Opinion: Egypt – What is all this fuss about democracy?

by Kayode Faniyi

egypt

 “The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.” ― Jeff Cooper, Art of the Rifle

Millions of Egyptians last week, with the help of a military that had learnt its lessons from Mubarak-gate, achieved what countless peoples of countless democracies of the world wished they could. The most accepted definition of democracy is that it is at once people-driven and geared towards the people. Any democratically elected government must derive its legitimacy from the people and when that lease expires, hasta la vista baby. That Morsi stuck in front of the barrel of his guns is no one’s fault but his and his Islamist backers. He had ample opportunity to lead a pluralist Egypt in a way that reflects that pluralism but like most groups driven by strains of the zealot gene, he sought to foist sectarian mores over an unimpressed populace.

It is instructive to note that the only country to expressly condemn the coup/revolution in Egypt is Turkey, whose Erdogan – leader of an Islamist government – has been fighting battles of his own in the secularist nation. Every other European country has so far rightly treaded with caution, because to condemn the removal of Morsi would have been to contravene that essential tenet of democracy – people-derived legitimacy. Arab nations are almost unanimously in support of the coup, with Qatar, a big financial backer of the Morsi administration, stating that it ”will continue wholly respecting the will of Egypt and of its people.” It is a unique quandary that is sure to provide fodder for rumination by theorists of political science all over the world. Understandably, nations that are alive to this ginormous nuance have urged a return to “democracy”, in this case meaning that new elections should be conducted posthaste. They have consigned Morsi to the scrapheap of history already.

As a paragraph-long aside, it is interesting to note that extremist ideologies are getting the short shrift worldwide. Since Americans rejected the flip-flopping poster boy of the Tea Party, it is more likely to sight a UFO on Wall Street than find Mitt Romney addressing political issues. The conservative Emeritus Pope Benedict is out of a job and his successor, Pope Francis, is proving to be quite the reformer. I indulge you to quote liberally from an account of a recent Papal homily:

Wednesday’s Gospel speaks to us about the disciples who prevented a person from outside their group from doing good. “They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of ​​possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”:

“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

“Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.” – Text from page of the Vatican Radio website.

But our own dear African Union, composing of those bastions of democratic values, with its leagues of reactionary robot diplomats, sees things differently. The AU rolled out its rote response to any crisis like a Christian quoting John 3:16 – suspending Egypt indefinitely because the military, ironically, had the temerity to identify with the yearnings of the overwhelming majority. It becomes obvious that the AU hardly strategizes before mounting responses and such a delicate matter as the Egyptian situation required a careful appraisal. It is this laissez-faire attitude to issues that require critical thought that ensures that the majority of African nations are continually entrenched in self-stocked socio-politico-economic mires. Indeed, I wholly agree with this North African diplomat who has this to say about the suspension;

It’s a pity. They have to revisit this law. These are different types of situations and they (AU) are turning a blind eye to the aspirations of people.”

The AU justified its decision by calling the happenings in Egypt an “unconstitutional change in government”, and you wonder to whose benefit a document such as a constitution exists. You also wonder about the constitutionality of Mubarak’s ouster from power: After weeks of crisis, Mubarak sniffed a coup in the air after the people had rejected his concessions, resigned and ceded power to the military. This time, an obstinate Morsi had to be eased off the throne, with an overt show of force by the military, who unlike before, stepped out of the way to allow civilians dictate the future. It is instructive to note that it has been mooted that the AU is sending such eminent luminaries of democracy as Olusegun Obasanjo, among others, to Egypt.

I came by article by a Zainab Sandah who indicted, or attempted to indict, Obama for inaction for democracy. Sandah shifts the goalposts so many times in her argument it feels like a certain Pepsi advert;

Not to disregard or make light of the protests that have reflected the collective aspirations of a faction of the Egyptian people – doing that would only undermine critical rights and freedoms, which is a cardinal principle of ‘government of the people by the people’. But then, when did we need a military overthrow of a legitimate government to strengthen democracy, when did that become an element of democratization?

Sandah sets her stall out with disingenuous use of the word “faction”, a word that certainly does not come close to qualifying the anti-Morsi protesters. The Free Dictionary defines “faction” thus: “A group of persons forming a cohesive, usually contentious minority within a larger group.” She then asks a question, a very important and fails to provide an answer. We cannot tell if democracy has been strengthened or weakened as yet – it is only early days – but we can be sure as hell that the people got their wish – a government that had lost its legitimacy was ousted.

Allow me to point out Sandah’s objective, well-disguised but still obvious upon scrutiny:

Not to mention the irresponsible way Morsi sought to govern a pluralistic society, would be insulting to the aspirations of the Egyptian protesters and even democracy – you would think he would have known better considering how his government was birthed. But again it is ironic, even smile-inducing that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are the voice of democracy today – considering the fact that Muslims are habitually considered innately averse to democracy and in essence, undemocratic (emphasis mine).

Sandah makes some good points, especially in stating that this event will no doubt widen our understanding of government but juxtaposing the two parts of this last quote shows an incongruity and incoherence that bedevils the entirety of her discourse. To make the point again, anyone who has insulted democracy and hence the aspirations of a political majority, has no standing to be the voice of democracy. Egypt was slipping into an Islamist autocracy under Morsi; all gloves should be off in dealing with tyranny, no matter what guise it assumes. And was it not Thomas Jefferson who said “Rebellion to tyranny is obedience to God”?

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood being the “voice of democracy” is akin to former Nigerian political establishment members being the voice of anti-corruption, you know, like a certain Dino Melaye.

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Kayode Faniyi is a Lagos-based media practitioner. He blogs at kayodefaniyi.wordpress.com and tweets from @Il__Duce.

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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