Egyptian President Hussein Tantawi, who took charge of the country when long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down amid the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, died on Tuesday, Egypt’s president said. He was 85 years old.
For some 20 years, Mubarak’s Defense Minister Field Marshal Tantavi presided over the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took power after Mubarak’s ouster. He was known to be unquestionably loyal to the former president, and he cracked down on pro-democracy protesters, which continued under the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Al-Sisi’s government has since taken back many of the freedoms it won in 2011.
Born in October 1935, Tantawi, who had been suffering from age-related health problems in recent months, died in a hospital in Cairo by a close family member, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was unable to speak. were not authorized. Media.
His death comes 19 months after Mubarak died in Cairo’s military hospital in February last year.
Tantawi ran Egypt for 17 months, starting on February 11, 2011, until the election of Islamic President Mohamed Morsi in June 2012, when Mubarak stepped down.
After a short honeymoon, relations escalated rapidly between the ruling generals and the pro-democracy movement, which had led to an 18-day rebellion against Mubarak.
In one of the most violent incidents, in October 2011, military armored vehicles ran over protesters participating in a sit-in in front of the state television headquarters, killing many people under their wheels. This marked the beginning of a fierce campaign to quell dissent, which resulted in the deaths of dozens at the hands of security forces and the arrest of hundreds, many of them civil society leaders, in street clashes over the following months.
Youth groups revolting against Mubarak accused Tantavi of adopting the same violent tactics as his predecessor. Disappointment over police brutality was one of the rally’s screams of the 2011 insurgency. But instead of abolishing the security services, under Tantawi, the military notably rose to power.
The mistreatment of prisoners in government custody continues, many of them arrested on false charges. More than 10,000 civilians were also sentenced by military tribunals during Tantawi’s stay in power.
Referring to the period after Mubarak’s ouster, the presidential statement said Tanatawi was “a statesman who ran the country through the most difficult times, with the knowledge to face the risks that surrounded Egypt.”
Before the standoff between the army and the group reached its peak in 2012, Tantawi and the army’s Supreme Council had lukewarm support from the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful Islamic group, had long been oppressed under Mubarak. The group won elections held after the fall of Mubarak, which is considered the first free vote the country has seen. First, he won a majority in parliament, then Morsi won the 2012 presidential elections, becoming the first civilian to hold the position.
However, a court dissolved the Brotherhood-led parliament, and the generals gave themselves legislative and budgetary authority and control over the process of drafting a new constitution. He also put severe limits on the authority of the President, days before Morsi, who belonged to the Brotherhood, was sworn in as president in June 2012.
Only two months later, Morsi used a major terrorist attack against troops in the Sinai Peninsula to recapture Tantavi, along with chief of staff, Sami Anan. He named General al-Sisi, the then head of military intelligence, as minister of defence, replacing Tantwi, his longtime mentor. Al-Sisi would eventually oversee Morsi’s removal from power amid more street protests.
Tantawi had a strong military background as an infantry soldier. He fought the 1956 Suez Crisis and the 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel in the Middle East. He became Minister of Defense in 1991, replacing Mubarak in 1989 after Field Marshal Abdul-Halim Abu Ghazala, who was rumored to have been sacked because of his growing popularity.
Mubarak was determined not to risk the rise of another powerful military officer who could present a challenge to his power – and Tantawi was a good fit for the role. But he has been criticized for failing to adapt his traditional military approach to a new era of global terrorism.
According to a US diplomatic memo leaked by WikiLeaks in 2008, “the tactical and operational readiness of the Egyptian Armed Forces under Tantavi’s command has deteriorated”.
Cable described Top Gen as “charming and polite”, but “aged and change-resistant”. It said he and Mubarak were focused on maintaining the status quo above all else, and faced criticism from mid-level officials.
“They don’t have the energy, inclination or worldview to do anything different,” Cable said of Mubarak and Tantavi.
Tantawi is survived by his wife and two sons. Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.