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Egyptians Celebrate Mubarak Departure, Look to Future

Egyptians celebrate on Tahrir Square in Cairo, February 12, 2011
Egyptians celebrate on Tahrir Square in Cairo, February 12, 2011

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Egyptians are cleaning up after celebrations that followed the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's leader of nearly 30 years. The military, which assumed control of the country,  on Saturday said Mr. Mubarak's Cabinet will remain in place for now while Egypt transitions to a democratic system. The military also vowed to "remain committed to all regional and international" accords including peace treaties, confirming Egypt's landmark 1979 peace treaty with Israel would remain intact.

Saturday was a day of cleaning at Tahrir Square and throughout Central Cairo even as celebrations were going on.  Groups of people went to the streets and to the square with brooms and dustpans in hand to help clear up the filth and debris that built up during the 18 days of demonstrations.   

Some wore banners on their clothing that said “yesterday I was a demonstrator, today I am building Egypt.”

24-year-old architect Rania Tamoum says it was important for her to show she wants to be a part of the rebuilding process.  “It's our country. It's our responsibility, so we have to clean it,” she said.

Tamoum joined thousands of others in celebrating Hosni Mubarak's resignation.   She said she has not thought about a blueprint for the future, since her only goal while demonstrating was to see Mr. Mubarak go.

“Actually, I cannot say what clearly I want.  I can say that I want a better Egypt. I really want a new government.  We don't want any of the icons or the symbols of the old government,” said Tamoum.

The mood was jovial Saturday, even as celebrations were winding down.  A group of men sang an Islamic song, as they walked off the square. Some people began taking down the tents where they have been camping out, and preparing to go home.  Some are staying.  

Abdel Hamed Taha, an imam, said Mr. Mubarak's departure was only the beginning of the changes he wants to see.  He will remain on the square.

He says he is at the square to follow up on what he says was the victory of the revolution.  He said demonstrators have achieved only one of the demands, and he wants a dialogue with the army.

The transition is now in the hands of the military, which has promised to hand over power to an elected civilian government. The demonstrators demanded  free and transparent elections in which all groups - including the banned Islamist Muslim Brotherhood can participate.  They also want a lifting of emergency laws, and a re-writing of the constitution.

A spokesman for Egypt's supreme council of the armed forces on Saturday said it has asked the existing Cabinet to stay in a caretaker capacity. He also said Egypt will respect its existing international agreements that include a peace treaty with Israel.

Over the past few days, the army has emerged as heroic in the eyes of many Egyptians for not cracking down on the demonstrators.  On Saturday, tanks stayed in their positions throughout central Cairo. People took pictures with soldiers, and children handed them flowers.  

Now, Egyptians are counting on the military to take the country to the next step, and deliver on the promises of a change for the better.

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