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.
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.
President Sisi’s allies won absolute majority in parliament’s lower house, and jihadist insurgency persisted in north Sinai. Following third and final round of legislative elections 7-8 Dec, Mostaqbal Watan party, loyal to Sisi, increased its share of seats to at least 316 from 53 in 596-seat chamber (Sisi still to appoint 28 deputies); Republican People’s Party, another pro-Sisi party, won 50 seats, up from 13; meanwhile opposition further marginalised as several opposition deputies lost seats. Crackdown on dissent continued unabated; NGO Amnesty International 2 Dec said authorities executed at least 57 individuals, including at least 15 sentenced to death in cases relating to political violence, in Oct-Nov alone, nearly twice as many as in 2019. Security forces 3 Dec arrested businessman Sayed Sowerky for allegedly supporting outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. In North Sinai, Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated Sinai Province continued to target security forces and local energy infrastructure. Spate of sniper attacks 2-9 Dec killed at least four soldiers in Bir al-Abd, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah areas; roadside bomb 18 Dec killed five soldiers south of Sheikh Zuweid town. Suspected jihadists 10 Dec blew up gas pipeline in Sabika area; 24 Dec detonated explosive at natural gas pipeline near Al-Arish city. Counter-insurgency operations continued in Sinai and elsewhere. Army 8 Dec said ground and air operations had killed 40 suspected jihadist militants since Sept across Sinai; next day struck jihadist group near border with Libya in west, reportedly destroying 21 vehicles. Govt continued to strengthen ties with informal anti-Turkey alliance. Joint naval exercise involving Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece and United Arab Emirates took place 30 Nov-6 Dec off coast of Alexandria city; Sisi 6 Dec met with French President Macron in Paris to discuss regional issues, bilateral relations and military cooperation. FM 30 Dec said it had summoned Ethiopia’s top diplomat in Cairo after Addis Ababa 29 Dec said Cairo uses dispute over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as “diversion from internal problems”.
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.
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.
[In Egypt, anti-government] protests have now pierced the ‘wall of fear’ and are a major source of concern for the regime.
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.
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.
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.
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.