Monday, 14 February 2011

The Generals and the Young Revolutionaries

Here's a full translation of the informal minutes of a meeting between two members of the Egyptian ruling military council and eight of the young people who helped organise the protest movement that brought down President Hosni Mubarak. The minutes, a historic document, were drafted by Wael Ghonim and Amr Salama from the youth movement, and so they are not endorsed by the generals:

Attendees: Ahmed Maher, Mahmoud Sami, Khaled el-Sayed, Asma Mahfouz, Amr Salama, Mohamed Abbas, Wael Ghonim and Abdel Rahman Samir

From the army: General Mahmoud Hegazi, General Abdel Fattah

Note: These points express the most prominent aspects of what happened in the meeting from my personal point of view - I and Amr Salama - and they are not binding on our other colleagues

Firstly I'll speak rather informally...  I seriously felt proud because what we achieved made all the older people respect it. The reason why we were with these leaders was the millions of Egyptians who went out to demand their rights. I was there not to negotiate. I was there to understand the army's point of view and convey your point of view. I asked the army to come out on television to explain (its) points of views because the people as a whole deserve to hear what we heard from them, so that we can all feel reassured. 

Frankly I'm very optimistic because of the fifth communique today and at the same time because of the way they managed the dialogue with the young people today. I felt that we were all one and we all wanted Egypt's interest.

A summary of the meeting:
- affirmation that the army does not want to take power in Egypt and that a civilian state is the only way for Egypt to progress
- the attitude of the Egyptian army was honourable and it refused to intervene or fire a single shot to kill or injure any Egyptian in spite of the pressures it was under
- the only reason for forming the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and holding a meeting was to protect the legitimate demands of the January 25 revolution
- the army defended the continued existence of the present cabinet, saying it was working fast to change it, but managing the country was essential to protect public interests
- a call on Egyptians to start a new page and to work with full force and energy to make up for the losses which have afflicted the Egyptian economy, forgetting personal objectives at the present time
- the prosecution of corrupt people, whatever their former and current positions might be, is one of the elements which the army believes to be important
- the formation of a constitutional committee of acknowledged probity and uprightness, unaffiliated with political currents, to complete the constitutional amendments within 10 days, to be put to referendum within two months
- the army encourages young people to start taking serious steps towards forming parties which express their ideas and opinions
- the army agrees to meet a spectrum of the young Egyptians who took part in the January 25 revolution in the coming period, such that the meetings will also be regular
- agreement that a campaign should start to collect 100 billion pounds to collect donations to rebuild Egypt, the donation and spending process to be under the supervision of the Egyptian army
- the army will look for all the demonstrators who went missing during the January 25 revolution and they are awaiting a final list which we will send them tomorrow
- the role of the army will be to guarantee the democratic transformation and to protect democracy. It will not interfere in the political process in any way
- the army insists on calling to account those proved to be implicated in the death or injury of demonstrators. They said they were holding more than 77 detainees they arrested for taking part in the Battle of the Camel in Tahrir
- deliberation in taking certain decisions is one of the characteristics of the military but there are many positive decisions which will be implemented in the coming period and which express the demands of the young people.
- the importance of concentrating on: Egyptians going back to work, pumping funds into the Stock Exchange to revive it and encouraging tourists to come back to Egypt
- the referendum on the articles of the constitution and the presidential elections will be done through national ID cards while the parliamentary elections will be through voting cards. We suggested finding a solution to the problem of polling stations by using technology to ensure elections by national ID cards.

Positive aspects of the meeting:
- the generals were writing and recording the ideas which the young people suggested, including changing the style of their media discourse and explaining the army's points of view more clearly
- all of us felt there was a sincere desire to preserve the gains of the revolution, unprecedented respect for the right of young people to express their opinions, loyalty to the country and a desire to protect it from foreign aggression
- the absence of a paternalistic tone in the dialogue ("You don't know what's good for you, my son"), and the first time we had sat with an Egyptian official for him to listen more than he spoke
- the pride and happiness of the Egyptian army in young Egyptians for what they had achieved. They described it as a historic achievement which had not happened since the time of the Pharaohs
- I personally feel that Egypt is in honest hands and that we are really on the right path to bring about democracy, and that now we must forget our personal interests and work for Egypt
- I hope in the end that the Egyptian army moves faster on reforms and improves its media discourse to explain its points of view more clearly to the masses through the media

Finally I say that Egypt is more important than us all

A final remark: Unfortunately we forgot to bring up the questions of the officers and soldiers who celebrated with us after the success of the revolution and who are being courtmartialled. We will do that with them.

Wael Ghonim and Amr Salama

(Thanks to Ursula for pointing this out to me)

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