Mubarak in court : Is Meles next? By Eskinder Nega

August 5th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Thirty years in the limelight and yet Mubarak seldom smiled. Arab leaders rarely do. Perhaps it’s the 600 years under the Ottomans. But the last time he appeared on television, February 10, 2011, there was more than the customary solemnity. The sneer was manifestly apparent. This was after all a veteran solider speaking, a decorated hero of the 1974 Israeli-Arab war which had restored Egypt’s confidence and dignity, and he was impatient to tell the world that succumbing to the demands of an unruly mob was the last thing on his mind.

“I will not resign,” he finally said, defiantly stressing each word to maximize impact.

Egypt was literally outraged. The rest of the world held its breath. And the impossible happened next: he was ousted in less than 24 hours!

Six months later, he was back on the airwaves, his image and words transmitted live to a world-wide audience.

“Yes, I am here. I deny all the accusations wholly,” rang out 83-year-old Hosni Mubarak’s still surprisingly deep and strong voice.

But he was clearly not the man he was on February 10, 2011. He was speaking from one of Egypt’s infamous prisoners’ cages, laying helplessly in bed, accused of murder and plunder. The hair was still the dyed jet-black it had always been, but the facial expression had changed noticeably. A ghostly hollowness in the eyes dominated the face. The only movement was around the lips, involuntarily.

The world was not supposed to see him like this. Ostensibly running Egypt are men all appointed to their exalted positions by Mubarak. To their credit, they hadn’t forgotten. While the whole world spoke of his overthrow, of a people’s revolution, they were loyally adamant that he had “voluntarily stepped aside in the interest of the nation.”

Fuming young revolutionaries, however, thought otherwise. “We took him down in plain view of the whole world,” they protested. Along the way, more than 800 unarmed and peaceful protesters died. He must see his day in court of law, they demanded passionately.

The setting was complete for a battle of wills. And more than the pace of reforms was at stake in the outcome. The very soul of the revolution was on the line.

Which side prevailed was apparent when ethereal Mubarak was briskly wheeled into a mostly empty court room in a hospital bed. Victory has gone to the revolutionaries. Though it’s too early to write off the military entirely, by losing the blinking contest they have lost the initiative. They are now less likely to dictate the pace of change.

Will the wretched sight of Mubarak behind a prisoners’ cage impel dictators to cling to power at all costs? Have Assad in Syria, Saleh in Yemen and Meles in Ethiopia now lost what incentive there was to negotiate? Will the fate of Mubarak inadvertently become an antidote to peaceful transition?

More than 800 people should not have died in mere eighteen days. Most were shot wantonly by sharp-shooters to spread terror. Some were recklessly knifed by ruling party thugs. Many more were seriously injured by an overzealous police. More than 100 people were either being killed or injured every day during those three weeks. But the vast majority of protesters were unarmed and peaceful. There was coldhearted calculation to the killings.

This was more than a state reacting to restore law and order. There was clear motive behind the killings.

There is a fine line between murder and casualty that must not be crossed. Mubarak had callously crossed that line. He is now paying for it. Had he left office earlier, before killing gratuitously, he would most probably not be where he is today. His friends would have been able to help. His last minute behavior, more than the entirety of his record, is what has compelled the trial.

Saleh and Meles could and should learn from Mubarak. After bombarding Hama with tanks, however, it looks like its too late for Syria’s Assad. He will have to account for his actions, sooner or later. His friends and well-wishers, even those in Iran, would now be really hard pressed to help him. Saleh, too, would have been beyond the pale by now had it not been for the obvious threat posed by Islamic fundamentalists in Yemen, some with ties to Al-Qaeda. But hopefully Saleh is aware that he lives in the age of satellite television. A single image could sway world-wide public opinion against him. And no one will then be able to buttress his regime or help him personally, as the Saudis have been doing ever since the implosion of the crisis.

Every step Saleh takes is laden with multiple risks and dangers. The earlier he leaves the better for all: himself, his country and the region.

Meles Zenawi of course has yet to face a crisis. But he will. An African Spring, with Ethiopia, Africa’s largest dictatorship, as its epicenter, is unavoidable. And he knows it. But his reaction stands in sharp contrast to the Moroccans. While the Moroccan regime, soberly mindful of what had happened in Tunisia and Egypt, has voluntarily instituted democratic reforms to preempt a mass uprising, Meles has chosen to dramatically increase police presence on the streets. There is no talk of democratic reforms. All signs are that he intends to make a stand. Now rather than later is the best time for friends to caution him otherwise.

Meles must not draw the wrong lessons from Mubarak’s plight. Mubarak’s last minute behavior, not his track record, determined what happened to him after his ouster. The same most probably holds true for Meles Zenawi.


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  1. Bekumsa
    | #1

    I may be wrong, but just curious about the possibility of popular revolt against Meles. As much as I dislike popular revolt, due to fear of the wanton destruction of our nation, it might bring some sort of balance to the political landscape. But do we really expect popular uprising in Ethiopia? Is it our wishful thinking or an event unfolding below the ground?

  2. tebel
    | #2

    Good advice, wasted on deaf ears.

  3. Birtu/can
    | #3

    According to his comrades, Meles used to hide during a fire fight. Guess what he will do when the shit hits the fan?

  4. Jacob
    | #4

    Popular uprising is not imminent in Ethiopia. There is a lot of suffering, but the people are exhausted and resigned. Most of the youth are focused on survival tricks, i.e. ways to align with the regime and make a living. Also, most of the youth are becoming apolitical and have succumbed to the threats and pressures of the regime. Moreover, the opposition is so lame that it cannot function cohesively and forcefully to lead the people and bring down the regime. However, we don’t know what will happen after three or five years. I am positive that the next three or four years will be a free ride for tplf weyane.

  5. Kadu
    | #5


  6. Letiyebelu
    | #6

    When the BEKA revolution was announced on facebook,the outcome has been nothing other than being a litmus test of the real nature of ethiopianness. People were afraid to put their point of view on face book for fear of persecution. The level of fear was so high that ethiopians always thought EPRDF is monitoring what they think while they are on their bed leave alone what they actually do. On the day of the BEKA revolution that was set to coincide with Ginbot 20, it turned out that there was nothing like it and it passed out as a mirage talk. But as alwas, fear and Silence reigns supreme in ethiopia. We ethiopians are cirtizens of the Republic of Silence, Fear, Indifference and non-Cooperation.. i remember the time of hailesilassie, derg and now eprdf. Ethiopians apprehensively avoid confrontation with a repressive regime. In doing so they are postponing the rule of democracy, freedom and justice for eternity. in ethiopia we may be able to talk about change in century terms like the axumite period, the zagwe dynasty, the rise of king theoros, king yohannes, minilik, teferi, mengistu and meles. I seriously question any thing that is said revolutionary in ethiopia or has been said revolutionary in ethiopia. i see culture, politics, economics of ethiopia rather in evolutionary terms rather than revolutionary terms. OLf existed for almost half a decade now, but oromos fail largely to offer the help that olf was looking for why? amharas have been tageted unjustly by the tplf, but the amharas largely failed to rally behind forefront organisations like aapo. so my question is reallly are we ethiopians prepared to take our destiny in to our own hands? Are we not on the recieving end of politics as always being ruled by the cruel, the merciless, the powerful and the machavellian all wrapped up in a single personality of an ethiopian dictator? Are we not comparing the kettle with the the pot when we compare meles and mengistu as to which one is merciful? I am always wondering about our culture, our society and about we ethiopians and the concept of ethiopianness extended to the national domain.

  7. wilqonna
    | #7

    Make no mistake! Zinawi will definitely be captured by patriotic Ethiopians;then,he will be chained from head to toe and will be paraded in the streets of Addis Ababa and the rest of the cities.This crazy robber can neither be trained nor accept advices as he always loved killing Ehtiopians;it is in his thin blood that he bitterly dislikes Ethiopians.Well,hating Ethiopans,not only a sin,it is a crime;therefore,this,the most hated bandit foremerly,then now a well known robber,Ethiopians will disprove him that,indeed he will be taken by surprise when he is captued and arrested at the spot;then will follow the sentence without taking him to court.

  8. Anonymous
    | #8

    What goes around comes around. I’ve no doubt that in time, Meles will go down with shame and the world will know who the modern time Black-Hitler is. Meles can lie and spread his propaganda through his shameless Ambassadors around the world, but he will never be able to hide the truth. The truth always prevail.
    Meles, Ask forgiveness from Ethiopian people and step down as soon as possible and leave your children at least an ounce of dignity. Think about it, your children will be known as children of a mass murderer and live the rest of their lives not with pride but with guilty conscience.

  9. Anonymous
    | #9

    zewed #10,
    LOL! It is obvious that you have earned your degree in Criminal Activity at Cursed Woyane University…full of venom and always barking at the wrong tree. I highly doubt it would help, but your “Smelling filthy Mouth” and your bloody hand need to be washed with highly concentrated bleach to avoid diseases and more deaths.

  10. Clueless Woyane
    | #10

    Good to know how staunch supporters of Melese and self-claimed highly educated woyanes like Zewed communicate with others.

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