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

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' 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.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs