According to the Freedom House, Egypt’s rate of freedom has reached its worst status in the last few decades with 18/100 points for freedom and civil rights in 2021. This has been the average estimation since Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi took power in the 2013 coup d’état while serving as Egypt’s defence minister and armed forces commander.
In addition to the deplorable human rights situation, Egypt has been suffering from a severe economic crisis, which puts the country, according to the Carnegie Endowment Institute, on the list of the most destitute countries in the world: “(…) People have grown increasingly poor. In 2018 the government statistical agency admitted that 32.5 per cent of Egyptians were living on less than $1.50 per person per day, five per cent more of the population compared to 2015. The government’s cash transfer programmes — implemented after many years of urging by the IMF, World Bank, and donors including the United States — reach no more than 10 per cent of the population.” [Carnegie on Egypt]
Meanwhile, Sisi’s main solution for the madly deteriorating situation is spending generously on mega-projects and weapons that drives him to extensively borrow at home and abroad. From the IMF alone, his administration has borrowed $20 billion since 2016. In 2020, the national debt of Egypt amounted to around $334.09 billion, all of which will have to be repaid in installments starting in 2021.
Nevertheless, The Gulf princes who have fully supported Sisi since he took power may not be interested in supporting his rule for much longer for several reasons, chief among which are the internal economic crises that the entire Middle East has been experiencing since the outbreak of the pandemic. In addition, after setting up unprecedented levels of repression, corruption and economic decline, Sisi is facing growing discontent from Americans with Biden in power [ending Trump’s warm embrace], which would likely push the Gulf princes to avoid fighting any losing battles with him.
“We were defeated. We tried to overthrow Mubarak’s regime and deconstruct the machine that is Mubarak’s machine, state security, police, military, all of this, and we failed.” [Mona Seif to PBS News Hour]
The disconcerting question now is: How will this tragedy, that began with a military coup against the first elected Egyptian president, end?
Egypt’s poor record on human rights is the answer. Starting from the Human Rights Watch statement on the dispersed sit-in at Rab’a Al-Adawiya: “Security forces killed at least 817 protesters within a few hours on August 14, 2013, as they violently dispersed the sit-in at Rab’a Al-Adawiya, the main gathering of protesters demanding the reinstatement of President Mohamed Morsi, whom the army overthrew and arrested on July 3, 2013.”
At the time this was a glimpse into the method in which the Sisi regime would be dealing with opponents. Ever since, tens of thousands of government critics, including journalists and human rights defenders, remain in prison for political reasons, many in prolonged pretrial detention. Authorities frequently use terrorism charges against peaceful activists and have also harassed and arrested relatives of dissidents abroad.
Contrary to expectation, this terrible repression of dissidents and human rights activists, along with the crushing economic crisis, may prompt the Egyptian military to abandon Sisi for being the man whose violence could push Egypt to erupt at any time. The Jan 2011 scenario is not too far from this. Previously, several demonstrations erupted in all governorates, calling for him to step down. And it is not in the army’s interest to have a popular uprising demanding the resignation of Sisi, or discontent with military forces.
Special sources revealed to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the military forces declared a red flag with the political leadership, to take the situation of anger in the street seriously, with emphasis on the need to allow a margin of freedom, to prevent the situation from breaking out. The sources said that the military forces featured a full perception of its fears of an upcoming explosion, which no one wants, according to the sources, but may be inevitable due to the anger particularly among the poorer classes in Egypt.
The reason behind this red flag is that the Egyptian army supported the January 25, 2011, uprising, since it did not want Gamal Mubarak to take power and succeed his father. The January 25 revolution was the kiss of life that protesters gave to the armed forces threatened with losing control over the presidential office in Egypt. It’s different now. It is Sisi (the president with a military background) who threatens the military’s control of the regime in Egypt as the army will pay the price for the growing discontent that could explode at any time, not Sisi alone. The anger will be against the entire military forces. So, will Sisi resign to get out of this dead-end road? In fact, Sisi himself openly declared that “Allah (God) gave him the authority to rule this country and God alone is able to deprive him of this authority.”
At a time when the Egyptian media describes any attempt to overthrow Sisi as a conspiracy led by terrorist elements motivated by the Muslim Brotherhood and other enemies of the “holy divine land of Egypt,” Sisi ignores the fact that the entity / person who might overthrow him will be from his close circles within the army or the police.
Reasons for that are as following. First, he himself said in a public speech that he will neither resign nor change his policy which is actually turning out to be a great threat to the people at the top, military forces included. Second, becoming a burden makes it even harder for any party to keep supporting him. Neither the gulf princes, nor the United States, nor even the armed forces generals who were by his side in the beginning.
Then who has the power to remove him from power? Could it be the Muslim Brotherhood? If they had had the power to make such a move, they wouldn’t have been thrown away out of the office, jailed, tortured, and killed. They would have used the power to protect themselves in the first place.
Could it be any one of the thousands in jail for calling for free speech? If they were armed or violent, they would have been with IS in Syria or Iraq. They would have used this power to set themselves free.
The question then is which party is more likely to do it? It is the one with power as usual. Just as the newly appointed defence minister led a military coup against Egypt’s first elected president in 2013, it would be done by someone who received the order from within the military forces itself. He would be supplied with all the information he needs by those close to Sisi. He would receive a huge amount of money and his identity will not revealed.
Abdel Nasser died in mysterious circumstances (it was said his heart just stopped working), Sadat was assassinated, Mubarak stepped down after a revolution, Morsi was imprisoned after the bloody 2013 coup and died in prison. And here is Sisi, moving steadily towards the dark fate that awaits everyone who rules Egypt as history has proven time after time that no one learns from the mistakes of the past.