Wednesday, April 6, 2011

So what's keeping the youth protesting?

I was sent this article by a friend of mine, which basically provides an overview on what it is that the Egyptian youth are still looking for in the post-revolutionary period. It's a series of 26 questions that they feel have yet to be addressed by the Army, which is undermining the impact of the revolution. I, however, do not agree with all the points raised herein, and will put my comments in Italics between the questions.

Let me first say, in my opinion people have come to believe that Egypt can, and should, change overnight. This is an entirely unrealistic approach, who expects from 30 years of dictatorial rule that a country will instantaneously become a democracy overnight and thereby eliminate all of the factors that kept the people suppressed for the past three decades. To successfully rebuild a country requires time, and trust. Trust is the huge factor that is absent in Egypt at the moment. While the recent elections would make it appear that an overwhelming majority of Egyptians are prepared to amend the constitution, rather than scrap it entirely, trust in the ruling regime is waning rapidly. When the Army first came onto the streets, people felt that things would improve, that the Army would readily support the will and wishes of the people. Yet as time goes by, it becomes more and more clear that many of the youth are realising that although Mubarak has gone, his regime and the elements that kept him in power for so long are still around. As such, the trust in the Army is waning. I believe that it will take an entire generational span to effectively change this country around; with the revolutionary youth implanting their beliefs in the upcoming generation, only then will we begin to see the prospect of a real civil shift within Egyptian society.

So here is the article, from The Daily News Egypt.

CAIRO: In an ironic numerical coincidence, 67 days after the January 25 outbreak of the popular revolt that toppled Egypt’s 30-year regime and its dictator ex-president Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians have returned to Tahrir Square to “save the revolution,”

For some, the connection between 67 days and the Naksa is all too poignant. In the 1967 Naksa (setback) Egypt lost a six-day war against Israel which cost it the entire Sinai Peninsula and during which Israel annexed the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Many who went to Tahrir on Friday were feeling, perhaps with little reasonable justification, that a similar setback is “stealing the revolution,” a phrase frequently used to describe a potential disaster scenario where after the dust settles and the euphoria of getting rid of Mubarak subsides, everything will go back to the way it was before, the only difference being in the names and faces.

While I personally do not believe that Egypt will ever return to the horror of its black pre-Jan. 25 reality, many Egyptians do, and here are 26 questions they’re asking:

1. Why aren’t Mubarak and his family in court until now? If sources are correct, Mubarak has already fled the country. Given his long-standing friendly ties with many Western nations and his deteriorating health, it is unlikely that Mubarak will ever see the inside of a court-room. A troubling fact indeed. 
2. Why is ex-interior minister Habib El-Adly still not being tried for his involvement in the killing of peaceful protesters in the early days of the revolution?
3. Why did the Prosecutor General wait over a month and a half before imposing a travel ban on the icons of the past regime, 21-year House Speaker Fathi Sorrour, National Democratic Party (NDP) and Shoura Council Speaker Safwat El-Sherif, ex-chief of presidential staff Zakaria Azmy and former housing minister Mohamed Ibrahim Soliman? Sadly, not surprising seeing as how ousting Mubarak did little to shift the power-house that allowed him to remain in power for so long.
4. Why has the National Democratic Party not been dissolved? A better question would be, why is the NDP being allowed to head up the constitutional amendments and plans for the upcoming elections in November?
5. Why are former NDP leaders still allowed to participate in the political transition to democracy, despite the clear conflict of interest? My comment remains the same as with question 3.
6. Why is the state of emergency still in place? Because Egypt remains in a state of emergency? Security in the country is dwindling on a daily basis with the crime rate skyrocketing. Would it really be prudent to remove this legislation now? In time, of course it should be lifted. When stability returns to the country. 
7. Why have governors and heads of local councils appointed by the previous regime not been replaced?
8. Why have leading figures in the Egyptian Radio and Television Union not been removed from their positions despite inciting violence against protesters and spreading disinformation during the uprising? This is sadly evidence that the old regime maintains a stronghold on power. From my own sources within the Middle East News Agency (MENA), I know that they struggled to overthrow their "corrupt" editor in chief, without success. 
9. Why is there a media blackout on the severe human rights violations committed by members of the military police against Tahrir protesters on March 9? Similarly, why are the attacks on women protesters in Tahrir square on International Women's Day not being investigated?!
10. Why is there a similar media blackout on violations by the army including the use of cattle prods, to disperse Cairo University students demanding the removal of the dean on the Faculty of Mass Communication?
11. Why has the army maintained a monopoly over all decisions, while staging an unnecessary referendum which cost the state coffers LE 200 million when, in effect, all its decisions have been unilateral?
12. Why doesn’t the constitutional decree recently announced by the army shrink the powers of the president?
13. Why is the army insisting on fast legislative elections, even though all indicators signify that they can only lead to an overwhelming majority for Islamists and ex-NDP members? it even remotely possible that the army does not actually WANT real democratic change in Egypt? 
14. Why is the army being secretive in its drafting of vital laws that will see the country through the transition, such as the much debated law regulating the establishment of political parties?
15. Why did the Illicit Gains Authority only just approach the EU to demand the freezing of assets by leading members of the former regime?
16. Why has the government not set a minimum wage until now? This, I believe, is an irrational goal to believe should have been fulfilled by now. The Egyptian economy is still struggling to recover, until stability returns to the financial markets, where is the extra cash to cover the new minimum wage meant to come from? 
17. Why is Cabinet attempting to intimidate workers by proposing a ban on workers’ strikes in a blatant violation of International Labor Organization standards?
18. How can we trust investigators and prosecutors that were all part of the previous state machinations?
19. Why hasn’t the ruling army council set up a special tribunal of known judges and prosecutors untainted by connections with the previous regime to probe the corruptions cases?
20. Why is the army council side-lining the young activists who sparked the revolution?
21. Why has there been no official investigation into the attack on presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei on referendum day?
22. What is the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians trapped in Libya?
23. Why haven’t all political detainees been released? Yes, some detainees should be released, particularly those who were incarcerated purely for expressing their ideals that differed from those of the state. But all detainees? All at once? 
24. What is the mandate of new Interior Ministry arm — National Security —that has replaced the notorious State Security apparatus?
25. What is the Interior Ministry doing with the State Security files?
26. What is the government doing about the rising domination of the Salafi discourse threatening a bigger role of religion in politics?

Many of these questions betray a deeply engrained lack of trust between the people and authorities, which is slowly poising [poisoning] some peoples’ image of the army as a just arbitrator and protector.

However, when it comes to the constitutional decree announced Wednesday, I share the view of Amr Hamzawy, researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in a column in Al-Shorouk Friday, that despite a few critiques, hats off to the army for not abusing its current position by giving itself more powers in the interim phase and promising to pass on all legislative authorities to the PA as soon as it is elected.

All other changes like shrinking the president’s sweeping powers, for instance, or canceling the Shoura Council, will be in the hands of the constituent assembly charged with drafting a new constitution.

Since we have chosen the path of democracy, we must accept that democracy takes time, but that only vigilance, self-education, political awareness, persistence and transparency will guarantee that we’re on the right track.

For now we must also accept that chaos too is part of the transition and that the only way to avert descending into absolute chaos is to move the tug-of-war between the will of the people and the power of the state from the street to the dialogue table. We don’t want the million man protests to lose their impact, who knows when we’ll seriously need them again.

Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.

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