Saturday, February 11, 2012


On first anniversary of Mubarak's ouster, unease reigns in Egypt

Cairo (CNN) -- Hosni Mubarak's fall from power a year ago stunned the world -- three decades of iron-clad rule ended in 17 days by an unexpected groundswell of popular protests.

A banner headline in the Al-Ahram newspaper said: "The people have toppled the regime."

But in the year that followed, Egyptians increasingly realized that what they ousted was one man, not the military that stood behind him. And they grew bitterly frustrated at what they perceive as the slow pace of change.

Saturday brought another reminder of the powers that be in Egypt as America's top military officer was in Cairo to meet with his Egyptian counterparts.

On the table for discussion was the fate of 16 Americans who are among 43 foreigners working for civil society institutions who are to be tried in Egypt for receiving illegal foreign funding.

And possibly the fate of U.S. military aid, conditioned now on the progress of Egypt's transition to democracy.
Egypt's NGO crackdown
U.S.-Egypt ties strained

The United States viewed the legal proceedings against the foreigners as a crackdown, another sign that autocracy has hardly departed Egypt.

Many of the nation's citizenry would probably agree.

On the first anniversary of Mubarak's departure, the plan was to voice their frustration, though Saturday came and went without the ceremony that was anticipated on such a day.

Activists kicked off a general strike, hoping for the kind of large protests that made Tahrir Square a familiar name. But the demonstrations were scattered and light.

The Egypt Revolutionaries' Alliance, comprised of democratic and secular political groups, called for the immediate dismantling of the interim government and immediate presidential elections.

It also demanded the dismissal of the prosecutor general, and a purge and and overhaul of the Interior Ministry that came to be despised during last year's revolt and again last week as anger mounted over a deadly stampede at a soccer match.

The alliance said a committee should be formed to to investigate any crimes by Egypt's new rulers while revolutionary tribunals should try former regime figures.

The alliance reached out to colleges, schools, factories and labor unions to join them in their strike.

The next step, said member Rami Shaath, will be civil disobedience. Don't pay taxes or government bills.

The armed forces council came down hard on the strike, saying it "serves those interests of parties aiming for the destruction of Egypt and is a tool brought to Egypt from abroad."

Council leaders Lt. Gen Sami Enan and Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, meanwhile, sat down for talks with Dempsey.

Dempsey's spokesman, Col. Dave Lapan, said they discussed a wide range of issues, including the nongovernmental organizations.

Egyptian authorities carried out 17 raids on the offices of 10 organizations, including the U.S.-based Freedom House, National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. Among those going to court is Sam LaHood, the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The Egyptians said the pro-democracy organizations had received illegal foreign financing and were operating without a proper license. But some of the groups had been tacitly operating for some time in Egypt without permission, even under Mubarak.

Washington threatened to cut off the $1.3 billion in military assistance it gives Egypt every year.

In doing so, the United States escalated the crisis that is now testing its alliance with its Arab ally.

Lapan gave no details of the meetings.

Outside, unease reigned on the streets of Cairo and beyond.

The Egyptians served as role models for their Libyan neighbors. They look now to a Syria in flames and flickers of discontent elsewhere and can take heart that they played a role in inspiring people to stand up for freedom.

But a year since their own revolution was declared victorious, the euphoria has dimmed.

The general strike is open ended. More may take to the streets Sunday, which unlike Saturday is a working day in the Muslim world.

Organizers have not given up hope. They are optimistic that momentum will build as long as a military regime rules Egypt.

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