Scoring top marks on the national project of saving Egypt

Gamal Abdel Nasser’s high dam project was seen as a tool of national unification, what do we need now?

Abdel Latif el-Menawy
Abdel Latif el-Menawy
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For many years, the absence of a national project remained one of the quickest reasons given for any problem that Egypt, or the regime, faced. When Hosni Mubarak was in power, his opposition criticized him for not having a national project to unite the Egyptians - as if this was the defect that divided people. This idea expanded until the expression was used by anyone who wanted to summarize the country’s situation. They would say “our problem is that we don’t have a national project.” Most of those who address issues from such an angle bring up Gamal Abdel Nasser’s policies and his dam project.

These days, conversations relate to the importance of restoring a national project, and encouraging the feelings that come along with such a project. Many ideas have been suggested. Some talk about the Suez Canal project and others talk about the Toshka project or the Wadi al-Natrun project or the path of development and reconstruction project. The problem is that their understanding of the concept of a national project is narrow, and they are obsessed with Abdel Nasser’s experience and his defiance of the international community, his insistence to build the high dam and his willingness to teeter on the brink of war for the sake of the project. Those who dream of such a condition were incapable of placing this condition within the context of its historical, political, international and domestic circumstances which reigned back then when such stances were highly praised. Those drowned in the past cannot evoke this state in the minds of some youths who did not bear witness to that era in history, and they also cannot comprehend the huge changes which the world witnessed over the past decades.

Drowning in such unrealistic perceptions will only create a state of frustration when he who has been deceived by these slogans realizes that the situation is more complicated than the Egyptians’ unity regarding the “east Port Said.” I think drowning in such a level of intellect will only lead us to the illusion of a new renaissance project like that which the Brotherhood used to deceive the Egyptians. They adopted the idea of a national project because they considered that the latter was capable of uniting Egyptians. Some were deceived while it only took others a few weeks to realize this was an illusion.

I hope that the upcoming president clearly and frankly announces that saving Egypt is his first and major project

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

I am not underestimating the importance of having a national goal or a real national project that unites the Egyptians around the leadership they believe in. But I am against summarizing the national dream into a project with clear cut dimensions. The time is no longer that of the high dam. We are living in a new era. The national project I am suggesting here is the project to “save Egypt.” As I’ve already mentioned on several occasions, logic dictates that Egypt, in its current circumstances, does not have much of a chance at success. The economic situation is approaching collapse and the political situation has revealed weaknesses. There’s also massive regression on the level of the size, nature, presence and role of so-called political parties and powers. This is in addition to the worrying presence of the political Islam movement and the enemies of the civil state. It’s difficult to imagine a positive result out of this political formula. On the security level, we can all see the challenges we are daily witnessing when it comes to terrorism and extremism represented by the Brotherhood and its affiliates.

Therefore, I think the most important national project during this phase is that of “saving Egypt.” And I mean what I say, I hope that the upcoming president clearly and frankly announces that saving Egypt, whose experience is threatened with failure, is his first and major project and that the first step towards implementing this project is confronting the people with the facts, regardless of how painful and shocking they are. I believe this is the right path.

This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on Feb. 22, 2014.


Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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