Lesson one: when citizens hit the streets don't kill them

FreeView from the editors at i

Share
Related Topics

You would think the Arab Spring playbook would be well enough thumbed by the region's key players that they could avoid repeating their mistakes.

Not in Egypt, where the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – which has proved roughly as unpleasant as Hosni Mubarak, and in some respects worse, in the months since the former president's departure – has managed to engineer a situation which now seems likely to end in its downfall. Here's what not to do, should you ever find yourself in a situation where protesters take to the streets to express their anger at your intransigence: don't start killing them.

This demonstration was in danger of fizzling out on Friday, the same day it began. Then the army started shooting people. Last night, as a direct result of that shocking brutality, there were 100,000 or more in Tahrir Square. The anger seems to have moved, just as it did last time around, from the politically engaged to inflame the general population. And Egypt's new rulers have only themselves to blame.

It's simple. Don't kill people. It seems simple to me, anyway – but then, a lot of other things have seemed simple to me and not to dictators over the past nine months, like: if you're incredibly rich and have been in power for decades, why not just retire somewhere nice (Venezuela will almost certainly take you in) and let your people get on with ruling themselves? Hell, if I had that option I'd take it now, and I don't even have a nation baying for my blood. But such blindingly obvious moves do not appear to be in the typical dictatorial repertoire – and in Cairo, the dictator's successors seem to be no wiser.

The distinctions from Libya are instructive. In Libya, power really was vested in one man and a tight coterie of supporters whose own fates were bound to his; in Libya, the development of a full-scale civil war led inexorably to the construction of an alternative leadership. In Egypt, on the other hand, Mubarak was expendable, and no new generation of political leadership had emerged. And so the SCAF looked at the options, and decided they preferred the idea of running things without their president to the idea of going down alongside him.

That instinct for self-preservation has ultimately proved over-developed. Now things have gone too far for the SCAF to survive. There is one more blindingly obvious option left: go now. Cede power to a meaningful civilian leadership immediately. It's the same conclusion that was available to Mubarak. If past experience is anything to go by, then, it may be some time until it comes to pass.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices