By Marwa Al-A’asar
CAIRO: Youth activists welcomed Monday Egypt’s ruling army council’s initiative to enter into dialogue with the younger generation, but insist on a “binding agenda” as a precondition.
“Such meetings need to be held to exchange views,” spokesman of the April 6 Youth Movement Mohamed Adel told Daily News Egypt, adding that the group had several meetings with the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) over the past few weeks.
On Sunday SCAF General Mohamed El-Assar said in a phone-in interview on state TV that the council plans to hold several dialogue sessions with youths belonging to various coalitions in the coming days.
“We are keen to [secure the country] amidst all these challenges that we all face. The SCAF is concerned about the youth as they … are the ones who will be in charge of the country [in the future],” he said.
Mohamed Abbas, member of the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, said the group welcomes dialogue in general but it has to be “binding” not just “a chat with no concrete results.”
“We cannot go on this way. We need a binding agenda whose items they will be committed to deliver,” Abbas told DNE.
In the interview, El-Assar reiterated the importance of communicating with Egypt’s youth, adding that a SCAF member has been assigned to contact them and hold meetings.
Adel urged the SCAF to pay more attention to the youth movements outside Cairo, drawing attention to the fact that the former members of the disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP) have “joined new groups in a bid to [infiltrate] political life again.”
Adel said that this is why the movement was pushing to ban former NDP members from political activity.
However, activist Mona Seif, a member in the No for Referring Civilians to Military Trails group, begs to differ.
“The SCAF does not need to hold dialogues to know the youths’ demands … because they are published everywhere on twitter, Facebook and blogs,” Seif told DNE.
“They can at least show a sign of goodwill by releasing activists who received verdicts via military trials,” she added.
On May 31, the SCAF invited youth coalitions of the revolution to a meeting with SCAF generals in a statement issued on its Facebook page.
One day later, 22 groups including the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution and the April 6 Youth Movement turned down the invitation.
Among the reasons they listed for the rejection were what the groups described as ongoing violations by the council, which include subjecting civilians to military trials, issuing laws incriminating peaceful protests, as well as imposing restrictions on freedom of expression to effectively ban any criticism of the army from the media.
They also criticized the fact that the SCAF did not set an agenda for the discussion, adding that there were no guarantees that the decisions taken during the meeting would be implemented.
After was what described as a badly organized meeting where the generals spoke and the over 1,000 attendees listened, many were disappointed by the lack of dialogue.
“This meeting was a lecture not a dialogue,” said Adel. –Additional reporting by Heba Fahmy.