21 Sep 2021, 14:01

Egypt's first post-Mubarak ruler, Tantawi, dies aged 85

   CAIRO, Sept 21, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Egypt's Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who

headed the military junta that ruled after president Hosni Mubarak's ouster
in the Arab Spring protests, has died at age 85, state media and a military
official said Tuesday.

  After his stint as Egypt's de facto leader, he was soon sacked by the
country's first freely elected president, the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, and
spent his remaining years largely out of public view.

  A veteran of Egypt's wars and politics, Field Marshal Tantawi had long
served as Mubarak's defence minister and as chairman of the Supreme Council
of the Armed Forces.

  He became the acting head of state of the Arab world's most populous
country after an 18-day popular uprising during the region's "Arab Spring"
protests ended Mubarak's rule in early 2011.

  Tantawi "died today, Tuesday, after giving a lot" to his country, the
government newspaper Akhbar al-Youm said in an online report confirmed to AFP
by a military official speaking on condition of anonymity.

  Like all Egyptian leaders from the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952 to the
2012 election of Morsi, Tantawi came from military ranks.

  Born in 1935, and of Nubian origin, Tantawi began his career as an
infantryman in 1956. He served during the 1956 Suez Crisis, and in the 1967
and 1973 Middle East wars against Israel.

  After taking charge of the country, his junta quickly said Egypt would stay
"committed" to its regional and international treaties, implicitly confirming
that its landmark 1979 peace treaty with Israel would remain intact.

  In 1991, Tantawi was on the side of the US-led coalition in the first Gulf
War after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

  He served as Egypt's minister of defence and military production for 21
years and became the army chief in 1995.

  Despite being a close associate of Mubarak, Tantawi relented to public
pressure and put the ex-president on trial on charges of inciting the killing
of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising.

  - 'Charming but change-resistant'-

  Tantawi was often perceived as a possible presidential candidate after
Mubarak's ouster, but his age and reported ill health counted against him.

  Those who knew him felt he would likely have failed to meet the surging
democratic aspirations of Egyptians after Mubarak's ouster. A March 2008 US
diplomatic cable published on activist website WikiLeaks described Tantawi as
"charming and courtly" but also "aged and change-resistant".

  "He and Mubarak are focused on regime stability and maintaining the status
quo through the end of their time. They simply do not have the energy,
inclination or world view to do anything differently," the cable warned.

  The army was widely praised for allowing anti-Mubarak protests during the
uprising, and the junta vowed to pave the way "to an elected civil authority
to build a free democratic state".

  Demonstrators had often hailed the armed forces as a unifying national
force -- less brutal and corrupt than the interior ministry police or pro-
Mubarak thugs who attacked their marches.

  But their joy soon turned into anger, accusing the junta of dragging its
feet in launching democratic reforms.

  Morsi, less than two months after his election as Egypt's leader in June
2012, sacked Tantawi and, fatefully, replaced him with then military
intelligence chief, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

  Sisi went on to oust Morsi after street protests against the Islamist's
single year of divisive rule, and himself became president in 2014.

  After his sacking, Tantawi largely kept a low profile, although he was seen
attending the inauguration of the "new Suez Canal" in 2015.

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