President Mohamed Nasheed has joined the first wave of world leaders calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down and “heed the will of the Egyptian people,” after hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets and demanded the end of autocratic rule.
“Egypt is a mature country. It contains many reasonable people who are capable of ruling reasonably,” President Nasheed said, during an interview with the BBC yesterday.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has warned Mubarak that his actions now would determine his legacy.
“Mr Hosni Mubarak: I want to make a very sincere recommendation, a very candid warning… All of us will die and will be questioned over what we left behind,” Erdogan said, in a party speech broadcast in Arabic and reported by Reuters Africa.
“As Muslims, where we all go is a two cubic metre hole,” he said. “Listen to the shouting of the people, the extremely humane demands. Without hesitation, satisfy the people’s desire for change.”
Mubarak has meanwhile offered to step down at the next election, during an appearance on Egypt’s state-run television network.
“In the few months remaining in my current term I will work towards ensuring a peaceful transition of power,” Mubarak said. “I have exhausted my life in serving Egypt and my people. I will die on the soil of Egypt and be judged by history.”
However, demonstrators have called for Mubarak’s immediate departure, given the extraordinary expression of public anger taking place in the country.
Egypt’s opposition leader, Nobel peace laureate Mohamed El Baradei, yesterday noted that demonstrators were increasingly calling for the President to not just resign but be put on trial, and urged him to leave at once “if he wants to save his skin”.
In another development, after initial prevarication US President Barack Obama appears to have withdrawn support for the Egyptian leader, praising the protesters and calling for an immediate transition of power following a 30 minute conversation with Mubarak.
The US has been a key ally of the embattled Egyptian President, pumping US2$billion of aid in the country annually since 1979. Much of this – US$1.3 billion in 2010 – is military aid, mostly Pentagon castoffs, making Egypt the second largest such recipient of US military assistance after Israel. This has seen a good deal of public anger aimed at the US within Egypt.
Mubarak’s other public allies – Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – have been noticeably silent since the protests began.
Remarkably, the Egyptian military appears to have turned on Mubarak, stating publicly on state media that it would not obey orders to use force against the protesters.
“The presence of the army in the streets is for your sake and to ensure your safety and wellbeing. The armed forces will not resort to use of force against our great people,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper has published a leaked confidential cable between Washington and the US Ambassador to Cairo, Margaret Scobey, sent on December 30, 2008, outlining conversations with an unnamed “activist” concerning “regime change” in Egypt prior to the elections in September 2011.
“According to [the source], the opposition is interested in receiving support from the army and the police for a transitional government prior to the 2011 elections. [The source] asserted that this plan is so sensitive it cannot be written down,” the communication revealed.
“[The source] asserted that Mubarak derives his legitimacy from US support, and therefore charged the US with ‘being responsible’ for Mubarak’s ‘crimes’,” wrote Scobey.
“He accused NGOs working on political and economic reform of living in a ‘fantasy world’, and not recognising that Mubarak – ‘the head of the snake’ – must step aside to enable democracy to take root.”
Scobey, however, did not appear optimistic about the source’s chances of success, describing its goal of replacing the current regime with a parliamentary democracy prior to the 2011 presidential elections as “highly unrealistic”.
“Most opposition parties and independent NGOs work toward achieving tangible, incremental reform within the current political context, even if they may be pessimistic about their chances of success. [The source’s] wholesale rejection of such an approach places him outside this mainstream of opposition politicians and activists,” Scobey wrote.
In his interview with the BBC, President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed called on Western powers “not to fear a democratic Egypt”, because this, he claimed, “is the best guarantor of fundamental liberties and human rights.”
“Suppressing people with extremist views through repressive means only makes them stronger,” he said.
“Fundamental rights and freedoms are human aspirations… things that all of us want. These forces are playing out on the streets of the Middle East today.”
The Maldivian government has asked Maldivians in Egypt to leave the country as protests escalate. Haveeru reported that 107 Maldivian nationals were leaving the country today on an Indian flight va Mumbai, arranged by the government.