The Egyptian uprising appears set for its second revival with pro-democracy activists in large numbers gathering yet again on Saturday at Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, despite a lethal Friday night crackdown.
Two people have been killed and 15 injured, after troops under the cover of darkness broke into Tahrir Square in the early hours on Saturday. Amateur video showed them firing in the air and using teargas to disperse hundreds who had remained at the square, after huge crowds of protesters, who had earlier assembled on Friday, had peacefully dispersed.
The protesters on Friday had served notice to the military to accelerate reforms and carry out a comprehensive institutional purge of remnants of the era of Hosni Mubarak, former President, who had been forced to quit on February 11. “We condemn the intentional slowness of the military council in meeting demands of the revolution and call on Egyptians to return to Tahrir Square and stay until Mubarak and his followers are arrested and tried,” read a statement of the coalition of youth groups, which had earlier spearheaded the anti-Mubarak protests.
The youth-coalition was airing the growing disenchantment with the Army in charge of ushering in transition to democracy.
“We want the Army and the system to be purged of all corrupt complicitous officials who want to stop the revolution in its tracks,” Reuters quoted Mohamed Noubi, a young Tahrir Square protester. On Saturday, some protesters were seen placing barbed wire around parts of the square, signalling their intent to dig in for the long haul.
Some of the leaders of the pro-democracy revolt appeared unprepared yet for a headlong confrontation with the military. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former IAEA chief and now a leading pro-reform advocate, called for a dialogue with the military. On his Twitter account on Saturday, he said: “Heartbreaking scenes at Tahrir. Continued trust between army and people vital to national unity. Dialogue is the only option.” Mr. ElBaradei has been persistent in his call that the military must share authority with a civilian component.
The military too did not appear willing for a head-on collision with the mainstream of protesters. On its Facebook page, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) said pro-Mubarak loyalists who had infiltrated the Tahrir crowd on Friday had forced the military's hand.
Stalemate in Libya
While the Egyptian uprising was grappling with substantial issues concerning a democratic transition, following Mr. Mubarak's exit, in neighbouring Libya, the protesters were still desperately searching for a formula that would lead to exit of Muammar Qadhafi, their ruler for 42 years. Stuck with a military stalemate, the focus on Libya has now shifted to a search for a “political solution” to end the crisis.
A team from the African Union is heading first to Tripoli and then to the opposition stronghold of Benghazi. South African President Jacob Zuma and other leaders from a high-level African Union panel are to meet on Saturday in Mauritania, Al Jazeera is reporting. They would then head for Libya to seek a ceasefire and establish a dialogue.
Elsewhere in the region, the killing of 27 protesters on Friday, in the city of Daara, is likely to yield to sustained pro-reform agitation in Syria, observers say. The dissidents in Syria are calling for the end of an archaic 1963 emergency law, reinforced by a demand for more political freedoms and an end to corruption.