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The protests in Egypt

Jan 31, 2011, 11:13 AM

Since protests started in Egypt almost a week ago, life in Cairo has not been the same again. Angry protesters, who are following the footsteps of those in Tunisia, are calling for an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year-long rule. They are expressing their anger at the government for the poverty, repression and corruption in the North African region's most populous nation.

The unrest in Egypt follows an uprising in Tunisia two weeks ago which toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.

The Tunisian upheaval began with anger over rising food prices, high unemployment and official corruption - problems which have also left many people in Egypt feeling frustrated and resentful of their leadership.

But it seems President Mubarak is showing no sign of relinquishing power. He sacked his entire cabinet and appointed a vice president on Saturday for the first time in his 30 years rule. This development came as more protesters poured out into the streets in defiance of a military-imposed curfew.

President Mubarak himself has not been helping matters with his ambivalent posture. Thinking that this would ease mounting protest, President Mubarak also appointed a new Prime Minister. As if this is not enough, the army imposed a night curfew. All of this is political manoeuvering by President Mubarak, 82, to continue clinging on to power. From the look of things, the people are now recognizing that they have rights and freedoms of choice in the way they are governed.

As a citizen of Egypt, President Mubarak has every right to be a President. But the issue now is the voice of the citizenry, who are protesting and calling on him to cede power. Leaders, especially those in Africa, must learn to respect the voice of their citizens because it is those citizens who voted them into office. After 30 years in power, if Egyptians say they are fed-up with him, President Mubarak should leave, for God's sake.

That way, he will save Egyptians from violence and unnecessary killings, as already seen happening since the protests began. Waiting until the last minute will do more harm than good to his people, especially women and children, who are the most vulnerable in such situations.

No matter what, President Mubarak should spare Egyptians the shame and trauma of countless killings and looting of innocent people. He should have read the writings on the wall, and note that today or tomorrow he will surely leave the presidential office.

"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal."

Martin Luther King, Jr.