History is made. You are witnessing an event you may rarely see in your lifetime. A nation erupting in freedom.
News from Egypt that Omar Suleiman has made a 20-second broadcast to the nation announcing that Hosni Mubarak has resigned as president and passed his powers to the army. No word from the army yet on how it plans to proceed or what it plans to do. So while hundreds of thousands are cheering in Tahrir Square celebrating with justifiable glee their achievement, it ain’t over yet. Not by a long shot. As commentators pointed out on NPR, the military, while respected by the majority of Egyptians, is still a creature of the regime. It remains to be seen whether the military has gotten the message that the people want a full transition to democracy.
This is a dangerous time for everyone in Egypt. If the army refuses to get the message and accept the will of the people then we will enter the next phase of this process and could still end up with a similar confrontation to the one Egypt endured till this morning’s announcement of the Mubarak resignation. The Revolution’s leadership too will have to tread delicately so as not to overstep and alienate the army, in whose hands power now seems to rest.
So we have a soft coup, in which the military is in power. It is important that this remain a soft coup and that the military not assume permanent control. In the coming hours and days, Egyptians will be watching closely for signals that the army has gotten the message and is beginning a process of consultation with oppositions parties and forces to begin a transition to a new government that derives from the will of the governed rather than the élite.
Yesterday, on the BBC I heard an analyst note an amazing fact that in the 5,000 years of Egyptian history this is the first time that the people have chosen their own government. It may be the first time that an Arab nation has chosen its own government.
Mubarak has left Cairo for his home in Sharm el Sheikh earning a well-deserved “rest.”
Now we enter stage 2 of the Egyptian Revolution. Despite the fact that the ‘fat lady’ has sung, it ain’t over. It’s just begun. Let’s hope the army will get the message and act as an honest broker and not attempt to retain power or retain their position of privilege.
This article first appeared at Tikun Olam.