An Egyptian revolution still in the making

I am not Egyptian.

Nevertheless, Tahrir Square raised my hopes that change can happen anywhere.

Not necessarily in the way change-makers anticipate it to evolve, as this is always the case and everywhere.

Shaking the foundations of a despised system to build new ones, that is what matters most.

We are all Egyptians

“We are all Egyptians,” that was the general slogan of many oppressed people in different corners of the world.

More than 1 million Egyptians had gathered in Tahrir Square, even more if one considers other cities across the whole of Egypt, seeking the removal of Hosni Mubarak.

Feeling Egyptian meant how close every oppressed, wherever they were, understood the frustrations that inhabited protesters who wanted change in Egypt, back in January/February 2011.

Egypt, helped by a strong support of US government and capitalism institutions, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and others, which believed in the significant and unique place the country has in the Middle East, had managed to develop a vibrant middle class.

But thirty years of Mubarak regime had created a class of a political and business aristocracy disconnected from the rest of society.


It appears important to recall how the change which shifted Egyptian politics did not come from nowhere.

Well educated youth had espoused liberal principles incompatible with the way Mubarak system ruled.

Confronted with increasing injustices and inequalities among Egyptian citizens, they decided to take action.

Grievances amounted to legal and political issues including police brutality, state of emergency laws, lack of free elections and freedom of speech, uncontrollable corruption, and economic issues including high unemployment, food price inflation, and low minimum wages.

But the most pressing demands of protesters were the end of the Hosni Mubarak regime and emergency law; freedom, justice, a responsive non-military government.

Horace Campbell explains:

“…uprising in Egypt came after years of patient and consistent work by young men and women who have been organising in the April 6 Movement. This is a group of young persons who had used the social-networking instrument of Facebook to call the youths of Egypt to support the workers in their struggles. From 6 April 2008 these youths have been meeting and organising to build a movement linking their work to communities all across Egypt and linking up with grassroots activists in other parts of the world.”

Despite a campaign of several years against state structures of oppression: police and judiciary, weaknesses in their organisational capacities made however the leaderless revolutionaries of Tahrir Square incapable of capitalising on the outcomes of their actions and sacrifices.

Leaderless revolution

Mohamed Mustafa ElBaradei, former Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had joined Tahrir protesters on January 27, 2011. He had returned to Egypt amid ongoing turmoil, with the largest mass protests in 30 years, which had begun two days earlier, on January 25, 2011.

Though he had clearly stated his intentions to become the voice of the protesters, he did not get the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which considered him as an outsider particularly who would serve more interests of the West than those of the people. And additionally, the movement considered itself strong enough to represent itself.

In May and June 2012, a presidential election has been won by the most organised political force in Egyptian society, the Muslim Brotherhood, and not necessarily the most deserving.

The Egypt’s High Electoral Commission (HEC) said Mohammed Morsi, candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice took 51.7% of the vote versus 48.3% for the independent candidate Ahmed Shafiq, former and last Prime Minister of Mubarak.

Mohammed Morsi, the elected president is asserting his newly gained public mandate by making gradual but fundamental political changes that might characterise for a long time the after-Mubarak era.

Lessons and ways forward

Patrick Mbeko, author of Canada in the wars in Central Africa, has some pertinent views on the Egyptian revolution and its subsequent presidential elections.

 “The stakes are much higher than the young Egyptians [who] gathered in Tahrir Square believe. They certainly mobilized with energy, enthusiasm, determination for change without always being politically equipped about the issues at stake. “It is not enough to bring down Mubarak and his regime, noted Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan … All these young people who took to the streets were guided by the hope of change. But anyone who has a political sense knows that it can be recuperated. What was their revolutionary instinct initially remains today. But these uprisings have not ended in a proper revolution.”

The Egyptian revolution of 25 January 2011 ended up in the hands of those who did not initiate it, but those who had the right organizational structures to take charge of the outcome the change brought about.

And that is what happens with most revolutions. Those who initiate change are rarely those who lead on the outcome it brings.

Then the following question arises: “how do you get change-makers become as well leaders on the results of the change they bring?

My answer is to organize, organize, and organize. And everything that such concept encompasses. Without organizing, the change brought about can make things even worse than they were before.

And there is no sad picture than contemplating revolutionaries regretting their contribution to change.


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