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)
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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid