Saturday, May 21, 2005

Kefaya's momentum for change

[This piece is cross-posted at the Egyptian Bloggers Forum]

How can an unconventional movement such as the Egyptian Movement for Change (Kefaya) gain momentum to achieve its goals in improving the political life in Egypt? A question that I've been thinking about for a while.

Kefaya might not be interested in the answers to this question provided by myself (as well as others). But I suppose they should be interested however, since they are working hard to garner support from the people and the regular Egyptian layman, and since they are assuming that they represent the majority of the population (which they could very well be). They have been receiving advise from a number of very respected political gurus, such as Tarek AlBishry and Mohammad Hassanein Heikal. The movement itself is full of keen intellectuals, whom are very much capable of making sound judgements. That said, here's what I think.

Subjectively, I think highly of Kefaya and what those people are trying to do, and I applaud their efforts. They are courageous people by all means, and they are patriots who want the best for the country. However, I disagree with their means to acheiving their goals, and with the way they are presenting themselves and communicating with others (which seems to me that you have to go to a demonstration to talk to them).

Objectively, I've tried to figure out what Kefaya is, and what its about, which I'll try to present below in brief and to the point. Then, I'll attempt to give my answers to the main question of this post.

What is Kefaya?

Kefaya is by all means a novel movement that is unprecedented in modern Egypt, and what they are doing was probably unimaginable by many.

Kefaya does look like a political rainbow with its various political ideologies mingled together for a common goal, regardless of those ideologies and of any political ambitions.

Kefaya has no ideology, but rather incorporates all ideologies. Kefaya has socialists, communists and Islamists (some say liberals too) involved in its activities. Kefaya has a minority of politically and ideologically unaffiliated people as well.

Kefaya does not have a single leader nor a single spokesperson, but rather is led by the collectiveness of the people involved and their collective decisions.

Kefaya is not a political party, a think tank, a NGO, or an organizatin of any sort.

Kefaya does not provide an alternative.

Kefaya is not a movement that resembles the 1919 uprising because there is no obvious leader like Saad Zaghloul who was able to motivate and mobilize the public, and because Kefaya insists that they are not a political entity, which is contrary to what Saad Zaghloul's uprising has become.

Kefaya's existence is temporary (its an interim movement), and once its goals are achieved, the movement shall dissolve.

What is Kefaya's goal?

Regime change is the only goal that is clear to me, with the slogans "No 5th term (extension to Hosni), and no inheritence to Gamal". However, political change all together and end to corruption and inequality are other stated goals. To end the era of stagnation that we're living which is led by President Hosni Mubarak's regime. To end the political stagnation that is leading to all sorts of economical and societal deterioration.

While I find such a goal noble and very reasonable, I believe its not enough. Asking to make such a change at the top of the pyramid, with no alternative and no social structure in place to support the transition and what follows, raises much skepticism in my mind. Nevertheless, that is a huge goal on its own.

How is Kefaya achieving its goals?

The most obvious method they are using to achieve their goal is demonstrations. Tiny and frequent demonstrations with loud speakers and vocal banners. Contrary to what Kefaya might say that the size of the demonstrations don't matter, I think it very much does matter to them, and indeed it should matter. It does matter to them because they keep advertising about their upcoming demonstrations calling on people to join them. They are creating a channel to voice their rejection to the regime through street demonstrations and press releases, and making the world hear about it, trying to demonstrate that there is massive rejection to the regime.

There are also other means that they've pursued to achieve their goals, but none of that is obvious to me, except their signed petition to Parliament --which they probably know the fate of that. They're also planning to sue President Mubarak for calling them "paid agents".

How can Kefaya gain momentum for real change?

If we agree that Kefaya is a public movement, and not just a movement for select intellectuals, and since Kefaya is not a political party or a power center that is seeking power nor providing an alternative, then Kefaya has to interact with the public in an effective manner.

If Kefaya's intellectuals continue their demonstrations in their current form till kingdom come, that would probably still not achieve their goals. Can we imagine for a second if the constitution is changed to our liking, by allowing a non-restrictive fair elections, and if the Judges' demands are met and they have full control over the monitoring of the elections. I'm afraid that without the public's active particpation, nothing would change still, and the Mubaraks would still win the election and rule Egypt.

In Friday's Akhbar newspaper there is a one page story of how 11 million workers and farmers will vote in the referundum (and eventually vote for Mubarak). I think 11 million workers could very well vote for Mubarak. They are packed in busses and driven to poll stations every referundum to mark the Yes box, and that is a clean vote.

I would think that Kefaya should work with those workers, as well as with the rest of the public, to educate them about their rights, about the importance of their vote, about the importance of the political change we're seeking, about how that change will better improve their daily lives, about how their participation would put an end to corruption and allow them a fair chance, about how freedom is important, about how God will not change a nation unless they change themselves.

Maybe then, when those workers get a free bus ride to the poll stations by the regime, they will think twice before they make that mark in the ballot card.

Why does Kefaya insist that they are not affiliated with any existing political or civil movement, but only represent most of them, when they can better channel their efforts through those parties and existing civil movements. Those NGOs and parties already have channels of communication and potential funds (however constrained) that can funnel to the people. Doesn't a movement for change needs channels of communication and need funds to operate. It is a very wise decision to reject any foreign funds, not because its wrong, but because it would tarnish the movement and turn them into an easy target by the regime. But what about domestic funds? There are lots of money in this country, and there should be efforts to attract domestic funds into our political life, into our desire to change. Kefaya can't raise funds because its not an official organization and can't go through that bureaucratic process, so maybe the Kefaya intellectuals can think of ways to utilize the existing parties and NGOs for that purpose.

The means to achieving the goals should be by building a stronger society, whereby massive amount of people participating in the elections, and in political activities become a shocker to the regime and to anyone thinking lightly of the Egyptian public. The regime can easily quell demonstrations, by the brutal state security forces, but how can they quell massive political and social activism and participation, how can it quell a nation of activists? A regime that realizes that the public with their various political leanings and ideologies have become active and involved, that the public care as to who rules them and how they are governed, such a regime will think twice before repressing the people, and before limiting their freedoms and ignoring their demands.

What do you think?


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