Africa Christianity Today Published Articles

Amid Cascade of Coups, African Christians Debate Civic Duty 

Image: John Wessels / AFP / Getty Images

There is an “epidemic” of military coups in Africa, says the head of the United Nations. The past year and a half witnessed the overthrow of governments in Mali (twice), Chad, Guinea, Sudan, and Burkina Faso. At least three additional attempts were thwarted in Madagascar, the Central African Republic, and Niger.

Averaging two per year for the last decade, this is Africa’s largest surge since 1999.

What should Christians in these nations do about it?

Abel Ngarsouledé of Chad, where roughly 45 percent of the Muslim-majority nation is Christian, is walking it through.

“It is not for me to support a military coup in my country,” said the secretary general of the doctoral program at the Evangelical University of Chad. “But if God wants to remove a king from his throne, [God] uses all the means in his power to restore his fear and justice in the land.”

When Chad’s president was killed on the battlefield last April, the army moved quickly to place his son in charge of a 15-member Transitional Military Council that would govern for 18 months, renewable once. Pledging to hold a national dialogue, invitations were sent to rebel groups, politicians, civil society, academics, and religious leaders.

Ngarsouledé accepted.

With the council now delayed until May, he serves on two committee in a process designed to lead to reconciliation, social cohesion, and new elections. There are no guarantees any of these will happen, he says, and asks for prayer.

Also deputy director of the Council of Theological Institutions in Francophone Africa, Ngarsouledé recalled that at times in Old Testament history, God used prophets or priests to depose kings. Though today prayer should be employed, he is not so concerned about the end result.

“The form of the state is not the subject of biblical teaching,” he said, noting God’s priority for peace and justice. “It is men who adopt this or that form of governance, according to the orientation of their hearts.”

If Ngarsouledé’s opinion does not reflect the ironclad American Christian defense of democracy, he is not the only African Christian leader failing to do so. “Between democracy and autocracy, democracy seems to be the best suited at the moment,” said…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on March 17, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Atlantic Council Middle East Published Articles

Another Coup, A Salafi Hope

Hani Fawzi casting his ballot in Asala Party internal elections (photo: Clara Pak)
Hani Fawzi casting his ballot in Asala Party internal elections (photo: Clara Pak)

From my recent article in Egypt Source:

In order to reverse a coup d’état, Egypt needs a coup d’état. This, in brief, is the solution to Egypt’s crisis offered by Hani Fawzi, general secretary of the Cairo-based Salafi Asala Party. It must be prompted, however, by massive protests. No longer simply the domain of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, the anti-coup movement is attracting both professionals and Christians – or so he believes.

Rather, this is what he prays for. A few days prior to the violent dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-in at Raba’a al-Adaweya, Fawzi suffered a massive heart attack while sleeping in the near-by offices of the Asala Party in Nasr City. Found and hospitalized the next morning, unlike some of his colleagues he avoided the violence and mass arrests, but in his recovery has been reduced mostly to seeking divine intercession.

This, according to Fawzi, can come only through the army, as they are the only ones with the power to bring down Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Minister of Defense, and Mohamed Ibrahim, the Minister of the Interior. There have been indications, he hears, that not all generals have been pleased with Sisi’s leadership. The rumor mill has churned with such stories; a bearded taxi driver told me the other day that Sisi had three opposing generals killed.

Fawzi doesn’t want to put stock in rumors, but does notice that several generals have been very quiet. Should one of them undo the coup, it should set in motion what Morsi should have done upon his election. On this he admittedly draws on the rhetoric of Salafi firebrand Hazem Abu Ismail, who argued for a radical cleansing of the state apparatus. Fawzi finds him too divisive a figure, but Morsi could have made it work.

The rest of the article explains how, explains why he discounts Morsi’s opposition, and exculpates Islamists from the attacks on churches. Please click here to continue reading at Egypt Source.


Nothing was Inevitable

From Ibrahim al-Hudaiby, a former Muslim Brotherhood youth leader, in Ahram Online. He writes that the primary reason for the fall of Morsi was his personal failures and those of his group.

His list is lengthy and worth reading, but this entry in particular is worth remembering:

After 30 June, Morsi did not call for a referendum. Had he done so, he would have prevented “military intervention.” Instead, he prioritised his group that crumbles in self-criticism when it fails with the masses and unites under threat; he chose to be ousted at the hands of the army 3 July, not by the masses on 30 June. He chose to cancel out the entire scene of the masses from the picture and consciousness (there were even comical statements about using Photoshop), in order to maintain the coherence of the group.

By choosing to fall to the army, Morsi and the Brotherhood can now frame their failures as a coup d’etat. The constitution, however, gave him legitimacy to call for a public referendum. He may have won or lost, but he would have been admitting the massive public uprising against his rule.

Houdaiby’s analysis is poignant. Speaking as a former member, he attributes this decision to the Brotherhood’s inability to accept internal criticism and reflection. They chose instead to rally their faithful against an enemy, as times of crisis do not permit introspection.

This decision, he argues, has led us to the dangerous impasse we are in. From his conclusion:

After that, the Muslim Brotherhood chose to play the most treacherous card, by claiming the army was divided (for the first two weeks we heard endless rumours about splits in the Second and Third armies, etc). The military, like the Muslim Brotherhood, was also a group that needed to demonise the other in order to maintain its unity, and so it did.

This pleased some media figures and members of state institutions, which paved the way to horrendous crimes against protestors.

And thus, each side came to demonise the other.

Sad. Demonization tears society apart as it seeks to patch over internal fissures and contradictions. Let us not put anything past the susceptibility of mankind to be manipulated and deceived, but inasmuch as this demonization is a construct, must it not fail eventually?

The question is if its failure will lead to only more destruction. Will the plugged-up fissures explode, or diffuse the situation by letting out necessary steam?