Obama, world leaders salute Egyptians

U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are praising the courage of pro-democracy protesters who succeeded in the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Speaking in Washington on Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama said the departure of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is 'not the end of Egypt's transition; it's a beginning.' ((Jason Reed/Reuters))

U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders praised the courage of pro-democracy protesters who succeeded Friday in the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day," Obama said in Washington. 

He said it was important that the military ensure a credible transition by protecting Egyptian rights, lifting emergency laws, changing the constitution, and laying out a path to fair and free elections.

"This is not the end of Egypt's transition; it's a beginning," he said.

Egyptians and supporters celebrate the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak outside the country's embassy in London on Friday. ((Luke MacGregor/Reuters))

"This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us and they have done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence," the president said.

"For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence — not terrorism, not mindless killing, but nonviolence, moral force — that bent the arc of history toward justice once more."

Other leaders around the world were similarly hopeful.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada respects Mubarak's decision to step down and that the future is up to Egyptians.

"Canada will continue to support Egypt in implementing meaningful democratic and economic reforms," Harper said in a statement. 

Are we safer?

Janice Stein, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto: I'm absolutely convinced that we are safer. Egypt exported al-Qaeda along with Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world in large part because there was no safe way you could express dissent. You couldn't join a political party that was opposed to this regime. You couldn't write an editorial, you couldn't write a letter to the editor. As space opens up for people to do politics, there's less and less incentive to go underground. I think this is a black day for al-Qaeda.

Ashraf Hegazy, The Dubai Initiative, Harvard University: I couldn't agree more. People who can determine their own fate, who get a voice in government, in their daily lives, rarely have to go to extreme lengths and support extremists. They only really do that when there's no other option.

Source: CBC's The National

"We will also continue to encourage and support Egypt's efforts to promote regional stability and peace, including with Israel, as well as continued respect for peace treaties in the Middle East."

Egypt's Ambassador to Canada said Mubarak's resignation represents a sea change in his country. Wael Aboulmagd told CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon there is "no going back" to a time when the people don't have a say.  He said Stephen Harper's and other world leaders' statements on Mubarak's departure were in the right direction.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference: "Today is a day of great joy. We are all witness to a historic change. I share the joy of the people of Egypt, with the millions of people on the streets of Egypt."

EU salutes protesters

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Egypt had a "precious moment of opportunity" to begin building a democratic society.

"What has happened today should only be the first step," he said. "Those who now run Egypt have a duty to reflect the wishes of the Egyptian people."

The European Union saluted the protesters and said Mubarak had appropriately bowed to the building public pressure.

Protesters in Cairo cheer news that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resigned. ((Reuters))

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Mubarak "has listened to the voices of the Egyptian people and has opened the way to faster and deeper reforms."

Ashton said "it is important now that the dialogue is accelerated leading to a broad-based government."

Jerzy Buzek, the president of the European Parliament, said the Egyptian people clearly want all remnants of the old Mubarak regime to be dismantled.

"Europe will measure the next steps in the fulfilment of the people's demand by repealing the emergency laws and by ending all intimidation of journalists, human rights defenders or political dissidents," he said.

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden said it was a historic day for the people of Egypt.

"I am pleased that President Mubarak has heard and heeded the voice of the Egyptian people, who have called for change," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat. "It is crucial that Mubarak's departure be an orderly one and that it leads to true democracy for Egypt, including free, fair and open elections."

Who should worry?

Janice Stein, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto: I don’t think there’s an authoritarian leader in this region who’s going to sleep well tonight. But clearly Yemen, Algeria, even Jordan, where there was unprecedented criticism of the queen this week by Bedouin tribal leaders. I think in the Gulf we will see pre-emptive moves by many of these leaders to push ahead with elections. In the West Bank and in Gaza, we can anticipate some of this too. This will have a huge impact throughout the region.

Source: CBC's The National

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he wanted to see "free and fair elections" and called for a "transparent, orderly and peaceful transition" in Egypt.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said he would not be commenting Friday.

Speaking at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in Toronto, Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said the hard part of developing a democratic state in Egypt really begins now.

"A lot of work needs to be done to ensure that the change that is coming is a positive change …. That's going to be a lot of hardship, but it's worth it in the end, as we all know."

It's not yet clear what brought about Mubarak's change of heart from Thursday night, but it appears the president lost the support of the army, Rae suggested.

In Ottawa, Liberal MP Martha Hall-Findlay said she's hoping for a peaceful transition, but that it was too early to say whether the people of Egypt will achieve democracy.

She said the people now making decisions in Egypt must be encouraged to give the people what they want and deserve.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said Egyptians are an inspiration to the world and that the Canadian government should use all diplomatic means to ensure that the coming changes are legitimate and acceptable to Egyptians.

Date shared with Mandela's release

A South African official noted that Mubarak's resignation happened exactly 21 years after Nelson Mandela's release from prison.

"One wants to be cautious about linking events, but one can't escape the symbolic importance of this day and the release of Mandela and how that ushered in a new process for South Africa," said Ayanda Ntsaluba, the director general of South Africa's Foreign Affairs Department.

"Let's hope this happy coincidence will also one day make the Egyptian people look back and say this indeed was the beginning of better times in Egypt."

With files from The Associated Press