And so what seemed last night to be the beginning of a national nightmare for Egypt– poised to being with what was expected to be powderkeg demonstrations beginning today — is over: embattled President Hosni Mubarak has left the Presidential building. Or, by some accounts swirling around on cable and radio, been kicked out of the building by the military which reportedly was extremely unhappy with Mubarak’s speech yesterday which some predicted would be a resignation speech but instead seemed to be him digging in his heels.
Egypt erupted in a joyous celebration of the power of a long repressed people on Friday as President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned his post and ceded control to the military, ending his nearly 30 years of autocratic rule.
Shouts of “God is Great” competed with fireworks and car horns around Cairo after Mr. Mubarak’s vice president and longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, announced during evening prayers that Mr. Mubarak had passed all authority to a council of military leaders, bowing to a historic popular uprising that has transformed politics in Egypt and around the Arab world.
Protesters hugged and cheered and shouted, “Egypt is free!” and “You’re an Egyptian, lift your head.”
“He’s finally off our throats,” said one protester, Muhammad Insheemy. “Soon, we will bring someone good.”
The departure of the 82-year-old Mr. Mubarak, at least initially to his coastal resort home in Sharm el-Sheik, was a pivotal turn in a nearly three-week revolt that has upended one of the Arab’s world’s most enduring dictatorships. The popular protests — peaceful and resilient despite numerous efforts by Mr. Mubarak’s legendary security apparatus to suppress them — ultimately deposed an ally of the United States who has been instrumental in implementing American policy in the region for decades.
“Taking into consideration the difficult circumstances the country is going through, President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the post of president of the republic and has tasked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to manage the state’s affairs,” Mr. Suleiman, grave and ashen, said in a brief televised statement.
His departure came after a 24-hour period that mixed celebration and anger, as Egypt and the outside world at first anticipated Mr. Mubarak’s imminent resignation on Thursday afternoon, then recoiled in outrage when he continued to cling to power in a combative televised address Thursday night.
Whether Mr. Mubarak’s speech represented a real attempt to hold on to power, or a prideful, deluded assertion of influence in defiance of political reality, was not immediately clear. But Obama administration officials said Friday that Egyptian officials explained that Mr. Mubarak had in fact been removed from his posts in favor of a military council and that the transfer of power was well under way.
The result: a big mass party on the streets of Cairo involving thousands and thousands of Egyptian protesters of all ages who set the wheels in motion for a major shift in regional — and potentially world — history:
A key factor in the autocrat’s fall, CNN points out, was 21st century social media:
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down, more than two weeks after the protests that began January 25 in the country — and launched a flood of #Jan25 and #Egypt tweets as well as media coverage that broke the mold — to remove the president from power.
From the beginning, the revolution in Egypt was propelled by the use of social media. It at least partlybegan on Facebook with the creation of Facebook groups that gained hundreds of thousands of members and promoted the early protests in Cairo.
Subsequently, the government blocked Facebook and Twitter and eventually shut down Internet access completely. And with the outside world following the unfolding revolution online, political leaders and others, including Twitter, spoke out against the violence and freedom of expression issues at risk.
But even a government shut down couldn’t keep the news from flowing. Twitter and Facebook users found ways to work around the blackout. Though, eventually access was completely restored.
The events in Egypt served as a flash point for journalists on the ground, too. For perhaps one of the first times in history, history itself has been recorded instantaneously, as reporters took to Twitter to share 140-character updates and personal stories from the protests. The messages provided a stark reality to readers in the outside world, especially as the protests turned violent and police turned on journalists — the very people many of us outside the country were following.
But Al Jazeera had its “CNN Moment,” and although it couldn’t reach viewers in the U.S. by cable television, it found a way to viewers — on YouTube. The network live streamed Mubarak’s public address — in which many believed he would resign — Thursday via YouTube. But Al Jazeera’s comprehensive coverage put it on the radar for U.S. viewers and it created a campaign to bring its English-language network to U.S. televisions.
Announcing Mr Mubarak’s resignation, Vice-President Omar Suleiman said the president had handed power to the army.
Mr Suleiman said on state TV that the high command of the armed forces had taken over.
“In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country,” he said
Later an army officer read out a statement paying tribute to Mr Mubarak for “what he has given” to Egypt but acknowledging popular power.
“There is no legitimacy other than that of the people,” the statement said.
The military high command is headed by Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.
US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks described Mr Tantawi as “aged and change-resistant”, but committed to avoiding another war with Israel.
Mr Mubarak has already left Cairo and is in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh where he has a residence, officials say.
Meanwhile, Mubarak could be out some big bucks:
The Swiss government immediately ordered a freeze on any assets belonging to the Egyptian President and his entourage, saying that the three-year freeze was aimed at preventing any risk of embezzlement of Egyptian state property.
No sooner had Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Friday than the chairwoman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee warned against letting the Muslim Brotherhood emerge as a powerful force.
The comments by Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen reflect anxiety in Congress that Islamist extremists might turn a key U.S. ally into an opponent that would harbor militant groups bent on harming America and tearing up Cairo’s peace deal with Israel.
“We must also urge the unequivocal rejection of any involvement by the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists who may seek to exploit and hijack these events to gain power, oppress the Egyptian people, and do great harm to Egypt’s relationship with the United States, Israel, and other free nations,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.
She said the United States must focus on helping create conditions for a “calm and orderly transition process toward freedom and democracy in Egypt.”
Other U.S. lawmakers did not explicitly warn against the Muslim Brotherhood, which Mubarak’s government had banned and demonized as seeking to install a Sunni theocracy. But many in Congress expressed concerns about what may be coming next in Egypt, saying they hope an Iranian-style Islamist revolution will not follow the current turmoil.
“I do not believe the people of Egypt have undertaken this glorious, peaceful revolution in order to substitute a repressive religious regime and regional instability for the stifling and brutal Mubarak regime,” said Gary Ackerman, the top Democrat on the House Middle East subcommittee.
“I am concerned about an orderly transition to what? Or an orderly transition to who?” Representative Mike Pence, a Republican, said during a hearing of Ros-Lehtinen’s committee on Thursday, the day before Mubarak stepped down.
Some analysts think worries about the Muslim Brotherhood are overblown. The group is seen as Egypt’s largest opposition group but took a backseat in the early part of the protests.
A video shows how quickly events broke — and contains President Barack Obama’s statement on the resignation:
Egypt explodes in celebration as Mubarak steps down:
They celebrate…and celebrate:
ABC says the White House pushed Mubarak:
Sources tell ABC News that after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak spoke last night, handing over powers to his vice president but not stepping down, the White House and Obama administration in general conveyed to Egyptian government –at all levels – that his message was not enough for the demonstrators, whom they needed to satisfy or the crisis would continue and get worse.
HERE’S A CROSS SECTION OF OPINION FROM OTHER SITES:
—The Brooking Institution’s Marty Indyk:
We have been surprised by so much in the past eighteen days since demonstrators first despatched the feared security police and then stood against the onslaught of the ruling party’s thugs with their cavalry of donkeys and camels. We should therefore be humble about predicting the course of events from here. We are in uncharted waters.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the quiet arbiter of outcomes so far has been the Egyptian army. If the Egyptian people have earned our admiration for acting, the army deserves our admiration for not doing so. There they stood, ringing the people in the square and the Pharaoh in his palace, preventing a descent into chaos. At each stage in the crisis, when they had to decide between the square and the palace they chose the square. They ensured that the ranks of the demonstrators would swell by declaring that they would not open fire on them. They declared the people’s demands “legitimate.” They allowed them to gather day after day. Now they seem to have given Mubarak the final push.
This alliance between the people and their army, forged in the battle for freedom, bodes well for the future.
September? Actually maybe he meant tomorrow? Though yesterday Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in a televised address that he wouldn’t be giving up his position until elections in September his newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman just made a brief televised announcement that he actually has stepped down, oh, now. Mubarak has reportedly left Cairo for his resort home in Sharm el-Sheik. Early reports say the crowds in Cairo are quite happy with the news.
Let’s hope that the Egyptians can now erect a real democracy, instead of a D.C.-friendly sham with fig-leaf elections.
What a muddle this thing was and is! Lots of mixed signals from Mubarak, the Egyptian military, the Obama administration, and the American right. One day we’ll know what really happened.
According to the army, it will supervise Suleiman as he implements constitutional reforms in the coming months. In the last few minutes of ecstasy, anyway, for the exhausted multitude in Tahrir Square this has been Kifaya: Enough. Be happy for them.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.