CAIRO // Scores of protesters gathered in front of the Appeals Court in downtown Cairo yesterday to mark the fifth anniversary of the first protest against the country's president, Hosni Mubarak, and his family. About 300 demonstrators chanted their trademark slogan "Down with Hosni Mubarak" and "Gamal, tell your father all Egyptian people hate you". Such chanting stunned Cairo on December 12, 2004, when a small group of Egyptians, disillusioned with the regime, gathered at the same place as yesterday's protest, and said it with one word: "Kefaya", the Arabic word for "enough!"
With a series of colourful protests, the demonstrators broke the taboo against criticising the president and his family and opened the door for others disaffected with the regime, but who had long remained silent, to join in. The rare protests that had previously been seen in Egypt were to support Palestinians and Iraqis against occupation or to complain of woes like poverty, high prices and unemployment - but almost never for political reform.
Men, women and some children were in attendance at yesterday's protest wearing yellow stickers bearing "Kefaya" in bold red letters. Mr Mubarak, 81, has been in power since 1981 and there is a widespread belief that he is grooming his youngest son, Gamal, 45, to succeed him. "Gamal Mubarak won't rule us," went one chant. "abu Gamal, we have no food to feed our children," went another. "Egypt is not a family farm" was the motto of yesterday's protest, which was surrounded by plainclothed police.
"Today's protest is the best answer to those who say that Kefaya has died," said Abdel Halim Qandil, a founding member and spokesman of Kefaya, speaking to protesters. "Five years ago, Kefaya knew what it hates: extension of Mubarak's rule and inheriting the power by his son Gamal, which are two faces of the same coin," said Mr Qandil. "Now Kefaya knows what it wants: A plan to end the [Mubarak] family's rule by a coalition of all opposition forces in the country," he added.
Speaking on the sidelines of the protest, Mr Qandil said in an interview that he welcomed the announcement last week by Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that he would consider running in the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for 2011. "This is an interesting and radical development," Mr Qandil said. "Greetings to ELBaradei, who doesn't want to be a bit player in the elections."
Mr ElBaradei, 67, stressed that he did not seek this "senior post" for personal gain. He set several conditions for running in the coming presidential elections, demanding they must be under the full supervision of the judiciary and in the presence of international observers from the United Nations to ensure transparency. He also called for the removal of the constitutional requirement that candidates must be members of political parties and not independents.
Mr Qandil said that if Mr ElBaradei's conditions - which the opposition has been demanding for the past few years - were not met, he would call for next year's presidential and legislative elections to be boycotted. In response to the planned anti-Mubarak protests, the youth of the ruling National Democratic Party, launched on Thursday a one week Facebook campaign supporting "Gamal Mubarak: the leader and man behind the rejuvenation revolution" within the party.