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Egypt Votes on a New Constitution; Robin Hood or Outlaw?; Imagine a World

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


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

Three years ago, Tunisia's dictator Ben Ali was forced out of office and the Arab Spring was launched. But on this unhappy anniversary, except for in Tunisia, the dream of democracy and stability is in tatters, from Egypt to Syria to Libya and beyond.

Gloom is settling over a region well and truly splintering into warring tribes. In a moment, my exclusive interview with one of Libya's leading militiamen who just happens to be sitting right now in control of oil, which is the country's lifeline.

But first we turn to Egypt, where voting has begun on a new constitution, drawn up under military rule. It's been six months since the people rose up and demanded the army depose their first elected leader, Mohammed Morsy. And since then many say Egypt hasn't become more democratic but even more autocratic.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed and labeled a terrorist organization. Protests are illegal; Islamists, liberals and especially journalists are being arrested.

Just slapping up a poster for a no vote in this week's referendum is a jailable offense. And so what does the future hold? My guest, Naguib Sawiris, finally supported the ousting of President Morsy. He's among Egypt's wealthiest citizens who, along with his family, built one of the region's largest construction and communication companies.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Sawiris, welcome to the program and thank you for joining me from Cairo.

OK. I hope you can hear me. I just want to -- can you hear me. Mr. Sawiris?

OK. We are going to take a break. This is the beauty or the ugliness of live television, and we'll be right back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back. We seem to have got our technical problems sorted out. My guest, Naguib Sawiris, can hear me now. He's joining me from Cairo. And as I was saying, we are focusing on the voting that's underway for Egypt's new constitution, the referendum that is being held, a constitution that has been drawn up under military rule.

Mr. Sawiris, you were heavily involved in bankrolling the ouster of President Morsy and, sure, it is true that many Egyptians say they long for stability and many say they'll vote for this constitution.

But equally, many are incredibly pessimistic and disappointed at the way these last six months have unfolded with increasing autocratic tendencies.

What is your reaction today about where your money has been spent?

NAGUIB SAWIRIS, FORMER CHAIRMAN, ORASCOM: First, I would like to say I did not bankroll the opposition against Mr. Morsy. I supported the moral (ph) with my party. We have the Free Egyptian Party that stood behind the moral (ph), offered its logistical support.

All our, let's say, premises were used. We collected signatures for them. That's all what we did, you know. As far as what's going on now, we'll have to repeat what we said before. The June 30th movement was a popular movement against a dictator who decided to turn Egypt into a religious state, someone who has opened the jails for all the terrorists who killed Sadat and lynched his tourists (ph) in Luxor. And that was the popular movement. After that, we decided to go on a road map.

The first step was today, which was to vote for a constitution that reflects all Egyptians, not only religious or reduces not Muslims, not Christians, but everybody equally. And that's what we did today. It was a festival. Everybody went, was in very upside mood, everybody was happy. It went very well. It was well organized and well secured.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Sawiris?

SAWIRIS: (INAUDIBLE) are the minority who have boycotted these -- this constitution.

AMANPOUR: Yes, you call them the minority but I have to say, depending on numbers, who can tell the numbers? But certainly what's been coming out of Egypt has been troubling for many Egyptians who support even the ouster of President Morsy and now feel that they have simply had to endure a rising autocracy. Many Egyptians feel that despite some of the positive aspects of this new constitution, that it is one that enshrines the power of what would seem to be a very heavy-handed military in terms of cracking down on anybody and anything that disagrees with them.

SAWIRIS: I think I don't know where you get your sources of information, but you know, --


AMANPOUR: Well, Mr. Sawiris, three of my colleagues are in jail.

Three of my colleagues are in jail for doing their job, as you know very well. There are three journalists at least right now for international organizations, including a former CNN, who are accused of terrorism and this is simply being thrown out to tar (ph) anybody who disagrees.

So my question remains: do you see a possibility --

SAWIRIS: Do they have a valid (INAUDIBLE) to work --

AMANPOUR: -- (INAUDIBLE)? Oh, yes, they do. Mr. Sawiris, yes, of course they do.

My question to you is, is this going to continue this way?

SAWIRIS: You are referring to Al Jazeera members? Are you referring to Al Jazeera delegates in Cairo here?

AMANPOUR: Mr. Sawiris, I'm referring to journalist who've been arrested.


AMANPOUR: Because of the work that they're doing and the opinions that they either express or not. But they're considered enemies of the state.

This is a bigger problem, which I'm trying to get you to answer.

SAWIRIS: (INAUDIBLE) information I have. Your -- that's not the version I have. The information I have is that they were working without a permit, in any country, when you go as a correspondent, you need to get a valid permit. That's the (INAUDIBLE) I have.

AMANPOUR: OK. Mr. Sawiris, you can -- you can claim that, but I happen to know also how this works. And anytime a journalist is in trouble, specious allegations are made against them, such as they don't have a permit.

Let us move beyond the technicalities, because they're sitting in jail right now.

Do you think that it would show a positive aspect towards what your military and what you're saying you want a democratic Egypt, at least, to release these people before we discuss the bigger issues?

SAWIRIS: No, no, I agree with you, but I mean, I would invite you to watch Al Jazeera. They're doing an inciting -- incitement trip against Egypt. They're falsifying facts; they're making up stories and they're acting to disturb -- all Egyptians are really shocked at the lowliness of the level of Al Jazeera that has gone to.

So I mean, it's not like these people are like you, trying to be correct or issue statements or show the truth, you know. They're just going out, fabricating stories. And the minimum they should have done is got -- getting a permit for that. That's all, you know, OK.

AMANPOUR: Well, these are allegations that they've obviously denied and we deny for our -- on behalf of our colleagues as well.

But let me just please get to the point of this and that is this constitution, as I say, has been drawn up, many believe that it enshrines the power of the military over the -- over the rights of society and, indeed, over the rights of the civilian part of the state.

Are you concerned, for instance today, somebody who slaps up a no poster, in other words calling for a no vote, can go to jail?

Many liberals, many others, are being jailed simply for disagreeing.

What is going to change, Mr. Sawiris, after this constitution is (INAUDIBLE)?


SAWIRIS: (INAUDIBLE), I don't agree to any of that.



AMANPOUR: All right, well --

SAWIRIS: I don't agree to anybody being jailed for saying no.

But the fact is that we have a new role here in Egypt, for demonstrations, for putting stickers. You need to get also, again, a permission to go around demonstration. This is not only Egypt. This is around the whole world. If you want to go and demonstrate in front of Wall Street in New York, you will have to go to the police and ask for (INAUDIBLE) permission. If you decide to ignore the law and go on your own and do a demonstration, then you're breaking the law, as simple as that.

AMANPOUR: All right, Mr. Sawiris.

What is your view of how democracy is actually going to emerge from what is right now a very heavy-handed, all-encompassing military rule?

Let me just read you something. Maybe I can get you to react to this.

Many who supported democracy and many of them who perhaps supported even the ouster of President Morsy, are very, very depressed.

One columnist says to a colleague today, "I write to you on the last day of this dismal year" -- 2013 -- "when the dreams of Egyptians for a civil state that would bring freedom, dignity and social justice turned into nightmares.

"We now live in the shadow of a regime that is martial in its head, repressive in its arms, civilian in its skin, granting freedom only to those who applaud it," who applaud the regime.

What is your reaction to that?

SAWIRIS: I think, look, Ms. Amanpour, I want to tell you something. I mean, people who are after the outsetting (sic) of Mr. Morsy was outsetted (sic) by the people, we were confronted with a wave of terror acts, lynching of Egyptian soldiers, 21 soldiers, twice; the bombing of a police station, killing innocent people, shooting people and bombing premises.

Today we had a bomb in front of a court, you know. So the Egyptian people are upset and mad and furious at this terror reaction of the Muslim Brotherhood. So don't expect that the people -- people are not angels. They're not prophets, you know. People are alienated that this is the reaction.

Instead of them going and becoming a political party and working at -- in the light and accepting to reconcile and working as a decent political party, they have tended to go back to their roots, which is terror, bombing and killing.

So don't expect people to sit calm and to say that we are facing an autocratic. No, people are upset and they're -- and it's reflected in their behavior.

I am the first one to defend the rights of any Muslim Brotherhood who wants to express his right in a legal manner, not under -- not resorting to terror or bombing --

AMANPOUR: Mr. Sawiris --

SAWIRIS: -- fighting and people and -- or threatening people who go to work today.

AMANPOUR: Yes. Mr. Sawiris, as you know, 17 people were killed just a few days ago; hundreds were killed during the ouster of President Morsy and, indeed, there are many who are very concerned that outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood -- in other words, deeming them a terrorist organization -- could have a severe backlash, could simply act as a incubator for more terrorism and launch what, in fact, happened in the past, the Al Qaeda organization.

Are you concerned? You say you welcome any Muslim Brotherhood to express their views. They're actually outlawed now by your -- by the military.

Are you concerned that this could have a backlash and that the divisions in Egypt are being hardened?

SAWIRIS: Listen, ma'am, the -- first of all, we used to have very peaceful demonstrations. Sadly, the demonstrators were starting to use weapons and shoot at the police and we don't know who kills who in the end because when you have a demonstration where what demonstrators are shooting at the police, there is nothing to expect on the police except to defend themselves.

Let me tell you, I'm not concerned because I don't know if you've read these telephone conversations between Dr. Morsy and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda leader, where they are complotting (ph) and making plans to how to help Al Qaeda and its bigger vision of Islamic specification of the region and how to release criminals of the --

AMANPOUR: OK. Mr. Sawiris --

SAWIRIS: -- you're welcome. You have your own security forces who can check these tapes and see the verification of this. So they (INAUDIBLE) and terrorism and that's why the reaction came to outlaw them. It's not the other way around.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Sawiris, those are incredibly harsh accusations. There has been absolutely no evidence of what you suggest of those conversations. Sadly, we have run out of time and we have to end this conversation. I'm sorry we had technical difficulties at the beginning, but thank you very much for joining us and we hope to talk to you again.

SAWIRIS: You're welcome.

AMANPOUR: And when we come back, we're going to turn to Egypt's fractious neighbor, Libya, and have an exclusive conversation with one of the most important militiamen there today who sits on the country's oil reserves, its very lifeline, after a break.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. And we turn now to a young and increasingly powerful militia leader, sitting on billions and billions of dollars of oil in eastern Libya. Ever since the fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, elected leaders have struggled to unify the country.

And today, perhaps no one illustrates the post-war woes better than 32-year-old Ibrahim al-Jadran. In 2012, he was entrusted by the government with guarding Libya's crucial eastern oil port.

But last July, he went rogue, seizing the ports and demanding more autonomy and shared revenues for the eastern region, which he calls by its ancient Roman name, Cyrenaica.

The government has issued warrants for his arrest. I spoke with him in an exclusive interview just hours ago.


AMANPOUR: Ibrahim Jadran, welcome to the program. Thank you for joining me.

IBRAHIM JADRAN, PETROLEUM FACILITIES GUARD (through translator): You're welcome, Madam Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Jadran, the government says that you are wanted on at least two criminal charges. They say that there are the charges of using weapons and arms to blockade economic installations that belong to the state and the theft or the attempted theft because you've been trying to sell these -- what they call illegal shipments of oil.

They say that they will use force if necessary to make sure that this situation ends.

JADRAN (through translator): First of all, I'd like to emphasize that the government is not able to defend itself. We gave them three years to rebuild the institutions but they were not able to do that or to secure the average citizen.

This is a government whose prime minister was kidnapped. How could it secure or start the offensive or anything? This is a government of corruption and a government that's accused of all types of corruption.

This government has allowed Libya to become one of the most corrupted five states in the world and we'd like to emphasize that such a government is not able to use force and, as far as we are concerned, we are able to use force and protect ourselves and protect the food of Libyans.

The real solution here is a fair distribution of wealth and fair distribution of decision-making to activate the federalism, the real federal system an administrative federal system for all three provinces of Libya and to build a government which takes care of the rebuilding of army and the building of police and the financial aspects.

AMANPOUR: You accuse this government of corruption and you say that it can't defend itself.

Don't you see the irony?

And do you accept responsibility for being one of those who have helped create the chaos, one of those who have refused to enter into a central government, one of those who have decided to have your own militia and do your own thing?

How can that be good for the future of a united and stable country?

JADRAN (through translator): First of all, we used to be part of that government until the corruption became so visible and the government started to sell oil without measuring units.

And after we became certain that such a government is not credible and unable to rebuild the state, that's why we declared independence of our province and we started to seek our fair rights.

AMANPOUR: Meantime, the oil revenue has been plummeting. Your country is losing billions of dollars in oil revenue. And you cannot get this oil out because other countries, other companies won't do business with you. And so far, you haven't managed to export this oil.

The Libyan navy, the Libyan government, such as it stands, has already fired warning shots to get one of the oil tankers that was coming towards your port to move and to not dock and to not take on any oil.

JADRAN (through translator): First of all, there is no Libyan navy because the Libyan navy and the Libyan army are not capable of defending themselves. The incident that you just mentioned, we don't have any information about that.

AMANPOUR: Who will you find to buy the oil that's in the eastern province?

Who are the buyers?

JADRAN (through translator): I cannot disclose details. The details are kept by the executive bureau of the Cyrenaica province. They are the ones who have the details. AMANPOUR: Mr. Jadran, as you know, there is a lot of concern about the influx of Islamists, of militants, of terrorists into Libya with all the chaos that's going on.

What is your relationship with the Islamists? What position do you take?

JADRAN (through translator): As we said clearly from the beginning, we said that one of the reasons why we stopped the oil export is that oil has become a method to finance those organizations. We will not allow those groups to take safe haven in Libya and allow Libya to become another Iraq, another Syria or Afghanistan.

We are aspiring to a state of institutions and law and order -- a state of prosperity and human rights. We will not allow Libya to become a safe haven for international terrorism. We will not allow this to happen at all.

AMANPOUR: Now, Mr. Jadran, you have claimed that you have your own army, something like 17,000 or 20,000 fighters.

Is that really true? There are many people, including the Libyan government and outside experts, who simply can't believe that that's true.

JADRAN (through translator): The truth is this number is true. We have about 23,000 troops. We have the navy troops; we have army and as far as paying salaries to them, we are about to start exporting oil so that we could pay the salaries.

AMANPOUR: Can you try to be specific on who is funding you and where you are getting your money from?

JADRAN (through translator): Until now, we don't have any finance coming except for businessmen who believe in our cause.

For the last four or five months, five months actually, we -- our soldiers have not been paid their salaries but because they believe in their cause, they are still committed to it and that's why they are taking and persevering.

And we have no source of finance except the businessmen who share the belief that we have in our cause, which is to secure the rights of the -- of the Libyan citizens in Cyrenaica.

AMANPOUR: So how long can this continue if you have very little finance right now and you'll probably run out?

JADRAN (through translator): We are determined to export oil in order to secure finance for the military, the police and the administration, particularly the troops that protect the oil facilities. But we'll do that in the near future.

AMANPOUR: Ibrahim Jadran, thank you very much for joining me.

JADRAN (through translator): Thank you, ma'am, thank you.


AMANPOUR: And just a note: it is, of course, customary for us, for any news organization to pay for satellite connections with our interviewees. But Mr. Jadran controls the bureau from where he was interviewed and he refused our repeated entreaties to pay.

Now if you think it's hard to run a government in a tribal society like Libya for all sorts of different reasons, it's no picnic in France these days, either.

The urbane President Francois Hollande tries to govern in the face of personal scandal. And we'll connect the dots all the way across the ocean here to the beleaguered governor of New Jersey, when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, while attempts at newer democracies in places like Egypt and Libya are still drawn to the authority and security of strongmen with armies or militias behind them, some leaders of the more established republics find themselves on the defensive, not for failed policies but for personal and political scandals.

Imagine a world where Paris and New Jersey have a little bit in common these days. French President Francois Hollande's grip on his shaky government just got a little weaker because of his personal life, his alleged affair with a French actress has gone viral and even reached into the inner sanctum of the Elysee Palace, sending his companion and France's first lady to hospital complaining of exhaustion.

The embattled Hollande had hoped to address the state of the French economy today in his first press conference of the new year. But instead, he faced a barrage of questions about his private life.


FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): Everybody in their personal lives can go through hardships. That is our case. These are painful moments. I have one principle that is that private affairs are dealt with in private with respective intimacy of each other. Therefore, this is not the place nor the time to do this.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Well, over here in New Jersey, Governor Christie, who many felt was on the fast track for the White House in 2016, has been media fodder for weeks because of a mounting political scandal that's also gone viral.

He delivers his annual state of the state speech today, but he's already been facing the media, trying to explain his way out of Bridgegate, gridlock on the George Washington Bridge that was ascribed to a political vendetta.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), N.J.: A person close to me betrayed me. A person who I counted on and trusted for five years betrayed me. A person who I gave a high government office to betrayed me.


AMANPOUR: So whether it's in Paris or Trenton or Cairo or Tripoli, accountable democracy has never been more needed nor has it been harder to master.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.