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For lack of better preparation

Mar 15,2017 - Last updated at Mar 15,2017

US President Harry Truman popularised the saying, “The buck stops here,” meaning: “I am responsible for what happens while I am in office.”

Truman, who served from 1945 to 53, was a blunt man, a former shopkeeper turned politician. Few contemporary politicians accept this dictum, Donald Trump, above all.

Another who rejects this proposition is former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, 88. 

After being convicted of failing to prevent the killing of 845 Egyptian civilians during the 18-day uprising of 2011, Mubarak was, on March 2, finally declared innocent of the charge, even though he was in command when the killings took place.

His interior minister Habib Al Adly was also cleared, even though he deployed the riot police and internal security men who carried out the killings. 

The judges who issued these rulings sit on Egypt’s court of cassation, the highest in the land. They also dismissed demands for yet another retrial of Mubarak and for families of victims to renew civil suits. 

When Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison, a 20-year term, in 2012, the spirit of the “revolution”, the uprising that never became a revolution, was still alive and well.

Egyptians continued to protest the death, wounding and imprisonment of activists who had flooded into the squares of Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said during the dramatic days of the uprising.

There were frequent clashes between youths and police on Cairo’s Mohammad Mahmoud Street, which leads to the ministry of the interior.

Families of the detained camped out on the grassy circle at the centre of iconic Tahrir Square. Waves of tear gas wafted from Mohammad Mahmoud Street and choked diplomats in nearby embassies and Nile-front hotels.

If Mubarak’s conviction on the capital charge had been quashed at that time, there would have been another uprising. Instead, the authorities detained him in a custom-built cell furnished with equipment to deal with his delicate health.

When compelled to appear before a special court at the military academy on the edge of Cairo, he was transported in a helicopter and delivered to the venue in an ambulance.

Although his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, who accompanied him, were in white prison uniforms, Mubarak, wheeled into the chamber on a gurney, was permitted to wear a blue dressing gown.

He had been, after all, president for nearly 30 years and air force commander.

He did not, however, escape the cage which forms the dock in Egyptian courts, where he was forced to reply when his name was called — along with the other accused men.

Even special treatment could not soften the crushing blow to his pride.

His humiliation was broadcast throughout Egypt and round the world by domestic and satellite television channels.

Egyptians believed he was on the road to being held accountable for decades of misrule and corruption that ended in mass killing.

The dismissal of the capital case demonstrates that accountability for the victims of the uprising was never envisaged.

Instead, he served three years in detention and his sons were sentenced to four years in prison for embezzlement of state funds allocated to renovate and maintain presidential palaces.

The money was used to refurbish their private residences.

The three were also fined $16 million. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while Mubarak has been held in a suite of rooms at the military hospital in the Cairo suburb of Maadi.

Egyptians who were active in the protests against Mubarak are certain to feel betrayed the dismissal of the death sentence.

The dead and wounded of the “revolution” have seen no justice.

“The buck” did not stop with Mubarak. He has served his three years for embezzlement. The court of cassation said he could go free.

Unfortunately, the “revolutionaries” have to blame themselves, at least in part, for what happened once Mubarak left office. They had no programme for the day after and failed to make common cause and establish a political party with a plan.

Instead, they squabbled and formed a host of small parties and rival factions that did not have a platform.

They only joined forces in the streets and squares to protest against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which assumed rule when Mubarak left. 

SCAF amended the constitution and held Egypt’s first ever free and fair elections. Millions of Egyptians voted. SCAF delivered on its initial post-Mubarak pledges and waited to see what would happen.

The well-organised, single-minded Muslim Brotherhood and its salafist ally, the Nour Party, won majorities in both upper and lower houses of parliament, marginalising the divided “revolutionaries”.

The winners had an agenda and set about implementing it. The Brotherhood proposed two candidates for the 2012 presidential election; after one was eliminated, Mohamed Morsi stood and won.

Instead of delivering the demands of the uprising, “bread, freedom and social justice”, the Brotherhood stuffed the bureaucracy with loyalists.

Morsi alienated the public by assuming full authority on a temporary basis, to ensure the adoption by referendum of a new constitution drafted by a committee dominated by pro-Brotherhood figures.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in December 2012 to protest Morsi’s actions outside a presidential palace in Cairo. Deadly clashes erupted between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators.

Thirteen groups of activists organised mass protests for June 30, 2013, and the military, once again, obliged by toppling Morsi.

If the Brotherhood had compromised by recognising that Morsi could not return to office and had done a deal with the military-backed interim government that succeeded him, Egypt could have avoided fresh turmoil and death.

The Brotherhood refused and responded with sit-ins, protests, marches and violence.

Bombs went off outside police stations and government offices. 

The military cracked down. Brotherhood members were rounded up and jailed.

In May 2014, army chief Abdel Fattah Al Sisi was elected president by an overwhelming majority. He was the “law and order candidate” called upon to impose security and peace and to renew the economy.

Street protests are no longer in fashion, or even possible. Agitation is unpopular. 

Egyptians are weary of turmoil. They demand normal traffic in the streets and quiet lives. 

Sisi remains popular although his security services — staffed by many of the same people who served under Mubarak — have arrested hundreds of Muslim Brothers and “revolutionaries”.


Mubarak is no longer a major issue for Egyptians; he is almost a forgotten man.

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