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 Published January  31st, 2011

A few days ago, the people of Egypt finally rose against the government of Hosni Mubarak and burned down the headquarters of Egypt's ruling party, the National Democratic Party. The uprising follows closely the overthrow of Ezzeddine Ben Ali in Tunisia a few weeks ago. Hosni Mubarak has been in power since October 1981 following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. Previously he was the Egyptian Air Force commander during the yom kippur war. Since he came to power, Mubarak has ruled with an iron fist, banning all political parties and throwing all his political opponents in jail. He organized sham elections in 1987, 93, 99 and 2005 in which he was the sole candidate. Ayman Nour, an opposition candidate who dared to run against him in 2005 was arrested, charged with corruption and thrown in jail.

In his 30 years in power, Mubarak has resisted all pressures and advice to make political and economic reforms. He has ruled with the Emergency Law (promulgated in 1958 under Abdul Nasser) under which anybody can be arrested and detained without trial. Using this law, Mubarak has detained over 17,000 Egyptians, and over 30,000 political prisoners are languishing in Egyptian jails. Moreover, a significant segment of his population, the Coptic Christians are treated like second class citizens. Unknown to most people, a Christian cannot be President, Prime Minister, Foreing Minister or Defence Minister in Egypt. Butros Ghali can be United Nations Secretary General, but cannot be president or prime minister of Egypt. Christians had more rights and prestige in Saddam Hussein's Iraq than in Mubarak's Egypt. Moreover, he has arrogantly ignored the peoples desire for open political discourse by scheming to install his son Gamal as President. From my interviews with several Coptic Christians in the past few months, ironically most of them would rather have Gamal Mubarak as president, than allow the feared Moslem Brotherhood take over and make their situation worse.

The United states has turned a blind eye to the dictatorship of Mubarak because of his support of U.S. peace initiatives in the Middle East and the fight against terrorism. This time, the United States should be on the side of the people, not on the side of a dictatorial regime. Since the Camp David accords in 1979, Egypt has been receiving 3 billion dollars from the United States annually, with 1.3 billion dollars going to the Egyptian military. This can be used as leverage against Mubarak and any future Egyptian leader who might want to use American tax payers money to oppress his people.

The question is when Hosni Mubarak flees as is likely the case, who occupies the vacuum. There are several contenders. One is Omar Suleiman who is the intelligence chief and interior minister. He has worked closely with American intelligence agencies in the war on terrorism and has been influential in mediating between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Another is Mohammed Elbaradei former chief of the International Atomic Energy Commission. He had already made his intention clear about running against President Mubarak in the next presidential elections. Ayman Nour who ran against Mubarak in 2005 and is currently in jail might be another possible contender. Amr Moussa Secretary General of the Arab League is another possible contender.

The moslem brotherhood cannot be ignored in this equation. Founded in 1928 by Hassan El-Banna, it is the most powerful and active moslem activist organization in the Middle East. Attempts by previous Egyptian governments to suppress it has failed. It could play a significant role in what happens in Egypt during this uprising and after. Osama Bin Laden's second in command, Ayman Al Zawahiri cut his teeth with the Moslem Brotherhood. Last but not the least is the powerful Egyptian military. It is well respected by Egyptians because

of its performence in the Yom Kippur war against Israel. Though Mubarak was a member of the Egyptian military, he does not have the revolutionary aura of Abdul Nasser and Anwar Sadat. Sadat and Nasser were members of the Free Officers movement that overthrew King Farouk in 1952. Mubarak was not a member.

My hunch is that of all the contenders, the Egyptian army is most likely to play a decisive role on what happens in the aftermath of this uprising.

At 82 years of age and 30 years in power, Hosni Mubarak still thinks he is the only person in Egypt who can govern the country. Judging by the speech he made to his people today, January 28, he seems to be suffering from the disease of all dictators-holding on to power at all costs. The peoples anger is not at the puppet government appointed by Mubarak, but at Mubarak himself. Since his family has already fled the country, he should join them inorder to avoid the indignity of been hauled out of the country like King Farouk or even worse.

Dr. Leonard Madu is a freelance writer and President of the PanAfrica Conference.
He writes from Nashville, TN


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