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Egyptian Prime Minister Sharaf's conciliatory address triggers protesters' anger, swells protest ranks

A Monday night statement from Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf fails to meet the aspirations of demonstrators in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, with some mulling an escalation of protests

Hatem Maher, Tuesday 12 Jul 2011
Essam Sharaf
Views: 3481
Views: 3481

Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s latest statement has failed to placate protesters, who have vowed to continue sit-ins until their full demands are met.

Sharaf, who has come under intense criticism for what protesters brand his “late responses”, has drawn up a timetable to fulfil their demands but his latest effort was not enough to appease them.

The former Minister of Transportation said he would conduct a cabinet reshuffle within a week and change some governors before the end of July.

He also revealed that he has ordered the Minister of Interior, Mansour El-Essawy, quoted recently as saying he would not accept any intervention in his work, to remove individual police officers charged with killing demonstrators during the 18-day revolution which ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year authoritarian role.

“We will continue our sit-in until the regime goes on trial,” protesters on Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the revolution, chanted just few minutes after Sharaf’s statement was broadcast on television.

They also said they intended to march from Tahrir to the cabinet’s headquarters on Tuesday to voice their dissent.

Demonstrators in Alexandria and Suez -- where the families of martyrs are infuriated by what they believe is the persistent delaying of trials -- were equally angry, demanding the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) take swift action to meet their demands.

“Although this time he set some dates for fulfilling the demands, Sharaf’s statement was not detailed,” opposition figure and political analyst Hassan Nafaa said during a television interview.

“For example he said he would reshuffle the cabinet but he declined to state how many ministers would be dismissed. That so-called reshuffle might include just one minister.”

Presidential hopeful Hamdin Sabbahi, a frequent participant in Tahrir demonstrations, played down the role Sharaf plays in making new decisions. He said the matter is entirely in the hands of SCAF.

“Sharaf is no longer able to change anything, he doesn’t have the authority now,” said Sabbahi, set to run for Egypt’s presidency in elections later this year.

“SCAF are the ones who make decisions. Sharaf, whose statement was below the people’s expectations, is having his final test now. If he fails, he should resign from his post.”

Some protesters said they have considered escalating their demonstrations, suggesting that may halt transport on Cairo’s underground metro system.

Demonstrators on Tahrir have already shut down the Mogamma, Egypt’s largest administrative building, but say they will allow it to re-open on Wednesday and Thursday.

But 19 political groups, including the Revolution Youth Coalition and April 6 Youth Movement, said in a statement on Tuesday that they objected to the idea of ramping up protests.

“Egyptians were lauded for the most peaceful revolution the world has ever witnessed, which eventually forced dictator Mubarak to leave office. Such peaceful messages are more effective than any other means,” the groups said.

“We don’t want to be trapped by the attempts to spoil our revolution with some irresponsible acts, which would highly benefit the ongoing counter-revolution.

“Some people are doing their best to prompt ordinary Egyptians to hate revolutionaries and we don’t want to give them that chance.

“We want to stick to our peaceful means of protesting, including going on hunger strikes and conducting sit-ins to oblige the authorities to fulfil the revolution demands. We want keep our revolution white and peaceful,” they added.

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