Friday, 11 February 2011

The 'Father' of the Prodigal Nation

What will it take for those who are responsible for ensuring governance in Egypt to step in and depose Mubarak, who is now courting the Chinese and the Saudi's in a desperate bid to hang on to power? "Who needs America?" one could almost hear him grunt, as he launched into another delusional bout of excessive self-identification with the Egyptian people. He is their 'father' and they'd better do as they're told, or else! 

There were many peaceful avenues available to Mubarak, but he has chosen to embark upon a dangerous trajectory of ostrich-style leadership, in the hope that the demonstrations will fizzle out and revolution will be thwarted, ensuring that his precious 'legacy' is maintained; a legacy that will only be remembered for the past three weeks. That is, tthree weeks that represent the most powerful changes the world has witnessed since the victory of the civil rights movement, the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of socialism in the Soviet Union. The Egyptian people have already moved into a new mode of existence. They have tasted freedom, and while I would not like to appear overly romantic I have experienced the change that occurs when freedom is tasted for the first time - it spreads like contagion, and quickly establishes itself in the minds and hearts of people. It is easy to maintain control over people who have never tasted any freedom, but those who have only recently discovered it, are loathe to lose it, and will die defending it. New freedom is addictive.

Hosni Mubarak and the army have become a diabolical duo, sending out conflicting messages to the Egyptian people, luring them into situations where they can justify using deadly force against them. If the army come down on the side of Hosni Mubarak, and launches a campaign of violence upon peaceful protestors, war and chaos will arrive at Egypts doorstep, and quickly. The populace will become radicalised, and they will choose those who stand with them and die with them in the streets. When they eventually overcome the state there will have to be a widespread purging of the elements that stood by Mubarak. History has shown us how absolute and complete these purges can be ... and if the already terrorised people of Egypt have lost all trust in their institutions (especially the army) then the purge will involve executions of all those who cannot be trusted in the view of the people or their new revolutionary leadership. 

The people and their revolutionary leaders will begin to mimic the very same absolute and resolute attitude that has been used to oppress them. They feel they have to rid their country of a cancer - and this is where the most dangerous agendas can play out with impunity. If the new Egypt arises out of a bloody revolution and post-revolutionary purge with widespread executions, it is uncertain what kind of Egypt will emerge. 

If the army acts internally now they would have the full support of their people and the international community, and the opportunity to establish widespread democracy in the middle east will be siezed. If the international community acts now to impose direct sanctions and withdrawal of aid programs from the Mubarak government, and show their unequivocal solidarity with the Egyptian people then this departure from sitting on the fence will help consolidate the internal movements towards democracy in Egypt, and will speed up the rate of change.     

In everyday life there are many tinpot dictators who rule tiny fiefdoms with all the vigour of a Mubarak or a Mugabe, but they do not hold power over millions of people and their destinies - their territories are small and insignificant in the bigger scheme of things. We have all met people who are incapable of accepting responsiblity of the disasters they bring upon others.  They delude themselves into believing only in the selective truths that are manufactured in their minds.  Nobody can rule for 30 years without becoming a senile despot and it seems that Egypt may be on the sad path towards 'Zimbabwedom', where everything collapses while one man holds an entire nation to ransom and millions of people fall deeper into starvation and ruin.

Nobody wins their freedom alone. They win it in concert with others, and this is perhaps the most severe test of the spirit of the Egyptian people. It will only end when they force him out of the presidential palace, and perhaps burn it to the ground.  Egyptians have discovered a shared dream that far outweighs the reality of daily life under the boot of a dictator and their revolution will be theirs. Whether they die in the streets or the torture chambers and jails of the regime they will win their freedom. If they have to take on the army then they will do that too. The whole world is watching, and should they start firing upon unarmed protestors they will forever be marked with the shame of betrayal. It may even put the soldiers on the ground under so much pressure that they mutiny and revolt against their commanders. Whatever happens, this won't end until the Egyptian people obtain their freedom, and if it requires international intervention then by all calculations it is better to intervene sooner rather than later.

Mubarak had the opportunity to leave peacefully and with dignity, but he was incapable of siezing this opportunity, preferring to stall and frustrate the will of the Egyptian people.  He could have sailed off into the sunset and lived out his days in Egypt immune from prosecution - he had the power to negotiate such a deal but now that time has passed. This is clearly a fight to the death - one man and his army against an entire nation. One man and a small select bunch of cronies are placing the entire transition at risk, and now he will have to face charges for abuse of power after he is deposed. The extent of his negligence as a leader warrants prosecution.

It is understandible that the international community was at a loss when this uprising initially emerged onto the streets of Egypt and the middle east, but we have now reached a point where making a clear stand has never been more necessary. It took years of canvassing international opinion for the ANC to create the international pressure that broke the South African apartheid government, but times have changed; this transition has come upon Egypt and the world with such speed that there isn't time for the diplomatic jostling to unfold behind the scenes. 

What Egypt needs from the international community is not quiet diplomacy but clear leadership and a clear stand on the morality that is at stake here. An entire nation stands pitted against one man and the machinery of the state and they have rejected him at every turn as their leader. He is no longer their leader, he is clearly their oppressor. Yet he stands before them in absolute defiance of their will ... every word that comes out of his mouth robs them of their humanity, humiliates them further and infuriates them at their powerless under him. All this while the international community drifts along, releasing meaningless phrases that help nobody, bringing no real external pressure upon this illegitimate regime. 

The same international community that went to war on Iraq with scant evidence of 'weapons of mass destruction' is unable to act in the name of the millions of ordinary people who have made their voices heard. What more do they need before they stand up to this challenge and show clear leadership that places direct pressure on the Egyptian government and military to act in accordance with the wishes of its people?

The revolution is now in the hands of the army. Should they refuse to take up this responsiblity then it will soon be back in the hands of the people, and who knows where it will go from there. Act now, so Egypt does not become another Zimbabwe, firmly trapped under the boot of a dictator that refuses to go and sees every day of survival as a self-reinforcing victory over the world, growing more powerful because there is no courage left in this world, except amongst people who have no other choice.

The army seems incapable of taking a stand alongside its people, despite the support it has received from the protestors. Mubarak has forced the hand of the people, and that of the army. He is bent on provoking a situation where the only alternative to his rule is total collapse when the people rise up and the army splits into fragments. Egyptian state tv is now completely surrounded by protestors, and nobody can get in or out. This is an important gain in the battle for freedom. The presidential palace is also being surrounded, and the army are doing their best to barricade both locations in from the protestors. Today is going to be the biggest test of Egypt's humanity, and while I would like to see people hoist their flag from the rooftops of the presidential palace, I would be happier to see the army kick Mubarak out and let the anger turn to celebration rather than destruction.

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