Hosni Mubarak 82, resigned and Power transferred to Egyptian military
Switzerland has frozen the Swiss bank account and assets of Hosni Mubarak
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The victory and accolades belong to the people of Egypt - youths, young and the old did not rest nor sleep until Hosni Mubarak, the 30 years Egyptian dictator bowed down from power. The streets and air of Cairo and Egypt have been filled with euphoria, ecstatic and thunderous joy as they celebrate the departure of Mubarak.
As Egyptians demanded his departure, out of omission or commission Mubarak read the tea leaf upside down and chose to bury his face in the sand. He went on state run television and told the desperate Egyptians that he will continue to be their president. The people of Egypt could not take that anymore and they marched in large masses to the presidential palace peacefully and the next day Mubarak turned in his resignation letter to his appointed vice-president Omar Suleiman.
Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic and dictatorial leadership has been the order of the day in his country for almost thirty years; he has managed successfully to suppress democratic impulse and instinct for a long time. Mubarak was able to convince the civilized world that without his presence and control that the Islamic radicals who were lurking at the corner will take over reins of power. On this cultivated gamesmanship as custodian of stability, he assumed the cloak of inevitability as he was seen as a stabilizing force in his region.
Hosni Mubarak (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)
A New day and beginning of a long journey
The people of Egypt needs and deserves their moment in the sun, they have made a history by driving out a dictator by themselves without any interference or help from outside. It was a great achievement indeed by any standard, with almost a velvet revolution a strongman of the land was made to give up power. The forces of change coupled with human will and dignity were too much to be marched by crude forces of brutality and darkness emitted by Mubarak regime.
Hosni Mubarak did not govern alone, with the support of his henchmen, secret police and military he overwhelmed his people with fear, credible threats and intimidation. The remnant of his leadership has not disappeared completely but the military have as well understood and have experienced the power of the common people. The military during the 18 days of the uprising was behaving responsibly and have respected the rights of the people to assemble and to march peacefully. And for this they deserved to be applauded for being the custodian of stability in Egypt. But the military by nature of their training are not competent to rule but to defend a nation.
Egyptian people must understand that the driving away of the dictator was an opening door to a long journey to democratic dispensation. Egyptians maybe in quick need of calling for an election, which is a good thing but election is not tantamount to democracy rather a building block to a democratic dispensation. A constitution is needed as a compass to democracy and rule of law. A secular constitution to be written that respects the fundamental human rights to speak freely and to gather freely without interference. Constitution that guarantees minority and religious rights is the core rudimentary of a prosperous democracy.
“Once you let the genie out of the bottle, you never get it back in.,” and this is the conundrum President Hosni Mubarak is facing at the moment as unrest claims Egyptian landscape. The ongoing uprising has both immediate political and economic implications for Egypt and its eighty million inhabitants.
The problem with this current uprising is attributed to 30 years of undemocratic and iron-hand rule of Hosni Mubarak regime together with increasing poverty that has absolutely decimated the Egyptian middle class. In some regions of the country poverty has approached 70 percent while the inflation rate is up to 11 percent at end of fourth quarter 2010 and rising. Although the economy is growing at about 4 percent but that is not adequate to make a substantial impact on the rising poverty and crushing high unemployment among the youths especially college graduates.
Bloomberg reported in December 2010: “The economy of the most populous Arab country expanded 5.6 percent in the third quarter, compared with 5.4 percent in the previous three months. Growth is still below the average of 7 percent achieved in the three fiscal years through June 2008, with the global financial crisis hurting revenue from tourism, foreign direct investment and the Suez Canal.”
The going unrest is dicey because if not safely channeled, the ramification can threaten the whole region and can bring in a period of instability in the region. When this situation is not managed properly and the radical Islamist captures power in Egypt, the region will become boiling water. It is more than enough having Islamic radicals in Iran but adding Egypt into that mix will be a disaster to the moderate states in the region and a huge threat to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.
Egyptian special force stands guard on Egyptian Museum in Cairo AP
We all have to be careful how we define this ongoing ‘revolution’, by no means this is neither American nor French revolution. Egypt does not have a history of Democratic Enlightenment period that predates both American and French revolutions that gave the roadmap to democracy and respect of human rights. For the ‘revolution’ to be sustainable Egypt must be transformed to a true democratic nation that respects fundamental human rights especially freedom of speech, the right to assemble and right to associate with a political body. A new Egypt needs a secular constitution that respects minority and religious rights of her citizen.
Sleepless in Cairo, an economic disaster
For some days Cairo the commercial nerve center of Egypt is witnessing sleepless nights, restive youths were busy parading every nooks and corners of the city. The security apparatus that kept the westernized city safe have disappeared; there were looting and angry mobs. A government most important function is to protect life and property, the Hosni Mubarak regime has failed on its most important responsibility.
Egypt economic growth is about to dramatically slow down because investors and capitalists do not send money and resources to trouble and insecured land. When Egypt continues to project and resembles a quintessential third world nation that is vulnerable to lawlessness and hopelessness, then Egypt is finish economically as an emerging nation. Patrick Werr of Reuters put it in perspective, “Egypt is vulnerable to a reversal of large flows of foreign portfolio investment that have been attracted by high yields on domestic government debt. Barclays Capital estimated foreign holdings of Egyptian assets before the protests were close to $25 billion, with roughly half held in Treasury bills and bonds.” The flow of investments are based on logic not emotion and investors are pretty logical.
Werr further stated that, “Foreign direct investment is based on long-term planning and is less likely to be influenced by the political unrest. Egypt drew $6.76 billion of such investment in the last fiscal year to June 30, of which $3.6 billion went to the petroleum sector. But the damage from any extended disruption to tourism could be considerable; Egypt earned $11.59 billion from tourism last fiscal year. It ran a current account deficit of $802 million in the July-September quarter of 2010, and because of tourism the deficit is likely to be much higher in the current quarter.”
All the major international rating agencies have downgraded Egyptian debt, currency and financial wellbeing by one notch negative. “S&P cut Egypt's long-term foreign and local currency ratings by one notch to BB and BB+ respectively, both with a negative outlook. Moody's downgraded Egypt by one notch to Ba2 with a negative outlook on Monday, saying the government might damage its already weak finances by increasing social spending to calm the protests. Fitch Ratings cut its outlook on Egypt's BB+ country ceiling to negative, saying the political turmoil was likely to undermine the country's economic reform programme,” Reuters reported.
Analysis and Commentary
Egypt, a North African country and the giant of the Arab world, is convulsing with unrest. Expert observers and analysts are not quite certain how this ongoing spontaneous civic uprising shall progress before any semblance of tranquility returns to this country. Some attribute this current mass public demonstration in Egypt's main population centers as a mere spillover from the recent Tunisian revolution which forced its former ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to flee the country. What is clear, at least for the interim, is that the Egyptian middle class appears to be driving the current mass protests while the Egypt-based Moslem Brotherhood, an Islamist political movement, is taking a back seat.
Egypt's number one foreign-exchange income source is derived from tourists who troop to the Lower Nile Valley in droves from all corners of the globe. The country also exports some petroleum and gas as well as agricultural produce. Other sources of revenue include the Suez Canal and the near US$2billion subvention that goes to the Egyptian treasury from the US annually since the country's former ruler, Anwar Sadat, signed a peace deal with Israel during the Carter administration.
Egypt's GDP grew by 5.3% and 4.6% during 2010 and 2009 respectively. During my visit to the country last month, I witnessed a large number of construction projects in all parts of the country, from Aswan to Alexandria. The road network and city streets are clean and free of potholes. Fresh agricultural produce is plentiful and affordable, particularly if purchased with foreign currency. The highways of Cairo are full of cars of all types. New residential and commercial buildings as well as shopping centers are popping up all over the place, especially along the recently established beltway constructed around Cairo metropolis. Egypt has unemployment rate of 9.7% which, in African terms, is not at all shabby. So, on the surface, one could easily get the impression that all must be well with the Egyptian middle-class population.
AP Picture : Egyptian anti-riot police confront Egyptian activist
But the problem of modern Egypt lies in its relative success in past few decades. The country can boast of having the largest middle class in all of Africa even though its population of 80 million is much less than that of Nigeria, for example. Egypt's literacy rate ranks high when compared to other countries in Africa and the Middle East. The downside is that this premier Arab nation has been ruled by a dictatorship since the overthrow by King Farouk by Gamal Abdul Nasser through a military coup in 1952. Till date, one can actually say that Egyptians have never known any democracy beyond what they have read in books.
The revolution spearheaded by the military was able to rescue the country from a quasi feudal system that was headed by the monarchy. The armed forces have, however, not devolved power to the citizenry for a variety of reasons. Initially, the compelling need to maintain a strong united stance against their erstwhile foe, Israel, was given as excuse for maintaining a strong centralized control by the top military brass. Shortly after brokering peace with Israel, President Sadat was assassinated in broad daylight by diehard Islamic radicals who sought to transform the Egyptian society by force. The new Head of State, Hosni Mubarak, soon positioned himself as a bulwark against Islamic radicalism in Egypt and this further endeared him with the West up till date. Some variant of democracy was instituted where Mubarak's rule is guaranteed through the National Democratic Party (NDP) which has retained control of government since it was formed by President Sadat. As is the case in most dictatorships, opposition parties are allowed nominally but barely tolerated.
It is awfully difficult to create a large middle class in any society and then turn around and deny it access to political participation in governance. That is the core problem with Egypt today. The pressure from the middle class has been building up for some time and it appears that repression of their desire for open egalitarian government cannot be sustained any longer, even with brute force. The Moslem Brotherhood, an Egypt-based radical Islamist movement founded in 1928, cannot be wished away either. In the last dispensation before the November 2010 elections, this Islamist group garnered as much as 20% of seats in Egypt's parliament. The military have laid low and have opted to play possum; but again, their man, Mubarak, has been at the hem for past three decades.
What is hard for anyone to predict exactly is what shall happen when the status quo is pended. Secular opposition leadership under El Baradei is most favored by the West to step in to fill the void if the patronage governance system run by Mubarak caves in under the intensifying pressure. The Moslem Brotherhood shall surely come to life, once more, as soon as the repressive lid imposed by the Mubarak regime is lifted. The Islamist movement has become so entrenched in Egyptian society that it might be impossible for anyone to govern without partnering somehow with it. There are fears, in some quarters that the Islamist radicals may emerge to take control, but such a speculation is without sound basis due to the sophisticated nature of contemporary Egyptian society. Besides, the army is on standby to assure that things won't completely get out of hand to the extent which can be exploited by radical elements, both on the secular and religious sides.
Egypt is currently convulsing to the level that it had never done before and lots of anxious eyes are watching worldwide. My guess is that the current unrest has surely woken up the Mubarak regime from its complacency and therefore, far-reaching changes are increasingly becoming inevitable. The West maintains a tacit approval of Mubarak, irrespective of public pronouncements to the contrary. With ongoing global war against terrorism, no one in the West is prepared to see Egypt degrade to the extent of being ungovernable. Somehow, I believe that some negotiations are already going on, behind closed doors, to provide some sort of soft landing for the incumbent government by opening up the political system and leveling the playing field to accommodate the opposition forces.
Dr. Okenwa R. Nwosu is the founder of WIEF (http://www.wief.net/).