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.
Low-intensity jihadist violence persisted in North Sinai, and group of Western countries, including U.S., condemned crackdown on dissent. In North Sinai, Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate Sinai Province 4 and 11 March reportedly killed eight including at least two civilians; mid-March detonated IED near army armoured vehicle in Sheikh Zuweid area, killing several soldiers. Bedouin tribal force and security forces mid-March killed Salim Salma Said al-Hamadin, senior ISIS commander in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid areas, south of Rafah town. NGO Human Rights Watch 17 March said demolition of buildings and forced evictions of residents as part of govt’s counter-insurgency policy in Sinai “likely amount to war crimes”. U.S. 12 March joined group of 30 UN Human Rights Council member states to condemn “restrictions on freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly” and “application of terrorism legislation against peaceful critics” in first such statement since 2014; govt immediately rejected “reckless” accusations. Amid growing convergence between Egypt and Sudan notably on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dispute with Ethiopia (see Nile Waters entry), both countries 2 March signed military cooperation agreement; in following days, President Sisi 6 March visited Sudan’s capital Khartoum for first time since 2019 overthrow of Sudan’s former President al-Bashir, while Sudan’s PM Hamdok 11 March travelled to capital Cairo. Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 12 March reported first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013 coup in Egypt. Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry 14 March confirmed diplomatic contacts with Ankara but said dialogue was limited and Turkey’s actions must “show alignment with Egyptian principles and goals” for relations to return to normal, in possible allusion to presence of Egyptian opposition leaders in Turkey; partial rapprochement could pave way for understanding on Eastern Mediterranean 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.
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.