Ibrahim Saleh Profile Picture 150 x 150ACUNS member Ibrahim Saleh originally published this article in African Yearbook of Rhetoric 4, 1, 2013.

On 2 June 2012, Hosni Mubarak and his Minister of Interior were both convicted and given life sentences. This comes fifteen months after the spark of the 2011 revolution that marked a great moment of history, though it aggravated many of the suppressed problems associated with the disorientation towards democracy and the confusion about what to do next.

This sweet moment revived the notion of “street politics”, where grassroots movements of young people, workers and the most downtrodden succeeded to get rid of the autocratic regime, but it brought back the notion of ballots and bullets that kept no one really knowing when or if the bitter fruits can ever sweeten.

The Egyptian revolution has stalled causing an escalation of anger and disappointment felt by the majority of Egyptians regarding their continuous subjection to the bullets of police forces; even ballots did not serve the initial goal of the revolution of establishing a new secular and democratic Egypt. Instead, anarchism, conflicts of interests, and fragmented public opinion were reflected in the ballots giving way to Islamic fascism. As stated by a revolutionary activists in the socialist party news paper: “Egypt is like a house where the curtains have been changed but everything else is the same”.

This perplexing situation was marked with a continuous swing between revolution and counter-revolution, often with movements in both directions taking place at the same time leading to bloody, unsettled and confusing scenarios. However, it only emphasized the weakness of the Egyptian capitalist class and its inability to stabilize a democratic and inclusive rule.

Authorities during Mubarak’s dynasty and even after the revolution represented by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), adopted pervasive means to maintain their power through the use of live bullets, to keep the exhausted public silenced, and by using various other manoeuvres to affect the ballots in their favour or at least aligning the results with their political agenda to ensure their continued control over the country’s present and future while offering them a safe exit if needed. Besides, the SCAF claimed to protect Egypt from falling into a total state of anarchy.

This absence of political dynamism had dire consequences, influencing the performance of the “Majlas ElShab” (People’s Assembly) and turning it into a handpicked house of representative and thus demoralising the national police forces into suppressing religious and liberal political descent.

In this unfortunate setting, many Egyptians (liberal and conservatives, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor and old and young) found themselves plunged into civil strife and prolonged fighting. It was in fact a direct confrontation between the familiar and the strange, the visible and the vocal, wherein sentiments and outlooks are formed, spread, and expressed, particularly the suppressed views of the bitter poor, the desperate unemployed and formerly silenced actors like students, workers, and state employees.

This dilemma left Egyptians with limited choices between, not the ballot or the bullet, but the bullet and the bullet. These unfolding of events brought about a time, when ‘street republic’ represented a new space and set of dynamics for those who were structurally and functionally absent from positions of power in the past. It becomes pertinent to revisit the essence of Malcolm X’s seminal speech on social justice: “The ballot or the bullet” that declared that freedom must be attained by any means necessary.

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About Ibrahim Saleh

Saleh is a senior lecturer and the Convenor of Political Communication at the Centre for Film & Media Studies (CFMS), University of Cape Town (UCT). Saleh is a Fulbright scholar , chair of Journalism Research (JRE) section at the International association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), Co-editor of the Journal of Applied Journalism and Media Studies published by Intellect and Editor of Global Media Journal, African Edition published by University of Stellenbosch.

Saleh’s experience as journalist and media trainer helped him bridge the gap between media education as theory to that of the required market skills. Being a broadcast journalist and TV interviewer has given him hands on experience of media production, which makes him look at media with the eyes of a practitioner in addition to his thorough academic background and research.

Learn more about Ibrahim Saleh

Photo Credit: Flickr / Ahmed Abdel-fatah