NAIROBI, Kenya Sept 16 – Egyptians who were instrumental in the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak want the military to hand over power to a civilian regime that will oversee reforms in the country.
Sarah Abdelrahman, one of the key players in the revolution that ended Mubarak’s 34 year rule, says they are dissatisfied with the way the military is handling the reform agenda.
“They are turning around; they are stopping anyone who criticizes them, but we are not afraid anymore. When you break that wall of fear… when you know what you are worth and you know you rights that’s what really makes the difference, you could topple a regime,” she said.
In an interview with Capital News in Nairobi on Friday, Abdelrahman however said she disagreed with the manner in which the deposed leader was treated during his trial in Cairo where he appeared in court in a cage.
She said Egypt should urgently review its criminal justice system to change ways of dealing with those accused of certain crimes.
Abdelrahman who was in Kenya to participate in the International Day of Democracy also called on the African Union to dialogue with nations to open up their democratic space on the continent.
Abdelrahman had never been to a protest and has no political affiliation. But after hearing about the protests through friends and social media, the 23-year-old decided to take to the streets on January 25 to fight for her rights and the rights of her people.
“I felt that there was so much injustice in Egypt, and the fact that the protest was peaceful made it very appealing to me,” says Abdelrahman. “I was protesting for democracy, freedom, freedom of speech and social justice.”
Even when protestors clashed with police, she stuck through it.
On January 28, the Friday of Anger, she was severely beaten on her back with sticks, while many of her friends were struck by rubber bullets. “The beatings and injuries would motivate everyone to keep going back (to Tahrir Square every day).”
“When you see everyone around you still fighting, it motivates you even more,” says Abdelrahman. “It was a roller coaster of emotions, a rush of adrenaline, [rather than] getting scared or being angry.”
On February 2, what the protesters call Black Wednesday, Mubarak’s supporters charged the square on horses and camels in an assault that turned into an hour-long battle involving rocks, molotov cocktails and guns.
Abdelrahman was so overwhelmed with emotion that she went up to military officers observing the melee and began pushing them, asking, “Why aren’t you doing anything?”
When the violence calmed down, Abdelrahman was able to spend what she refers to as the most memorable time of the 18-day of uprising simply mingling with all the different people occupying the square. “I was so happy with the environment,” she says. “Everyone was really friendly, and it turned to an Egyptian utopia.”
Meanwhile, the 22-year-old journalism and theatre graduate says the Kenyan youth are a disappointment.
She says the Kenyan youth are misplacing the energy by failing to hold the institutions that fail them to account.
“I feel that the energy of the youth should be directed in something that is more innovative and creative. What I have seen is there is a lot of passion and a lot of anger which is actually great and is so much better than someone who is apathetic and sitting at home and doing nothing. You don’t have to wait for someone to do something for you, it can be done nothing is impossible”
Abdelrahman who was among panellists invited to speak at the International Day of Democracy, touched a raw nerve with the youth after she disagreed with the establishment of the National Youth Council saying it goes contrary to the push for youth inclusion in decision making position.
She instead urged the youth to use creative avenues to air the views and grab initiatives provided for them in the constitution.
She cited the Ushahidi Programme as among youthful programmes that made a mark internationally by enabling citizens to report failures of state agencies to meet their duties.
“People all over the world are benefiting from this project. Any idea you have even if you think it’s stupid, it might help other just start it and that will direct you energy; and actually gains you credibility and accountability as a leader,” she said in her parting shot.