12 Feb 2011

Cleanup begins as details of Mubarak’s flight revealed

As protesters clean up after the overthrow of President Mubarak, Lindsey Hilsum reveals how the general now in charge persuaded him to go.

More details are being revealed behind the departure of Hosni Mubarak. Lindsey Hilsum reports that Field Marshal Tantawi, head of the Higher Military Council and currently the most powerful man in Egypt, played a critical role in persuading his former boss to step down.

General Sameh Seif Elyazal explained to Lindsey Hilsum how Tantawi spoke with Mubarak and convinced him to step down:

“Field Marshall Tantawi met him for a couple of hours, maybe three hours and at the end of that discussion Tantawi convinced President Mubarak to step down, and he did that after that.

“President Mubarak was convinced to stay until September by his assistants and, I think, his son, he was listening to them, at the time and he believed at that time, he had to do that.

“But when things came differently and people went everywhere, not just Tahrir Square but to the Presidential Palace, where he is, when the discussion came from Field Marshall Tantawi, an advice came that it was right time to do that for everybody, for him and the country, I think he listened to that.”

You can read more about how Hosni Mubarak fell on Lindsey’s blog.

The question now is how the generals in charge are going to work with the generation that created this revolution?

In some ways the military have merely handed power to itself. But they’re going to have to accomodate the revolutionaries and the peoples’ growing aspirations.

The army may have delivered upon some of those hopes, asserting in a statement today that there would be democratic elections, as well as reassuring Egypt’s allies that they will preserve the peace treaty with Israel.

The statement came following a tumultuous day in Egypt when former President Hosni Mubarak finally resigned. His departure prompted celebrations in Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands of people had been gathering in ever increasing strength following 18 days of protests, during which some 300 people died.

As people began cleaning up the debris from the protests, pro-democracy activists vowed to remain in the square there until the ruling military body, the Higher Military Council, accept their agenda for democratic reform.

pAn anti-government protester gestures inside Tahrir Square in Cairo (Reuters)

In a televised statement the military rulers said the existing government would stay in power until a new government was formed:

“The current government and governors undertake to manage affairs until the formation of a new government.

“The Arab Republic of Egypt is committed to all regional and international obligations and treaties,” he said.

The statement was welcomed by the Israelis who said peace was in the interests of both countries and that their treaty was the cornerstone for peace in the entier Middle East:

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:

“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.

Israel has been watching the developments in Egypt with concern, and there have been fears for the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel that was so enforced by Mubarak.

Obama: from spectator to peace envoy?

Washington Correspondent Sarah Smith blogs on President Obama's next move in the 'new' Middle East:

"Over the next few days and weeks Obama will have to try and soothe jitters in Tel Aviv as well as in Amman and Riyadh. The Jordanians and the Saudis don’t like what has happened in Egypt much more than the Israelis do and for the last few days they have all been making their feelings known, forcefully, to President Obama.

"As one wise commentator pointed out “The repercussions now depend on what the US administration says to the Israelis and a host of Arab princes, emirs and presidents. Suffice it to say, it is time for President Obama to earn his Nobel Peace Prize"

Read more on: Obama: from spectator to peace envoy?

Some protestors began taking down their tents in Tahrir Square:

“This is the start of the revolution, it’s not over yet, but I have to go back to work,” said Mohammed Saeed, 30, who was packing away his tent.

Mohammed Farrag, 31, who was also decamping after 18 days, said: “we will not give up on Egypt as a civilian state, not a military state,” he said.

“If things move away from our demands, we will go into the street again, even if we have to die as martyrs.”

Many wanted to see the immediate end to emergency laws and in response to the Military Communiques being issued by the armed rulers, the protest organisers issued their own: “People’s Communique No. 1”.

It demanded the dissolution of the cabinet Mubarak appointed on Jan. 29 and the suspension of the parliament elected in a rigged vote late last year. The reformists want a transitional five-member presidential council made up of four civilians and one military person.

The communique calls for the formation of a transitional government to prepare for an election to take place within nine months, and of a body to draft a new democratic constitution.

It demands freedom for the media and syndicates, which represent groups such as lawyers, doctors and engineers, and for the formation of political parties. Military and emergency courts must be scrapped, the communique says.

Egypt's joy amid the dawning, daunting challenge

Jon Snow blogs from Cairo on being amongst the celebrations and the difficult task ahead:

"It is impossible to exaggerate the achievement in knocking down the authoritarian, human rights abusing leadership that went before.

"But if it is possible to imagine, an even bigger challenge lies ahead – that of responding to the aspiration of the people – pride in an Egypt that expands and defends, freedom. Justice and economic prosperity for all – I shudder as I write these words – it is SUCH a very, very big challenge for a country dominated by the military and its President since 1952."

Read more on his blog: Egypt's joy amid the dawning daunting challenge

However, there is some question of how far the new military rulers of Egypt are prepared to go.

Channel 4 News International Editor Lindsey Hilsum warns in her blog that the generals are not men of the revolution, with their head is “highly resistant to change of any kind”.

She writes:

“Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Council, is 75 and in a Wikileaks cable a US diplomat described him as “Mubarak’s poodle”. He is reported to be highly resistant to change of any kind, military, political or social.

“The next most powerful man, Lt Gen Sami Hafez Enan, is from a younger generation of slightly more progressive officers. But still. These are the men who are running to catch up with the revolution, not the people who forged it.”

How the army statement also promised that it would “look to guarantee the peaceful transition of power in the framework of a free, democratic system which allows an elected, civilian power to govern the country to build a democratic, free state”.