Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt News Bulletin: Mubarak Resigns as President; Military Takes Charges of North African State

Hosni Mubarak resigns as president

Egyptian president stands down and hands over power to the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces

Last Modified: 11 Feb 2011 17:05 GMT

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has resigned from his post, handing over power to the armed forces.

Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, announced in a televised address that the president was "waiving" his office, and had handed over authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Suleiman's short statement was received with a roar of approval and by celebratory chanting and flag-waving from a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Cairo's Tahrir Square, as well by pro-democracy campaigners who attended protests across the country on Friday.

The crowd in Tahrir chanted "We have brought down the regime", while many were seen crying, cheering and embracing one another.

Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition leader, hailed the moment as being the "greatest day of my life", in comments to the Associated Press news agency.

"The country has been liberated after decades of repression,'' he said.

"Tonight, after all of these weeks of frustration, of violence, of intimidation ... today the people of Egypt undoubtedly [feel they] have been heard, not only by the president, but by people all around the world," our correspondent at Tahrir Square reported, following the announcement.

"The sense of euphoria is simply indescribable," our correspondent at Mubarak's Heliopolis presidential palace, where at least ten thousand pro-democracy activists had gathered, said.

"I have waited, I have worked all my adult life to see the power of the people come to the fore and show itself. I am speechless." Dina Magdi, a pro-democracy campaigner in Tahrir Square told Al Jazeera.

"The moment is not only about Mubarak stepping down, it is also about people's power to bring about the change that no-one ... thought possible."

In Alexandria, Egypt's second city, our correspondent described an "explosion of emotion". He said that hundreds of thousands were celebrating in the streets.

Pro-democracy activists in the Egyptian capital and elsewhere had earlier marched on presidential palaces, state television buildings and other government installations on Friday, the 18th consecutive day of protests.

Anger at state television

At the state television building earlier in the day, thousands had blocked people from entering or leaving, accusing the broadcaster of supporting the current government and of not truthfully reporting on the protests.

"The military has stood aside and people are flooding through [a gap where barbed wire has been moved aside]," Al Jazeera's correspondent at the state television building reported.

He said that "a lot of anger [was] generated" after Mubarak's speech last night, where he repeated his vow to complete his term as president.

Outside the palace in Heliopolis, where at least ten thousand protesters had gathered in Cairo, another Al Jazeera correspondent reported that there was a strong military presence, but that there was "no indication that the military want to crack down on protesters".

She said that army officers had engaged in dialogue with protesters, and that remarks had been largely "friendly".

Tanks and military personnel had been deployed to bolster barricades around the palace.

Our correspondent said the crowd in Heliopolis was "gaining momentum by the moment", and that the crowd had gone into a frenzy when two helicopters were seen in the air around the palace grounds.

"By all accounts this is a highly civilised gathering. people are separated from the palace by merely a barbed wire ... but nobody has even attempted to cross that wire," she said.

As crowds grew outside the palace, Mubarak left Cairo on Friday for the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh, according to sources who spoke to Al Jazeera.

In Tahrir Square, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered, chanting slogans against Mubarak and calling for the military to join them in their demands.

Our correspondent at the square said the "masses" of pro-democracy campaigners there appeared to have "clear resolution" and "bigger resolve" to achieve their goals than ever before.

Army statement

In a statement read out on state television at midday on Friday, the military announced that it would lift a 30-year-old emergency law but only "as soon as the current circumstances end".

The military said it would also guarantee changes to the constitution as well as a free and fair election, and it called for normal business activity to resume.

Al Jazeera's correspondent in Tahrir Square said people there were hugely disappointed with that army statement, and had vowed to take the protests to "a last and final stage".

Hundreds of thousands were participating in Friday prayers outside a mosque in downtown Alexandria, Egypt's second biggest city.

Thousands of pro-democracy campaigners also gathered outside a presidential palace in Alexandria.

Egyptian television reported that large angry crowds were heading from Giza, adjacent to Cairo, towards Tahrir Square and some would march on the presidential palace.

Protests are also being held in the cities of Mansoura, Mahala, Tanta, Ismailia, and Suez, with thousands in attendance.

Violence was reported in the north Sinai town of el-Arish, where protesters attempted to storm a police station. At least one person was killed, and 20 wounded in that attack, our correspondent said.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Profile: Hosni Mubarak

The former Egyptian president had ruled over the country since 1981, but resigned in February 2011 after mass uprising

Last Modified: 11 Feb 2011 17:15 GMT

Mubarak has been in power for nearly three decades, during which time Egypt has become the second-largest recipient of US foreign aid.

Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's third and longest-serving president, resigned from office on February 11, 2011, after an 18-day-long mass uprising aimed at removing him from power.

Omar Suleiman, the country's newly-appointed vice-president, announced the move in a brief statement on state television, hours after Mubarak was reported to have left the capital Cairo for the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh.

Mubarak's resignation followed mass protests in Egypt against his 30-year rule, and came a day after he surprised the people of his country by refusing to resign.

The former president succeeded Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated on October 6, 1981 while attending a military parade to commemorate the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

Born in 1928 in Munofiya governorate in the Nile River delta, Mubarak exhibited a leaning toward the military. A graduate of the Air Force academy, he would serve as its director between 1966 and 1969.

In 1972, Sadat appointed him as Air Force commander; he would later receive accolades from the late president over the Egyptian Air Force's accomplishments during the conflict with Israel.

In 1975, Sadat appointed Mubarak to the post of vice-president and gave him his first taste of mainstream politics as a senior member of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

It was not clear why Sadat chose Mubarak, although some believe it was in reward for Mubarak's effective tenure as chief of the air force.

Egypt's isolation, Sadat's assassination

Talaat Sadat, the late president's nephew and current member of parliament, alleged that Mubarak was about to be dismissed from his post a few days before Sadat's assassination.

In 2006, marking the 25th anniversary of his uncle's death, Sadat accused unnamed generals in the Egyptian military of masterminding the assassination plot.

The military strongly denied the allegations and a military court sentenced Sadat to one year in prison for defaming the national army.

When Mubarak assumed power, Egypt was isolated from Arab and Muslim countries, many of whom had broken off diplomatic ties after Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

In one of its greatest diplomatic defeats, Egypt was kicked out of the Arab League and its headquarters were moved from Cairo to Tunisia.

Mubarak's first foreign policy mandate was to bring his country back into the Arab fold and to resume ties with major players in the region.

His first success was in building a relationship with the then influential Arab leader Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president, whose country was locked in a bloody war with Iran.

Egypt signed on as Iraq's ally in the conflict, providing military assistance and expertise to Baghdad.

By the time the Iran-Iraq war ended in 1988, Egypt had successfully emerged from its isolation. In 1990, in a move spearheaded by Iraq and Yemen, the Arab League headquarters were returned to Cairo.

But the Arab rapprochement was short-lived as Egypt opposed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. Mubarak urged Saddam to withdraw his forces from Kuwait; when Baghdad failed to do so, Egypt joined the US-led international effort to drive Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.

Economic growth

Egypt's military and logistical role in the US-led coalition during the first Gulf War earned it Washington's favour, which in turn pressured G8 countries to write off much of Cairo's foreign debt.

The 1990s saw an increase in US financial aid to Egypt and revived US-Egyptian strategic talks. The talks resulted in a strategic alliance between the two countries and the implementation of the US-Egypt Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement.

The agreement was vital for Egypt, which is known to have considerable high-calibre manpower, but suffers enduring financial problems.

One of the main objectives of the US-Egyptian alliance was a commitment to the peace process in the Middle East. Throughout the 1990s, Egypt became the main peace broker between the Israelis and Arabs, including the Palestinians.

In 1994, Jordan followed Egypt's diplomatic route and signed a peace treaty with Israel.

In successive years, the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh, which lies on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula - an area seized by Israel in 1967 but returned in the 1980s as part of the peace treaty - hosted several peace summits.

Arab press metaphorically nicknamed the resort the Arabian Camp David.

In 2008, Mubarak managed to draw up a lull between Hamas and Israel. Mubarak's government is also currently playing a major role in Hamas-Fatah talks in Cairo for Palestinian national reconciliation.


While Mubarak's foreign policies long dominated the Middle East, his domestic record was not nearly as successful.

Mubarak refused to lift a martial law decree, in force since Sadat's assassination, which allowed security forces to detain civilians without warrants and to try them in military courts.

Opposition groups say the decree has allowed the government to crack down on political expression.

In June 1995, Mubarak survived an assassination attempt on his motorcade while he was attending an Organisation of African Unity Summit in Ethiopia.

Egyptian authorities accused al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, a violent group which had targeted Egyptians and tourists in previous attacks in Egypt in a bid to overthrow the government, of orchestrating the attack.

Shortly after Mubarak's return to Cairo, the authorities cracked down on Islamist groups, imprisoning hundreds and leading human rights organisations to accuse the government of human rights violations.

Political reforms

In February 2005, Mubarak called on parliament to amend Article 76 of the constitution to allow multiple candidates to run in elections scheduled for later that year.

However, opposition groups said the reforms imposed new restrictions on independent presidential candidates that were not fielded by the ruling NDP.

Nevertheless, elections were held in September 2005, and for the first time, Egyptians were able to vote for multiple candidates. Mubarak won the elections with 88 per cent of the vote.

Since his win, opposition and civil rights organisations have accused Mubarak of planning to pass the presidency on to his youngest son Gamal, who was appointed in 2002 as secretary-general of the NDP's policy committee.

The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement founded in 1928, is considered one of the most effective and popular opposition groups in Egypt and is perhaps Mubarak's greatest anathema.

Banned as a political party, the Brotherhood have persistently called for political reforms and voiced strong opposition to Mubarak's continuing presidency. Hundreds of its members, including senior leaders, have routinely been arrested.

Poverty and corruption

Under Mubarak's liberal economic policies, business in Egypt experienced an unprecedented boom in the past few years, most notably in the real estate sector.

However, Egypt is still plagued by rampant unemployment, with millions living in poverty.

The dichotomy of classes in Egypt had exacerbated criticism that Mubarak, and his son Gamal, favoured a group of businessmen within the NDP.

Opposition groups said the NDP's business cartel used their authority to monopolise the country's wealth, while most of the Egyptian people are living in despair.

The NDP has denied these accusations repeatedly and stressed that the party is open to all Egyptians.

Egyptian opposition groups also blamed Mubarak's government for not doing enough to fight corruption. According to the corruption perceptions index compiled by Global Coalition Against Corruption, Egypt ranked 105 in the list of least corrupted countries in 2006, tied with Burkina Faso and Djibouti, and 115 in 2008. Finland was seen as the least corrupt nation in the world.

Mubarak was also accused by opposition groups of failing to fulfil the promise he made during his 2005 election campaign to increase job opportunities.

This accusation was denied by the NDP's economic committee which claimed that the government managed to reduce the number of unemployed Egyptians from 2.5 million in 2003 to 1.9 in 2008.

Media freedoms?

Mubarak also came under severe criticism for cracking down on the local press.

Despite some progress - the press, theatre and cinema have become bolder in touching on issues once considered taboo, including serious criticism of the government and ruling party - critiquing the president is still considered a red line.

In September 2007, several opposition journalists and editors were arrested for "harming the public interest" by publishing articles which a judge said implied that the NDP was dictatorial.

Mohammed Sherdy, the deputy editor of Al-Wafd newspaper, told Al Jazeera in 2007 that the sentencing stands as a message to writers and journalists in Egypt that they are not allowed to exercise their right to criticise the government.

Ibrahim Eissa, the editor of the opposition newspaper al-Dustour, was arrested in March 2008 and imprisoned in September for publishing reports suggesting that the president was ill. Eissa's arrest cast doubts over just how free the Egyptian press really is.

Although pardoned by Mubarak, Eissa went on to criticise the lack of press freedom in his country.

"This verdict isn't just about freedom of the press and freedom in this country. This proves that anything concerning the president is a sacred and untouchable matter," he said.

"In this country, it's normal for journalists to be jailed while businessmen are freed," he said in reference to an acquittal in August of five defendants over a 2006 ferry sinking in which more than 1,000 people died.

Speculation had run high over whether Mubarak would nominate himself for the next presidential elections in 2011 or whether he would leave the scene for his son Gamal.

But Mubarak announced on February 1 in a televised address that he would not run for re-election.

However, he also used that address to say he would not step down from office - a central demand of the hundreds of thousands of protesters who had taken to the streets, and a demand that was eventually heeded 10 days later.

Source: Al Jazeera

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