News / Africa

Will Egypt Be Able to Restore Security, Stability?

A lone protester in front of a police cordon during demonstrations in Cairo in late January (file photo)
A lone protester in front of a police cordon during demonstrations in Cairo in late January (file photo)
TEXT SIZE - +
Mohamed Elshinnawi

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series: Egypt’s Transition
Parts 1 / 2 / 3

Post-revolution Egypt is struggling to rebuild its political system and revive its economic development, but instability is hindering progress on both fronts. During the popular uprising in January and February of this year, police stations were burned and law enforcement personnel suddenly disappeared from the streets. Five months later, many police officers still have not returned to their jobs.

Aware that soldiers are not capable of performing police duties, the army generals, who have placed themselves in charge of the country until elections are held, apparently have taken on a daunting task: reform the existing police force – or what remains of it – so that law and order can be restored.

The job is not an easy one as the relationship between the police and the Egyptian public is in shambles. Among the gripes that brought Egyptians to the streets in January in the first place were thirty years of police brutality and corruption they endured during President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

Trust gap

Police abuse, instead of dissipating with the onset of the revolution, actually spiked during the uprising, with police and security forces using what was widely condemned as excessive force against protesters. The confrontation opened old wounds and only deepened lingering public distrust in the police. In the aftermath of the revolution, thousands of Egyptian police officers never went back to work fearing public anger and possible retributions.

General Sameh Seif El-Yazal, Chairman of El-Gomhoria Center for Security Studies in Cairo, says that getting officers to report back to duty creates one of the biggest challenges facing post-revolution Egypt.

“The feeling of [being] insecure is a bad feeling,” he said adding that this “actually affects the economy a lot as well as the stability of the country.”

El-Yazal strongly believes that lack of security is also negatively impacting domestic and foreign investment as well as tourism, with the latter accounting for about 30 percent of foreign currency revenues.

Mubarak era remnants

Omar Afifi is a former police officer in Egypt and author of a widely popular book that got him in trouble with Mubarak’s security apparatus. The book, whose title roughly translates to “So you don’t get hit on the back of your neck,” was meant as a guide to Egyptians on how to avoid getting their rights abused by police.

Afifi argues that the existing security gap is being artificially maintained by elements of the old regime. He says it's intended to intimidate Egyptian citizens and serve as a pretext to postpone elections that are due later this year. According to Afifi, it’s a rather well orchestrated ploy.

“Thugs are being hired to achieve that goal by insiders from within the Ministry of Interior and the recently disbanded state security apparatus, and financed by remnants of Mubarak’s dissolved National Democratic Party," Afifi said.

What’s needed?

Afifi believes that, despite some opposition, there actually exists a good amount of political will to reform the police - something he thinks could have and should been done within a couple of months after Mubarak’s resignation. But even today it's not too late, he says, arguing that only a few steps would be needed to create a viable and effective police force.

The first step Afifi suggests would be to purge the top layer of Egypt's police force of corrupt officers who worked closely with the former minister of interior. Then, he suggests hiring the 150,000 graduates of law schools who recently finished their military service. They would be trained for one month on the basics of police duties with a focus on how to operate without violating citizens’ rights.

Afifi says such a new recruitment effort would not even require dipping into already limited resources since the new recruits would replace officers who are already not performing their jobs.

Ihab Youssef, Secretary-General of People and Police for Egypt, a non-governmental organization hopes to improve the strained relationship between the public and the police force. He says in addition to reform, some sort of reconciliation process is needed between the two sides.

Youssef  believes the Ministry of Interior, first and foremost, should go public and acknowledge the mistakes that have been committed in the past. Also, he thinks that the ministry needs to embrace new methods and technologies – ones that would allow it to move away from old practices, such as extracting information through the use of force.

Reform

Youssef says new police stations should showcase an entirely new conduct that should be based on respect and a sense of public service. He believes if that happened, the police could gain public confidence which, in turn, would allow it to perform its job more effectively. He also stresses that a police force respectful of citizens’ rights is key to improving the situation.  Youssef adds but that policemen should have more rights as well, including better salaries and shorter working hours.

Security experts agree that the Egyptian security apparatus is due for a complete institutional make-over. They say reforms should focus on how to make various institutions democratic, service-oriented and respectful of basic citizens’ rights. As for how to address the deeply entrenched arrogance and brutality among many officers, some suggest psychological training for younger officers and reassignment of higher ranking officers to different jobs. Others suggest that Egypt should look at and use as models other countries that went through similar experiences transitioning from autocratic regimes to democracies - like Georgia and Chile.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid