Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mubarak's Regime On the Ropes

As I've expected, Hosni Mubarak's demand that his entire cabinet resign so as to placate the demonstrating crowds didn't go over as well as he hoped. The protesters aren't content with changing window dressing. Reuters has compiled a bunch of quotes from Egyptians and they largely see Mubarak's speech as a first step towards a new government. At least 68 people have been killed and more than 2,000 injured in the riots throughout the country, and the protests and riots show little sign of slowing down.

Funerals are taking place today to bury those who were killed in the security forces' attempts to quell the rioting. Protesters are continuing to torch government buildings, particularly police stations.

1259 Political activist Gigi Ibrahim in Cairo sums up the mood of protesters for the BBC's Newshour: "People are willing to die for this and they have. They have. The 30 years of repression are pushing people to the extreme."

Yolande Knell
1254 The BBC's Yolande Knell says thousands are marching along the Nile in central Cairo. Military and police are avoiding any confrontation. Although they are well armed, they are not using their weapons or firing tear gas. We are expecting people to ignore a call for an earlier curfew starting at 1600 (1400 GMT).
There have been several remarkable photos taken of the protests, and this one is probably the most powerful:

(REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Mubarak's security forces have been largely ineffective against the protests, but the Army has moved into the fray, and the protests have become more peaceful as protesters chat up with the soldiers:
“This is the revolution of all the people,” declared the side of a second tank in downtown Cairo. Egyptian men all serve in the army, giving it a very different relationship to the people from that of the police.

The feared security police had largely withdrawn from central Cairo to take up positions around the presidential palace, with their places taken up by the army.

Following Mr. Mubarak’s demand in his late-night speech, the Egyptian cabinet officially resigned on Saturday. But there was no sign of letup in the tumult. Reports from morgues and hospitals suggested that at least 50 people had been killed so far.

In Ramses Square in central Cairo Saturday midday, protesters commandeered a flatbed army truck. One protester was driving the truck around the square while a dozen others on the back were chanting for President Mubarak to leave office. Nearby, soldiers relaxed around their tanks and armored vehicles and chatted with protesters. There were no policemen in sight.
This sucks royally. According to Reuters and a state archeologist, looters broke into the Cairo Museum and destroyed two mummies.
Looters broke into the Egyptian Museum during anti-government protests late Friday and destroyed two Pharaonic mummies, Egypt's top archaeologist told state television.

The museum in central Cairo, which has the world's biggest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, is adjacent to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party that protesters had earlier set ablaze. Flames were seen still pouring out of the party headquarters early Saturday.

"I felt deeply sorry today when I came this morning to the Egyptian Museum and found that some had tried to raid the museum by force last night," Zahi Hawass, chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Saturday.

"Egyptian citizens tried to prevent them and were joined by the tourism police, but some (looters) managed to enter from above and they destroyed two of the mummies," he said.

He added looters had also ransacked the ticket office.
The Cairo Museum is one of the great museums of the world - akin to the London Museum, Louvre, or Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and its holdings are priceless. It has the world's largest collection of Egyptian antiquities, including the King Tut collection. These looters are desecrating Egypt's heritage taking advantage of the security situation. Here's hoping that they're caught, but given the situation throughout the country, prosecuting the looters is a low priority.

This is particularly rich. The Telegraph is peddling claims that the US has been secretly planning and is backing the uprising against Mubarak. Oh, and it started during the Bush Administration and continued under Obama.

Drudge is red lettering that as his top headline.

This plays right into the wheelhouse of a conspiracy-minded and laden Middle Eastern media - who would fixate on the headline. The report itself doesn't prove that there's a secret plan to topple the Mubarak government. The paper is misinterpreting the Wikileaks documents that show US officials concerned about political dissidents and the need for Mubarak to release political prisoners to claim that this was part of a secret plot.

It would be far easier to blame this on the US, rather than the fact that the Egyptian government has a failed socio-economic policy - and it's one that has been going on for decades. Indeed, the US was pushing for improved human rights conditions in Egypt all while working within the existing framework of the Egyptian government under Mubarak.

Ynet is reporting that there are prison riots in Egypt, and detainee/prisoners have been killed, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa has said that he endorses the protesters' demands for regime change. That's going to have far reaching implications since many of the regimes around the Middle East suffer from the same issues facing Egypt.

Via BBC:
2014 US President Barack Obama has convened his national security team at the White House to discuss the ongoing crisis in Egypt. The meeting lasted just over an hour, we are told. The president was updated on the situation in Egypt, and reiterated the US focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights; and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt.

2010 The ruling National Democratic Party's Maged Boutros tells the BBC that if the protests get any worse, the rule of law will break down. "People have to wait and be patriotic, and not allow mobs and looters to dominate the streets," Mr Boutros tells BBC News. He says Mr Mubarak was legitimately elected, and people are using an illegitimate way of expressing their views by violence, warning against what he describes as "mob rule".
Boutros is once again showing the tone deaf nature of the ruling party and those aligned with Mubarak. They think that if they shuffle the deck chairs that the Titanic wont sink.

It's sinking, and it's sinking fast. The only question is the ultimate body count in the transition.

There are rumors that the looters are actually members of Mubarak's secret police. However, residents in Cairo are banding together to stop the looters as the police have all but disappeared from the streets.

Mubarak has named a new vice president and prime minister, but that's not what's bothering the Egyptian people. Mubarak's still in charge. He continues to think that by offering up everyone except himself, that he can continue to remain in power.
Omar Soleiman was sworn in on Saturday, the first time Mubarak appointed a vice-president during his 30-year rule. Ahmad Shafiq, a former chief of air staff, was appointed prime minister.

But Al Jazeera's correspondents in Egypt have said that many of those taking to the streets demand a total change of guard, as opposed to a reshuffling of figures in the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

Tens of thousands of people in the capital Cairo gathered on Saturday, demanding an end to Hosni Mubarak's presidency.

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