The swearing in of Al-Sisi as president was the concluding chapter of the January and June revolts.
It is now safe to assume that the 25 January 2011 Revolution came to an end on Sunday, 8 June 2014, the day Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi was sworn in as Egypt’s new president.
The revolution, a mythic moment not only for Egyptians but for the rest of the world, was badly derailed by violence, then the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, before it returned on track on the back of another revolution, on 30 June 2013, which felled the Brotherhood and hopefully, will mop up the remnants of those who instigated the violence.
Much has been written about the two revolutions in the years in between: were they good, were they bad, and how impossible it really is to define them. What is known for sure is that in three years, Egypt downed two sitting presidents, yet remained standing, a feat hard to duplicate anywhere else. Today, it has its seventh president who embodies what the two revolts stand for: hope and change, not simply empty slogans but ideals that fuel popular imagination in the hopes of a better tomorrow.
The events in Egypt at the start of 2011 were beyond breathtaking, that a people so long oppressed had by themselves risen up to cast off their oppressors. It emphasised that demonstration and revolution could be undertaken by ordinary people.
It was driven by the dissatisfaction and anger of a new generation, the graduate with no future, who realised that his country would never give him a decent job to pay for a house or bring up a family.
Those original revolutionaries had no plan during that 18-day uprising — except to persist and persevere, which they did until Hosni Mubarak, the autocratic occupant of the presidential palace for 30 years, succumbed.
Three years ago, the divisions in the population were clear. The bad guys were Mubarak and his family and all associated with them. But the sky-high hopes after Mubarak’s fall gave way to political failure and entrenched interests which led to months of demonstrations, clashes and bloodshed. The mayhem left the country shaken and divided, long enough for an established force like the Muslim Brotherhood to step in and take control.
The Brotherhood already had enemies prior to coming to power, and won many more after when it showed a determination to reshape Egypt into the way it felt it should be.
When Mohamed Morsi won the presidency, he promised to govern for all Egyptians but he did not. He behaved as if he could transform Egypt into a much more Islamist state even though that did not automatically mean that Egyptians, who are for the main pious Muslims, shared the Brotherhood’s extreme Islamist vision.
Thus, an Islamist agenda and discontent over the economy provoked the protests of the second revolution in 2013. The discontent that had been building in Egypt burst out into the huge protest marches that ultimately pushed Morsi out. Subsequent violence forced the government to designate the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.
Fast forward, less than a year later, and Al-Sisi takes the oath of office, with all the responsibilities that go with it. There are millions of Egyptians who face a daily struggle for basic services like water and electricity. They have a long list of problems for the new president. The political upheavals of recent years haven’t changed much for them.
But in fact life in Egypt has changed. History was made on Sunday when Al-Sisi sat side by side with interim president Adli Mansour. Never in the country’s history had one president transferred the reins of power to another. The six previous presidents all came to power without an outgoing president waiting for them. Their predecessors had either been put under house arrest, had died, been assassinated, ousted by a popular revolution, or jailed, in that order.
Sunday’s smooth transition of power was the product of two revolutions which presented Egyptians with the possibility of living in an entirely different way. They sparked popular imagination and filled people with hope, not just in Egypt but throughout the world. Most importantly, it reminded regular people that they had become empowered. They could radically alter their reality, and change what they wanted in their world. That message has persevered, from 2011, onto 2013, and to the day Al-Sisi became president.
Alaa Abdel-Ghani is an affiliate professor, Faculty of Journalism, American University in Cairo.