The spectre of “morsi-justice”: a nightmare for presidents, but is it a reason for optimism for the masses?

Ever revolutionary Egypt:

Five thousand years ago, the chain of independent city-states lining the River Nile united to form one long, thin country ruled by one king titled a pharaoh. Almost instantly a highly distinctive culture developed.

For almost 30 centuries Egypt remained the foremost nation in the Mediterranean world. Then, in 332 BC, the arrival of Alexander the Great heralded the end of the Egyptian way of life.

Some 2,000 years on, however, the ancient hieroglyphs have been decoded and Egyptology – the study of ancient Egypt – is booming.

In an era when Latin and ancient Greek are rapidly vanishing from the school curriculum, more and more people are taking to reading hieroglyphs in their spare time.

On top of this, the Egyptian galleries of museums are packed with visitors, while galleries dedicated to other ancient cultures remain empty.

From museum galleries, Egypt in headlines:

Attracting even more attention than the Egyptian galleries in museums and making the headlines, are the socio-political developments or to be more precise the upheavals now endemic in Egypt.

According to the BBC, the key turbulent events of recent times unfolded as below:

  • 11 February 2011 – Hosni Mubarak resigned as president after two weeks of massive street protests and violent clashes.
  • January 2012 – Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party won parliamentary elections with almost half of the vote.
  • June 2012 – Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first freely elected president.
  • 22 November 2012 – Mr Morsi issued a controversial decree granting himself extensive powers – after angry protests, he eventually rescinded most of it.
  • 3 July 2013 – The army suspended the constitution, removing Mr Morsi from power.

Is Morse’s removal a coup d’état or hiccup?

morsi-ousted-as-egyptian-army-stages-coupMohamed El-Baradei is now the favourite to lead a transitional government in Egypt after Morsi’s removal. Mr El-Baradei, 71, the former head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog and Nobel Peace laureate , is coordinator of the main alliance of liberal and left-wing parties and youth groups, known as the National Salvation Front an organization created by Mr Morsi’s ill-advised granting to himself  of sweeping powers in a constitutional declaration.

Speaking to the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, Mr El Baradei has defended the army’s intervention.

The other option was civil war,” he said. “We were between a rock and a hard place.”

He described the manner of Mr Morsi’s removal as “a hiccup”.

Unfortunately we had to go through this hiccup, but I am very determined that hopefully we’ll get it right,” he said.

In agreement with Mr El-Baradei is Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat:

Muhammad Morsi and his clique miserably failed in reading the Egyptian political scene realistically and accurately… Morsi, the ruler of the largest Arab country, had a chance for historical greatness. He came to power through elections and democracy, but he never ruled the way he came to power.”

A dilemma of “Obamic” Proportions:

Official photographic portrait of US President...
US President Barack Obama

The fall of fundamentalism is under normal circumstances, cause for celebration and merry-making in Washington. However, this has not been the case with the fall of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. This has been met with a guarded reaction.

President Barack Obama, in his statement on the Egyptian crisis said he’s “deeply concerned” by the action of the military in removing President Morsi and suspending the constitution. But he fell short of condemnation or urging that Mr Morsi should be restored to power.

Bottom line is: Morsi’s departure from the scene is good riddance, with a “but”.

Obama has however urges the Egyptian armed forces to move “quickly and responsibly” to return “full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible”.

The long and short of it is that while the Obama administration is not tremendously upset by what has happened; it is worried that this could lead to a chaotic, undemocratic and violent future and worse, could easily spill over like the Arab Spring of 2011 did.

While Washington had been getting increasingly frustrated by Mr Morsi, accusing him of not listening or responding to the voices of the people; President Obama (and the US) do not want to be seen backing what looks, to many, like a military coup.

Fact is: a coup is a coup

Egyptian President Mursi Visits BerlinWhatever you call it,” sums up BBC’s North America Editor, Mark Mardell  “a freely elected politician has been removed from power for ignoring people’s demands. If it was a general rule, none of them would be safe, including Mr Obama.”

Echoing the same sentiment is Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic correspondent:

A democratically elected president has certainly been removed from office by the military and that by anyone’s definition sounds like a coup.”

Around the world – a cocktail of reactions:

The most interesting reaction, in my opinion, has come from the most unlikely quarters, the Hamas Movement:

The [Hamas] movement does not interfere in Egyptian affairs [and has] no comment on the Egyptian army’s decision to isolate President Morsi.”

Turkey, which has had over the course of its history more than a fair share of military interventions, has typically condemned the coup:

It is unacceptable for a government, which has come to power through democratic elections, to be toppled through illicit means and, even more, a military coup,” in a statement attributed to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Coming closer home Kenya says:

Suffice it to say that the AU has a very clear position on coups d’état. Secondly, it did have an elected government elected through a due democratic process so what is happening currently in Egypt is indeed a matter of grave concern, not just to us in Africa but should be a matter of grave concern to any true believer of a democratic process.”

This is President Uhuru Kenyatta – the freshman of the prestigious AU’s big boys (+2 women) Club, more or less speaking for his peers.

The stand of the African Union (AU)

From a Reuters report: The African Union (AU) on Friday suspended Egypt from all its activities after the Egyptian military overthrew the elected president, Mohamed Mursi, a senior AU official said.

Suspension is the AU’s usual response to any interruption of constitutional rule by a member state.

As mandated by the relevant AU instruments, the African Union Peace and Security Council decides to suspend the participation of Egypt in AU activities until the restoration of constitutional order,” Admore Kambudzi, Secretary of the Peace and Security Council, is reported to have said after a meeting.

Who let the genie out?

It is fear of the spill over nature of such developments that Africa Union’s response is to quickly suspend Egypt because for whatever reason, ignoring people’s demands is a philosophy most African leaders observe with nothing short of religious conviction.

And more tellingly, with the notable exception of Botswana, they rarely criticise each other.

For the typical African leader, being elected into office is synonymous with being granted a licence to fulfil all their egoistic bizarre cravings with impunity till their constitutional term of office expires – or more likely until they drop dead or anoint a successor guaranteed to maintain the same culture.

But the fact is: citizens across the world and especially in Africa, as demonstrated by Egyptians, are now fed up. If an elected government chooses to ignore popular concerns, and in fact tampers (or attempts to tamper) with the constitution to concentrate power in itself, why should such a government claim legitimacy under the same constitution they are willing to tweak at will?

The AU of course cannot appreciate this line of thought because, somehow, citizens are supposed to just sit and clap hands as constitutions are abused, and as corruption, nepotism and cronyism are institutionalised because the “freely elected leaders” have a carte blanche to govern with impunity until they are elected out of office or removed by natural forces.

It is a fact that apart from the Republic of South Africa, there is nowhere in Africa a constitution that provides a practical way for citizens to remove a government that has lost the moral mandate and legitimacy to govern.

Is this by accident of by design? I will leave this up to you. Suffice to say when one raises this issue; the ball is thrown into the citizens’ court – as if citizens living under their regimes have the power to change anything!

Well, the Egyptians have found the formula and sadly, it is fast turning into a bloody affair.

The violence notwithstanding, the genie is out. And why shouldn’t Africa’s leaders be wary of such coups or hiccups as per Mohamed El-Baradei terminology when they deem electoral victory as an accolade of infallibility?

The spectre of “morsi-justice” looms over narcissistic African Leaders:

Fortunately for the people of Africa, from the banks of the River Nile the spectre of “morsi-justice” has emerged.

It represents a novel and irresistible brand of people power which Africa’s leaders must either learn to co-exist with or be “morsi-justiced” out of office, earlier than scheduled.

As I sign off, I can feel the shudders going down the spines of most African presidents. My final word to them is a paraphrased address to United Nations General Assembly on October 6, 1963 by Emperor Haile Selassie:

Until the philosophy which holds African leaders superior and their people inferior, is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; until there is no longer any first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all, without regard to clan, family ties, tribe or religion; Africa will see more and more leaders or governments being  “morsi-justiced” long before their constitutional term run their course.

When this transpires, they should not blame anyone but themselves and their addiction to unchecked power.

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