I remember telling a group of friends in May last year that the people of Egypt had been left between a rock and a hard place, when it emerged they had to make a choice between Military fascist Ahmed Shafiq, and Islamic fascist Mohammed Morsi for president in the second round of voting after the fall of the Hosni Mubarak regime. I felt they had been left with “two evils” to choose from, as far as what the future holds for that country is concerned, for the following reasons.
Morsi was candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. The Brotherhood is Egypt’s largest Islamic organization, with a slogan; “Islam is the solution”, and the objective of creating a country ruled by Islamic law. Despite all the assurances to the contrary, I was afraid that if Morsi won the polls, we would have “a new Saudi Arabia” on our hands in Africa; where religious tyranny would replace what is supposed to be the democratic state we are dreaming off, post Hosni Mubarak. I was scared that if the Muslim Brotherhood rose to power, they would end up creating a state where gays are hanged, women are lashed on the streets for wearing trousers, females are banned from leadership positions, and Islamic religious teachings are made compulsory in schools. I was afraid there would be an imposition of a strict application of the Sharia law in the governance of that country, and was weary the Arab spring may soon create a nation where Coptic Christians would have to begin worshiping in secret places or face execution. This is not what the Egyptian people revolted for. As a liberal and a firm believer in democracy as the unlocking key for the stability and development of any nation, I felt a Morsi led Egypt would lay the foundation for a dreadful future all Egyptians would regret helping create for the rest of their lives.
The alternative was the choice of retired Commander of the Egyptian Air Forces, Ahmed Shafiq for president. This was an obvious better choice than Morsi when you look at it from a distance, but upon close observation, it couldn’t get any worse. Voting Shafiq as President would have been an exercise in democratizing military rule in Egypt. We are all grateful to the Egyptian Armed Forces for the role they played in toppling the Mubarak administration, and for filling in as holders of political power in those most difficult times, hence avoiding a leadership vacuum. But, the signal from that highly powerful military that they were unwilling to fully let go of political power after the election, was future threatening for Egypt. Their decision to dissolve parliament, make themselves the sole body to approve the new constitution, among others, gave the signal they desperately wanted to have a seat at the table where governance decisions are taken, instead of returning to the barracks where they truly belong. They wanted to stay politically relevant, even after they hand over power to a democratically elected leader.
It is a fact that in any nation, the Armed Forces is the most powerful group of professionals. But where civilian authority is not allowed to exercise tight control over military might, impunity grows. By virtue of their sheer power, allowing the military too much operating space in a country leads to the creation of a rogue state that threatens sub regional and world peace. That is what we are seeing in North Korea which has a “military first” principle that says their interest must be prioritized ahead of all other professionals, although they have a civilian leader. Civilian political authority must always subdue military power, and clearly, the reverse is what the Supreme Military Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces wanted to create in that country. The signal from them was clear. Anyone who needed political power had to take it from them by force because they were not ready to relinquish all the authority they had seized.
So Egypt, post elections, needed a strong leader with a powerful clout, who would be able to stand up to the military, take power from them by force, and send them back to the barracks. Shafiq, being one of their own, was clearly not the candidate for such a job. On the other hand, I felt Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood had been preparing all their life for a moment as this. This is the only Civil Society Organization that had a paramilitary wing, which engaged in a campaign of bombings and assassinations in the fight against British colonial rule, apart from their arson attacks on entertainment centers, and assassination of political leaders. They have survived what has been the toughest crackdown on any single organization in the history of Africa, enduring the bans, as well as imprisonment and torture of leaders. And here they are now, in the fore front of power struggle, as Egypt prepared to open the door to a democratic future. I felt these guys knew exactly how to take the battle to the army; they know all the guerilla tactics to be able to fight them both on the streets and in the courts.
After considering all of these factors, I felt a vote for the Muslim Brotherhood would be the “lesser of the two evils.” And I was happy Morsi won the polls. But one year on, I am so disappointed to see how the Muslim Brotherhood has let Egyptians down. Not because Mohammed Morsi failed to pull breaks on the slide down the path of no return of the Egyptian economy, but because he has failed to save that country from the tyranny of power drunk military generals. He has allowed the military to have their way once again, with very little resistance from him and his Brotherhood guys. I am disappointed because we all knew the military would soon get this hostile with any democratically elected leader who does not behave as their puppet. So why didn’t they prepare for this up until now? Why did the Muslim Brotherhood have to look on for the military to steal the mandate the people handed to them, and it had to take ordinary Egyptians who love their country to get onto the street in a crusade for the restoration of democracy, to the extent that more than a thousand of them have to be killed.
Morsi may have made his own mistakes with the attempts he made to seize power from the judiciary and other actions of his which we saw him reverse at certain points in time. But I think it is completely unacceptable for the military to unnecessarily seize power from a one year old democratically elected leader, on the claim that protestors continue to pour out onto the streets agitating against his presidency. After all, the young democratic system was already cutting him down to size, with the Egyptian Bar Association leading the charge using protests and boycotts. And the wicked military should have been stopped from poking their noses where it doesn’t belong.
I am of the opinion that what the military did, by overthrowing Egypt’s first democratically elected president was high treason which should not be allowed to stand, no matter the good intentions. Almost all Egyptians were relieved the day the Mubarak regime fell, and Egypt was put on a long road to recovery the day Morsi won the election. But what the military did on 3rd July 2013 was a tragedy that has re-directed the path to a better future Egyptians voted for, to a chaotic tomorrow.
With Morsi under arrest, the Muslim Brotherhood officially dissolved by the Egyptian Parliament, the protest for the restoration of the mandate of the people ongoing, and the military continuing their killing campaign on the streets, we can’t be sure how this would end. But we pray that by the time this path to national destruction the military has set in motion runs its full course, there would still be something worthwhile left of Egypt to be proud of.
May God bless the Egyptian people.
Joseph Opoku Gakpo / www.josephopokugakpo.wordpress.com