Hosni Mubarak is a desperate man this morning. In a vain attempt to cling to power he has dismissed his entire cabinet and stated on Egyptian TV that he understood that the people of Egypt wanted him to address poverty, employment and democratic reform. in addition he promised to press ahead with social, economic and political reforms.
“We will not backtrack on reforms. We will continue with new steps which will ensure the independence of the judiciary and its rulings, and more freedom for citizens,” Mubarak said last night.
He said new steps will be taken “to contain unemployment, raise living standards, improve services and stand by the poor.”
In an interview on the Aljazeera news website Mona El Tahawy, an Egyptian columnist and author living in the US, dismissed these comments and goes on to say.
“There is no political freedom in Egypt, that’s exactly why the protests happened. If there were political freedoms, we wouldn’t see 12,000-14,000 political dissidents in Hosni Mubarak’s jails, He spoke as a man absolutely out of touch with his people … He tells them ‘I’m going to implement reform and I care about the people.’ That’s meaningless. He’s been in power for 30 years, he knows how poor people are”.
On the streets of major cities across the country Egyptian security forces continue to clash and arrest protesters while the UK government has issued a warning advising citizens not to visit Egypt at this time as the situation grows more violent.
The key factor is the role the Egyptian army will play in this developing situation and they have been conspicuously absent from clashes with protesters up to now.
In 1952 it was a conspiracy of army officers that led to the revolution that ousted King Farouk and ended the neo-colonial rule of the country by Britain. Since then, the military have had close links to the reigns of power.
Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser became President of Egypt in 1956 until his death in 1970. He was succeeded by Anwar Sadat another Colonel in the army. After Sadat’s murder in 1981 Mubarak [the former chief of the airforce] assumed the reigns of power.
The armed forces have been very loyal to Mubarak however in recent years there has been a growing feeling that the best of the officer class have not been promoted because they could pose a threat to the current leadership. It is amongst these middle-ranking officers that we could see dissent and potential support for the wave of popular dissent.