You’ll be remembered after all
Like many a dictator, Hosni Mubarak had an obsession with being remembered in the annals of history, and during his staid and miserable reign he tried ever so diligently to latch onto something that would stand the vaunted test of time.
Abdel-Nasser had the 1952 coup, Arab nationalism and the nationalization of the Suez Canal; Sadat had the 1973 war and the subsequent peace process, along with the Nobel prize. Hosni struggled to find something on the same level. Even his self-titled moniker Batal el Harb wal Salam (Hero of War and Peace) came off the coattails of his predecessor.
So what did Hosni have during his tenure as President? There was no war against Egypt, no national crisis through which his leadership would shine; all he had to boast about were conferences and infrastructure projects (his reign was often jokingly referred to as the age of tunnels and bridges).
I remember a bizarre advertisement during one of his farcical reelection campaigns which compared the number of phone lines in Egypt when he assumed power in 1981 to the then current number, along with other comparisons which I have thankfully forgotten (possibly something like number of sewage pipes). As if these things wouldn’t have happened if not for his direct supervision and vigilance; as they seemingly were not just a natural result of the advancement of time and would have happened anyway.
It always cracked me up, the impression that was promoted that these things only seemed to happen because of Hosni’s endeavors, like he personally got down in the trenches and soldered cables together. Indeed, it seemed the sun rose each day thanks to his fortitude and benevolence, an idea that the folks at Al Ahram would not have batted an eyelid over publishing on their front page.
He seems to have decided that he would be remembered through these grandiose – in name – national projects that would secure the country’s future for generations to come. It was all very Chairman Mao. There’s an image I vividly recall from when he went to inspect Toshka when it was to be that very project, our salvation from all ills. There he was standing in the desert while some digging contraption in front of him was flailing about in the sand and seemed to be out of control, albeit in a mind-numbingly painfully slow fashion.
And there was Hosni, in his shades, looking out into the far distance, a visionary surveying the future he had ensured; the archetypal image favored by Mao – again – and assorted North Korean leaders.
Not content with providing infrastructure to the country (something that would have happened anyway regardless of who was the president) Hosni also proceeded to plaster his name on as many cities, buildings and police academies as he could.
Had he not been ousted and things had gone according to his plan, I would have remembered him as an uncharismatic oaf who oversaw three decades of oppression, torture, dire poverty and plain thievery.
But now post-Jan25 he’ll be remembered all right, remembered for one of the most dramatic falls from grace ever witnessed, for the all-too-rare occurrence of the ouster of an Arab leader. His sons are in jail, his cronies – old and new – are in jail, he’s supposed to be heading to jail. Some are saying that he’s in this position now because of his son and Ahmed Ezz and yes they were factors, but he was a catastrophe way before Gamal decided to play politics, and he fostered this cronyism that stripped Egypt bare.
So you’ll be remembered Hosni, as the president whose people overthrew in 18 days, as the hubristic, obstinate man of those tail-end speeches which just provoked people even more into demanding your immediate removal. As a murderer: no doubt. As someone who was willing to ruin this country and everyone in it so you could keep your dictator paws on what you illegally annexed.
You’ll definitely be remembered, just not in the way you hoped, but in the way you truly were. I’m just sorry that blood had to be spilt for that, because you and all your cronies are not and were never worth one drop of Egyptian blood.