The untouchable old guard

Rana Allam
6 Min Read
Rana Allam
Managing editor Rana Allam
Rana Allam

Just last week, we were having a proper fight. The constitution battle. We have been at it for weeks and almost every day some progress in awareness and mobilisation was being made. With the little disasters in every corner of this country, and the failures associated with them, acceptance of the status quo was not in question anymore. The constitution battle was being won

In a matter of days, the whole situation was turned upside down, with acquittals in the Battle of the Camel trial, Friday’s clashes and who was where doing what, the attorney general  he said/she said drama, the incredible statements of the Brotherhood and Mekki… and on and on it goes. In just a matter of days the constitution battle has subsided, but rest assured, it will be back.

For now, we are somewhere else, having street fights. For now, the only recurring thought in my mind is the names on the list of acquittals from the Battle of the Camel trial.

The first time I heard the name Ibrahim Kamel was on a list of members of the Egypt/US Presidential Council back in 1996. I was a junior reporter and took a few months off to work on a USAID project in preparation for the MENA economic conference held in Cairo.  Our job was to assist in logistics and PR for the US/Egypt presidents’ council. This council was a business council reporting directly to the president of Egypt and the vice president of the United States. It was comprised of 15 Egyptian businessmen, bankers, and investment lawyers and 15 US counterparts.

Formed in 1994, the council had a five-member executive committee on both sides. The chairman of the Egyptian side was Ibrahim Kamel and the committee included Gamal Mubarak among other very high profile figures. Of the members of the Council was Mohamed AbulEnein, another acquitted defendant in the Battle of the Camel trial. The council was the initiator/adviser/implementer of Egypt’s economy, businesses, taxes, investment laws, business litigation laws, et cetera. They had projects and they acted as counsellors for both governments on how to handle the Egyptian economy and businesses. During the conference, they presented new laws and measures for Egypt to “move forward” with its economy. That was when it all began, when the trip downhill started; the mid 1990s.

Gamal Mubarak was just stepping into Egypt’s limelight, the president’s bachelor banker son back from abroad. And for most of us back then, Ibrahim Kamel was a ghost, the most important name on the list of members, yet completely unknown to the average Egyptian. We knew the other names, at least by connection to some business. For most Egyptians, the name Ibrahim Kamel means nothing, because the stronger ones always remain in the dark, like the late Omar Suleiman for example. Kamel was the chairman of that council, he was the direct adviser to Mubarak in matters of money, at least with the US.

Some keep saying that the “third hand” has disappeared with the ascendency of the Muslim Brotherhood to power. I find it funny when people say that. The National Democratic Party, much like the Muslim Brotherhood, is not about papers and documents and headquarters. The decision to dissolve the NDP is as useless as a decision to dissolve the MB. The NDP is a group of businesses backed by politicians, but mostly by local authorities and small employees. Those who, even on a very small scale, benefited from that mode of bribery and alliances are still there and will continue fighting. This cannot be dissolved by a court ruling.

The Battle of the Camel defendants were almost all NDP leaders, and Mubarak’s old guard could not have stayed in jail, at least not yet. They are still managing the day-to-day running of the country and our current rulers know that. Gamal’s people, which includes Ahmed Ezz and Nazif and the rest of that bunch, were the smaller links in the chain of power and so became scapegoats, but the untouchables will remain so, at least for a while. They are the ones holding Egypt’s economy, international business relations and the hundreds of billions of dollars that move and shake our daily lives.

Now the question is, what kind of deal has Morsy and his Brothers forged to sort this mess?

Share This Article
Follow her on Twitter at @Run_Rana