Saturday, February 12, 2011

News from MAC.TV: Israeli minister welcomes Egyptian treaty declaration

JERUSALEM, Feb 12 (Reuters) - A senior Israeli official on Saturday welcomed an announcement from Egypt's new military rulers that Cairo would respect international treaties.

"This is a good announcement ... Peace is not only in the interest of Israel but also of Egypt. I am very happy with this announcement," Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Channel 2 television. (Writing by Ari Rabinovitch)

UN News: Haile Menkerios on Sudan - Security Council Media Stakeout , Posted by Menelik Zeleke

Informal comments to the media by Mr. Haile Menkerios, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan on the situation in Sudan.

EGYPT: After Mubarak - What's Next?


Analysis

As global attention remains focused on events in Egypt, Khadija Sharife considers the role of the country's military in the uprising and its political role in planning for the future.

The lessons for the authorities in Cairo echo those learned too late in Tunis: cracking down on dissent is not so easy when social network sites and citizen bloggers can gain a global audience in a matter of days. But how does Egypt's low-profile military actually view the changes now sweeping the country?


There was probably no way for the authorities to prevent the uprising of millions of citizens in Egypt, a country characterized by staggering inequality, human rights violations and corruption. This was especially true after the uprising in neighboring Tunisia toppled the dictatorship of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali with such astonishing speed. In Cairo alone, there may have been as many as two million protestors at some recent rallies. A nation of usually non-confrontational people has awoken to reclaim the streets, their human rights, and their dignity.

In many ways, the sustained resistance of the youth, drawing strength from their courage and conviction, their rage and despair, is a genuine intifada borne of the old and the new. Traditional methods of communication such as pamphlets, faxes, landlines and 'stealth meetings' in homes, street corners and mosques, have been augmented by virtual congregations on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

These cyber-rallies have the obvious advantage of bypassing the dangers inherent to geographically fixed meeting points. In an age where information moves at the speed of light, the internet has become both a brawny social muscle that can be collectively flexed, as well as a vehicle used by repressive states to track and counter activists.

In Iran, where internet penetration rates are estimated at 35%, most service has been disrupted during periods of unrest. However, the government has usually allowed citizens to continue accessing Twitter as a means of intelligence gathering to monitor protests.

In Tunisia, Facebook proved critical when 26-year-old Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, who fatally set himself alight in protest at constant police harassment, left a message on the networking site asking his mother for forgiveness. After this was picked up by the Al Jazeera news network, global awareness of the mounting Tunisian rebellion was generated, becoming instrumental in the uprising gaining such swift momentum.

CITIZEN NARRATIVES VS. GOVERNMENT BACKLASH

The extraordinary recent events in Tunisia and Egypt have been documented in large part through the use of citizen-generated social media - a substitute for traditional reporting following the suspension of many publications - allowing ordinary people to 'narrate' their own struggles.

Moreover, traditional media outlets have often used citizen narratives as a form of transmitting information, leveling the playing field in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel where news outlets are often heavily influenced by, or in favour of, the regimes in power.

Unlike Tunisia, where over a third of the population has internet access, penetration is much lower in Egypt at around 15%. And those accessing the internet in Egypt, such as followers of the April 6 Facebook movement, face a number of obstacles. Among the biggest of these is that operating licenses for internet services are provided by the government, allowing them to access data and know the locations of users, as well as being able to cut connectivity without prior warning.

This makes life very difficult for people such as Wael Ghonim, Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa. Ghonim was released on Monday having spent a week in custody after attending a protest organised by the April 6 movement on 25 January. He rejoined protests in Tahrir Square and went straight back on Twitter.

As in Tunisia, where leaked cables provided by WikiLeaks disclosed that the US did not consider Ben Ali an 'ally' and preferred his removal from power, Washington has long been collaborating with key leaders from the April 6 movement. The WikiLeaks cables confirmed a change of government in Egypt was predicted in 2011, allowing for negotiations with other parties.

Generally portrayed by the American media as the lesser of two possible evils, President Hosni Mubarak's rule has long been justified by the US as a bastion against militant Islam. But in recent years, bloggers pushing for democratic change have peeled back the myth of the regime. One of Egypt's best-known English-language bloggers, Sandmonkey, was arrested on 2 February while delivering medical supplies to Tahrir Square. He claims he was then roughed up in prison and his blog suspended until his release the next day.

ACTIVISTS CAN ACHIEVE GLOBAL PROFILES

In one of his previous blog posts, he described his extreme fatigue, having been on the run for days. He wrote how 'the situation here is bleak to say the least. It didn't start out that way. On Tuesday January 25 it all started peacefully, and against all odds, we succeeded to gather hundreds of thousands and get them into Tahrir Square, despite being attacked by anti-riot police who are using sticks, tear gas and rubber bullets against us.'

Sandmonkey went on to write: 'I was shot at twice that day, [once] with a semi-automatic by a dude in a car that we, the people, took joy in pummeling. The government announced that all prisons were breached, and that the prisoners somehow managed to get weapons and do nothing but randomly attack people. One day we had organized thugs in uniforms firing at us, and the next day they disappeared and were replaced by organized thugs without uniforms firing at us. Somehow the people never made the connection.'

Ahmed Maher, a leader of the April 6 movement whose protest plans have been regularly intercepted by security agents, was also presumed to have been arrested or detained. In an interview with Maher on 2 February, Wired magazine learned he had not been arrested, but would not say whether or not he had been roughed up by the police.

Rewind two years. On 6 February 2009, Philip Rizk, an Egyptian-German filmmaker, was abducted from a police station by secret service agents in the city of Qalyubia, north of Cairo. Rizk had been arrested while campaigning for humanitarian support to Gaza. He claims he was taken to a secret location three floors beneath the surface in unidentified facilities and constantly interrogated about 'my activism, my writing, everything.' He was released after being held for four days.

In all likelihood, Rizk may not have been freed so soon, if at all, had his friends and colleagues not mounted an international campaign that caught the attention of the New York Times. Such abductions are par for the course in Egypt, where detainees are routinely held without trial or access to legal representation.

WHAT IS THE PRESENT ROLE OF EGYPT'S MILITARY?

Under the guise of 'reform' at the state level, the military has further embedded itself within Egypt's newly appointed cabinet. When asked about the elevation to vice president of Omar Sulieman, Egypt's former chief of intelligence and Mubarak's right-hand man, Rizk told The Africa Report that 'Egyptians understand this for what it is. It represents no change. As soon as the announcement was made, protestors began chanting against Sulieman, identified as a man of the regime.'

The military has been portrayed by international media as sympathetic, or even protective of the protestors. But very little is known about who controls the armed forces.

Egypt specialist Joshua Stacher of Kent State University recently told CNN that 'the military's refusal to act is a highly political act which shows that it is allowing the Egyptian regime to reconstitute itself at the top and is highly, utterly against the protesters.'

But will the US listen? If the military is the power backing the regime, and is financed annually to the tune of $1.3bn by the US government - the US's second largest aid recipient in the world, after Israel - who is responsible for Mubarak's dictatorship?

According to Na'eem Jeenah, executive director of the Johannesburg-based think tank Afro-Middle East Centre, 'the whole notion that we've been exposed to recently of these soldiers as benevolent protectors is a myth. In the lower and middle ranks, there is certainly potential for soldiers to switch sides. But it has been a move by those on top to provide a good image of the military, and those from below, who want to win over the soldiers. Some thought it was a great thing when the cabinet was dissolved, but what we're really seeing is the removal of business people and the entrenchment of the military, to ensure that they have the control in the new government.'

Jeenah told The Africa Report that the military had long been in control of key sectors of the country's political economy. In his view, it has 'a well designed plan to pace the process and timing of change, to secure the army's role in government and the economy.'

'Once the sun sets,' said Jeenah, 'the army will go in and clean up the protestors.'

Even without its figurehead, the Mubarak machinery will be able to ensure the continuation of the same repressive and brutal tactics. Social media can act as the watchdog, when and if the Egyptian government allows it, but who in Egypt will respond to the watchdog?

* This article was originally published by The Africa Report.

News from the White House: Egypt Will Never Be the Same' - Obama



U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday said Egypt would never be the same now that Hosni Mubarak had stepped down as president after 30 years in power, but noted that it was only the beginning of the nation's transition.

"The people of Egypt have spoken," said Obama, speaking from the White House. "Their voices have been heard and Egypt will never be the same," he said. "By stepping down, president Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people's hunger for change."

Obama also said that there were likely to be "many difficult days ahead."

"The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker of the state and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the people," Obama said. He said the military must protect the rights of Egyptian citizens, lift the emergency law, revise the constitution and other laws, and lay out a clear path to free and fair elections to make the change "irreversible."

"Above all, this transition must bring all of Egypt's voices to the table," Obama said.

He praised the Egyptian people, particularly its youth, for their peaceful demonstrations and invoked the words of U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. who, in celebrating the post-colonial birth of Ghana, said: 'There's something in the soul that cries out for freedom.'

"Those were the cries from Tahrir Square and the world has taken note," Obama said.

Today, on the 18th day of demonstrations, protesters at Tahrir Square were jubilant, waving flags in the air, setting off fireworks, cheering and shouting after learning that Mubarak had stepped down. They seemed to focus little on the latest statement of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which went on state television to say it was studying the issue of leading the country and would define concrete steps later.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for a "transparent, orderly and peaceful transition" in Egypt and said he wanted to see free and fair elections.

News of Egypt: End of Mubarak Era as Protests Topple President




CAIRO (Reuters) - Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president of Egypt on Friday after 30 years of rule, handing power to the army and bowing to relentless pressure from a popular uprising after his military support evaporated.

Vice President Omar Suleiman said a military council would run the affairs of the Arab world's most populous nation. A free and fair presidential election has been promised for September after a momentous 18 days that rocked Egypt.

A speaker made the announcement in Cairo's central Tahrir Square where hundreds of thousands broke down in tears, celebrated and hugged each other chanting: "The people have brought down the regime."

Others shouted: "Allahu Akbar (God is greatest). Sobbing women in Tahrir (Liberation) Square ululated in jubilation.

"This is the greatest day of my life," said opposition activist and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, welcoming a period of sharing of power between the army and the people. He told Reuters that running for president was not on his mind.

The 82-year-old Mubarak's downfall after unprecedented mass protests was an historic victory for people power and was sure to rock autocrats throughout the Arab world and beyond.

U.S. President Barack Obama was informed in a meeting of Mubarak's decision, one that changes the course of modern Egyptian history, and he watched television coverage from Cairo. The White House was to make a statement later.

TOO LITTLE TOO LATE

Egypt's powerful military gave guarantees earlier on Friday that promised democratic reforms would be carried out but angry protesters intensified an uprising against Mubarak, marching on the presidential palace and the state television tower.

It was an effort by the army to defuse the revolt but, in disregarding protesters' key demand for Mubarak's ouster now, it failed to calm the turmoil that has disrupted the economy and rattled the volatile Middle East.
The tumult over Mubarak's refusal to resign had tested the loyalties of the armed forces, which had to choose whether to protect their supreme commander or ditch him.

The sharpening confrontation had raised fear of uncontrolled violence in Egypt, a linchpin U.S. ally in an oil-rich region where the chance of chaotic unrest spreading to other long stable but repressive states troubles the West.

Washington has called for a prompt democratic transition to restore stability in Egypt, a rare Arab state no longer hostile to Israel, guardian of the Suez Canal linking Europe and Asia and a major force against militant Islam in the region.

The army statement noted that Mubarak had handed powers to govern the country of 80 million people to his deputy the previous day -- perhaps signaling that this should satisfy demonstrators, reformists and opposition figures.

"This is not our demand," one protester retorted, after relaying the contents of the army statement to the crowd in Tahrir Square. "We have one demand, that Mubarak step down." He has said he will stay until September elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist opposition group, urged protesters to keep up mass nationwide street protests, describing Mubarak's concessions as a trick to stay in power.

PROTESTS ACROSS EGYPT

Hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied across Egypt, including in the industrial city of Suez, earlier the scene of some of the fiercest violence in the crisis, and the second city of Alexandria, as well as in Tanta and other Nile Delta centres.

The army had said it "confirms the lifting of the state of emergency as soon as the current circumstances end", a pledge that would remove a law imposed after Mubarak became president following Anwar Sadat's assassination in 1981 and that protesters say has long been used to stifle dissent.

It further promised to guarantee free and fair elections and other concessions made by Mubarak to protesters that would have been unthinkable before January 25, when the revolt began.

But none of this was enough for many hundreds of thousands of mistrustful protesters who rallied across the Arab world's most influential country on Friday, fed up with high unemployment, a corrupt elite and police repression.

Since the fall of Tunisia's long-time leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, which triggered protests around the region, Egyptians have been demonstrating in huge numbers against rising prices, poverty, unemployment and their authoritarian regime.

EMERGENCY LAWS

World powers had increasingly pressured Mubarak to organise an orderly transition of power since the protests erupted 18 days ago, touching off a political earthquake that has sent shock waves around the Middle East.

Mubarak, 82, was thrust into office when Islamists gunned down his predecessor Sadat at a military parade.
The burly former air force commander proved a far more durable leader than anyone imagined at the time, governing under emergency laws. He promoted Middle East peace abroad and more recently backed economic reforms at home led by his cabinet under Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.

But he always kept a tight lid on political opposition.

Mubarak resisted any significant political change even under pressure from Washington, which has poured billions of dollars of military and other aid into Egypt since it became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel, signing a treaty in 1979.

Friday, February 11, 2011

News from the President: REMARKS BY THE PRESDIENT ON EGYPT, Posted by Menelik Zeleke



THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
______________________________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                                                February 11, 2011

REMARKS BY THE PRESDIENT
ON EGYPT

Grand Foyer

3:06 P.M. EST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place.  This is one of those moments.  This is one of those times.  The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same.

     By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change.  But this is not the end of Egypt’s transition.  It’s a beginning.  I’m sure there will be difficult days ahead, and many questions remain unanswered.  But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers, and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks.  For Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.

The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state, and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people.  That means protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free.  Above all, this transition must bring all of Egypt’s voices to the table.  For the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change.

     The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt.  We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary -- and asked for -- to pursue a credible transition to a democracy.  I’m also confident that the same ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that the young people of Egypt have shown in recent days can be harnessed to create new opportunity -- jobs and businesses that allow the extraordinary potential of this generation to take flight.  And I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region but around the world.

     Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years.  But over the last few weeks, the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights. 

We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like. 

We saw a young Egyptian say, “For the first time in my life, I really count.  My voice is heard.  Even though I’m only one person, this is the way real democracy works.”

     We saw protesters chant “Selmiyya, selmiyya” -- “We are peaceful” -- again and again. 

We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect. 

And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for those who were wounded, volunteers checking protesters to ensure that they were unarmed.

     We saw people of faith praying together and chanting – “Muslims, Christians, We are one.”  And though we know that the strains between faiths still divide too many in this world and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes remind us that we need not be defined by our differences.  We can be defined by the common humanity that we share.

     And above all, we saw a new generation emerge -- a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears; a government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations.  One Egyptian put it simply:  Most people have discovered in the last few days…that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore, ever.

     This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied.  Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence.  For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence -- not terrorism, not mindless killing -- but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.
    
     And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, 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 the path of justice. 

     As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, “There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom.”  Those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square, and the entire world has taken note.

     Today belongs to the people of Egypt, and the American people are moved by these scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in.

     The word Tahrir means liberation.  It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom.  And forevermore 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.

     Thank you.
             
                       END            3:13 P.M. EST 

News from the White House: President Obama on a Historic Day in Egypt, Posted by Menelik Zeleke

UN News: Haile Menkerios on Sudan

Informal comments to the media by Mr. Haile Menkerios, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan on the situation in Sudan.

UN News: Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General on Egypt

New from Egypt:: Mubarak is no more, Posted by Menelik Zeleke

BREAKING NEWS: Egyptian state TV: Mubarak has left Cairo, Posted by Menelik Zeleke

=============================================================== By Craig Whitlock, Ernesto Londono and Leila Fadel Washington Post Foreign Service Friday, February 11, 2011; 10:53 AM CAIRO - President Hosni Mubarak and his wife left the presidential palace in an affluent Cairo suburb Friday, Egyptian state television reported, as huge throngs of citizens across the country gathered to demand his ouster. The televised announcement said a statement would be coming from the presidential palace shortly. It did not say where Mubarak was headed, but the Associated Press, citing a local official, reported that he had gone to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Daniel C. Kurtzer said he had been told by high-ranking U.S. government officials that Mubarak was in Sharm el-Sheikh. The Red Sea resort has long been a favorite holiday destination for the Egyptian president; his presence there would not necessarily indicate that he is stepping down from the all-powerful post he has held for 30 years. Mubarak's departure from the Egyptian capital came hours after he told the nation that he would remain in office but cede some powers to his hand-picked vice president, Omar Suleiman. The rambling, late-night speech followed a day of conflicting statements by public officials that led the massive crowds of demonstrators to believe Mubarak was about to resign. In response, throngs of people gathered in cities across the country, their anger and frustration mounting. "Mubarak must go! He is finished!" protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square shouted, as a sea of people waved red-white-and-black Egyptian flags. "Oh, Mubarak, be patient! The people will dig your grave." Friday morning, Egypt's military chiefs pledged to back Mubarak's decision to remain in office and hand over some powers to Suleiman. The supreme military council said it would guarantee "free and honest" elections after Mubarak's term expires, and a lifting of Egypt's 30-year-old state of emergency once calm returned to the streets. The military chiefs encouraged protesters to go home, citing the need to "return to normal life." Instead, the protests that have raged here for 18 days only grew, and there were repeated signs that the soldiers posted on the streets to watch over the demonstrations supported the protesters' efforts. Said Younis, a 26-year-old advertising executive, said military officers stationed at the palace offered their sympathy and support, providing tea and juice to the handful of protesters who pulled an all-night vigil. The people and the army are continuing their march together!" chanted hundreds of supporters outside al-Ouruba, the presidential palace in the affluent Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. Hours later, the crowd had swelled to several thousand. Said Younis, a 26-year-old advertising executive, said military officers stationed at the palace offered their sympathy and support, providing tea and juice to the handful of protesters who pulled an all-night vigil.

Al Arabiya TV says Mubarak, family leave Cairo, Posted by Meosha Eaton

(Adds Al Arabiya saying confirms travels to Sharm el-Sheikh)

CAIRO, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Al Arabiya television reported on Friday that President Hosni Mubarak and his family had left Cairo from a military airbase in the suburbs and had travelled to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

It did not give a source for the series of reports on the movement of the president and his family. Al Arabiya said it had confirmed the arrival of the president and his family in Sharm el-Sheikh.

The news comes as protesters moved overnight to the Ittihadiya presidential palace in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis for the first time since protests started in Jan. 25.
The protesters gathered up against a barbed wire cordon around the palace, about 50 metres (yards) from the palace walls at its closest point.

Tanks and soldiers of the elite Republican Guard, responsible for the president's security, surrounded the palace, a Reuters witness said.
"The Republican Guard are protecting the presidential palaces," an armed forces source told Reuters.

A senior military source contacted by Reuters declined to comment on the report that Mubarak had left Cairo. Al Arabiya had initially reported Mubarak and his family had left Egypt.

The president often spends time in Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular tourist destination on the Red Sea, and receives guests there.

(Reporting by Samia Nakhoul, Marwa Awad and Jonathan Wright; Editing by Alison Williams)