31/01/2011

The will of the Egyptian people

A week ago nobody would have bet on the fact that Egypt could follow the example of Tunisia. Were invoked the exception of Tunisia, the huge police apparatus of the Egyptian regime, the size of the country and of its people in comparison with its sister republic, the few examples of uprisings in Egypt’s history, etc. Yet, the Egyptian people begins today its seventh day of revolt, without the momentum to weaken.

More than an uprising it is a real revolution that is being undertaken by the Egyptian people. Beyond their fear of repression, probably encouraged by the success of Tunisia, men, women and even children took to the streets of all major cities in Egypt to indicate to the old raïs he was no longer persona grata. The situation now does not allow any backtracking. The people won’t settle for half-solutions.

Faced with the passionate commitment of a people for freedom, the contrast with the cold calculations of powers and their reactions to events in Egypt is particularly striking. They did not convince during the so-called « jasmine revolution » in Tunisia, remaining silent until the moment they were sure of the fall of the despot, France even going so far as to offer its « expertise » in order enforcement and demonstrations management. Since then they all switched their positions, saluting the courage of the Tunisian people.

The lesson was probably too fast to be learned, and we now find the same powers hesitating on the reaction to adopt towards the slow decline of the regime of Hosni Mubarak. The most striking evidence of it is to be found across the Atlantic where the White House, in a six days time, evolved from an unconditional support for its historic ally to a call for the establishment of a transitional government. The foreign ministers of the 27 have met on Monday to discuss the Egyptian situation. They called on Mubarak to hear the appeal of the street and to begin a reform process. Both the EU and the United States do not dare to completely turn their back on Mubarak.

Of course it is possible to understand international concerns, as Egypt is a country geographically central, and geo-strategically very important. The powers are afraid to see this country fall into the hands of forces hostile to the West – by this, are understood the Muslim Brotherhood. But what the international community must not forget is that the current uprising in Egypt is not that of an Islamist fringe population, but the translation of the aspirations of an entire people to freedom and the exercise of its rights.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée