“I was a young man when I joined the military and pledged to the nation and sacrificed to the nation. I spent my life defending Egypt’s life and sovereignty. The best days of my life were when I raised the flag of Egypt over the Sinai and when I flew plans in Addis Ababa. There was no day when I was affected or gave in to foreign pressure.” So said Hosni Mubarak last night in a speech that had an effect like throwing petrol onto an already raging fire.
There was no doubt a collective gasp of surprise as President Mubarak’s meaning from the White House, Downing Street and across European political centres became clear. He would remain in power and would not bow to pressure from the United States and Europe.
The three million people who had packed into and around Tahrir square in Cairo and many millions more around the world had expected the Egyptian dictator to stand aside for his chosen successor Mohammed Sulieman. Even if he had decided to step aside at that moment, it would have been enough to satisfy eighty-million Egyptians hungry for regime change but no, Mubarak came out with a platitudes, a few concessions and an appeal to the patriotism of the Egyptian people.
As his unwillingness to step down dawned on the consciousness to the gathered masses, the previous party atmosphere evaporated to be replaced with scarcely suppressed rage. “doesn’t he understand that go means go?” one Egyptian commented on Twitter.
When dawn breaks in Cairo this Friday morning, the fate of Egypt will rest in the hands of the Egyptian military. The Supreme Military Council in a statement earlier in the day said “all the people’s demands will be met.” It sounded like a military coup was in full swing and Mubarak’s departure was a done deal. Hosni Mubarak however, has not stayed in power for thirty years by bowing to the will of anyone and intends to try to ride out this perfect storm of popular discontent.
The protesters intend to take action in a few hours from now, marching to the Presidential Palace, parliament or the National TV headquarters to make their collective displeasure known. What the military does when this happens will decide the fate of the country. If the army decides to stop the people with military force, the Mubarak regime can forget the $1.8 Billion of financial aid the country receives annually from the United States for starters but it will receive the approbation of the world. If the army back the people [as they have already stated they will], Mubarak’s fate will be sealed.
All we can do is sit back and keep our fingers firmly crossed that Friday February 11th 2011 will not end in bloodshed.