Hosni Mubarak: From poverty to presidency

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Cairo, 03 February 2011: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he will step down after elections this year, bowing after 29 years in power to a popular uprising that has begun to reshape the Middle East. Young people demonstrating in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen and Algeria over the last month began by demanding more jobs and lower prices. As Arab presidents and kings increase salaries and welfare payments in an effort to address discontent fueling the unrest, disgruntled citizens are demanding revolution rather than piecemeal economic and political changes.


Mohammed Hosni Mubarak was born on May 4, 1928, in the village of Kafr el-Moseilha in the Nile delta province of Menoufia. He belonged to a lower middle class family. After joining the air force in 1950, Mubarak moved up the ranks as a bomber pilot and instructor and then in leadership positions. He earned nationwide fame as commander of the air force during the 1973 Middle East war. President Hosni Mubarak came to power amid crisis three decades ago, a reassuring symbol of stability for many Egyptians as well as for Western leaders seeking a solid ally in the Middle East.


In the span of his presidency, Mubarak, a former pilot and air force general with a combative, stubborn streak, took tentative steps toward democratic reform but then pulled back toward the authoritarianism. The prospect that Mubarak was grooming his son, Gamal, to succeed him left many Egyptians feeling that they were trapped in the past, deprived of the opportunity for change and renewal. Mubarak, 82, announced in a televised address Tuesday that he will not seek another term, but rejected demands that he step down immediately.



Hosni Mubarak lacked the charisma of his two legendary predecessors - the peacemaker Sadat and the great Arab nationalist, Gamal Abdel Nasser - and constantly served in their shadows. Mubarak struggled constantly with the problems that have bedeviled much of the Arab world through modern history: economic stagnation, choking corruption, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and fighting Islamic militancy at the expense of personal freedoms.


As the years went by, Mubarak also became more aloof, carefully choreographing his public appearances, and his authoritarian governing style appeared increasingly out of sync with a world focused on economic and political openness. Mubarak remained a strong ally of the United States, carving out a niche as a key negotiator on the Palestinian crisis, and bolstered by billions in US aid because of his country’s ties to Israel.


Mubarak had never appointed a vice president as the constitution required, though he did so last week in an effort to appease protesters demanding his ouster. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election sets in motion a perilous period in Egypt and across the Arab world after decades of predictability under US -allied strongmen.



Mubarak engineered Egypt’s return to the Arab fold after nearly a decade out in the cold over its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, and carved himself a role as a major mediator in the Arab-Israeli peace process. World leaders urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday to take immediate steps for democracy, after he announced that he would not seek re-election once his term ends.


France, which was criticized for supporting Tunisia’s authoritarian leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali until his ouster, has been more vocal in its criticism of Mubarak’s handling of anti-government protests in Egypt. Mubarak’s departure would reconfigure the politics of the Middle East, with implications from Israel to oil giant Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah of Jordan replaced his Prime Minister on Tuesday after protests. Yemen and Sudan have also seen unrest.


The unrest has sent oil prices higher on fears of trouble. That in turn has raised worries about a further rise in inflation, increasing the potential for social unrest far beyond the Middle East. Rallies in support of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sprang up around Cairo on Wednesday but were dwarfed by the mass protest against his regime the day after he pledged to stand down in September.


More than a quarter-million people flooded Cairo’s main square on Tuesday, February 1, 2011 in a stunning and jubilant array of young and old, urban poor and middle class professionals, mounting by far the largest protest yet in a week of unrelenting demands for Mubarak to leave after nearly 30 years in power.

- Agencies


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