At a point in time where Egypt finds itself faced with the weight of ridding itself of 30 years of corruption, Egyptians also know that this is compounded by 30 years of ignorance, 30 years of manipulation and being held prisoner in their own country. 30 years of being unprepared.

But we’re starting to venture out into the sun, and learning to listen and speak, and learning to be brave enough to question.

Mubarak left on Feb 11th handing over power to the Supreme Armed Forces’ Council, SAFC who in turn took it upon themselves to “oversee the transition of power to a civilian state elected by the people, in recognition of the principles driving the 25 Jan Revolution”.

On April 9th uniformed military officers joined Tahrir protests that were calling for the prosecution of remnants of the old regime, some say 12, some say as many as twenty-something army officers were present, though the SAFC says 8. These officers spoke out against the Minister of Defense Chief Tantawi, who served under Mubarak for 20 years and now heads the SAFC, and they spoke out about corruption in the Military. The SAFC, who admitted to using Army and Central Security Forces, broke up the sit-in in Tahrir by force during the early hours of Saturday April 9th. The SAFC’s reasoning was that the protesters were breaking the law by breaking the curfew. It is said that at least 3 were killed, the SAFC admits to one- shot in the head.

Knowingly or not, these uniformed officers were forming an alternate nucleus to SAFC.  The officers even pitched up a make-do tent in the center of the roundabout of Tahrir, which was torn down violently by police and army troops that stormed the square. It was inevitable that SAFC would attempt to eliminate the threat of conflicting signals from different power points within the Armed Forces, especially that the uniformed officers had moved to center stage amongst the people. And worse, that the people had embraced them.

Perceived participation or endorsement of the revolution, as opposed to simply protecting the people, has been a sensitive issue for the Army, and one which it has tried to handle responsibly and with awareness, since it first came to the streets on Jan 28. First as “guardians of Egypt”, preventing it from descending into total chaos when the police vanished from the streets after freeing criminal prisoners [shedding an ‘air of accountability’ while the citizens were armed & out on their neighborhood checkpoints], then as “guardians of the revolution” after Mubarak left, trying to fulfill an almost impossible formula of ruling & serving all at once- well, not in the way Egyptians have come to know ‘rulers’ and those who ‘serve’ in the days of Mubarak anyway.

The SAFC may also be fearful of growing calls for their prosecution, deserved or not is beside the point. Logic does imply that due to 30 years of un-education and the old regime’s ability to manipulate people’s perceptions, any sudden and unexamined shift in power is unadvisable, yet one questions what exactly was the message the army tried to deliver with its violent and dramatic storming of the square? And to whom?  

Chief Tantawi knows that in all probability he will have to face some sort of questioning, but all parties seem to be dancing around the issue, keeping a low-profile and pretending to play-nice, just like the Minister of the Military-Industrial complex Sayyed Mishaal who was appointed by Mubarak years ago.

Sayyed Mishaal who had just won a questionable election a couple of months before the revolution for a seat in Egypt’s parliament, combining both legislative powers [as MP] as well as executive powers [inherent in his existing ministerial role]. Sayyed Mishaal who was there under Mubarak, and then there as an unchanging element in all the changing governments formed in an attempt to balance out, and is still there under PM Essam Sharaf who took his office oath in Tahrir. What a talent must he be?

Statistically speaking, it is idiotic to think that the Army was the only institution devoid of any corruption during Mubarak’s years, they just hid it better. I’m sure that just like all other institutions in Egypt we had the oppressed and the sidelined, those trying to just survive, those that wanted to climb the corruption ladder with their pom poms & ‘take a chance on me’, and then there were those who pulled the strings and tried to manipulate money & power. Why would the army be any different, after all they lived under the same conditions as everyone else?

That is why I believe despite all their calls to want to hand over power to civilian leaderships; the SAFC is terrified from the moment that they give up their unquestioned authority. They are afraid of what may happen to them next, and it is only logical that this ultra-drawn-out slow pace is a time for preparations and forging alliances for self-preservation. Yet no matter how uneducated us Egyptians may be, we are aware that we do not want to risk throwing Egypt into unnecessary conflict. Though some of us are plain scared. Of what this Neo Egypt will look like, and what it may mean for them… At the moment Egyptians seem ready to die defending anything that seems half-decent, just because they do not know what ‘daring to ask for more’ may bring.. Well the Supreme Armed Forces’ Council has at least hinted…

I remember standing in Tahrir the night of the 25th awestruck by the sheer numbers and the common consciousness moving through the crowds as one wave of chants washes over another, picked up and given life by converging minds and voices. I wondered if I had woken up in an alternate reality that day. Where Egyptians were no longer afraid to speak up against injustice. Where we had all slid into a part of our minds basked in the knowledge that we are all born free and equal, and it is only us that can give away that power, and allow someone to make us believe otherwise. And since day 1, the essence of the call has not changed, though not many have stopped to reflect upon the meanings inherent in the elusively suggestive “Al Sha’ab yureed Isqat Al Nizam” which can be translated either to: “The People Want the Regime to Fall” or it can be taken to mean “The People Want The System to Fail”. They are 2 completely different places…

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