Egypt is recovering from the abrupt ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak on February 11 following a 18-day revolution. The military-led interim authority, namely the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), is moving to restore order and meet the protesters’ demands of political reform.
The SCAF appointed former Transport Minister Essam Sharaf as the prime minister on Thursday, replacing Mubarak-aide Ahmed Shafiq, in a bid to appease thousands of protesters who had threatened to once again take over Tahrir Square in Cairo.
As Egypt prepares the ground for a gradual transition to a civilian government in six months, Muscat Daily spoke to Ahmed Ahmed Sabry, Minister Plenipotentiary and Chargé d’Affaires of the Egyptian Embassy in Muscat, to get a perspective on the road ahead.
What is your impression of the historic events in Egypt?
What is happening in Egypt reflects the will of the Egyptian people. Egyptian people need more freedom and more rights. They need to improve their standard of living with reforms in services like education, healthcare and employment. We are proud of the Egyptian youth who participated in the demonstration. They made legitimate demands by polite and peaceful expression and their voice was heard by the world.
I would also like to thank the Egyptian Armed Forces which has played a commendable role in supporting the legitimate demands of the Egyptian people while ensuring security for the country, protection for people and dealing with the protesters in a civilised manner.
What role will the youth of the country play in this historic transformation?
We have a situation where graduates don’t get jobs. It’s not easy for the youth to get partners. The youth of Egypt find it difficult to live a life of dignity. We have qualified youth and they want the best for the country. They need to be a part of the political process in Egypt and participate in the rebuilding of the nation.
There is no room for corruption, no room for delaying political and economic reforms. Egyptian people are demanding justice, equality, freedom, employment, healthcare and wide participation in the political process.
Also, we need to provide intensive care to the education system. Education is the real key for modern development of the country. Over the last few decades, we have produced some brilliant scientists. Some of them have even received the Nobel prize. Now is the time for them to contribute in nation building. They must start scientific institutions in the country so that Egypt could benefit from their knowledge.
There are critics who say that not much has changed with the removal of Mubarak. The SCAF, headed by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, comprises the very same people who held power under the Mubarak regime.
I don’t agree with that assessment. There have been many changes in the ministerial cabinet. Last week, there was a demonstration asking the prime minister Ahmed Shafiq to step down (Shafiq stepped down on Thursday). Egypt is facing many challenges. The authorities can’t bring overnight changes. They’ll need some time.
The SCAF is aware of this critical moment in the history of the nation and is fulfilling its historical and constitutional responsibility to protect the country and preserve the safety and security of its territory. The SCAF is also facilitating democratic process through constitutional and legislative amendment in order to fulfil the legitimate demands expressed by the people of Egypt.
The SCAF believes that human freedom, rule of law, equality, pluralistic democracy, social justice and the uprooting of corruption are the basis for the legitimacy of any system of
governance that will lead the country into the future.
The SCAF also believes that the dignity of a nation is merely the reflection of dignity of each of its members and that free citizens - proud of their humanity - are the corner stone of a strong nation.
What is the road ahead for Egypt now? How do you see the transition of power from the military rulers to a civilian government taking place?
The SCAF will lead the internal and external affairs of Egypt for the next six months till the parliamentary and presidential elections are held.
The SCAF had tasked an 11-member committee of constitutional law experts to draft amendments to the constitution with a view of bringing a credible transition to an elected civilian government. On February 25, the committee announced its proposed amendments which is now open to a public debate and re-drafting prior to being voted on popular referendum.
These amendments cover the procedures and formalities for the presidential election. It has proposed a four-year term for the president. A president will be allowed to retain power for a maximum of two terms.
Who will emerge as the next leader of the nation?
Even the Egyptians don’t know who will be our next president. Some people have announced their keenness to contest the election but we are expecting many more candidates.
What are the chances of former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa and Nobel-winning scientist Ahmed Zewail contesting the presidential election?
Amr Moussa has already announced his candidature. ElBaradei, on the other hand, had earlier said that he’ll not contest. Zewail has dual citizenship. He holds a US passport, which would disqualify him according to the proposed amendments.
Ahmed Goweily (former trade and supply minister) and Ayman Nour (opposition leader and chairman of El Ghad party) are the two other prominent leaders to have announced their candidature.
Analysts have reservations about Muslim Brotherhood gaining more support in the current political scenario.
Muslim Brotherhood has the right to be part of the political process in Egypt. They are a part of the Egyptian community and they have the right to express themselves through a political party.
What will be your message to the Egyptian community living in Oman?
Egypt has faced a very difficult moment, starting from January 25. Now we have to rebuild our economy. I would like to urge all Egyptians in Oman to contribute to this process. They can urge their friends and contacts in Oman to visit Egypt to get a first hand impression of the ground realities. This will also provide the much-needed boost to our tourism sector. I also urge the Egyptian expatriates to transfer funds to Egypt which will help in achieving our economic stability.
We are encouraging people to visit Egypt again. I would like to call all tourism agencies to intensify their programmes to Egypt. I assure them that there’s no need to worry on the security front. Visiting Egypt is 100 per cent safe and stable. Also, I would like to call on all businessmen and investors to continue with their projects in Egypt.