The Egyptian revolution: challenges and suggested solutions

Said Shehata, Sunday 27 Feb 2011

It is time for the military to respond to the demands of the people. Urgent measures need to be taken without delay

Revolutions usually lead to high expectations amongst people. If those expectations and dreams are not met, high frustrations will be the result and could end in a chaos or despair. There are many challenges facing the fulfillment of people’s dreams and aspirations that came out as a result of the 25th Jan revolution. This revolution gave Egyptians hopes for a bright and a prosper future and Egyptians deserve a better future after many years under oppression and poverty.

Egypt faces many challenges in this critical stage of its history, such as the speed and transparency of putting the corrupted figures before fair trials. It is not enough to put few former ministers and businessmen behind bars, but to move fast to catch all suspected of corruption and torture.

The second obstacle is the lack of coordination amongst the different groups that have played a role in this historical revolution. There are different coalitions and entities which contributed to revolution and put efforts to go through this transitional period, such as the Independent Academics, the coalition of the revolution youth and others. It is a natural phenomenon after revolutions to find many groups try to build and reform. However, the uncoordinated efforts could lead to confusion and status quo more than real change and progress. In addition, the Higher Council for Military Forces hold talk with individual and not with a national front that represents the aspirations of Egyptians. Even the Higher Council listens and has good intentions to do the best for Egypt; talks should be between a national front and the council because it is the revolution of the ordinary people. And those people should have their say in shaping the future of Egypt.

Another hurdle is the absence of trust between people and the police. The police had tortured and violated the rights of people for a long time. What happened in Maadi recently between a police officer and ordinary people is a clear example of the tension between the two sides. There is a strong need for a healthy relationship between the two parties. Security and a safe Egypt require a professional security apparatus that respects people’s dignity and implement laws in a fair and efficient way.

The fourth challenge is the ability of the cabinet to prepare Egypt for the coming elections. There are critics of the prime minister and some ministers since they represent the pre revolution era. In this context, the criteria to choose ministers are unclear to Egyptians, and the Higher Council is sticking to the prime minister, Mr. Ahmed Shafeek and it put it bluntly that democracy does not necessarily mean replacing Mr. Shafeek. The Higher council declared that the current cabinet will not lead the elections in few months time. So, how the current cabinet will put the basis for Egypt future even they know they are leaving the office in few months. And for this reason and others, qualified and respected figures refused to be part of this cabinet.

The fifth challenge is establishing the rules of justice inside all the governmental departments. Favoritism and corruption characterized the previous period. The feeling of resentment and mistrust regarding appointing people in jobs is overwhelming. Purification and restructuring those departments to achieve the criteria of justice and efficiency in appointing staff and managing resources are necessary steps to gain the people trust. The heritage of unfairness and corruption is immense and should be tackled immediately.

The sixth obstacle is dealing with poverty and unemployment. There is more than 40% of population under poverty line and unemployment reached more that 20% of manpower. Social and economic demonstrations are a reaction to injustice and their legitimate demands should be met. It will take time to eradicate poverty and to decrease unemployment. But there is a need to start now to tackle those problems. Egyptians want to see concrete steps to improve their standard of living and not promises.

Another challenge is to reform the media apparatus in order to enlighten people about their rights and duties as citizens in a democratic country. The heads of the national media institutions that had links with the old regime should be replaced because they played a role in deceiving and controlling people for the sake of the ousted regime. Final challenge is the attempts to counter the revolution’s gains have been working to keep the status quo and avoid the real change. The game is not over yet. It is the beginning and not the end.

It is not easy to argue that one can present a formula to tackle the above challenges. However, there are some suggestions that can help Egypt in order to get through this delicate period.

The first suggestion is to form a national front that consists of all groups and forces in order to represent people in the talks with the Higher Council of the Military Forces.

Secondly, persistent and concerted pressures to convince the Higher Council to form a new cabinet that can take Egypt to the next step and implement the reforms package.

Thirdly, the provision of training for police officers on how to serve people and protect them according to the human rights standards. In addition, holding dialogue between representatives of the Ministry of Interior and ordinary people to achieve reconciliation and build trust between them. This should be complemented by putting the martyrs’ killers behind bars and before trial. Moreover, liberating the media and lift censorship to provide a healthy environment for media to work freely is needed sooner than later.

Furthermore, the call for a civil state which is based on citizenship is a must since the momentum of the revolution should be seized. The spirit of unity and citizenship was one of the main gains of this revolution and this spirit should not be drifted away. Muslims and Christians were hand in hand and no attack on any church, because of the national goal of building a democratic country.

The national project of building Egypt for all Egyptians can be fulfilled through a civil state. A new constitution instead of few amendments is another suggestion to open the door for a new era. A fast and fair trial for all elements who committed illegal actions against Egyptian and resources of Egypt should be conducted.

Finally, Egyptians should be alert to the counter revolution efforts to keep the old regime in a different shape. The National Front of Egyptians and the rest of Egyptians are the protector and guard of this historical revolution.

Said Shehata is an Egyptian academic and political writer resident in London


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