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‘Egypt needs its Mandela – but not one in sight’

‘Egypt needs its Mandela – but not one in sight’
Only a man like the late South African leader Nelson Mandela could bring about reconciliation of the Muslim Brotherhood and the government of Egypt and could prevent the country from sliding into a lengthy conflict, says journalist and author Hugh Miles.

There is, however, no indication that such man is about to come forward while the current government supported by the Gulf States has apparently decided to get rid of the Islamist group, Miles, who is an award-winning freelance journalist and author specializing in the Middle East, told RT.

RT:You have covered the events in Egypt extensively, how do you assess the situation there now?

Hugh Miles: It seems like a decision has been taken by the government to try and get rid of the Muslim Brotherhood once and for all. But because both sides have a very hard core of supporters, it seems we are in for a prolonged conflict between those two. So it looks like more violence is on the cards, unfortunately, with no end in sight.

RT:What in your opinion would help to stop it?

HM: What would stop it, if there was some kind of reconciliation between the two sides. The problem is that Egypt is so deeply divided at the moment. The only person who has enough power in the country at the moment to bring about such reconciliation would be General [Abdel Fattah Al] Sisi. But General Sisi and his government have shown no indication that they want to reconcile with the Muslim Brotherhood, and they are pursuing this very hardline crackdown on them.

Meanwhile, on the other side the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters are very ardent, they are not likely to give up any time soon. And the other issue is that increasingly the secular liberal opposition in Egypt, people who were involved in 2011 revolution, are joining up with the Muslim Brotherhood. There is opposition to the Army and the current government not just from the Islamist camp, but increasingly from the secular liberal camp as well, who fear that the clock is being turned back, that they are going back to a kind of Mubarak-2, if you like.

RT:In such a difficult situation, what could be a unifying factor?

HM: What we need is a kind of truth and reconciliation, like what happened in South Africa. We need a kind of Egyptian Nelson Mandela to come forward. But I mean there is absolutely no sign of this at the moment.

The problem as well is that foreign backers of this current government – the Gulf Arab powers – are not friends of the Muslim Brotherhood themselves, so they are supporting Egypt quite likely on the condition that the Egyptian government does not reconcile with the Islamist camp. The Gulf Arab countries have got their own concerns about Muslim Brotherhood.

So the Egyptian government has got little incentive to reconcile – but this is the only hope at this stage, otherwise it looks unfortunately that the country is going to slide into prolonged conflict because the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, having seen that they cannot take power through the ballot box, some of them are likely to turn violent.

RT:What about the attitude towards the Constitution? Surely obtaining one is in everyone’s interest, but why in Egypt is it such a burning issue?

HM: The Constitution and the elections which are planned – this is all the government’s timeline, their wish list of how they would like Egypt to continue in the future, if Egypt was a normal country. Unfortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood, their supporters and other Islamists completely reject the Constitution, they reject the whole program which is planned, the elections, they do not accept this government, they see them as traitors, and the think that President Morsi is still the government of Egypt – so the country is very divided. This Constitution is meaningless to the supporters of the Islamists.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.