Egypt: Self-appointed Leaders Try to Hijack the Revolution

The revolution to overthrow the brutal regime of Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, is entering its third week. Last Friday, in what demonstrators called a “Day of Departure,” more than a million people came out into the streets of Cairo to try and give President Mubarak a shove out the door. Demonstrations of hundreds of thousands also occurred in other cities throughout Egypt. Friday’s demonstrations were the largest yet, despite efforts by the regime to scare protesters, sending police thugs to beat, kill, and intimidate them.

The US government’s response has been predictable – Mubarak and his regime are tools of U.S. domination in the Middle East. The Obama administration is now calling on Mubarak to step down and transfer power to vice-president, Omar Suleiman. The administration says that transferring power to Suleiman will ensure that the transfer of power is “stable.”

When the Obama administration announced their support for Suleiman, most Egyptians laughed. Their response was: “Suleiman was a part of the old system. We want a new system.” In addition to being a loyal friend of Mubarak, Omar Suleiman is the head of the Egyptian secret police – the very people who have killed hundreds of demonstrators over the last two weeks and beat up thousands. Suleiman is also the US government’s go-to guy when it wants to torture someone in Egypt. For years, the CIA has run a secret program of kidnapping people suspected of terrorism and sending them to other countries where they are electrocuted, beaten, and water-boarded. Suleiman was the CIA’s man in Egypt. And now the Egyptian people are being told that this guy will ensure that their demands for a better life are met in an “orderly” fashion? It’s an insult.

Since it was announced that Suleiman will take Mubarak’s place as top thug, the Mubarak regime has begun what it calls a negotiation with self-appointed leaders, who have jumped to the forefront claiming to speak for the movement. This group of self-appointed leaders is called the “Council of Wise Men” and includes members of Egypt’s large Islamic political party the “Muslim Brotherhood” as well as a representative for Egyptian politician Mohammed El-Baradei. Although the talks between Suleiman and these so-called representatives is done in the name of the millions of people in the streets, they are conducted in total secret without their participation.

But demands of the Egyptian people are clear. They want a better life – jobs, education, housing, food, and a sense of security. They don’t want to live under a police state and see their country used as a military tool for the US, which gives Egypt more than $1.3 billion in military aid every year. They want Palestinians who have spent decades living under a brutal occupation by Israel to have their basic human rights respected and they want Egypt to stop helping Israel guard the borders of the occupied territories. And they want meaningful control and participation over the decisions that affect their lives.

The old regime and the movement’s self-appointed leaders try to satisfy the Egyptian people by feeding them empty phrases – while keeping the old regime intact. In the last few days, the regime has promised to end the emergency law that has been in place for 30 years and grant “freedom of the press.” But at the same time, the regime continues to try and intimidate demonstrators and journalists with its thugs. Many people leaving the demonstrations in Cairo and other cities to go home to rest or check up on family are disappearing, which means most likely they arrested or killed by Suleiman’s secret police.

It is still too early to tell where the movement in Egypt will lead. But one thing is clear: the self-appointed leaders, this so-called “Council of Wise Men” who are trying to sell the movement to Omar Suleiman will not give the people of Egypt what they want. In Egypt as everywhere else, if workers and poor people want real change and hope for the future, the only force we can rely on is ourselves.