The Power of the People of Egypt

By Duane Shank 02-11-2011

After 18 days of ever-growing protests, Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman went on state television with a terse announcement:

In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country.

Coming less than 24 hours after last evening's speech by Mubarak in which he refused to step down, the announcement of his resignation set off a jubilant celebration in Cairo's Tahrir Square and around the country:

Protesters swarmed army tanks that had been deployed to keep order, banged drums, blew whistles, and frantically waved the Egyptian flag in celebration. They danced in circles and chanted. Two men dropped to their knees and began to pray as soon as the news was announced.

Many questions remain. How long will the military stay in power? What process will be developed for democratic elections?

But one thing is clear: A small group of dedicated, disciplined people can provide the spark that ignites hundreds of thousands of people in a mass movement that can topple an entrenched dictator. Egypt now joins the Philippines, eastern Europe, and others in showing the world the power of nonviolence. Thanks to the brave and determined people of Egypt, authoritarian governments around the world are less secure today.

Follow continuing developments on Al Jazeera Live, and on Twitter at #Jan25 and #Tahrir.

Duane Shank is senior policy advisor at Sojourners.

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