Today, I read an article in an Egyptian Newspaper, El Masree el Yoam (literally translated to The Egyptian Today), with the following headline; ‘A Prominent Official to “The Egyptian Today”: High-level instructions to uncover the corruption of former Ministers and High-level Officials’.
The article discusses, in brief, the case of a particular Egyptian former Official, Ibrahim Nafea, the former Chief of the Board and Editor-in-Chief of the government-owned Al-Ahram newspaper (the most widely sold Arab newspaper in the world). The article explains that the newspaper’s source claims that Nafae’s diplomatic immunity will be lifted as soon as the evidence against him is completely compiled. This will occur when the Egyptian Shura Council (Egyptian Parliamentary Higher Council for Advising)** convenes a session with Nafae in the presence of the Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution and Legislation and discuss the matter with him.
The article goes on to mention that up to three former Ministers and a larger number of former officials will, or might – it doesn’t make it clear, be tried for similar charges of corruption as well as waste and mismanagement of Public Funds. There are two things that irked me when I read this article.
First of all, why are there only a few officials on trial for corruption in a country which reeks of it?
Second, and more important, why do we not see Public Officials being charged before the word former is appended to their titles? This has almost always been the case in Egypt, as far back as I have been monitoring the news closely (about nine years). I will discuss in length other instances of obvious corruption and mismanagement in separate posts, but for now I will comment on the use of the word “former”.
First though, I have to admit there was a tinge of happiness when I read the article. Not only because these people have been, or are being, brought to justice but also because I felt that they have been used as scapegoats or, at least, they’ve been abandoned by the Egyptian “Old Guard”***. The reason it makes me feel happy is because I get the feeling that the old ways, the old order of politics in Egypt so to speak, is dying out. When former partners in crime are being sacrificed, this speaks of instability. Either the Old Guard are being replaced by the new (headed by the President’s Son Gamal Mubarak) or a change of methods and system has come about in such a way that some have to be sacrificed to give the illusion of change and reform.
On the issue of “former”, the situation is much clearer (to me at least). As with most Authoritarian systems which encourage crony-ism, you cannot risk charging someone in office as it might come back and bite you in the ass. Ibrahim Nafae was replaced about a year ago. His replacement was expected by many, but still came as a surprise to me. The man has held that position for well over a decade, possibly surpassing two (I am not sure about the exact number). As a child, I did not think it possible for anyone else to become Editor-in-Chief of Al-Ahram, and I am not exaggerating.
I’m guessing that the “case” against him was being built by certain people in power before his replacement. Egypt is a state where political players, especially those directly involved in the shaping of policy, are quite shrewd. Most know how to adapt to a changing situation quite efficiently (if you think about it, most of the Old Guard were members of Former President Nasser’s National Socialist Party – hardcore advocates of Socialism… or so it seemed). In fact, and this does not require any level of political maturity or knowledge, they moved from position to position and adopted ideology upon ideology as their political survival dictated. So they were first Socialist and now they are hardcore capitalists. Yeah, so? Who cares?
Only self-delusion can convince one that they are, in fact, supporters and advocates of these ideologies that they perpetuate, spread and market; these people want power and money… how they get it is a mere detail.
So yeah. Try Ibrahim Nafae, convict him (or not) of those charges of corruption, bribery and whatever else you care for. Yay to the Public Prosecutor and all those Policemen involved in the investigations! You’ve bagged a big fish my friends. Just know this: it’s obvious that that Egypt, as a political system, is at the beginning of the end. The Decline starts here. I’m guessing that there will be more violence and dissent as time goes by. This is the only the beginning, and I’m sure they know it.
I don’t want the peaceful transfer of power; this would leave too many low and mid-level bureaucrats in positions that would effectively cripple (as it does now) the Egyptian bureaucracy. I want major upheavel… possibly a revolution. It will be bloody, that cannot be denied.
But it would be worth it.
And that’s the way I see it.
** Please keep in mind that this is my name for the body, as it is officially recognized and known as the Shura Council. They have no effective power in parliament and merely recommend. Most members are either long-time professionals or holders of Ph.Ds. They are members of many specialized committees in parliament. I wish the Egyptian government would give English names to all public institutions… it isn’t that difficult. Thank god the Military academy isn’t called: El Koleya El Harbeya.
*** The Old Guard are those people directly involved in decision-making at higher levels and have been so for uptil three decades, many since Former President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Most have been members of Nasser’s National Socialist Party, Sadat’s Egypt’s Party and Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. Many are former police, army or intelligence officers. Almost all are acknowledged as being extremely corrupt (never verified officially through a court-room ruling.. though many who have fell out of favor do get charged with committing a plethora of offences).