"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


why cairo won't be tunis

This is a guest post from Matt Buehler, PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. Matt is going to be a regular contributor on the blog with a focus on north Africa. Here are his thoughts on the unfolding crisis in Egypt:

Large protests are expected today in Cairo and other major Egyptian cities following Friday prayer. Former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and unsuccessful opposition presidential candidate, Mohammed ELBaradei, has returned to Cairo to lead the protests and call for President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. A diverse array of organizations and ordinary citizens will join the protests including Egypt’s largest opposition political movement, the nonviolent Muslim Brotherhood. Despite the outpouring of public dissatisfaction, Egypt is unlikely to experience a “Jasmine Revolution.” Here’s why:

1) Egypt’s military is far less professionalized and depoliticized than Tunisia’s. Rachid Ammar, the Tunisian military’s commander, played an important role in the Jasmine Revolution by siding with the Tunisian people against Ben Ali and his republican guard. It would be unexpected for the Egyptian military, which remains close to the ruling National Democratic Party, to demonstrate such professionalism in civil-military relations.

2) In Egypt, the stakes are much higher for domestic interest groups (especially sectarian minorities). Certain sub-sections of Egyptian society, particularly Egypt’s 10-12% Coptic Christian population, rely on the Mubarak regime for protection and support. If the regime suddenly collapses, they fear the ethnic conflict that might emerge within the period of instability. Tunisia, by contrast, is homogenous in terms of the ethnic and sectarian composition of its population.

3) More than Tunisia, the Egyptian military has experience dealing with large public demonstrations. Beginning with the bread riots of the 1977, the Egyptian state has successfully dealt with large-scale protests in the Nile Delta in the 1990’s, 2003, and 2005. The bread riots, which lasted two full days and resulted in 800 deaths, forced the regime to turn back scheduled IMF and World Bank loan payments that were inflating food prices for ordinary Egyptians through subsidy reductions. Thus, the planned ‘day of rage’ in Cairo this Friday may, in short, drive the regime to make concessions and introduce limited reforms, but we should not expect to see a second Jasmine revolution accompanied by substantive regime change.

Here’s an interesting article on the importance of military professionalization in these recent uprisings.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't speak too soon...

Friday, January 28, 2011 10:23:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Copts have been furious with the government lately. The military just took to the street, but they seem to be on good terms with the protesters.

The protests may not succeed in ousting Mubarak, but the reasons given in this post are not why.

Friday, January 28, 2011 11:05:00 AM

Anonymous theblogrebel said...

But Mubarak is our dictator an we have so few left to aid us.....sorry went tea party there for a moment. It would seem that the real danger is one dictatorship will be replaced with a radicalized Muslim one!

Friday, January 28, 2011 11:05:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ignorance of the westerners concerning the people in the Middle East and what these people think and want is monumental. We have been so brain washed that it is impossible for us to see that the youth of the world wants justice, freedom and are rejecting neoliberal capitalism that has ruined their lives. It is now their turn to speak...we have spoken enough

Friday, January 28, 2011 2:30:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I predict this post is going to look pretty silly in a couple of days.

Friday, January 28, 2011 3:29:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well feel free to delete my post like you have with my last reply to Rebbecca on "naming, shaming, & measuring" comments. However Matt Buehler has got it totally wrong.




Mubarak's government is going and it is only a matter of time before he follows it.

"but we should not expect to see a second Jasmine revolution accompanied by substantive regime change."

What is the PhD in as a matter of interest?

Friday, January 28, 2011 5:53:00 PM

Anonymous theblogrebel said...

I think that the impact of 'wikkileaks ' is not being looked at. Those leaked documents basically show a shift for US foreign policy. Look the Obama admin is not following the the NWO American style democracy "by hook or by crook". Instead we see new US diplomacy encouraging change and freedom with clean hands. And ya know what that's a good thing. Mubarak is trying his attempts at "old school" dictatorship in a 21st century and he is being shown to be a relic of the past that Zahi Hawass should prepare a space at the Cairo museum. Obama has changed the air in the diplomatic room and it is scaring some people and encouraging others. Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt. But will this rebellion be hijacked by extremists agents from Iran which has encouraged the revoulution today. In the end one man or one government will stand strong. Its been that way in Egypt since the times of Khemet.

Friday, January 28, 2011 7:54:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings everyone, this is Matt responding to your comments. Lots of great thoughts here. Great debate. Like all of you, I also hope my post looks silly in a couple of days!!!

These current changes Mubarak is making in his cabinet are purely cosmetic. Changes in the cabinet, as I implied in the post, may represent one of the concessions he’s willing to make to try and placate the protesters. I don’t, however, think that such changes will lead to substantive reform in governance or political freedom in Egypt.

In sum, Mubarak has controlled Egypt for over 30 years, and I don’t think he (like Ben Ali) will give up without a fight. There’s just too much at stake for the regime as well as its coalition of supporters. I wouldn’t be surprised to see violence sometime today akin to Tianmen Square, 1989. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, of course.

Sorry I can’t address all your thoughts more specifically. In regard to post #5, let’s try to keep the debate academic without the ad hominem attacks.

Saturday, January 29, 2011 2:17:00 AM

Blogger matt said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Saturday, January 29, 2011 2:19:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, here's a great article on what other analysts are saying about the Egyptian military's possible role in the uprisings:


Saturday, January 29, 2011 2:21:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Anon @5:53, I didn't delete your comment. It may not have posted for some reason. If you want to email me with it, please do and I'll be happy to post it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011 9:39:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt whether Mubarak wants to go or not he is finished. The police are throwing in the towel and the army are not giving him the support he might have had expected.

"Shops and offices were looted overnight despite the curfew, with many protesters clambering onto army tanks and urging soldiers to join them."

"Thousands have gathered in the centre of the capital Cairo, where troops and armored vehicles are deployed but not seeking to intervene."

"City police and administrators have fled Suez"

"Some 60 percent of Egypt's police stations reportedly have reportedly been torched by angry demonstrators"

Going to be a bit hard for him to launch any kind of crackdown having lost control of the streets and without the help of the police or army.

Best thing the west can do is help ease him out and back the democratic forces in Egypt.

Laura posted it twice on different days.

Reminded me of the bit of Monty Python link i posted here that did not appear the first day i posted it, then it did, maybe English humour takes time to translate!

No doubt we will be going into the 11th or 12th rounds over the whole DRC conflict mineral issue in the future so will save my comments for now.

Saturday, January 29, 2011 9:57:00 AM

Anonymous theblogrebel said...

"Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint." - Alexander Hamilton

Saturday, January 29, 2011 10:57:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How easy it is to predict how a revolution in Cairo will turn out from a cozy seat in Austin?

Saturday, January 29, 2011 4:26:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please no reason to be insulting. Let's keep the debate academic. I'm likely closer to Cairo right now than you are.

Sunday, January 30, 2011 5:51:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless you are in Cairo, it is hard to take your analysis seriously. It just seems too speculative and superficial. Sorry.

Sunday, January 30, 2011 3:06:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saturday, January 29, 2011 9:57:00 AM

I am the anon. From the time above. In Matts defense everyone has been caught out and you even seem to have the Egyptian regime and the protesters unsure what to do next.

His "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance"Post has to be some of the unluckiest timing going.

Maybe when he has caught up on events he could give us his musings on who is likely to replace Mubarak and what parties are likely to hold most sway in a new democracy?






Anon markI

Sunday, January 30, 2011 6:34:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your many helpful articles, Anon! These are great reference for anyone wanting to learn more.

I think I'll also add my own:


Monday, January 31, 2011 2:57:00 AM

Anonymous theblogrebel said...

Why is the US supposed to help Egypt sort ou its issues. Thats what the people are doing now in Egypt. These prostestors demanding more US involvement and thier allies sound like "peace-hawks".

Monday, January 31, 2011 5:05:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Anon links only really a snapshot of the time i post them as things are changing so fast.

Do not know if you are joking or not Theblogrebel about "peacehawks" but things do look a bit more promising.








Anon MarkI

Monday, January 31, 2011 4:40:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats Ok Anon links only a snap shot really of what is going on last time i trawled the internet.

Theblogrebel looks like peace might break out eventually as the Egyptian army are saying they will not fire on demonstrators.









Monday, January 31, 2011 5:15:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mubarak promising to stand down some time in the future will not be enough of course.

He will still be forced to stand down and the quicker the better.










Tuesday, February 01, 2011 5:35:00 PM

Anonymous theblogrebel said...

Glen Beck:
"We have evidence of the uber-left, the anarchists and the communists and the socialists, the radicals, sowing the seeds and helping those in Egypt. All they want is more pressure on the United States. This isn't about the people there. This is about changing the globe. . . . The storm that I've talked about for so many years is here. The coming insurrection is here."

Oh, this is far beyond Barack Obama, he added. The uber-left and the Islamicists, he asserted, "are plotting together." Presumably to destroy the United States and take over the world -- and Obama's not doing anything to stop them. (He might be rooting for them!) Beck called on his followers to prepare for food riots in the United States.


Sunday, February 06, 2011 10:35:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Theblogrebel he missed out the aliens, the Catholic church and the Russians Lol.



Sunday, February 06, 2011 1:18:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, nearly two weeks after this post was written, what do you guys think? Was I not right that the Egyptian military hasn't defected from Mubarak's side like the Tunisians did? Hopefully, they will choose to do so at some point, in order to weaken the police force, but I'm still not optimistic about that...

The whole Egyptian military is just WAY more politicized than the Tunisian force.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 11:57:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No you were not right at all Matt Lol.





Think you should admit defeat.

Look on the bright side, at least you will probably never be so wrong again!

Joking aside maybe you could do a follow up post on the different ways things could go now.

Anon markI

Friday, February 11, 2011 11:59:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, dont speak to soon Matt! I thought your post was a good piece of well-informed analysis of the situation, but even the very best analysts cant predict how things go on the ground.
But thats life, its full of suprises (both negative and positive), so no shame in being wrong on this one. It would be great if you could do a follow up post though.


Saturday, February 12, 2011 8:17:00 AM

Anonymous theblogrebel said...

Ben-Eliezer said Mubarak expanded in the telephone call on "what he expects will happen in the Middle East after his fall".

"He contended the snowball (of civil unrest) won't stop in Egypt and it wouldn't skip any Arab country in the Middle East and in the Gulf.

"He said 'I won't be surprised if in the future you see more extremism and radical Islam and more disturbances -- dramatic changes and upheavals," Ben-Eliezer added.


Saturday, February 12, 2011 11:50:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might as well do a follow up Matt. Not impressed with the present coverage over what is likely to happen next.

Watched one program where they had dragged in four talking heads where one women was practically crying. Saying how everyone should celebrate and another was finger jabbing while predicting a Islamic republic. Complete Zoo.

Then today someone dragged Tony Blair "peace envoy" away from making his next million to give his opinion.

Compared to that standard you have not got a lot to beat.

Anon MarkI.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 5:21:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Hey, guys, thanks for the comments. I've asked Matt to write a follow-up post, but haven't heard back from him. As you know, he's in North Africa right now and there's been an internet shutdown in at least one country due to protests there. I don't think Matt is in those circumstances, but can't be sure - will keep you posted.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 1:29:00 PM


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