Egypt: an ongoing revolution

Already a year ago, January 25, 2011, the Egyptians transcended their fear of repression and came down in the street to topple the historic leader Mubarak from the presidency he was holding for nearly thirty years. A popular effort of 18-day’s finally overcame the tenacity of the old leader who left the capital and took exile in Sharm El Sheikh on February 11.

This Wednesday, January 25, 2012, the Egyptians massively took the streets. In Inside Story on Al Jazeera, Sheriff Kouddous, a correspondent for Democracy Now, explains the ambivalence of this mass movement. « If people took to the streets on Wednesday, » he says, « it is both to celebrate and to demonstrate. They want to remind that what was launched a year ago has succeeded in toppling a dictator in eighteen days, but that a dictatorship is still in place, embodied by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces ».

More commonly known as the SCAF, the Supreme Council still has a stranglehold on the major positions of power. In his opinion in Egypt independent *, Ashraf El-Sherif warns against this « secret group that governs Egypt ». He explains how much the National Assembly debates and the election results are secondary. The Egyptian military leadership « controls the state and the three branches running the elections, namely the judiciary, security apparatus and the media, so it would be illogical to expect an outcome that does not please them. »

Presenting the annual report of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, director of the organization describes the imbroglio between the three current Egyptian players that are the military that keeping control on the security, the islamists winners of the election and the liberals, engine of the revolutionary spirit. The dynamics at work today is such that each group has specific expectations about other actors, resulting in a unavoidable misunderstanding and a total stalemate of the transition process.

In addition to these problems curbing the democratic transition, the economic situation remains alarming with more than half of Egypt’s population living below the poverty line.

Such a situation must be such as to worry Europe. Indeed, the destabilization of a country as large and central as Egypt can have a dramatic impact on the entire region. But this concern does not legitimize a Europe’s withdrawal in order to secure its own borders. The EU should instead start thinking in terms of ongoing dialogue with these new players, trying to push them to the values ​​demanded by the protesters for over a year. We hope therefore that Europe will not make the mistake again to follow its interests rather than its values.


Nathalie Janne d’Othée


* English version of the Egyptian Arabic weekly newspaper Al Masry Al Youm