A quick backtrack on Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak in 2010 reveals that it has been an insightful, though controversial time.
Despite his health being a ‘taboo’ subject. it was bought into the limelight with his surgery which took place in March triggering much hearsay about his successor. Unlike 2008 where the mere hint of his wellbeing by former Dostour editor-in-chief Ibrahim Eissa earned him a 2 month prison sentence this year, the regime downplayed his illness and assured all he was well. Nevertheless a settling of scores - some would say - was behind the ousting of Ibrahim Eissa from the privately-owned paper despite denials. In fact, he was so well that an official from the ruling party maintained that he may run again in the presidential bid slated for 2011. Thus, hopes were squashed that the parliamentary election would be run with integrity since Egypt’s future is decided and its president is nominated, chosen and announced under the parliamentary dome. After all would not a tame chamber guarantee a smooth transition of power if the need arises?
The year revealed much about the aging president whether through the infamous WikiLeaks cables or through former US president Bush and his memoirs.
Mubarak’s distrust and dislike of the country’s strongest opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as well as Hamas in the Gaza Strip was highlighted in the revealing cables where he had said that he viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as his own most dangerous political threat.
However, it was already pretty much stale news where his opinion of the group was reflected in the escalating mass arrests of the group’s members throughout the year. Before his procedure the group witnessed high ranking leaders from the executive bureau, including media spokesman Dr. Essam el Erian, Abdul Rahman el Bar and Dr. Mahmoud Ezzat. arrested and levelled with the accustomed host of fabricated accusations only to be released again for lack of evidence. Then the international networking case was news, earning the regime further contempt worldwide especially as the defendants had been acquitted, not once nor twice but many times, in civilian court. The regime’s vendetta against the group was spiralling in out of control proportions with over 1800 MB members arbitrarily detained prior to, during and after the country’s polls. In fact, some members are still in custody for an indefinite period of time.
Although the depiction of Mubarak delivered in the US embassy cable dispatches leaked by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks sheds light on his distaste for the MB and its offshoot, other sources also portrayed the regime’s attitude towards these movements.
The year witnessed former US President George Bush’s allegations in his memoir “Decision Points” that Mubarak said that Iraq had possessed biological weapons of mass destruction but refused to make the allegation in public for fear of inciting the Arabs. Suleiman Awad, presidential spokesman, however, did state that Mubarak had warned against the invasion stressing it was a violation of international law.
Nevertheless, the leaked cables were somewhat undaunting to the regime with FM Ahmed Abul Gheit maintaining that the cables confirmed the strength of Egypt’s position, adding that documents have shown that what was said in private behind closed doors reflected public opinion.
One whistleblower dispatch indicated, however, Mubarak’s support of a dictatorship in Iraq where he once advised during a US Congressional Delegation, “strengthen the armed forces, relax your hold, and then you will have a coup and a fair dictator ending with his notorious line, forget democracy, the Iraqis are by their nature too tough”.
According to observers Mubarak saw himself, as some sort of benign dictator, ruling with an iron fist however justly, with fairness.
Nevertheless his possible self-image fails to sit right with impartial reports on Egypt, in all departments including human rights, civil liberties, economic inequality and the sensitive but evident wide disparity between the country’s rich and poor.