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
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.