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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.

CrisisWatch Egypt

Unchanged Situation

Nile waters crisis with Ethiopia started to shake up domestic politics, and jihadist attacks regained intensity in Sinai Peninsula. Various opposition figures tried to use diplomatic impasse over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD, see also Nile Waters) to challenge President Sisi’s rule. Left-wing and Nasserist opposition groups, along with public personalities 1 June launched new coalition with view to “defending Egypt’s water rights”, notably calling for binding agreement with Ethiopia. Spain-based businessman Mohamed Ali 9 June – whose online videos accusing Sisi of corruption triggered wave of anti-govt protests in 2019 – called on Egyptians to take to the streets 10 July and carry out “Nile Revolution”. In response to rising pressure, authorities continued to clamp down on dissent. Family of former Egyptian Ambassador Yahia Najm, who has criticised govt’s handling of GERD crisis, 6 June said authorities arrested Najm late May. In Sinai Peninsula, jihadists stepped up attacks against army and civilians. Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) 3 June infiltrated army camp south of Sheikh Zuweid town, wounding at least four soldiers, and next day ambushed army patrol in same area, reportedly killing or wounding four. IEDs 4 June killed or wounded passengers of pro-army militia vehicle south of Rafah town, and killed intelligence officer in Northern Sinai. Suspected SP combatants 8 June kidnapped five civilians near Bir al-Abd town. IEDs 15-17 June reportedly targeted army convoy and bulldozers in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid areas; death toll unknown. Meanwhile, army 14 June killed senior SP official Abdullah Bariq al-Awassi south of Rafah

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

12 Jul 2021
Egypt’s more constructive and pragmatic regional role in recent months has produced good will and breathing space for Cairo, but at root this approach to regional affairs is reflective of Egypt’s own self-interests and not a byproduct of its relationship with the United States. Politico

Michael Wahid Hanna

Program Director, U.S.
26 Jun 2021
Cairo has been trying to mobilize support for its position on the GERD with the Nile Basin countries for years [...] to exert as much diplomatic pressure as possible on Ethiopia to force it to make concessions [on negotiations]. Al Monitor

Riccardo Fabiani

Project Director, North Africa
23 Sep 2019
[In Egypt, anti-government] protests have now pierced the ‘wall of fear’ and are a major source of concern for the regime. Twitter

Riccardo Fabiani

Project Director, North Africa
25 Mar 2018
For [the Egyptian government], development and economic growth come after the ISIS problem is resolved, and that is taking much longer than they anticipated. Al Jazeera

Issandr El Amrani

Former Project Director, North Africa
8 Mar 2018
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. MadaMasr

Magnus Taylor

Former Analyst, Horn of Africa
26 Feb 2018
What you are seeing [among the nations along the Nile] is a proxy conflict of who should be the regional hegemon, Egypt or Ethiopia. The Daily Free Press

Rashid Abdi

Former Project Director, Horn of Africa

Latest Updates

Podcast / Africa

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The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this Episode, Host Alan Boswell and William Davison, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Ethiopia, discuss Ethiopia's plans to start filling the massive dam it is building, including the complex dynamics at play, negotiations, and the parties' varius concerns.

Video / Africa

Reducing tensions as Ethiopia Moves to Fill its Blue Nile Dam

With rains swelling the Blue Nile, Ethiopia is just weeks away from beginning to fill the massive dam it is building. Egypt and Sudan demand that it not do so without an agreement. All three countries urgently need to make concessions for a deal.

Podcast / Africa

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The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this episode, Alan Boswell is joined by Harry Verhoeven, a leading academic expert on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to discuss everything from the politicisation of the dam to environmental sustainability and agricultural productivity in the Nile Basin.

Report / Africa

Bridging the Gap in the Nile Waters Dispute

Ethiopia is building a mighty dam on the Blue Nile, promising economic benefits for both itself and Sudan. But Egypt fears for its freshwater supply. The parties should agree on how fast to fill the dam’s reservoir and how to share river waters going forward.

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Also available in العربية