FU­NERAL PROVES THE GEN­ER­ALS STILL RUN EGYPT

Pretoria News - - OPINION - | MO­HAMED TAHA The Con­ver­sa­tion Taha is a PhD can­di­date, SOAS, at the Univer­sity of Lon­don

THE 21-gun salute fired in east­ern Cairo dur­ing the burial of late pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak was an el­e­gant end to the life of a man pre­oc­cu­pied with build­ing his im­age.

In my book, The Arab Split,I em­pha­sised how Mubarak was keen to build his rep­u­ta­tion as a gen­tle­man pres­i­dent, beloved by his peo­ple and re­spected by lead­ers the world over.

Mubarak be­came the longest­serv­ing pres­i­dent of Egypt, stay­ing al­most 30 years in power. He sur­vived by build­ing on his tal­ents for self-pro­mo­tion, while con­trol­ling or sti­fling po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion.

My re­search on Mubarak in 2015 found that his long stay in power was founded upon build­ing a per­son­al­ity cult.

Pro­fes­sor of pol­i­tics at the Univer­sity of East Anglia, John Street, has ar­gued that politi­cians and celebri­ties share a com­mon iden­tity. To suc­ceed in the new glob­alised celebrity cul­ture, politi­cians have to rely on self-pro­mo­tion, ad­ver­tis­ing, tar­get­ing and brand­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to Street, mod­ern pol­i­tics has be­come more mar­ket­ing than sci­ence.

Mubarak man­aged to do that very well. He hired a top jour­nal­ist to write his speeches and he was very keen to have ex­ten­sive cov­er­age of all his ac­tiv­i­ties. Pro­pa­ganda was one of his main tools in build­ing his im­age, and the brain­wash­ing of the masses re­ver­ber­ates back to French psy­chol­o­gist Gus­tave le Bon’s no­tion of the psy­chol­ogy of the masses.

When he came into of­fice Mubarak promised to de­fend democ­racy in Egypt. None­the­less, the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem he adopted was au­thor­i­tar­ian. Uni­ver­sal rights such as free­dom of speech and as­sem­bly were tram­pled upon.

His in­ter­na­tional im­age was par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant. Mubarak be­came a lead­ing voice in the Is­raeli and Pales­tinian con­flict, pro­mot­ing ag­gres­sively the idea of a two-state so­lu­tion.

In 1989, his im­age was given a ma­jor boost when he raised the Egyp­tian flag on Taba, the re­sort that Israel kept un­der its au­thor­ity.

An­other mo­ment of in­ter­na­tional lime­light for Mubarak was Sad­dam Hus­sein’s in­va­sion of Kuwait.

Egyp­tians fought along­side the Amer­i­cans to fa­cil­i­tate the Kuwait “lib­er­a­tion”. On the back of this Mubarak man­aged to re­turn the Arab League head­quar­ters to Cairo af­ter 10 years of boy­cott.

Back at home Mubarak did less well. His re­la­tion­ship with the op­po­si­tion grew steadily worse, reach­ing an all-time low in 2010, when he de­cided to ex­clude all op­po­si­tion from the par­lia­ment.

Last but not least, Mubarak was groom­ing his son Ga­mal to suc­ceed him as a pres­i­dent. These ef­forts were silently op­posed by the army but they had the chance to have their say dur­ing the Jan­uary 2011 up­ris­ing, when they re­fused to sup­port Mubarak.

When it came to the Mus­lim Brother­hood, Mubarak al­lowed the or­gan­i­sa­tion a level of free­dom. He al­lowed it to grow and con­trol stu­dent unions and most of the pro­fes­sional or­gan­i­sa­tions – such as those for doc­tors, engi­neers and teach­ers. But his regime made sure it was al­ways un­der con­trol.

The fact that Mubarak’s mil­i­tary fu­neral with full hon­ours was at­tended by the Egyp­tian pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah el Sisi will keep fu­ture Egyp­tian gen­er­a­tions in ut­ter con­fu­sion.

Was this the pres­i­dent who drove mil­lions of Egyp­tians on to the streets in 2011?

What were the feel­ings of thou­sands of Egyp­tian fam­i­lies who lost a loved one, or have a fam­ily mem­ber liv­ing with an in­jury or who were tor­tured dur­ing that “rev­o­lu­tion”?

Many have not yet heard an an­swer about who killed or in­jured their loved ones.

The highly for­mal mil­i­tary fu­neral held one solid truth. The mil­i­tary is still in charge in Egypt, as it has been for the past 70 years.

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