Egyptian Military Vows Commitment To Civilian Rule; Protests Reverberate Throughout Middle East
Spirits are still running high in Egypt following yesterday’s historic ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
“We are finally going to get a government we choose,” 29-year-old call-center worker Rasha Abu Omar told MSNBC. “Perhaps we will finally get to have the better country we always dreamed of.”
On Saturday, thousands of protesters remained in Cairo’s Tahrir Square – the epicenter of the revolution – vowing to stay put until they are confident the military will meet their demands for democracy.
In the meantime, according to MSNBC: Egypt’s new military rulers told the nation on Saturday they were committed to civilian rule after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak and said they would respect all treaties, a move to reassure Israel and the United States.
“The Arab Republic of Egypt is committed to all regional and international obligations and treaties,” a senior army officer said in a statement on state television. Despite that, as CNN notes, the army’s first statement did little to spell how how long Egypt would remain under military rule.
“They want to see structural change,” Parag Khanna of the Global Governance Initiative told CNN Saturday. “They want to see a change in the constitution. They want to see democracy. That speech did not tell them any of those things.”
One thing it did tell the people, says the BBC, is that they should co-operate with the police, and that the police should commit to its motto: “At the service of the people.” However, as the BBC notes, the police force in Egypt was widely perceived as an instrument of repression under President Mubarak.
The BBC reports, too, that the military said it has asked the current government to stay on until a new one is formed, which would “pave the way for an elected civil authority to build a free democratic state.”
Nevertheless, protesters remain cautiously optimistic. “The army is with us but it must realize our demands. Half revolutions kill nations,” Ghada Elmasalmy, a 43-year-old pharmacist, told Reuters. “Now we know our place, whenever there is injustice, we will come to Tahrir Square.”
MSNBC reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the announcement by Egypt’s military. “The longstanding peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has greatly contributed to both countries and is the cornerstone for peace and stability in the entire Middle East,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Saturday.
The past month has seen popular uprisings throughout the Arab world, first in Tunisia, leading to the exile of President Ben Ali, and over the past 18 days in Egypt, culminating last night with the announcement of Mubarak’s departure.
As MSNBC points out: It was just eight weeks to the day since a young Tunisian vegetable seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire outside a local government building in the provincial city of Sidi Bouzid, protesting his brutal treatment by police, who had taken away his livelihood, and at an oppressive government.
On Saturday thousands of Algerian protesters took to the streets of Algeria’s capital city of Algiers in defiance of their country’s ban on protests, and demanded democratic reform. Riot police were deployed and 400 protesters were arrested.
Protesters also took to the streets of Sanaa, Yemen on Friday night to show their support of Egypt’s revolution.
From CNN: Men armed with knives attacked more than a thousand anti-government protesters gathered in the Yemeni capital to demand reform, human rights groups said.
The protesters took to the streets of Sanaa on Friday night to support the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Chanting crowds initially referred to the end of the 30-year regime of Mubarak, but later changed their focus to Yemen.
“Yesterday Tunisia, today Egypt, tomorrow Yemen will open the prison,” some chanted, according to Human Rights Watch.
As all eyes remain on Egypt, MSNBC points out that there’s a lot at stake for auotocratic rulers throughout the Middle East, and beyond as they calculate their chances of survival following Mubarak’s ouster after 30 years of iron-clad rule.
The Middle East – and the rest of the world – is watching to see if anger at authoritarian governments spreads and whether the region will be reshaped by the demands of ordinary citizens.
Recent Care2 coverage on the Egyptian Protests:
Photo via Creative Commons by Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)