The urban poor and unemployed youth continue to take to the streets in Egypt.
The protestors taking to Egypt’s streets are overwhelmingly male, urban, and destitute. They do not have the time or patience to wait for the democratic process to fix their country and its flailing economy. In desperation, they might usher in a second revolution — this one an uprising of the poor.
The 25 January Egyptian Revolution opened the floodgates for a wave of street art, which had been impossible under Mubarak’s regime, where the Ministry of Culture controlled all public expression. The eighteen days of mass revolts that finally toppled the stagnant regime of President Hosni Mubarak became an emotional earthquake for the country. Decades of oppression and despair suddenly were turned into optimism, a newborn vitality and energy, allowing people to explore new freedoms — including the right to make art freely.
Today, it is taken for granted that using chemical weapons — as the Assad regime has reportedly done — is uniquely intolerable. Observers have speculated that humans simply harbor a particular fear of them or that militaries have never considered them useful. In fact, the proscription is the result of decades of international work.
Managing Editor Jonathan Tepperman interviews Dartmouth College professor Dirk Vandewalle on post-Qaddafi Libya, the ramifications of the attacks in Benghazi, and the lingering problem of rogue militias. Vandewalle discusses the surprising success of Libya’s nascent democracy, its progress in establishing new political institutions, and the country’s continuing challenges, all the while stressing the need for a U.S. role in North Africa.
The Libyan leader’s ouster dispersed masses of guns and refugees across the region. Already, Algeria has seen attacks by AQIM militants armed with Libyan weapons, Mali has been rocked by a coup led by armed nomads returning from Libya, Niger is struggling to cope with waves of refugees from Libya and Mali, and Tunisia’s economy has been shattered by the loss of its most important trading partner.
Libya’s elections passed peacefully, but observers should have no illusions about the momentous challenges ahead, especially the task of rebuilding and formalizing the country’s security services. During its 16 months in power, the outgoing transitional government walked a fine line between trying to dismantle the country’s regional militias and making use of them as hired guns. The strategy sowed the seeds for the country’s descent into warlordism.
The disqualification of ten candidates from Egypt’s presidential race, including the Muslim Brotherhood nominee, has convinced the Brotherhood that the military is conspiring against it to win the election. It’s now attempting to grab power from the army and threatening to take to the streets — potentially sparking a new round in Egypt’s revolution.