Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1355, (3-9 August 2017)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1355, (3-9 August 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Safeguarding the nation

Egypt’s young people should mobilise to help safeguard the nation, writes Adel Al-Adawy


The Fourth National Youth Conference took place last week in Alexandria under the auspices of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi with the underlying theme of safeguarding the nation.

The gathering provided an ideal opportunity for Egypt’s youth to engage with the country’s most senior officials and prominent intellectuals. The agenda included many important topics, allowing young Egyptians to discuss many of the key issues facing the country with the real decision-makers. As a participant in the conference myself, I saw the Al-Sisi administration’s determination to incorporate the passion and energy of Egypt’s young people into rebuilding the state to make the nation more able to compete in the 21st century.

The conference addressed one of the main obstacles facing the nation in efforts to rebuild the country, namely the continuous interference of certain foreign powers in the domestic politics of the country. These attempts have been ongoing for some years now and constitute a serious transnational threat to the Egyptian state, directly undermining Egypt’s political independence and sovereignty.

Unfortunately, several Western countries have tried to shape the political trajectory of the motherland through overt and covert actions aimed mainly at advancing a set of narrow-minded interests at the expense of the Egyptian people and regional stability. This fight has not been easy for Egypt’s security agencies because many of the people advancing the foreign-driven political agenda have unfortunately been Egyptian nationals. Such people find their purpose in partnering with the enemies of the state for personal gain and international stardom.

The use of such fifth columnists by governments is an old strategy with roots going all the way back to ancient Greece. According to British classical historian Frank Adcock, tensions within the state allowed enemies to use opposition figures to advance their own political agendas at that time, and this fifth columnist strategy was used in ancient Greece when opposition politicians preferred to see their cities in the hands of an enemy rather than in the hands of their political opponents.

Thus, the basic idea of a fifth column is the notion of the enemy within in which sympathisers of enemy agendas infiltrate the fabric of society. Although the use of fifth columnists is an ancient strategy, the technological advances of the 21st century have provided states with new avenues to operationalise this strategy. It allows governments to save money and to distance themselves from certain events, while simultaneously attempting to shape events from behind the scenes.

The Egyptian people have been at the forefront of the crucial fight to regain Egypt’s full political independence, and they made huge strides after the historic 30 June Revolution. The support of the Egyptian armed forces of the will of the Egyptian people, embodied by the longstanding and unbreakable bonds between the people and the army, has helped in the national effort to defend and secure Egypt’s full political independence.

However, this fight is still not over, with some countries and non-state actors still working on derailing the current political status quo. The role of the military in today’s complex world has necessitated a change in doctrine to adapt to new multi-faceted ways of countering new 21st-century threats.

For the Egyptian state to counter these ferocious attempts at changing the current political order in Egypt, it is important for the government to improve the quality of life of its citizens. The present difficult economic reforms are necessary and should continue because they will steer Egypt’s economic outlook towards a more stable and sustainable path.

Although it is the next generation that will benefit most from the current economic reforms, it is vital not to postpone or to slow down the current reform programme. At the same time, the government needs to address the country’s population growth rate, which is exerting enormous pressures on basic social services. If the current trend continues, any kind of significant economic growth will hardly keep up with the rising demands of an ever-growing population.

According to the minister of health, the last three years have seen a slight dent in the population growth rate, but more initiatives and campaigns need to take place to slow down the explosive numbers of year-to-year births. If the current rates continue, by 2030 we will hit the 130 million mark, but if we intervene now we can reduce this by 20 million to a total population of 110 million in 2030.

There are many components in any equation that aims to secure the faith of a nation, but there are two fundamental elements that warrant our highest attention in the foreseeable future. First, there is the need to upgrade the quality of our education system, and second there is the necessity to build more awareness in society regarding foreign interference in domestic affairs and how this undermines Egypt’s political independence and sovereignty.

There are already measurable steps being taken to improve Egyptian education and public awareness of the intentions of Egypt’s foes. Yet, there are still large numbers of Egyptian young people who are sceptical of the country’s positive strides and are unwilling to accept the notion that some foreign countries may not have the best interests of Egyptians in mind.

As a result, I propose the creation of a global Egyptian centre staffed by patriotic Egyptian young people operating a think-tank like organisation to advance Egyptian interests at home and abroad through research and policy recommendations on how to best secure Egypt’s future in the 21st century. This centre could adopt a multi-purpose mission with branches in all the governorates, becoming a tool for correcting the large amounts of misinformation currently being circulated in domestic and international academic, policy and media circles and replacing it with accurate information and high-quality research.

The National Youth Conference reminded us of how Egypt has overcome the worst chapters of the post-Mubarak era through the strong leadership of President Al-Sisi. It also provided us with a great opportunity to interact with Egypt’s political elite. However, the journey of rebuilding our country remains a work in progress, with Egypt still facing many obstacles ahead. Therefore, I call on Egypt’s young people to mobilise on behalf of our great country and help advance President Al-Sisi’s political agenda that aims to safeguard our nation.

The writer is a PhD candidate in the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London.

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