Cairo, Feb 11 (IANS) He survived six attempts on his life, but Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak finally quit Friday evening after a powerful people’s movement that saw millions take to the streets all over the country — an exit as tumultuous as his entry three decades ago when he succeeded Anwar el-Sadat, who was assassinated during a military parade in Cairo.
Mubarak was seated next to Sadat when the shots rang out Oct 6, 1981. He survived, and barely eight days later on Oct 14, became president – a post that he clung to for the next 30 years.
The nearly three-decade uninterrupted rule came crashing down Feb 11 in the political upheaval that began Jan 25 with thousands converging in Cairo to seek his ouster. It was the end of an era in the Arab world.
The former air chief kept Egypt — a global tourist draw for the 4,000-year pyramids, the ruins of Luxor and the winding Nile — under stringent laws. The regime, however, failed to control the protesters who forced him out in an uprising that saw 150 people being killed as defiant protesters dug in their heels.
Besides becoming a trusted Western ally and keeping the opposition movement under check, Mubarak has also survived six assassination attempts.
A man who led a strict life – BBC reported that he had a fixed daily schedule that started at 6 a.m. and neither smoked nor drank – he built a reputation for being a fit man looking far younger than his 82 years.
Mubarak isn’t the first ruler to be forced out of office by people angry with their regime. There have been several instances across the globe in which people power torpedoed the iron rule of despots. Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu, for instance, who ruled from 1965 till he was executed with his wife Dec 25, 1989.
But events much closer home led to Mubarak’s ouster. The Tunisian uprising toppled president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali Jan 14 after nearly 23 years in power. The ouster sparked hope among the Egyptian protestors, who ultimately succeeded.
Mubarak had an illustrious career as a military man.
Mubarak graduated from the Egyptian military academy at Cairo and the air academy at Bilbays, receiving advanced flight and bomber training in the Soviet Union.
In 1972, President Anwar el-Sadat appointed him chief commander of the air force and two years later he was promoted to the rank of air marshal.
Encyclopaedia Britannica said Mubarak was named vice president in April 1975 and in subsequent years was active in most of the negotiations involving Middle Eastern and Arab policy.
He was able to improve ties with other Arab countries and helped calm relations with Israel.
A friend of the US, during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990-91 and later, Mubarak led other Arab states in supporting the decision to invite the aid of a US-led military coalition to recover Kuwait.
Mubarak displayed his deft diplomatic skills in mediating the bilateral agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that was signed in 1993.
He was re-elected to a fourth term as president in 1999 and six years later in 2005 Mubarak won Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential election.