Are NGOs fanning unrest in Egypt?

Relations between Egypt’s military rulers and the US government have hit a distinctly rocky patch.
Nineteen Americans are among 43 workers from non-government organizations (NGOs) who have been sent for trial in an Egyptian criminal court over charges of illegally using foreign funds to encourage unrest in the country.
Putting the issue firmly in the US media spotlight, Ray LaHood, the son of the US secretary of transportation, is among the 19 Americans who it is believed will have to face charges.

Sam LaHood heads the Egyptian office of the International Republican Institute, and was among several foreign workers banned from leaving Egypt just over a week ago, after their offices were raided by armed police.

The move prompted harsh criticism and even threats that Washington would review US aid to Egypt.

The announcement came on the fourth day of violent street protests in the country, amid anger at the authorities’ perceived inability to prevent a riot that left 74 people dead at a football match last week.
Egypt’s ruling military council has vowed to investigate how pro-democracy and human rights organisations are funded, and has repeatedly said it will not tolerate foreign interference in the country’s affairs.
The funding of NGOs has been a controversial issue for months.
Some observers believe the country’s military rulers are trying to blame recent unrest and violence on a foreign conspiracy.

On Saturday, a day before Egypt’s decision to put those 43 people on trial, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, warned her Egyptian counterpart that the dispute may lead to the loss of much of the US’ annual aid to Cairo.

Most of that aid goes to the Egyptian military, according to the US congressional research service report.
Over the last 30 years, Egypt has been the second largest recipient of US foreign aid after Israel. In 2010 and 2011, $1.3bn went to strengthen Egyptian forces.
So, do the Egyptian military rulers genuinely believe that NGOs are destabilising Egypt, or are they looking for a scapegoat to take responsibility for the current instability? Is there a political motive behind it all?

Inside Story, with presenter James Bays, discusses with guests: Sohair Riad, a human rights activist with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Sarah Topol, a Cairo-based journalist; and Maged Reda Botros, the chairman of the Political Science Department at Helwan University.

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