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Full Circle in Egypt?; Egyptian Scholar Targeted in Crackdown; Archbishop and Imam Unite; Imagine a World

Aired January 28, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsy, faced a Cairo court today. He's charged with orchestrating a mass breakout from a prison in 2011 as well as the murder of prison officers and state media showed the ousted president shouting at the judges.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Morsy is facing four separate criminal trials on various charges and all of this is happening as Egypt seems to have come full circle. Three years to the week since Mubarak was overthrown and Egypt looked like it was on a triumphant march to democracy, who could have imagined amidst the Tahrir Square revolution three years ago that Mubarak's military-backed coup would be replaced by al-Sisi's military rule? Egypt's ruling generals have now informed the people that Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has their blessing to stand for president, saying, quote, "They can do nothing except to regard with utmost respect the wishes of the people to nominate him for the presidency," which is a call of duty.

So the path back to military rule in Egypt seems assured. Investors are certainly happy though; Egypt's main stock market surged to its highest level in years today. And for sure, the majority of the Egyptian people want nothing more than security, stability and their economic lot improved.

But where does this leave the Arab world's biggest and most powerful country? It used to be said that Egypt would set the example for the rest of the region to follow. And yet its neighboring Tunisia, where the Arab Spring started, that is setting a far better example staving off both Islamic and military extremes through political compromise and this week approving its own new constitution.

We will examine all of this. First we turn to Leila Fadel. She's the Cairo bureau chief for National Public Radio in the United States and she's covered this story from the very beginning.

Leila, thank you very much indeed for joining me. Let me ask you first, describe that scene in the court today.

LEILA FADEL, NPR: Well, today we saw the ousted president, Mohammed Morsy, behind a glass barricaded cage in this makeshift courtroom screaming that he is still the legitimate president, telling the judge, who are you? Do you know who I am? And the judge responding, I'm the chief of this court, putting him in place -- in his place.

And it's really become -- come full circle. He was a prisoner; he was elected president and now he's in that prison jumpsuit again.

AMANPOUR: So where do you think this is leading? Because even as we've seen the violence leading up to the three-year anniversary, we've seen this Cairo court appearance now, but also the announcement today that an interior ministry official was assassinated. Who did that? And is that sort of just simply deepening the violence and the uncertainty?

FADEL: Well, at this point Egypt seems to be the -- facing the beginning of a low-level insurgency. We saw a spate of bombings over the weekend being claimed by an extremist militant group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. And today the assassination of a top interior minister official. And so -- and this -- this is all being blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, but there's really little evidence that they're actually doing any of these attacks. These attacks are being carried out apparently by this group that's based in Sinai. And it's unclear if the state is ready for this scale of violence towards the police and the military here in Egypt.

AMANPOUR: So the question is, is a backlash happening against the ousting of the president and also declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization?

I guess in the midst of all this, what does General al-Sisi's potential run for the presidency, what does this do? Does this deepen this -- the crisis or will it lead Egypt out of this crisis?

FADEL: You know, it very well could deepen the crisis. Egyptians are expecting so much from Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. They expect him to fix every problem in this country from the battered economy to the violence that we're seeing.

But what we've seen since the ouster of Morsy is consistent protests from day one that turned quickly violent, clashes that are killing dozens of people. We saw 64 -- between 49 and 64 people die in one day on Saturday. So people are saying will this lead -- people want this to lead to stability, but critics and analysts say this will likely lead to more violence and less acceptance of any kind of dissent.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you as a reporter, obviously for a foreign news organization, but as we see some of our colleagues in jail and we see broad dissent being punished, whether it's in media or academic circles, how are you actually covering this story?

And under what threats do you operate?

FADEL: Well, there is an intense suspicion of the foreign media now. There's constantly on local treatment and state television foreign conspiracies that the United States, that Qatar, that Israel, that think ,you know, fill in the blank with a country, is trying to destroy Egypt instead of dealing with the domestic issues.

So when we go out to report, there are times that people view us with suspicions. There were a huge amount of attacks on foreign journalists on Saturday during the celebrations because people suspected journalists of being from Al Jazeera, the Qatari-funded network.

And so it is getting harder to do our jobs because of that hostility. But also it's really interesting to see these divisions, on Saturday on one side, people are dancing and you're standing there and they're telling you what a great day it is. This is a celebration of the future of Egypt.

And they want Sisi to run for president.

On the other side, you're standing with protesters who are coming under fire from security forces, saying that they want to change this back to a democratic path, saying this is not the way forward, bringing back a military regime.

AMANPOUR: Leila Fadel, thank you for joining me. Thanks for your reporting, and we'll obviously keep watching this.

And we want to obviously keep exploring what is going on here in Egypt as we've just said, important to remember that three colleagues, journalists working for Al Jazeera, Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohammed Fahmy, do remain in detention in Egypt. And they've been held without charge since December 29th.

Now turning now to the political divisions that are obviously in sharp focus, Eman Shaheen is an internationally respected political science professor at the American University in Cairo. But he was charged two weeks ago with espionage and conspiracy to undermine national security. He's obviously caught up in this ongoing crackdown on dissent. And he's been an outspoken critic of the military crackdown. But he was also a critic of Morsy's leadership and he was a critic of President Mubarak before that. Dr. Shahin left Egypt after learning of the charges against him, and he joins me now from Washington.

Welcome to the program. Thank you for being here.

EMAD SHAHIN, EGYPTIAN ACADEMIC: Thank you, Christiane, for having me.

AMANPOUR: First of all, I want to know, because obviously it's important what America does in regard to what's going on here in Egypt. What is your mission on Capitol Hill?

SHAHIN: Well, it's not actually a mission. That's of course (INAUDIBLE) concerned about the position of the United States regarding this particular crisis in Egypt and also regarding the military junta that has been to a large extent oppressing freedoms and expression, the right of expression in the country.

So I think this has to be erased. And this has -- this issue has to be explained through the American policymakers as well as the American public opinion. We don't want to be on the wrong side of history. Once again, I think we had precedence before. We had the Iranian revolution and the support of repressive and autocratic regimes and also the consequences that this brings to U.S.

AMANPOUR: OK. You have been, as I said, a critic of all the excesses of all the regimes that we've seen in Egypt over the last 30-plus years, including the ousted Muslim Brotherhood.

Some people are now saying it's come full circle; but actually they're saying it's even worse, the crackdown now, than it was under President Mubarak.

And you yourself are a victim of this.

What is going on?

SHAHIN: Yes, this is what is going on. There is a road map that the regime has -- the military, that government has put forward. And of course in order to implement its phases, they are suppressing any voice of dissent.


AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you --


AMANPOUR: I'm sorry; I interrupted you. Yours included.

What is going to happen to you?

SHAHIN: Honestly, I don't know what's going to happen to you -- to me because simply, simply this situation, allegations and fabricated charges could be brought against someone. And we do not have a proper recourse or a due process, a legal process, even to defend ourselves.

I was outside the country attending an academic conference when I learned about these accusations. I went back to hopefully defend myself. I consulted with lawyer and he said you have to leave the country as soon as possible because even us lawyers do not feel secure in a situation like this.

Believe it or not, the case is going to be reviewed February 16th, and I don't know the exact charges. I've not seen the exact charges. Nobody has interrogated me. Nobody has subpoenaed me. And all I have is that I have been listed as a fugitive.

There was a huge difference between the process and between the true constitution. The process was totally different. I don't want to go into this because this would take a long time.

But I think -- I think the process in the first one, the 2012, was of course still lacking. But it was more representative and more open and more public.

AMANPOUR: Will you go back to Egypt?

And do you believe Sisi will be president?

SHAHIN: I will go back to Egypt if I am guaranteed a due process and fair trial.

Whether Sisi will be president, if he decides to run, yes, of course. Definitely he will be a president in the manner that other autocrats have taken over power, feasting on the divisions within society, instilling fear inside and trying to portray themselves as the only rescue. The general who's going to lift up the country from the ashes of civil war, of division and of violence. But if you look on the record, actually, his record has been provoking more violence, leading the country into a high level of polarization and escalation.

AMANPOUR: Emad Shahin, thank you very much for joining me from Capitol Hill there in Washington.


AMANPOUR: So as the protests continue to wrack Egypt, we want to take special note of one important voice of protest which has now fallen silent.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Pete Seeger, the U.S. folk singer and activist, has died at the age of 94. With this song and many others he penned, he inspired the likes of Bob Dylan, having mastered the mellow beats of folk music to draw attention to the harsh realities of war, civil rights and the environment. Our tribute later in the show.

And when we come back, in a violent and political vacuum, leadership and conscience can come from artists like Pete Seeger and faith leaders like the Catholic archbishop and the Muslim imam who joined hands to stop their Central African Republic descending into full-scale genocide. That's when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. The situation in the Central African Republic remains poised on a knife's edge. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights warned, "We simply cannot let the social fabric of this country be torn apart."

The election of the transitional president, Catherine Samba-Panza on January 20th, has raised some hopes. But a vicious vigilante war between Christians and Muslims continues and it's spreading.

Some of the main Muslim militia leaders have been escorted out of the capital, Bangui, this week, but will they just intensify the fight whatever they end up? The terrorized people continue to flee the battle zones. And while French and African Union forces have tried to stem the violence, they have not been able to stop it.

The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry now talks of targeted sanctions against those who further stabilize the situation or pursue their own selfish ends by abetting or encouraging the violence. And the United States is calling for community leaders to step up to the plate.

Two of them are, Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Bangui, and Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, who is the leader of the Islamic Community there. They are publicly petitioning for a U.N. peacekeeping force to stop what happened in Rwanda 20 years ago, from happening in the CAR today.

After delivering their letter to the prime minister's office here at 10 Downing Street, they joined me in the studio to explain why they are putting themselves on the line for peace.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Merci beaucoup.

AMANPOUR: This is the letter that you have delivered to the prime minister of Great Britain, to David Cameron. The E.U. has authorized E.U. force to go to Central African Republic -- I don't know when that's going to happen.

What do you think that a peacekeeping force could actually do?

DIEUDONNE NZAPALAINGA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF BANGUI (through translator): A peacekeeping force that arrives will already be able to stop all those who have weapons.

A peacekeeping force that arrives will allow the politicians to hold campaigns in security.

A peacekeeping force that arrives will also allow the humanitarian workers to travel inside the country, to allow children to go back to school and patients to receive medicine. Currently the country is paralyzed and we believe that a peacekeeping force is welcome for redeployment, for a reconstruction, for a preparation of elections and to allow peace to return to the Central African Republic.

AMANPOUR: I am going to play you a little bit of an interview that I did with U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power from the United States about a peacekeeping mission. I asked her last month whether there would be a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Listen to what she said.


SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: One of the reasons that the president asked me to take the trip here is to assess the situation up front, to try to look ahead and see what will be needed.

The Africans here speak with great assurance of their ability once they are -- especially at full strength, to bring the situation under control.

But I think, again, it's very important that we walk and chew gum at the same time.

If there were a peace to keep and one could -- it was deemed necessary to bring in a peacekeeping mission, that we be in a position to do that more quickly than otherwise.


AMANPOUR: You heard what the ambassador said. You went to see her.

What did she say to you? Because to me, she did not commit to a peacekeeping mission.

OMAR KABINE LAYAMA, IMAM; PRESIDENT OF THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC ISLAMIC COMMUNITY (through translator): We have understood what she has said. But we think that the situation has changed. Since the 5th of December, the situation is not as it has been foreseen. The situation has changed and the country is so vast, the whole country has become a powder keg.

But we think that with the national community, a U.N. peacekeeping force could really respond to the size of the country and also to material means. And the African forces that are set up do not have the means -- we must say the truth -- others are traveling on foot and there is no means of communication. So for us, we want this to stop in a lasting way so that the fires are really put out and the population is saved.

AMANPOUR: You make a strange couple. On the one hand, you've got Christians and Muslims killing each other in the Central African Republic. On the other hand, here you are, the head of the Catholic Church, the Muslim leader of the Central African Republic.

Why have you got together and are you making any difference on the ground?

Are your appeal to your communities actually having any difference?

LAYAMA (through translator): We are together to first prove to international opinion that the crisis is not religious. It is a military and political policy in which a religious temperament has been used for some people in order to reach their objectives, which is power. We are in a symbiosis, the minister and I. The imam and the archbishop, for us to mobilize the believers together so as not to accept the crisis becoming a religious crisis.

AMANPOUR: Now most people think that it is already a religious crisis, a religious war and that the killings are unstoppable and that the two communities are forever going to be apart.

Have Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic always been enemies?

NZAPALAINGA (through translator): No, if we look well into the past, in my childhood, at the time of the Christmas holidays, we shared our toys with Muslim friends. At the time of Ramadan, we played. In the past, we have never been enemies. We were brothers. Let's find our origins again. If we don't know where to go, let us recall where we come from, where we brothers have been and let us stay together.

AMANPOUR: The head of the U.N. human rights organization has said that CAR is at a very, very difficult and critical point right now, that it could become a Rwanda-style genocide.

Does that concern you?

Do you think that that's possible?

LAYAMA (through translator): The way to avoid this drama that we call genocide that we have set to work to reduce tension, to reduce hatred, to also reduce intolerance is so the crisis does not become general, supported by all the countries in the world, the United States who first signed the letter about this genocide, to support the military force, which is set up to disarm the groups that are fighting for power in order to allow us to bring all those who are angry around one table for a true reconciliation. AMANPOUR: Archbishop, the Christians, vigilantes, militias, are committing almost the majority of the killings right now. I know it started because of the Selekas, but the so-called anti-balaka, Christian vigilantes, are on a terrible killing spree.

What are you saying to them as head of the Catholic Church? And are they listening?

NZAPALAINGA (through translator): So what I say to them is that if we let ourselves be led by violence, we are advocating violence. And it is a vicious cycle of reprisals. And we will never stop. And we are going to have to stop. If we stop, it is not a weakness. It's rather that we want to give power to love, power to forgiveness, power also to responsibility. And we are going to have to stop.

AMANPOUR: Are you afraid -- as I asked the imam -- about a Rwanda-style genocide happening in the CAR?

NZAPALAINGA (through translator): No, I'm not afraid. I think that the two of us, we have all alerted and we think we have to take it seriously, what is happening in the Central African Republic.

And we are all pleading for new forces to arrive in the Central African Republic to stop that violence, to stop devil's friend, and to allow the core citizens of the Central African Republic to live in peace. Currently they cannot live in peace. They are terrorized and they are hidden in fear.

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much indeed for joining me. I wish you good luck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Merci beaucoup.



AMANPOUR: Now even interfaith singers are jumping aboard this peace train.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): World-famous Senegalese star Youssou N'Dour, who is Muslim, is recording a song for peace with the Central African Republic's famous singer, Idylle Mamba, who is a Christian. N'Dour, who famously joined Peter Gabriel's anti-apartheid anthem, "Biko," says that his message for the CAR is that it is not an obstacle to have different religious but it is rather an asset.

And celebrating Pete Seeger's lifelong activism using song as an agent of change, when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, with protests and the longing for real political rights convulsing our universe from Kiev to Cairo, imagine a world where the son of privilege became the voice of protest and a musical champion of the common man.

For younger generations, Pete Seeger was that old guy singing with Bruce Springsteen at President Obama's first inauguration in 2009. But the journey that brought him there began 70 years before that in the Great Depression when young Pete dropped out of Harvard. He went on the road with fellow folk singer Woody Guthrie, hopping freight trains and criss- crossing America, using the banjo and the guitar to raise money for migrant workers and to rally organized labor.

After then serving and singing in the Army in World War II, Pete brought his music to New York's Greenwich Village and there, with his group, the Weavers, he made folk music cool and profitable. And visible to the FBI, because in the 1950s, a brief flirtation with the Communist Party branded him as un-American.

But when he testified before Congress, Pete Seeger volunteered to prove his patriotism by singing to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Instead, he was indicted for contempt and sentenced to a year in prison.

That sentence was overturned and Pete Seeger took up the guitar again, turning folk tunes into top 10 hits and inspiring younger generations for social change, like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and even Woody Guthrie's son, Arlo.

He never stopped singing or fighting for the underdog whether it was transforming an old gospel tune into the civil rights anthem, "We Shall Overcome," or taking on the environment long before that was popular.

Pete Seeger died on Monday at the age of 94. As American as apple pie, but whose songs could have also been anthems from Kiev to Cairo and beyond.