Inside Story

Is Egypt returning to military rule?

We ask if the crackdown on pro-Morsi protesters is the start of a longer confrontation or a violent precursor to peace.

Last Modified: 15 Aug 2013 09:22
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Egypt is in a state of turmoil after security forces moved in on two Cairo protest camps set up by supporters of the country's ousted president, Mohamed Morsi. 

There are conflicting reports on the death toll, with Egyptian officials saying 235 civilians and 43 security personnel were killed, and Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood putting the number of dead at 2,200.

Make-shift hospitals have been struggling to cope with the number of dead and injured. 

A state of emergency has been imposed for a month.

Protesters at the two sites - Nahda Square and the Rabba al-Adiwiyah Mosque in the Nasr City neighbourhood - had been preparing for a security crackdown since last month when Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Egypt's army chief, called on Egyptians to give him a mandate to confront terrorism. 

In a statement that was perceived as a veiled threat against pro-Morsi protesters he said: "I ask ... that all honest and trustworthy Egyptians come out on the streets. But why come out? I ask that they come out to give me the mandate and order that I need to confront violence and potential terrorism."

Egypt now faces a very difficult period, where security becomes a key issue, and clearly the interim government will try to impose security on the country so a political process can begin. Whether they can succeed or not is not clear.

Granne Bannerman, a scholar at the Middle East Institute

El Sisi is seen as a divisive figure in Egypt - a national hero to some, a reminder of military rule to others. But could he be a future leader of Egypt?

Despite Egypt having an interim president and a prime minister, it is Sisi who has become the face of the government since Morsi was deposed. The general has laid out a roadmap for Egypt's transition to civilian rule. And although he says he has no personal ambition to run for the presidency, many observers say Sisi is now the most popular figure in Egyptian politics.

But opponents of military rule say the intentions of the government are clear. On Tuesday, 15 of 25 governors appointed by the government were generals. Critics say that is a return to a Mubarak-era strategy of appointing governors with security backgrounds.

Mohamed Al Beltagy is a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood. Earlier on Wednesday his daughter was killed in Nasr City. He told the media that Egypt's army chief was dragging the country into a state of civil war: "The bloody coup must come to an end .... If you remain at home then Abdel Fattah El Sisi will turn Egypt into another Syria. Abdel Fattah El Sisi will turn Egypt into a civil war. Now you must take to the street to clearly declare that the military coup has come to an end, and that the role of the military machine has come to an end, and that an institution that is killing its people cannot deserve to remain in power."

So, is Egypt returning to military rule? Is this the beginning of a longer confrontation or is it a violent precursor to a more secure Egypt? And what is needed to restore peace to the country?

To discuss this Inside Story, with presenter Stephen Cole, is joined by guests: Graeme Bannerman, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and a former analyst with the US state department; Sharif Nashashibi, a middle east analyst and columnist for Gulf News and Middle East magazine; and Bashir Abdel-Fattah, the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram democracy review.  

"I have been deeply concerned from the outset at how the military has behaved, and how it's been supported by a large element of the population against another large proportion of the population. And everything we've seen since the overthrow of Morsi ... is leading to exactly what the military said [it] wanted to avoid .... It is not going to lead to a stable Egypt, quite ... the contrary."

Sharif Nashashibi, a Middle East analyst


Al Jazeera
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