Day of Rage
Columns and Columns of heavy police carriers moved in downtown, days ago in anticipation. Arrests were made in various governorates. Regime-sponsored attempts to discredit the movement and the youth organizing it utilized huge billboards all over Cairo amongst many other free media. Rage, however, was unstoppable.
“Where are our national resources? What did you do with our money?” Chanted demonstrators at the footsteps of the Press Syndicate, led by Kamal Khalil and much younger leaders of the youth protest movement of “6 April”. “Egypt is a rich country”, explained one of the protestors, almost to himself. “It has been systematically robbed off by successive corrupt regimes. The fact that we can still find bread to eat despite corruption and misgovernment, is a testament to Egypt’s unbelievable wealth.”
“How many terms do you want?” another series of chants broke off. After 28 years in office, in the middle of a staggering fifth term, no one has any sympathy left to Mubarak’s claims that “stability comes first”. Egyptians seem to have had “Enough” of this brand of stability. “Stability, stability, whenever we demand change they flash out the stability card. Their stability in the seats of power has meant stagnation for Egypt and poverty for Egyptians. Enough is enough.” Another protestor explained. The yellow signs of “Kifaya”, literally meaning “Enough” were in abundance, in various shapes and forms. Kifaya leaders participated in the chanting.
A Folkloric piece of chants was to follow. It portrayed key symbols of corruption and their infamous deeds. From bribery filling one guy’s oversized belly, unconstitutional laws tailor-made by another of the regime’s men, specially designed to sustain the power monopoly, corruption and enhance the regime’s grip on things, to cancer-causing pesticides imported, widely distributed and sponsored yet by another of the those high officials. There was a special verse for NDP leaders accused of abuse of power in building steel monopolies and other lucrative cartels and concessions. The chanting went on.
The chants then turned to the poor conditions of the soldiers working in the security and compared the meager wages of the soldiers to the generous benefits of their superiors. A smart move to win the troops hearts! Apparently there was no need for that tactic. Many of the police officers on the scene could not hide their unspoken sympathy with the cause of the protestors. Soldiers and officers, everyone suffers from the high prices and the stinking corruption at the highest levels. Abdel halim Kandil, Kamal Khalil, Mohamed Abdel Koddos and Ayman Nour were amongst the hundreds of demonstrators, barricaded by thousands of security forces. But the majority of the protestors were from a young angry generation that has never known any president but Mubarak. They carried Egyptian flags, hand-made banners of protest, Kifaya signs, and many wore orange scarves distinctive of El Ghad Party members.
And so on went the day. Hours earlier Ayman Nour, George Ishak, Anwar Sadat and a few other opposition leaders announced the release of “Cairo Declaration” at the State Commissioners Court, the highest administrative court in Egypt, demanding election of a national assembly responsible for drafting a new constitution which can guaranty dignity, liberty and human rights for every Egyptian while limiting the wide powers enjoyed by the presidential establishment. Esraa Abdel Fattah and other young activists who started the 6th April movement in 2008 on Facebook also read articles of the ten-point declaration. The ten-point declaration demanded freedom of the press and election of all officials from village mayors to the president through a clean, transparent and democratic process. Ayman Nour announced that “We shall engage other opposition streams in developing a final version of this preliminary draft. We will then go door-to-door, to every Egyptian village, town and city to ask for support from our fellow Egyptians and collect as many signatures as we can on this declaration. The time for change has come and we shall together work to make it happen. If these demands are not met within the next twelve months, we call for a general strike and a state of civil disobedience on 6th April 2010, exactly one year from today.” Ayman Nour stands behind the idea of the Cairo Declaration and for the past month worked on gathering support around it. The same demands were announced at the Lawyers Syndicate and at several other governorates all over Egypt simultaneously.
One word. Rage. But will this rage continue to gather momentum as to actually put sufficient weight behind this demands? Or will the regime manage to bleed off a wee bit of the pressure with some phony appearances of reform and meanwhile buy time to survive for a few more years as it has skillfully managed to do for decades? Will opposition truly stand united behind a unified goal and engage the average Egyptian man and woman to support the cause of reform? I think the answer to this very last question will determine the fate and fruits of this rage over the coming days, weeks and months.