Egypt and Libya: Squeezing out the soldiers

By The Africa Report

Posted on February 21, 2012 08:51

A year after the fall of Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi, getting the military out of politics remains the revolutionaries’ overriding political imperative…

A year after the fall of Hosni Mubarak and more than three months after the demise of Muammar Gaddafi, getting the military out of politics remains the revolutionaries’ overriding political imperative in Egypt and Libya.

The inept handling of the transition in Egypt by the junta under Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi is adding to public pressure for the military’s exit.

Public opinion strongly opposed the military’s demand for an explicitly political role and freedom from civilian oversight in the new order.

Activists quickly blamed the deaths of 74 people at a Port Said football stadium on 1 February on a devious plan by the junta, prompting more clashes in Cairo as football fans and revolutionaries demonstrated to push for the military to quit immediately.

Election timetables and the role of the military are also dominating Libyan politics. Hopes to elect a constituent assembly in June have been thwarted by the lack of a voters’ register.

That leaves the National Transitional Council (NTC) regime under former justice minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil struggling to assert its legitimacy, especially in Benghazi, where frustrations are growing with what are seen as Tripoli’s edicts.

The civilian council advising the junta on the transition says that nominations for the presidential election should be brought forward two months to late February, which could mean polls in April or May.

In theory, the generals would have to give up power as soon as the results are announced. Yet, the widening gap between the protestors in Tahrir Square and the mainly Islamist deputies in parliament could delay the handover, even without military plotting.

Equally, the militants in Misrata, who played a key role in the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime, are getting impatient with the NTC’s
rate of progress. However, the NTC has been more effective in defusing conflicts than its many critics expected.

Now, the major conundrum is how to mobilise the funds which the relatively well-organised oil and gas sectors are generating. Much richer on a per capita basis than North Africa’s other revolutionary states, Libya could easily underwrite the cost of a wide-ranging military organisation.

The NTC’s plan is to recruit 50,000 fighters from the myriad militias and offer training in manual skills to the rest. But political arguments and
worries about too many guns circulating are holding back these reforms.

This article was first published in the November edition of The Africa Report, on sale at newsstands,via our print subscription or our digital edition.

Also Read:

– Egypt: Women soldier on as protests continue

– Vanishing Presidents and the Perpetuation of Violence in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire

– Libya: Who owns the revolution?

– Egypt’s million man march to Tahrir Square

– Anansi: Good soldier, bad cop

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