on Tue Jun 14 00:22:36 2011, in response to Egypt Revolts!, posted by JayZeeBMT on Fri Jan 28 16:01:55 2011.
Ya don't say . . . ! So it's not about freedom and democracy then? They just didn't like the ruler's agenda, but they're OK with the non-democratic regime?
Wall Street Journal
MIDDLE EAST NEWS | JUNE 14, 2011
Egypt Opposes U.S.'s Democracy Funding
By YAROSLAV TROFIMOVCAIRO—A U.S. plan to fund the democratic transition in Egypt has led to a confrontation with the country's new rulers, who are suspicious of American aims and what they see as political interference in the aftermath of President Hosni Mubarak's downfall.
Senior Egyptian officials have warned nongovernment organizations that taking U.S. funding would damage the country's security. The Egyptian government has also complained directly to the U.S.
"I am not sure at this stage we still need somebody to tell us what is or is not good for us—or worse, to force it on us," Fayza Aboul Naga, who has been Egypt's minister for planning and international cooperation since before the revolution, told The Wall Street Journal.
Such strong reaction has led U.S. officials to express concern that the Mubarak regime's resistance to democratic freedoms has yet to be shaken off by the new military-controlled government, which is overseeing the country until elections slated for September.
"Even though there has been a change at a certain level of the system, the system is still there," said a U.S. official.
Shortly after Mr. Mubarak's ouster, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said some of the $250 million in annual economic aid for Egypt would be redirected to "support the transition and assist the economic recovery."
In March, the U.S. Agency for International Development published ads in Egyptian newspapers asking for grant proposals on a $100 million program to support "job creation, economic development and poverty alleviation" and a $65 million program for "democratic development," including elections, civic activism and human rights.
Egyptian officials, who insist they should be allowed to vet or select recipients, were incensed by USAID's bypassing the government to solicit proposals directly from the public. They reacted with fury when a line of applicants snaked on the street to USAID's offices in a Cairo suburb, and USAID organized seminars to explain the application procedures to packed audiences outside the capital.
"This is a behavior that we are unable to fully comprehend," Ms. Aboul Naga says. Egypt never assented to the reprogramming of the economic aid, and has yet to be told from what existing programs the money will be cut, she adds.
An April editorial in the state-owned al Akhbar newspaper railed that USAID "dealt with Egypt as a humiliated country," and called for refusing American assistance.
Ms. Aboul Naga, backed by the military and the foreign ministry, has protested to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo complaining that USAID's actions violated Egypt's sovereignty.
She says bypassing the government in offering USAID grants contradicts a 1978 agreement between Egypt and the U.S. that mandates that all economic assistance must be channeled through the government.
Egypt's reaction surprised American officials. USAID's call for proposals was "pretty innocuous," a U.S. official says. "We meant no impingement of Egypt's dignity and no disrespect. The lion's share of our existing relationship is government-to-government."
In late April, U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey said in a statement that in the Mubarak era, "funding to strengthen and expand Egypt's civil society, including those brave Egyptians struggling for democracy and human rights…was often labeled 'interference.'…I hope, after January 25, this line has changed."
The Mubarak regime has long argued that American funding for activists working on democracy and human-rights issues undermined Egypt's stability. Some of the human-rights, media and pro-democracy groups that benefited from that aid turned out to play a key role in the Egyptian revolution.
Egypt's new prime minister was chosen with the blessing of the activists who helped to push Mr. Mubarak from power on Feb. 11, and the new military-led government has authorized once-banned parties, released political prisoners and taken other steps to prepare for free elections. Yet, much of Egypt's current bureacracy is a holdover from the old system.
"We're still ruled by the Mubarak regime without Mubarak," says Negad el-Borai, chairman of the United Group, a law firm and human-rights organization that has received U.S. funding for some of its projects.
Mr. Mubarak was also a U.S. ally, and the U.S. continues to provide $1.3 billion in annual military assistance to Egypt, and is planning to relieve $1 billion in debt, channeling that money into projects that create jobs.
USAID doesn't fund any Egyptian political movements directly, but supports workshops and seminars where budding political activists learn how to write party platforms, raise funds and campaign.
The two most visible U.S. groups that work on democracy and governance with USAID funding here, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, still haven't been able to secure official registration. American officials say they frequently raise the problem with authorities.
Ms. Aboul Naga, asked about the issue said it has become "rather irrelevant" with "the former regime completely disappearing and with the whole nation now vibrantly and vividly pushing forward towards a determined route of democracy."
Some of the expected beneficiaries of parliamentary elections, slated for September, are the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups that have been legalized and now expect to convert their strong popular followings into political power.
Such groups have long condemned USAID's pro-democracy projects as aiming to strengthen their secularist and pro-Western opponents.
Most Egyptian NGOs have political leanings—and enabling a secular organization to deliver services or create jobs on the ground could offset the influence of charities backed by the Islamists, potentially swaying the election races. Hafiz Salama, one of Egypt's most influential Islamist clerics, condemned American plans to support the democratic transition in a recent interview.
"We tell America and its allies lurking in Egypt: end your evil interference in Egypt's internal affairs, interference that we condemn as a conspiracy against the future of Egypt," he said.