President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned his post and turned over all power to the military on Friday (February 11, 2011) ending his 30 years of autocratic rule and bowing to a historic popular uprising that has transformed politics in Egypt and around the Arab world.
The streets of Cairo exploded in shouts of “God is Great” moments after Mr. Mubarak’s vice president and longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, announced during evening prayers that Mr. Mubarak has passed all authority to a council of military leaders.
“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.
Even before he had finished speaking, protesters began hugging and cheering, shouting “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 82-year-old Mr. Mubarak, at least initially to his coastal resort home in Sharm el-Sheik, marked a pivotal turn in a three-week revolt that has upended one of the Arab’s world’s most enduring dictatorships. The popular protest, peaceful and resilient despite numerous effort 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.
His departure leaves the military in charge of this nation of 80 million, facing insistent calls for fundamental democratic change and open elections. The military, which has repeatedly promised to respond to the demands of protesters, has little recent experience of directly governing the country. It will have to defuse demonstrations and strikes that have paralyzed the economy and left many of the country’s institutions, including state media and the security forces, in shambles.
Shortly before the announcement of Mr. Mubarak’s departure, the military issued a communiqué pledging to carry out a variety of constitutional reforms in a statement remarkable for its commanding tone. The military’s statement alluded to the delegation of power to Mr. Suleiman and it suggested that the military would supervise implementation of the reforms.
The military did not indicate whether it intended to take the kinds of fundamental steps toward democracy that protesters have been demanding. This was the second direct statement from the military in two days, and it largely stuck to the main constitutional and electoral reforms Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Suleiman had promised to implement. It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Suleiman would retain a role, under the military council, in running the country.
State radio reported that Naguib Sawiris, a wealthy and widely respected businessman, has agreed to act as a mediator between the opposition and the authorities in carrying through the political reforms, a development that was cheered by protesters.
In Tahrir Square, the focal point of the uprising, many protesters were overcome with the emotion of achieving their unlikely but determined quest to overthrow Mr. Mubarak. More than an hour after Mr. Suleiman spoke, the din was undiminished, as the celebrants, some in tears, shouted, sang, embraced and chanted. The slogan of the revolution, “The people want to bring down the regime,” adopted from Tunisia, became, “The people, at last, have brought down the regime.”
Parents were seen putting their children on the tanks to have their photos snapped with the soldiers, while the soldiers reached down to shake hands with the protesters and people chanted, “The people and the army are one hand.” In a show of solidarity in at least lower levels of the army, three Egyptian officers shed their weapons and uniforms and joined the protesters.
“Now, we can breathe fresh air, we can feel our freedom,” said Dr. Gamal Heshamt, a former member of parliament and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. “Now we can start to build our country. After 30 years of absence from the world, Egypt is back.”
Some people waved Tunisian flags, while young women danced on the hulking remains of burned out armored personnel carriers. The Qasr al-Nil bridge, the sight of ugly fighting between the protesters and Mubarak supporters, was crammed from one end to the next with people cheering and chanting, “Egypt! Egypt! Egypt!”
“The Egysptian people are heroes,” said Samia Mahmoud, 41, who said he works in the tourist industry in Sharm el-Sheik. “I’m hoping for a new Egypt.” Amr Sayed, 20, who had been in the square for the last 15 days, said simply, “The people wanted to take back their rights, and now they have.”
David D. Kirkpatrick and Anthony Shadid reported from Cairo, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Reporting was contributed by Kareem Fahim, Liam Stack, Mona El-Naggar and Thanassis Cambanis from Cairo, and Sheryl Gay Stolberg from Marquette,Mich.
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