The recent appearance in court of former President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, and his two sons, has not only attracted World attention but has also stirred controversy in Africa, where the impact of the event is mostly felt and the implications are many.
Of course, it is not the first time the World citizens have witnessed leaders falling from fame to shame, but the Hosni Mubarak saga is also dramatic enough to get some space in history books.
The former President of Egypt needs no much introduction. He has been in power as President of one of the powerful countries in Africa, with influence in both African and the Arab Zone politics for 29 uninterrupted years.
At one time he was also a darling of Western powers for various reasons, including relying on him to pursue their interests. Obviously, they had already abandoned him by the time of his fall from grace, thanks to their use-and-dump policy.
Back to the issue of why his historic trial is controversial. Some questions are being raised from several quarters in Mubarak’s country and beyond, especially in other African countries.
They include: Has Mubarak really a case to answer? If there is a case to answer, is he likely to get a fair trial? Is the manner he has been handled as he appeared in court for the first time proper? And the most important question is - what are the implications of Hosni Mubarak’s trial to Africa?
Mubarak is accused of, among other things, amassing wealth through corruption and ordering the killing of protesters at the climax of people power revolt in his country. There are other accusations in the public opinion court which include stifling democracy, periodic election rigging, imprisonment and torture of political opponents, plotting to be replaced by one of his sons, etc.
Indeed, the verdict on whether he has a case to answer is left to the court. However, chances of being tried are big, given the fact that evidence of wealth amassing through looting public coffers may not be all that difficult to adduce once an African leader is no longer in power.
So, while the issue of whether Mubarak will be tried or not is not a big puzzle, the one of what kind of trial he is likely to undergo remains intriguing.
Arraigning him in court while on a stretcher and visibly incapable of communicating effectively, make some observers wonder whether the generals in power, who are behind this move, are working in the interests of justice or simply for political gain through appeasing the public. Was it not possible to give him time to recover and then proceed with the case?
Widely circulated photographs and video footage of Mubarak’s court appearance event show that he was in a sort of a cage. This is a real humiliation of a former President and soldier who once fought for his country. Was this kind of treatment necessary, even though it is alleged he did worse things to his political enemies? Do two wrongs make a right?
Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian President and one of the influential voices in Africa is one of those who have expressed concern on how the Hosni Mubarak issue is being handled by the army generals, some of whom might eventually be proved to have been his comrades in political and economic crimes.
Mr Obasanjo argues that Mubarak’s treatment might be counterproductive by tempting Africa’s strongmen to hang on to power by tooth and nail for fear of encountering Mubarak’s fate. Do you think he has no point?
All said, it is a fact that what has recently happened to the dethroned dictators in the Arab Zone and to one Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast is a proverbial writing on the wall which African leaders must see, read and work on. They can ignore these clear warning signs to their own peril.
Ongoing social change is proving to us that a leader who is hell bent to cling to power by any means when things are going wrong everywhere in his/her administration, is simply courting disaster.
Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant firstname.lastname@example.org