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Was President Morsi overthrown in a coup or a popular uprising?
Date: 1 August 2013
Time: 09h00 - 12h30
Venue: Conference Room, ISS Addis Ababa

On 2 July, following a massive protest staged by opposition forces who demanded the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi, the army announced the removal of Morsi, the suspension of the 2012 Constitution and the dissolution of Parliament. Following the provisions of the 1971 Constitution, the President of the Constitutional Court, Adli Mansour was installed as the transitional president of Egypt.

These events invite a wide range of questions: Is this a reversal of Egypt’s post-Mubarak experiment with democracy? How will the tension and polarisation that Morsi’s ouster has created be resolved? And how will it affect political Islam both in Egypt and in post-revolution north Africa broadly? From the perspective of the international community and the African Union, a major question is whether Morsi’s overthrow amounts to a coup that should be condemned and sanctioned.

The seminar discussed these questions and provided a platform to reflect on the key outcomes of the unfolding events in Egypt. Speakers included Mohamed AF Ghoneim, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Egypt; Dr Solomon Dersso, Senior Researcher at ISS Addis Ababa; and Abdelkader Abderrahmane, Senior Researcher at ISS Addis Ababa. The seminar was chaired by Dr Khabele Matlosa, programme advisor for UNDP/ECA’s Joint Governance Initiatives.

Discussions revolved around the army’s topple of Morsi, the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law in Egypt, and the role of the Egyptian army and the Muslim Brotherhood in this transitional period. Speakers considered the context that led to the ousting of Morsi, and the temptation from the Muslim Brotherhood to control all powers and govern in an authoritarian manner. The poor economic conditions facing most Egyptians were also discussed and it was argued that the Muslim Brotherhood were not entirely responsible for this state of affairs but rather inherited this situation from the Mubarak era.

The role of Mubarak’s partisans as well as the army in supporting the Tamarrod movement to achieve its goal in toppling Morsi was recalled and the role of external protagonists such as the USA, Saudi Arabia and Qatar was also discussed. The situation remains volatile and could worsen if no immediate temporary solution is found. It was recalled that after the fall of Mubarak, many expectations were raised but that the current events indicate that the political future of Egypt remains uncertain.

The legality of the military intervention in light of the African Union’s (AU) legal framework was also discussed. The question of whether the AU made the right choice by suspending Egypt from the AU was a debated and divisive issue. Yet, it was also argued that the AU’s decision complied with its legal frameworks and that events in Egypt fall under the definition of an unconstitutional change of government as provided for in the instruments mentioned in paragraph 5 of the Lomé Declaration of July 2000 and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance of January 2007, which provide for the automatic implementation of specific measures when an unconstitutional change of government occurs, and reiterates the AU’s condemnation and rejection of any illegal seizure of power.

It was also underlined that a revolution is a long and often painful process which requires time and patience. In conclusion, the predominant role of the army in building modern Egypt was recalled and this suggests that the army will remain in matters of politics for an indefinite period.

The work of the ISS is made possible with support from the following core partners: the governments of Norway, Sweden, Australia and Denmark.
Conference Room
ISS Addis Ababa
Abdelkader Abderrahmane
Phone: +251 11 515 6320
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