Leaders in chains — What are the next steps for Mubarak and Gbagbo?
By Hani Sabra and Anne Fruhauf Last week was tough for recently deposed leaders. On April 13, an Egyptian prosecutor ordered the detention of former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons, Gamal and Alaa. Their fate mimicked that of Laurent Gbago, the former president of Ivory Coast who was captured on April 11 looking ...
By Hani Sabra and Anne Fruhauf
By Hani Sabra and Anne Fruhauf
Last week was tough for recently deposed leaders. On April 13, an Egyptian prosecutor ordered the detention of former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons, Gamal and Alaa. Their fate mimicked that of Laurent Gbago, the former president of Ivory Coast who was captured on April 11 looking dazed and disheveled after a five-month political impasse and two weeks of vicious fighting between his forces and those of incoming President Alassane Outarra. Gbagbo is reportedly being held under U.N. protection in the northern town of Korhogo (an Outarra stronghold), and despite an alarming photo of Gbagbo’s wife surrounded by soldiers, the new president has promised that the couple and their allies will receive fair trials. In Egypt, Mubarak is confined to a military hospital, while Gamal and Alaa are in locked up in Tora Farm prison, where Gamal has seemingly lost his appetite. These tribulations will likely be just the beginning of long processes to bring the former leaders to justice. So what can they expect next?
- The most likely scenario for Mubarak is that he ends up confined to a military hospital. The humbled former president will probably be tried and, if found guilty, will inevitably serve his sentence in bed. Similarly, if doctors determine that Mubarak’s health is too poor for him to stand trial — and the physician’s advice may be determined by politics — he will likely still languish in a hospital until his death.
- A less likely scenario is that Mubarak leaves Egypt for medical treatment and does not return. Arab states including Saudi Arabia are probably advocating this option, given their ties to Mubarak and desire to avoid setting a precedent for prosecuting fallen officials. Egypt’s military leaders could be tempted to release their former benefactor, especially if doing so comes in exchange for Saudi largesse.
- There’s also a small possibility that Mubarak will be released. It’s a long shot because Egypt’s political climate means that most of the former officials will be tried and convicted even if the evidence is shaky. But if Mubarak, his sons, and their closest associates are set free, instability will rock the country once again.
- For Gbagbo, one possible fate is standing trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), as the Liberian warlord Charles Taylor did. The hurdle there is that Ivory Coast signed but never ratified the Rome Statute, which established the court, and Gbagbo’s southern supporters — as well as others across the continent, where resentment is building against the ICC’s seemingly single-minded focus on Africa — would question the court’s impartiality. An alternative might be an ad hoc tribunal situated in another African country.
- An Ivorian tribunal would likely be better for national harmony and seems equally plausible at this stage. Ouattara has asked South Africa to help him establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate all human rights violations committed since the ill-fated election in November, including by Ouattara supporters and northern rebels. But it’s unclear whether the process would offer any form of amnesty, or whether Gbagbo and his closest allies would be included in it.
- What is clear is that by resisting until the bitter end, Gbagbo has almost certainly squandered his chance of exiting with dignity. Had he and his fighters surrendered, he might have secured favorable exile terms (possibly in a friendly country such as Angola) and immunity for crimes against humanity. As it is, he’ll have to plead his case.
Hani Sabra is an analyst in Eurasia Group’s Middle East practice. Anne Fruhauf is an analyst in the firm’s Africa practice.
Ian Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. He is also the host of the television show GZERO World With Ian Bremmer. Twitter: @ianbremmer
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