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GYPT BECAME THE FIRST “STATE” IN HISTORY WHEN Pharaoh Narmer united Upper and Lower Egypt to launch the dynastic period 7000 years ago. It was here, amongst other innovations in writing and architecture, that the building blocks of states


were cemented and the uneasy relationship between ruler, army, bureaucracy, land, business owners, and the people were first negotiated. That state and civilisation was con- quered by the Arab invasion of 639 AD, which planted the roots of modern Egyptians firmly over the land that once used to be Pharaoh Narmer’s domain. Fast forward to February 2011, and the people’s revolution which over- threw 30 years of Hosni Mubarak’s rule has thrust Egypt centre stage once again. “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked” – this quote from America’s greatest investor, Warren Buffet, about collapsing financial markets, could easily be applied to the unfolding Egyptian drama.


Tis revolution, inspired by an even more impressive one


in Tunisia a month earlier that overthrew President Ben Ali’s 23-year-old government, has stripped away all the doublespeak and metaphors that dominate normal discourse about “freedom”. Te curtain has been peeled back and the reality that people have been unwilling to acknowledge can no longer be ignored – the Emperor is naked. At least some Western commentators want to stop the high-


minded hypocrisy that the world and Africa have been subjected to over the years. Here is Peter Hitchens, a columnist for Te Daily Mail (UK): “If I am ruthlessly honest...I would sacrifice the freedom of the people of Egypt for my prosperity and stability, if that is the bargain on offer. And I think it is. Tere, I have said it.” How lucky it is the people of Egypt cannot hear Hitchens’ blasphemy – the Mediterranean Sea makes sure his voice is drowned out by the waves before it reaches the land the Pharoahs trod. As the illusion of the last 30 years of powerlessness and fear


disappears, Egypt’s strategic importance (the Suez Canal, regional guarantor of the peace with Israel, leader in the Arab world) is brought to the fore again. After three decades of being an instru- ment of American and Israeli policy in the region, Egypt is back. Tis time the people are in the lead, expressing their power,


demanding freedom, dignity and a new independence based on the understanding that they are essential components of sover- eignty. As it continues to unfold, the people’s movement for a new independence will have significant global reverberations. Will the revolution and the transformation it seeks truly succeed now that the army are in control? And what lessons does it offer to the region, to Africa, and the world? According to the US president, Barack Obama, “the Egyp-


tian people have spoken”. From the millions of words tossed out during the tumult, a few things have been clearer than oth- ers. One, that social media is a powerful tool for mobilisation against tyrants. Two, that the people are the basis of the state, and it is their interests that matter, not those of external pow- ers. Tree, that dictators are increasingly worried by the power of emboldened citizens linked by viral networks.


New African March 2011 | 15


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