Since a July 2013 military coup, Egypt has sought to reassert state authority undermined by the 2011 uprising at the expense of political inclusion, especially of the Muslim Brotherhood. The resulting polarisation has encouraged mounting political violence from the Islamic State (ISIS) and other violent groups, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula where a low-level insurgency has raged. In the Nile Valley, in 2017, ISIS has targeted the Coptic Christian minority, while al-Qaeda affiliates and other groups tied to the Brotherhood have targeted security forces. Crisis Group is urging the government to be more inclusive and address widespread violations of human and political rights, especially ahead of presidential elections scheduled for May 2018, to better address security and economic challenges.
Egypt’s security suffered serious setbacks in 2017 with local jihadist attacks killing hundreds of people. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group recommends that the EU and its member states urge the Egyptian government to change its approach to counter-terrorism and improve the security for minority groups.
President Sisi continued to shuffle members of his inner circle as authorities continued to crack down on dissent. Sisi 1 Sept removed head of Administrative Control Authority (ACA) Major General Mohamed Irfan (one of his closest allies, Irfan is expected to be promoted) and reportedly dismissed head of General Intelligence Service (GIS) Major General Abbas Kamel. Sisi 20 Sept replaced Director of Military Intelligence (MI) Mohammed Shehat with former head of Second Field Army Major General Kahled Megawer. Govt 3 Sept took off air popular TV host with ties to GIS Lamees el-Hadidy after she reportedly upset Sisi with comments made during March election. Ahmed Bahgat 11 Sept said he was being forced to sell his Dream TV network to state-owned entities and move popular presenter to a GIS-owned network. Muslim Brotherhood affiliated, Istanbul-based, Mekemeen TV channel 15 Sept reported 27 army personnel had been arrested 13 Sept; many reportedly come from Second Field Army, previously led by two senior officers who have had disagreements with Sisi since 2013. Authorities 15 Sept arrested Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, sons of former President Mubarak, on revived 2011 charges of stock market fraud. Authorities 18 Sept froze funds of four prominent activists, including former diplomat Maasoum Marzouk, following their arrest in Aug on suspicion of belonging to terrorist organisation. Sisi 2 Sept ratified July law allowing govt to monitor social media accounts. Backpack exploded in alleged botched attack on U.S. embassy in Cairo 4 Sept, authorities same day arrested one suspect. In Sinai peninsula, security forces 10 Sept reportedly killed eleven suspected jihadists. Military chiefs from Egypt, Jordan and U.S. 12 Sept joined 15th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Supreme Military Committee meeting in Kuwait attended by all GCC members including Qatar; first meeting since Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar in June 2017.
Nearly two-and-half years after Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow, Egypt is embarking on a transition in many ways disturbingly like the one it just experienced, only with different actors at the helm and far more fraught and violent.
With Egypt’s presidential election having become a free-for-all, zero-sum game, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) should take a step back and, with the full range of political actors, agree on principles for a genuine and safe political transition.
If Egypt’s popular uprising is to achieve its aspirations for a truly democratic society, street activism will need to be converted into inclusive, institutional politics.
The Society of Muslim Brothers’ success in the November-December 2005 elections for the People’s Assembly sent shockwaves through Egypt’s political system.
Terrorism returned to Egypt in 2004 after an absence of seven years with successive attacks and the emergence of a heretofore unknown movement in Sinai. The government’s reaction essentially has been confined to the security sphere: tracking down and eliminating the terrorists.
Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential election, a response to U.S. pressure, was a false start for reform. Formal pluralism has never seriously limited the dominance of President Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP); extension to the presidential level is a token so long as the opposition is too weak to produce plausible candidates.
For [the Egyptian government], development and economic growth come after the ISIS problem is resolved, and that is taking much longer than they anticipated.
While [Sudan] wants to show [its] independence from Egypt on the diplomatic front, [it] can’t afford to have a more powerful enemy, such as Egypt, that can affect [its] relationship with the Gulf states.
What you are seeing [among the nations along the Nile] is a proxy conflict of who should be the regional hegemon, Egypt or Ethiopia.
[Egypt's President] Sisi's appointment as minister of defence in 2012 was partly predicated on a move to sideline [Retired Egyptian General Sami Hafez].
[The dispute about future management of the Nile] is a proxy conflict over who should be the regional hegemon, Egypt or Ethiopia.
Egyptian-Israeli relations are today at their highest level in history.
How can the dizzying changes, intersecting crises and multiplying conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa since the 2011 Arab uprisings be best understood, let alone responded to? This long-form commentary by MENA Program Director Joost Hiltermann and our team steps back for a better look and proposes new approaches.
Still grappling with its post-2011 turbulence, Egypt's economy and politics require urgent stabilisation. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – First Update early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to balance support for Egypt's economic reform with a strategy that seeks to fix the country's broken political system.
Uncritical engagement with Egypt will not promote European interests, says European Working Group on Egypt ahead of Chancellor Merkel's visit to Cairo.