Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Which path will Egypt choose? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

The word “revolution” has been utilized far too much in the Arab world to the point that it has lost its meaning. Every military adventurer that stole his way to power would describe his period of rule as being “revolutionary”, and in the name of revolution nurture corruption and spread oppression and injustice. This was the case until the events in Tunisia, and then Egypt, erupted, and the people began to talk about popular revolution, however before this word can recover its meaning we must wait to find out the outcome of the popular revolutions that occurred in Tunisia and Egypt in such a spontaneous and dynamic manner. There is a critical transitional phase taking place in both countries which will determine the extent of the success of these revolutions in achieving the demands for change that the people took to the streets to call for.

In order to ensure that people have not forgotten [this], I must also mention that the Sudanese people have had two experiences that lessons must be learned from with regards to how a revolution can be hijacked or squandered. In October 1964 student activists at the University of Khartoum led a popular revolution that overthrew the military rule. However in less than 5 years political haggling and conspiracies by certain opportunist parties thwarted the democracy that was born out of this popular revolution. The irony is that the military coup that was carried out by Gaafar Nimeiry did not only kill this democracy, it also hijacked the term “revolution.” This is why when the Sudanese revolted against Nimeiry and his “May Revolution” which had oppressed them for 16 years they named this second revolution in 1985 an “intifada” or uprising. However for a second time [in Sudan] the politicians failed to preserve the gains of the popular intifada or revolution, and military figures in cooperation with Sheikh [Hassan] al-Turabi’s [religious] front conspired with one another to pounce on the fledging democratic experience.

Sudan’s experience will not necessary be repeated but they are lessons that should be learned in order to avoid falling into this trap. All eyes today are focused on Egypt because, after Tunisia, it serves as an inspiration, and the country has regained a sense of dignity that its people thought they had lost a long time ago, with this being replaced by a sense of frustration and hopelessness. For Egypt, which led the Arab world in the direction of “military revolutions” and since the 1950s whetted the appetite of military men to come to power by coup d’état can today provide a new model with regards to achieving democratic transition with the success of its popular revolution, completing its journey towards achieving and implementing the slogans raised by the demonstrators, and the commitments that the country has made [to them]. The Egyptian army presented an excellent and noble image of itself by not confronting the people, as well as due to the sympathetic stance it took towards the demonstrators and revolution after it listening and understood the popular rumbling in the street. The army can complete this picture by maintaining the trust of the people who met them with cheers on the day that army tanks were deployed throughout the streets, so they must not disappoint the people’s hopes of completing the revolution by achieving their slogans. There are those who are worried about promises being reneged on, or the revolution being hijacked, especially due to the existence of some parties who are lying in wait and attempting to confuse the scene.

Many in Egypt question whether the current government that was formed by Mubarak before he stepped down should be entrusted with the task of leading the country towards elections even if it is operating under the supervision of the military high command. In order to keep the peace, the [Egyptian] government during this transitional period must be modified to include independent expert figures or specialists known for their efficiency, and Egypt is rich in figures such as this who want to serve their country during this sensitive period. Modifying the government will send a reassuring message to the people, who believe that whilst the president may have gone the regime has not changed in line with the new phase. Removing these doubts will prepare the ground for the required cooperation that must exist between the army and the political forces [in Egypt] to ensure the completion of the changes as quickly as possible, especially as the 6-month period set by the armed forces communiqué, or the 7 months until the scheduled [presidential] elections, will pass by quickly whilst there is much that needs to be achieved.

The transitional phase that has begun is a difficult one, this is a crucial and delicate stage as it will determine the direction that Egypt will take. Will Egypt develop and catch up with countries like Brazil, India, Singapore, and South Korea? Or will it shy away from meeting its revolutionary commitments and either fall into chaos and unrest or be taken over by a military dictatorship, frustrating the hopes and dreams of the popular revolution?

The real battle is now beginning after celebrations have come to an end, and work is beginning to establish and consolidate this new phase in Egyptian history with the necessary new laws, constitution, and [governmental] institutes that are preparing for the promised elections. This stage requires wisdom, vigilance, and patience, especially as everybody’s expectations will be high and people will want to see their situation changing immediately. These new freedoms may also resulting many people striking and demanding better pay and conditions, as well as increased political maneuvering and media confrontation, at a time that efforts are focused on achieving the required changes and arrangements to see Egypt transition to a pluralistic democracy.

However if you were going to lay a bet, this would be on the stunning affect of this revolution on people’s values and behavior. We have seen a fusion of Egyptians from all ages, religions, and walks of life, come together in Tahrir Square, we have seen youths collecting rubbish and cleaning up Tahrir Square [after Mubarak stepped down], as well as civilians patrolling their streets and neighborhoods [following the disappearance of the police forces], doctors volunteering to treat the injured, and even barbers offering their services to protestors for free. Girls are no longer being harassed in the street, and in fact crime rates have receded in the absence of the police from the streets. These values will continue and spread, they will inevitably allow Egypt to move forward and progress, providing the country with the required atmosphere to transition towards an inspiring stable democracy, especially as what is happening in the new “protected” Egypt in the coming days will not remain within the country’s borders, but will affect the entire region as well as the world’s view of it.

Egypt is not a barren country, but a fertile land with a lot of intellectuals, resources, and capabilities. It is the most populous Arab countries; it has a well-established civilization, and huge influence on the surrounding region, in addition to a well-educated youth passionate about technology and the internet. Egypt stands at the heart of the Arab world, bordering Europe, and dawning on Africa. It obtains huge revenues from tourism and the Suez Canal, and it has agricultural and industrial infrastructure that can be developed. Were it not for the oppression of its people and the corruption that crippled the country, Egypt’s strong capabilities and energy would have resulted in strong development. Today Egypt has a real opportunity for development under a new environment brought about by the revolution in order to create an atmosphere of freedom, transparency, and democracy, and utilize the energy of its people to catch up with the Asian tigers and some Latin American states that have surpassed us and achieved progress and status for their people.

Osman Mirghani

Osman Mirghani

Osman Mirghani is Asharq Al-Awsat's former deputy editor and senior editor-at-large.

More Posts