By Phillip Nyakpo –
In his first term as President, Barack Obama ordered a four star General to the Oval Office and fired him. [Click here to listen] The diplomatic language used was that General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of US forces in Afghanistan had been relieved of his duty, after he reportedly made disrespectful remarks about Vice President Joe Biden and other senior administration officials.
In characteristically eloquent words, Obama said “the conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”
That phrase, “civilian control of the military,” must be a very strange and foreign concept in Egypt, as shown by events in the last few days.
Instead of “civilian control of the military,” the military in Egypt wields absolute power, to the extent that it is able to give an ultimatum to elected officials to resign or be forced out.
The effrontery it takes for the military to make the call is incomprehensible to most democratic nations. It is a direct contrast to the centuries old American system of government.
But there are unique and historic reasons for the anomaly: Egypt has been without a democracy for generations. The former President, Hosni Mubarak alone was in power for more than 30 years, being propped up by the military. The military by design controlled way more than just guns and tanks.
For all that and more, the Egyptian military commands a certain influence that is totally alien to most democratic nations, and most Egyptians are conditioned to accept the military as an institution that can directly come to the aid of the population against elected officials.
Right or wrong, some Egyptians found it necessary to hit the streets and call for the resignation of President Morsi and his government.
The country’s currency has lost more than 30 percent of its value since Morsi came into power. Unemployment is rising with no convincing solutions being offered. The resulting deep and sharp division has brought millions onto the street in a show of anger reminiscent of the last days of Hosni Mubarak.
Also on the streets of course are supporters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and the President Morsi, making the case that an elected president must not be forced out of office.
At least sixteen people have died in the protests so far, but their death is not even making the headlines, and President Morsi has vowed to stay, clinging to his legitimacy as elected President.
“The price of preserving legitimacy is my life,” Morsi said in an impassioned 45-minute address. On the other hand, the Army has pledged to remove Morsi, and thinks it has it all worked out when it takes over: a new presidential election, suspension of the relatively new constitution and the dissolution of parliament.
It is just another mess in the land of the Pyramids.
If the current political temperature is anything to go by, then there is only one sure thing: any change won’t come easy, and it won’t be long before there is another round of calls for another change.
Very uncertain also is the greater price to be paid for all these. The price, sadly could include the price of precious lives and instability, as is already the case.