Egypt: Brother vs brother

2013-07-07 06:00

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Country suspended from AU

Egypt will not lose much sleep over its ejection from the African Union (AU). It has more pressing issues to attend to internally, say African political analysts.

On Friday, the AU became the first international body to suspend Egypt’s membership after the army overthrew the president, Mohamed Morsi, in what has been described as a “soft coup”.

Egypt counted its dead yesterday after Islamists, enraged by the overthrow of Morsi, took to the streets in an explosion of violence against what they denounced as a military coup.

At least 30 people died and more than 1 000 were wounded after Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement called “Friday of rejection” protests across the country and tried to march on the military compound where the ousted president is being held.

The most deadly clashes were in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, where 14 people died and 200 were wounded.

In central Cairo, pro- and anti-Morsi protesters fought pitched battles late into the night using stones, knives, petrol bombs and clubs, as armoured personnel carriers rumbled among them.

In a statement issued on Friday, the AU’s Peace and Security Council said “council decided to suspend the participation of Egypt in AU activities until the restitution of constitutional order. The council reiterates the AU’s condemnation and rejection of any illegal seizure of power.”

A member of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi holds a poster of him as he shouts slogans at the Raba El-Adwyia mosque square in Cairo this week. The head of Egypt's Constitutional Court, Adli Mansour, was sworn in as interim president on Thursday. Picture: Reuters

Speaking at a book launch at Wits University on Thursday, National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu said what happened in Egypt was an example of what happens when the actions of the executive are not legitimised by a democratic parliament.

“I support the call by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) for the immediate return to democracy in Egypt and the establishment of a strong Parliament that is fully representative of Egyptian society. The IPU also called on authorities to immediately organise free and fair elections, while upholding the rule of law and defending an impartial judiciary.”

Egypt is one of the five main funders of the AU and was a founding member of the earlier Organisation of African Unity. Thomas Wheeler, a research associate at the SA Institute of International Affairs, a think-tank based at Wits, said Egypt was “more focused domestically on what is happening there now. There are deep divisions in Egypt and this sort of confusion will last for some time.”

In effect, being suspended from the AU did not mean much for Egypt, a country that commands a significant amount of influence in the Arab League, said Wheeler.

The Arab League is a regional organisation consisting of 22 Arab states. Because of its strategic positioning in the Middle East, Wheeler said the Arab League was more influential that the AU in world politics.

“Egypt will lose a bit of face and prestige by being forced out of the AU. Of course, they don’t want to be seen as unimportant. But they are still represented in Africa through Comesa (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa).”

The AU, he said, cared a lot about Cairo’s presence in the AU, although the country didn’t play a significant political role on the continent.

“It is in a strategic position, at a place where the Middle East and Arab world join Africa.”

Egypt is the fifth country to be thrown out of the AU in recent years, joining Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau and Mali (which has since been reinstated).

El Ghassim Wane, director of the AU’s Peace and Security Council, told Al Jazeera: “I don’t think we should be framing the issue in a way that looks at what Egypt loses from being suspended. Instead, the issue should be looked at through the frame of what the AU has to do in implementing its policies in all AU member states.”

Kicking Egypt out, he said, was in line with what was agreed upon by all member states. “Clearly, what has happened in Egypt is a setback as far as the AU is concerned and our wish is, of course, to ensure that Egypt returns to constitutional order as soon as possible.

“Of course, the AU stands to gain from a strong, democratic Egypt and Egypt stands to gain from a strong African Union, applying its rules and aiming for higher standards in terms of democracy, governance and human rights.” – Additional reporting by Al Jazeera

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