Friday, October 23, 2009

Can new anti-succession campaign survive?

Can new anti-succession campaign survive?
By: Dalia Ziada

There is great similarity in timing and nature between the newly launched Campaign against Succession “Mayahkomsh” and the defunct Egyptian Movement for Change, “Kefaya.”

Kefaya started officially at the end of 2003, about two years before the presidential elections of 2005. Mayahkomsh was launched this week on October 14, also two years before the next presidential elections of 2011. Both were successfully able to bring the main political forces in Egypt into the same room to fight together for the same cause of change and against the same regime of Hosni Mubarak. Similar to the many sub-groups under the Kefaya umbrella; such as Youth for Change, Women for Change, etc. there are new sub-groups starting to appear under Mayahkomsh. The first of which is “Poets against Succession,” which will be announced next week.

The only two differences between them are: Kefaya was fed up with the very long ruling of Mubarak senior of 30 years, while Mayahkomsh is trying to avoid the ruling of Mubarak junior for other 30 years; and Kefaya was established by veteran controversial leftists, while Mayahkomsh is created by highly motivated liberal youth led by Ayman Nour, a presidential rival of 2005 and a potential presidential candidate in 2011.

Yet, those differences do not guarantee better chances for Mayahkomsh, unless they learn the lesson from the Kefaya saga. The new campaigners should study the reasons behind the sudden death of Kefaya and attempt to avoid them. As an insider, eye-witness of both groups, I would advise Mayahkomsh organizers to keep the following in mind:

First: Encourage Egyptians from different segments of society to participate directly in the work of Mayahkomsh. Not as listeners, but as active participants. That should happen through direct interactions between campaign organizers and ordinary citizens; not to solve their endless problems of polluted air and water, lack of food and poverty, but to educate them about their human rights of democracy and life with dignity. Those important segments of society should know that the only path for making their life better is through political change, which will subsequently lead to the ending of corruption, which is the main reason behind their daily suffering. If the grassroots understand this reality, we could guarantee that the whole society will eventually know its way toward change.

Second: Keep coordination between enthusiastic youth and experienced elders. The big problem of almost all Egyptian political groups, movements and campaigns since the 1950s is the over control of older participants over the younger talented minds. In our age of information technology and globalization, which young people know all about, the elders should give bigger space to talented and devoted young participants to do their job. The elders should focus more on playing the role of consultant, particularly when it comes to doing activities in the street, which requires direct engagement with people and security forces. The elders could also focus more on protecting the younger members through legal advice and interference when necessary, but without using this as a reason to interfere or disturb what the young enthusiastic geniuses are doing. At the end, it is their future and they should be given the chance to draw it with their own hands.

Third: Avoid divisions based on ideological differences. It is good to bring everyone together. It was strikingly amazing to me and many others to see liberals, Muslim Brotherhood, Nasserists, Communists, and independent intellectuals together in the same room agreeing on the same goal, talking for the same cause, and showing willingness to cooperate on the same objectives. Yet, the real challenge is not to bring them together, but to keep them together through the end. The real challenge here is how to keep the momentum and avoid expected conflicts between those psychologically and ideologically conflicting groups. For instance, how could you avoid meaningless controversy between liberals on one hand and the Muslim Brotherhood on the other over the role of women and Copts in leading Egypt; given the fact that the latter has previously stated that they will never accept a leader who is a woman or a Copt. This is only one example; the list would never end.

Fourth: Focus on the main objective rather than focusing on satisfying the sub-interests of each group involved. It is about how to successfully avoid the campaign participants and viewers from being distracted by the problems and interests that might show up in the future. It is highly expected that the regime will try to play mind games with the groups involved to weaken the larger campaign. They might crackdown on one group while giving more space to the other. They might fabricate problems among the opposition leaders or members involved based on their conflicting interests and points of view. Everything must be expected.

Thus, the new campaign should reach a general agreement with all members that they will never let any sub-interests or problems distract them. The larger group might show support to the harassed subgroup, but without being directly involved in defending them. This would be a waste of time and energy that will distract everyone from the main objective of the campaign and lead to a sudden death much like Kefaya experienced before.

Fifth: Interaction with the world. It is not wise any more to practice our minds in conspiracy theories instead of thinking of innovative ways to thumb down our common foe. Another big problem of the Egyptian opposition groups is their avoidance in working with international forces, employing naïve claims of patriotism and loyalty. No opposition leader will be labeled as traitor if he or she seeks help from international forces. Our regime does not listen to the internal pressure, but they yield and submit immediately to the slightest international pressure. If someone should be blamed or labeled as traitors for working with the West; particularly the U.S., Mubarak and his son Gamal should be the first.

Sixth: Learn and use new media tools and nonviolent action strategies and techniques. Obama was never to be the president of the United States if Martin Luther King did not fight nonviolently for African-American rights more than forty years ago and if his campaigners did not use most of the cheap and “available-to-all” new media technology.

This is how we – Egypt’s opposition forces – will succeed in reaching the change we all aspire for in the near future. The new campaigners of Mayahkomsh should invest more money and effort in improving their skills in this particular regard. They can even invent new ways and tools that were not used by others across the globe.

Change is the outcome of serious actions taken by devoted actors, not by the eloquent words of the masters of controversial debates.