AMANDA – El-Sisi’s Egypt (I)

El-Sisi’s Egypt (I)I am back in Egypt, the most important country in the Arab world. Egypt is a lynchpin for the security and stability of the region, so the Middle East needs a strong and stable Egypt.

Over the last few years the country has gone through some very dark days, undergoing significant upheaval, violence and bloodshed. The economy has disintegrated and dreams of democratic governance have been shattered.

Egyptians have not been blessed with good leaders. Since independence Egypt has been ruled with an iron fist.

After more than three decades under the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, having witnessed how Tunisians removed their dictator from power in early 2011 (an event that was to kick off the so-called Arab Spring), a month later they did the same, forcing Mubarak to step down. The millions of Egyptians who took to the streets hoped this would open the door for steps towards democratic governance.

Unfortunately Egyptand#39s next president, the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi, and his Muslim Brotherhood (MB) government failed to deliver Popular disaffection with Morsi, his failure to deliver on pre-election socio-economic goals, fear that he was taking the country in a very wrong direction and failing to take into consideration the parts of the population that were not aligned with his ideology brought millions of Egyptians back into the streets.This gave the military a window to return to power However, todayand#39s president, General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, has shown himself to be more authoritarian than Mubarak, running the country like a police state, making no effort to have any sort of inclusive governance.

There is no rule of law, the media is totally under the control of the government and those who criticize the leadership are thrown in jail. Human rights, freedoms and civil liberties have been crushed, with many journalists and activists having gone into exile.

Peter Greste and his colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, from Al Jazeera, have been in prison in Egypt since Dec. 29, 2013.

Paradoxically, while the Sisi government was legitimized by the mass protests against the rule of the MB, which paved the way for a military coup in July 2013, Sisiand#39s state also bans protests unless they are licensed, but such licenses are rarely granted. The Egyptian military is also no ordinary military.

It is, as one Egyptian told me, a andldquoparallel state,andrdquo with the militaryand#39s holdings estimated to be up to 60 percent of the economy and continuing to rise. It includes everything from bottled water to key infrastructure energy and technology projects.

So what do ordinary Egyptians think of the current situation? It is clear they are tired of turmoil there is ongoing revolution fatigue. The majority of Egyptians I spoke to up and down the country presently accept and, in some cases, even welcomes Sisiand#39s rule despite recognizing that he is no different to Mubarak.

In fact with the MBand#39s poor economic and political performance and ties with some unsavory groups which left many Egyptians fearful for the future, many including a large number of Christians, told me that they saw him as a andldquosavior,andrdquo which to me sounded unbelievable given the massive ongoing human rights violations and the killings that have taken place. However, when I raised these issues including the jailing of civil society and journalists, womenand#39s rights, etc.

, there was very little concern. What is a concern is stability and having the economy boosted.

The revolution and the counterrevolution cost Egypt billions, in particular from the tourism sector While it is now picking up again, there is still a long way to go.Many Egyptians also believe that the country needs a strong military leadership to protect it against regional threats.

Having now witnessed the upshot of the Arab Spring in several regional states including Libya and Syria, many feel relieved that Egypt remains in one piece. However, there is deep concern about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is already nibbling at the country in the Sinai Peninsula with the Ansar Brit Al-Maqdis group urging Muslims to support ISIS.

By having a strong military state many believe that ISIS will never be able to penetrate Egypt. Whether this is true, I will look at in part two.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman