What’s next for the Egyptian revolution? | 

Families protesting near Tahrir Square by Flickr user Zeinab Mohamed

This has been a tumultuous week in Egypt. Huge protests on against the elected president Muhuammed Morsi were followed by what many are calling a military coup d’etat. Now, two and a half years after the fall of dictator Hosni Mubarak, some are saying the Egyptian revolution is “back to square one.”

But Morsi had a 78% approval rating when he took office only a year ago, according to polling data. What accounts for the drastic decline in his popularity? Was it really a coup? Who makes up the country’s military and what are their interests? Why are people still protesting in the streets?

Is there still promise and hope for Egypt’s revolution?

Who better to answer these questions than Tarek Dawoud, a community activist in Seattle’s Egyptian-American community and a keen observer of Egyptian politics, and Hatim Aiad, who lives in Washington but is currently in Cairo where the protests are ongoing.

They don’t agree on everything – one is more pro-Morsi than the other – but they both are confident that Egypt’s younger generations will keep fighting for democracy. Aiad says the youth are “global, not local” in their political outlook. And Dawoud says they’re increasingly well-organized, even learning how to deal with opportunist politicians. “I think you’re going to see great things from Egypt,” he says.

But first, Tom Paulson and I discuss this week’s headlines, among them: Failed children’s water pumps (Playpumps!), the fickle nature of private investment as a driver of growth in the Global South, and “the rise of Middle Class militants” in Egypt and elsewhere.

Listen below. And if you’re interested in development and global health, you owe it yourself to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Egypt protests turn violent, Mubarak not ready to leave yet | 

The political uprising in Egypt took a violent turn recently, as government supporters (whom many reports say are being identified as often police or security force personnel in civilian clothes) clash with protesters on the street still calling for immediate regime change.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who earlier reshuffled his political leadership and promised reforms in an unsuccessful attempt to mollify the protesters, also has said he won’t stand for re-election next fall.

Not good enough, say the demonstrators. They want Mubarak out now.

As I’ve said before, among the best blow-by-blow news coverage of all this is on Al Jazeera English livestream. Some have complained to me that the Qatar-based news network is too biased, but I think the coverage is actually no more biased (perhaps less so) than what you see in American media.

Beyond the breaking news, here are some articles offering perspective:

The Guardian: Who’s Behind the Egypt Protests? (Hint: No, it’s not the Muslim Brotherhood … though the American media tends to always go there …)

Wall Street Journal: The Politics of Food Prices in Egypt.

Huffington Post: The Missing Link in Egyptian Protests.

USA Today: Egypt Rejects Obama’s call for Immediate “Transition.

That’s the word other political leaders are all using – transition. It’s funny how in these moments of crisis, violence and turmoil, politicians tend to move even more forcefully into euphemism.

Is foreign aid about helping poor people, or propping up dictators? | 

Egypt, now in political revolution, is one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid, getting more than a billion dollars annually.


U.S. foreign assistance map

As this data from USAID’s excellent new Foreign Assistance Dashboard shows, nearly all of it has gone for “peace and security” — which is, of course, a euphemism for military spending.

Supporting Egypt’s outgoing (soon, yes) dictatorial president Hosni Mubarak has been the primary motive for that aid, partly because of Egypt’s relatively friendly stance as an Arab nation toward us and toward Israel. Continue reading

How (ir)relevant was Davos this year? | 

World Economic Forum

Well, Bill Gates did get some public attention and additional money for the ongoing global campaign to eradicate polio while hanging out with the rich and powerful at the Swiss ski resort.

Among the other issues discussed by members of the global elite who gathered at the World Economic Forum this year, some pondered the connections between wealth and happiness, finance ministers promised to stabilize the euro, a writer for Forbes attending the invite-only affair complained about being excluded from the inner-inner circle and the Economist’s Matthew Bishop’s described playing at being an oppressed refugee. Said Bishop:

“The activity was worthwhile, stimulating serious conversations about how to address a serious problem.”

At first, I read that as “simulating” a serious conversation since Bishop made no mention of perhaps the world’s most serious problem — the turmoil rocking Egypt and much of the Arab world. Continue reading

Egyptian military with people, against police: Is it over for Mubarak? | 

If this video footage today from Egypt is representative of what’s going on there, it sure looks like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak better start packing his bags.

When the military teams up with the protesters against the police, it’s a bad sign for the current government.

Egypt in revolt | 

There’s plenty of news out there about what’s happening in Egypt, as a popular revolt against the Mubarak regime continues despite a crackdown on the protesters, media and social media tools.

I won’t add a list of my favorite news reports, other than to say perhaps the best bet for up-to-date and comprehensive coverage of the uprising is from Al Jazeera.

Here, for as long as it lasts (given government actions to restrict media) is Al Jazeera’s livestream video:

Al Jazeera

Protests continue in Egypt, Yemen while Algeria throws wheat at the fire | 

Protests calling for political change in Egypt and Yemen appear to be gaining momentum, sparked by the successful people’s revolt in Tunisia.

Those two countries appear to be the main hotspots right now, though this trend of uprisings is much more widespread. GlobalPost has a nice (but long) summary of the “region in upheaval.”

A somewhat oddly headlined story in the New York Times — Egyptian Markets Fall as Protests Gather Support — actually describes much more of what’s going on in Egypt than its impact on the market. For example, the famed Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize winner (and nuclear arms inspector) Mohamed ElBaradei has publicly supported the protests and urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Meanwhile, similar protests are going on as well in Yemen while the Tunisian spark appears to have been snuffed out in Algeria for the moment anyway, by the Algerian government buying a huge amount of wheat.

Huh? It’s about food? You probably thought it was about freedom and democracy. Well, it is. Many say the bulk of the protests are really being fueled by the bad economy and rising food prices. I guess Algeria can test that theory. It may be able to buy some quiet time with these wheat purchases, but we’ll see if that quells resentment built upon a long history of political repression.