The fall of the Pharaoh

Hosni Mubarak ruled with an iron hand over Egypt 30 years

43377.jpegThirty years after assuming the presidency of Egypt as "The Chosen One" to "The Path to Peace" in troubled Egypt on the verge of explosion by the assassination of then President Muhammad Anwar el-Sadat, Muhammad Hosni Said Mubarak had no choice but to resign as the most powerful man in the most populated nation in the Arab world.

Hosni Mubarak, 82, assumed power in Egypt in October 1981. He was considered one of the most powerful heads of state in the Middle East and held the role of mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict, besides having a key role in the dispute over the territory of the Western Sahara between Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania.

He graduated from the Military Academy in 1949 and the Egyptian Air Force Academy in 1950, where he was commander in chief since 1972. His performance in the Yom Kippur War with Israel in 1973 won him the post of marshal. In 1975, then-President Anwar el-Sadat named Mubarak his vice president, who six years later took command of the country after the assassination of Sadat. The post of president has been renewed four times: 1987, 1993, 1995 and 1999.

On October 6, 1981, Mubarak became president after Sadat was shot by Islamists at a military parade and was approved by residents in a referendum. On June 26, 1995, Mubarak was attacked on arrival at the summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

On October 5, 1999, Mubarak was sworn in as president for his fourth term, and appointed Prime Minister Atef Obeid after the government led by Kamal Ganzouri resigned.

On December 22, 1999, Egypt agreed to sell natural gas to Israel. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak called it a "Peace Pipeline." After years of negotiations for peace in the Middle East, Barak said the gas would be piped from El-Arish in Egypt to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and later to Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.

In 2004, Mubarak affirmed in an interview with French newspaper, Le Monde, that there is going to exist an "unprecedented hatred" against the United States in Arab countries (among them, Egypt), motivated by the economic and military protection granted by the U.S. government to Israel.

A year later, street protests by the Kefaya ("Enough!") movement witnessed hundreds of people across the country opposing a fifth term for Mubarak or any attempt to bring his son Gamal in his place. Police arrested 200 members and sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood.

On May 11, 2005, the Egyptian Parliament voted to change the constitution to allow the controversial presidential election, rejecting opposition charges that rigid rules would prevent effective competition. A referendum in late May confirmed overwhelmingly that constitutional change.

On September 27th of the same year, Mubarak was sworn in for a fifth consecutive term, after winning his first election, on the 7th. The rival, Ayman Nour was the only member of Parliament to remain seated during the ceremony, apparently to show his refusal to accept the official count.

On December 8, 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood increased its seats in the Egyptian parliament after an election marked by violence, but Mubarak's party held the majority. On December 7, last day of the vote, eight people died. The Brotherhood says it won 12 seats, expanding their block to 88, almost a fifth of seats.

On November 19, 2006, Mubarak said he would retain his responsibilities as president for life. On June 4, 2009, the U.S. president, Barack Obama, in a speech in Cairo, urged a "new beginning" in ties between Washington and the Islamic world.

On March 26, 2010, the former head of the nuclear watchdog agency of the United Nations, Mohamed ElBaradei, made his first public appearance after returning to Egypt in February, saying he would consider a presidential bid if demands were met, including changes to limit constitutional power in the country.

On November 29, 2010, the Muslim Brotherhood said that election fraud eliminated their presence in parliament.

On January 25 this year, anti-government protests across Egypt began, and the population demonstrated hate, complaining of poverty and repression of individual liberties. On January 28, Mubarak ordered troops and tanks sent to the cities during the night to put down demonstrations in the country. About 300 people were killed in these acts.

On January 31, Vice President Omar Suleiman was sworn in. He said that Mubarak asked him to initiate a dialogue with all political forces. On February 1, more than one million people around the country took to the streets calling for an end to Mubarak's government.

On day 6, opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, held talks with the government, chaired by the vice president, who said Egypt would have a timetable for the peaceful transfer of power.

Thursday, 10/02/2011, Mubarak informed that a national dialogue was going on and power had transferred to the Vice President, but Mubarak refused to resign immediately as the demonstrators wanted.

During his rule in Egypt, Mubarak committed fatal errors in order to stay in power. Even with the announcement of not running for the September elections, the protests against his government - which began on January 25 -did not cease, and he was faced with popular pressures.

The fury over Mubarak of Egypt was not for nothing. He committed a series of errors as ruler of Egypt, which became a time bomb to trigger a popular revolt that ended with his forced resignation, so as not to be deposed.

In Egypt, the economy grew before our eyes, but the population did not feel the change in their pockets. Businessmen linked to Mubarak's party are accused of illicit enrichment.

Corruption scandals were one of the popular claims in Egypt, being difficult to do anything in the country without having to pay bribes to authorities, government officials or having connections to big shots.

Born leaders par excellence, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, Mubarak's predecessors, knew where they wanted to take Egypt. Meanwhile, Mubarak has not offered a clear goal for the Egyptians. What he offered was an infrastructure in ruins, decadent socioeconomic status and loyalty to the West. The people only move if their leader shows the way forward.

For years Mubarak has promised political reforms that never happened. Accusations of electoral fraud were constant in Egypt.

43378.jpegIn order to perpetuate himself in power, Mubarak, already 82 years old, was preparing his son Gamal to succeed him as president of Egypt, a fact that was not appreciated by the Egyptian population.

The popular protest marches were never more than small and quickly dispersed by security forces. This time, however, the organizers turned professional and security forces of Mubarak's government had to face the popular movements unprepared for such occasions.

During most of the parliamentary elections that took place over the past 30 years, Mubarak has allowed some seats to be occupied by his opponents. Last year, however, his opponents included the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition party in Egypt.

Looters arrested during the protests were showing badges of government officials and police, in a clear hint that they were sent by the government. With this, the protests grew and it backfired.

In a last attempt to deceive the Egyptian people, Mubarak announced unspecified political and constitutional reforms and promised not to be a participant in the elections in September. However, he appointed two persons from the military, his close allies, to the positions of vice president and prime minister, which led people to interpret as a strategy to perpetuate his party and his allies in power.

Chronology of the fall

January 25 - Inspired by the protests that toppled the Tunisian President Ben Ali, about 15,000 Egyptians took to the streets for the Day of Wrath, demonstrations against the regime of Hosni Mubarak organized over the Internet. They gathered in Tahrir Square in central Cairo to demonstrate against acts against corruption, the high cost of living and government policies. There were confrontations and clashes with police.

January 26 - The protests in Cairo and Suez spread to other places and police repression increased. Sites like Facebook and Twitter were blocked, but the government denied having cut internet servers.

January 27 - Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the strongest opponents of Mubarak, who was in Europe, arrived in Egypt. ElBaradei's presence stimulated the population and the groups of demonstrators protesting in Cairo and other cities increased. The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition block, asked for his enraged supporters to take to the streets the next day.

January 28 - Beyond Cairo and Suez, popular protests reach Alexandria and Ismailia, which are taken for demonstrations against Mubarak. The Army is called in, armored vehicles are seen on the streets. The government imposed a curfew, which was disregarded by the population.

January 29 - Just before dawn, Mubarak announced that his cabinet would resign. However, in an attempt to hoodwink the people, he later appoints the country's intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, as vice president, the first one in his 30 years in office. Mubarak also puts in Ahmed Shafik, as the new prime minister, to form a new government. From that moment, Nobel Peace Prize winner, ElBaradei, comes into play who urges Mubarak to resign.

On the streets, the protest demonstrations increase among the population, and the headquarters of the National Democratic Party of Mubarak is set alight. The police disappeared during the night, looters attacked shops and houses in the suburbs of the capital, but the population of Cairo gets organized into armed groups to defend their property. Several prisons recorded mass escapes.

January 30 - The Army continues in the streets, but it was noted that soldiers were cooperating and supporting the popular protests against Mubarak. The government prohibited the Arab network Al-Jazeera from broadcasting the popular protests against Mubarak.

Jan. 31 - Protesters said they would organize the next day with a march of one million Egyptians, which was fulfilled and doubled. Moreover, since this day 31/01/2011, 350,000 demonstrators filled the Tahrir Square, waiting for the next day. Six journalists from Al-Jazeera were temporarily arrested.

Feb. 1 - Just before the march of millions, the Army announced that it "recognizes the legitimate claims of the people" and "will not use force to suppress peaceful protests." During the day, 2 million people took to Tahrir Square, beginning the biggest protest against Mubarak since the uprising began. At night, Mubarak announced that he will not compete in the September elections and said that in the rest of his presidency, "he will respond to the demands of the people." Only the people no longer believe in Mubarak.

February 2 - The Army calls for an end to the protests, but the protesters returned to Tahrir Square in the late morning to continue the demonstrations against Mubarak, demanding his resignation. However, protesters "sympathetic" to Mubarak also gathered in central Cairo and initiated a confrontation between those pro and against Mubarak.

The groups threw sticks and stones at each other. Mubarak's supporters stormed the square on camels and horses. Hours after the outbreak of fighting, the army intervened. In hotels, the rooms occupied by foreign journalists were raided by police who searched for cameras.

February 3 - Clashes between protesters and supporters of Mubarak continued well past midnight, and the new Egyptian prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, apologized for the violence the day before. In an interview with state television, Vice President Omar Suleiman invited the Muslim Brotherhood for a national dialogue and criticized the TV network Al-Jazeera.

This is also a day of violence for foreign journalists in Cairo, where Mubarak's supporters entered the hotel where most journalists were staying. There were arrests, abuse of authority and the confiscation of material from journalists. Two Brazilian journalists spent the night trapped in a local jail.

February 4 - The opposition continued to challenge the repression and 100,000 people gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo. The protesters ignored the climate of terror imposed by the regime and named the sixth day the "Day of Departure." Mubarak had not yet fallen, but his government gave in and asked the opposition to give a document with their key demands, which was considered a sign of weakness.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama raised the tone and the United States began negotiations on a plan to take Mubarak away from the scene, to set up a transitional government and end the crisis.

Feb. 5 - After 12 days of protests, the leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP), the legend of Egypt's government, resigned. Among the leaders who fell are Gamal Mubarak, son of President Hosni Mubarak and Safwat el-Sharif, secretary general of the party. Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said stability was maintained in Egypt and he was confident there would be a solution to the crisis without the immediate exit of Mubarak.

Feb. 6 - The government meets to negotiate with the opposition and offers a series of concessions such as lifting the state of emergency, the formation of a committee to reform the constitution, release of political prisoners and an end to restrictions on the press. Opponents, however, left unhappy with the concessions and continued calling for the resignation of Mubarak and the dissolution of Parliament.

Feb. 7 - On the 14th day of protests against Mubarak, meetings between government and opposition follow, but without much progress. Mubarak's government held its first ministerial meeting since the change in the cabinet, and to defuse public anger and popular fury, decides to increase the salary of public officials. Wael Ghonim, Google executive and political activist, was released after nearly two weeks in prison, which had great influence on the protests the next day.

February 8 - Ghonim gives an emotional interview to local television and a speech to the demonstrators in Tahrir Square. The speech brings hundreds of thousands of Egyptians to the center of Cairo and the protests gain new impetus. Suleiman continues with negotiations with the opposition, but the political forces opposed to Mubarak do not occur to be satisfied with the government's proposals.

February 9 - The violent clashes between demonstrators and police spread to other areas of Egypt. Ghonim, who became a symbol of the protests, said "the time to negotiate is over" and the White House was back to criticizing the Egyptian government, asking the authorities to do more for the demonstrators. The Egyptian Foreign Minister, however, criticized the Americans for trying to "impose their will on the government of Egypt."

Feb. 10 - Despite rumors about his downfall, Mubarak announced that he turned over his power to the vice-president, Omar Suleiman, who now has power over the military. The crowd, who expected to hear the dictator resign, is furious and heads toward the Presidential Palace, where it is said that the Egyptian revolution began.

Hossan Badrawi, head of the National Democratic Party (NDP), said it would be surprising if Mubarak remained in power until Friday, 11/02/2011. The Army says it will intervene in the crisis to ensure the "safeguarding of the country" and announces that "the demands of the protesters were met." Mubarak's announcement was expected for 22 hours, with the announcement of his resignation, but it has not happened. The number of protesters in Tahrir Square increases, beside the military presence in central Cairo.

Feb. 11 - the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak comes to an end in Egypt. At 18:00 hours local time, the vice-president, Omar Suleiman, came on state television and announced: "President Hosni Mubarak leaves the presidency and delegates the affairs of state to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces." The opposition and the Egyptians celebrate.

Antonio Carlos Lacerda




Translated from the Portuguese version by:

Lisa Karpova


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Author`s name Oksana Orlovskaya