Reoccupying Egypt

Egyptian Youth form national coalition by Wael Ghonim

Reoccupying Egypt

By Hwaa Irfan

At what point does one give up or keep trying is a question that frequents everyone’s’ mind especially when it one is confronted with the reality of a status quo that takes life instead of give life. On a scale of freedom versus oppression it differs for everyone and no more so than it does for the Egyptian masses. The sense of fervor, oneness and community that was so strong at the beginning of the revolution began to die once the conditions of the streets returned to normal that is once the masses stopped caring for their immediate environment. This had not dawned on the “revolutionaries” who found themselves with a responsibility, a responsibility they would not like to admit, they handed over to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. They kept on pushing the argument when the masses found themselves faced with unemployment, and rising food prices, that this was the normal state of affairs for any revolution, and to be patient. That patience lasted over 9 months, in fact 10 months of deteriorating living conditions for many, a bid for wealth and self preservation by the upper middle and upper classes, and legal battles with those who had milked the country for what they could get, but got the country nowhere in real terms. Everyone began thinking of themselves, and forgot about the common good, the country, and forgot that SCAF is but an interim arrangement. The demands from left right and center came from all sides, with SCAF feeling obliged to quell the call for increased pay in some quarters i.e. the doctors and the teachers. Faced with contradictory demands SCAF fared badly on the surface of things in terms of managing the economic, national security, and national unity.

As time dragged on, and it became the fashion to go out and protest for anything one wanted, by the time Ramadhan 2011 came, the situation was extremely tense. The interim government of Essam Sharif was blamed, but that interim government never really stood a chance under the presidency of SCAF. Forgetting to consult the people, and the revolutionaries forgetting to play their role in what they had created, misunderstandings were bound to flourish, with many factions religious, political and economic out to take advantage.

It was one week after the U.S. military visited and met with the head of SCAF, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi to discuss future relations, an act that would make to an elected government! Aided and abetted by a proposal by the  Deputy Prime Minister Ali Al-Silmi under SCAF, the proposal that added fuel to the people’s fire was for all political (unelected) parties to approve special constitutional privilege for SCAF, along with a budget (which is the case now) not to be known by parliament, as well as the right to veto and strategic decision – that is the kind of practice that the U.S. government is made of.

In the midst a growing mistrust from the people to SCAF lost sight of the common goal, and beyond complaining never sought to ensure that the changes demanded by the people were prioritized, and discussed at a level that the short term demands could be implemented. They scoffed at the authoritarian stance of SCAF forgetting that it was their duty to assist SCAF in making these implementations. At the same time SCAF never sought to inform the people of developments, some of which would have been difficult because there were national security issues, and between the two an oversight of the hundreds of capable Egyptian people and groups like the National Council for Change, could have offered serious consultation and guidance in the sea of contradictory views. It is said the end of the 30+ years of Mubarak rule has led to an eruption of everyone wanting to be heard, but with that no one was listening to each other, the most apparent being the Coptics, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The proliferation of new political parties vying for self interest rather than the interest of the country as SCAF dragged its feet on issues pertaining to the trials of corrupt officials, the compensation of the families of the martyrs, the legislation on religious buildings (which is an issue not for an interim government but an elected government), instituting a law that would prohibit former government officials from running for elections, and removal of the emergency law. Why SCAF dragged its feet on these issues is none too clear, thus naturally their position as guardians of the revolution was in question.  Added to this mistrust was the growing number of bloggers and those labeled “a national security threat” were being imprisoned, 12,000 in fact, and the subdued crime rate that Egypt is known for was becoming a factor of public life.

Meantime, a growing number of people had grown tired of the idea of the revolution, adding fuel to the counter-revolutionists at home and abroad.

By the time of the Global Day of Action, November 17th 2011, patience was non-existent, and into the 6th day of reclaiming the revolution, there seems to be little to calm that mistrust. With over 36 deaths and 2000+ injured, the once peaceful revolution has been taking a turn to violence since the attack on a Coptic protest. Who some of the protestors are, is in serious question, because their actions threaten to tear the country apart, with one faction pushing to destroy the building of the Ministry of Interior. It is acceptable to burn down the Egyptian Central Bank in response to suspicions or facts that the bank had allowed money belonging to the country out of the country because like most Central Banks with the exception of the Libyan Central Bank under Gadaffi, they are in fact private institutions that link up globally.

However, there is one thing in the favor of those who protested, it has been the only time that SCAF sat up, listened and responded with a follow up action with the exception of the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. Not equipped for government, and faced with many voices could play a role in their ability to respond. One of those voices is that from the political parties which intend to run for the elections. SCAF has pandered to these voices, in terms of the Constitution, and the electoral procedure, but these voices have invested interested and it is the people who should decide, after all, leaders come and go, some good, and some, bad, and if a vision is to be maintained, it has to be through the kind of Constitution that any government is obliged to use as a guide.

It is through sitting in a 5 hour meeting with all political parties, and prospective candidates on 22nd November 2011, that Tantawi and Chief-of-Staff Gen. Sami Anan, that SCAF agreed to:

  • To declare an immediate cease-fire
  • To release thousands of protesters detained since 19th
  • To treat all the injured and provide compensations to the families of the deceased (though how when it is believed that Egypt only has enough money to last 5 months!)
  • To bring to justice all those responsible for the violence.
  • To dismiss the government of Dr. Sharaf
  • To  appoint a national-unity government
  • To hold the elections on time starting week of Monday 28th   2011
  • To guarantee free and fair elections (which given the current national security risks is a huge expectation)
  • To give a final date for the transfer of power to civilian rule with presidential elections by June 30, 2012.

A much needed meeting, that should have taken place with the January 25th revolutionists, and the National Council for Change, hence why the people’s trust has not been redeemed and still demand that SCAF cede power, but is now the time? Infiltration by foreign powers, both Western and Arab threaten to not only undermine the revolutionary process, but the country as a whole, along with the fact that it has the Egyptian struggle has given birth to the Occupy the World Movement, a Movement that both regions do not want to see it in their own backyard!

Egypt strikes in support of the protestors

Who Will Govern Now!

Not faced with national security issues, and foreign manipulation of events, Iceland gave the responsibility of the formulation of the Constitution to its people after facing economic collapse early in the global economic crisis in 2008. Icelanders elected 25 assembly members from 522 ordinary candidates (including lawyers, political science professors, journalists, and many other professions), who in turn opened their process up to the public. They used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr to solicit comments and suggestions for the new government. By Friday July 29th 2011, Iceland’s parliament received the new constitution of 114 articles and 9 chapters. The Constitution was reviewed before ratification on October 1st. Views were discussed publicly, everyone who wanted to play a role could! I already suggested this process before knowing about Iceland’s approach, which would in terms of Egypt where thousands of people do not have access to the Internet, and where there is a literacy problem, could play just as effective role if the much maligned state T.V. acted as the medium instead of social media.  In this way, Egypt’s Constitution can be formed and it would be a process that would help unify the Egyptian people who would be informed of all developments.

The above Constitutional process is not what political partied vying for the elections want, and it has become apparent to many Egyptians that many of those parties are only concerned with being elected, and not the best interest of the country. It took over recent 30 deaths and 2,000 injuries, for SCAF to officially respond to political corruption with new legislation that bans any person implicated in political corruption from holding elected or public office. If found guilty upon investigation these persons would be

Expelled from the People’s Assembly, Shura Council, or local assemblies, where applicable;

  • Banned from voting or participating in any elections in the aforementioned bodies for 5 years from the date of their conviction
  • Banned from holding any senior public office for 5 years from the date of their conviction
  • Banned from joining any political party for 5 years from the date of their conviction
  • Banned from membership on the board of directors of any public agency, institution, or corporation for 5 years from the date of their conviction.

But the above took 10 months and more martyrs. The weekend before elections for the lower house as well as two stages for the upper house, and a proposed referendum to put to the vote whether SCAF should play a governing role in the meantime, Egypt is at a very dangerous time in its history. Many believed and some do still believe that the country is not ready for elections yet. Not only that, there is a huge question mark over SCAF’s ability to safe guard fair elections, given the growing national security problems. The call for a national unity government has come far too late, but may be the only means to bridge the gap between now, and the final presidential election. With a clear mandate, and room to govern free from the strings of SCAF, a national unity government could help lay the foundations at a levels of society, but not without the active involvement of the January 25th Revolution, and the National Council for Change. They can no longer be side lined, or sit/protest and complain, but seek to establish a working mechanism to facilitate the change that all Egyptians need whether they know it or not. That includes listening to the pro-SCAF supporters who came out in numbers in the Cairo governorate of Abbasiya, and in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

However, no one is willing to take up that position as it would mean that they would be disqualified from the elections, in order to safe guard the countries best interest. Also, no one is willing to take on the heavy burden that Essam Sharif was under knowing how judgmental Egyptians can be at this stage of developments. Al Baradei has been approached, and has said that he is willing to take on the role, yet it seems that the Muslim Brotherhood rejection of Al Baradei presents a stalemate, a candidate that was put forward by Tahrir protestors. It does not matter what reason they have, because once again a group that has an invested interest in the upcoming elections should not have a say at this stage. It is the people’s call, and the people’s responsibility, and in the best interest of the country, it needs to be acted upon. What will be the follow-up as Tahrir protestors reject the SCAF candidate former Prime Minister under former President Hosni Mubarak, Kamal el-Ganzouri? Will revolutionist blogger’s proposal MalekX/Malcolm X proposal be considered i.e. a civilian council of would-be presidential contenders Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, Bothayna Kamel, Hazem Salah Abou Ismail, Hamdeen Sabbahi, Mohamed ElBaradei, and, reform-minded judges like Hisham El-Bastawisi and Ahmed Mekky be considered? M.X. has suggested that they should be made responsible for appointing a new government, planning upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections,  restructuring Egypt’s judiciary system, interior ministry and state media institutions. This makes perfect sense, except the affairs of Egypt left over is bigger than SCAF leaving a gap in the running of Egypts domestic, and foreign affairs. The revolutionists should not make the mistake of blaming, and isolating SCAF as they did with the police, which could leave Egypt in a most dangerous situation.

It is time to acknowledge the scale of the state of affairs, and towards a shared responsibility for the benefit of all. What SCAF is able to do should be acknowledged as well as the need for a interim government and a council that can focus on carrying out the functions as described by M.X.

The global call for change starts with the caller, after all is not the problem that the world has been facing is the relinquishing of too much responsibility in the hands of a few! This is the nature of true democracy, a people’s democracy, and the only democracy that reminds the politician that they are servants of the people, and not the other way around!

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