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.
President Sisi continued reshuffle of military leadership: 2 July appointed former director of Armed Forces Morale Affairs Department, Major-General Mohsen Mahmoud Abdel Nabi, head of presidential office, replacing Major-General Abbas Kamel, who became head of General Intelligence Service late June. Parliament 3 July approved draft law giving Sisi power to grant military officers lifelong immunity for any alleged crimes committed since 2013 when then army chief Sisi led military in coup deposing former President Morsi. Former military chief of staff Sami Anan, imprisoned since Jan after he tried to run for presidency, taken into intensive care 14 July. Court 28 July sentenced 75 people to death for taking part in 2013 demonstration in support of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, referred cases to country’s Grand Mufti for final decision. Islamic State (ISIS)-related violence continued in Sinai. Two ISIS Sinai Province (SP) commanders early July reportedly surrendered to security forces in Rafah city, North Sinai. Military 3 July said three suspected SP militants and two civilians had been killed in North Sinai in preceding days. Security forces 11 July killed eleven suspected SP militants during raid on hideout in Arish city, North Sinai. SP 22 July said one of its commanders, Abu Jaafar al-Maqdesi, had been killed earlier in July. Security forces 24 July killed thirteen SP militants in shootout in Arish city. As fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza escalated, Egypt tried in vain to broker truce and closed Rafah border crossing citing “technical fault” 18-19 July. Parliament 16 July passed law that will allow authorities to block social media accounts and penalise journalists for publishing so-called fake news.
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.