President Hosni Mubarak, sent in troops against protesters in Cairo yesterday but to his undoubted surprise, they cheered their arrival.
Moubarak had been advised to listen to the concerns of the protesters by President Obama of the US and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and not to use force against them but against their suggestions he attempted to do just that…
Egyptian troops in four armored military vehicles were however cheered as they passed over the Qasr al-Nil bridge in center Cairo headed in the direction of Tahrir Square where they set up guard outside the Cairo museum. There were earlier reports of protesters reacting similarly to the arrival of troops in the city of Alexandria and in the area of Ghamra in Cairo .
What does this mean?
Egyptians know that President Mubarak while being hugely unpopular in the country has had the unflinching support of the United States. The government has poured huge amounts of aid into the country ever since the Camp David Accord was signed in 1975 [$28.6Billion to 2010] because the US sees Egypt as its key allie in the Middle East and an active supporter of the War on terror. Over this period, US aid has bolstered the armed forces and addressed pressing social, health and education issues.
Egypt is a country where a brutal police force oppresses people in their day-to-day lives, arresting local people at will and holding them without charge for days, months or even years. Nearly one-million secret service personnel keep tabs on anyone potentially opposing the ruling elite. Corruption especially in the police and amongst public officials is endemic. Under these conditions it has been virtually impossible for anyone to mount an effective opposition movement.
The United Sates has issued numerous warnings to President Mubarak recommending that he reform the way government operates and to enhance democratic processes but these have fallen on deaf ears. In the past two years the US has reduced by $50 million the massive subsidy it provides to the Egyptian government but local people still feel that Mubarak has the blessing of the United States and will do nothing to remove him from power.
The people know that Mubarak will not stand down as President [unless it is to hand over power to his own son] unless he is forced from power by a military coup.
He dismissed his entire government yesterday because he felt the growth of internal political pressure to resign. In a television interview yesterday evening he expressed his desire to see through far-reaching reforms and needed a new team to make this possible. The Egyptian people however, see this as a cynical ploy to wash his hands of the troubles the country has endured under his rule and continue in power.
Under these circumstances, only a military coup backed by popular support can bring about regime change. Already straws in the wind tell us that this is on the cards. An MSN TV news report from last night stated that four executive limousines delivered several VIP passengers to Cairo airport. They later took off in three private jets for undisclosed locations.
Perhaps we are on the brink of a historic change…