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The division of all divisions: the people and the army are one hand!

28/11/2011

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been running my country since the 11th of February. To be more precise the military has actually been leading my country for the past 59 years since the coup d’état which turned into a revolution in July 1952. Currently SCAF is acting as president but the military has been enjoying the privileges that come with the leading positions in Egypt for many decades. The four presidents since 1952 have all been military men. Most of the Governors, Ministers, and CEOs of major companies and have been either military or ex-military.

I felt so proud when the military chose to side with the people in February. I was in London when Mubarak was ousted and left SCAF to run the country while the people were chanting: “the people and the army are one hand!!” The following weeks I was thanking Allah every single minute as the situation deteriorated in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria where the armies were either defecting or fighting against the people. I kept telling people that we were blessed in our revolution since our military is neither tribal nor sectarian which helped them to make the easy choice in deciding to take our side.

When I came back to London this October, I felt different. I was hesitant to tell people that we were doing fine back home. During the Annual Atkin Conference at King’s College London, I was showered with questions from people asking me about the direction that Egypt is taking. I told them that I think that SCAF means it when they talk about their intentions of stepping down soon. However, SCAF wants guarantees before doing so – guarantees regarding their decision making, finances and immunity from prosecution for violations they have previously committed. The SCAF does not want to stay involved in everyday issues especially with the poor economy and security issues that have now worsened since Mubarak stepped down.

In the past ten months, we experienced both ups and many downs in our relations with SCAF. Military men found themselves driving their tanks in the busy streets of Egyptian cities helping law enforcement and supporting the reluctant police force to help people feel safe and bringing everyday life back to normality. They have been responsible for every single detail of our lives as well as the arrangements of the transitory period which has had its complications.

The way SCAF has run my country, with the big questions they have raised – or not as the case may be – has led to many divisions. The main divisions have been over whether the new constitution should come before or after elections, yes or no to the amendments of the 1971 constitution, Muslims or Christians, liberals or Islamists, should we depend on ourselves or apply for international grants and should we keep the Cabinet or change. I could go on! Many of these issues were already on the ground in February but what is new is the fact that these issues are now dividing us.

The military has made some fatal mistakes. I believe that some of them were made on purpose and for two reasons:

1.    To extend the transitory period.

2.    To have a better bargaining position and political powers so they would be able to pass certain supra-constitutional principles to guarantee certain privileges to their institutions. This was shown with articles 9 and 10 of the suggested document on supra-constitutional principles, which was hated from day one. These articles have been one of the only things that every single Egyptian politician and activist – whatever their ideology – has refused. Isn’t it ironic that this is the only thing we have had a consensus on. The military was convinced- in my view- that they could follow the Turkish model in terms of the military becoming the guardian of the democracy and the legitimate keeper of Egypt.

This time, there will be no cheers from the Egyptian people – or at least not as much – if SCAF ousts itself or announces a return to its barracks due to several reasons:

1.    The long term bond and deeply profound respect of the people for the military. The people do not share the same view as some of the activists who believe that there is a large difference between the military as an institution and SCAF as a ruling power. The people see any threat to the status and/or role of  SCAF as a threat against the armed forces as a whole.

2.    The fear of the unknown. Those who cheered after the ousting Mubarak were hugging soldiers and throwing candy on the tanks but now they are asking about the substitute, with a focus on the reluctant performance of the police. People have been asking the military commanders in their local area to help them in everyday matters since the January. The military in general has been the ruler on the ground not just SCAF.

3.    Many Egyptians are not convinced that the military wants to stay in power. They think that the military did show their real intentions when Mubarak resigned when they chose to side with the people showing patriotism and altruism.. They also say that the military enjoyed many privileges under Mubarak’s regime without have the burden of their current responsibilities.

On Friday November 25th Kamal El Ganzori (at the age of 79) held a press conference to publicly accept the position of prime minister. At that very moment, a million people were marching in Cairo headed by the activists who had lost their eyes in the confrontations this last week. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands were gathering next to military zones and bases to show support to the SCAF. This is what I see as the division of all divisions. The split between the revolutionary powers and the common people… parents, workers, students.

Today we are going to vote and to elect our first democratically elected parliament in many decades.  Personally, I do not believe in this parliament. I always thought that we should have written a new constitution first.  How can we elect a parliament if we don’t know exactly its duties and responsibilities? How can we elect the parliament while we are still questioning the legitimacy of SCAF which is the head of the executive power. How about the poor security conditions that prevent many from voting? How about the ex-members of the dismantled National Democratic Party who are running as candidates – and will possibly win seats – but then might stand trials afterwards for committing crimes of political corruption.

Have I said that I am going to vote?  Both the Islamist and other groups see the elections as the only way out of this huge division. The only peaceful and tranquil way for there to be a transition of power to the people is through an elected parliament. Since we have no time to organise a campaign to boycott the elections, I am going to vote. Millions are going to vote and I do not want to boycott what the majority is going to take part in. I also believe that there will be no vote manipulation today, at least not inside the voting points. I encourage everyone I know to vote today.

We are going to vote dressed in black as a tribute to our martyrs. The 1200 we lost in the first wave and the 50 martyrs lost in the second wave. Our joy over elections is not yet complete. The divisions are numerous and have led to a division that now looks like a huge crack between the revolutionaries and the ordinary people.

Do I still feel proud and optimistic? Indeed I do. The people are awake now. Revolutions are like riding a bicycle, once you have learnt you never forget. The squares are sending a very strong message to whoever is playing or going to play a political role in Egypt -  you cannot remove the squares and we are always able to come back if you did not meet our demands. Pray for Egypt and keep your fingers crossed.

Operation revolution is still in progress.