The Oscars are out

Whether we care much about the Oscars or not, it was worth keeping an eye on the category Best Documentary Feature last night, and here – excuse the regional bias – especially on the movie “The Square” (http://thesquarefilm.com/about). The documentary film (which, unfortunately, did not win the trophy in the end) depicts the Egyptian Revolution from 2011 until 2013 through the eyes of Khalid Abdalla, Maghdy Ashour, Ahmed Hassan and other first-hour activists – those at Tahrir Square in 2011 demanding the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. Many of them paid a high price for it. Their hopes, their joy, their fear, and their suffering are conveyed by the movie. An emotional roller coaster indeed, moving and frustrating at the same time, considering Egypt’s situation in March 2014.

When thinking of my visits to Cairo in 2011, I remember the enthusiasm, the relief, the high hopes for a better, a just and prosperous future. Mubarak had gone. The Arab Spring was fresh.

Three years later, I am sitting in the same room in Cairo, overlooking the Nile. The atmosphere could not be more different. People are scared, dissatisfied, disillusioned. The society is more divided. The past 36 months have left their mark.

The collective dream: long-term development, growth, employment.  In view of Egypt’s potential, that does not appear to be outside the country’s reach. But the preconditions are unfavorable. The importance of better governance and inclusive institutional arrangements has taken a back seat in the tumultuous months following Mohamed Morsi’s election and overthrow. The return of – relative – stability now seems all-important.

But what constitutes real stability? Will decision-makers be aware of the importance of a truly inclusive political process, of the right to economic participation for all, of actual good governance?

One thing is clear: having watched the movie and followed the activists featured in the movie on twitter (accounts to be found behind the above-mentioned link), it is hard to imagine that they – aware of their potential, intolerant of the lack of progress – will accept a return to the status quo ante.

The Oscars are out. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi clearly hinted at his candidacy for President today. It looks like the roller coaster is not over.

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