The spectacle of Mubarak in a cage, while statisfying, should not distract the call for real change
Seeing the pictures of Mubarak behind a cage in court, apparently so weak that he was incapable of standing, could not be further from the defiant yet delusional dictator who, on the eve of his ousting by the army, could not accept that for eighteen consecutive days the people had demonstrated in Tahrir Square demanding his removal. Yet many thought this day would not come especially after Saudi Arabia rescued Ben Ali before he could be tried in a Tunisian court for crimes against his people during the uprising which ultimately led to his downfall. Tried in his absence he received 66 years – not that he’s likely to see any time behind bars living in luxury at the behest of the Saudi royals.
Although rightly humiliating for Mubarak, elements of a show trial are evident from the timing and nature of the proceedings. Before the trail demonstrators had returned to Tahrir Square aggrieved at the slow pace of change in Egypt. Indeed in a recent encounter demonstrators had been met by riot police and tear gas in a not too dissimilar way to how Mubarak used to crush any public opposition.
The spectacle of Mubrak’s trial will, the authorities are no doubt hoping, keep the people busy marveling at the exhibition in the long Ramadhan nights when Muslims meet in the mosques and deflect from the piecemeal collapse of Egypt as foreign exchange reserves run dry, prices rise, and little or no progress is made on job creation while the caretaker regime signs away to the EU and US any future Egyptian Government’s autonomy to make political, social and economic decisions. Loans from the IMF were eventually rejected after public pressure..
The whole basis of the trial and the idea that the Mubarak is getting what he deserves is questionable to say the least given that for the past five months or so the man in the cage has been “held” at the five star Red Sea holiday resort of Sharm el-Sheikh – albeit spending some time in a hospital.
This is unsurprising, however. Apart from the removal of the Mubaraks, the elite echelons have changed little in Egypt since February 2011 when Mubarak was ousted. Political and economic patronage remains as before with a different face – Field Marshal Mohamed Hussien Tantawi, which not only means the system is unchanged, but the corrupt alliances of the past will in all likelihood re-emerge under a different front.
Mubarak’s show trial is merely a smokescreen to hide the cracks in the caretaker government’s leadership (or lack of) and designed to placate the Muslims desire for change.