Obituary for Hosni Mubarak

Egypt's 'pharaoh' is dead

Egypt's former long-term president is dead. His ailing political and economic legacy is now in the hands of the country's present-day authoritarian rulers. An obituary from Cairo by Karim El-Gawhary

It was like a blast from the past. The announcement that 91-year-old former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak died on Tuesday morning provoked few reactions in the country on the Nile. For like all the other autocrats who were overthrown during the Arabellion of 2011, whether Tunisiaʹs Ben Ali or Libya's Gaddafi, Mubarak had played no role in the political life of his country since his abdication nine years ago.

Of course, obligatory Mubarak obituaries were shown on Egyptian state television. But his end, the uprising against him on Tahrir Square, which began on 25 January 2011, was deliberately omitted – as if Mubarak's power had come to a magical end. A testimony to how much the new rulers of the country – President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and the military – want to erase the Arab Spring from the history books.

Mubarak's unexpected rise and fall

Mubarak came to power in 1981 when his predecessor Anwar al-Sadat was shot dead by militant Islamists at a military parade on 6 October.  Only a few believed that the then rather inconspicuous and not very charismatic air force commander would hold on to power. It just shows how wrong one can be.

 

When Mubarak took up his presidency in Egypt, Bruno Kreisky was still in the Federal Chancellery in Austria and Helmut Schmidt in Germany. While Schmidt – retired, cigarette-smoking and statesmanlike – was appearing on German talk shows, Mubarak was still ruling with an iron grip, despite six failed attacks on his presidency. He finally abdicated on 11.2.2011, following a popular uprising against him lasting 18 days.

What followed was a series of trials against him. The first images of him, hidden behind his sunglasses on a medical stretcher tilted upright in the defendant's cage in court, were broadcast around the world. Initially, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the death of 800 demonstrators during the uprising against him.

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