For 11 days now, Tahrir Square has been the theatre of the revolutionary sentiments gripping the country. It has shown the world scenes of joy, hope and a community spirit bringing together thousands of people in a singleness of purpose. It has descended into a chaos of violence, fire, smoke and death. The struggle for the square is the central battlefield in the struggle for the country and its future.
Over the past two days, pro-Mubarak supporters have tried with various violent means to take the square and oust those who are seeking regime change. However, the resolve of the protesters seemed to be only enflamed by attempts to drive them out. The Washington Post summed up the mood of the crowd by saying that a week ago, those occupying the square were chanting, "We are going to stay in the square." As of late, the line is more, "We are going to die in the square."
This Friday, February 4 is being called the Day of Departure. The planned rally for the square is centered on the insistence that Mubarak leave now; he must not finish his term. According to reports – as of this writing, 8am, it is 3pm in Cairo – thousands of people have gathered once again in the square. Notably, the violent pro-Mubarak are not around. The army is watching the situation much more closely and this assembly is playing out for the moment peacefully. Soldiers are apparently checking people as they enter the square, looking at identification and doing body searches. Organisers are hoping for one million. The plan is to march to the presidential palace and show the will of the people. – According to the most recent reports as of 3pm Cairo time, there are apparently over ten thousand people in the square, the highest number since Tuesday when there were reportedly a quarter of million people.
There are stories circulating that the U.S. is in direct talks with Egyptian officials about a plan which would see Mubarak step down immediately. This arrangement would see a transitional government headed by Vice-President Omar Suleiman with military backing. Mubarak has stated that he is afraid of possible chaos if he leaves immediately. During a 20 minute interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour at the presidential palace in Cairo, he said, "I am fed up. After 62 years in public service, I have had enough. I want to go."
What is America’s influence in this situation? Newspapers say that Egypt is the greatest beneficiary of the $2 billion in annual foreign aid handed out by the U.S. however desperate times call for desperate measures. The Obama administration sees the writing on the wall, has suggested something needs to be done but will Mubarak and the rest of the establishment accept change?
CNN has written about the various options on the table and quite rightly have pointed to the problem if not danger of a power vacuum should Mubarak u and leave immediately. While the popular sentiment is to see Mubarak out right away, the important question is what to do afterwards. Who will lead? How will this occur? Can the country maintain its direction towards a true democracy? After all, it has just spent the last 30 years under the rule of one man. What are the possibilities of such a situation continuing?
Associated Press – Feb 4/2011
Protesters Return to Cairo With Army Protection
The Egyptian military guarded thousands of pro-democracy protesters pouring into Cairo’s main square on Friday. Meanwhile the White House is in talks with Egyptian officials about a possible transition government. (Feb. 4)
EuroNews – Feb 3/2011
No let-up in deadly Cairo uprising
The simmering bitterness and bloodshed of Egypt’s popular uprising against President Mubarak has continued for a second day throughout the country.
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