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Kefaya holds short, lackluster protest against NDP conference - Daily News Egypt

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Kefaya holds short, lackluster protest against NDP conference

CAIRO: Members of the Kefaya Movement for Change demonstrated on the steps of the Press Syndicate on Sunday afternoon against the annual conference of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which Kefaya accuses of corruption and human rights abuses. But few activists showed up to the short protest. Those that did were herded inside a …


CAIRO: Members of the Kefaya Movement for Change demonstrated on the steps of the Press Syndicate on Sunday afternoon against the annual conference of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which Kefaya accuses of corruption and human rights abuses.

But few activists showed up to the short protest. Those that did were herded inside a security perimeter in front of the syndicate by lines of armored riot police, which outnumbered protestors by almost four-to-one.

Some demonstrators attributed the small size of the lackluster demonstration to disorganization within the Kefaya movement and a sense of hopelessness among its members.

“We don’t agree with the regime, we don’t believe in the regime, and we don’t have any faith in the regime, said George Ishaq, former Kefaya leader who still plays an organizational role within the group.

The movement’s current leader, Abdel Wahab Al Messiri, did not attend the protest because he was sick, said Ishaq.

“All the talk of change at this conference is just a load of rubbish, Ishaq added. “It’s the same thing every time the NDP meets. We are against this regime and we oppose the president and everyone who leads this bloody party.

The demonstration was originally planned to take place in front of the Lawyer’s Syndicate on Ramses Street at noon, but facing last minute security pressure, both its time and location were changed.

Many human rights activists and journalists seemed to be unaware of the original plan for the demonstration in the first place.

Some protestors said the movement’s confusing approach to planning demonstrations was to blame for the low turnout – less than 50 people attended. On occasion, past demonstrations have drawn several times that number.

“Unfortunately, the protest is kind of weak today, said Nadia Mabrouk, a veteran Kefaya activist. “We should have protests in other places, but security always tries to stop us and people get scared.

“Sometimes everyone is told to meet somewhere else, like Talaat Harb Street or in front of the Lawyer’s Syndicate, and then at the last minute the place or the time gets changed, she added. “It’s not consistent.

Activists said the point was not Kefaya’s confusion but the fact that the NDP conference was taking place across town.

During the conference, President Mubarak was re-elected as chairman of the National Democratic Party, which he has led for 26 years. His son Gamal was appointed to a newly formed Supreme Committee, whose members are eligible to be the party’s presidential candidate.

In a speech at the opening of the second day of the conference, Gamal told the assembled delegates that the party is looking out for the concerns of the average citizen.

“The problems of all Egyptians are the priorities of our party, he said, according to a press release. “The political activities and actions of the NDP are working at the local level, to the benefit of the villages, the families and the hard-working people of Egypt.

“Their needs are for more jobs, better schools, improved healthcare and greater access to basic infrastructure and that is what our party is working to provide, he added.

Kefaya members expressed angry skepticism at the party’s claims that it represents the Egyptian people. They charge its leaders with corruption and say the NDP is the party of the country’s abusive ruling class.

“They don’t represent the people, they are not talking about the people, and they are not discussing the people’s ideas, said Rabaa Fahmy, a human rights lawyer who works at the Ibn Khaldun Center research center, which was founded by activist and sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim.

“The conference is like a meeting of gangsters, she added. “They are talking about their plans for their futures and thinking up ways to defend all their corruption. This isn’t a political conference, it’s a social club.

But as the protest drew to a close with the singing of the Kefaya song and the rolling up of banners, Nadia Mabrouk expressed a frustration that many seemed to share.

“The NDP and our political leaders are all focusing on Gamal Mubarak, she said. “Nobody wants him to be president, but we don’t know what we can do. I think that for us to be successful in the short term is basically impossible. It is a hopeless situation.

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