Saturday, January 28, 2012

Reflections on the January 25th Revolution: A Luta Continua

One year ago, I  had just moved to Cairo, unsure about what was going on,  just trying to get adjusted to the new city, and the new country.The Egyptian Revolution changed my life.  I have always been a "democrat" and an activist at heart, and it revived my soul to live through a nation fighting for freedom. I think that the Arab Spring will play the role in my life, that the Civil Rights movement and African decolonization played for a previous generation.

I have had to leave Cairo. I am now in Little Rock, teaching at the Clinton School of Public Service. I will be returning to teach in Cairo this June. However, Egypt is still close to my heart, and I will try my best to comment and report on events with an eye to my experience during the Egyptian Revolution.

I teach a class called the dynamics of social change. As we have seen, a year into the Revolution, there is lots of work to still be done. That is, in and of itself, not a bad thing. Please remember that the French Revolution took nearly twenty years to complete. I have mentioned earlier in this blog that many countries that have gone through democratic transitions recently, including Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa often experienced long periods of partial transition. Thus, it would be realistic to assume that Egypt has a good ten to twenty years ahead of it before the democratic transition is complete.

That being said, Egypt has made remarkable, and bold strides. Unlike most Western commentators, I am fairly optimistic about the results of the recent parliamentary elections. It is impressive that elections were held. They were not completely free and fair, but neither were they totally rigged. The fact that the Islamists won is encouraging in the sense that the electorate did elect a completely different group into power than held power during the Mubarak government.

The reforms that need to take place in order to consolidate Egyptian democracy now are many. A valid constitution needs to be written by a process most of the electorate views as fair. The strength of the parliament vis a vis the executive needs to be established. Egypt, which has been ruled by the military since at least 1952, must now adjust to more civilian leadership, and a graceful exit be provided to the SCAF. Secular and liberal parties, newly born in the Revolutionary fires of last year, must establish themselves, and create a viable social base.

When I was in college in the late 1980s, and we were waiting for the end of apartheid, we used to say "A Luta Continua":  The Struggle continues . . . There is a relationship between liberation movements in all times, and all regions. We are watching, Egypt.


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