It took the people of Egypt 18 days to unseat their former leader, autocratic President Hosni Mubarak, but it will take many more before the protestors get what they want: a true democracy.
The Egyptian revolution has just begun and many questions remain unanswered.
Led by no one in particular, organized through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and empowered by a fearless and determined spirit of hope, Egyptian protestors remarkably overcame 30 years of oppression and tyranny last week.
The 80 million people of the most populous country in the Arab world are writing a new chapter in Egypt’s history.
The proponents of Egypt’s “Revolution 2.0” must continue their inspired acts of civil disobedience.
The Egyptian Army has assumed power, but many issues, such as the unjust emergency law, the presence of corruption, the opposition’s lack of leadership and, in regards to the United States, the future civilian government’s stance on Egypt’s geopolitical role, still exist.
Unfortunately, unseating a deeply corrupt and despotic ruler is not enough for the opposition to claim victory when so many elements of the former system are still in place.
Though Egypt’s Supreme Military Council has already dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution and called for elections in six months, it has not clarified the current status of Egypt’s infamous emergency law, which allowed Mubarak’s regime to imprison anyone it liked without charge or legal trial.
The Egyptian Army should quickly put an end to the emergency law and make plans to empower its judicial system to act as a legitimate check and balance power over the future executive and legislative bodies.
Corruption serves to upset and deteriorate a government’s ability to perform its role as servant to the public, entrusted to develop and strengthen its country in a proper and just manner.
“The apparatus of repression and corruption in Egypt is much bigger and much deeper [than just Mubarak], and to root it out and have a hope for a more participatory democratic society is a huge, huge task,” said Laurie Brand, a professor of international relations at USC.
For this reason, Egyptians should be wary of the Egyptian Army, which controls a significant part of Egypt’s business sector and economy and was likely involved in corrupt practices under Mubarak’s regime.
The protestors who marched on Tahrir Square for 18 days will make progress in establishing democratic values and practices in Egypt, insofar as they are able first to organize themselves and find legitimate leaders within their youthful ranks.
In support of this goal, the U.S. State Department announced that it was preparing new aid packages to opposition groups in Egypt.
The groups that would receive the undisclosed amounts remain unclear, however, because the citizens who the United States would like to support unorganized.
The civilian leaders who will emerge from the fray and assume roles in Egypt’s new government will need to show as much sophistication and vigor in providing stability to the Middle East as they did in demonstrating in the streets of Cairo.
None of these challenges should detract from what the Egyptian people have just accomplished. As Americans, we should enthusiastically support those who seek to remove the shackles of repression in search of self-determination. And as students, we should recognize that the United States should not always dictate the affairs of foreign countries.
Still, the civilian leadership that assumes power in six months will need to overcome significant challenges before Egypt becomes truly democratic.
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William Fay is a senior majoring in international relations. His column, “Facing Our Global Challenges,” runs every other Thursday.