim Brotherhood militia personnel who made several attacks on the police and army in Cairo through exchange of fire leading to the death of a civilian. In good news, the Egyptian Supreme Court has declared portions of the controversial protest law unconstitutional

            The New York Times piece on the prominent youth leader (Ahmed Maher) during the 2011 uprising, explains how Egyptian judges used draconian laws to find him guilty of illegal demonstration and ‘thuggery.'  Maher was sentenced to three years in the Tora Prison, which is a notorious complex housing political prisoners and criminals. Maher is still monitored closely by the police because the government views his influence over social media as "a terroristic threat". As a result, he spends 12 out of 24 hours of each day with the police to ensure that he is not inciting any dissenting views to topple the new administration as well. 

         France has been eyeing Egypt as a strategic partner in to become a major military force in the region. I thought Egypt was already a huge military force in the region. Egypt has long been an ally of USA and receives over a billion a year in military aid from the US.  

Indeed, the US provided $6.5 billion in military assistance to Cairo between 2011 and 2015.  As a result, President Trump is expected to visit Egypt from April 1 to 4 as a follow-up of their 23 January 2017 phone conversation to discuss ways to increase bi-lateral relations. Let's hope they do not trade notes on how to crush dissent . . . .


Huge thanks to my wonderful graduate assistant Shem Ngwira in helping me put together this piece.