The appearance of former president Hosni Mubarak in a Cairo court on 3 August is perhaps the most dramatic expression yet of what has been achieved by a protest movement that first took to the streets a little more than six months ago.
Planned parliamentary and presidential elections have already been delayed, prolonging uncertainty
It is the first time in the history of the modern Middle East that a leader has been brought to account by his own people, and its significance will not be lost elsewhere in the region. One of the key points of contention in the ongoing support from international forces of the opposition movement in Libya is what is to be the fate of the country’s leader Muammar Qaddafi.
A UN statement on 3 August, after a day of attacks by the Syrian regime on opponents in Hama, condemned the use of force against civilians “by the Syrian authorities”, but stopped short of naming the president, Bashar al-Assad.
In Tunisia, ousted president Ben Ali, avoided being called to account by fleeing to Saudi Arabia following his deposition in January, but has since been convicted twice in trials held in his absence.
The trial of Mubarak has gone a long way to satisfying his opponents’ demands that the old regime be held to account. But political life in Egypt is still far from returning to normality.
While many Egyptians are keen to put the turbulence of the past six months behind them, others are demanding the military council that currently wields power be purged of Mubarak’s associates, and that a clear timetable be outlined for the transfer of power to civilian authorities.
Planned parliamentary and presidential elections in Egypt have already been delayed, prolonging the period of uncertainty. With protesters still taking to the streets to make their demands felt, the unfortunate irony is that what the country needs most of all is strong leadership.