Friday, August 31, 2012

PANW Interview With Editor Abayomi Azikiwe: 'Egyptian Revolution Still Unfolding'


The following interview was conducted by the Pan-African News Wire with its editor Abayomi Azikiwe.

Q. What is the importance of an Islamist victory in Egypt?

I believe that it is extremely important. The Muslim Brotherhood has been in existence since 1928 and functioned much of that time underground as both a religious organization and a political movement. It has combined social service work within the most oppressed communities with political education and involvement in the electoral arena as well as mass struggle.

Since the fall of both the pro-western regimes in Tunisia under President Ben Ali and Egypt under President Mubarak in early 2011, the political result in both of these North African states have brought about the dominance of Islamist forces inside parliament and within the administrations. The governments in both Tunisia and Egypt seem to be taking on a more moderate political line. Whether this remains the case depends largely on various factors that will probably surface in the coming months.

Q. Why do you think that among other Islamists groups, the Muslim Brotherhood won the election?

It appears to be the decades of experience that the Muslim Brotherhood has among the people in Egypt. Also they did enter the electoral arena in 2005 as independents since their party was officially banned. Even though they were credited with having approximately 20 percent of the parliamentary representation resulting from the 2005 elections, in all likelihood they won more than this amount. There were irregularities in the results from 2005.

Therefore, even in 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood was considered the unofficial opposition inside parliament. As a result of this political situation they were poised to enter the electoral arena after the fall of the National Democratic Party (NDP) regime of Mubarak.

Q. What stance will the Muslim Brotherhood take under President Morsi toward relations with Israel and the United States?

This remains to be seen. There has been different responses reported emanating from various leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood—and its political wing—the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). President Morsi seems to be saying that Egypt will honor all previously signed international agreements.

This would mean that the Camp David Accords and the separate peace treaty with the State of Israel will be adhered to by the new government. At the same time there have been other voices who have reportedly said that the separate peace treaty with Israel will be repealed. This will be a major source of debate among the supporters and leaders of the FJP. The majority of people in Egypt are opposed to the peace treaty with Israel.

If the government is going to maintain support among the Egyptian people and solidarity from Hamas and other forces in Palestine, they will have to seriously address the question of relations with Israel.

It is not just the treaty in a formal political sense but what all comes with it. The blockade of Gaza, the joint security and military alliance with the Zionist state that works against the Palestine struggle for national liberation, the supply of natural gas to the State of Israel, all of these issues are not going to be forgotten by the people of Egypt or Palestine.

These issues are intertwined with the political economy of Egypt and Palestine. The peace treaty with Israel largely benefited the State of Israel and the United States. Only the elites within the military in Egypt have benefited from this arrangement through security technology transfers, business contracts and diplomatic support from Washington.

The masses of workers, youth and even intellectuals and professionals remain underdeveloped and impoverished due to the subservience of Egypt to the Zionist state. In order for the country to stabilize, the standard of living must be addressed for the majority of the people. The people need good jobs, adequate food, resources for their small and medium size businesses, improved infrastructure, access to technology, opportunities for education and the eradication of political repression.

Also all political prisoners must be released from jails and prisons. There needs to be an opening of communication mediums to broader segments of the population to provide the majority of people with a voice in the affairs of Egypt, the region and the world.

With specific reference to Egypt’s relations with the U.S., this will also be a determining factor in the effectiveness of the FJP government under President Morsi. Most people also have a negative view of the U.S. due to the forced Camp David Accords agreement under the previous government of Jimmy Carter during 1978-79.

This agreement isolated Egypt from the rest of the Arab, Islamic, African and progressive world. It is blamed for the assassination of former President Anwar Sadat in 1981. It took years for Egypt to regain some of the respect it had earned under the government of Gamal Abdel Nassar who ruled between 1952-1970. Yet Egypt is still defined by the signing of this agreement that has done almost nothing for the general population accept plunge them into deeper poverty and acquiescence to western imperialism.

The U.S. has invested tens of billions of dollars in Egypt over the last 35 years. Particularly after the shift by Sadat away from the former Soviet Union towards Washington, Egypt has become a major outpost, along with Israel, for the foreign and military policies of U.S. imperialism.

The subsidies to the Egyptian military from the U.S. have placed the army in a strategic position in relationship to the national economy. There has been close collaboration between U.S. military intelligence and Central Intelligence with the state apparatus in Egypt. This has had a tremendous impact on the Palestinian movement.

The U.S. is hostile towards the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. The majority of Palestinians and Egyptians know this for a fact and has witnessed the social impact of these policies.

Therefore, I believe that there has to be a radical shift in U.S.-Egyptian relations. Egypt will be forced by its own people and the pressures of the Palestinian struggle right next door to break with its unequal alliance with Washington. This is what the Egyptian people are anticipating and it will win mass support from the people of Egypt as well as the Palestinians.

Q. What do you expect for Egypt in the post-election period? In other words, what type of future do you foresee for the country and its people?

This depends upon the approach taken by the Morsi government and his supporters on the ground. There is tremendous potential for Egypt with its population of 80 million people who have demonstrated a high level of political consciousness and maturity. The various political forces must be brought into a national dialogue on the future of the country.

The Islamists, the Christian population—which makes up about ten percent of the people—the more secular revolutionaries and professional groups should all have a place at the center of the transformation process toward a stable and peaceful future. In the long run it will be the Egyptian people themselves who will solve the problems of the country, not the West and its allies in the region.

The alliance with the U.S. and Israel must be terminated and Egypt must look toward the rest of Africa, the Middle East and progressive humanity to provide the country with the support that it needs to address the monumental challenges facing the state even under the FJP government. The alliance with Israel and the successive governments in Washington have proved to be disastrous for the people.

The country has natural gas, some oil resources, the Suez Canal—it has the goodwill of most people throughout Africa, the Middle East, the Arab states and Muslims around the world.

Egypt is strategically located and this can be a tremendous asset for the government and the people of this country.

Q. What is the role of Egypt in the region related to its past, present and future?

Well Egypt is considered by most historians as the cradle of human civilization. The first advanced societies arose there dating back at least to 4500 B.C. There was a nearly three thousand year line of dynastic rule.

In the areas of architecture, science, religion, philosophy, the organization of cities and city-states, the area has a long and proud history.

It is also an important country for the early origins of all three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All of this places Egypt in an important position of not only gaining the cooperation of people internationally but the country has a lot to teach the world.

In the modern period, Egypt has played a major role in the struggle against colonialism and imperialism. In 1919 it was the scene of a national uprising that set a standard for the rest of the region. In 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 it fought wars against Israel, Britain and France and by proxy the U.S.

In 1956 it led the way for Africa and the Middle East when Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal and fought a war against Britain, France and Israel to maintain its sovereignty. In 1973, it fought and regained some its land from the Israel after the defeats of 1967.

In the most recent period it has alerted the oppressed throughout the world that people can rise up against dictatorship and tyranny and overthrow such a system.

Q. What is your analysis of the significance of the Egyptian Revolution?

I believe that the Egyptian Revolution is still unfolding. There are always various phases to any revolutionary movement. The overthrow of Mubarak was just the first phase. The struggle to maintain the principles articulated during the uprising of 2011 is ongoing in this process.

The election of President Morsi represents another phase. The challenge right now is to build upon the gains of the last 17 months. The economy must be rebuilt. Domestic policy must be brought in line with the aspirations of the workers and the youth. A new foreign policy that is independent of imperialism and Zionism must be developed rapidly.

If these challenges are met, Egypt will continue to make its historic contribution to its people and the world community.

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