CAIRO: Yehia Al-Gamal, head of the new liberal Democratic Front Party, blamed late President Gamal Abdel Nasser at a seminar held Wednesday for not transforming Egypt into a democracy, which Indian Jawaharlal Nehru had achieved.
Democracy is neither a puzzle nor a mystery. Democracy is to transfer power and to allow the establishment of free political parties, Al-Gamal said at the inaugural session of a two-day seminar titled The Role of Universities in Supporting Human Rights Culture in the Arab World, organized in Cairo by the Human Rights and Democracy Program at Cairo University in tandem with the National Human Rights Committee in Qatar.
In about 55 years, India became the most populous liberal democracy in the world with a broad scientific research base. On the contrary, the situation in Egypt looks grim, he went on.
Why did India succeed when Egypt failed, although both got their freedom from Britain at about the same time? he asked.
Although both countries had the greatest ever leaders in the third world, Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was surely devoted to his country, did not have the right mentality to transform Egypt into a democracy, he explained.
This may be attributed to his background and the way he was raised, he said, adding that Nasser was open to and had direct contact with the masses. Al-Gamal, former minister for administration development and veteran lawyer and law professor, said that any developed country walks on two feet: democracy and scientific research.
For a quick recipe, he suggested that Egypt has to pay attention to developing graduate studies and scientific research. Once this happens, we can have centers of excellence in a two years time, he hoped.
This is the quickest way. Otherwise, we need a century to reform our education system.
Al-Gamal, however, said that he had been suggesting this for the past 12 years in vein.
The liberal Democratic Front Party was founded in 2007 by Osama Al Ghazali Harb, a former member of the National Democratic Party. It adopts liberal ideologies under the slogan of Freedom, Justice, Responsibility. On his part, Kamal Al-Menoufi, former dean of the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University and conference rapporteur, called for reform as the first step towards spreading a culture of human rights.
Universities could have a role in training and educating youth about human rights, but the university administration has to lift any custodianship over student activities. Al- Menoufi also warned of the extremist and fanatic trends rampant at some universities.
The aim of the conference was to evaluate the current status of human rights in the Arab world, how can universities help improve the human rights record and why some universities in Arab countries object to include human rights courses in their academic curricula.