Last Updated: Fri Feb 11, 2011 17:36 pm (KSA) 14:36 pm (GMT)

Google's Ghonim says army statement "positive step"

Ghonim created fury for "mission accomplished" calls  
Ghonim created fury for "mission accomplished" calls

Google Inc. executive Wael Ghonim, whose social-media expertise helped trigger the anti-government protests in Egypt for 18 days, said the army's second statement was "positive" and a "step in the right direction."

"We demand that as a national institution, the army ensures a serious honorable step down of President Mubarak and that he will not return to power under any circumstances," said Ghonim, who was detained by state security for 12 days and is a member of a group calling itself the "Youth of Jan. 25 revolution."

He said the army statement promises to guarantee the implementation of constitutional reform and help the transition to democracy is a positive step and provides some comfort to protesters.

"These guarantees have to be clear and bound by a timeframe because there is a lack of confidence between the people and the current regime," Ghonim said.

Ghonim, speaking to Al Arabiya, said protesters need to unite their demands and the army should take "clear and fast steps toward reforms."

He warned that an atmosphere of distrust prevails and a complete loss of confidence could lead to chaos. "There should be direct communication between the leaders of youth movements, the Wise Men committee and the Military Council," he said.

The young activist underlined the importance of cracking down on all the corrupt people who have seized the country's fortunes along the past 30 years.

He added that neither him nor any of his companions will enter into a war with media channels that deliberately mislead the protesters.

"Mission accomplished"

Ghonim, who emerged as a prominent voice of Egyptian protests against President Hosni Mubarak, created a state of fury among protesters in Tahrir Square after calling for calm on Al Arabiya following Mubarak's speech on the early hours of Friday.

"I had some doubts that the reforms were illusive, but it is now clear that they are taken seriously," he told Al Arabiya.

"I have big confidence that the gains we have gathered so far would not be wasted and there won't be any more dirty tricks," Ghonim said, adding that "in case of manipulation, protests will return again."

When news first broke that President Mubarak was about to step down, the mood on Twitter was jubilant.

"Mission accomplished. Thanks to all the brave young Egyptians," Ghonim, who became an unlikely hero of the uprising, posted on his Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/Ghonim).

"People insanely cheerfull," posted an Egyptian blogger known as Sandmonkey. "There isn't an empty inch in Tahrir."

But then came the doubts. The powerful military which has dominated Egypt since toppling the monarchy in 1952 was perhaps, they said, simply reasserting its authority by announcing it was taking control of the nation, while sacrificing Mubarak.

"Er .... coup?" journalist and blogger Issandr el-Amrani asked on his Twitter feed.

"Mubarak may be done, but the army is likely to hang on. It's a military dominated regime. Mubarak was their steward for the last 30 years," Steven Cook from the Council on Foreign Relations commented.

"Will people be satisfied under mil rule? This could create splits among the opposition, and that is probably what the army is hoping for," wrote Michael Hanna from the Century Foundation on his Twitter feed.

"Is this to head off real transition + consolidate power within mil state? Demands should focus on civilian national unity gov for transition," he wrote.

Twitter gathering momentum

In a measure of quite how influential social media has become, the tweets from Cairo became more questioning as the instant debate on Twitter gathered momentum.

Within hours, the protesters were already adapting to a new reality which might see Mubarak leaving, but replaced by another military-backed government.

Ghonim, after being criticized for his earlier "Mission Accomplished" tweet by others in the real-time discussion, appeared to backtrack.

"Guys, dont do much speculations for now. Just wait and see," he wrote in an updated post.

"We didn't fight and sacrifice all of this, so as to have the army, which is ruling us from 1952, remains in power!" wrote 3arabawy.

"Dear Egyptian army, be like the Egyptian people and surprise everybody by choosing the civilian state choice," wrote Zeinobia.

Psychologists would say authorities control crowds by pushing them in one direction or another on the assumption people can be made to respond as groups -- and usually those groups take a more extreme position than the individuals involved.

Yet the Twitter posts had everybody behaving as individuals.

Within hours, people were trying to explain why the protest movement that wanted Mubarak to leave would not be satisfied with his replacement by another military-backed ruler.

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