Mubarak’s return shakes al-Sisi’s throne

With a face that Egyptians had not seen before, the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had a lengthy conversation with the Egyptians, the first of its kind since the revolution that ousted him from power in 2011.

Mubarak appeared for the first time with white hair and a wrinkled face, recalling memories of the October 1973 war against Israel, when he was commander of the Air Force.

The Egyptians regard the October 6 1973 War as one of the most important events in Egypt’s modern history, and consider the military leaders who participated in it popular heroes.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians watched Mubarak’s interview, which was broadcast on YouTube on a private channel called Mubarak Archive.

The 25-minute video sparked interest and debate among Egyptians via social media and on the Egyptian street, in terms of its timing and the message behind it. Mubarak’s speech was like a personal diary speaking of his memories as a military leader in the 1967 and 1973 wars.

Mubarak recounted the role and targeting of the Air Force in the June 1967 war, then the return and the “revenge” on October 6, demanding that young people learn about the “sacrifices of the October generation.”

Mubarak recounted how he went out at the head of a squadron of three Russian Teplov bomber planes at 9am on June 5, before the Israeli air strikes, and how the airport told him that the runway was targeted and that it was impossible to land his plane in Luxor Airport. He noted that moments after landing, Israeli aircraft were able to target his plane on the ground.

“The strike was a surprise and people lost their confidence in the army,” he said.

Mubarak’s speech did not reveal any new information about the historic war but what is new about Mubarak’s video is that the former president appeared in good health even though he is over 92-years-old.

The timing of the video was not good for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who faces declining popularity, angry demonstrations over poor living conditions, corruption and the waste of public money.

Al-Sisi and other military leaders have been accused of financial corruption related to the construction of presidential palaces and construction projects launched by an Egyptian contractor and actor living in Spain.

Last September, there were limited and rare demonstrations against al-Sisi in Cairo and several other cities, which coincided with a wave of arrests of demonstrators numbering about 2,000 people. Mubarak’s appearance sparked comparisons between al-Sisi and Mubarak.

Mubarak was convicted of corruption in the presidential palace case and al-Sisi is also facing charges in corruption cases related to presidential palaces.

Many see Mubarak as a corrupt president, but al-Sisi is seen by some as more corrupt and more repressive. Mubarak appeared in the latest video more focused than al-Sisi in his speech, and seemed able to evoke historical facts that took place over 50 years ago, with a high level of accuracy.

In fact, Mubarak has more charisma than al-Sisi, despite the great age difference between them.

Although many see Mubarak as responsible for repression and corruption, his recent appearance has stirred nostalgia for the Mubarak days, even among his former opponents.