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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More