Last week President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi announced that the emergency law that has reigned over Egypt for decades will not be extended. He added that this is a direct result of the efforts of Egyptians who were the true partners in establishing safety and security, as well as their unparalleled effort to achieve sustainable development.
The emergency law curtailed the freedoms of members of the public and the actions of several civil organizations. Its remit extended powers to the police and head of state and broadly it was used to protect everyone from a mythical ominous threat that could jeopardize the very wellbeing of citizens, if left unchecked.
This law could be seen as a necessary evil. Every country in the world has some form of emergency law that is enacted whenever an imminent threat is likely. The law is designed to be used on rare occasions.
On the other hand, Egypt has been under the grinding sway of its own emergency law more or less since the rule of the late president Abdul Nasser, with only a few sparse intervals when it wasn’t applied.
During the thirty-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak the country’s emergency law was the de facto rule of the land. Lifting it was one of the main demands when the strong wind of revolution swept through Arabia.
Egypt unfortunately has experienced one setback after another, giving the autocrats an opportunity to justify retaining the law indefinitely.
Addressing - what always seemed to be – the inextinguishable fire of terrorism has always proved problematic. The pious sheikhs were always happy to spread discord from their pulpits. And then, with the staggering number of unemployed youth, and the overwhelming poverty for many, it always felt that Egypt’s continuous application of the emergency law was valid.
Now that it has been put in storage there’s a level of optimism from the population. Hopefully it is here to stay, only as a time-limited tool to manage emergencies only, and not re-introduced as an all-encompassing reality for Egyptians. The laws termination should be applauded and accepted as a signifier of stability, faith and hope for a better future for all Egyptians.
My countrymen and women understand fully the issues facing Egypt. With little by way of prosperity in the population, poverty, extremism, poor education and healthcare services that don’t meet the public’s need, there has always been an undercurrent of the possibility of future Arab Springs.
These issues cannot be resolved magically: they will always exist to a greater and lesser degree. But, I am optimistic for the future because for the first time in my life I feel that the government is pursuing an in-depth, root cause analysis of the ailments that are causing malaise in Egypt.
There’s cognizance that to remedy education, simple changes in parts of the curricula will not suffice. A revamp of the entire education system will allow children to acquire the necessary tools to play a role in the country’s workforce.
When, from a very young age, children are inspired to learn more, to use their curiosity and allow it to flourish, rather than smother it with antiquated teaching that accomplishes little, the future of the country will fall in the hands of a young, dynamic and educated population.
The public healthcare system to succeed, needs to complement the private medical services; not compete with it. Many health screening campaigns have been launched by the Ministry of Health to tackle medical disorders, such as Hepatitis C, breast cancer, vaccine rollouts for young and old and many others.
There are also many initiatives now up and running that support underprivileged families, and others with a focus towards driving women empowerment. Better planning for social housing is also being addressed.
So yes, maybe Cairo can’t yet be compared to several cities in the West, or in the wider Middle East such as Dubai in terms of safety and friendliness. Bur, things are progressing.
Egypt is healing from years of negligence and exclusion. We do have emergencies, and we do have problems, but we can deal with them within a new realm of normalcy. The ending of the emergency law is an ushering in of stability, development and prosperity. We are still not out of the woods, but we can definitely see the clearing.