Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's The Fuss About Mubarak?

Not all of us are widely read about international affairs. We see something erupting, a crisis, a massive chaos of people protesting, but why?

AFP: US President Barack Obama said Friday the people of Egypt had spoken after history moved at a "blinding pace," and called on the now-ruling military to ensure a transition towards "genuine democracy". Obama gave a statement soon after it emerged from a euphoric Cairo that President Hosni Mubarak, a 30-year US ally who America subtly helped push towards the exit, had resigned after days of raging street protests.

"The people of Egypt have spoken - their voices have been heard and Egypt will never be the same," Obama said.

"Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day," Obama said, praising the military for safeguarding the state, but also calling on them to secure a credible political transition.

The US administration had struggled for days to find ways of impacting the 18-day crisis, as Mubarak had defied pressure to end his long authoritarian rule. Obama had ratcheted up calls for a peaceful, swift transition to democracy, and on Friday he pledged that the United States would stand with the people of Egypt - one of America's staunchest allies and a recipient of some two billion dollars in annual aid.

"By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian peoples' hunger for change," Obama said in his brief statement.

On taking power Friday, the military moved quickly to reassure the citizens whose street revolt toppled Mubarak that it would respect the popular will.

And the White House called on the new authorities in Egypt to honour existing peace agreements with Israel.

"It is important the next government of Egypt recognise the accords that have been signed with the government of Israel," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Mubarak's hurried departure Friday - after saying late Thursday he would stay until September's elections - will have brought relief in Washington, facing a dearth of options to force an end to the crisis. But Mubarak's exit also posed searching questions about future US Middle East policy, with a possible power vacuum in Egypt.

Still, Obama hailed the toppling of the Arab strongman, brought down by two-weeks of mass protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, as a defining moment in world history.

"The word Tahrir means liberation. It's a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom," Obama said.

"Forever more it will remind us of the Egyptian people, of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country and in doing so changed the world."

The president also drew parallels to other tumultuous world events, highlighting the end of the Berlin Wall, Indonesians rising up against president Suharto, and Indian independence icon Mahatma Gandhi.

"We can't help, but hear the echoes of history, echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down a path of justice," Obama said.

He called on the armed forces to now ensure a political transition that is "credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people," Obama said, warning that there could be "difficult days ahead."

"Over the last few weeks, the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace, as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights," he said.

Besides praising Egyptians, Obama also sought to make a wider point, apparently seeking to connect with Muslims elsewhere who felt marginalised and may be easy prey for extremists.

"Egyptians have inspired us and they've done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence," Obama said.

"For Egypt, it was the moral force of non-violence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, but non-violence, moral force, that bent the arc of history towards justice one more."

US lawmakers on Friday were also weighing tighter controls on exports that can help repressive regimes cling to power.

The US Congress, which cheered anti-government protests in Iran last year, also applauded the turmoil that toppled Mubarak, amid worries that US aid and know-how hurt both movements.

"We continue to watch and have concerns about the misuse of any equipment that the United States provides or sells to another nation," said a spokesman for the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Josh Holly.

© 2011 AFP


Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak moved assets into untraceable accounts abroad during the 18 days of protests before his resignation, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing unidentified intelligence sources.

Mubarak may have accumulated more than 3 billion pounds ($4.8 billion / RM6.2 billion) over his 30-year reign, according to the newspaper. Financial advisers to the Mubarak family tried to move some of these assets beyond the reach of investigators to Gulf states, the newspaper said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle E. Frazer in London at mfrazer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Colin Keatinge at ckeatinge@bloomberg.net


Jason Koutsoukis in Cairo.

SMH: Spurred by a kitchen cabinet that included his wife, Suzanne, his son, Gamal, and his Vice President, Omar Suleiman, the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's last hours in office were marked by a desperate attempt to cling to power.

In a detailed account published by al-Ahram, Egypt's largest-selling newspaper, military leaders threatened to publish their own statement announcing that Mubarak had been sacked.

The newspaper said a statement announcing Mubarak's resignation was pre-recorded by the army's chief-of-staff, Sami Enan, and delivered to the offices of the state television broadcaster Nile TV.

In the end the statement was not broadcast after Suleiman agreed at the last minute to read his own statement that Mubarak had resigned in the interests of the country.

In the days since the resignation, senior government and party officials have confirmed that Mubarak originally made a commitment to resign on Thursday, only to change his mind at the last minute.

Al-Ahram and Associated Press reported that Mubarak's top aides and family concealed the full extent of what was happening on the streets, instead telling the 82-year-old that he could ride out the turmoil which had brought the country to a virtual standstill.

The insider account portrayed Mubarak as ''unable, or unwilling, to grasp that nothing less than his immediate departure would save the country from the chaos generated by the protests'', that he lacked strong advisers who could tell him what was really happening.

''He did not look beyond what Gamal was telling him, so he was isolated politically,'' one official was quoted as saying. ''Every incremental move [by Mubarak] was too little, too late.''

Mubarak, said another official, ''tried to manage the crisis within the existing structures and norms'' but the incremental reforms he offered would never suffice to placate the protesters.

As the unrest mounted on Thursday, with more people on the streets and labour unions calling for a general strike, the military grew impatient and Mubarak's cabinet also divided.

Quoting senior Egyptian officials, editors and journalists from other state newspapers close to the regime, retired army generals in contact with top active duty officers and senior members of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, the report said it was military leaders who had persuaded Mubarak to appoint Suleiman, the intelligence chief, as Vice President to try to quell the protests.

But when chaos continued for 18 days, insiders believed Mubarak had reached the end.

That was Thursday. Hossam Badrawi, secretary general of the then ruling National Democratic Party, met Mubarak that afternoon and told reporters he expected the president to ''meet people's demands''.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a statement recognising the ''legitimate'' rights of the protesters, even calling the statement ''Communique No. 1'' in language that reflected their belief that they had already taken power.

The Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafik, gave an interview to the BBC's Arabic channel in which he also strongly hinted that Mubarak would be stepping down. But as Mubarak prepared what many believed would be his resignation speech, he changed his mind.

One insider quoted by al-Ahram said Gamal, 47, who had been touted as the president's successor, rewrote his father's speech several times before it went to air shortly before 11pm.

The then information minister, Anas al-Fiqqi, who, a few hours before the speech went to air, made a public statement saying that Mubarak would not resign, was also present when the recording was made.

On Friday, as Mubarak flew to more secure surrounds in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the military allowed protesters to gather outside his Cairo residence, as well as clog the streets surrounding the state television and radio offices, the areas around parliament and the offices of the Prime Minister.

That proved to be the final straw. The military acted. Shortly after 6pm on Friday, with millions on the streets in Cairo and a string of other cities, Suleiman performed the last official act of his 10-day period in office.

His statement announcing the end of Mubarak's 30-year rule of Egypt lasted 49 seconds.

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