THE BLOG

From Tunis to Cairo, the Other Path

Getty

Two countries, two revolutions, two armies, two Islamist parties, two divided populations. Two represents complementarity and duality. The events in Tunisia and Egypt illustrate the inability of our political or military leaders to seek unity, compromise, negotiation, dialogue, retaining instead only the duality.

Two revolutions
Tunisia opened the way. During the winter of 2010/2011, the revolt spread across the entire country after a triggering incident: the immolation of a street vendor in Sidi Bouzid. Exhausted by humiliation, he "ignited" a whole region. This ancient country steeped in culture re-appropriated its voice and rediscovered freedom, confiscated for over half a century. We struggle in vain to explain why, at this particular moment, a whole nation mobilized itself for the same cause: dignity. We can only cite the old rule of classical theater: "unity of time, unity of place, unity of action." But we will not solve the mystery -- why here, why now?

Egypt followed a few weeks later, as if it were evident, like an echo, like an invisible bond that transcends borders and brings people together. The Pharaoh would fall too, after weeks of mobilization, of shouting the same slogan as the Tunisians: "GET OUT." Globalization and the impoverishment of the population, internal divisions and the converging interests of a segment of the bourgeoisie and the Islamists provoke the fall of Mubarak. The Islamist movement, the only organized force, is ready to take power, but not to run a country.

Two Islamist parties
Ennahda in Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt won the elections, the first democratic elections in both countries. Those who came into power did so after decades of exile or hiding out. They were scarcely or not at all prepared to govern. Inexperience, thirst for revenge on the part of some leaders, quickly caused tensions with society. Less than two years after their accession to the affairs of state, terrible failure occurred, and led to violence and a climate of insurrection.

Two peoples
Despite tensions, the two populations, united again, have the strength to mobilize, be indignant, demonstrate. This is encouraging and reassuring. The freedom of speech acquired cannot be taken back. Violence is not inevitable. And among all the similarities there is one that is particularly striking in this context. Calling on the army, particularly in Egypt, where it was the armed wing of the regime, the repressive force. This army finds its place again at the heart of the political process. Tunisia is an exception in the Arab world -- the military has played no role so far. Will the situation change?

Only one choice
Both countries are now weakened by violence. Another path is possible. Taking it requires the willingness of politicians, especially those who are governing, to open the dialogue and create a broad consensus. This is the only choice; the other leads to the abyss.