All is quiet on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, the epicentre of the last week’s clashes between Egyptian police and protestors calling for the end of military rule. Beginning early Thursday morning, military personnel secured the area as protestors retreated to Tahrir Square.
Protestors looked on while military cranes erected a barricade on the corner of Mohamed Mahmoud and cordoned off the Ministry of Interior with barbed wire. After nearly five days of anti-military protests, which left almost 40 dead, Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is still very much in charge.
Although the SCAF sacked the civilian cabinet and expressed their regret for the week’s violence, they have refused to meet any of the protestors’ major demands.
At a press conference on Thursday, General Mamdouh Shaheen rebuked them. “We will not relinquish power because a slogan-chanting crowd said so,” Shaheen said.
The military placed the blame for the recent violence at the feet of the civilian cabinet and tasked Mubarak-era PM Kamal Ganzouri with forming a new government. This did little to appease the protestors remaining in Tahrir.
“We didn’t come to Tahrir to replace the cabinet,” Mahmoud, a 22-year-old activist tells me. “We came here to demand the military step aside.”
Protestors have vowed to stay in the square even as Egyptians head to the polls this Monday for their first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections. Although the SCAF has pledged that elections will go on as planned, there is widespread uncertainty about whether the incoming civilian government will be able to wrest control from an increasingly authoritarian military.
Meanwhile the last week’s violence has provoked a strong reaction from human rights advocates. On Tuesday, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the SCAF had “failed completely” during the transitional period and Amnesty International released a blistering report detailing the SCAF’s increasingly authoritarian bent.
The week’s protests have divided Egypt’s political parties. While many liberals and leftists believe that ongoing protests are necessary to keep up pressure on the SCAF, the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies have refused to endorse the sit-in. But among the protestors in Tahrir Square, there is no doubt that the military can no longer be trusted.
“I want a government that will have full power to achieve the revolution goals,…