x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Not too late for Egypt to go back on track

A spirit of compromise could save Egypt from further turmoil; the alternative is too grim to contemplate.

It has been clear for some time that action would have to be taken to clear the Muslim Brotherhood from their encampments on the streets of Cairo and allow the city to return to some semblance of normalcy.

But the heavy-handed strategy of the Egyptian army has dismayed Egypt's well-wishers everywhere. The country has ventured yet further along a wrong track.

Ever since the initial euphoria at the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the country's successive rulers - the army, Mohammed Morsi, the army again - have ignored the essential principle of effective democracy: that the government must rule in the interests of all the people, not just their own supporters. Sometimes for all to progress, compromises have to be made.

Alas for Egypt, none of the parties has shown the least willingness to concede ground. The failures of such intransigence are now all too evident.

From the beginning of the post-Mubarak era, it has been clear that the priority for the government ought to be to revitalise the struggling economy and enable all Egyptians to share in and have hope for a better future.

Instead, the ideological divisions, the refusals to compromise and the determination to ignore the views of large sections of the Egyptian people have led only to a worsening of the economic situation - and the unnecessary bloodshed that we have just witnessed.

The government has now declared a month-long state of emergency. It is essential that the Egyptian people take this opportunity to stand back and reflect on all that has happened since 2011 and consider their collective failures.

It is not too late for the situation to be retrieved. A spirit of compromise could still be discovered and with it those brightly-remembered breezes of the Arab Spring could be reborn.

The alternative is almost too grim to contemplate. It is a future of further division; further bloodshed; further misery for tens of millions of Egyptians as the economy spirals ever further downwards. The consequences of this future are there to be seen right now in Syria.

Egypt this morning is at a crossroads. Each of its citizens must face up to the stark reality of the situation and make their choice.