Friday,20 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1168, (10 - 16 October 2013)
Friday,20 July, 2018
Issue 1168, (10 - 16 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

What chance reconciliation?

As the positions of the government and Islamist parties harden dialogue falls by the wayside, writes Dina Ezzat

Al-Ahram Weekly

“We wanted to consider a way out of the current situation even though the leadership is in jail and many are opposed to the idea after the bloodshed of Rabaa, but increasingly this looks impossible,” said a Muslim Brotherhood figure who asked for his name to be withheld.
The source, widely seen to be on the reformist wing of the group, said that “the call for realism was there long before 30 June.”
“It has been there since the constitutional declaration” that Mohamed Morsi issued on 22 November 2012, heralding the beginning of a long period of political upheaval that climaxed with nationwide anti-Morsi demonstrations on 30 June and the ouster of the Muslim brotherhood president on 3 July.
The call “for realism, or even pragmatism” might, says the well-connected Brotherhood member, have been heeded by Morsi — “even with a bit of difficulty” — had it not been suppressed by Khairat Al-Shater, the group’s deputy supreme guide and widely seen as the Brotherhood’s strongman.
“He is a strong and smart man. He took exception to the text of the constitutional declaration but was convinced that if the Brotherhood showed signs of backtracking they would be forced into further concessions. Al-Shater chose to keep going and to act stubborn. He got Mohamed Morsi to do exactly the same and here we are,” said the source.
Speaking after clashes erupted between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators, resulting in 53 deaths, the Muslim Brotherhood member said that the situation on the ground was becoming far too complicated to allow for the prompt beginning of dialogue — “a serious dialogue, that is, away from the photo shoots and with the people who count and not those who claim to have been members of the Muslim Brotherhood when they were never really so”.
The numbers of those in favour of dialogue with the state within the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood is dwindling, according to several Brotherhood sources, and is likely to dwindle further as the security clampdown continues.
Muslim Brotherhood sources say even the informal meetings conducted by Amr Darrag and Mohamed Beshr with state officials and with European mediators have become very unpopular.
“There are some who are still convinced that sooner or later there will be a need for dialogue, to allow for a truce if not necessarily for reconciliation but the overriding sentiment, after the killings of the 55 people on Sunday, is that this will not be happening anytime soon,” says the Muslim Brotherhood source.
Those opposed to reconciliation are not confined to the Muslim Brotherhood. A leading independent political figure who tried to promote the idea in official quarters following the ouster of Morsi said he soon hit an impasse.
“It was almost a zero sum game. Those in power wanted reconciliation based on the Muslim Brotherhood’s acceptance of the new political reality while the Muslim Brotherhood wanted a reversal to the pre-3 July set-up,” he says. Today, he added, very few of those who were supportive of reconciliation calls last summer remain as keen. “People are just giving up on the matter. They say that there is no will on either side. Some even say that reconciliation has become a bad word.”
The lack of will to pursue reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood is as prevalent among Egypt’s new rulers as it is within the Brotherhood’s ranks.
Government officials insist the overwhelming majority of the public supports an exclusively security-based approach towards the Brotherhood.
On Monday evening, following lethal attacks on state interests in the Cairo district of Maadi and South Sinai Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim, who once served under Morsi, insisted there was no room for reconciliation and that the way forward must remain security based.
Ibrahim, according to senior government sources, was instrumental in opposing a reconciliation proposal made by Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaaeddin immediately following mid-August’s bloody dispersal of the two Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo and Giza. Today, the sources say, Ibrahim has a lot more support within the government.
European diplomats involved in the on-off diplomacy of EU Foreign and Security Policy Commissioner Catherine Ashton agree that the mood is set against reconciliation, especially on the government side.
If the government was to consider releasing some of the political detainees this would help ease the tension, said one diplomat. “We have had promises, even before the dispersal of sit-ins, that the government would release Saad Al-Katatni and Abul-Ela Madi but it never happened. Instead, more and more people are being arrested.”
A security source said that the release of any “of those who are facing legal charges” would have required one of two things: a clear commitment from the Muslim Brotherhood “to stop the terror” or “a legal clearance”.
“Neither has happened. The Muslim Brotherhood insists on playing with fire. They think they are escalating things to a scale that will prompt international intervention. The moment they realise this is not going to happen, that Egypt is not going to become Syria, they will reconsider their calculations. Even then, though, the public may not allow for dialogue with them. They have become so widely discredited.”
The once positive image of the Muslim Brotherhood began to be undermined with the performance of Morsi and his cabinet. It has since been accentuated by a compelling — some say orchestrated — media campaign. The assessment of some Cairo-based foreign diplomats, however, is that the anti-Muslim Brotherhood mood will soon decline.
“People will still be angry about the violence but they will also be concerned about daily living conditions which cannot improve without the economy being addressed and this demands political stability,” says one Cairo-based ambassador. “Without this stability we cannot encourage investments or tourism.”
A growing realisation that jailing the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership and increasing security operations is not an automatic guarantee that stability will return is prompting some public figures with inroads in Islamist quarters to propose a preliminary dialogue that might lead to a truce even if not to full reconciliation.
According to Amr Al-Shobaki, member of the committee reviewing democratic transformation and transitional justice, the ground still needs to be prepared for any candid initiative.
“Eventually Islamists, as rank and file rather than leaders, would have to be incorporated. For this to happen there needs to be a shift both in the Islamist notion that violence is a resort, and in the official approach that security alone will suffice.”
The sooner Islamists and the authorities can make these shifts, says political analyst Mohamed Al-Agati, the better. “Otherwise we will be going into a referendum on the modified constitution with the Islamists — a considerable segment of the political spectrum — having been excluded for the most part in the drafting and in the voting.”
Al-Agati argues that in order to move forward “without any further hesitation” serious attention must be paid to transitional justice.
“Let us all know who was involved in violent acts. Let the detained be tried and those who are not proven guilty of any wrong doing released so we can start walking the long road towards the first step to reconciliation which is dialogue.”
The management of the transition, beginning on the day Morsi was ousted, has lacked wisdom from both sides, says Al-Agati. And if wisdom remains absent then the transition might end before dialogue has started.
“This would mean that for a second time we will have missed having a properly inclusive transition. We will have to rewind and start all over again. It is not a prospect anyone can relish.”

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