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Interview with Dr. Essam al-Haddad, Presidential Advisor

Essam al-Haddad, with Hulsman (L) and Schleiffer (R)
Essam al-Haddad, with Hulsman (L) and Schleiffer (R)

The following is an excerpt from an interview I was privileged to be a part of with Arab West Report. We visited the presidential palace in Heliopolis to meet with Essam al-Haddad, President Morsi’s advisor on foreign and security affairs.

Visiting the palace itself is a strange experience. The walls are covered with anti-Morsi graffiti and lined with barbed wire due to recent clashes in the vicinity. It is a good symbol of the current state of Egypt. An Islamist occupies the top office but faces significant backlash, as the state appears to be breaking down, unable to maintain the respect necessary for such a vital institution. Can you imagine if the White House was similarly afflicted?

Here is Haddad’s take on this, including his explanation on why the conspiracy against Morsi has not yet been brought to light:

Dr. Essam Al-Haddad: The amount of violence against security which was not experienced before, has reached a level where security is now responding but with tear gas and water cannons. But for each rule there are exceptions. Our position is that there is no tolerance for violence against peaceful demonstrations and there is no tolerance for violent demonstrators who are attacking either other people or institutions. So the balance is very tight.

However, if there are any documented incidents of violation, we are taking this very seriously on two sides. First, it has to be investigated and those accountable need to be brought to justice. Second, strategic measures need to be taken to ensure it won’t happen again within the ministry and within the officers. And in this case we would say that we have experienced that the level of restraints, self-restraints by the police is not seen in the Egyptian public for years.

And I invited you to come here to see how we are operating within Ithahadiya [Presidential Palace]. By night on Friday Ithahadiya is attacked by Molotov cocktails and graffiti on walls and everything. Nobody is doing anything to them. So because they are not allowed to carry bullets, the police force, they are only allowed to use tear gas and water cannons. So this is what is going on in the police. But if things are going more violent from some of the violent demonstrators then they have to take action. The rule is using the acceptable level of force in order to stop this from going on.

Any violation of these acts, whether those who have been here in Ithahadiya or anywhere else, will be investigated and those who have been considered accountable will be brought to justice. This is the rule we are working on. Going back to the other side where we have experienced women harassment, huge women harassment at Tahrir Square, there have been claims that these had been organized by the FJP and the MB. This is nonsense, complete nonsense. We have information now that these people are paid by the day, sometimes by hour to demonstrate and to do whatever damage in any part they are and we even know that the fee reaches nearly 1000LE for a day and if they are wounded they could get up until 1500LE, so it is a good job.

Prof. Abdallah Schleiffer: If you have this information why don’t you bring them to charge?
Dr. Essam Al-Haddad: Because this information is not 100% on record. Like drug trafficking, you can see that this person is giving that person an amount of drug to be used and he is selling it and he is getting the price. If you don’t have the license from the public security…

Prof. Abdallah Schleiffer: But you could simply arrest the perpetrators, because there are groups who are fighting them and they could testify evidence, because, again, this is where there is a credibility problem. I have no reason to doubt you at all.

Dr. Essam Al-Haddad: We had a revolution 2 years ago. The dictatorship has been there for 30 years with all its levels of corruption. And people are now experiencing a totally new atmosphere that they are free to do whatever they want and there is no security apparatus enforcing law on them. And they feel this as an opportunity to do whatever they want.

I have been to South Africa for nearly five years after the Apartheid rulers. I was not in Johannesburg, but in Cape Town. I was not allowed to go outside the five-star hotel where I was staying without having a stick and without being warned. When I went around the streets of the five-star hotel everyone was holding a stick. And this was five years after the Apartheid regime.

You don’t have a complete change in such a short time. I always say, you need nine months to have a baby. Can you have a baby in less than nine months? Sometimes, maybe. But you need two years to start to speak two words. And another ten, thirteen years to be mature in order to be a responsible person. This is traditional of course. You cannot expect that after a full collapse and a full blown over of the regime, things would go back to normal immediately.

And you have a counter revolution going against you. But what I can say, we know very well where we are going. And we expect that this time will come and we are determined to carry on building our institutions. And carry on in the reforms we are trying to make in order to make the environment more acceptable and attractive for investors. This is how we want to do it.

Drs. Cornelis Hulsman: The issues we mentioned thus far are all issues for which you need consensus building. How would you find a consensus in Egypt to address all these issues that are of major importance to Egypt because a consensus will help to address this?

Dr. Essam Al-Haddad: Yes you are right, it is important, we are trying our best. Mr. President has invited for dialogue, once, a second, a third time. His invitation was that everything could be discussed, no constraints. You can discuss whatever. But what we are seeing from the other side is that we will not sit unless you are meeting this condition. So, it is a conditional dialogue. “No we will not sit with you ‘cause you are not credible enough”, “no we will not accept this, no we will not accept that.”

Our experience is that, not only experience, our information is that there are elements who are not willing to enter the dialogue, but they are only willing to delay the democratic process. This is their point. Whenever there is an election, they say this is not the right time for an election. If there is a referendum, they will say that this is not the right time for a referendum. If there is any sort of action building democratic institutions in order to go forward there is a sincere trial to hamper and to obstruct it.

This is what we see so in order to archive consensus within this environment, it is not that easy to reach a 100% consensus. But you have to reach out and to open the door and whoever will be joining you will carry on with them. And those who are sending their own agents inside the country and playing outside and sending money, there is more than country and business man who are intervening in our country to avert whatever is going on.

Prof. Abdallah Schleiffer: There is a credibility problem. What countries are you talking about? When you are talking about foreign countries intervening, especially since that is a phrase that has been used over sixty years, so it has a very negative, when I hear that it is like I am hearing…

Drs. Cornelis Hulsman: Mubarak.

Prof. Abdallah Schleiffer: Mubarak or Qadafi. Is there any way you could clarify that? What countries are intervening? I understand why you do not want to, but just asking whether you can.

Dr. Essam Al-Haddad: We do not want to spoil the relations with this country, because this is a brotherly country, which is scared of what is going on here. We prefer to keep it calm. And to avoid it, with the hope that they would realize that intervening in the internal affairs of Egypt is not at ease.

Please click here to read the full interview at Arab West Report.

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