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.
Sectarian tensions persisted following violent incidents and jihadist attacks on Coptic Christians and in Sinai fight against Islamist militancy continued. One police officer killed 5 Jan as police tried to safely detonate explosive device outside church just east of Cairo. President Sisi 6 Jan inaugurated cathedral in new administrative capital 30km east of Cairo day before Coptic Christmas. Police 11-12 Jan dispersed violent mobs outside church in Manshiyet Zaafarna, Minya province in centre demanding authorities close church. In Sinai, security officials said roadside bomb 14 Jan hit police convoy in Rafah, killing conscript; security forces 14 Jan raided homes of suspected Islamic State (ISIS) members in Arish, arrested four; govt 16 Jan said police killed five suspected Islamist militants in raid in Arish; Islamist militants 17 Jan reportedly kidnapped Christian man near Arish, police pursued assailants and killed one, but did not free abductee; security forces 20 Jan said they had killed fourteen suspected Islamist militants outside Arish; military 22 Jan said at least seven soldiers and 59 suspected militants had been killed in recent operations in Sinai and that it had arrested 142 suspected militants, without giving timeframe; military 27 Jan said airstrike on ISIS “outpost” killed several, including two local commanders in northern Sinai. Authorities maintained repression of civil society: in appeal trial, Cairo criminal court 9 Jan sentenced activist Ahmed Douma to fifteen years in prison for alleged role in Dec 2011 Cairo protests. Authorities 29 Jan said 54 people detained for plotting to foment chaos on anniversary of uprising. Lawyer 30 Jan said at least six civil society activists arrested over previous two days after commemoration of 2011 uprising. Sisi 22 Jan attended African Union (AU) summit as country took over AU chairmanship for 2019.
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.