The armed forces have announced the removal of Mohamed Morsi just a year after he was elected president.
Defence Minister Major General Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi read a statement announcing the removal of Morsi on Wednesday evening.
“We hoped for a national consensus to draw a roadmap for the future providing the people with trust and stability… however, the president’s speech on Tuesday and before the 48 hour ultimatum ended did not meet the demands and ambitions of the people, which led the armed forces, based on its national and historic responsibility, to consult political, national and youth figures without eliminating anyone,” the statement read.
Attendees at a meeting with Al-Sisi agreed on a roadmap that includes preliminary steps “to establish a strong cohesive Egyptian society.” These steps include the suspension of the current constitution; the swearing in as temporary head of state, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC); early presidential elections; the formation of a caretaker government; and the formation of an inclusive committee to review the proposed constitutional amendments on the temporarily suspended constitution.
The statement asked the SCC to ratify the parliamentary elections law in preparation for parliamentary elections, called for freedom of the media, the empowerment of youth and their inclusion in the decision-making process, and the formation of a national reconciliation committee.
The statement emphasised the armed forces’ desire to remain aloof from politics, while saying they could not turn a blind eye to the calls of the people.
According to its statement, the army had exerted direct and indirect efforts during the last few months to contain the internal crisis and hold a national reconciliation meeting between all political groups including the presidency since November 2012.
These efforts started with calling for a national dialogue which was welcomed by all political groups but rejected by the presidency at the last minute; since then the army has put forward several initiatives it said.
The statement revealed that the general command of the armed forces had met Morsi on 22 June in Al-Qubba Palace where it presented its vision and announced “its rejection of insults to national and religious institutions of the state and terrorizing the people.”
The statement called on Egyptians to adhere to peaceful protests and avoid violence, warning that they would cooperate with Ministry of Interior personnel against any violation of peacefulness.
Al-Sisi expressed deep appreciation for military personnel, police forces and judges for their sacrifices in safeguarding Egypt and Egyptians.
Al-Sisi’s statement was followed by several statements from leading religious and political figures.
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb said he supported early presidential elections and announced support for the roadmap. “It was clear that we had to choose between two bitter choices,” he said.
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II said the roadmap was for resolving the current crisis and that it did not exclude any groups.
“We gathered around the flag of Egypt,” he said.
The pope’s speech was followed by opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei’s who also voiced his support for the roadmap. “The roadmap is a correction of the path of the 2011 Revolution… it is a response to the demands of the people,” he said.
Galal Morra, the Salafi Al-Nour Party’s leading figure, stated that his party supported the army to prevent a civil war in the country after the authorities failed to respond to the peoples’ demands.
Mohamed Abdel Aziz, founding member of Tamarod rebel campaign, also spoke in favour of the army’s roadmap.
“Supporting the will of the people is not a military coup,” Abdel Aziz said. “It’s a national duty.”
The June 30 Front, initially launched by the Tamarod movement, had offered a roadmap for the phase which followed the hypothetical removal of Morsi. The roadmap involved choosing a prime minister to take over presidential powers and form a new cabinet. The Front’s roadmap would have also seen the head of the SCC sworn in as honourary head of state, with executive power assigned to the prime minister. The state’s internal and external security would meanwhile have been left to the National Defence Council. The transitional period outlined in the roadmap would expire within six months, to be followed by monitored presidential elections.
Morsi released a statement right after Al-Sisi gave his speech refusing to step down.
“Mr Mohamed Morsi, the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, stresses that the measures announced by the general command of the armed forces are a complete coup d’etat, which is rejected in every way by the free people of this country who fought to transform Egypt into a civil democratic society,” the statement on his official Facebook page read.
He called on all citizens, civilians and soldiers to adhere to the constitution and the law and not to respond to a coup to take Egypt backwards.
He also called on everyone to adhere to peacefulness and avoid being involved in bloodshed.
“Everyone shall hold their responsibility in front of God, the people and history,” Morsi’s statement read.
In contrast to the former president’s dour rebuff of events, the reaction on the streets was charged and jubilant, with crowds exuberant as military helicopters flew overhead.
The army’s statement was heard by anti-Morsi demonstrators through speakers that were placed in public squares, hand radios, and cars.
People had poured into Tahrir Square in the tens of thousands to join the street party atmosphere that had built up throughout the day, coloured by music, fireworks, drums, face painting and dancing. The square was full of families with young children as well as men and women of all ages all sharing the same chant: “Leave!”
Ahmed Abdel-Hamid, a protester in the square, said, “Today the people came together with police and the army. It was a rare time of people welcoming the police, a moment of reconciliation.”
Abdel-Hamid said Al-Sisi’s statement was both positive and concise, saying the minister had “given the people what they needed and removed the regime… We have many challenges but for the first time, I think we are going in the right direction.”
“We have great confidence in our army,” said protester Hala Fathat Al-Qobba Palace. “We would like to thank Morsi for one thing: because of him, we are all united against him.”
“We need the army to take control until we can find a way to appropriately represent ourselves in a government,” she added.
“Egypt is too big for just one man and his group to control,” said protester Mofeed Mohamed in reference to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Thousands also cheered at the presidential palace, roaring in happiness, clapping their hands and banging drums to the army’s statement that Morsi was to be replaced by the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court.
Mohamed Mahmoud, an engineer, expressed his joy in shouting, “Egypt was reborn!”
Mahmoud and Michael Yosry, a French teacher, both expressed their confidence in the army.
Yosry said, “As long as the head is good [Defence Minister Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi], then the rest will all follow.”
Maurice Michelle, a salesman, echoed the sentiment. “The army’s word has always been trustworthy.”
Demonstrators following the announcement lit flares, launched fireworks, and chanted, “The people and the army are one hand,” as they held up posters demanding the removal of Morsi and images of Al-Sisi.
Additional reporting by Hend Kortam and Rana Mohamed Taha