HarveyLeach tutor David Rogers was the Reuters correspondent in Cairo when President Anwar Sadat was assassinated and Hosni Mubarak took over. He was one of the few western correspondents who turned up to report on the military parade at which Sadat was shot. Here he recalls that moment and reflects on the events now shaking Egypt.
The bloody birth of Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule – surely entering its final weeks – helps explain much about a drab, ultra-cautious but frequently under-estimated man who until now has succeeded in his principal aim – to keep a suffocating lid on Egyptian politics. And survive.
He was sitting alongside Anwar Sadat when Islamic assassins shot down the former president, pumping bullets into his powder-blue military tunic. Those of us at the scene speculated that Mubarak may have escaped because of a bullet-proof vest.
As vice-president, Mubarak took over the leadership that night but many cast him as an interim figure, lacking the boldness and charisma of Sadat, the man who made peace with Israel. But Mubarak proved us wrong, gradually tightening his hold on power.
Having survived several assassination attempts himself, this Soviet-trained ex-air force commander has used his internal security services to stamp down on opposition. Cannily, he has never appointed a vice-president or allowed any of his own clique to gain a high profile.
Unlike revolutions elsewhere, the demonstrators on the streets of Cairo are not yet chanting the name of a single potential successor. So who will emerge from the vacuum?
Too early, too volatile to predict. Possibly a military figure will take over as a stop-gap leader. There had been speculation that Mubarak was grooming his son for the presidency but that is one option we can now rule out.