Dr. Konrad von Bonin is Doctor of Law (Berlin), Master of Comparative Law (Michigan),ret. Executive Director of German Protestant Church Development Service (EED), Trustee of Georges Anawati Foundation for Christian-Muslim Dialogue and currently Middle East adviser for Bread for the World.
Bonin was co-author of the book “Das Grundgesetz verstehen” (Understanding the Constitution), that was reprinted several times. He was born in Pommern and grew up in Schleswig-Holstein, then went on to study law at Berlin, Freiburg, Hamburg and Ann Arbor (USA) universities. Bonin is married and the father of three adult children.
Can you give a brief history of the Cooperation between Bread for the World and CEOSS?
The cooperation between CEOSS and the German Evangelical Church (EED) has started over 30 years ago, focusing on different aspects including development, dialogue and even the infrastructure of CEOSS. CEOSS and other development agencies have been acting as the development arms of EED.
Five years ago Bread for the World (BFTW) merged with EED under BFTW. I have been working as EED manager for 9 years since 2000, working closely with CEOSS in an open relationship built on mutual understanding, trust, and friendship.
Throughout your long term relation with CEOSS, how do you perceive the work relation?
We approach our partners to cooperate but they’re held responsible for taking fundamental decisions. We never interfere in the implementation, yet we are always there for advice and we expect the partner to deliver an evaluation report on implemented projects.
Throughout my close relation with CEOSS, I’ve seen a competent, professional and strong partner; one of the three most professional experienced partners in the Middle East. This is due to their dedication and commitment, highly qualified staff, and closeness to the grassroots of the community including various categories of people such as poor and marginalized citizens, youth, women, religious leaders, intellectuals, media professionals and other stakeholders.
The cooperation between CEOSS and BTFW is not based on politics. It’s solely based on eliminating poverty.
How do you see the political scene of the region developing?
I am a constitutional lawyer and I am German; Germans lived a complicated political situation that took us 70 years to achieve democracy and we are still learning more. Democracy needs time and patience.
I see Egypt is going through many curves, instead of a straight road. Yet I am very optimistic. You had to go through a radical experience of democracy in order to achieve it. Without the experience of the previous presidential elections that brought Mosri to the authority, Egyptians wouldn’t have reached to the current stage.
Why are you optimistic?
I am optimistic because I have patience, people of the country have been respected and gained their rights once and they will not forget that.
I am optimistic because, as a lawyer, Egypt has a very good constitution now. If this constitution is reflected in the reality, it will be a model.
I am optimistic because in the late three years there has been a fundamental transformation in the development arena in the region.
Do you see the past experience of Egyptians is leading to a more mature democracy?
History is never a step back. Egyptians have learnt a lot from their past experience. They now have the experience of Mobarak system, the intermediary system and Morsi System. Experience is the basis of democracy. They will make a new experience now.
In the next presidential elections we hope for competition, instead of one real candidate. Democracy is competition.
Do you think history is repeating itself, or there are major changes experienced?
There are fundamental social changes/developments that took place. Social media has evolved leaving all dictators in danger. NGOs and civil society organizations should assume a larger effective role in reaching democracy. And finally the world has become international; it’s not a nation-based anymore. All this makes it harder for authoritarian governments to survive.
Now democracy started to work. People now need to organize themselves in political parties. Transparency of government bodies as well as the military should be attained.
What is your view about the current trials?
I worked as a public prosecutor. If it is true that one judge handled the case of hundreds in a few days without evident from people and hearing from lawyers for each defendant, this is against a fair court process. If not, then I don’t have the basis to judge as we have not received any translated articles of Egyptian media concerning the judiciary explanation to the case.
Democracy means opposition have the same rights as the government. Democracy gives the basic rights to citizens to defend themselves.
Do you think it is legal to discuss judiciary decisions?
It is part of democracy to discuss rulings of judges, otherwise it’s against freedom of opinion guaranteed by the Egyptian law and constitution as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Egypt has signed like all other countries. There also has to be a culture of communication that gives space to citizens to discuss controversial matters.