Initially speculated to be a result of an impending presidential candidacy announcement by Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the resignation this week of Egypt’s prime minister and cabinet was more likely the result of deeper structural problems facing the Egyptian state and people. Many of these are similar to those which wee used as excuses for the coup against ousted president, Mohamed Mursi.
The ongoing Syrian crisis has given rise to many questions about the stability and strength of the current regime. Some had imagined a swift end to the government in the manner of Tunisia’s Ben-Ali administration. However, such analyses have proven to be incorrect. Not only has the regime proven resilient, currently its inner core looks to be at its strongest since the beginning of the uprisings in March 2011. Of course, all is not as the regime would desire, but, given the consuming nature of the civil war and the ferocity of the clashes, it is incorrect to think that the regime is about to collapse soon.
AMEC will host a one-day symposium on 28 January 2014 to discuss possible futures for Egypt. It will bring together a number of prominent Egyptians who are now part of the opposition to the coup, as well as other commentators. The key issues to be discussed at the symposium include: circumstances surrounding the July 2013 coup; the role, mechanisms, influence and future trajectory of the 'deep state'; the opposition to the coup and the current state of repression; the military ‘roadmap’ and other scenarios for Egypt’s future.
This week’s constitutional referendum in Egypt confirms the country’s move away from democratic consolidation, and reduces the chances of finding a political solution to the current impasse. The referendum, on 14 and 15 January, was preceded and characterised by an atmosphere of intolerance, violent intimidation, and a tightening of the already-constrained space for dissent. Campaigning for a ‘no’ vote or a boycott was not allowed, and ‘no’ campaigners were arrested.
Experts weight in on the possible impact on child labor and unionization.
The 2013 draft constitution contains a number of provisions which some feared could be used to curb labor rights and freedoms. Other articles could be used to violate basic, internationally recognized, labor rights.
The draft constitution also protects the continued use of forced labor, child labor, military tribunals for civilians, restrictions on the plurality of trade unions and professional syndicates, along with limitations on the right to strike for certain professions.
Ethiopia’s decision in May 2013 to divert the Blue Nile tributary for 500 metres to aid in the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) was met with fury from the Egyptian administration led by President Mohamed Morsi. Military action was even threatened as a retaliatory move. Morsi’s subsequent overthrow and the need of the military coup administration to reassert control meant that talk of such hostilities was suspended.
This article is the first in a two-part series which analyses these events using the 1966 Helsinki principles of equity and water security as a framework to permit better understanding of the situation. This part will contextualise the GERD’s construction by unpacking the main historical and current issues which have influenced its development, and by analysing the evolution of water sharing. Additionally, changes in the balance of power in the region and the rise of Ethiopia are critically examined.
Two years after the launch of Bahrain’s national dialogue, government and opposition representatives have failed to arrive at a settlement over the future direction of the country. The withdrawal from the talks of Bahrain’s largest opposition group al-Wefaq – first in July 2011 and again in September 2013 after the arrest of its deputy leader – reflects growing tensions between the two sides. A coalition of opposition groups said that the ongoing arrests of political leaders and activists were proof that the government was not serious about reform. Government representatives, on the other hand, accused the opposition of supporting violence by the February 14 coalition, a radical opposition group that the government calls a terrorist movement. Newly-energised loyalist groups also accuse the government of adopting a ‘too soft’ stance against the opposition. Bahrain’s international allies – including the United States and the United Kingdom – continue to criticise the absence of sufficient reform by the government, but have failed to broker any political settlement. As the schism between social and political groups hardens, prospects for a political solution appear increasingly dim.
The Afro-Middle East Centre invites you to an international conference entitled 'In whose interests? Exploring Middle East involvement in Africa'.
AMEC’s international conference scheduled for 5 to 6 November 2013 promises a close interrogation of the nature and extent of Middle Eastern states' penetration into Africa. Around twenty Middle East and African speakers and scholars will come together to deliberate on various issues such as aid to Africa, the role of the African Union, educational links, and desire for African resources in the interaction between the two regions.
Reports from Washington say the Obama administration is poised to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic assistance to Egypt. The announcement is expected this week. The USA has been considering such a move since the Egyptian military ousted the country's first democratically elected leader in June. AMEC's Ebrahim Deen comments on this development on SABC News.
Monday marked the beginning of the second round of the Geneva 2 discussions, sponsored by the USA and Russia and convened under UN auspices, that intends to solve the Syrian crisis. Negotiations are being held between a delegation representing the Syrian regime, and one representing the opposition. An earlier eight-day session in January did not lead to any breakthroughs. The UN and Arab League mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, described that first round as a success insofar as it was able to get the opponents to sit face-to-face for the first time since the beginning of the crisis in 2011. With nothing to show in terms of actual political agreements that can resolve the crisis, this modest evaluation is the best that can be said about the achievements of the first round. And the prospects for the second round look bleaker.
Historians are unanimous that Carthage was a beacon of civilisation. Its constitution, representative institutions and political system in general were cited by Aristotle, who labelled it the best system as the time. In modern Tunisian history, the ‘Fundamental Pact’ is considered a constitutional precedent in the Arab-Muslim world, as it was the first legal document that guaranteed the Tunisian people their political rights to have their lives, property and honour safeguarded, regardless of their religion, race or social class.
For anyone interested in Palestine, and in national liberation struggles more broadly, AMEC’s powerful new book, The PLO: Critical appraisals from the inside, provides an essential anthology of key perspectives on the Palestinian struggle up to 2006. The book offers readers a rare opportunity to eavesdrop on the conversations of those intimately involved in searching for solutions to one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.
In simultaneous dawn raids on 17 December 2013, Turkish police, acting on the orders of the leading public prosecutor in Istanbul, Zakaria Oz, arrested more than fifty people, including the mayor of Istanbul district Fatih; the head of one of the largest construction companies in the country; sons of the ministers of the interior, economy and the environment; a Turkish businessman of Azerbaijani origin; and the head of state-owned Khalq Bank, one of Turkey’s largest banks. The simultaneous arrests were alarming, but also significant given the links between this case and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which gained favour among a large number of Turks for its economic achievements over the past decade, as well as its fight against corruption.
Announced in 2010 to aid Ethiopia’s economic development, and to realise its aspirations to be an energy exporter, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has resulted in friction between the Nile basin’s three strongest military states. The country’s decision to construct the dam and divert the Nile’s flow to aid in its construction was met by strong rhetoric from the former Egyptian administrations of Hosni Mubarak and Mohammed Morsi, including threats of force. However, the status quo is unlikely to be sustainable. Egypt’s dominance over the river is untenable both morally from an international norms perspective, and practically from economic and military perspectives, as discussed in Part one of this two-part series.
From the end of September to the middle of October 2013, it seemed that Iran’s relations with the western world were witnessing monumental changes. On 16 October, the EU representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, praised two days of talks that had just taken place in Geneva between representatives of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) and Iran. Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, described the talks as ‘essential and a motivation for progress’. He said they ‘open up new horizons of relations between Iran and western countries.’ Although Ashton and Zarif spoke separately and did not hold a joint press conference, this was the first time such language was used since the topic of Iranian nuclear capability became an international agenda item in 2002.
The severing of Hamas’s relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s government, which saw its politburo relocate from Damascus to Doha and Cairo in early 2012, would inevitably impact the Palestinian movement’s relationship with long-time allies, Hizbullah and Iran. In fact, Hamas’s political repositioning on Syria reflects a reconfiguration of regional alliances that have been spurred by the uprisings that have swept across the region since December 2010. The political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and other countries, facilitated by the uprisings in the region, saw the Palestinian resistance movement gravitate away from the ‘axis of resistance’ (Iran, Hizbullah and Syria) towards a Brotherhood-oriented Egyptian-Qatari-Turkish axis. Aside from an ideological resonance, this new alliance would also potentially ameliorate its isolation brought on by the classification of it as a ‘terrorist’ organisation by Israel, the USA, Canada, the EU and Japan.
Libyan rebels have kidnapped the country's Prime Minister Ali Zidan and taken him to an undisclosed location. Security sources says Zeidan was seized from a hotel where he was staying in the Libyan capital Tripoli. On the line by Naeem Jeenah from the Afro Middle East Centre
Recent developments in East Africa's largest economy Kenya involving a face-off between the country's security forces and a terror group linked to Al Shabaab who held shoppers ransom in the upmarket Westgate Mall focussed attention on the ability of that government to deal with the security and geopolitical dynamics in Kenya. Many questions remain in the aftermath of the siege. ABN's Karima Brown chats to Aly-Khan Satchu, CEO, of Rich Management and Ebrahim Deen, Researcher at the Afro Middle East Institute about the implications of the attack on Kenya's policies and economy.
Iran’s foreign policy rhetoric exemplifies the idea that international politics is no longer a zero-sum game, but a multidimensional arena in which competition and cooperation often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of ‘blood feuds’, and world leaders are expected to lead in ‘turning threats into opportunities’, said the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, in his recent op-ed in the Washington Post.  Iran is now seeking to turn the threats facing it into opportunities, and, to this end, it employs a strategy of joining competition and cooperation in the multiple arenas of conflict in which it has become a key player. For example, Iran is following in the footsteps of Russia in demonstrating power and influence in Syria, with a subtle warning to the USA not to sideline it during crisis resolution arrangements.