There is a close affinity between Egypt and Indonesia. I was reminded how much this is true when a group of Egyptians and Indonesians came together in Jakarta recently to share experiences about our countries’ contemporary histories and political, social and economic challenges. In a comfortable and discreet setting, away from the media glare, the Balibased Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) held from May 25 to 27 a private workshop titled “Egypt-Indonesia Dialogue on Democratic Transition.” We at the institute were thrilled to host a diverse and prominent group of Egyptian political and social activists, journalists, and academics.
Egypt occupies a special place in Indonesian history. We will never forget that Egypt supported our struggle for independence and was among the first to recognize our Proclamation of Independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1945. We therefore have a warm friendship with the Egyptian people. And given the historic political changes that took place in Egypt in the first months of 2011, our goal in holding the workshop was to offer our support for Egypt’s democratic transition. Our goal was also to share the experiences that Indonesia underwent more than a decade ago as it made its monumental shift from the authoritarian Soeharto regime to multi-party democracy.
Although the Egyptians repeatedly expressed how close they are to us, and their great affinity to us, unsolicited offers of help can be diplomatically sensitive. Indeed, at first the reaction among some of our Egyptian friends was not encouraging. But in the end we were able to come together in the interest of sharing experiences. This journey began in early February, when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sent me to Cairo as his special envoy. Things were moving fast and furious in those days. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was still clinging to office during my visit, but when I arrived back in Jakarta on February 11, Mubarak had resigned.
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