Egypt's Military Lays Down Ultimatum As Unrest Spreads
(This post was updated at 2:05 p.m.)
Egypt's military has given President Mohammed Morsi and anti-government protesters 48 hours to resolve their differences, failing which it has threatened to put forward "a roadmap" for the country.
It's not clear what that means or whether the generals will take over, which the statement put forth Monday indicated they had no interest in doing. But many Egyptians — for and against the president — are interpreting it to mean that Morsi will be forced to step down like Mubarak was in 2011.
Monday's ultimatum comes amid a second day of massive protests against Morsi's government: A Muslim Brotherhood office was ransacked in Cairo and parts of it set on fire. Meanwhile, five Cabinet ministers as well as the foreign minister reportedly resigned, according to the state news agency.
Here's the military's full statement:
"Armed Forces asserts the following:
"The Armed Forces will not take part in the policy making and will not accept a role outside of the democratic framework set by the people.
"The nation's national security is under threat following the latest developments, each side should exhibit responsibility.
"The Armed Forces had previously expected this instability, had given a week for the various forces to reach consensus and end the crisis, but this week passed with no action, which led the people to go on the streets, to express their freedom in a manner that impressed the local and international community.
"Wasting more time will not result except in more polarization and conflict. The people of Egypt have suffered for so long with no one to save them. Accordingly, the Armed Forces feels obligated to embrace the will of the people who proved they are ale to do the impossible.
"The Armed Forces renews its call and give the political forces a 48 hour ultimatum as a last chance to carry the burdens of this historic situation that the nation is going through.
"The Armed Forces calls upon everyone that if the people's demands aren't set within the timeframe, based on its historic and national obligation it will have to declare a roadmap and procedures that oversee to include all mainstreams including the youth who started this glorious revolution without excluding anyone."
The resignation of the four ministers is not seen as a major blow to Morsi. Al-Jazeera, citing a senior official, said the four ministers were the tourism minister, the communication and IT minister, the minister for legal and parliamentary affairs, and the environment minister.
As we reported Sunday, millions of protesters took to the streets this weekend calling for Morsi to resign. Their demand came on the first anniversary of his government's rule. The demonstrators have given Morsi until 5 p.m. local time Tuesday to step down and have vowed a campaign of civil disobedience if he doesn't go. Morsi insists he will not step down.
"If we changed someone in office who [was elected] according to constitutional legitimacy — well, there will be people opposing the new president too, and a week or a month later they will ask him to step down," he told The Guardian newspaper.
Presidential spokesman Omar Amer said at a Sunday news conference that Morsi "made mistakes, and he ... is in the process of fixing these mistakes."
Morsi's backers in the Muslim Brotherhood have also staged their own gatherings to show their support for the president. Al-Jazeera reports that "they are full of praise for his first year in office, insisting that the president has strengthened civilian rule in Egypt and done his best to manage a failing economy." But the protesters, who have united under the name Tamarod — Arabic for rebellion — say the economy has gotten worse since Morsi took office.
Protesters on Monday stormed the national headquarters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. Parts of it were set on fire.
At least 16 people have died in the violence since Sunday. Nearly 800 people have been injured. The BBC reports:
"On Monday morning, the protesters stormed the headquarters and began throwing objects out of broken windows. One protester was seen removing parts of the signage, while another waved an Egyptian flag from a window. Later, people began walking out carrying office equipment. ...
"Many protesters accuse the president of putting the Brotherhood's interests ahead of the country's as a whole.
"Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad criticised the security forces for failing to protect the building and warned that the movement was considering action to defend itself."
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.