A Nation Of Young People

Amr Mohamed on the current situation in Egypt and his participation in a live Dialogue with Kofi Annan and One Young World Ambassadors.


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On Mandela Day, I had the chance to get into a discussion with a great African. I was one of several young people from around the globe who had the privilege to participate in the third episode of Kofi Annan Dialogues, titled “Democracy and Elections”. During the discussion, Mr. Annan said: “In Egypt, we need to build a pluralistic society that has room for everyone, every group, and every faith.” I immediately remembered Tahrir during the 2011 Revolution, where Muslims and Christians protected each other. Where everybody had a place among us: liberals, Islamists, seculars, and Salafis. Where we accepted our differences and celebrated them. Where we cleaned up after ourselves. Where we shared food. Our attitude at that time was different because millions of people gathered there and in squares all over Egypt for the same cause.

I look at my country now. Egypt is divided. Although the Egyptians desperately need revolutionary leadership, it's uprising rests in national stalemate, it's goals ambiguous and without a plan instead of informed and clear, its representation is apathetic and manipulated instead of being for the people. Conversations stopped while instability and clashes continued. Egypt desperately needs someone like Nelson Mandela to reunite the people behind a cause. One might think that when we, Egyptians, look back at the 2011 revolution, we feel satisfaction about our heroic uprising. This satisfaction, however, is nothing but a nice memory above deeply rooted worries and struggles. Thousands of my people regard the revolution as a wonderful event that they attended and, after which, they developed an indifference towards the currently discussed issues by Egyptian politicians. During this last year, participation rates in elections and public votes were dropping. It seemed as if the Egyptian people have lost all interest in the political life and in the revolution. For some time, I thought that the mindset of the revolution was sadly drowned in disappointments, that the set of ideas born in 2011 were killed by indifference, and that the cause of Tahrir was lost in everyday worries and struggles. But if these worries developed this division in the political scene, do they not as well produce a belief that there is an alternative to the present? That something can be done to change the tough circumstances that the Egyptians and their families face on daily basis in the workplaces, the schools, and the bureaucracies?

The cause of Tahrir is still there. Tahrir was not about toppling Mubarak or dissolving the system. It was not about fighting the Muslim Brotherhood. It has always been about gaining back our respect and taking back our country and opportunity for actual development. What caused the revolution? What caused the change? It was all Egyptians collectively. If we want Egypt to change then each and every one must be a part of this change we want to see. “No one is born a good citizen or democrat. It takes participation, observation, reflection and training.” Mr. Annan made sure to drive this point home. If we truly aim to develop Egypt, we must participate in the political life, acknowledge the other side, and encourage participation in all of Egypt. When everybody participates, great leaders will emerge.

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We had high expectations for democracy and for an uprising initiated by the youth, and we still do. Institutions in Egypt have to meet the expectations of the Egyptian of people in being democratic. This can be achieved by widening democracy through the application of democratic principles to all social groups and across all of Egypt to the grassroots through local governments, empowering women and minorities, as well as applying federal principles to ensure autonomous decision making and decentralization. In addition, institutions have to meet the expectations in involving the youth. Egypt is a nation of young people. About seventy percent of the Egyptian population is under thirty years old. These young people need to be involved in the political process. The Egyptian youth were the brave men and women who started several movements to fight Mubarak, took the streets during the 2011 Revolution, started ‘Rebel’ movement to fight Morsi, and took the streets during the 2013 Rebellion. Ignoring the youth’s needs and opinions has already proven dangerous to all past governments. The youth needs to be engaged in the decision making process in order for Egypt to reach stability. Democracy has to be pushed for the Egyptians by the Egyptian youth in the streets, the schools, and the workplaces.