Archive for October, 2011

Zenga Zenga Democracy

On one of my sleepless nights, surfing on Youtube, I found a film of a disco in Tunis where people were dancing to the so-called Gaddafi song. It is a great mix of the mad speech Muammar Gaddafi gave some months ago to warn the Libyan opposition would hunt them down wherever they go: “Dar, dar, beit, beit, zenga, zenga” meaning in Arabic “house by house, apartment by apartment, alleyway by alleyway”.

In the past two months the roles were reversed. The rebels where hunting Gaddafi dar, dar, beit, beit, zenga, zenga.

Last Thursday on 20 October they found him in Sirte, in a pipe. When some rebels dragged him out, he asked one of them: “What have I done wrong to you?” The guy must have been too baffled to answer this appalling question. What have you done wrong to me? Um, well, where to begin? Being the last words of one of the most cruel dictators of our times, they tell us a lot about how this madman’s mind functioned. Probably, he really thought that murdering, torturing, raping and starving people was for the best of his country.

But now that the dust is settling, the biggest challenge for Libya is about to begin: The building of a new country on the ruins of the old one. More than 40 years of leadership from the frere-guide, the King of Kings of Africa, the leader of the revolution, have left behind a country without political parties, without intellectuals, without trade unions, without political structures and without civil society. Libya is a political desert.

Luckily, there are also wise and strong people like Mahmoud Jibril around. Without trying to be party-political, the Alde group can still be proud of the fact they were the first to invite Jibril to Europe, the first to recognise the Transitional National Council and to support its demand for a no-fly zone.

But two strong people are not enough. An entire new political structure has to be built. No wonder that even as Nato gets out of Libya, a new Western army comes in: the army of democracy builders. They will give all possible support to constructing a parliamentary democracy, based on models in the West.

At this point, we must be brave and dare to ask if trying to export our own parliamentary system is really the best thing to do?

It is a question all the more urgent since our system is currently facing its own problems. Nobody can deny we have problems of legitimacy, problems of inability to give proper answers to the financial and economic crisis. Thousands of Indignados are filling the streets of our capitals. In short, we must dare to admit that our system of democracy needs some rethinking.

So instead of trying to introduce our rules of politics in Libya, would it not be more adequate to use the Libyan political desert to create a new democratic oasis? A system with more participation of citizens, more involvement of people in the decision-making process, a stakeholder democracy, a system in which the “heart of power really is empty”, as the French philiosopher Claude Lefort put it.

Instead of lagging behind, Libya could become a model of a new kind of democracy. There are some-sharp thinking Libyans who want to give experiments a chance and to give the people in the street the opportunity to co-build a new country. Let us think together with them how to build a zenga zenga democracy.

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There is no problem with the Copts …

On Monday (10 October) I received a message from a friend of mine, a true Muslima, as she calls herself. The message said: “Two of my friends died last night. I am breaking down. One of them was to get married in a couple of months. His friends sent me a picture of his fiance holding his dead body. Mubarak was a curtain, SCAF is the monster we unveiled!”

This is only one of the many messages of despair I received after what happened on Sunday. A peaceful demonstration of Copts during the evening was interrupted by unknown people throwing stones at the demonstrators. Half an hour later soldiers arrived, together with the police, and started a hallucinatory crackdown. Firing live bullets, driving tanks into crowds. Leaving 24 dead and 150 wounded behind. One dozen people died under the wheels of a tank. The pictures are very disturbing.

Why? The Copts were demonstrating peacefully against the fact that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) is not reacting properly to attacks on Coptic churches. Not life-threatening for a government, is it? Moreover, there are demonstrations every week. No wonder that a lot of questions and theories are popping up. Why are the attackers of the Coptic church last week in the region of Aswan not brought to court? This is a valid question, certainly if you know that since February this year already 12,000 people have been sentenced by military court for disturbing the public order. It was not a massive attack. Only a dozen of Salafis, which are Muslim extremists, sacked a little church, not knowing someone was filming them. The fact that one of the guys on camera was not a Salafi, but an officer from the Ministry of Interior of course did explode the amount of conspiracy theories.

One of the most popular theories among Egyptians right now, is that the SCAF is organising these attacks and this chaos in order to keep power and to maintain the emergency law and military courts. In any case, what happened on Sunday will not diminish the doubts about the real intentions of the military. The fact that it is still totally unclear when the presidential elections are going to be held and the power of the SCAF will be transferred to a civilian doesn’t help either. That is of course also the message my friend sent me.

There remains the question about the situation of the Copts in Egypt. Until last weekend, my friend (whose name I deliberately don’t mention) told me that there are no problems with the Copts. A message I heard many, many times. And although a monk at the abbey of Saint Anthony, the oldest abbey in the world, told me a different story two days ago, everybody must admit that attacks on churches are being carried out by a few persons but condemned by everyone. Including the Muslim Brotherhood. It is true that the Copts do face problems as a minority, but what happened yesterday can’t be reduced to a ‘Coptic problem.’

The conclusion is quite simple. There are only two possibilities: either the situation after the revolution has become more chaotic and has given extremists new opportunities, or someone is deliberately trying to create chaos and frictions between minorities. Either way, the military bares a responsibility. And if the SCAF doesn’t take its responsibility to saveguard the revolution, I predict a new revolution in Egypt in the months to come.

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