Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reviving the Egyptian Revolution

By Yasser Amr

The Egyptian revolution has been derailed. Egypt is passing through a critical period in its history. The Egyptian revolution has partially overthrown a sixty year-old autocratic regime. However, remnants of the regime are still making the strategic transitional decisions. There is a powerful counter-revolution taking place.

Something wonderful happened in 18 days.  Armed with our minds, wills and the social media, Egyptians accomplished what was thought impossible: a peaceful popular revolution. The irresistible force sent the immovable object flying to Charm al-Sheikh. The Revolution produced millions of impeccable warriors who paid the full price in sweat, tears and blood. We were these warriors.

Mubarak took the country to the brink. During His 29 year rule, Egypt was robbed blind. Cobwebs of Corruption infiltrated all State Institutions. Even before the revolution took place, the illusionary stability in the last Mubarak days was a very fragile one at best- proof: 90 percent the regime collapsed in 18 days. No “stable” state collapses in 18 days. We all agree that the situation before the collapse was not a positive one, but the extent of the deterioration is still not clear.

Rigged parliamentary elections and Mubarak’s attempt to pass power to his son, Jamal, was the straw that broke the Camel’s back. It was obvious that Egypt had no future. Inspired by Tunisia, Egypt revolted. In Just a few days Mubarak’s fragile regime collapsed. Mubarak’s concessions were too little and too late.  The revolutionaries politically outsmarted the regime, forcing the military into their side.

What happened between the President and the High Military Council is foggy- but one fact is certain and that is the Council asked him to leave, and that he eventually had to. Their legitimacy to do so came from the revolution, which they promised to protect. Their assumption of power saved the country from potential total collapse and falling into chaos. What started out as a revolution ended in a practical military coup d’état.

 “The revolution is over. Go home” they told us. This step was apparently welcomed by the revolutionary forces that celebrated and went home. We had to trust the Military Council, as they seemed to be no choice. This was the revolution’s major mistake. The High Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces, which took over power from Mubarak, is technically an integral constituent of the Mubarak’s military dictatorship. Each one of its five members was hand-picked by the tyrant himself. Without a doubt, there must be some intermingling interests. Technically Mubarak is the Head of the Council. These are Mubarak’s men.

Suddenly finding itself in charge of the nation, the Council was obviously not prepared for the task. To further complicate the picture, they had to deal with the near total collapse of the nation’s institutions. The easiest way out was to pretend that nothing had happened. From the very beginning, the five-man Council practically acted as if no revolution has ever happened- and immediately started to salvage what was left of the collapsed institutions of the Mubarak regime. It was very slow in consenting to the demands of the revolution.

 The series of cosmetic surgeries conducted to beautify the ugly face of the regime were and still are just a way of buying time to re-establish its institutions. First, they refused to dismiss the Chafiq government formed by Mubarak himself. Later, they attempted to get away with some cosmetic changes to it, hoping that it would pass. They refused to disband the State security Police, making only nominal changes to the Ministry of Interior and many of the major institution.

Many people stayed in their positions which helped them eliminate all evidence of the crimes that they have committed and the crimes of the regime.

The result is a partial collapse of the regime, but most of the individuals that constituted it remain.
 What has fallen is actually the apparent structure of the regime. The Individuals remain, and many are still active making strategic decisions that will form our future. Most of the changes conducted so far were the ideas of the Mubarak and originally aimed at cooling down the demonstrations.

Initially, the Council failed to acknowledge and take quick and decisive action against the counter-revolution.  ‘There is no counter-revolution”, they assured us. Only a few weeks later, it cannot be denied that there is a full-scale counter-revolution evidently growing stronger every day. It aims to bleed the life blood out of the revolution, drop by drop or preferably in gushes.

The High Council is not taking many of the necessary critical decisions. Message has to be clear: Decisive measures against the known old leaderships which the revolutionary elements know very have to be taken. There is a major problem in this area- a real political ordeal: how can elements of the old regime be responsible for dismantling the regime and bringing its main figures to justice?

The council is just too scared to open up Pandora’s Box, which may prove to be very costly. But, there is a huge cost either way. The problems are very deep routed. The old regime controlled and headed every single institution, or at least had agents or snitches in it. The cobweb of corruption is a very intricate and complex one, and will require supreme courage to uproot. Opening it will be very costly as it will probably result in total change of all institutions. Arresting Mubarak and his family and locking them up would be the first step. Opening up Pandora’s Box may result in the collapse of the Council itself.

Not opening the corruption black box it will result in rebuilding on the ruins of the old regime which will lead to eventual disaster. Selective prosecution is the way in which the council prefers to deal with this paradox, which makes rebuilding of the old ruins of the regime’s institutions the most likely possible outcome.

The High Council is monopolizing the management of the transitional process. In the last weeks, the Council has showed a lack of a clear proactive vision of how to manage the transitory period.

The new, supposedly revolutionary, regime is showing the same distinct characteristics of the Mubarak regime: a foggy decision-making process that lacks decisiveness and transparency, reactionary rather than proactive action, inch by inch concessions and a lot of lip service to the revolution, democracy...etc. What is happening is obvious: nobody fully grasps or understands what in the world is going on.  Nobody really knows who is actually in control and who makes all the critical and strategic decisions. One fact remains blindingly obvious: many critical issues are not being addressed.

Now, only a few weeks later, the revolution seems to have lost momentum with ever-growing efforts to abort it. The counter-revolution is continuing to gain momentum every day, as the revolutionary forces are being politically more and more fragmented as time goes by as everyone in concentrating on the upcoming struggle for power.

What is about to take place is a fully fledged struggle for power. Many of the Mubarak Power centers are still intact and re-organizing themselves for the Parliamentary elections. The Islamist groups are doing better than ever and are ready for the upcoming struggle for power. Mubarak’s regime has systematically demolished any leadership capable of replacing them. This is an area of great concern.

Having failed to stop the revolution through illegal arrests, attacking peaceful protesters releasing convicted felons and police disappearance, the counter-revolution is now resorting to a different strategy: capitalizing on the political ignorance of a general public deprived of its political rights and from participation in the political arena for years. A very brief and quick transitional period is just a way of cheating the revolution into a modified version of the old regime.

The most optimistic outcome is a new and unique brand of Egyptian military democracy, which will result in a semi-democratic semi-military regime mirroring the Mubarak Regime. The “free and democratic” parliamentary and presidential elections will take place under a military rule.  Without a doubt, they will be flawed. The resulting flawed parliament will, in turn, write a new constitution. Without a doubt the Military Council, and elements of the ongoing counter-revolution will have a big say in who become’s Egypt’s next president. The most likely candidates are all aging figures. The revolution is very unlikely to produce a younger president. Whoever is in power, next year, will be basically sitting on a barrel of TNT, ready to explode any moment.

However, things may not go so smoothly, as the current course of action may also lead to disaster. The situation is very foggy. No one is facing or communicating the truth. Too many strategic variables remain unknown. There is no clear future vision or plan. Tension is mounting. Time is not on anyone’s side.

From the minute of Mubarak’s resignation, time has become the critical factor. With every second of this foggy, fluid and potentially explosive phase that we are all in ticking away, Egypt’s economy continues to bleed. Not that it was that great to start with. Corruption is deeply embedded in all aspects of economic life, and quite difficult to extract. Economic inequality and a great income disparity and a very high unemployment rate characterized the pre -evolution economic scene. The economic environment is likely to deteriorate, at least in the short run. Nobody has seriously addressed the issue yet.

The geo-political environment is changing by the minute. Arab world regimes are falling like flies. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain are well on their way. The region is not about to stabilize soon. There e is no foreseeable end to the unrest in the region. The next few months or years are likely to witness a huge exodus of Egyptians out of the collapsing Arab world countries, which will future complicate the economic challenges.

Internally, things so not look much better.

The only thing keeping the High Council in power is public trust. They have no actual way of enforcing staying in Power. At any given moment, the council could lose trust, which may result in total collapse or chaos.

A lot of the damage has already been done. At this rate, in six months time, would have immense problems, even without taking into consideration any unforeseen circumstances which seem to be the main characteristics of 2011 so far.

The challenges facing Egypt seem overwhelming- way beyond the capabilities of any high council. Egypt is far too big and too strategic to be managed like this and left -teetering on the edge of the unknown The too-little too-late policies can no longer deal with the current and ever-changing circumstances. Time is not on anyone’s side. We need to act now. We have to define and shape our own future. We need to save this place.

The revolution has only achieved some of its immediate goals. At every crossroad, someone jumps up and says “this is enough. We need to get life back to normal”. If you think life is ever going to get b back to normal, think again. After Mubarak’s 30 years in power, the “normal” that we would be reverting to is a state of pre-collapse.

A revolution just opens the door to change. We have only taken the first step, and a lot more has to be done. First of all we have to know and face the facts of the past and present, before moving on to a future plan. The revolution is our revolution. We are the ones who are supposed to be completing it and achieving its goals. We cannot trust a transitional government or a High military council to achieve our goals. Sitting around and waiting will only result in disaster. Anybody who is capable of taking action should do so. It is her/his responsibility towards the souls of over a thousand of us killed in cold blood during the revolution

What has happened already happened. There is no use feeling remorse, anger or sadness. For years, everything that has happened to us has been done to or for us.  We are the ones who let this happen. Now it is up to us to put a stop to this and take responsibility for our own destiny. There is no time for crappy thoughts and deeds. We once again have to become impeccable warriors.

~ posted on behalf of the author by Sofia Smith

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