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Updated: 9 hours 31 min ago

Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi dies

Tue, 2019-06-18 00:12
State TV reports Egypt’s first democratically elected president Morsi fainted during court session and died afterwards.

Egypt‘s former President Mohamed Morsi has died after appearing in court in Cairo, according to state media.

The 67-year-old died after fainting during the court session in the Egyptian capital on Monday, state TV reported.

“He was speaking before the judge for 20 minutes then became very animated and fainted. He was quickly rushed to the hospital where he later died,” a judicial source said.

Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in 2012, one year after the Arab Springuprising saw the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

He was then deposed in July 2013 following mass protestsand a military coup led by Egypt’s current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and was immediately arrested.

Morsi served just one year of a four-year term, while the organisation to which he belonged, the Muslim Brotherhood, has since been outlawed.

Morsi, who was facing at least six trials, had been behind bars for nearly six years and was serving a 20-year prison sentence for a conviction arising from the killing of protesters during demonstrations in 2012. He was also serving a life sentence for espionage in a case related to the Gulf state of Qatar.

Other charges against the former leader include jailbreak, insulting the judiciary and involvement in “terrorism”. 

In November 2016, the Court of Cassation scrapped the life imprisonment sentence for Morsi and 21 other defendants, including some who had received the death penalty in the same case, and ordered a retrial.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the first world leader to pay tribute to Morsi, calling him a “martyr.”

“May Allah rest our brother Morsi, our martyr’s soul in peace,” said Erdogan, who had forged close ties with late former president.

Denied medical treatment

Morsi had a history of health issues, including diabetes and liver and kidney disease. He had suffered from medical neglect during his imprisonment, compounded by the poor conditions in jail.

2018 report conducted by three British MPs under the Independent Detention Review Panel, warned that the lack of medical treatment could result in Morsi suffering from a “premature death”.

“Our conclusions are stark,” Crispin Blunt and the panel’s chairman said at the time. “The denial of basic medical treatment to which he is entitled could lead to his premature death.”

“The whole overseeing chain of command up to the current president would have responsibility for this,” he added.

The panel were denied access by Egyptian authorities to visit Morsi, and relied on testimonies, witness statements, NGO reports, and independently submitted evidence.

They said that Morsi was being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, which under the UN guidelines, would classify as torture.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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Germany Approves €800m Arms Export Deal to Egypt

Mon, 2019-06-17 23:46

The German government had approved an €800 million ($899 million) arms export deal with Egypt during the period from 1 January to 5 June 2019, the country’s economic affairs ministry announced yesterday.

Responding to a request of information by the German opposition Green Party parliamentarian, Omid Nouripour, the ministry said that it had signed “13 defense export deals with Egypt.” The ministry did not provide details on the types of arms that would be exported to the North African country.

“The German government has this year approved more than €1 billion ($1.1 billion) in defense exports to members of the Saudi-led coalition directly involved in the war in Yemen,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) quoted the ministry as saying.

The statement added that Berlin had approved “a total of 56 defense export deals between 1 January and 5 June, including €801.8 million ($900 million) worth of exports to Egypt, €26.1 million ($29.33 million) worth of exports to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and two defense deals with Saudi Arabia.”

Germany is one of the top five defense exporters in the world. Last year, it imposed a temporary halt on arms exports to Saudi Arabia following the assassination of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey’s Istanbul.

In the past five years, German defense exports to Egypt have jumped by 205%, compared with the total exports in the previous five years.

The former main contracts with Egypt were mainly for the marine division of the company ThyssenKrupp, which last year provided a 250 million euro submarine (one of four submarines that the German government approved to supply to Egypt, at a cost of about one billion euros), Diehl Defence, which sold 330 air-to-air missiles to the Egyptian Air Force, Airbus Defense and Space, the Keller and Koch company, which produces light weapons, and Kraus-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), which manufactures armored personnel carriers and tanks.

Experts say that the German attitude towards Egypt as a client for German made weapon systems has totally changed since the signing of a huge deal worth eight billion Euros in 2015 by Siemens, for the construction of two power stations in Egypt.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which published a report on the global defense industry earlier this month, arms sales to Egypt are part of the expansion of German defense exports to the Middle East and to North African countries in general. Between 2012 and 2017, according to the data, Berlin signed deals for the sale of arms to Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco worth 11.2 billion Euros.

With regard to the Middle East, the export of German arms to this region has increased by 109% in the past five years, despite the decline in German exports to other regions. According to the research institute, about half of the weapons to the Middle East come from the United States and a quarter from Germany.

It is worth to mention that Egypt under al-Sisi’s regime is ranked the second among developing nations for importing arms in 2015 – buying almost $12 billion worth of arms, according to a new US congressional report.

According to the report, titled “Conventional arms transfers to developing nations, 2008-2015”, developing countries continued to be the biggest purchaser of arms in 2015.

The annual review is considered the most comprehensive assessment of global arms sales available in an unclassified form. The report adjusts for inflation, so the sales totals are comparable year to year.

IHS Inc., the leading global source of critical information and insight, also released a report stating that Egypt is the world’s fourth-largest defense importers. Egypt’s spending on military imports reached US$2.268 billion in 2015, according to the report.

Since Al-Sisi’s military coup in 2013, Egypt has accelerated has its arms deals. Cairo has continued to sign defense deals with Western countries at a time the country is suffering a severe economic crisis and a growing budget deficit. Experts describe Sisi’s move as a way “to distract the Western countries from the country’s deteriorating human rights file and the suppression of the Egyptian regime against its opponents.”

Egypt’s entire defense budget is classified as a state secret and no details on defense spending are available. Even basic information unrelated to defense is classified on the grounds of national security. The defense budget estimated to be around $4.4 billion according to the Transparency International.

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Egypt, Israel Agree on $500 Million Fine to End Gas Dispute

Mon, 2019-06-17 20:29
Egypt reached a settlement agreement with state-owned Israel Electric Corp. to pay a reduced fine for halting deliveries of natural gas, ending a dispute that started about seven years ago.

The accord signed June 16 cuts the fine to $500 million from $1.7 billion after reaching “an amicable agreement” out of a “keenness to avail an environment attractive to investment,” Egypt’s oil ministry said Sunday in an emailed statement.

Israel Electric, the state-owned utility, had sued Egyptian state entities after Egypt broke a contract signed in 2005 to supply the fuel. Israeli officials at the time said the termination could damage peace accords between the two nations.

Egypt ultimately canceled gas exports to Israel in 2012 after a section of a pipeline that connects the two countries was repeatedly attacked by militants and, with its own reserves dwindling, it diverted supplies for domestic use.

The fine will be amortized over 8 1/2 years and the National Bank of Egypt will issue a letter of credit.

Egypt’s Gas Deal with Israel

On Feb. 19, a consortium of oil companies led by the U.S.’s Noble Oil and Israel’s Delek signed a contract to supply the Egyptian energy company Dolphinus with up to 32 billion cubic meters of Israeli gas over ten years.

The deal jolted people in the Middle East and beyond. The Egyptian public wondered why Egypt, the second-largest natural gas producer in Africa, was importing gas. Even more startling was that the deal came against a backdrop of the recent inauguration of Egypt’s huge Zohr gas field. While the leaders of both countries applauded the deal, it caused a public outcry in Egypt.

Egypt has repeatedly declared its intention to become a natural gas hub for Europe. The country is located off the southern shores of the continent, which is one of the largest energy markets in the world. Europe’s domestic energy production has been in a steady decline. It is already importing a lot of energy, with increased reliance on imports to come. North Africa is one of the viable options for meeting Europe’s gas demand. Despite pipeline and liquid natural gas infrastructure that connects North African gas exporters to European buyers, Russia’s Gazprom managed to outmaneuver North African gas exporters in 2017 by supplying the largest share of imports in important markets such as Italy.

Egypt’s desire to become a natural gas hub for Europe makes sense. It not only has substantial gas reserves of its own, but sits astride a major transit route for oil and gas shipments from the Persian Gulf to Europe. Natural gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean, coupled with legislation liberalizing Egypt’s energy market, are bolstering its gas-hub aspirations. One of the new laws allows foreign companies to use Egypt’s import and distribution facilities to trade in natural gas. Rising production from domestic fields and the presence of two largely idle natural gas liquefaction plants at Idku and Damietta will enable Egypt to import gas from Israel and Cyprus, then export it to Europe and Asia.

With rising domestic production and the deployment of renewable and nuclear energy to generate electricity, Egypt could develop a gas surplus this year. The deal with Israel will help it attain its goal of becoming a gas hub. In the short run, it will help it meet its gas demand before the Zohr field starts production in 2019.

Noble and Delek have been struggling to find buyers for their gas in the wake of anti-monopoly proceedings the Israeli government instituted against them. So far, they have managed to find buyers for only part of the production capacity in two fields: Israeli energy companies, the Jordanian Power Company and the Palestinian Power Company. The consortium has been planning to start first-stage production from the Leviathan field in 2019. But it had contracted to sell only half of the first-stage capacity of 5.7 billion cubic meters before the Egyptian deal took place. It was crucial that it contract for the remaining volume before beginning second-stage development.

Natural gas is both an economic and geopolitical commodity. This means that any transnational gas deal contains trappings of geopolitics. There are ongoing maritime disputes over natural gas rich territorial waters between Cyprus and Turkey, as well as between Lebanon and Israel. Although the Israel-Egypt gas deal was signed between companies and not governments, it is hard not to mix business and political interests in cross-border infrastructure projects. This is especially true in a region as tumultuous as the Middle East.

Recent energy discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean basin have certainly brought new dimensions to the geopolitical arena, but in the case of the Israeli-Egyptian gas deal, there are more signs that it’s a convergence of business interests between sellers and buyers than it is geopolitics.

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As Egypt starves, Sisi stirs horror in Libya and Sudan

Sun, 2019-06-16 04:57
In a recent Foreign Policy article former Minister of Investment Yehia Hamed forecast that Egypt will soon be bankrupt if it continues in the same vein.

External debt has increased fivefold in the last half decade whilst public debt has more than doubled. With the bulk of resources being funnelled away from civil society, ordinary Egyptians have for quite some time been feeling the heat.

In fact this, along with soaring inflation, an increase in tax revenues and subsidy cuts have created a lethal cocktail under which they are drowning.

It’s not just a small number who are at risk of being swept away. An April 2019 report by the World Bank revealed that some 60 per cent of Egyptians are either poor or vulnerable. This figure is set to rise.

Whilst people at home can barely afford to buy food, Egypt, along with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, provides funding along with military and intelligence support to Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, who has been pursuing a campaign against the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli for over two months now.

The three allies believe the general is a buffer against the rise of political Islam in the region, which they fear as direct opposition to their rule.

Commenting on the war in Libya Al-Sisi’s office has said: “The president affirmed Egypt’s support in efforts to fight terrorism and extremist militias to achieve security and stability for Libyan citizens throughout the country.”

Yet Haftar’s bombardment has killed nearly 600, wounded 3,000 and forced 80,000 out of their homes. It has also pulled apart UN efforts to establish peace between the GNA in the West and its parallel administration based in the East.

As chairperson of the African Union, Al-Sisi should be brokering peace in Libya, not supporting Haftar who has no respect for the unity of the country. As Egypt’s ally and a backer to the GNA, neither the US nor the UK should turn a blind eye to its role in what is happening in Libya.

Yet Libyan officials have repeatedly asked the US and Europe to exert pressure on Egypt and Saudi to withdraw support for Haftar.

That AL-Sisi even occupies the role of chairperson of the AU is deeply concerning given that Egypt was already kicked out of the union following the 2013 coup, which he presided over. Since then human rights abuses have only worsened in the country and the path to democracy has been completely derailed.

Under his leadership the AU has preserved the Transitional Military Council in Sudan, insulated it from sanctions, attempted to dissuade the body from suspending Sudan and extended a 15-day deadline for it to hand over power to civilians to three months.

Since the time frame was officially lengthened, doctors announced that paramilitaries raped more than 70 men and women during the violent crackdown at a pro-democracy sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum. One hundred were killed and some 700 wounded.

Numerous observers have drawn parallels with the violence in Sudan and the 2013 Rabaa massacre in which 1,000 Egyptians were killed in the street. Not only did Al-Sisi consolidate his power in the aftermath, but his regime continues to become more and more repressive.

In April, as protests looked set to topple long-time President Bashir Al-Omar, a military delegation from Sudan arrived in Cairo with the aim of securing financial and political support from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, countries they knew would be sympathetic on account of Al-Bashir’s relationship with Islamist parties in the country.

Sisi: Egypt will always support Haftar’s army forces

Egypt will always support the Libyan troops loyal to the General Khalifa Haftar, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said on Thursday.

“Egypt’s position on supporting the Libyan National Army in its campaign to eliminate terrorist groups across Libya will never change,” Sisi told reporters following his meeting with the Libyan parliament speaker Aqilah Saleh in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.

Saleh is currently in Cairo on an indefinite-period visit to hold meetings with Egyptian officials.

Sisi noted that his country was supporting what he described as “the legitimacy of Libya represented in the country’s House of Representatives,” stressing that the Libyan people’s will “must be respected.”

Cairo recognises Haftar’s forces as Libya’s national military. In recent years, Sisi received Haftar many times.

On Wednesday, foreign ministers of Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia – during a meeting in Tunisia – that there was “no military solution to the Libyan crisis,” calling for “an immediate ceasefire.”

Haftar forces launched a military campaign in April to capture Tripoli from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

After several weeks of fighting on Tripoli’s outskirts, however, Haftar’s campaign has thus far failed to achieve its primary objective. Nevertheless, Haftar’s forces remain deployed in several areas around the capital.

Libya had remained beset by turmoil since 2011 when long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a bloody NATO-backed uprising after four decades in power. The oil-rich country has since seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, with which Haftar is affiliated, and the Tripoli-based GNA, which enjoys UN recognition.

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Gulf of Oman tanker attacks: Iran calls US accusation ‘unfounded’

Sat, 2019-06-15 00:55
Iran says it “categorically rejects” US claims that it is behind attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had blamed Iran for the “unprovoked attacks” on Thursday.

He added that the US had made its assessment based on intelligence about the type of weapons used.

But Iran dismissed the claim as “unfounded”. A senior Iranian official had earlier told the BBC that “Iran has no connection” with the explosions.

Dozens of crew members were rescued after the blasts on the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous and the Front Altair, owned by a Norwegian company.

In a statement released on Friday, the Iranian mission to the United Nations said: “Iran categorically rejects the US unfounded claim with regard to 13 June oil tanker incidents, and condemns it in the strongest possible terms.”

Within hours of the denial, the US military’s Central Command released a video it says shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard “removing [an] unexploded limpet mine” from the side of the Kokuka Courageous following the blasts.

The blasts come a month after four oil tankers were damaged in an unclaimed attack off the United Arab Emirates. The US at the time blamed Iran – but Tehran denied the accusations.

Oil prices jumped as much as 4% after Thursday’s incident in the Gulf of Oman, which lies at one end of a vital shipping lane through which hundreds of millions of dollars of oil pass.

BIMCO, the world’s largest international shipping association, said the tension in the area are “now as high as it gets without being an actual armed conflict”.

Meanwhile, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that if Iran was involved, “it is a deeply unwise escalation which poses a real danger to the prospects of peace and stability in the region”.

What did Mike Pompeo say?

“It is the assessment of the United States that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks,” the US secretary of state said at a news conference in Washington.

“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

Mr Pompeo presented no evidence.

“This is only the latest in the series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests.

“Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran,” Mr. Pompeo said.

What do we know about the explosions?

The Norwegian Maritime Authority said earlier on Thursday that the Front Altair had been “attacked”, and that there were three blasts on board.

Wu I-fang, a spokesman for Taiwan’s CPC Corp oil refiner, which chartered the Front Altair, said it was carrying 75,000 tonnes of naphtha and was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo”, although this has not been confirmed.

Other unverified reports suggested a mine attack.

The ship’s owner, Frontline, said the vessel was on fire – but denied reports in Iranian media that it had sunk.

The operator of the Kokuka Courageous, BSM Ship Management, said its crew abandoned ship and were rescued by a passing vessel.

Both Iran and the US have released pictures showing rescued crew members on board their vessels.

Source : BBC World New

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Prominent Egyptian preacher Khaled Abu Shadi ‘disappeared’ in Cairo

Fri, 2019-06-14 19:15
The popular speaker, who is married to the Muslim Brotherhood deputy head’s daughter, was ‘kidnapped’ on Monday according to his family.

Prominent Egyptian Islamic preacher Khaled Abu Shadi has “disappeared” after leaving a mosque in Cairo on Tuesday evening, his family said.

Abu Shadi, 45, is a pharmacist and preacher based in Cairo. He is married to the daughter of the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat El Shater.

The Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, has been outlawed since the 2013 coup led by general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi against his predecessor Mohamed Morsi – who hails from the Islamist movement.

Abu Shadi is popular among young members of the Brotherhood, but his preaching steered away from politics and was mainly focused on spirituality.

“They kidnapped him after the evening prayer on Monday,” Abu Shadi’s wife, Somaya Shater, said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

“They kidnapped him from his car after he returned from an exhausting day at work.”

According to the Stop Enforced Disappearance campaign, Egypt has witnessed at least 1,709 cases of enforced disappearances in the period from July 2013 to February 2019.

The United Nations has documented 258 cases of disappearance in the 12 months prior to May 2018.

Since he became president in 2014, Sisi has led a crackdown on dissent that has seen the detention at least 60,000 political prisoners, according to Human Rights Watch, and the inauguration of 19 new prisons to accommodate the growing number of detainees.

Sisi, however, denies that Egypt has any political prisoners.

In an interview with CBS in January, he said the crackdown was aimed at fighting extremism, a claim that rights groups have disputed by citing the growing number of attacks facing the country since he became president.

Source : Middle East Eye June 12, 2019

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Who is Egypt Backing in Sudan?

Wed, 2019-06-12 22:34

Much of the world is wondering who is really running the show in Sudan now that its president of three decades has been ousted. It’s certainly not the protesters being crushed by the military as they seek a civilian democracy. 

Many observers think the real ringmaster behind the military is a tripartite Arab alliance formed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.

It is worth to mention that since the Arab uprisings of 2011, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have used their considerable resources to promote authoritarian governments run by military strongmen in the region. They helped crush Bahrain’s uprising, bankrolled a return to the military dictatorship in Egypt, armed a rogue military leader in Libya and mismanaged a democratic transition in Yemen before launching a  destructive war there.

A ghastly new chapter in the Saudi, the Emirati as well as Egyptian counterrevolution against democratic movements in the region is unfolding in Sudan, whose generals have unleashed terrible violence on supporters of democracy.

With the apparent blessing of that alliance, the military currently seems to be in charge of the chaos. The Transitional Military Council is headed by Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. The deputy he appointed to the council is Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, of Darfur infamy. Under now-ousted President Omar al-Bashir, Dagalo had led the Janjaweed militia accused of committing genocide there.

Burhan has made a flurry of trips recently. Cairo was his first stop after Bashir was toppled April 11. Burhan arrived May 25 in Cairo to meet with Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, amid the crackdown on protesters in Sudan.

On May 25, Sisi’s spokesperson, Bassam Radi, said in a statement that al-Sisi stressed “Egypt’s full support for the security and stability of Sudan and for the free will and choices of the brotherly Sudanese people in determining their future and preserving state institutions.” 

The leaders agreed to “ongoing intensive deliberations to contribute to restoring Sudan’s stability, promoting the Sudanese people’s free will and backing their choices.”

Following the Cairo visit, Burhan returned to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, then headed to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), then to South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia to participate in the urgent  Arab and Islamic summits regarding escalating tension with Iran.

Observers said Burhan’s recent visits show that the Sudanese military council is leaning toward the Saudi, Emirati, and Egyptian axis, as opposed to Turkey and Qatar, which are Bashir’s allies.

Babiker Faisal, a leader of the Sudanese opposition group Freedom and Change Forces, said Burhan’s visits also indicate the Transitional Military Council is expanding its powers and authority. Faisal said during a May 29 press conference in Khartoum that the Freedom and Change Forces organization was surprised by the visits.

After four months of protests, the Sudanese army toppled Bashir and formed the council, which seized control of the governmental institutions. There were some failed rounds of negotiations rounds with protester groups, which include political parties and movements, mainly the Sudanese Professionals Association, the National Consensuses Forces, Nidaa al-Sudan Forces, and the Democratic Unionist Party.

A few days after Burhan visited Cairo and Dubai, the Qatari Al-Jazeera channel reported May 31 that the Transitional Military Council withdrew the permits of the channel’s correspondents and shut down its offices in Khartoum amid mounting tensions between the council and protesters. Meanwhile, Sudanese security forces continued their violent dispersal of protests, which by June 5 had resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which has participated in the demonstrations

Shamel Nour, a Sudanese journalist who works at Al-Tayar newspaper, said, “Burhan’s visit to Cairo held two messages. For one, the military council is trying to gain legitimacy by paying visits to other countries to remain in power, especially those that supported it after it seized control. This is a source of concern for the Sudanese people. Second, the Transitional Military Council chose the axis led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, at the expense of Qatar and Turkey.”

In addition, Burhan’s visits were preceded by a visit May 24 by his deputy Dagalo (also known as Hemetti) to Saudi Arabia to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Dagalo said, Sudanese forces will continue their engagement in the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

According to an Associated Press report published May 8, the tripartite alliance played a key role in convincing Sudanese army generals, through secret channels, to remove Bashir after they grew tired of his shifting loyalties and his contact with their rivals Turkey and Qatar.

Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at the University of Cairo, said Burhan’s travels reflect that this alliance is coordinating counterrevolutions in the Arab world. Nafaa said he believes the aim is to empower a Sudanese regime similar to Egypt’s to control security and order in the country and fight Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

He added that the Egyptian regime is concerned about the Brotherhood’s potential rise to power in Sudan after Bashir’s fall. Therefore, Nafaa explained, the Egyptian regime supported Burhan to foil the plans of Islamists and avoid repeating the scenario that occurred in Egypt after the January 25 Revolution of 2011.

Rakha Hassan, Egypt’s former deputy foreign minister, said Cairo is approaching the Sudanese situation with a focus on security rather than politics.

Hassan said, “Bashir formed an alliance with the Brotherhood, which angered Egypt. [Egyptian] security institutions found it hard to deal with him.”

Egyptian Ambassador to Khartoum Hussam Issa met May 28 with a delegation from the Sudanese Professionals Association in an attempt to dispel their fears that Egypt would support the military council if it planned to remain in power. He told the delegates, “Egypt is committed not to intervene in Sudanese affairs, and it will support the choice of the civil government as soon as it is formed.”

However, Tarek Fahmi, a political science professor at the American University of Cairo, said that, “Egypt’s role is limited to supporting the moves of the Sudanese Transitional Military Council in setting the path of the political process and transition, away from the Turkish-Qatari axis that was close to Bashir.”

Fahmi added, “The Sudanese political forces need Sisi, as he is the head of the African Union this year and is capable of playing a strong role in garnering support for a peaceful transition and shielding Sudan from sanctions, in case the handover of power takes longer than expected.”

He noted that Sisi succeeded in persuading the African Union to grant two additional months to the military council to hand over power, instead of the initial two weeks.

Sisi’s April 25 call for call for negotiations among African leaders in Cairo ended with initial approval of an Egyptian proposition to grant the military council three months to relinquish power. Still, the African Union announced June 6 that it was suspending Sudan’s membership over the rising death toll in the brutal crackdown against protesters.

Nour said, “Although the civil forces are still capable of influencing the public, the generals of the council will not walk away easily.” The journalist added, “They have huge concerns about handing over power to a civil government that would harm their interests in the Yemeni war, or their economic privileges.”

Along those same lines, Nafaa said he believes that it is likely that the military council is deliberately dragging its feet. 

“I think the Egyptian regime is advising the military council to stall, as stalling guarantees more tension among the revolution forces,” the political scientist said, adding, “It seems work is underway to foil the popular revolution in Sudan and empower a military rule with no Brotherhood presence.”

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‘Al-Ahaly’ confiscation reads dark times for Egypt’s press

Wed, 2019-06-12 20:42
The repeated confiscation of Al-Ahaly newspaper has raised complaints about press freedom in Egypt, where state oversight of the media is a long and opaque tradition.

A wave of anger swept journalists and rights groups in Egypt after copies of Al-Ahaly newspaper were confiscated for the third week in a row, according to a report by Ahmed Youness in Al-Monitor.

The Egyptian National Progressive Unionist Party, which owns the newspaper, condemned the incident and questioned its recurrence. The party called the move an egregious act of meddling intended to control the editorial content of the newspaper.

According to the statement, a censorship officer from the Egyptian National Security Agency who is stationed at the paper’s publishing house to monitor its work warned the paper that the issue would be blocked if the content were not changed. The May 29 issue included the names of convicts who were released in a presidential pardon. The newspaper’s editorial board refused to omit the content and as a result, the issue was not published.

In its statement, the party asked who was behind the confiscation of the newspaper and the meddling in the journalistic work of a respected political party’s newspaper, questioning the motivations and legal basis of such censorship. It protested that the move violated the law guaranteeing freedom of expression.

The party asserted that such censorship furthers corruption and creates a negative environment for investment as well as makes it difficult to fight terrorism.

Amina al-Nakash, Al-Ahaly’s editor-in-chief, told Al-Monitor that practices like confiscating newspapers and changing editorial content are reminiscent of totalitarian regimes that banned public access to certain information. Such methods are pointless in modern times due to the internet, which allows the publication of any content, she added.

Nakash said that this is the third time the newspaper’s weekly edition has been held over topics that apparently do not please Egypt’s ruling regime.

Nakash said that the May 15 issue was blocked because it included a briefing request that parliament member Mohammad Fouad submitted regarding corruption cases and a former minister’s abuse of power. The May 22 edition was stopped over news of a potential ministerial change.

Nakash said that the most recent stoppage came after she received a phone call from an anonymous person who asked her to remove a detailed investigative report about the presidential pardoning and release of several convicts. She promised the anonymous person to discuss the matter with the editorial board and the party leadership. After they all rejected the request, the issue was blocked.

Nakash noted that she and the party leaders strongly reject censorship. She added that such meddling violates Egyptian law and the country’s constitution, which promote freedom of the press. Article 70 of the Egyptian Constitution states, “Freedom of press and printing, along with paper, visual, audio and digital distribution is guaranteed.”

According to a report released by the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression in February 2018, “List of Blocked Websites in Egypt,” Egypt blocked 21 websites, most of them news sites, on May 24, 2017. Since then, the Egyptian authorities have scaled up censorship activities, banning any content that goes against the government. At least 513 websites have been blocked as well as campaigns calling for reforms.

Ammar Ali Hassan, a professor of political science at the University of Cairo, recalled the days of late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, when newspaper censorship was strict and censors intervened to delete editorial content that did not please the authorities. In 1953 and in the wake of the Egyptian coup d’état on July 23, 1952, the Egyptian Revolutionary Command Council banned political parties. Partisan newspapers stopped publishing after political parties were disbanded.

On Nov. 11, 1976, former President Anwar Sadat issued an order allowing the return of political parties and their newspapers.

Hassan told Al-Monitor that the intimidation of the press continues. Many newspapers that were published during the monarchy like Al-Masry, Al-Wafd and Al-Balagh were banned. State newspapers like Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar remained, but under the eye of a censorship officer appointed by the Egyptian Revolutionary Command Council.

He explained that Egypt’s press censorship dates back 140 years. Egypt’s first media law, issued in 1882, it included strict limitations on the freedom of the press. For instance, a journalist could not offend a senior state officer, and if the newspaper received news about an official who committed crimes such as theft or embezzlement of public funds, it could not publish the news and had to cover up as much as possible. This law was abolished in 1983 by former President Hosni Mubarak.

Hassan noted that the current situation resembles the days of the Ottoman rule, when a police force working in the sultan’s palace monitored the press, deleting any editorial content that was deemed unfit for publishing and removing any words that could incite the public like revolution, constitution or injustice. 


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Egyptian Economy: Declining Not Recovering

Wed, 2019-06-12 20:35
The economic situation is undoubtedly a major factor in the stability of any society. However, the regime of General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi mainly relies on tightening its security grip which is significantly supported by the army. Also, we cannot overlook the regional and international support for the Sisi regime, both in armament through the unconditional supply of weapons and at the economic level through the lavish grants and loans that the regime has received.

By: Abdelhafez Alsawy *

There is some improvement in financial and monetary indicators that some see as an indicator of economic recovery that paves the way for the achievement of economic stability in the country. However, this is a hasty conclusion that does not take into consideration the high costs of such improvement.

In 1991/92, Egypt achieved progress in the same financial and monetary indicators, but failed to achieve any economic stability and was exposed to regional and international economic fluctuations that caused financial crises in the late 1990s and at the beginning of the third millennium, and during the global financial crisis in 2008.

In fact, the Egyptian economic situation under Sisi has worsened because of the dominating role played by the army in the civilian economy and its control over the joints of the state economy, as well as its fierce competition with the private sector, which prompted the latter to act as a “subcontractor” to the former.

In order to find out the reality of the economic situation in Egypt, it is necessary to refer to a set of important indicators that would explain Egypt’s economic performance and show the likeliness of achieving economic stability in the short and medium term.

First: A Funding Gap

The funding gap is the difference between public revenues and expenditures in the state budget. According to the draft budget of the fiscal year 2019/2020, the total deficit is estimated at 445 billion Egyptian pounds (equivalent to 26 billion dollars), and the government can only cover this deficit through internal and external borrowing. Moreover, the service of the public debt that is increasing considerably represents 83% of the total revenues of the Egyptian state, with revenues estimated at LE 1.13 trillion, while debt burdens are estimated at LE 944 billion. Egypt is not expected to break the impasse of the funding shortfalls and the increased indebtedness in the short and medium term.

While the Egyptian government announces that the public debt has fallen to 89% of GDP (as targeted in the budget of 2019/2020), the debt value is increasing, as domestic debt in December 2018 reached LE 4.1 trillion, and the external debt reached 96 billion dollars, as well as an upward trend in debt burdens, including premiums and interest rates.

Second: A Productivity Gap

Although the wide gap between Egypt’s commodity exports and imports is one of the chronic problems, Sisi’s successive governments have failed to introduce any new policies to bridge this gap, even in the medium term. According to the figures of the balance of payments for the fiscal year 2017/2018, the trade deficit is US $ 25.7 billion, while commodity imports are $ 63 billion, taking into consideration that the oil exports account for 33.7 percent of the total commodity exports and that the oil exports do not represent a net income of the Egyptian state, as they include the share of the foreign partner, which amounts to about 40% of the Egyptian oil exports.

According to data of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), the structure of the non-oil commodity import payments reveals the weak performance of Egyptian production, where the consumer goods represent the second highest position by 27.5% after the intermediate goods that represent 34.3%. The investment commodities (machinery, means of transport and spare parts) represent 19.2%, and the raw materials 13.5%.

In the light of the practices of the economic administration in Egypt, the limited financial resources are mismanaged, as they are invested in unnecessary or non-productive projects, which means that Egypt will continue to depend on importing food, tools, machinery, and means of transport as well as technology from abroad. Hence, Egypt’s productivity gap will deepen over the short and medium term.

Third: A Gap between Savings and Investments

Domestic financing is the most important source of funding for development projects and economic activities, but since the July 3 military coup in Egypt, the rates of savings have been very modest due to the economic measures that have been followed, especially after the signing of the IMF agreement in November 2016. According to data from the Egyptian Ministry of Finance, the domestic savings account for 6.2% of GDP, while investments represent 16.7% in 2017/2018. Thus, there is a gap of 10% of GDP financed by loans. In addition, the fact that local investments account for 16.2% of GDP is not commensurate with the target economic growth rates which require that the proportion of domestic investments reach 30%.

In the light of austerity measures and the targeting of liberalization of public goods and services, the domestic savings are not expected to increase as required and bridging the gap between savings and investment in the short and medium term is almost impossible. In addition, investment in Egypt is of traditional nature in the fields of agriculture, industry, and services, lacking the high added value due to the absence of Egypt from technology production.

Fourth: Fragility of Gross Domestic Production

While the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) is measured by the extent of dependence on productive sources, as well as the added value it achieves, it is noticeable that Egypt’s GDP relies heavily on consumption, where consumption represented 93% of the GDP value in 2017/2018. However, the problem is that the consumer needs are mainly met through importing from abroad, which is manifested in the successive increases in the value of the commodity import bill. Unless Egypt achieves fundamental amendments in the structure of its GDP, the talk about increasing the GDP or achieving any growth rates is merely for political and media consumption. The fact is that the GDP will not respond to social needs, especially the absorption of the new entrants to the labor market or alleviation of the accumulated unemployment.

Through analyzing the Egyptian government’s development policies, the GDP fragility is expected to continue in the short and medium term. Therefore, the recent World Bank press release has been shocking, as it confirmed that the poverty rates in Egypt amounted to about 60%; that the middle class, which is the source of savings, is suffering greatly, and that inequality is increasing. “More efforts are needed to accelerate economic inclusion and absorb a growing labor force. Some 60 percent of Egypt’s population is either poor or vulnerable, and inequality is on the rise,” the WB statement read.

The ratio of domestic savings to GDP is still low, as mentioned above, at 6.2%, which proves that the findings of the press release of World Bank experts are accurate. Therefore, we conclude that the talk of a high growth rate of GDP in Egypt to about 5.5%, lacks credibility because it does not benefit the poor and middle classes. Accordingly, the fact that the middle and lower classes do not benefit from the GDP growth rate declared by the government – if we supposed that it is correct – has led to reducing the proportion of savings.

Regarding the announcement of Sisi’s government of a growth rate of 5.5%, needs verification, as this growth rate has been achieved through debt financing, where the increase in domestic debt only during the same year reached 20%. Adding the increase in external debt, we find that the increase in the public debt may reach 25% to 30 %, which means that the cost is high, while the government does not announce its fiscal policy on getting out of this vortex, which will always put the fiscal policy maker under pressure and lead to disposing of public property in the form of productive or service projects (as recently announced by the government that it intends to privatize 23 projects and institutions over the period 2018-2020), according to the government’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Fifth: Subdued Foreign Direct Investment

Sisi and his ministers have often spoken about their great ambitions for foreign direct investment, but the reality did not reflect these ambitions as Egypt lacks any positive elements to attract these investments. According to the CBE data, these investments reached $ 7.7 billion in 2017/2018, 200 million dollars less than the investments achieved of 2016/2017.

The CBE data show that the majority of these investments come in the oil and gas sector, thus wasting Egypt’s chances of supporting development through these investments. It is remarkable in the case of Egypt that foreign indirect investments are much more than foreign direct investments, which means that Egypt will lose the opportunity to benefit from these investments in bringing technology, increasing exports or employing new manpower. The CBE data show the structure of foreign investments as follows:

– Investment in the petroleum sector accounted for 66.3%,

– The services sector accounted for 11.8%,

– The industrial sector accounted for 10.2%,

– The construction sector accounted for 4.3%, and

– The agricultural sector accounted for 0.1%.

In this non-positive structure, we noted that the oil sector is a capital-intensive sector that does not provide employment opportunities commensurate with the amount of investment spent. The second aspect is that the foreign partner’s benefit is high. The third aspect is that Egypt has not benefited from these investments over the past decades in the adaptation of the technology of this sector, or attempted to produce the investment requirements of technology, although Egypt has human resources and cadres capable of accomplishing this task, taking into account that many Egyptians intensively work in the Gulf countries’ oil sector and other international oil companies.

The reality of the development of the Egyptian economy

The economic discourse of the Egyptian regime together with some international institutions promote for the success of the economic reform program. To prove this, they rely on a set of indicators such as the rise in foreign exchange reserves, the decline in unemployment and inflation rates, the decline in the public debt to the GDP, or the improvement of the local currency’s exchange rate.

However, an analysis of the content of this discourse and a deep reading in the declared figures show that the rise in foreign exchange reserves is linked to the increase in Egypt’s external debt which amounted to $ 96 billion by the end of 2018. The decline in inflation is due to the end of a previous wave, not the result of improved production and improved real incomes of individuals. As for the decline in unemployment rate, it is simply a manipulation of statistics, where the numbers of new entrants to the labor market are deliberately underestimated.

To illustrate the numerical and statistical manipulation of unemployment rates in Egypt, we will have a look at the 2017 Labor Force Annual Bulletin issued in May 2018: On page 13, we find that the labor force was 28.4 million people, 28.9 million people, 29.5 million people in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively, that is, the number of entrants to the labor market in 2016 and 2017 was about 500 thousand individuals and 600 thousand individuals respectively.

These figures completely contradict the findings of the Annual Statistical Book of 2018, that was published on the official website of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), which showed that the graduates of universities and voc./tech. schools amounted to 922 thousand individuals and 978 thousand graduates in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Adding the illiterate entrants to the labor market, we find that the number exceeds one million people at the lowest estimates.

In attempt to justify this, some may say that some graduates go to spend their compulsory military service and do not enter the labor market; but they forgot that an almost equivalent number would have completed their military service at the same time and have become ready to join the labor market. This variable of military service is negligible with respect to its impact on the decline in the number of people entering the labor market. Based on this result, the labor force in 2017, for example, will be 30 million, not 29.5 million, as announced by CAPMAS, and the unemployment rate will be 13.3%, not 11.8%. Therefore, all unemployment rates announced after the military coup in July 2013 are questionable, and surprisingly, IMF experts approve them.

Table: Graduates of educational institutions in Egypt during the period 2013-2017 (Numbers in thousands):

StatementUniversity GraduatesGraduates of Voc./Tech. SchoolsTotal201346354410072014308537845201537855593320164874359222017537441978

Source: Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, Annual Statistical Book, 2018

The talk about the decline in the ratio of the public debt to GDP lacks credibility taking into account the funding gap in the state budget, and the improvement in the Egyptian pound’s exchange is largely due to the foreign investments in the local debt. In a report published by Reuters on 29 May 2019 the news agency quoted Dubai-based Lighthouse Research as saying that the appreciation of the EGP against key currencies since the start of the year “defied the broader sell-off in global emerging market assets”.

Conclusion

What is going on in Egypt is no more than a repeat of the 1991/1992 experience, taking into consideration that the Egyptian government has not moved to improve its productive position, which aggravated its economic crisis. It is important to emphasize that the support provided to the Sisi regime through loans and credit facilities by the Gulf countries and China is largely supportive of its current economic image, not the validity of its economic policies or its economic performance in various sectors.

We must also realize that this support is not provided to Sisi for free and that the Egyptian government repays the required price at the expense of the nation’s political and economic status.

*Abdelhafez Alsawy is an Egyptian economist. He has many economic writings, including The Post-Revolution Balance, the Employment of Zakat Funds in the Muslim World, A Development Vision, and the Egyptian Economy between the Taxes and the Zakat.

This article was first published in the Egyptian Institute for Studies on June 12, 2019

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What Algeria and Sudan Can Learn From Egypt

Tue, 2019-06-11 21:02
Eight years after the Arab Spring transfixed the world, the Middle East has once again lit up with protest. In April, popular movements in Algeria and Sudan forced the ouster of two long-serving autocrats: Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned on April 2, and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who was removed from power on April 11.

These uprisings show obvious parallels with the 2011 revolution in Egypt that led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. In both, youth movements, opposition parties, labor unions, and human rights organizations have banded together to oppose kleptocratic and repressive authoritarian regimes. These diverse coalitions have channeled local grievances about unemployment, inflation, and police abuse into clear calls for democratization and political reform. And in both Algeria and Sudan—as in Egypt in 2011—generals have intervened to usher the dictators out of office, only to find themselves in control of their countries’ postrevolutionary transitions.

These parallels are troubling, given how the story ended in Egypt. Following Mubarak’s ouster, a poorly conceived transition to democracy bred discord among Egypt’s revolutionaries, and their divisions paved the way for a 2013 counterrevolutionary coup that restored military rule. The architect of that coup, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, went on to declare himself president and establish a regime that is, if anything, more violent and repressive than the one toppled in 2011. Yet Egypt’s failed democratic experiment also provides lessons. As Algeria and Sudan take their first tentative steps toward democracy, they can draw on these lessons to help keep their own transitions on track.

THE POWER OF THE STREET

One of the most important lessons from Egypt is that street protests have the power to influence the decisions of the military. After Egypt’s generals forced Mubarak aside and took control of the government, the civilian protesters who had occupied Cairo’s Tahrir Square—and provided the impetus for Mubarak’s resignation—faced a dilemma. Should they leave the square or continue protesting? The young activist leaders who had spearheaded the anti-Mubarak movement soon discovered that in their negotiations with the military over the terms of the transition and the establishment of new democratic institutions, their greatest leverage came from their ability to remobilize the street. It was after watershed protest events that the generals felt most threatened and most willing to make concessions.  In November 2011, for instance, popular protests on downtown Cairo’s Mohamed Mahmoud Street forced the generals to withdraw a set of “supra-constitutional principles” that would have guaranteed certain rights and privileges for the military in advance of the official constitution-drafting process.

Activists in Algeria and Sudan seem to be banking on a similar strategy. In Khartoum, the movement organized an enormous sit-in at the army’s headquarters, which the military was only able to clear using extraordinary levels of violent repression. Undaunted, protesters have responded by blocking roads across the city, and movement leaders have called for a nationwide general strike, insisting the civil disobedience will not end until the military installs a civilian government. Indeed, were it not for the persistence of activists’ presence in the streets, it is likely that the military would have already succeeded in imposing a transitional government dominated by generals. And in Algeria, the regular nationwide Friday protests have continued since Bouteflika’s fall, despite attempts by the military to ban the demonstrations and crack down on activists. These protests have raised a number of concrete demands, including a postponement of the presidential election, currently scheduled for early July, and a more complete purge of Bouteflika’s henchmen and allies from the government. Whether these specific demands will be met, and more broadly whether the generals in both countries will be forced to give up meaningful political power to civilian leaders, may depend on how effectively these movements can continue to mobilize the streets.

KEEP IT TOGETHER

Another lesson from Egypt is that it is important for revolutionary forces to remain united. One major reason Egypt’s military was able to sweep back into power on a groundswell of popular support was that in late 2012 the secular wing of Egypt’s revolutionary coalition fell out with the Islamist wing aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and the government of President Mohamed Morsi. Both groups, in the end, remained more committed to their own particular political visions and interests than they did to protecting the democratic institutions that the revolution had allowed them to install. The coalitions that have taken to the streets in Algeria and Sudan are just as heterogeneous as Egypt’s was, and they similarly lack a strong organizational backbone. They will need to be proactive to maintain their cohesion and remain focused on the goals they have in common: establishing civilian rule, building democratic institutions, and holding old-regime officials accountable. Remaining rallied around these shared principles will be particularly important down the line, when the potentially messy and divisive tasks of drafting new constitutions and contesting elections begin.Sudan’s revolutionaries have, thus far, demonstrated an impressive ability to speak with one voice. They have formed an umbrella organization, the Coalition for Freedom and Change, which has forwarded a clear set of demands and a program for reform. The coalition’s primary coordinating role has fallen to the Sudanese Professional Association, a recently formed alliance of doctors, engineers, lawyers, and teachers, and youth movements such as Girifna. In negotiations with the transitional military council, the coalition has presented a united front, insisting that any transitional government be made up of more civilians than generals.

Yet there are also signs of fissures. Sudan has considerable ethnic and religious diversity—the uprising against Bashir included rebel groups from regions such as Darfur and South Kordofan, which are more skeptical of the military and have taken a harder line in negotiations, demanding justice for atrocities committed during military campaigns in their regions. On the other side, the relatively conservative National Umma Party, which ruled Sudan during its last democratic interlude from 1985 to 1989 and endorsed the anti-Bashir protests in January, has been reluctant to push the generals too far. Recently, its leader Sadiq al-Mahdi came out against the Sudanese Professional Association’s call for a general strike to increase pressure on the military council.  

Unity has been more elusive in Algeria. Most of the country’s main opposition parties have little credibility owing to years of cooptation by and collaboration with the Bouteflika regime. Instead, the main participants in the antigovernment protests have been trade unions, human rights organizations, and youth movements—none of which have taken on a major leadership role. Some have suggested that the widely respected human rights lawyer Mustapha Bouchachi could be a suitable leader in a transitional government, but he has claimed that he has no interest in such a role, insisting that Algeria’s “young should organize themselves.” And although all sections of the opposition seem to agree that a fair transition process should include the formation of an inclusive national unity government that would oversee elections to an assembly, which would then write a new constitution, tensions have already emerged among activist groups over what role Islamist parties should play in such an interim government. In the end, if these diverse revolutionary coalitions have any hope of remaining unified, they need to stay focused on achieving the goals that brought them together in the first place: establishing permanent democratic institutions and civilian-led rule. Once consolidated, they can use these new institutional channels to contest one another’s visions for the political future of their countries. In some respects, Algeria and Sudan may have it easier than Egypt.

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

The Algerian and Sudanese movements should also recognize the importance of cultivating foreign support. After 2011, Egyptians quickly learned that their revolution was never going to be left entirely in their own hands. Egypt’s most important ally, the United States, initially hesitated to back the uprising but eventually came around and cautiously supported a transition to democratic rule. But neither the secular nor the Islamist wing of the revolutionary movement was able to win the respect of U.S. diplomats, and Washington’s ambivalence toward the Morsi government likely facilitated Sisi’s coup. At the same time, regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which strongly opposed the Muslim Brotherhood, actively worked to prevent democracy from taking root by providing resources and diplomatic support to counterrevolutionary groups and movements within Egypt.

In some respects, Algeria and Sudan may have it easier than Egypt. The United States has relatively few long-term interests in these countries and less to lose from their transition to democracy. In Algeria, Washington has ceded diplomatic leadership to France, which is taking a fairly hands-off approach toward the transition, worried that any interventions might be framed as neocolonial meddling. And the United States was a longtime opponent of Bashir’s regime in Sudan. Although Washington moderated that stance in recent years, it will not be sorry to see Bashir go. Both countries have more to fear from regional powers, which have already waded in and left little question about their intentions. Egypt is attempting to use its position as head of the African Union to avoid having Bashir’s removal called a “coup”—a designation that would require the military council to hand power over to civilians or risk having Sudan’s African Union membership suspended. And just days after Bashir stepped down, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had pledged $3 billion in aid to Sudan’s transitional military government.

Sudan’s and Algeria’s activists can pursue two tracks vis-à-vis foreign powers. The first is to resist the incursions of regional states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, which have clear interests in preventing the establishment of genuine democracies in the Middle East. Protesters in Sudan, for instance, have taken to the streets opposing the Saudi and Emirati aid packages and denouncing foreign meddling in the transition. Second, activists can and should cultivate relations with potentially sympathetic foreign powers. These could include the African Union, which has been a supporter of democratization elsewhere in the continent since the 1990s; the European Union, which supported Tunisia’s successful post-2011 transition; and even the United States.

As the revolutions in Algeria and Sudan have raged, a number of Egyptian activists who were central to the movement against Mubarak have weighed in, with a mix of optimism and regret, to share their advice. Today’s revolutionaries might take heed. Their countries are at the very beginning of what may be long and arduous processes of building new democratic regimes. It is still far too early to say whether they will succeed, but learning the lessons of what went wrong in Egypt may help them to steer their countries away from a similar fate.

By Killian Clarke – The article was published by Foreign Policy on 10 June 2019

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Four reported dead as Sudan security forces move to quell civil disobedience campaign

Mon, 2019-06-10 20:55
Doctors’ committee says two people killed in clashes in the capital, while two others died in its twin city of Omdurman

One week after scores died in a crackdown on Sudanese protesters demanding civilian rule, four people have been killed as security forces moved to quell a civil disobedience campaign launched on Sunday.

The deaths marked almost two months since the 11 April ousting of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir, after talks broke down between protest leaders and military rulers over who should lead a new governing body.

In the capital Khartoum’s northern Bahari district, people gathered tyres, tree trunks and rocks to build new roadblocks as the campaign began early on Sunday

But riot police swiftly moved in, firing gunshots in the air and tear gas at demonstrators before clearing the makeshift barriers, a witness said.

“They opened the way, we closed it again, they opened it, we re-closed it. It was a game of cat and mouse,” said one protester, a 20-year-old mechanical engineering student.

In Bahari, onlookers saw a police truck full of people in civilian clothing, but it was not possible to confirm whether they were detained demonstrators.

A doctors’ committee linked to the demonstrators said two people had been killed in clashes in the capital, while two others died in its twin city of Omdurman, just across the Nile.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors blamed forces supporting the ruling military council for the deaths, which it said took the overall toll to 118 since a 3 June crackdown to disperse a sit-in by protesters outside army headquarters.

The health ministry says 61 people died nationwide in Monday’s crackdown, 49 of them from “live ammunition” in Khartoum.

‘I’m not angry even if I lose my income’

As protesters set about building roadblocks in Khartoum, markets and shops were closed in other towns and cities.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which first launched protests against Bashir in December, said the campaign would continue until military rulers transfer power to a civilian government.

Several residents said they faced difficulties but were still backing the campaign, the AFP news agency reported

“The roadblocks prevented me from reaching the market to buy vegetables,” said Hassan Abdelrahim, a vegetable vendor.

“This will impact my income, but when I look at these youngsters who are on the streets since six months, I’m not angry even if I lose my income.”

The military blamed protesters for the deteriorating situation and vowed to deploy security forces to restore order.

The ruling military council “regrets the behaviour” of the protest movement, Lieutenant General Jamaleddine Omar of the military council said in a statement broadcast on state television, on Sunday.

“The Military Council has decided to reinforce the presence of armed forces, RSF and other regular forces to help normal life return.”

‘Worse than during Bashir’s regime’

Khartoum residents have mostly remained indoors since Monday, when men in military fatigues raided the protest camp.

Several vehicles of the feared Rapid Support Forces, blamed by witnesses for the killings at the sit-in, were seen on Sunday in various parts of Khartoum, riding pickup trucks mounted with machine guns.

“Security in Sudan now is worse than during Bashir’s regime,” said leading journalist Osman Mirghani, adding that the protest movement had become stronger after the bloodshed on 3 June.

“The way the sit-in was dispersed. That bloodshed was a crime. The way the bodies were tossed in the Nile, no one should get away with such a crime.”

Several airlines have scrapped their Sudan flights since the deadly raid and passengers were left waiting outside Khartoum airport’s departures terminal on Sunday, although it was unclear whether any flights would take off.

The central business district was largely shut and buses were not running in several areas, but private vehicles were ferrying passengers in some locations.

In Omdurman, many shops and markets remained closed but people were seen buying provisions at some grocery stores.

“Troops were also seen removing roadblocks from some streets in Omdurman,” a witness said.

Markets, bakeries close

In the central city of Al-Obeid, the main market was shut and several bank employees did not report to work, residents said.

In the town of Madani, southeast of the capital, people were seen queueing outside closed bakeries while the main market was also shut.

“I went to three bakeries and have been unable to buy bread,” a Madani resident told AFP by telephone.

It was the tripling of bread prices that first triggered protests against Bashir in December, which later turned into a nationwide movement against his iron-fisted rule.

After the president was ousted, demonstrators camped out for weeks in Khartoum to pressure the ruling generals into transferring power.

After several rounds of negotiations between protest leaders and the military, talks broke down in mid-May.

Witnesses say the subsequent assault on the sit-in was led by the RSF, who have their origins in the notorious Janjaweed militia, accused of abuses in the Darfur conflict between 2003 and 2004.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed travelled to Sudan on Friday in a bid to revive negotiations, holding separate meetings with the two sides after which he called for a “quick” democratic transition.

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Libya’s PC Deputy Head Urges US to End Egypt, Saudi Arabia’s Support for Haftar

Mon, 2019-06-10 05:46

At the time warplanes affiliated to the Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar launce airstrikes in Tripoli, the deputy head of the Libyan Presidential Council, Ahmed Mitig, urged the US to put pressure on allies backing Haftar’s forces.

Libya’s PC deputy head has requested the US to exert pressure on its allies that are meddling in Libya by backing up Khalifa Haftar’s attack on Tripoli and make them stay out of Libya.

“We urge the US administration to use its leverage to end the support provided by Egypt and Saudi Arabia to Haftar,” Mitig told Fox News on Saturday.

Mitig is on a formal visit to Washington D.c., where he met with a number of senators, including Republican Lindsey Graham, and discussed the US policy toward Libya amid the offensive on the capital that was launched by Haftar on April 04 in an attempt to seize power.

“I’m going back to Libya’s capital Tripoli with a message from the US that says the White House is in support and standing by the Government of National Accord as the only legitimate government in Libya.” Mitig told reporters in Washington.

He also told Fox News in the interview that what his government wants from the US is not financial or military support, but political leadership.

Mitig reminded Fox News that the Presidential Council’s commanded coalition of forces “Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous” cooperated with the US to defeat ISIS and that the Libyan Presidential Council’s government cooperated with the US in oil production progress, the political process and the preparations for elections in Libya.

it is worth to mention that General Khalifa Haftar has received a new shipment of weapons from Egypt to help him in his battle to take over Tripoli, Egyptian sourses have said.

Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported that ammunition and light weapons, food and blankets were all sent to Haftar’s forces in Libya.

Since launching his attack on Tripoli in early April, Haftar has visited twice within a month to meet Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Egypt’s support for Haftar became evident with the emergence of Egyptian weapons at his troops’ disposal, amid reports of the presence of high-ranking Egyptian army officers in the central operations room running the attack on Tripoli.

On Sunday, Anadolu Agency reported based on a local military source, that arplanes with East Libya-based forces launched an airstrike in the city of Zawiya, west of Tripoli,

The attack targeted a blacksmith workshop east of the city, the source said on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar launched a military campaign in April to capture Tripoli from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

After several weeks of fighting on Tripoli’s outskirts, however, Haftar’s campaign has thus far failed to achieve its primary objective. Nevertheless, Haftar’s forces remain deployed in several areas around the capital.

Libya has remained beset by turmoil since 2011, when long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a bloody NATO-backed uprising after four decades in power.

The oil-rich country has since seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, with which Haftar is affiliated, and the Tripoli-based GNA, which enjoys UN recognition.

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Netanyahu and Deal of German Submarines to Egypt

Sun, 2019-06-09 16:40

In an article published on Israeli INN website, TZahi Levi, an Israeli writer and political researcher, wondered why Israel ignores Egypt’s quest to strengthen itself militarily, especially regarding its naval force. Citing Der Spiegel German newspaper, Levi said that the German government has approved the sale of two MEKO 200 frigates to the Egyptian navy. However, the Israeli writer also addressed other Egyptian arms deals concluded with France.

The writer wondered in his article about the imaginary enemy that led the Egyptians to acquire such huge naval firepower. “The question arises: who is the imaginary enemy against whom the Egyptians need so much naval firepower?! Is it the old and disintegrating Iranian fleet or the Libyan fleet that does not even exist of the Sudanese fleet? Egypt is a poor country that has difficulty in providing food and water to its own citizens. Why does such a country, which needs every cent to maintain the current political system, invest so many billions in purchasing arms when there is no external threat?” Levi asked.

Egypt’s buildup has not been limited to development of the Egyptian naval force, but the Egyptian army also acquired French and Russian planes as well as American F16 planes and sophisticated Abrams tanks. Levi added that “Israel is unfortunately indifferent and does nothing about this, even though it believes the Egyptian regime may be subject to change at any time. This means that there is a threat that these weapons will be directed one day at Israel. “In the absence of a defined enemy, we may suspect that all this advanced weaponry might be directed one day against us,” he said, adding that while Israel is busy building walls between “Israel” and Hamas, and between “Israel” and Hezbollah, Egypt is gaining significant offensive capabilities.

Tzahi Levi concluded his article by recommending that “On the issue of the Egyptian arms race, Israel should turn to the United States, which is a guarantor of the peace treaty, to demand action on the issue. It is time to step out of apathy in the face of the Egyptian buildup and to take aggressive political moves to limit it in parallel to the IDF’s proper preparations, and such determined steps will preserve the peace agreement between the two countries.”

Despite such warnings, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu approved Germany’s sale of sophisticated submarines to Egypt.

Israeli explanations for Netanyahu’s approval of the German submarine to Egypt

The Israel Defense Forces believes that the sale of the German submarines to Egypt would pose a challenge to the Israeli navy in the future, according to a report published by the IDF radio. General Gabi Ashkenazi described Netanyahu’s approval of the deal as damaging to the Israeli national security. This led the Movement for Quality Government in Israel (MQG) to file a complaint with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit for further investigation into the situation of the submarine sales between Germany and Egypt. When Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s political-security branch, was summoned he confirmed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved Germany’s sale of submarines to Egypt.

However, there are many Israeli explanations about the reasons for Israel’s approval of Germany’s sale of sophisticated submarines to Egypt, including:

First Explanation:                       

Avi Bar-Eli, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, said that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu approved sale of sophisticated German submarines to Egypt due to the fact that Israel ‘s opinion in such deals is not binding on Germany on the one hand, and that Germany’s desire to sell submarines to Egypt was present and strong on the other. In addition, Egypt could buy submarines of the same efficiency from another country if Germany suspended the deal. However, Avi Bar-Eli’s most significant point in this is that there is a direct relationship between the gas deal between Egypt and Israel and the submarine deal.

Second Explanation:

Amir Oren, a senior correspondent and columnist for Haaretz and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board, has published a strategic report on Wala, a Hebrew website, stating that Netanyahu’s approval of the German submarine deal to Egypt was due to existence of secret deals between Egypt and Israel, and that the transaction comes within the military security framework. He added that Israel is already preparing for a major military action against Iran and is counting on Egypt to play a role in any likely future military confrontation through an Egyptian military intervention to protect the Gulf states, especially that Israel expects that Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas will intervene militarily against Israel in the event of launching a military strike against Iran.C

In the past five years, since the accession of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to power in Egypt in 2014, Egyptian arms imports rose by 215%, according to a report by Israeli “nziv.net” website, specialized in military affairs. The report said that Egypt has signed major arms deals with a wide range of suppliers, including the United States, Russia, France and Germany. The report also addressed the military budgets of the major regional countries, indicating that Egypt’s military budget was $ 4.3 billion, Turkey $ 18 billion, Israel $ 15 billion, Iran $ 14 billion, and Saudi Arabia $ 65 billion annually. In addition, the report pointed to the development of arms purchases by the Egyptian military since 2002 until the end of the year 2015, confirming that Egyptian arms imports increased significantly from 2013 to 2017. The report referred Egypt’s move to increasing its arms purchases to several reasons, including:

1- Egypt plays an important role in regional geopolitics because of its strategic location.

2- Egypt is located in the Middle East and North Africa region, one of the hottest regions in the world due to the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, as well as competition for regional leadership among the five strongest powers (Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran).

3- Egypt suffered an increase in terrorist activity after the 25 Jan. revolution of 2011, due to the collapse of the police force and the escape of prisoners, which endangered the safety of civilians.

4- Egypt has a natural gas field that is considered the largest gas field in the Mediterranean that needs protection.

5- Despite the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, Israel considers Egypt its first traditional enemy.

6- Egypt has the largest army in the Middle East and Africa, and it is considered the strongest Arab country and the strongest Middle Eastern country (after Israel). Therefore, this army needs continuous development; by boosting its strength and improving its efficiency to be able to face any likely challenges or threats.

By: Mohamed Abu Saada. The article was published by the Egyptian Institute for Studies (EIS) on 30 May 2019

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Will Trump Officials Bypass Congress and Sell Weapons to Gulf Countries?

Sat, 2019-06-08 17:41
The Trump administration seems to be preparing to circumvent Congress to allow the export to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of billions of dollars of munitions that are now on hold, according to current and former American officials and legislators familiar with the plan.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and some political appointees in the State Department are pushing for the administration to invoke an emergency provision that would allow President Trump to prevent Congress from halting the sales, worth about $7 billion. The transactions, which include precision-guided munitions and combat aircraft, would infuriate lawmakers in both parties.

They would also further inflame tensions between the United States and Iran, which views Saudi Arabia as its main rival and has been supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen in their campaign against a Saudi-led military coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates.

American legislators from both parties remain incensed by the Trump administration’s equivocal response to the grisly killing last October by Saudi agents of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Virginia resident. They are also frustrated by the administration’s role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war, a four-year conflict that the United Nations has deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with thousands of civilians killed and millions suffering from famine.

This spring, both the House and Senate approved bipartisan legislation to cut off military assistance to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen using the 1973 War Powers Act, only to see it vetoed in April.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said that circumventing Congress on a Middle East arms sale would be “a big mistake,” though he added that he would need to see the specifics of such a deal.

“We have a gold standard for that sort of arrangement, and to violate it for Saudi Arabia is going to open the door for it to happen in multiple other places,” he said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and an outspoken ally of the president, told reporters Thursday that he would “not do business as usual with the Saudis until we have a better reckoning” with the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, whom American intelligence agencies consider to be responsible for the killing of Mr. Khashoggi and the Saudi role in the Yemen war.

No other foreign policy issue has created as large a rift between Mr. Trump and Congress, and the move on the arms sales, which could take place within days, would deepen the divide. Mr. Pompeo would oversee the action, and the State Department is bracing for lawmakers to stall confirmations on all State Department nominees if it is implemented. Within the department, veteran Foreign Service officers have strongly opposed Mr. Pompeo’s position.

The proposal emerged publicly on Wednesday when Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, criticized it on Twitter.

Members of Congress ordinarily are given a review period during which they can pass legislation modifying or prohibiting a prospective arms sale. But a provision in the Arms Export Control Act allows the president to bypass congressional review if he deems “an emergency exists which requires the proposed sale in the national security interest of the United States.”

“It sets an incredibly dangerous precedent that future presidents can use to sell weapons without a check from Congress,” Mr. Murphy said in an interview on Thursday. “We have the constitutional duty to declare war and the responsibility to oversee arm sales that contravene our national security interests. If we don’t stand up to this abuse of authority, we will permanently box ourselves out of deciding who we should sell weapons to.”

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, warned that he would “pursue all appropriate legislative and other means to nullify these and any planned ongoing sales should the administration move forward in this manner.”

Mr. Menendez withheld his support last summer for a Trump administration plan to sell precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, effectively blocking it.

Mr. Pompeo’s emergency declaration would be based on what he says is a heightened threat against American interests in the region from Iran. Mr. Pompeo took the extraordinary step this month of ordering a withdrawal of almost all American diplomats from the Baghdad embassy and Erbil consulate in Iraq. European allies and Iraqi leaders have expressed skepticism about American alarm over Iran.

Asked about the proposal, Morgan Ortagus, the main State Department spokeswoman, said, “We do not comment to confirm or deny potential arms sales or transfers until Congress is formally notified.”

Tensions between the United States and Iran have soared since May 5, when John R. Bolton, the national security adviser and an Iran hawk, announced that the White House was ordering an aircraft carrier strike group and bombers to speed up their movement to the Persian Gulf. In the days afterward, American officials told reporters that they had gotten several strands of intelligence about potential attacks on American troops or diplomats by Iranian forces or Arab militias with Iranian ties.

Mr. Bolton issued an expansive warning against Iran, saying that “any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” Critics of the escalation, which was supported by Mr. Pompeo, said the Trump administration had provoked Iran by withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear containment deal, reimposing harsh sanctions and designating an arm of the Iranian military as a terrorist organization.

Tensions in the Persian Gulf also rose this month after four oil tankers were attacked with explosives. Two of the tankers are from Saudi Arabia, one is from the United Arab Emirates and the fourth is from Norway; the countries have not revealed the results of investigations, but Mr. Pompeo said this week, without presenting evidence, that it was “quite possible that Iran was behind these.”

On Thursday, the acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, said Mr. Trump might send more troops to the Middle East because of the tensions with Iran.

“The U.S. and Iran are entering into an escalatory dynamic from which it will become increasingly difficult to escape,” said Robert Malley, the president of the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit that tries to defuse conflict.

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Egypt’s Economy Isn’t Booming, It’s Collapsing.

Sat, 2019-06-08 01:23
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has sold his country as an investment destination with the IMF’s help—but the living standards of ordinary Egyptians are plummeting as elites line their pockets.

BY YEHIA HAMED *

One year after Egypt repositioned itself as a “global investment destination,” financial commentators have taken to calling it the world’s hottest emerging market. Investors are flooding into the country in the hope of making a fortune in Egypt’s capital markets; in December 2018 foreign holdings of local debt were up more than 20 percent on the previous year, with this trend set to continue in 2019. One investment bank called Egypt’s apparent recovery the “most attractive reform story” in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

But all this obscures a darker reality. In a report published by the World Bank in April 2019, it was calculated that “some 60% of Egypt’s population is either poor or vulnerable.” Overall living conditions, meanwhile, are sliding rapidly. How can it be, then, that Egypt’s economic outlook appears to be so rosy?

A grand deception lies at the heart of Egypt’s miraculous economic recovery, and its architects are the government of General-turned-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the International Monetary Fund.
The government’s chronic mismanagement of public finances and overall negligence has caused external debt to risenearly fivefold, due to depreciation of the Egyptian pound, in the past five years and public debt to more than double—and this is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

The government currently allocates 38 percent of its entire budget merely to pay off the interest on its outstanding debt. Add loans and installments, and more than 58 percent is eaten up.

The lion’s share of Egypt’s public resources, in other words, goes to facilitating payments on debt rather than strengthening and supporting civil society. In a country of 100 million people on the shores of the Mediterranean, such meager spending on health, education, and infrastructure is alarming, and it should alarm those in Europe, too.


If the current trend continues, Egypt will soon be bankrupt. This is but the first step on a narrowing road toward total state failure. As a political entity, Sisi’s government is already losing legitimacy in the international arena thanks to widespread reports of election-tampering, both in Sisi’s election to the presidency and the recent referendum on constitutional change.

If that government fails to provide basic services to the people it purports to serve—all the while continuing its regime of repression and cruelty—it will have shown its utter inability to govern in even the most basic way as well.

But international perceptions matter less than those of the civilian population. When a country begins to fail, it is only a matter of time before the people take matters into their own hands or start to look for somewhere else to call home. The impact of the mass migration that began when Libya became a failed state was clear to all who cared to pay attention. Egypt is a country more than 15 times the size; the repercussions of its failing would be so dramatic as to be almost unimaginable.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has a lot to answer for. The IMF has manipulated the structure of the Egyptian economy; it posts growth rates for Egypt, but these are exaggerated by levels of debt in the same way that one might exaggerate their income by borrowing beyond their means.

An example of this exaggeration can be seen in Egypt’s foreign currency reserves of more than $40 billion. While sizable, these reserves are made up of borrowed money and constitute an external debt, all the while artificially bloating the size and stability of the Egyptian economy.

This is a natural upshot of the IMF’s overt politicization: The IMF provides loans on the condition that the recipients of those loans address the balance-of-payments problem, stabilize the economy, and thereby restore economic growth. Practically, however, the IMF is asking governments to cut subsidies to its people to deal with its economic disequilibrium.

Reduce the deficit, the thinking runs, and you’ll qualify for our loans. But faced with the choice of cutting public spending, government salaries, or interest on loan repayments, which together comprise the government’s main expenses, it is obvious which Sisi will choose. And so the subsidies on which many of Egypt’s poorest depend to survive are taken from them. “I know,” declared Sisi, “that the Egyptian people can endure more.”

This approach can make sense in some places, but only insofar as there are adequate social safety nets in place. Without them, those who depend most on government handouts go very rapidly from poor to poorer. This is the case in Egypt, where the government has provided no safety nets whatsoever. More unsettling is the fact that the IMF is not asking Sisi’s government to provide them.

The IMF’s approach operates on the assumption that maximizing growth and minimizing the deficit will result in the best possible outcome for the country and those who live in it. This assumption is, at best, breathtakingly naive. It assumes that autocrats and strongmen such as Sisi, who over the past five years has shown nothing but contempt for his people, actually value the welfare of their citizens as much as the interests of the ruling elite. Thus every economic reform, effectively enacted by Sisi at the IMF’s request, places a greater burden on those who can endure it least.

And when the IMF did question Egypt’s capacity to meet its interest repayments, Sisi simply went to the international money markets for capital, relying on the IMF’s willingness to provide a multitude of loans to reassure new investors of the Egyptian economy’s stability. This cannot last; the very foundations of the economy are faulty. The Sisi government continues to borrow to fund vain and extravagant infrastructure projects. Yet most ordinary Egyptians can barely afford cooking oil.

The solution to this problem begins with politics. So long as Egyptians have a government that mishandles public finances, it cannot expect to see the economic policies needed to bring Egypt back from the brink. Sisi’s military dictatorship has a hold on businesses that goes far beyond even the most flagrant protectionist rackets of former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

In these circumstances, economic decisions are taken with scant regard for the interests of the people. Only a small cabal of figures at the highest level of government benefit. In doing so, they consolidate their power and continue to asphyxiate the country.

The same pattern occurred under Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya, and is common for dictators all over the world. With Sisi at the helm, the so-called hottest emerging market and global investment destination is heading toward the edge of an abyss. If it tumbles into the bottomless gloom, it is not just the Egyptian people who will suffer. It will be Africa. It will be the Middle East. And it will be Europe, which, in the name of pragmatism, has allowed Sisi to thrive.

Yehia Hamed is Egypt’s former minister of investment. He served in Egypt’s last democratically elected government.
This article was published first in Foreign Policy

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Torture to Death in Egypt’s Prisons

Thu, 2019-06-06 18:33

Twenty-two-year-old Wael Mahmoud Ali Al-Sibai has been tortured to death inside Wadi Natroun prison in Egypt, according to rights groups.

Al-Sibai was arrested when he was just 16-years-old at the Fath Mosque in Ramses Square where demonstrators gathered just days after the Rabaa massacre in 2013.

On 17 August Egypt security forces surrounded the mosque, fired tear gas and shot at the protesters killing 44 and arresting hundreds, including Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa and his three sisters. Defendants were accused of desecrating the mosque, terrorist activities and destroying public and private property.

On Monday, having served six years of a ten-year sentence, Al-Sibai reportedly called his mother and told her he was dying from the severity of the torture he was being subjected to inside prison. Two days later he was dead.

Human Rights Watch has documented a pattern of systematic torture within Egypt’s prison system where defendants are held in stress positions, raped and given electric shocks.

In May the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in UK declared that “Egyptian prisons have turned into execution compounds taking the lives of their detainees by denying them the right to the medical care they need and providing a fertile environment for diseases and epidemics to spread inside the detention centers due to the lack of hygiene, pollution, and overcrowding.”

It added that 762 people have died or been killed while being held in detention centers due to medical negligence, poor detention conditions, administrative corruption, and torture.

Since the Al-Sisi’s coup in 2013 which ousted the country’s first democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi, 551 detainees have died of medical negligence while in detention, it revealed.

“20 cases of deaths among detainees have been registered during 2019, including 15 detainees charged with opposing the regime. The rest are accused of committing crimes. Seven people died in January, two in February, five in March, four in April, and two in May,” the organization said.

“Psychological pressure is exerted on detainees,” the rights group explained, “especially the ones charged with opposing the authorities.”

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