News / Middle East

Egypt Reshuffle Puts New Defense Chief, Vice President in Spotlight

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi swears in newly-appointed Minister of Defense, Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012.Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi swears in newly-appointed Minister of Defense, Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012.
x
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi swears in newly-appointed Minister of Defense, Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi swears in newly-appointed Minister of Defense, Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's surprise Sunday reshuffle of senior government positions has put the spotlight on two officials who were little known outside of Egypt: his new defense minister and new vice president. 
 
Defense Minister General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi previously served as Egypt's military intelligence chief in the military council that took power after the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak in a February 2011 uprising. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF, transferred executive powers to President Morsi in June. 
 
As a SCAF member, Sissi's only noteworthy public statements came in a discussion with London-based rights group Amnesty International a year before. In the discussion, he acknowledged that Egyptian military personnel had carried out virginity tests on female activists detained in anti-SCAF protests, tests that Amnesty had criticized as a human rights abuse. 
 
Virginity Test Admission
 
Sissi said the virginity tests were designed to protect the military from possible allegations of rape, but he also pledged the measures would not be repeated and called for a change in the culture of the security forces. 
 
The virginity test revelations embarrassed SCAF, a body whose leaders included aging generals such as 76-year old Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, whom the 58-year old Sissi replaced. 
 
Some Egyptian commentators said SCAF's generation gap was a source of division, enabling Morsi to side with younger generals such as Sissi and push out older members who stripped the president of many powers before he took office in June. 
 
The depth of Sissi's relationship with Morsi is unclear. 
 
Brotherhood Sympathies?
 
A prominent Egyptian talk show host and SCAF supporter, Tawfiq Okasha, recently accused Sissi of being a closet member of the Islamist president's Muslim Brotherhood movement. SCAF denied the claim in a statement on its Facebook page. The Egyptian military bars its personnel from joining the group. 
 
Sissi also has ties to the United States. The Obama administration said Monday that it "knows" the new defense minister and looks forward to a strong partnership with him. 
 
Vice President Mahmoud Mekki also is a newcomer to high office, filling a post that was vacant for decades until Mubarak gave it to Omar Suleiman in the days before his ouster. Previously, Mekki served as deputy head of Egypt's Court of Cassation, or appeal. 
 
Fighting Judicial Interference
 
As a judge in the Mubarak era, Mekki became a prominent advocate for judicial independence from government interference. 
 
In 2005, Mekki accused some judicial officials of rigging Mubarak's 2005 re-election, prompting authorities to put him on trial for slander. He was acquitted of wrongdoing the following year. 
 
During Mekki's trial, members of the then-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement protested in support of him. Some opposition members urged Mekki to challenge Mubarak at the polls, but he declined. 
 
The new vice president's political affiliation is not known. But, he is a brother of Morsi's justice minister Ahmed Mekki - a family connection that has some Egyptians concerned about a potential conflict of interest. 
 

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: maliabadi from: new york
August 14, 2012 9:00 AM
Check out Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman's report today from the recent leadership shakeup in Egypt. Their Cairo-based correspondent, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, gives a detailed report and trustworthy analysis of the changes and overall political situation. Watch at http://www.democracynow.org/

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs