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 faces an economic crisis that risks fuelling unrest. The International Monetary Fund demands reforms in return for loans, while the authorities seek to broaden their base through a much-criticised national dialogue. Foreign partners should cautiously support this balancing act to enhance the country’s stability.
Scepticism persisted about Cairo’s ability to make economic reforms and avoid default, while national dialogue kicked off amid harassment of regime critics.
Cairo made limited progress on asset sales. After long stalemate, govt from late April made limited progress in selling state-owned assets, key step in securing foreign revenues and meeting external debt liabilities. Notably, finance ministry 14 May announced sale of 9.5% stake of state-owned Telecom Egypt, which raised around $120mn; how much went to foreign investors remained unclear. Meanwhile, rating agency Fitch 5 May downgraded Egypt’s long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating from B+ to B. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait 9-10 May addressed parliament on 2023-2024 draft budget, which allocates 56% of total spending to debt servicing and anticipates that new borrowing will represent 49% of total revenues, suggesting that Cairo expects to meet almost all of its current foreign liabilities through borrowing.
National dialogue kicked off amid opposition mistrust. National dialogue between govt and opposition representatives 14 May began after months-long preparations. Some opposition parties, including Socialist Popular Alliance Party, boycotted dialogue, citing authorities’ failure to meet preconditions, particularly release of political prisoners. Meanwhile, crackdown on dissent continued. Notably, prominent critic of President Sisi, Ahmed Tantawi, who fled country in 2022, delayed return planned for 6 May after authorities 5 May detained several of his relatives and supporters on terrorism-related charges; Tantawi 11 May eventually arrived in Egypt after release of two family members, vowed to run for president in 2024.
Conflict in Sudan led to border chaos. Thousands of people fleeing conflict in Sudan in May reportedly remained stranded for days at Sudan-Egypt border. Sisi 27 May said Egypt has received 150,000 Sudanese citizens since 15 April.
The conflict in Egypt’s Sinai offers insights into U.S. foreign policy priorities. As part of our series The Legacy of 9/11 and the “War on Terror”, Michael Wahid Hanna argues Cairo has used the jihadist spectre to scare off critics and keep U.S. military aid flowing.
This week on The Horn, Alan 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' various concerns.
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.
Ethiopia and Egypt are in a heated standoff over a dam the former is building on the Blue Nile. To buy time for reaching a comprehensive settlement, the parties should agree on an interim fix covering the first two years of filling the dam’s reservoir.
In this episode of The Horn, 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.
Egypt and Ethiopia are exchanging harsh words over the dam the latter is building on the Blue Nile. At issue is how fast the Horn nation will fill its reservoir once construction is complete. The two countries’ leaders should cool the rhetoric and seek compromise.
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