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.
Islamic State (ISIS) continued violence against Christians and govt maintained repression in run-up to presidential election, first round planned for 24-27 March. ISIS 3 Jan released video of execution of alleged Hamas collaborator. ISIS claimed responsibility for attack in Helwan district, southern Cairo 9 Jan: gunman killed two Christian shopkeepers then stormed church killing seven more Christians, attacker arrested. Authorities 13 Jan extended nationwide state of emergency for three months, under which curfew to be imposed in North Sinai, around Arish and Rafah on border with Gaza. Former PM and 2012 presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, reportedly detained in Dec, returned home 3 Jan and withdrew candidacy from presidential election 7 Jan. Former MP Mohamed Anwar Sadat 15 Jan said he would not run for presidency citing govt’s lack of transparency and stifling of media. Lt Gen Sami Anan, former armed forces chief of staff, 20 Jan announced he would run, detained 23 Jan and barred from running on grounds that he remained in active military service; unidentified assailants attacked leading member of Anan’s campaign 27 Jan. President Sisi announced his candidacy 20 Jan, after 508 of 596 MPs endorsed it. Rights lawyer Khaled Ali 24 Jan said he would not run citing unfair contest. Ghad party leader Mousa Mostafa Mousa 29 Jan said he would run as sole challenger. Following reports that Egypt had deployed troops to Sawa military base in western Eritrea near border with Sudan 4 Jan (which Eritrean President Afwerki denied 15 Jan), Sudan same day recalled its ambassador to Egypt, and early Jan deployed troops to Kassala region in east near border with Eritrea. Sisi met Ethiopian PM Desalegn in Cairo 18 Jan on dispute over construction of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Egypt sees as threat to its water supply; talks ended in stalemate as Ethiopia rejected Egyptian proposal that World Bank mediate. On sidelines of African Union summit, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan 29 Jan set one-month deadline to reach agreement on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
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.
[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.
[ISIL's direct attack on a mosque in Egypt] suggests that they are now completely indiscriminate and don’t care about local sentiment.
[Terrorist] attack [in Egypt] places the Ministry of Interior under greater scrutiny, because it appears to have been caught off-guard by the abilities of the militants.
If [the U.S. decision to suspend economic and military aid to Egypt is] intended as a signal to Sisi's regime, it will have limited impact on [his] behaviour.
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.