Apr 5, 2011

Thoughts on my Cairo trip!


I left Cairo yesterday after spending 11 days trying to comprehend the changes that swarmed home! I am glad I stayed longer than 1 day, as my initial thoughts were quite challenged. 

Throughout the 11 days I have talked to dozens of Egyptians, from beggars to political activists, in attempt to better comprehend what happened during Jan25 revolution. A few things that stood out, everyone in Egypt has been going through a very turbulent and volatile emotional roller coaster since the beginning of the year. The mood in the country changes between utter optimism to sheer cynicism a few times a day. 

The actual momentum and speed of change in the country is quite amazing, but is as well is the biggest challenge to the country. No one is the country is able to lead the changes happening, not the army, not the activists not the MB. In my humble opinion everyone is spending all their time trying to grasp what just happened rather than planning and predicting the changes. 

So where do things stand now, well every political force is scared shitless of all the others. The trust is little. There is general fear of the idea of the counter-revolution, and it seems everything bad is blamed on the counter revolution rather than poor decision making or lack of leadership. 

I went to Tahrir Square on April 1st for the Save the Revolution Protest, pics here. It was great spending the day among a 100 or so thousand protestors (estimates were between 50K and 250K protestors). Now many have told me Tahrir was nothing like the first days of the revolution, the spirit was different. But there were many things that I found of interest. 

The most important accomplishment of this protest was the boycotting of it by the Islamic movements, not to be confused with Islamists. The discussions I had on the eve of the protest were predicting a very low turnout and a general concern if the progressive movements in Egypt were large enough without the conservative Islamic movement. The large turnout has resulted in a clear message to the army, and the Islamic movements that we, the progressives, can get boots on the ground, and are a formidable player in determining the future of Egypt. 

Yet, as a big tent progressive movement, we suffered from serious fragmentation in messaging. It seems everyone was there to save the revolution but then they all had different messages. The messages I heard were from demanding the prosecution of Mubarak, to releasing political prisoners, social equality, minimum wages, denouncing the recent anti-protesting law, demanding the change of all the leaders in state TV, supporting Libyans, Syrians, Bahrainis and Yemenis, solidarity with Japan and of course the one wackjob was talking about freeing Jerusalem!!! Most of these are kinda important but none addressed the key topics that the progressive movement needs to focus on, in order to take positive steps towards our common vision of Egypt. I believe that Egyptians need to focus on the following critical topics at the moment:
  • No more civilians tried in front of military tribunals
  • Parliamentary system to be a Party Proportional representation rather than first past the post
  • Non-Religious parties in Egypt forming a big-tent party for the first parliamentary elections to ensure we end up with a non-religious constitution
  • The Supreme Military Council (SMC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and the Prime Minister (PM) putting much time on the Nile Basin threats we facing.
  • MoFA, Minister of Tourism (MoT) working with key partners on reviving the tourism industry as it employs close to 10% of the working force
  • The SMC and MoFA helping to get that Libya situation under control so we can deal with 1million plus Egyptians have returned from there and overcrowding the employment market in a stagnated economy.

Another point of interest with Tahrir square, how on the first there were no cops or army members to see for miles. Unlike the first days of the revolution were tear gas, molotov cocktails, and rubber bullets were the norm, this was more of a carnival with balloons and food vendors.

I personally have left Egypt very inspired and excited about her future. I am confident that in 5 years we will not recognize the Egypt of today. The Egyptian economy will be growing closer to 10%, we will have a vibrant and more structured political system with actual participation from youth. We will have a stronger presence internationally. 

The Egyptian youth has left me flabbergasted, their commitment and passion towards a better Egypt is not only presented in words but in actual effort, from people volunteering to help promising candidates, to other volunteering with Egypt's poorest 1000 villages. I personally can't wait till I am back there permanently