The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The Facebook kids meet the generals

Over at the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook group, there  is a fascinating summary of the meeting between some of the young protest organizers and the military. The meeting included Ahmad Maher, Asmaa' Mahfouz (both from 6 April) Wael Ghonim, Khaled El Sayyid, Mohammed Abbas, Amr Salama and Abdul Rahman Samir, a Baradei supporter (not sure why all the members of the revolutionary youth council weren't there) and the post expresses the views of Ghonim and Salama. 

I'm not going to translate the whole thing but here are some highlights:

The meeting is described in very positive terms: "We noticed an absence of paternalism in the conversation ('You don't know your own interest, son.') For the first time we sat with an Egyptian official who listened more than he spoke." Although the young participants did tell the military they should have a better media communications strategy (please! enough with these cryptic SMS messages). 

This is what the military had to say:

- The military does not want power and thinks a civilian government is the only path towards progress. They only want to safeguard the gains of the revolution. 

- Keeping the current government is place is necessary but only until it can carry out the needed changes.

- The military wants to see corruption pursued and prosecuted

- A constitutional committee will be formed during the next 10 days; a new constitution will be voted on in a referendum in 2 months.

- The military encourages the people to take steps towards forming new political parties

- The military will be holding meetings with representatives of all political forces

- They military will supervise a campaign to raise 100 billion pounds in donations repair the damages of the revolution. 

- Egyptians need to go back to work, put their money back in the stock market, and attract tourists again

- Voting in the constitutional referendum and the presidential elections will be just with the national ID card

Ghonim and Salama take all this at face value and say they are convinced of the military's sincerity. There are some promising commitments here, but I am skeptical of several things: how deeply will the military, which controls enormous portions of the Egyptian economy, look into corruption? Why do they get to run a revolution relief fund (with which they will presumably contract themselves to rebuild the country's police stations, etc.)? Yes, the Egyptian economy is important; but this great and self-interested emphasis on getting things back to normal immediately could be detrimental to workers' rights in the long run (the military has said no one is allowed to strike). Last but not least:The military is taking meetings--that's good--but when are we going to see a truly consultative and democratic process put in place?