EDITORIAL: Egypt two years after the Arab Spring
Late Chairman Mao Tse-Tung of China reportedly once said that without the loneliness and desolation of winter one would not appreciate the warmth and splendour of spring. This seems not to be the case with Egyptians and North Koreans.
After initial flashes of goodwill from the new leadership in North Korea and Egypt, the situation appears to be going from bad to worse. In the case of the former, the march of folly and intransigence in the pursuit of nuclear weapons continues.
Last Friday, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in protest to mark the second anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak. In other countries this would be an occasion for joy, but in Egypt, it’s as if the Arab Spring never happened.
The protests are continuing, and many were busy chanting “The people want the fall of the regime!” – as an expression of deep disappointment with the lack of “achievements” of the revolution of January 2011.
For the Egyptians, January – the month of the Arab Spring – is not a happy one. The current gloom is a bitter reminder of the loss of hope for political renewal and change that brought thousands to Tahrir Square in 2011.
The risks and costs of protesting against Mubarak’s repressive regime were high, but Egyptians chose to gamble. In the thousands, they have risked their lives for the establishment of a genuine democracy. After ousting Mubarak, they undertook the formidable task of restraining the army’s grip on power.
Unfortunately, the new Egypt under the leadership of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood has become disappointingly reminiscent of the old regime.
Religious tensions still exist because of the cavalier manner in which the Morsi-led government is pursuing the reshaping of the country’s political system. Economic problems are worsening, and foreign investment is drying up. Many of the features of the bad old days continue and little has changed in the land of the Nile.
In the case of North Korea, new leader Kim Jong-un is busying his regime with the pursuit of nuclear proliferation. He seems not to appreciate that he is risking not only peace and tranquillity in the Pacific Rim but pushing his impoverished country to the verge of catastrophe.
So much so that its major ally, China, has taken an unusual step in supporting a United Nations Security Council resolution for sanctions against North Korea. Beijing has made it clear that it would not align behind its ideological ally in the case of further nuclear testing.
Nonetheless, China has stressed the need for a dialogue, and has urged all parties to act with restraint and look at the long-term picture. This is seen as genuine leadership in times of adversity, and should propel Pyongyang to search for an amicable way out of the confrontational mode.