Despite rumours throughout the night that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was ready to announce his departure, Mubarak instead declared that he will stay on as president until September.
Crowd’s gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to hear the expected speech chanted “Get out, get out” when Mubarak announced he would not be leaving. A huge protest is now expected tomorrow.
This is a breaking news story and we will keep it updated as more news comes to hand.
Update 12:30pm: US president Barack Obama has issued a statement on the current situation in Egypt, highlighting that even the US government doesn’t understand exactly what changes Mubarak announced.
“The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient…. We therefore urge the Egyptian government to move swiftly to explain the changes that have been made, and to spell out in clear and unambiguous language the step by step process that will lead to democracy and the representative government that the Egyptian people seek. Going forward, it will be essential that the universal rights of the Egyptian people be respected. There must be restraint by all parties. Violence must be forsaken. It is imperative that the government not respond to the aspirations of their people with repression or brutality. The voices of the Egyptian people must be heard.”
Journalist for The Guardian, Jack Shenker, explained what it was like being in Tahrir Square this evening:
“With the crowd desperate to hear what he had to say, Mubarak’s staid nationalistic rhetoric squeaked out of a hundred tiny speakers into near silence. There was no interruption when he called for national unity, and only the faintest of tuts when he tried to invoke the memory of those who had died in Egypt’s anti-government uprising, deaths many in the square attribute to his forces.
But then he told the listening protesters that he too was a young man once, and could understand their concerns. In an instant, Tahrir shook with fury.
Many took off their shoes and waved them in the air. Pockets of protesters launched different chants: “Down, Down, Hosni Mubarak” and “We’re not going until he goes”. Soon they coalesced, and the square spoke as one with a single word. “Irhal” (Leave), it cried.”
Al Jazeera reports that 1,000-2000 protesters have marched to the presidential palace, the first time this has happened during the Egypt demonstrations. Apparently protesters will camp there overnight.
So far the army is not opposing the around 1000 peaceful protesters standing outside the state television headqaurters, says blogger Gigi Ibrahim, as she posted this photo to Twitter:
We are still waiting for the army’s statement that was supposedly coming tonight, but many journalists, bloggers and protesters are noting that tomorrow’s massive demonstration may force the army to choose between supporting Mubarak or the citizens.
Also, it’s interesting to examine how exactly the Egyptians have been able to maintain this energery for so many weeks. Could it be partly attributed to the protester’s love of koshary, the more or less national dish, comprised of pasta, lentils, tomatos and onion? Read this interesting examination of koshary and its role in the protests here.
11:30 am Blogger and activist Ramy Raoof recently posted this video taken of protestors chanting outside of the state television and radio headquarters, the Maspero building. Protestors appear passionate but peaceful.
Pro-democracy acitivist — and Google marketing executive — Wael Ghonim is back in the spotlight after reports by Egyptian state television that Ghonim told protesters to go home after Mubarak’s speech. Ghonim shot to fame this week after he was finally released from being imprisoned — and completely blindfolded — by Egyptian authorities for 12 days. Ghonim denied to Al Jazeera that he suggested made no such comments instead saying “the reforms that were announced weren’t enough for the protesters in Meydan Tahrir.” Ghonim hasn’t updated his Twitter stream since tweeting “Revolution 2.0: Mission Accomplished” and “heading to Tahrir”, several hours ago.
An angry protester in Tahrir Square, taken directly after Mubarak’s speech. Photo care of MSNBC’s Twitpic account.
A quick before and after shows just how many protesters were in Tahrir Square during Mubarak’s speech.
An interesting infographic/website/twitter stream from ABC online showcases some of the best of the social media coming out of Egypt today. While many are now preparing for tomorrow’s expected enormous demonstrations, Tahrir Square still has protesters in it, although journalist Pakinam Amer notes numbers in the Square are dwindling. She posted this photo from Talaat Harb, a street in downtown Cairo, saying hundreds are shouting anti-Mubarak slogans.
“SMS (with timestamp) received from the Armed Forces stating they will make an announcement shortly” tweeted Egyptocracy recently.
11am Full texts of Mubarak speech are now appearing, though it is important to note that several slight translation differences have appeared.
Dear citizens, my sons, the youths of Egypt, today I am directing my speech to the youth of Egypt, those who are in there in Tahrir Square and the vast areas of the country
I’m addressing you today out of a true and an honest heart from a father to his sons and daughters, and I’m telling you that I really cherish you as a symbol for a new generation for Egypt who are calling for change for the better, and are adamant to achieve this change for a better future.
Protesters waved shoes in anger during Mubarak’s speech.
Tomorrow is shaping up to be a day of mammoth demonstrations in Egypt, with questions being raised over how the military will react, based on earlier reports that they were expecting Mubarak to resign this evening.
“It looks like tomorrow the army will have to choose sides, the people or Mubarak,” noted writer Ian Lee in Cairo.
The army is expected to make an announcement shortly.
10:45am Foreign leaders are now giving their take on Mubarak’s latest actions:
“It is not immediately clear what powers are being handed over and what the full implications are. We think the solution to this has to be owned by the Egyptian people themselves,” said UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.
“All we want in the United Kingdom is for them to be able to settle their own differences in a peaceful and democratic way. That is why we have called from the beginning of this crisis for an urgent but orderly transition to a more broadly-based government. In the meantime we look to the Egyptian authorities to protect the right to peaceful protest.”
US presidential spokesperson Robert Gibbs announced that Obama watch Mubarak’s speech from Airforce One and he is heading back to Washington for a briefing with his national security council. An unnamed US administration official reportedly told CNN that Mubarak’s announcement was “not what we were told would happen, not what we wanted to happen.”
“The worries of the international community are rather bigger after this speech than before,” declared German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Even though it is the early hours of morning, the streets of Alexandria are apparently still filled with protesters, as is Tahrir Square. So far there has been no reports of violence since Mubarak’s speech.
10:30am Also, if you missed this earlier David Koch, ie. Kochie from Sunrise tweeted this morning while watching Mubarak’s speech: “Historic day in Egypt as Facebook generation ousts Mubarak. He even acknowledged the voice of Youth in his decision. Peaceful overthrow.” No, we’re not quite sure what Mubarak speech he was watching either.
Kochie was quick to come out with a disclaimer: “People chill out. We took speech live. It is historic. He is stepping down. Will not contest September. My point is it’s driven by youth.”
10:00 am “Once the speech was done, there was a mixture of anger, grief.. some broke down in tears, others started SCREAMING in anger,” Al Jazeera journalist Rawya Rageh explains how Tahrir Square reacted to Mubarak’s refusal to step aside as president. Rageh has just returned from Tahrir Square and is now tweeting updates of what happened there tonight.
Protesters in Tahrir were asking “where is the army, where is the army?” and chanting “tomorrow”, reports Rageh, suggesting that numbers of protesters could swell even further tomorrow. It is currently 1am in Cairo.
Pro-democracy activist Mona Seif just told Al Jazeera that she had “never seen [a] Tahrir crowd this angry.”
9:45am Is Egyptian vice president Omar Suleiman now technically the president of Egypt? Much debate is occurring over exactly what Mubarak announced a few hours ago regarding his presidency, partially hindered by the difficult in translation.
Egypt’s ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry, confirmed to CNN that Mubarak transferred all presidential power to Suleiman, but that Mubarak remains head of state. Mubarak was the “de jure (by law) president,” while Suleiman was the “de facto president.” Suleiman was “now undertaking all the authority of the presidency under the constitution,” said Shoukry.
This contradicts earlier reports saying Mubarak had only transferred minor power to Suleiman, but leaving Mubarak as head of state has calmed angry protesters.
“Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now”, tweeted leading dissident Mohamed ElBaradei just moments ago.
8:45am “Satisfied with what I have offered the nation in more than 60 years, I have announced I will stay with this post and that I will continue to shoulder my responsibilities,” announced Mubarak.
Protesters had gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to hear the expected speech, which was met with chants of “Get out, get out”. The Square was packed with roughly three million furious protesters to hear the speech, with thousands now moving out of the square towards the presidential palace, with other reports saying protesters are heading to state television headquarters. A map by the NY Times shows where the protests have occurred around Cairo in the last few weeks.
Mubarak will only transfer full power after the September election, will minor concessions will be given over to Vice President Omar Suleiman. Mubarek did announce some amendments to the constitution, mainly around laws involving terms of presidency and abandoning the contentious ’emergency’ law, of which the US has been publicly critical. However, Mubarak says these changes will only occur once Egypt is stable and pending other constitutional changes, meaning there is no guarantee that he will make amend those laws. Mubarak also noted that he would ignored “diktats from abroad.”
Mubarak’s announcement conflicts with earlier reports by Egyptian military, where officials said on state television that Mubarak will “meet protesters’ demands” and that the military supports the “legitimate demands of the people.” It will be interesting to see how the military react to the seething mass of angry protesters, since the Egyptian army were protecting the entrances to Tahrir Square.
The president is “siding with the legitimate demands of the people…[his actions] proves his awareness of the seriousness of the situations that Egyot is going through,” announced vice president Suleiman just moments ago, about half an hour after Mubarak’s speech. “The president has put the supreme interests of the country above anything else,” said Suleiman, as he spoke of Egypt’s need to “restore stability.”
Suleiman says that officials have met the demands of protesters, since “opening the door of dialogue and we have reached understanding,” but hinted more demands could be met in saying “the door is still open for more dialogue”.
Suleiman spoke of wanting liberty and democracy in Egypt and to fighting those with “agendas of destruction and terrorism” — one assumes a reference to the banned Muslim Brotherhood political party.
He also gave a final plea to the angry youth of Egypt to ignore outside influence. “Youth of egypt, young people and its heros, go back home, go back to work, the nation needs your efforts to build, develop and create. Do not listen to foreign TV and radios whose aims are to cause chaos… please listen to what your country tells you.”