An attempt by the military police to clear Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo Sunday of all protesters seemed as though it were succeeding until mid-morning. They removed most of the tents, and made a path for traffic through the area, a vital artery. There were some beatings of protesters and minor scuffles.
Then protesters poured back into one area of the square, to the side of the traffic. Aljazeera is saying that some of them are from the countryside and cannot so easily just pick up stakes and go home. Others are committed to staying in the square until the state of emergency is lifted and other reforms are practically implemented. On the other hand, most protesters have returned to work or school (Sunday is a work day for many in Egypt), and can hardly afford to continue to abandon their day jobs.
The Egyptian military on Saturday had made a mistake, it seemed to me, in declaring that the military cabinet assembled by ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak would be charged with running the day to day affairs of the government until new elections. Initially the army had declared that a council of officers was in charge, and I think that way of putting things was more acceptable to the protest movement.
Some reports say that the protesters are forming a council to negotiate the direction of the country with the military, and to guide supporters as to whether they should call, or call off, demonstrations.
In part in order to mollify the January 25 movement, the cabinet (which met on Sunday) announced that several members of the old regime, including former prime minister Ahmad Nazif and feared former Interior Minister Habib Adly, were barred from leaving the country as their finances were investigated. Likewise, the assets of several fixtures of the Mubarak regime were being investigated, including steel magnate Ahmad Izz, former housing minister Ahmad al-Maghribi, and former trade and industry minister Rashid Mohammed Rashid. This step did not satisfy everyone, obviously. Information minister Anas al-Fikki, widely hated because of his pro-Mubarak propaganda, has been forced to resign from the cabinet and some reports say he is also on the no-fly list.
The Telegraph is reporting that Mubarak himself used his last 18 days in power to move billions of dollars in ill-gotten assets around, into secret accounts so that this wealth could not be seized.
The effect of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions was felt elsewhere in the Arab world on the weekend. On Saturday in Algiers, several thousand protesters defied police to rally for the resignation of President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika. They were prevented from marching through the city, and the demonstration was broken up by police.
In Yemen, some 2000 protesters convened at the university and then marched for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They were then attacked by a knife-wielding mob of Saleh “supporters,” who stopped the demonstration.
In Jordan on Saturday, trade unionists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood celebrated Mubarak’s departure. Some saw it as a blow to US influence in the region.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Green Movement is calling for peaceful demonstrations on Monday.
Opposition parties in Tunisia hailed the changes in Egypt, which they had helped spark.
Billionaire autocrat Hosni Mubarak could not have imagined that an educated, over-qualified vegetable-seller’s self-immolation (that of the martyr Mohamed Bouazizi) in a small town in rural Tunisia could set off a political tsunami that would sweep him from power in distant Cairo.