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 the 82-year-old Mr. Mubarak, at least initially to his coastal resort home in Sharm el-Sheik, was a pivotal turn in a nearly three-week revolt that has upended one of the Arab’s world’s most enduring dictatorships. The popular protests — peaceful and resilient despite numerous efforts 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 came after a 24-hour period that mixed celebration and anger, as Egypt and the outside world at first anticipated Mr. Mubarak’s imminent resignation on Thursday afternoon, then recoiled in outrage when he continued to cling to power in a combative televised address Thursday night.
From the New York Times:
“President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned his post and turned over all power to the military on Friday, ending his nearly 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 had 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.
From the Huffington Post:
Several hundred thousand protesters massed in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square exploded into joy, waving Egyptian flags, and car horns and celebratory shots in the air were heard around the city of 18 million in joy after Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on national TV just after nightfall.
Mubarak had sought to cling to power, handing some of his authorities to Suleiman while keeping his title. But an explosion of protests Friday rejecting the move appeared to have pushed the military into forcing him out completely. Hundreds of thousands marched throughout the day in cities across the country as soliders stood by, besieging his palace in Cairo and Alexandria and the state TV building.
“In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic,” a grim-looking Suleiman said. “He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the state. God is our protector and succor.”
Not everyone’s eyes are on Tahrir Square right now. Some people are watching the Central Bank and the economy. Some people need to know when “normalcy” will return; when they can begin to hedge new bets; and, perhaps most importantly, what new systems of knowledge and information acquisition need to be in place before another 18 Day Revolution catches the world by surprise.
The truly arduous work is just beginning in Egypt. Saboteurs of all stripes and colors will seek to seize upon this opportunity to turn sister against sister and brother against brother. This is the time to determine how history remembers this revolutionary moment. As this interpersonal struggle ensues, will the world turn away?