*Update: President Hosni Mubarak has just announced that he intends to serve out his term, and that he will ask parliament to scrap the same articles of legislation that allowed him to rule unopposed for over 29 years. He also added that it was never his intention to seek another term in the coming elections.
I don't believe him. But more on the speech and its implications in a separate post.*
The "Million March" or "March of Millions", the label is irrelevant, has sealed the fate of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. And although his newly-appointed Finance Minister yesterday described the president as a "fighter", the fact of the matter is that he is just a stubborn old man.
The gathering in central Cairo (the numbers vary from a conservative 200,000 according to the BBC and 2 million as reported by Al Jazeera) came off spectacularly. The problem with it is that demonstrators are located in one place, shouting and chanting, not marching. I think it's something Mubarak can deal with in the interim.
People are focusing on when he will leave. Instead the real issue is what arrangements are being made for the post-Mubarak period.
But what we have just witnessed, starting in Tunisia and now in Egypt, could signal the birth of the new Arab generation. It may not be the equivalent of the West's 1960s generation of student activists, hippies and peace movements, with the flowers, sex, drugs and rock n roll, but Arab youth In their place are utilizing the power of modern communications, technology and devices to make their voices heard in an unprecedented manner.
The tweet of the day comes from CNN's Ben Wedeman: Taken unaware by #Egypt uprising, clueless "experts" think talking about Islamic role in Egypt they actually make sense. They don't #Jan25
The argument that Egypt may go the way of Iran is erroneous. The world should be prepared for a different Egypt which will no longer easily acquiesce in doing the bidding of the US in the Middle East in return for massive amounts of aid and a blind eye to what's going on in the country.
Events Tunisia and Egypt have exposed the ineffectiveness of the decades-old opposition to established regimes in the region. Obviously the main opposition movements are by-and-large Islamist. They appealed to frustrated and disgruntled generations who had no recourse to anything in the end except religion. The problem was that religion can be interpreted in many ways, not all of them benign or benevolent, for example the Islamic Jihad whose most famous personality is one Ayman Zawahiri.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt can and will gain a significant number of votes in any free and fair election. But we are now looking at a scene where there is an impressive force of opposition that has achieved what the MB failed to do for decades. There is, of course, a view that the MB did not want to topple the regime due to various political considerations of local (Egyptian) and international implications.
Nevertheless, the quick and organized mobilization of the new generation supported by all segments of society in these two Arab countries that straddle the top of Africa has transformed the Arab world and represents a potential turning point in the region's modern history.
Dynamic forces are being shaped as we speak and after the pessimism and despondency of decades past I cannot help but think that what we are witnessing is a beginning of sorts.
Make no mistake, this is not the collapse of the Soviet empire and its eastern European satellites. The regimes in the Arab world still have plenty of fight in them. But they recognize the threat, understand that they have been put on notice and are now attempting to take steps to thwart a repetition of another Tunisia or Egypt.
I don't believe in happy endings. But I sincerely hope that this process of rejuvenation will begin to lay the foundations of meritocracy, open-mindedness and creativity as the standards of tomorrow's society and overturn the strangling grip of the current establishments, in all their forms, built on corruption, cronyism and favoritism. The Achilles heel of that statement is that politics will still come into play.
A man on a long journey through a perpetual desert.
The opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the views of any of my employers, past, present or future.