30 Jan 2011

Egypt protesters told ‘change is coming’ despite tanks, jets

Fighter jets patrol the skies over Cairo as Mohamed ElBaradei tells protesters “change is coming”. A former US ambassador to Egypt has told Channel 4 News “we don’t need Mubarak”.

Fighter planes swooped over Cairo as helicopters hovered close to groups of defiant protesters on day six of Egypt’s anti-government protests.

Extra trucks appeared in squares where demonstrators continued to demand an end to President Hosni Mubarak‘s rule.

The latest show of military might is a clear effort to get the crowds back into their homes. On Monday the curfew will begin an hour earlier at 3pm local time.

The uprising, in which more than 100 people have died, has sent shock waves through the Middle East where, following similar scenes in Tunisia and now Sudan, other rulers may be feeling nervous. The protests have also unsettled financial markets around the globe.

On Sunday evening Prime Minister David Cameron issued a joint statement with President Obama which called for a “comprehensive process of political reform” in Egypt. It followed an earlier statement from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton call for ‘orderly transition’

Hillary Clinton said she expected the current turmoil to lead to an election but would not be drawn on whether President Mubarak should remain in power.

“America’s message has been consistent. We want to see free and fair elections and we expect that will be one of the outcomes of what is going on right now,” Clinton said.

“We want to see an orderly transition so that no one fills a void, that there not be a void, that there be a well thought out plan that will bring about a democratic participatory government.”

Egypt protests: ‘dictators must know their limits’

‘We don’t need Mubarak’

Retired US ambassador to Egypt, Edward Walker, has previously worked closely with President Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He told Channel 4 News Mr Mubarak has a “fixed idea of what’s right and what’s wrong” and may not walk away from this situation.

We don’t need Mubarak, we need Egypt. Edward Walker, former US ambassador to Egypt

He said: “It’s down to the army, it’s down to Mubarak and it’s down to the people of Egypt.

“I would advise [Obama] to put further distance between the United States and Mubarak. We don’t need Mubarak, we need Egypt.”

ElBaradei: ‘change is coming’

Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has joined protesters on the streets of Cairo to tell them they must keep pressing for President Mubarak’s exit.

“You have taken back your rights and what we have begun cannot go back,” he said.

I ask of you patience, change is coming in the next few days. Mohamed ElBaradei

“I bow to the people of Egypt in respect. I ask of you patience, change is coming in the next few days.”

Beforehand Mr ElBaradei had said he had a “popular and political mandate” to agree a unity government in Egypt.

“I have been authorised -mandated – by the people who organised these demonstrations and many other parties to agree on a national unity government,” he told CNN.

“It is loud and clear from everybody in Egypt that Mubarak has to leave today,” ElBaradei said.

He added that US policy in Egypt was “losing credibility.”


Cairo residents armed with clubs, chains and knives have formed vigilante groups to guard wealthy neighbourhoods from looting.

It has forced the army to deploy troops in larger numbers across Egypt, easing some of the panic over law and order. In central Cairo, army check points were set up at some intersections.

Tanks are positioned on street corners, guarding banks as well as government offices including Interior Ministry headquarters.

Channel 4 News has spoken to protesters who say they 'won't stop until Mubarak goes':

The army is nominally in charge of downtown Cairo - though it often feels as if nobody is, blogs Jonathan Rugman.

Fighter jets fly low in a "show of strength" from Mubarak.

All day it has been very tense, most shops are closed as military helicopters overhead.

Few cars are on the roads on what is normally the start of the working week. The streets, normally clogged with traffic, were eerily quiet this morning. And Cairo is usually the antithesis of quiet.

Troops in Freedom Square fired live bullets earlier as protesters tried to push back a fire engine and its water cannon. They chanted they "won't stop until Mubarak goes". Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) mounted with machine guns circled as demonstrators paused for prayer.

There is still no internet, so the question is whether the protests still have the momentum to keep going - or if the military pressure will shut them down.