Frustration with army, govt mounts in Egypt
Cairo, July 10, 2011
Egyptian activists vowed on Sunday to stay camped in Cairo's Tahrir Square, accusing the army rulers of failing to sweep out corruption, end the use of military courts and swiftly try those who killed protesters.
Anger has been rising against what many Egyptians see as the reluctance of the military council to deliver on the demands of protesters who ousted Hosni Mubarak in February. They include speeding up the pace of Mubarak's trial over the killings of demonstrators, which is scheduled to start August 3.
A speech by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf on Saturday that promised action but was thin on detail only stoked frustrations.
One speaker in Tahrir, the symbolic centre of the revolt that toppled Mubarak, said Sharaf deserved a "red card," the soccer term for being sent off. Youth groups on Facebook called for stepping up action this week.
Analysts said the army-appointed government needed to act quickly if it wanted to avoid a further escalation even if some of the aspirations for change were unreasonably high.
Hundreds of people were in Tahrir Square, in the heart of Cairo, by midday. Activists said more would join, including some heading in from Suez where there have been protests since Wednesday after police officers detained over the killing of protesters were granted bail.
A sign reading: "Civil disobedience until further notice" was pinned up outside the vast 'Mogamma' administrative building in Tahrir. Protesters blocked the main roads to the square and set up security barricades.
Employees and some who made the trip to finish paperwork at the administrative building -- stood arguing with protesters that they had jobs to do -- after being barred from entry.
Makeshift tents were set up in the centre of the square, where some protesters have stayed since a mass rally on Friday dubbed "Revolution First" that demanded swifter reforms. Some chanted for Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi to go.
Tantawi, who now leads the military council in charge of Egypt, was Mubarak's defence minister for two decades. The army has pledged to hand power to civilians soon and has scheduled a parliamentary election for September.
"The entire military council served Mubarak and the entire Cabinet is nothing but the remnants of his regime," a longtime critic of the former president, Abdel Hamid Qandil, said.
"We have been manipulated for almost six months. If our demands are not met, there will be further escalation," said a 37-year-old protester, who identified himself only as Mohamed.
An Egyptian judge said on Sunday that new criminal cases would be deferred to other courts to free up judges reviewing cases linked to corruption and the death of protesters, in line with Sharaf's call to expedite protester demands.
On Friday, when protesters decided to continue camping out, not everyone backed the call to stay in the square. "Until now, our demands have not been met. The blood of the martyrs has still not dried. If we do not stand for them now, we do not deserve to be Egyptian," Khaled Yousef, a film director and activist, said.
Others disagreed. "We cannot afford this. He's rich. He can talk about camping out. We have jobs," one woman in a headscarf told another as she listened. Her friend replied: "It's one thing to have demands, and it is another to bring our lives to a halt." Both left.
After Sharaf's speech, the Revolution Youth Coalition called for speeding up trials, hiking the minimum wage, stopping trials of civilians in military courts and reforming the Interior Ministry, criticised by Egyptians for the rough manner police handled protests during and since the uprising. - Reuters