Wednesday, June 6, 2012

US Democracy Help Flows to Preferred Groups in Egypt

Two months before Egyptian police attacked the offices of an American-backed democratic organization last year, seven Egyptian employees resigned from one group of American organizations to protest what was termed undemocratic practice.
They complained that the US organization group, described as non-partisan, had issued an Islamic political organization (Ikhwanul Muslimin) from its program, gathering sensitive information about religion about Egyptians when conducting polls to be sent to Washington, and ordering employees to delete all computer files and submit all records to be sent abroad the month before the raid.
The employees said their resignation was due to their suspicion of the organization's unprofessional practices.
One of those who resigned, Dawlat Soulam, said that it was not democracy that should be given when he worked for the International Republican Institute.
Soulam and others said that they were disturbed by the work carried out by Sam LaHood, son of the United States Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood.
He suspects that there is something to be heard from the people of Egypt and suspects a political agenda but does not want to show America's partiality.
This was denied by IRI officials and ignored the dissatisfaction of the former employees. Nevertheless the small insurgency of the workers was important because it reflected the feeling that the US-backed democratic program in Egypt was not to help the people of Egypt but to serve American interests.
Interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press show that workers' protests and the government's crackdown on raids helped reveal what US officials did not want to admit publicly: The US government spent tens of millions of dollars to fund and train liberal groups in Egypt, which is backbone of the Egyptian rebellion. This was done to build opposition to Islamic parties and pro-military parties, in the name of democracy while US diplomats tried to convince Egyptian leaders that Washington was impartial.
Since the raid, US officials have been trying to improve their relationship with Egypt, but that can not be done overnight.
Documents and interviews with US and Egyptian officials show:
- US diplomats have known since March 2008 that Egyptian leaders will close the democracy program and arrest workers, and last year some of them even discussed the possibility of a strong Egyptian response to spend $ 65 million on democratic training costs after the Arab Spring.
- The democracy training program has strong links with US political parties by receiving the largest share of the money, which is $ 31.8 million. IRI refused to work with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the FJP Party. The IRI colleague of the Democrats, the National Democratic Institute, offered training and supported members of the Brotherhood.
-Almost six years before the Egyptian government filed a claim against US democracy workers, its leaders severely restricted the American democratic program after controversy over public comments by the IRI director.
The use of US money to support several groups seems to conflict with the policies of the US Agency for International Development which requires "good efforts to help all democratic parties, with fair assistance." A senior USAID official said he was unaware that the IRI had excluded members of the Muslim Brotherhood from its programs. But he denied that the agency took sides when distributing money to groups in Egypt or internationally.
Although the US is committed to announcing the details of democratic programs in Egypt, USAID refuses to identify all groups that accept money and amounts. The official said that the agency disclosed the list to Egyptian leaders, but would not disclose information openly about the recipient of the grant, something that surprised some US State Department officials.
The Egyptian government closes US democracy funding. The Islamic political group which is feared that the US will gain more control in Egypt instead becomes more popular, and holds the most seats in parliament and competes for the presidency. It was scheduled to have hearings in court for 43 democracy workers, including 16 Americans, who were illegally accused of operating political training programs, campaigns and elections financed with funds from the US and other foreign funds. Most Americans are no longer in Egypt and are not expected to appear in court.
This court is expected to reveal what has become a personal and long-standing argument between American officials and Egyptian officials over the US role in government in Egypt. Some political leaders argue that the US intervened in Egyptian affairs by directly financing training programs and political campaigns.
From US experience in Egypt it is clear that the dependence of American officials on financing to promote democracy in countries concerned about US interference can endanger American interests and for greater freedom. Apart from Egypt, American funding for democratic groups has also been banned in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Some think the US goal of promoting democracy in Egypt will backfire after the Arab Spring, to undermine American interests in the country considered important for Middle East stability, because Western leaders do not fully understand what's happening.
The former US Ambassador in Egypt, Frank Wisner, said that all sensitive feelings surfaced when the revolution in Egypt began. And according to him the friends of the US and the US government do not understand the extent of the risk and are not ready to deal with it
Former US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone wrote in a secret memo to the State Department in March 2008 that Egypt's Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Aboulnaga continued to complain about money from the US for unregistered democratic groups that train political activists. Ricciardone was concerned that the groups, which he called partners, could be targeted by ministers who opposed US funding unless the money went into his office.
He wanted that US partners must be aware of the legal or political consequences of receiving US funds and not believe that Aboulnaga would encourage security forces to arrest US partners or close their organizations without warning.
IRI has never been informed of Ricciardone's concerns.
In 2006, Egyptian officials ordered a reduction in the US-backed democracy program after a newspaper quoted the IRI director as saying. The article quotes that some Egyptian leaders were insulted when Americans "came and taught Egyptians how to think,".
After the Arab Spring and the overthrow of Mubarak, the US has accumulated millions of dollars to promote democracy in Egypt, hoping to expand its efforts by giving grants directly to large and small groups despite the concerns of Egyptian leaders over the practice.
The US quickly approved the development of democracy worth $ 65 million, much of it from Egyptian aid being held, because there were no promised repairs. Money goes directly to IRI, NDI and other democratic groups, including Egyptian organizations are considered more liberal and are more likely to challenge Islamic interests.
An official said that the Obama administration supported a decision that supports pro-democracy organizations because groups supported by the military did not need US assistance, the Muslim Brotherhood, already had political popularity with a strong national network, did not need US support, and remnants of the regime Mubarak does not need US training to organize or manage political campaigns.
US officials say that the US wants liberal groups, women's groups, to form coalition governments, but that will never happen.
Their IRI leaders exclude groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood for the same reason.
Scott Mastic, from the IRI in the Middle East region said they were focusing efforts on small parties weak in the early stages.
Mastic oversaw the work carried out by Sam LaHood, director of IRI in Egypt which was among democracy workers accused of operating illegally and receiving foreign aid. The Egyptian government initially banned LaHood and other Americans from leaving the country, leading to an international crisis which resulted in the threat of the US to hold $ 1.5 billion in economic and military assistance. But the controversy was over after Egypt allowed Americans to go home and the US handed over some of the money.
Mastic claimed that claims by Soulam and other workers who resigned practiced partiality by excluding Ikhwaul Muslimin. IRI works with several Islamic groups.
Hany Nasr, an Egyptian lawyer in Cairo, said he resigned from IRI, because he considered it unfair to help certain groups other than Islamic organizations.
Although he strongly disagrees with the Islamic group's point of view in politics, "you must say that I must be non-partisan. So I really have to be non-partisan,"
Mastic believes employees who resign only represent a small number of 52 Egyptians who work for the organization. He denied allegations that the group was gathering sensitive information about Egyptian religion as part of a political poll to be sent to Washington. Some information was collected to identify the characteristics of the Egyptians surveyed such as gender and age. Mastic said the information was not given to anyone outside IRI.
Interviewers conducted a face-to-face poll last year for IRI by noting whether Egyptians were Muslim or Christian by observing things like dressed in American style, men having beards, women wearing more conservative Abbasas or hijabs.
Sherif Mansour refused to say that the complaint against the IRI was the extent of the problem of developing democracy in Egypt. He considered it a dirty campaign against civil society.
Many groups expect to get US $ 65 million in funding. However, Egyptian officials refused to approve licenses for IRI, NDI and other groups.
Authorities began conducting summer investigations and collected evidence showing the groups were operating illegally without permission. He said that many of his colleagues in Egypt had to understand this was an Egyptian revolution and that the people of Egypt would determine the outcome, said Aboulnaga.
Mastic said he was sure Aboulnaga had attacked IRI and other democratic groups that accepted American money because the US traveled around in his ministry to distribute aid directly to those organizations.
US officials do not know whether Aboulnaga will survive the rebellion and military government, State Department officials said.
The official said that no one was fully debating the persistence of the ministry of this ministry. It never occurred to anyone that this ministry would become the strongest political agent in Egypt during the following year, he said.
The US should be able to avoid many problems in Egypt after the uprising if its officials pay more attention to how badly the drive to expand the development of democracy in Egypt, he said.
Wisner likens entering a kitchen full of Egyptian chefs while they don't want any more chefs from outside.
IWD/The Truth Seeker Media

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