Egypt is preparing to bury with great pomp on Wednesday its former president, Hosni Mubarak, who died the day before at the age of 91.
Flags at half-mast, cannon shots, Egypt is preparing to give military honors, Wednesday, February 26, to its ex-president Hosni Mubarak, who died Tuesday at the age of 91, in a hospital in Cairo.
An official ceremony will be held in his honor from 2 p.m. (12 p.m. GMT) at the al-Mouchir Tantaoui mosque, in the east of the capital. The man who ruled the country for 30 years must then be buried in the family tomb in Heliopolis, in the east of the city.
On Wednesday morning, a large security device, including armored vehicles, was deployed near the mosque and the cemetery, as a crowd of reporters approached the site, AFP journalists found.
Funeral with great pomp
Several cannons were lined up in front of the mosque for military tribute and dozens of Hosni Mubarak admirers were gathered nearby. They displayed portraits of the former president and Egyptian flags.
Samir Gaafar, 59, dressed in a traditional galabeya was holding a photo of the ex-president with a text denouncing the revolt of 2011. “I come today because the poor of this country became poorer after Mubarak”, he told AFP.
With the funeral with great fanfare, which national television has planned to broadcast live, the ousted president thus receives an official tribute from the Egyptian government.
Three days of national mourning were declared as of Wednesday by the government of the current president Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who like the late president, is a soldier at the head of an authoritarian regime.
“Mubarak has never betrayed his country”
Former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who came to power in 2012 in the wake of the Arab Spring, and then dismissed by the army the following year, had not had the same regard for his death in 2019. His burial had a place in the utmost discretion, away from the cameras.
Tuesday evening, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi had greeted in Hosni Mubarak one of the “heroes of the war of October 1973” against Israel, during which he had led the air force.
Several officials, including soldiers, paid tribute to him. On its Facebook page, the Egyptian armed forces command deplored the disappearance of “one of his sons”.
But besides the Palestinians, Israelis, and Emiratis, few foreign leaders have communicated on the death of the former head of state, who has for years been a familiar figure in international meetings, presenting his country as a moderate pillar within In the Arab world, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefly expressed condolences Tuesday at a press briefing at the State Department.
The state daily al-Ahram headlined on Wednesday: “Mubarak in the hands of God” with the portrait of the ancient rais dressed in a black band as a sign of mourning. “We could agree with him or not, but one thing is certain: Mubarak never betrayed his country,” wrote Mohamed Amin, a columnist for the private daily Al-Masry al-Youm.
Judged and cleared
Comparing the fate of Hosni Mubarak with that of other heads of state who fell during the Arab Spring such as the Tunisian Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who died in exile, Mohamed Amin pointed out that the ex-raïs, who remained in Egypt, “lived with dignity and arrogance”.
On Tuesday evening, AFP interviewed passers-by near Tahrir Square in Cairo, the epicenter of the popular revolt of 2011, raising mixed feelings among the anonymous respondents.
One of them said that Egypt “would have been a different country” if Hosni Mubarak had adhered to the idea of a “peaceful transfer of power” and had not reigned for so long.
“May he rest in peace,” said another, referring to “the good things” brought to the Egyptians under the Mubarak presidency, but also referring, without further details, to “the great injustices” experienced by the people.
During his presidency, the openness of the past few years has earned Egypt the start of an economic take-off. But his reign of three decades was mainly marked by deep social inequalities, police abuse, and endemic corruption.
Arrested and tried in several cases, he was the first president of the country to be brought to justice. However, he was cleared of most of the charges against him.