August 21, 2013 – The latest events in Egypt have continued to polarize opinions as both Egyptians and the international community struggle to establish exactly what is taking place in Um al Donya (“mother of the world”). Specifically, commentators argue over the legitimacy of the military – are the Armed Forces carrying out a coup or just implementing a form of accelerated hard democracy? Can such rough handling of the Muslim Brotherhood even be categorised as democratic action any more? The line that already shifted seems to have disappeared altogether.
Karama believes that such commentators are asking the wrong questions and focusing on the symptoms rather than the cause. Every nation must strive for strong institutions such as a functional judiciary, an empowered civil society, experienced media bodies and, of course, mature and inclusive political structures. The reality is that Egypt does not have the luxury of such institutions, and while these remain absent it is unrealistic to expect transition to occur in a controlled and peaceful manner. It is entirely possible that Egypt is trying to move in the right direction but just lacks the tools to do so in the right way.
Those willing to subscribe to this view will immediately recognise that it is not sufficient for other countries (and Egyptians) to criticize events from the sidelines. A concerted and unified effort must be made to treat the underlying cause and there is plenty of space for everyone to help. Specifically:
- The international community must encourage and support the emergence of transparent and mature reporting mechanisms, starting with both domestic and international media but also including critical groups within civil society. Events in Egypt did not occur within a vacuum, they escalated as part of a process that should have been identified at an earlier stage.
- More work must be done to empower and include key target audiences, starting with Egyptian women. Women in Arab society can notoriously function as a brake to violent confrontation and they must be given the necessary platform to provide the badly needed voice of reason.
- Accountability is required in the form of efficient judicial processes. The Egyptian public must see that those guilty of transgressions will face justice. Quick wins must be identified, implemented and publicized. Society will respect change but there must be a perception of consistency and fairness.
These three areas of improvement require considerable effort and the task is far from simple or easy. However, they must be addressed – not just for Egypt but also for the wider region. Libya is facing similar challenges and there is growing concern that failure in Egypt may spell failure abroad.