Thursday, July 11, 2013

Egypt: Searching for Democracy

By Tazoacha Asonganyi, Yaounde.
A journalist once asked our God-sent, president-in-perpetuity what he would like to be remembered for. Remember what his response was? He said: I will like to be remembered as the one who gave (brought) democracy to Cameroon. There is an opposition leader in Cameroon who usually declares that Cameroonians should be grateful to him (or is it his party?) for bringing democracy (or is it making it possible for them to experience democracy?)
All preposterous!
   Democracy is bigger than all of us. It can neither be brought nor given to a people. It has always been acquired through a do-or-die struggle with autocratic forces; through the collective sacrifice of a people or society. Democracy is the state of mind of an informed, rigorous and critical citizenry acquired through a struggle-based continuing education process that constantly reinforces the state of mind, leading to innovation, evolution and strengthening of democracy and society. The role of government is to create, sustain, expand and strengthen the societal space in which this struggle and learning process occur.
   The iconic Aung Sang Suu Kyi of Myamar seems to know better. Gustaaf Houtman quotes her in his book Mental culture in Burmese crisis politics: Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy as saying the following to her followers: “Do not think that I will be able to give you democracy. I will tell you frankly, I am not a magician. I do not possess any special power that will allow me to bring you democracy. I can say frankly that democracy will be achieved only by you, by all of you...”
  About a week ago when Mohamed Morsi was still enjoying his position as “democratically-elected” president of Egypt, he declared in a show of bravado that he would not step down precisely because he bore that sobriquet. It made me to choke with laughter; and I shouted back at him on my TV screen that if the venerable, God-sent, “democratically-elected,” president-in-perpetuity Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak could resign following the same demands from Tahrir Square, what more of the few-months-old Morsi? And it came to pass; he went the Mubarak way, equally nudged by the military!
   The other day a French colleague was mourning the many lives being lost in Egypt and virtually boasting that they (the French) have also had “massive” demonstrations in France recently, but nobody can think of overthrowing their president. I snapped back that if the French invite us each year to celebrate 14th July which also brings to memory several casualties that made it possible, they should let other peoples to look for their own “revolution” day to celebrate in future. And if nobody can think of overthrowing their president, it is precisely because they had already lived their 14th July moment!
  One would say virtually the same thing to most of the lesson-donors in newsrooms, situation rooms and other ante-chambers around the world. Egyptians are engaged in a trying search for democracy. With luck, they may find a version that suits their yearning – their hunger - after a short struggle. Otherwise, it could well take a while. Either way, they should not be encouraged to settle for half-measures after the road they have covered so far.
   They may well end up with Mohamed Morsi II. No matter. What is certain is that Morsi II will be different from the first “democratically-elected” Morsi who wanted to serve the Moslem Brotherhood, rather than all the people of Egypt. 

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