After a street vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire in December, the immovable President Ben Ali was ousted in January. So began the Arab Spring. This wind of change transformed into a cyclone of revolt, striking Egypt next.
Some may not have seen this coming, but in Cairo, dispute had been brewing for several months.
Unrest came at the end of 2010, when the opposition claimed massive fraud after the ruling National Democratic Party won the elections with an overwhelming majority.
From January, Egyptians took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and the end of his autocratic regime. With three weeks of mobilisation mainly in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, many were expecting the President to stand down when he gave his televised speech – but he did not.
“God bless Egypt and take care of his people. Peace be with you,” he said on February 10. News of Mubarak’s resignation came from his deputy the following day.
The country was rocked with celebrations as Mubarak’s official departure from office ended a reign of nearly 30 years, often with an iron rod, that included using emergency laws to imprison critics. Now the former president is facing justice in his own country said Dr Ramadan, Professor of Law at Cairo’s Ain Shams University:
“We are trying a president – a president of the largest Arab country. It’s the first time an Arab country has brought charges against its leader in a courtroom.”
During the Yom Kippur War against Israel in 1973 Mubarak was propelled to the national stage as Chief Commander of Egypt’s Air Force. Two years later he was promoted to Vice President. After President Sadat’s assassination in 1981, Mubarak took the reins, being reelected a further four times with scores above 90 per cent.
He also became a key player in the Middle East, personally involving himself in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
His reputation as a moderate won him favour with western leaders who often courted him like a pharoah. Seen as the undisputed leader of the Arab world, Mubarak was a staunch ally of Washington, meeting every President from Reagan to Obama.
In exchange for billions of dollars, the Suez Canal remained opened, peace with Israel was guaranteed, and the west had an ally against Islamic extremism – someone who had suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt for years.
Mubarak was both powerful and rich. Estimates put his wealth at almost 50 billion euros – much of which has been invested in London, New York, Beverley Hills and the Egyptian tourist resort of Sharm el Sheikh. Now the former leader will have to answer charges of corruption.