Abdul Fattah el Sisi: Egypt's Military Chief and Opposition Aren't Heroes


In just over a year, Egypt’s democracy has become shambles. Thousands if not millions protested in the legendary Tahrir Square in Cairo, denouncing the (now former) president, Mohammed Morsi. When the 48-hour deadline set by the Army expired yesterday, the boots and khakhi parade took over the state TV station and soon enough, military chief Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi announced the overthrow of the president, with jubilant scenes in Cairo shown all around the world.

In the past year, the former president’s previous decisions were undoubtedly controversial, for which he has been rightly criticized. A democracy, without critique, can never be fruitful. Nevertheless, Morsi has only been at the helm of Egypt’s most powerful office for about a year and to blame him for all of the country’s woes is inaccurate. The impatience and downright arrogance of the opposition, has turned out to be detrimental as well, and they are arguably guilty of misleading their supporters into a coup (conducted by the very force they successfully resisted for the past years), which will serve only as a bitter reminder in the future.

Opposition parties have accused Morsi of being a divisive and a power-hungry head of state, incapable of compromise. In November last year, Morsi declared in an unceremonious move that any of his actions while the Constituent Assembly was drafting the constitution would not face the wrath of the law. Prominent Egyptian opposition leader and former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohammed El-Baradei slammed the move. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International criticized the decision as well. Under immense pressure, Morsi took back the unpopular decision. Protest had spilled into the streets with detrimental effect, where offices of the Muslim Brotherhood were attacked and hordes of civilians were injured in brutal confrontations with the police. 

The crisis didn’t end there. After the constitution was drafted, opposition leaders and sympathizers were up in arms again, charging the president with an inhumane charter that did not represent the Egyptian people at large, favoring the Islamist parties unequivocally. El-Baradei was quoted saying to a local TV station that “I am saddened to see this come out while Egypt is so divided”.

While these actions are a direct violation of the democratic spirit in which the 2011 uprising engulfed the Arab world, Morsi’s opponents have been equally deceitful in their attempts to claim the mantle of the legendary Tahrir square protests which ended decades of military rule. In a recent article in Al Jazeera, professor Mohammed Elmasry of the American University of Cairo condemned El-Baradei for helping to worsen the political upheaval in the last 12 months. He accuses Baradei of being unwilling to be a significant part of the democratic process, writing, “Only 35% percent of cabinet ministers and governors hail from the Muslim Brotherhood, and that figure would be significantly lower if El-Baradei's opposition hadn't systematically rejected participation in government”

In similar fashion, Elmasry accuses Baradei of continuing to decry any attempt made by the government to hold a national dialogue. In early December 2012, the former IAEA chief Baradei announced the need for reconciliation, only to retract the offer after Morsi had accpeted the gesture. Later in the month, another dialogue session was held to discuss the draft constitution, which Baradei decided was not worth his time. Other leaders such as former Arab league chief Amir Moussa also boycotted any proceedings with the Morsi government.

The armed forces were never a fan of the former president. They felt the country's new democratic framework had been the malicious demand of the people in 2011 that had ousted the Mubarak regime and undermined the military's authority.

Their detestation of any elected government was obvious from the get-go. Morsi had undoubtedly contributed to their anger when he had forced Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces Mohamed Hussein Tantawi to resign last year, and made several changes at the top of the military institution. Today, they have relieved themselves of their earlier embarrassments by once again being the kingmakers of a new government.

The future of the Egyptian society remains uncertain. The Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to sit idle while a witch-hunt is conducted against its workers. While Morsi is rightly to be blamed for an unsatisfactory performance, the opposition leaders do not represent the will or the passion that the Egyptian people deserve. As I pray that further hostilities are resolved, it is not without reason that many suspect a shadow of earlier tribulations may continue to linger.

The pundit can be reached on Twitter @UsaidMuneeb16.