Egypt Watch

Al-Sisi’s historical : From victorious hero to defeated general

The people told the leader not to go (do not leave power)… Egyptians asked the leader not to leave, to go on, and we are with you, (although he was) almost defeated.

Egyptian General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi suddenly turned to citing the June 1967 military defeat in Sinai, which the Egyptians consider to be one of the worst events in Egypt’s modern history, although his speech was supposed to be in memory of the October 6 1973 victory.

During his speeches, al-Sisi cites history, reminders, and compares his rule with various important historical events.

Observers say that al-Sisi is very interested, to the point of mania, in what historians will write about him, and often tries in his speeches to compare what he does with important events in Egyptian history. For example, al-Sisi attempted to liken the digging of the new Suez Canal to the digging of the canal itself in 1869, as a global and historical event.

He also compared the military clashes being waged by the Egyptian army to confront armed groups in Sinai with crossing the canal and liberating Sinai in the victory of October 6, 1973.

On other occasions, al-Sisi referred to Mohamed Ali Pasha as the builder of the renaissance of modern Egypt, saying he (al-Sisi) is building a similar new renaissance.

In more than one speech, al-Sisi has said that he was responsible for important military victories, and that he was the maker of the renaissance and the saviour of Egypt from the darkness. But al-Sisi’s historical comparisons to the greatest victories and achievements in Egypt’s history have slipped as the situation in the country worsens.

Egyptians say that the Egyptian failure to manage the differences regarding the Renaissance Dam and the loss of Egypt’s rights to Nile waters is a new setback equivalent to the setback of 1976.

Al-Sisi tried to remain the head of power in the form of a historical hero and popular leader, who fought wars against terrorism, digging the canal, and regained Sinai and built a modern renaissance. But those pink dreams gradually evaporated, and the image of the hero began to fade, replaced with the image of the defeated general.

A section of Egyptians considers al-Sisi a traitor who sold the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to the Saudi regime in exchange for financial support. Al-Sisi’s regime also now recognises that the Renaissance Dam negotiations are deadlocked and that Cairo has lost all its cards due to the tripartite agreement of principles signed by al-Sisi in March 2015.

In education and health, al-Sisi has repeatedly acknowledged that his country has neither a good education nor good health services. The state of the Egyptian economy does not indicate that al-Sisi has achieved a modern or economic renaissance. The Egyptian pound has lost almost half its value to the US dollar since al-Sisi came to power in 2014, and Egyptians are experiencing unprecedented waves of high prices.

Since al-Sisi ousted the country’s first democratically elected president in 2013, he has promised Egyptians that their country will become the best in the world, but more than six years into his rule, the road still seems long, and Egyptians feel they have made little progress.

Failure to conserve the Nile waters, or Egypt’s islands in the Red Sea, build a good education or a strong economy, or even provide a reasonable health service has made al-Sisi’s historical citations go down. On the anniversary of the October war this year, al-Sisi did not compare himself to the victorious leader, but pointed out that the Egyptians did not ask the defeated general to leave.

This reflects a decline in al-Sisi’s ambition, he does not want to remain in power as a victorious leader now, but rather as a defeated leader who tries to heal the effects of defeat.

Al-Sisi mentioned how the Egyptians, after the defeat of June 1967, donated money and were patient during bad times.

Politicians say that al-Sisi is asking the Egyptians implicitly not to leave him, and to be patient in the bad conditions under his reign as a defeated general. He no longer asks them to remember him as a victorious hero.