Often referred to as the Arab or MENA regional barometer, Egypt has again found itself at the centre of political, security and economic discourse following a sustained uptick in nationwide civil unrest, terrorist incidents, and the inevitable security crackdown which has followed since July 2013.
- Anti–government protests opposing the continued detention of senior Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members and the removal of the current interim government and its military backers, continue on a daily basis across Egypt. Protest actions are set to increase in scope and scale in the week ahead as now shunned political and social elements aim to agitate against the recently imposed power structure.
- The battle lines between the Morsi camp and the military and its political backers have been drawn it seems with little-to-no compromise between both sides for dialogue. The MB continues to respond to the most recent deaths by calling for yet more protests as part of a dual strategy to gain inclusion in the political process, whilst also not dissuading some of its more anarchic members from carrying out insurgent campaigns.
- This is the scene in which Egypt itself today, a public relations battle between two polar opposites; one battling for its existence, another battling to control Egypt’s future. Posed this way, then, should the series of significant terrorist actions carried out on 08 October 2013, be seen as a direct response to another crackdown on political protests, or be seen as the start of a growing Islamist insurgency closer to major city centres from the Sinai?
The next President of Egypt is likely to be Gen Abdul-Fattah el Sisi according to a statement issued by his strategic advisor, Mustafa Higazy, on 20 September 2013. There… it’s out…, the biggest open-secret in Egypt has been confirmed by someone close to the top of the current interim government. El Sisi is already the Head of the Armed Forces, Defence Minister. He has also taken on many duties as an ‘interim–interim’ Vice President and First Deputy Prime Minister, after el Baradei’s resignation. He looks in the best position to assert himself politically for the top job if other machinations play out the way the military would like in the coming months. Popular campaigns have also been started by both youth activists and nationalists to create the groundswell of support necessary for him to run in the civilian post at presidential elections, due to be held in early 2014.
Underreporting sexual assault in the Egyptian demonstrations
Egypt is currently fighting for its right to democracy. Anti-government rebels are heading into the sixth day of sustained protests against the perceived theocratic and unrepresentative Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), who were elected after the ousting of Mubarak in 2011. The Egyptian people are facing seemingly unending uncertainty; will the MB retain their power, or will they heed rebel warnings and cooperate with army demands? Western news reports and social media have inundated the public with news updates and statistics outlining ongoing discussions and violent conflict. However, these statistics have largely overshadowed the extremely high number of incidents of sexual assault on Egyptian and foreign national women during the demonstrations. The Western media chiefly reports high profile assaults on Western women and Egyptian victims are relegated to numbers and statistics. It appears that the international community is ostensibly ignoring Egyptian victims.
Sudanese strongman Omar al Bashir appears to be growing increasingly interested in global politics, often at the expense of his country’s domestic problems. To be sure, this week Bashir risked angering his ally to the north – Egypt – when he publicly clarified his position on the prospect of an Ethiopian-constructed dam on the Nile. On 22 June 2013, Bashir claimed that the controversial, so-called Renaissance Dam would “not stop the water from Egypt”, a serious area of concern for Cairo, which views the Nile as its lifeblood. Not stopping there, Bashir suggested that Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia would not only benefit from the project energy-wise, the development would also further cement the ties already binding the three Nile-based nations. For Bashir, the dam would spell disaster for Israel – a view contrary to that held by Egypt, whose President Mohamed Morsi previously claimed that the Ethiopian project was merely a US and “Israeli plot” aimed at circumventing his country’s influence in the region.
Of course, all this shows is that Bashir, understandably, looks happy to meddle in the affairs of his Nile neighbours. The real testament to the Sudanese leader’s interventionist polices is to his willingness to allow the full use of his country as a battleground for Iran and Israel’s competing influence in Africa. Bashir’s own people, meanwhile, are left to fend for themselves.
On 25 January 2011, the Egyptian people revolted against their unelected government, and initiated their participation in the Arab Spring. Eighteen days of demonstrations, riots, acts of civil disobedience and non-violent protests culminated in President Hosni Mubarak’s relinquishing his control of power to the military. The Egyptian people had claimed their right to democracy, and their right to be guaranteed rights. However, whilst half the population had made headway towards these rights, the remaining half had involuntarily wavered theirs. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) eventually began to reverse laws, implemented under Mubarak, which were intended to promote gender equality. How could it come to be that women were constitutionally more equal under an undemocratic government?
Will increased rhetoric over control of the Blue Nile’s critical water resource lead to eventual conflict?
The twenty-first African Union (AU) Summit was held in Ethiopia’s capital between 19 – 27 May 2013. The event has based itself in Addis Ababa since 1963 because of its regional and continental role. Ethiopia also benefits from the perception across Africa that the state has institutional stability and a history of successfully repelling colonial occupations. Ethiopia may possibly feel that the gravitas this event affords can enable it to push forward with a grander and further reaching foreign policy including its plans for the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERM) project; despite the fact the GERM project will attract the significant ire of Cairo. A day after the AU Summit ended, Ethiopian authorities formally began to divert a stretch of the Blue Nile in preparation to construct a 6, 000-megawatt hydroelectric dam and power plant. The move caused instant controversy with nations downstream of the Nile, such as Sudan and its larger northern neighbour and regional barometer Egypt. Egypt has chosen to be the most vocal opponent. Although the plans for the GERM have been known for several months as part of a US$12 billion investment project to boost power exports, the political sensitivities around Ethiopia’s agreement to put the GERM project into action still remain. The GERM project has the potential to continue to raise regional tensions. Talk of all out war between the neighbours in the short term has even begun.