Thousands rally for Egypt military chief's ouster
AFP | Jul 13, 2011
CAIRO: Thousands of Egyptians rallied on Tuesday for the downfall of Egypt's military leader, as anger mounts over the army's handling of a transition from the country's former autocratic regime.
Five months after a popular uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak, activists fear their revolution is in jeopardy and accuse the ruling military council of keeping an absolute grip on power that blocks the path to democracy.
Protesters have been camping out in Cairo's Tahrir Square, in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and in the canal city of Suez since mass nationwide rallies on Friday to demand political change.
"The people want the fall of the Field Marshall," chanted demonstrators in Cairo, in reference to Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's longtime defence minister who now heads the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
"Down, down with the Field Marshall," thousands chanted in Suez where the army erected barbed wire and formed a wall to block any attempt to reach the strategic Suez Canal.
Tahrir Square was bubbling with energy tonight, with speakers on podiums and a concert planned, amid tight security overseen by the demonstrators.
The army, which was hailed as heroes at the start of the January 25 uprising for not shooting protesters, has come under fire for using Mubarak-era tactics to stifle dissent and maintain an unchallenged hold on power.
But the council insisted it will not cede control over the transition.
"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces stresses that it will not renounce its role in managing the affairs of the country during this critical time in Egypt's history," SCAF member Mohsen al-Fangary said in a speech broadcast on state television.
In a stern address, Fangary warned those who "deviate from the peaceful approach during demonstrations and sit-ins and obstruct the institutions of the state."
But Fangary's speech only furthered the protesters' resolve to pursue their sit-ins, they said.
"They think their warnings will drive us away from Tahrir, they obviously don't understand the revolution," said protester Mohammed Hamdy.
The protests -- dubbed the revolution's "second wave" -- have put Prime Minister Essam Sharaf under increasing pressure amid accusations he is too weak to face the military junta.