The revolution is not over…….That’s the message that a spirited and sizable group of Egyptians are insisting on, upset over the pace and planning of reforms in the nearly four months since President Hosni Mubarak quit amid a wave of popular unrest.
“We’ve waited … and nothing has happened,” said Mehdi Ibrahim, a 43-year-old taxi driver, at a demonstration Friday in Cairo’s famed Tahrir Square. “Mubarak and his men have not been punished for their crimes. We need accountability. In the new Egypt, no one is above the law.”
Friday’s gathering consisted largely of secular, more liberal-minded activists, with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis who had backed Mubarak’s ouster among those who stayed away.
The call for “accountability” was just one of many demands being made at that demonstration, when tens of thousands flocked to the square where the revolution began with hundreds, then thousands, then millions of people demanding change.
Others at the most recent protest urged the creation of a civil presidential council to replace the military council now in charge of Egypt, until democratic elections are held. Some called for the expeditious return of stolen assets, as well as a generally more open society.
One person held up a banner that read “Constitution First,” supporting the sentiment that a new constitution should be drafted and finalized before the September elections, not afterward as is currently planned.
“We need rules and regulations to guide us and to protect individual freedoms and the rights of minorities before the elections,” said Mohamed Badawi, a law student.
Yet not all those who fought to oust Mubarak think all these requests are valid.
Saffa Mohamed, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, said he thinks the September poll is good for the country, even if some gripe that it will unfairly benefit more established groups like his and even remnants of the once-ruling National Democratic Party at the expense of upstart political parties.
“Why won’t Egyptians just accept the results of the recent referendum?” he said. “The date … has already been set.”
Egypt’s ruling military council steered clear, as they’d promised, off the demonstration — with one general saying troops did not want to baited into an altercation.
“We expect there will be provocations from the protesters to pressure us into using excessive force against them,” said a senior Egyptian general, who asked not to be named, ahead of Friday’s protest. “So we are foiling those plans and staying away.”
The general also seemed nonplussed that the activists — most of whom participated in the eight weeks of demonstrations that culminated in Mubarak’s exit and handover of power to the military council — were so critical of the ruling council.
“These are the same members of the armed forces who exercised utmost restraint during the January mass uprisings, defying orders from Mubarak to shoot the opposition activists,” he said.
He urged the mostly young activists to work through existing political institutions and processes to effect change, such as joining political parties or forming new ones, rather than making demonstrations their primary political tool.
The general added, too, that the military council is eager to relinquish power back to civilian authorities.
“The army can’t wait to return to its barracks and do what it does best — protect the nation’s borders,” he said.