After the ceremonial duties that followed the election of Mohammed Mursi, the new Egyptian President took the oath of office before the Supreme Constitutional Court's general assembly, as President of the Republic. Then President Mursi delivered his main speech in the Grand Hall of Cairo University, in front of a broad spectrum of Egyptian society with all its various guises. The day concluded with a celebration held under the auspices and perfect organization of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), whereby power was "completely" handed over to the first ever civilian president in the history of Egypt.
Amidst the celebrations of such a grand and significant event, people tend to forget the vital role played by the Egyptian armed forces. In fact, the head of SCAF, and the actual leader of the country over the past 16 months, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, will go down in history for handing over power to a civilian president. He is only the third military leader to have done such a noble deed in the Arab world after Field Marshal Swar al-Dahab in Sudan and Colonel Fal in Mauritania. SCAF provided an honorable service during extremely complex, tense and chaotic scenes. It administered the country's affairs at a dangerous time when the state and the government were collapsing, security and stability were being undermined, confidence was shaken and the economy was in decline. All this happened within the first few days, and the situation was further compounded by the sharp divisions in the Egyptian political street.
A language of mistrust, doubt and slander prevailed across Egypt in an unprecedented manner, no body or authority was safe from such insults or accusations, and everyone experienced their share of defamation. Nevertheless, SCAF was committed to carrying out the parliamentary elections on time and in a remarkably successful manner. SCAF also carried out the presidential elections despite the state of public "clamor". Interventions from the media, revolutionaries, political forces and legal bodies all sought to cast doubt on the election results, stressing that the army would cancel the whole process or at the very least repeat the elections to bring a SCAF affiliate to power. However, none of this happened and power was completely transferred to the new president. This step was reinforced by a group of government institutions that performed a striking role in consolidating the state and respecting it. Hence, the world watched as the Supreme Constitutional Court, the presidency, the Republican Guard, the cabinet and the military establishment, each with a specific and a well-known role, aimed to lay the proper foundations required for the transitional period. SCAF was the unknown solider of the January 25th Revolution, and today the Egyptian army appears civilized and refined compared to its counterparts in Libya, Yemen and Syria.
The Egyptian army promised to completely hand over power in accordance with a specific timeframe, and this promise was fulfilled. There were several mistakes, slips and stumbles, as the situation was unprecedented and highly tense, with the country being in a heated state of revolution, where outrage and suspicion prevailed. The climate was not particularly conducive towards good governance, particularly as there were several groups and factions with their own desires to influence the situation on the ground, whether positively or negatively.
Military rule [in the Arab world] had become an abhorrent phrase, owing to its connotations of deceit, fraud, disgrace and indignity. Looking back through history, the experiences of Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Algeria and Egypt bear testament to this.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of shameful examples of horrific and blood-thirsty military rule in the Arab world. What is happening now in Syria at the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle is nothing more than the latest manifestation of this. Therefore, Egypt's SCAF, with its refined and responsible conduct, and its respect for the will and desire of the people, has displayed its absolute commitment to change that was both required and inevitable. This was an example of how duties should be fulfilled in the best manner possible. We saw this clearly in the military salute given by Field Marshal Tantawi and his deputy Lieutenant General Sami Anan to President Mursi, something that emphasized that the military’s "governance" role is now completed, and that the army will return to their barracks under their new president. This was truly a rare and wonderful scene!
The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on July 5, 2012