Pambazuka News

Egypt: Pharaoh in a cage

Dibussi Tande

2011-08-04, Issue 543

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'The surreal images of ex-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on a hospital bed inside an iron cage in a Cairo courtroom have been the leading topic in the African blogosphere this week,' writes Dibussi Tande.

The surreal images of ex-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on a hospital bed inside an iron cage in a Cairo courtroom have been the leading topic in the African blogosphere this week.

An Arab Citizen believes that the trial of Mubarak is a watershed moment for the Arab world, and an end to the era of impunity for the region’s leaders:

‘The moment Mubarak received his legal summons yesterday, officially accusing him of said crimes, the most important nail in the coffin of Middle-Eastern cult-of-personality and leader-worship was finally hammered, and would only be hammered further by the live telecast of the trial. Leaders are human beings, just like the rest of us, and the same laws that apply to us apply to them as well. If they do break them, they will suffer like any of us would. And just because of that, almost regardless of how the trials proceed, many of us here feel more even empowered and more dignified as citizens than as we did even on February 11th as well. And it's a watershed moment for an entire region struggling with corrupt, bloodthirsty and oppressive regimes, many of which are starting to believe they managed their way out of the Arab Spring. As the leading figures of those regimes received the news that Mubarak, one of the most powerful, oldest reigning, and once untouchable among them, was officially served his legal summons, all those men knew that the end of life as they were used to it has finally come, forever. Governments are for the people, not the other way around; and the people own their countries, not the regimes.

‘Yes, many still sympathise with Mubarak, the revolution is not as widely popular as it once was (for many reasons), and we do have immense problems on all imaginable levels. Yet while we continue our excruciating struggle for liberty, existence and prosperity, and as we go through our immense daily share of victories and defeats, this is one more unimaginable victory, much like February 11th, that no one can ever take away from us. Any man or woman who shall seek to lead our countries from this day forth shall know that we are to be no longer ruled by those who see themselves as above the law, and above the people.’

Arabawy captures the feelings of the majority of Egyptians when he insists that Mubarak is getting exactly what he deserves:

‘No words can describe my feelings honestly as I watched, together with millions of Egyptians, our former dictator, with his two corrupt sons including the man he was grooming for succession, his torturer-in-chief Adly and co, in a court cage today, as accused criminals in a live aired trial...

‘For people like me who saw the 1990s, what happened today made us speechless, even when we have been involved for years in trying to make this day happen, with many of us losing hope at some point or another that they would live to see it. As for me, with all honesty, I never doubted I would see it. I’ve always felt somehow I will see the revolution in my lifetime, and desperately wanted Mubarak to live and see it too. I wanted to see the man who have ruled us with torture chambers for three decades humiliated, exposed (and executed)...

‘I don’t care for a second about Mubarak’s health. He might be in bed, but at least he seems well enough to continue dying his hair black. “Fair trials” for the regime officials? The real trials have already taken place in Tahrir Square and other public squares in Egypt. The evidence for Mubarak and co’s crimes are everywhere, from the scars we hold on our backs, to those we buried in the cemeteries, to those who burned to death in trains, to those drowned in ferries.

‘Mubarak, you are guilty. And you deserve no less than a public execution in Tahrir Square. And to the Arab corrupt monarchs who tried to prevent this trial from happening, rest assured you are next.’

In a short comment on the Mubarak trial, the MEI Blog warns against the unintended consequences of putting the former president on the dock:

‘However justified the desire of many Egyptians for vengeance, the sight of a sick old man in a hospital bed being hauled into a courtroom does not accord with most people's idea of justice. The proceedings have been delayed, but the opening scenes will, I suspect, merely convince the Qadhafis and Assads of the world that they must cling to power to the bitter end.’

Africa is a Country does not believe in the viability of new Facebook page established to initiate an Egyptian-style uprising in Zambia:

‘There’s word that a Twitter and Facebook-led movement is underfoot: the Facebook group, “Zambian People’s Pact” may have a hand in the direction in which the Zambian elections may go. The members range from Lieutenant-Colonel Panji Kaunda (son of KK, and a fan of golf, basketball, and Manchester United), and several thousand others, many of whom probably never even experienced life as adults under KK’s leadership. The group openly states that their major goal is to unite followers of all parties in order to oust the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD). Whilst the debate on the page is passionate, with up to 800 and 1,000 posts per day documenting comments, reactions, and vitriol (mostly against each other), the membership is low: 5639 at last count. That’s hardly enough for a revolution; rather, it may simply consist of a small, elite group of navel-gazers who’ll generate more infighting and sycophantism than a genuine political upheaval. Hardly anyone can afford to have internet connections in Zambia, even via their mobile phones. Facebook is largely populated by aid workers and Zim expats, writing home and cruising for hookups. It is not a realm inhabited by “the people”.’

Akin Blog is outraged by Nigerian President Jonathan proposal for extending the length of the presidential term of office while limiting it to one term:

‘In the last 12 years, presidents and governors have had single or double terms of government without necessarily changing their domains noticeably for the better; there has been much politicking, wrangling, discord and unrest with incessant threats of carpet-crossing and apart from the case of two or three states, gubernatorial tenures have been abject failures.

‘The Presidency has fared no better, for almost a year in the last term, the country was held to ransom because of the failing health of the president and the cabal that constituted his so-called kitchen cabinet were a faceless set of unaccountable puppet-masters until the situation became untenable.

‘On that note, there can be no confidence in the idea that a tenure extension will suddenly be the catalyst for good government - as one writer on this matter has suggested, bad government will be bad government no matter the years spent in power with people losing the opportunity to be rid such rotten government earlier…

‘In the Nigeria we have today, I would rather we had presidents and governors for a single term of a maximum of 4 years and if such leaders are able, competent and visionary enough, they will have in place projects that are completed or near completion, ideas others can follow through to completion and succession plans that would ensure their legacies.’

On Suleiman’s Blog, Salisu Suleiman casts himself as an unborn child to present a snapshot of the ills that bedevil Nigeria:

‘I am not yet in this world, but smell the putrefaction that pervades public life and the perfidy that prevails on private conduct. I see a leader completely disconnected from the pervasive reality of poverty: unable to grasp the enormity of his responsibility; unwilling to grapple with the inevitability of tough prudence and incapable of nurturing hope in the millions of hearts whose burden I will soon share. And so while others come into beauty and bounty, I know, before I am born that my yoke will be one of colossal debts, bone-crushing poverty and heart-wrenching hopelessness…

‘I am not yet born, but know that I cannot change the scam; I cannot exercise the liberty of choice because my democracy is a sham; I cannot evoke change by force because the armed forces will come in to kill and maim; I cannot flee to other lands because my passport is my shame; I cannot confide in my imams nor confess to my priests for they take part of the blame. And I cannot share these fears with my friends because we are not from the same zone, nor voice the truth because I speak a different tone. I cannot be myself because I have no right to be.

‘Dear God, I am not yet born, but pray thee: when I take my first breath and see my first sights, birth me not in the Nigeria of today; berth me not in a land sheared by lies, tears and fears, nor give me countrymen corralled by complacency and ignorance, unhearing, unseeing, unthinking.’

Owen Abroad explains why Ethiopia, unlike Somalia, has been able to stave off the fallout from the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa:

‘It is at times like this that we get a lot of half-baked commentary about famine. We are told that the problem is drought, or over-population, or global warming. Special interest groups call for more money to be spent on agriculture. Commentators complain that we’ve given aid for decades and nothing gets any better. So here are two things to keep in mind.

‘First, famine is not caused by drought or overpopulation or insufficient food production. As Amartya Sen explained in Poverty and Famines, people go hungry when they cannot access food, because they are too poor or because markets and governments fail. Drought is neither necessary nor sufficient for famine…

‘Second, development aid works. Though there is considerable suffering, famine has been avoided in Ethiopia this time so far, and that is because of the safety net programme and disaster management system which has been set up by the Ethiopian government, with help from foreign aid. Remember 1984, and people leaving their land to make their way to feeding centres in Ethiopia? Not happening this time…

‘The investments that have been made over the past two decades have transformed Ethiopia’s ability to deal with bad rains. Ethiopia has suffered drought and famine about every ten years. But now a determined government, backed by foreign aid, has put in place systems which have made Ethiopia more resilient and prevented a repetition this time of past tragedies.’


* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.