Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has been in power since 1981 when he assumed the role after the murder of President Sadat by his bodyguards in the wake Israel-Egypt peace treaty. Since then he has clung to the role amidst accusations of widespread corruption, intimidation and vote rigging.
Throughout that period, Mubarak has been a firm friend of Europe and the United States. Indeed, Egypt was a member of the allied coalition in the 1991 Gulf War, and Egyptian infantry were some of the first to land in Saudi Arabia to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Reports that sums as large as $500,000 per soldier were paid or debt forgiven were published in the news media. The Economist cites: The programme worked like a charm: a textbook case, says the IMF. In fact, luck was on Hosni Mubarak’s side; when America was hunting for a military alliance to force Iraq out of Kuwait, Egypt’s president joined without hesitation. After the war, his reward was that U.S.A., the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and Europe forgave Egypt around $20 billion-worth of debt.
Interestingly, although Egypt is an oil-rich country with exports of petroleum and related products amounting to approximately $11.4 billion in fiscal year 2008-2009, since the time of the Camp David peace accords in 1978 the United States has subsidised Egypt’s armed forces to the tune of $38 billion. $1.3 billion annually for military financing and about $815 million in Economic Support Fund assistance, making Egypt the second largest recipient of conventional U.S. military and economic aid after Israel. http://www.fas.org/asmp/profiles/egypt.htm
Mubarak has come under criticism for extending Egypt’s Emergency Law (the country has been under a state of emergency since Sadat’s assassination in 1981). Under that “state of emergency”, the government has the right to imprison individuals for any period of time, and for virtually no reason, thus keeping them in prisons without trials for any period. However, critics argue that this goes against the principles of democracy, which include a citizen’s right to a fair trial and their right to vote for whichever candidate and/or party they deem fit to run their country.
Yesterday, least three people are reported to have been killed during a day anti-government protests across Egypt.
In Cairo, where the biggest rallies were held, state TV said a policeman had died in clashes. Two protesters died in Suez, doctors there said.
Egypt has many of the same social and political problems that brought about the recent unrest in Tunisia that toppled president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption. There are deep frustrations in Egyptian society, yet Egyptians are almost as disillusioned with the opposition [repressed for many years under Mubarak’s rule] as they are with the government.
Egypt is widely seen to have lost power, status and prestige in the three decades of President Mubarak’s rule despite the goodwill and generous financial support of Western powers.