Uncle Sam, caging former leaders and interests

CAGED: Egypt former President Mohammed Morsi

CAGED: Egypt former President Mohammed Morsi

The caging of political leaders while they appear before court in Egypt is a new phenomenon, which seems to have started with former president Hosni Mubarak. Recently, while appearing before court another former president Mohamed Morsi was also in a cage.

It is not clearly understood whether the current regime in the vast North Africa state has lost respect for its former leaders, but what is worrying is that this trend might catch up with other countries, with the regimes there thinking it is ‘fashionable’ and a befitting treatment for former leaders who have fallen out of grace.

CAGED:Morsi's predecessor Hosni Mubarak

CAGED:Morsi’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak

Nonetheless, in Africa such treatment is indicative of situations where there is no peaceful transfer of power; where you have one presumptuous dictator replacing another.

Mohammed Morsi needs no introduction; he is the first Egyptian president elected through universal adult suffrage in modern day Egypt, a country that had not known a non-military head of state in the last fifty years.

Indeed, several questions will be asked about Morsi; his election and the one-year presidency; just how he out competed his opponents to emerge victorious in that controversial election in 2012? Did he rig the elections? Was he popular? Were the Egyptian voters tired of military strongmen and thus casting protest votes against the army? All these questions need answers.

But today, Morsi, an adherent of the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed Islamic organization comprising radicals, finds himself in a tricky position; he is caged while appearing in court and has been sentenced to death for inciting rioters who broke out of prisons across the country in an uprising in 2011.

He has also been found guilty of leaking state secrets and inciting violence. There is also a claim that the former president tinkered with the Constitution, and gave himself arbitrary powers. But in Africa this is not new, as recent events in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) indicate.

Morsi’s death sentence has drawn wide criticism from various human rights activists and organizations, among them Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The US has also criticized the move.

But the criticism has met with an equally strong recalcitrance, with the Egyptian foreign affairs ministry urging critics to back off Egypt’s internal matters.

But the biggest threat to the decision is the Muslim Brotherhood, which has threatened to unleash terror across the world should the regime carry through with the death sentence.

For one conversant with the rising tide of Islamic radicalism currently sweeping across the world, threats by Muslim extremists and fundamentalists should never be taken for granted.

These men and women are determined, have caused mayhem before and, over the last 30 years there has been a lot of bloodletting carried out by the Mujahideen, Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, Abu Sayaf, the Salafists, the Allied Democratic Forces, the Muslim Brotherhood, and most recently, the ISIS in Iraq and in parts of Syria.

 

All these groups are notorious, and no one wants a motley collection of them collaborating, it gets scary. So, Morsi’s death sentence seems to be inclined to sending out a strong signal that the current regime in Egypt will not tolerate fundamentalism.

The US has in many ways been a victim of terror or terror-related crimes carried out by fundamentalists, and will not sit back and watch as things go awry in Egypt, a strong ally in the war against fundamentalism.

It is important to note that Egypt is central to peace in the Middle East. Given this pole position that included brokering a Middle East peace deal with Israel and its hostile Arab neighbours, Egypt gets billions of dollars in form of military aid from the United States.

Egypt gets about $1.5 billion from the US every year and although Morsi was ousted in a clear military coup, the US refrained from using that term as it would have necessitated to completely cut aid to the North African state per the US constitution. Clearly security interests trumped democracy in this case.

Two years ago the US suspended a portion of military aid to the country, following the ouster of Morsi by the military under General Al Fattah Al Sisi, the current president, and the crackdown on Muslim brotherhood supporters and leaders. However, it seems the suspension was not sustainable and just two months ago the US resumed full military aid to Egypt, citing national security interests.

It is imperative to note that Egypt and Israel are the trickiest beneficiaries of US military assistance, so the argument by the US then regarding the suspension of some aid was that democracy in the North African state had come under attack, necessitating punitive action to realign democratic gains that had been registered after Hosni Mubarak had been overthrown. If democracy was under attack and indeed it was, why then not use the term “Coup”? And why not suspend all aid? Answer? Interests!