News / Africa

Protests Challenge Egypt's Leadership

Protests Challenge Egypt's Leadershipi
X
February 01, 2013 12:07 AM
Egypt's government continues to face violent street protests, calling into question the ability of the nation's first democratically-elected president to keep his country united. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more from Cairo.
Elizabeth Arrott
These are chaotic days for Egypt, which recently marked two years since a revolution brought one system to an end. But the new one - a government dominated by Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood - is being met with fierce resistance.

In Port Said and cities across Egypt, anti-government forces are calling for secession. President Mohamed Morsi imposed a state of emergency in some areas of unrest, while the army chief warned the state could collapse.

Analyst Mustafa el Labbad said the Brotherhood, which operated for decades underground, was given a chance at democracy and has overreached.

"[The] Muslim Brotherhood, after 84 years, is willing to take over not only the political system but the whole Egyptian state," said Labbad, director of the Cairo-based Al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies. "They're geared to exclude others and to take everything.”

  • Pro and anti-government protesters throw stones during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, January 30, 2013.
  • Egyptian riot police arrest a man during clashes with protesters near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, January 30, 2013.
  • Protesters celebrate the capture of a state security armored vehicle that demonstrators commandeered during clashes with security forces and brought to nearby Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, January 28, 2013.
  • Protesters use camera phones to capture a burning state security armored vehicle that demonstrators commandeered, brought to Tahrir Square and set alight, Cairo, Egypt, January 28, 2013.
  • Egyptian riot police clash with protesters, not seen, near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, January 27, 2013.
  • Egyptians carry the coffin of a man killed protests a day earlier in Port Said, Egypt, January 27, 2013.
  • Smoke rises after Egyptian protesters clash with police, unseen, in Port Said, Egypt, January 27, 2013.
  • A riot police officer gestures during clashes with protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi throwing stones at him near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, January 25, 2013.
  • A protester opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi throws a tear gas canister, earlier thrown by riot police near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, January 25, 2013.
  • Protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi throw stones towards riot police during clashes near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, January 25, 2013.

But government supporters say that characterization is unfair.

Amr Darrag, a senior official with the Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, said some are portraying the current unrest as a confrontation between the Brotherhood and everyone else.

"It's not like that," he said. "If it was, this would have meant that the rest of the Egyptian people are thugs and use violence, which is not the case.”

Darrag blames the current violence on a small number of “violent criminals” who he said are hurting all Egyptians by burning public property and scaring away foreign investors and tourists.

Discontent runs deep

Opposition leaders say discontent is much wider, and point to the many peaceful protests of the past months. They argue that a lack of economic improvement and social justice warrants a new, “national unity government.”

Key opposition figure and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohammed ElBaradei has made that a precondition for government-proffered talks.

Saad al-Katatni, head of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, talks during a news conference next to former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa (L) and liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei (R) after their meeting in Cairo, January 31, 2013.Saad al-Katatni, head of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, talks during a news conference next to former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa (L) and liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei (R) after their meeting in Cairo, January 31, 2013.
x
Saad al-Katatni, head of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, talks during a news conference next to former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa (L) and liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei (R) after their meeting in Cairo, January 31, 2013.
Saad al-Katatni, head of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, talks during a news conference next to former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa (L) and liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei (R) after their meeting in Cairo, January 31, 2013.
ElBaradei and others met Thursday with other political forces, including ultraconservative Salafists and members of the Freedom and Justice Party, and again called for a new government.

“The president should commit himself to have a real dialogue with the opposition," said analyst Labbad, who dismissed previous talks between the government and its opponents as little more than photo opportunities for Morsi.

But the political transition, government supporters say, is not complete: there has been a presidential election, but Egyptians must still choose a new parliament.

Perils of transition

Many are wary of that process, especially after Morsi helped push through a controversial new constitution late last year, by assuming temporary sweeping powers.

That move brought tens of thousands out to the streets in protest.

Opposition figures initially called for a boycott of the referendum on the constitution, and some are saying that parliamentary elections can't be held under current conditions.

But political analyst and publisher Rania Al Malki, who took part in the revolution, believes the opposition needs a strategy beyond protests and boycotts.

“You have to be part of that institution," she said, "otherwise you won't have a voice and you are always going to depend on the popular anger for those protesting youth to further your own political agenda.”

History has not always been kind to rulers in Egypt who assume power in a time of change and inherit the problems of the old order.

At this point, it appears some of Egypt's new insiders wouldn't mind sharing responsibility, and what comes with it - blame.

Freedom and Justice Party official Darrag said everyone needs to take part of the responsibility.

I believe the president is trying to do his best," he said. "Of course he made mistakes,"  Darrag said. "He was never a president before so he's also on the learning curve.”

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs