Gamal in DC: are think tanks complicit?

While Gamal Mubarak did not "quietly slip" into Washington as the FP blog The Cable suggests (the visit was widely reported in the Egyptian press) he is keeping a low profile. Odd that this leader of the National Democratic Party who holds no executive position (officially!) should be hosted in several closed-session meetings with major think tanks, including some close to the Obama administration, with an apparent black-out on what's being discussed.

A rhetorical question - I am torn about this myself: should the same think tanks that regularly call out for democratization in Egypt host a man who appears to want to undemocratically replace his father and tailored Egypt's constitution for that purpose? Should they collaborate in furthering the opacity that has characterized Egyptian-US relations for decades? I understand their desire to be seen as "players" and the usefulness of "Chatham House rules" meetings, but in this case I find it rather galling. The future of Gamal Mubarak and his role as a representative of Egypt is a pretty important issue, and one where lack of clear information has contributed to the general malaise about the post-Hosni Mubarak future.

As mentioned before, if anyone would care to leak, we'll happily publish.

Update II: A reader who attended one of the meetings says:

There was a 90-minute discussion that covered economics, politics, civil-military relations and the bilateral relationship. For the most part, the questions were what one would expect people to ask the head of the policy secretariat of the party (rather than a president-in-waiting). He was comfortable (and relatively bullish) on the economic front, arguing that Egypt was less exposed to the global slowdown than many countries and would benefit from having cleaned up the banking sector several years ago. He also suggested that the aid relationship cannot be the centerpiece of the bilateral relationship. On Civ-Mil issues, he said that the military and intelligence services are subordinate to the president regardless of whether the president comes from a civilian or military background.


Glad some of this came out!

On reform of the banking sector protecting Egypt's economy, this is generally understood to be the case and was recently highlighted by the World Bank. Egypt has already had its liquidity crisis and does benefit from a very competent Central Banker in Farouq al-Ogda, and has mostly cleaned up the bad banks. That being said, the financial crisis is bound to have a socio-economic component that, combined with the sour public mood, could generate some kind of unrest or political difficulties. Especially that the Nazif government has driven little political benefit from the real economic improvements of the last few years, unfairly I think, and faced pretty hostile media coverage.

Interesting quote on aid not being the central part of the relationship. Unfortunately, for Congress, it is. It's all about how much money the US spends on Egypt (without much thought about how, in many ways, Washington gets its money's worth). So this sounds like presenting Egypt's point of view, which is that aid should not even be up for discussion.

On civilian-military relations, again the classic constitutionalist view. One would think he's hoping this will be the way things unfold. But, let's imagine Gamal Mubarak is the next president: he will have to deal with several massively powerful institutions (some might call them states within the state): the military, the intelligence services and the interior ministry. Will he be able to address one of the key issues that makes cleaner, and eventually more democratic, politics possible - namely the separation of the state from the NDP - especially when he will have been brought in by that very collaboration?

If anyone has any more thoughts on this, let us know in the comments.

Update: In the meantime, American-Egyptian associations have released a statement to President Mubarak and raising the issue of whether he should be welcomed in the US again when civic, religious and political rights have stagnated or degraded in recent years. Full text after the jump.

Egyptian American Organizations Demand Actions from Mubarak Before Visit to Washington
Egyptian advocacy groups join forces for the first time.

للغة العربية انظر أسفل الصفحة

On Saturday, Feb 28, 2009, representatives of seven Egyptian and American Human Rights and Democracy advocacy groups met in Washington, DC to discuss collaboration and coordination in preparation for the anticipated visit of Egyptian Mubarak to the US.

The meeting was first of its kind since it brought together both Muslim and Coptic groups into agreement on advocacy priorities for the first time. Copts advocacy groups agreed to join forces with the broader democracy and human rights movement and go beyond their focus on religious freedom issues. In return the participating Muslim organizations signed a declaration of good intention that stated their commitment to (1) the Egyptian motto of “Religion for God and Country for All” as a government reference for the relation between religion and state, (2) Alotifi report on causes and recommendations for dealing with the Coptic issue in Egypt, and (3) setting Civil Society values as a criteria for political debate.

The organizations collectively signed the petition below, with specific demands for Egyptian president Mubarak to impalement before coming to the US. To sign the letter, please email us back with your full name and affiliation.



His Excellency Mr. Mohammad Hosni Mubarak
President, Arab Republic of Egypt

28 February 2009

Dear President Mubarak:

In anticipation of your expected visit to the United States, we are writing this letter on behalf of many Egyptian-Americans. Since we all appreciate the shared mutual interests of both the Egyptian and American people, we would like to express our deep concern about what seems to be an increasingly inflamed political climate in Egypt. We call upon you to open a new chapter in the Egyptian-American relations by reaffirming Egypt’s respect for human rights, social justice, and the principles of democracy. The Egyptian people have the right to enjoy freedom, dignity and good governance. These are rights that the American people take very seriously and support across the world.

In view of the above, we urge you to implement comprehensive democratic reforms that may start with the following most pressing issues:

1. End the state of emergency that has been in effect since 1981.

2. Release prisoners of conscience, political prisoners, journalists, and all others convicted under the emergency law in military and security courts.

3. Expedite the ratification of a law that fairly regulates the building houses of worship for all faiths, and begin a national effort to promote unity and love all Egyptians.

These three reforms can be taken by Your Excellency through the issuance of a Presidential Decree ahead of your safe arrival in the United States. In addition, we hope that you will consider taking the following additional steps:

4. Commit unequivocally to the principles of democracy, separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of establishing political parties and civic organizations, freedom of information, and ensuring fair and free elections.

5. Commit unequivocally to forming an independent commission of notable Egyptians who represent all political and religious views within the nation’s to prepare a new and modern constitution for Egypt.

We strongly believe that the abovementioned actions, if implemented, will meet with enthusiastic support from Egyptians in Egypt and abroad. They will also contribute to enhancing Egypt’s image worldwide.

Sincerely,

Dr. Safei-Eldin Hamed Omar Afeifi
President, The Alliance of Egyptian Americans President, Huquq El-Nass

Kameel Haleem Dina Girguis
President, Coptic American Association Executive Director, Voices for a Democratic Egypt

Prof. Saad Eddin Ibrahim Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour
President, Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies President, International Qur’anic Center

Ibrahim Beshir Akram Elzend
President, Nubian Benevolence Association Muslim American Society





فى يوم السبت السابق و الموافق الثامن و العشرين من فبراير اجتمع ممثلو سبع منظمات حقوقية مصرية و أمريكية فى مدينة واشنطن العاصمة لمناقشة التنسيق و التعاون فيما بينهما حول الاعداد لزيارة الرئيس مبارك المرتقبة للولايات المتحدة الأمريكية.

يعتبر اللقاء الأول من نوعه لأنه جمع الجمعيات المسلمة و القبطية معا لأول مرة فى تبني أجندة موحدة تحتوى على أولويات مشتركة. فقد وافق الأخوة الأقباط على الانضمام الى الحركة الحقوقية المطالبة بجميع الحقوق الانسانية و المطالب الديمقراطية المصرية ، متجاوزين عن تركيزهم التقليدي على الحقوق والنزاعات الدينية. و فى المقابل فإن المنظمات الاسلامية المشاركة قامت بتوقيع اعلان نوايا حسنة يحتوى على اعتماد شعار "الدين لله و الوطن للجميع" كشعار يحل اشكالية الدين و الدولة و تبني تقرير لجنة العطيفي حول أسباب و توصيات التعامل مع المشكلة القبطية فى مصر و ا اعتماد المجتمع المدني كمعيار للحكم عند الاختلاف .

وقد وقعت المنظمات البيان المرفق أدناه ، المتضمن مجموعة من الطلبات المحددة من الرئيس مبارك ليقوم باقرارها قبل المجيئ الى واشنطن. على من يريد التوقيع الرد على الرسالة بالاسم الكامل و الصفة او الوظيفة.





السيد/ محمد حسني مبارك

رئيس جمهورية مصر العربية



28 فبراير 2009

بعد التحية



ترددت أنباء عن قرب زيارتكم للولايات المتحدة الأمريكية بعد انقطاع دام قرابة خمسة سنوات ، ونحن كمصريين أمريكيين ومن واقع الحرص علي المصالح المشتركة للشعبين المصـري والأمريكي، ننتهز فرصة زيارتكم لكي نعبرعن وجهات نظرنا فيما يبدو أنه أزمة تتبلور في الوطن الأم وندعوكم الي إتخاذ الخطوات اللازمة لفـك حالة الاحتقان السياسي الداخلي وفتح الأبواب أمام علاقات أمريكية مصرية تقوم علي أساس احترام المباديء الأساسية لحقوق الإنسان والحريات العامة ومبـاديء الديموقراطية ، كما نرحب بدعم آواصرالصداقة بين الشعبين المصري والأمريكي ، ومن أجل هذا نطالبكم بفتح الطريق أمـام عملية التحول الديموقراطي السلمي الشامل ويأتي في مقدمتها :



1. إلغاء العمل بقانون الطواريء .
2. الإفراج عن سجناء الرأي والسجناء السياسين ووقف المطاردات الأمنية للنشطاء السياسيين .
3. الإســراع بإصـدار قانون دور العبـادة الموحـد لبدء مرحلـة جديدة من الوحدة الوطنية والمحبة بين عنصري الأمـة.


وهذه المطالب تمثل الحدود الدنيا التي في مكنتكم اتخاذ قرار بشأنها قبل زيارتكم للولايات المتحدة ، بينما نأمل في أن استجابتكم لـ :



4. إعلان وعد قاطع باتخاذ خطوات نحو ترسيخ الديموقراطية، وإعمال مبدأ الفصل بين السلطات والكف عن التدخل في شئون القضاء .
5. إعلان وعد قاطع بالدعوة الي تشكيل جمعية تأسيسية ـ ممثلة من كافة الأطياف ـ لإعداد دستورعصري وحديث ، وإقرارمبدأ حرية تشكيل الأحـزاب والجمعيات الأهلية وحـرية تداول المعلومات وعـدم التدخل في سير الانتخابات البرلمانية القادمة لصالح حزب أو فـئة بعينها .


ولا شك أن مثل هـذه الخطوات إذا ما تم اتخـاذها ـ وعلي أن يتبعها خطوات أخري ـ فسوف تلقي تأيدا من كافـة المصرين داخل مصر أو خارجها ، كما تسهم في تحسين صورة الوطن الأم بين دول العالم .



تفضـــلوا بقـــبول وافــر الاحــترام



صفي الدين حامد عمر عفيفي

رئيس تحالف المصرين الأمريكين رئيس حقوق الناس



كميل حليم دينا جرجس

رئيس التجمع القبطي الأمريكي رئيس أصوات من أجل الديموقراطية في مصر



سعدالدين ابراهيم أحمد منصور

رئيس مركز بن خلدون رئيس المركز العالمي للقرأن الكريم



ابراهيم بشير أكرم الـزنـد

رئيس منظمة أهل النوبة الجمعية الاسلامية الأمريكية

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.