Nine Years After the Toppling of Hosny Mubarak
By Hossam Fazalla and Dounia Mahlouly
Nine years after the toppling of Hosny Mubarak, the 91-year-old ousted Egyptian president passed away. The news was met with emotional confusion and mixed feelings by Egyptians. It is the death of the man whose face was in every Egyptian classroom, who was considered a war hero, and yet, it is also the death of the dictator who ruled for 30 years, and whose hands were blooded on the 25th of January, 2011. This confusion was reflected in Mubarak’s full honorary military funeral which was attended by the current president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi along with Mubarak’s son (his once expected successor), and other icons of his regime.
Despite the recent and ongoing crackdown on the online sphere in Egypt, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms remained a space for public debate and discussion. Since the death of Mubarak was announced, social media users were almost split into two parties.
One is defined in the proverb له ما له وعليه ما عليه, (as much as he was flawed he also has achieved great things) which was posted by hundreds of social media users including politicians and tv presenters. Wael Ghonim, admin of We All Are Khalid Said Facebook page and one of the people that called for the first demonstrations of 2011 posted to a commemoration of Mubarak calling him “honourable” and noting that he “will rule history”. Ghonim was criticized lately by thousands of his followers after posting several videos on himself consuming illegal substances, dancing, and posting statements that were seen as disrespectful to the revolution that he was once an icon of. Nevertheless, some people who hold similar opinions had a different argument. S.H (an activist) said: “Yes, Mubarak was careless in the second half of his rule and he did let corruption rise and spread, but he never gave away our land, our water, and it is documented that he was against the deal of the century” (interview, 26 Feb 2020) referring to the waiver of Tiran and Sanafir islands in 2017 and the Egyptian Ethiopian conflict over the new dam.
The other party believes that there is nothing sad about the normal death of an autocratic leader who outlived the average Egyptian, other than the lack of justice. Mubarak was freed of all his charges after the revolution, which included murder and embezzlement. This narrative took the shape of memes, funny archival videos that comment on our emotional confusion towards Mubarak, and serious factual reminders. Some reposted older news which stated that Mubarak’s wealth estimates reached 70 billion US dollars.
On the international scene, official reactions to the announcement of his death did not generate much debate about his legitimacy. Commentators hardly discussed the details of the conspiracy to murder and corruption charges for which he was acquitted in 2014. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas both expressed their regrets, each respectively referring to him as ‘a personal friend’ and supporter of the Palestinian cause.
Mubarak is now one of many Arab rulers to pass away after former Algerian de facto president General Gaïd Salah, former Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi and long-time Tunisian ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. This marks the end of an entire generation of political leaders and reminds us that youths are still underrepresented in most North African governments. The recent civil mobilisations in Sudan, Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon, which have been formally described as the ‘second wave of the Arab Spring’, are calling for change. This may be the beginning of a new era as civil opposition movements prove to be increasingly more creative and resourceful in their attempt to consolidate peaceful and sustainable political action. Perhaps the real legacy lies in the spirit of civil resistance that was born out the 2011 Egyptian uprisings, as this has arguably paved the way for the expression of an alternative political culture.