Thousands of Egyptians were still singing and waving flags in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Feb. 13, two days after an 18-day uprising forced president Hosni Mubarak from power. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said the military will oversee a peaceful transition to “an elected civil authority to build a free democratic state.” Headed by longtime Mubarak-loyalist Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the Supreme Council issued a “Communique Number 4,” read on state TV. It said Egypt would “remain committed to all its regional and international treaties,” implicitly confirming the 1979 peace treaty with Israel will remain intact. A “Communique Number 5” said the military will “run the affairs of the country on a temporary basis for six months or until the end of parliamentary and presidential elections.”
The military is dismantling the elements of Mubarak’s former regime—dissolving parliament, suspending the constitution and promising a referendum on political reform. The civilian cabinet met for the first time since Mubarak’s fall, but real power appears to lie with the generals.
The crowd in Tahrir Square, while still large, is greatly diminished—and the military has been gradually pushing them into a corner of the square. While most strikes have been called off, banks remain closed by walk-outs and protests. Newspapers are hailing what has been dubbed the “Revolution of the Youth.”
Soldiers fired warning shots over a rowdy protest by police officers seeking to restore their reputation and win pay raises after they found themselves on the wrong side of the uprising. Outside the Interior Ministry, some 1,500 members of the police force called for the despised former interior minister Habib Al-Adly to be put to death, chanting: “Habib, you know you will be executed in the public square!”
The cabinet meeting came a day after the resignation of the highly unpopular information minister Anas Al-Fiki, who is accused of masterminding a media campaign that presented protesters as foreign agents. Fiki, Al-Adly and sacked prime minister Ahmed Nazif have all been barred from leaving the country while they are investigated over corruption allegations. The new Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said Mubarak remained at his residence in the Sinai resort town of Sharm as-Sheikh. The state of emergency remains in place.
US President Barack Obama spoke with leaders in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and “welcomed the historic change that has been made by the Egyptian people, and reaffirmed his admiration for their efforts,” the White House said in a statement. “He also welcomed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ announcement today that it is committed to a democratic civilian transition, and will stand by Egypt’s international obligations.” (Middle East Online, Ma’an News Agency, Reuters, Feb. 13; Middle East Online, Feb. 12)