Hosni Mubarak has stepped down, and Egyptian protesters are
jubilant. Weeks of demonstrations were 'defined by a spirit of
unity,' as President Obama said in his recent remarks. But as the
military takes over and Muslim Brotherhood leaders begin to speak
up, many questions remain.
After 18 days of heroic and determined protests, the crisis in
Egypt has led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak,
followed by, not surprisingly, unprecedented jubilation in the
streets. The BBC's Lyse Doucet reported from the midst of a euphoric
crowd in Tahrir Square: "There are people here who have stood here
for 18 days and have literally made history in their own country."
Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the defense minister and
commander-in-chief of the armed forces, is the head of the Higher
Military Council that has taken control in Egypt - and now de facto
head of state. Born in 1935, he was made minister of defense in
1991. He was appointed deputy prime minister on Jan. 29, amid
efforts to appease the protesters.
Hosni Mubarak's exit plan: Where do exiled leaders go?
A leading opposition figure, Mohamed ElBaradei, declared: "This
is the greatest day of my life." The Nobel laureate, like everyone
celebrating on the streets, said that Egypt had been "liberated
after decades of repression." He said further that he expects a
"beautiful" transition of power in his country.
Key questions for transition
There is no denying that history has already been made by the
power of the people in Egypt. Many questions, however, remain during
this crucial phase of transition. Former Egyptian Army General Samah
Seif El Yazal has told the BBC: "There are two directions the Higher
Military Council can go. The first is to ask the existing government
to run the country for a transitional period of perhaps a year. The
other option is for the military to run the country by committee. We
are very anxious to hear from them about what they intend to do."
The two best-organized forces during the current crisis have been
the armed forces and the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter, however,
has not been able to play a leading role, largely because of the
earlier hesitations of its senior leadership. The leaders hesitated
at least for two reasons. One is their aversion to and suspicion of
the secular forces. The other is their initial pessimistic estimate
of the level of anger and energy of the masses, and their staying
It is important to understand that this popular revolt is not
about Islam - let alone an Islamic jihad. It is clearly about
political freedom and basic economic needs.
During my most recent visit to the country as an international
adviser to a Cairo-based UN project on Arab Trade and Human
Development, I noticed signs of unease among top academics and
government officials in spite of the relatively high rate of growth
and talks of export diversification during the last few years. …