Obama lauds Egypt’s Gandhian revolution, warns of tough days ahead (Second Lead)

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Saturday, February 12, 2011

WASHINGTON - As the Egyptian people crafted history by ending through a nonviolent Gandhian revolution three decades of Hosni Mubarak’s iron rule, US President Barack Obama warned of “tough days ahead” for its key ally in the Middle East.

The end of Mubarak’s rule Friday in an explosion of popular protests that began Jan 25 was not “the end of Egypt’s transition. It’s a beginning”, he said in a six-minute speech from the White House hours after Mubarak stepped down Friday.

“The people of Egypt have spoken,” Obama said. “Their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same.”

Hosni Mubarak stepped down Friday as the president of Egypt following an uprising that began Jan 25 in Cairo’s tahriri Square and quickly spread across the country. The 18 days of vehement protests ended Mubarak’s nearly 30-year rule.

Urging all sides in Egypt’s rapidly unfolding political drama to ensure a peaceful transition to democracy, Obama warned that there are “tough days ahead” for Egypt.

But he also declared his confidence in the ability of the Egyptian people to “find the answers” they are seeking “peacefully, constructively and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks”.

“Nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day,” the US president declared, promising that his administration is ready to provide assistance to America’s long-time Middle Eastern ally.

Obama praised the Egyptian military for acting responsibly over the past three weeks and urged it to help ensure a credible transition that, among other things, ends emergency rule, ensures the enactment of key legal reforms and brings “all of Egypt’s voices to the table”.

“The wheel of history turned at a blinding pace” the past few weeks and disproved the notion that “justice is gained by violence”, Obama concluded.

Obama, a self-confessed follower of Mahatma Gandhi and his ideals, heard echoes of history in the way Egyptians brought about change through non-violence like Gandhi “leading his people down the path of justice”.

“Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence,” Obama noted.

“For in Egypt, it was the moral force of non-violence - not terrorism, not mindless killing - but non-violence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more,” Obama said.

“And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can’t help but hear the echoes of history - echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice,” Obama said.

“As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, ‘There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom’,” Obama recalled.

“Those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square, and the entire world has taken note.”

Obama spent part of the afternoon huddled with his national security team in the White House Situation Room, CNN reported citing Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Obama was in a meeting in the Oval Office when he learned that Mubarak was stepping down, Vietor noted. The president watched television coverage of the events in Egypt for several minutes afterward, Vietor said.

The US president did not talk to Mubarak or Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman before the announcement of Mubarak’s resignation, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Gibbs, however, also appeared to indicate that administration officials may have known Mubarak was stepping down before the official announcement was made in Cairo.

Gibbs, expressing concern over relations between Egypt and Israel, said it’s important for the next government in Cairo to recognise the Camp David Accords.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

Filed under: Diplomacy

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