Seven years ago, when he was only defense minister, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came out to announce the Egyptian people the oust of the first democratically elected civilian president in Egypt’s history.
This was in the evening of Wednesday, 3 July 2013, where al-Sisi was wearing his military uniform in a scene that will remain stuck in the minds of Egyptians as a milestone in the nation’s history and a setback from a nascent democratic system to a brutal military regime.
General Sisi only announced the coup statement after he had controlled the joints of the army and made sure the military were backing him, amid submission of the political parties and support of religious institutions, Al-Azhar and the Church. With the overthrew of President Mohamed Morsi, who was elected in the wake of the glorious January 25 revolution, all the gains that the Egyptian people have got from the revolution were eliminated.
Sisi’s roadmap that was announced in the coup statement included the removal of Morsi, the obstruction of the constitution, and assigning the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Councilor Adly Mansour to be Egypt’s transitional president.
Later, Sisi made many pledges to the Egyptian people, including promises for welfare, decent life, and political and economic stability, which has never been achieved up till now.
Over the course of seven years, former Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi repeated his promises again and again that Egypt will be “as big as the whole world”, “Tomorrow, you’ll see Egypt”, “You are the light of our eyes”, and many other statements that raised mockery among the Egyptian people, especially after the successive crises that they have experienced throughout Sisi’s years in power up to now.
However the reality reveals that these promises have only been mere lies, given the fact that the Egyptian people have been living in a cycle of unprecedented crises since Sisi came to power in 2014, in addition to negligence of requirements of the Egyptian national security.
Sisi gets rid of coup partners and dominates political life
From the early weeks of the July 2013 coup, Sisi’s intention to evade the obligations that many political forces envisioned he would seek to fulfill has been apparent. Al-Sisi got rid of all of his main partners that had participated in the scene of the removal of Morsi, and kicked them outside the framework of the “June 30 State”. They have now become out of the limelight, inside detention camps, or chased abroad.
The beginning was the army’s interference in the work of the 50-member constituent committee that was assigned the task of drafting the constitutional amendments in 2014; then its control of legislation assigned to interim President Adly Mansour, where the parliamentary elections that were scheduled within 6 months after the coup were postponed and the presidential election was held first. When he came out to announce his candidacy for the presidency, Sisi was keen on wearing a military uniform, in a message that he would not give up the military institution and that he was betting on the army in managing the country’s affairs, which later reflected on his actions at all levels, especially the economy.
Getting rid of his military comrades
Sisi believed that the first presidential election after any coup was the easiest, but he also realized that the 2018 election would bring him potential competitors from inside and outside the armed forces. Therefore, he further tightened his security grip and prepared well for facing any real rivals or even dreamers of change. To achieve this, he got rid of Lt. General Sami Anan, Lt. Colonel Ahmed Shafiq, and Colonel Ahmed Konsowa.
Soon after his military coup, Sisi had immunized his post as defense minister for two terms before he ran for the presidential election for the first time.
Immediately after assuming power as “president”, Sisi started to restructure the military junta with issuance of Law No. 18 and Law No. 20. Sisi did not even exempt his partners in the coup from abuse. Only two months after assuming power, he removed Major General Said Abbas, commander of the northern military zone, Major General Taher Abdullah, head of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority, from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), as well as many military figures that had played a prominent role in the post-January 25 period, including Major General Mohamed Abdel Nabi, General Mohamed Farid Hegazi, Major General Mohsen Al-Fangary, Major General Ismail Etman, Major General Adel Emara and Major General Mohamed Attia.
Al-Sisi sought to eliminate the largest number of officers described as centers of gravity in his ruling circles, such as Major General Mohamed Arafat, commander of the southern military zone and Major General Ahmed Wasfi, commander of the Second Field Army. In early 2018, Sisi removed Major General Khaled Fawzi, the director of the General Intelligence Service (GIS), who was in charge of the GIS National Security Unit during the July 3 coup.
Al-Sisi even dismissed his in-law Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Farid Hegazi, the former chief of staff of the armed forces, on 28 October 2017.
While Sisi first got rid of his civilian partners at once, he was keen to get rid of the military partners gradually, fearing they would agree to stage a coup against him.
The situation in Egypt seven years after the coup
On the economic level, the value of the local currency, the Egyptian pound, decreased significantly, in addition to disruption of factories and cutting people’s livelihoods, which had a great impact on escape of Egyptian minds abroad, in search of an alternative homeland and a safe haven to live in dignity.
When he assumed power, the dollar exchange rate against the Egyptian pound was only LE6.70, but after six years of Sisi’s rule, it reached nearly LE17, after flotation of the pound in 2016, in response to IMF conditions to agree to grant Egypt a $12-billion-loan over three years.
On the level of public debt, the Central Bank of Egypt has recently announced that the Egyptian foreign debts increased to about $112.67 billion at the end of December of 2019, compared to $96.61 billion at the end of December 2018, an increase of 16.6%, about $16.1 billion, on an annual basis.
The CBE data also showed an increase in external debts by $3.31 billion during the last quarter of last year, where the long-term debt reached 89.9% of the total external debts, about $101.4 billion.
The external debts owed by banks also increased by $1.1 billion in 2019, to reach $8.74 billion at the end of the year, compared to $7.69 billion at the end of 2018, while it witnessed a decrease during the last quarter of last year, from $9.2 billion in September 2018. The short-term debt is estimated at $3.37 billion.
Thus, the Egyptian external debts jumped by 145%, since Abdel Fattah El-Sisi came to power in mid-2014; as the foreign debts at the time amounted to about $46 billion, as a result of his expansion in borrowing from abroad to finance projects that are not economically feasible, like the Suez Canal new shunt and the new administrative capital.
The level of education in Egypt has decreased significantly, cheating among students has spread, and leakage of exams has become a common phenomenon under this corrupt system, while the future of education in Egypt is collapsing year after year.
In the context of the government’s move towards privatization of public education, the regime initiated the experimental schools, which teach the ministry’s curricula in foreign languages in return for higher fees, in attempt to crowd out the private foreign language schools.
Then in 2018, the government began to establish international schools for teaching the British General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) and the American diploma at a lower cost than private international schools. Even the fees of the Japanese model of education, which was supposed to be free of charge, exceeded LE10 thousand.
Loss of Egypt’s position
Egypt’s position has declined significantly on the international and regional levels. After Egypt was a pioneer in everything, it is now suffering from poverty in everything: in agriculture, in industry, and in trade.
During the Sisi era, the position of the country has retreated to the point that it is begging for mediation to solve the crisis with Ethiopia for the latter’s hardline position in completion of the construction of the Renaissance Dam and filling its reservoir in a short time, which will have catastrophic consequences on the lives of the Egyptians.
In addition, Egypt has lost its mediation role in a file of its national security, the Libyan file, in favor of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which led the Libyan Government of National Accord in Tripoli to seek help from Turkey to save it from Khalifa Haftar and his Gulf supporters who wanted to destroy the country.
The majority of Egyptian youth have lost hope in obtaining their legitimate rights to employment and improvement of their living conditions. In August 2018, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) stated that the number of youth at the age group 18-29 in Egypt is 20.2 million, a rate of 21% of the total population, including about 17% who hold a university degree or higher, while the illiteracy rate among young people reached 16%.
The unemployment rate among young people with a university degree or higher was 38.3%, compared to 30.7% for those holding intermediate-level technical qualification, according to the data of a Ministry of Manpower survey in 2017. The number of families supported by young people reached about 2.9 million, a rate of 12.3% of the total Egyptian households.
Seven years after the military coup, the pace of immigration of Egyptians significantly increased, especially among the youth, while the Egyptian government claims to provide job opportunities, declining unemployment and establishing unprecedented national projects.
CAPMAS has also revealed in an official report, that the number of Egyptian immigrants has increased by 10.6%.
This increase is due to the deteriorating economic, political and social conditions in Egypt, 7 years after the military coup. It is noteworthy that in the wake of the January Revolution (2011) many Egyptians returned home with the motivation of participation in building their country, feeling the value of freedom after decades of military rule. However, everything went vice versa after the military coup in 2013.
After signing the Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which experts described as “catastrophic” for Egypt’s water wealth, Egypt has entered a stage of water poverty, threatening the life of Egyptians, especially after the Egyptian government failed to solve the crisis of the Renaissance Dam or even the duration its filling.
Sold land and lost borders
The lie that the two islands of “Tiran and Sanafir” belong to Saudi Arabia has become subject of debate even after the judiciary issued its ruling in favor of Egypt’s sovereignty over them. On his part, Sisi insisted on the waiver of the two islands to Saudi Arabia, and secured his decision in the corridors of the Egyptian parliament loyal to him.
Changing the doctrine of the Egyptian army
After the Egyptian army has been praised for patriotism, considering the Israeli occupation as its first enemy, Sisi has changed its doctrine and now it considers sons of Egyptian people as his first enemy, under the pretext of terrorism, subjecting them to either killing or displacement, especially in Sinai.
As for the proxy wars outside Egyptian territory, the situation in Libya, Yemen, and Syria is the clearest evidence of the army’s involvement in Sisi’s plans.
Normalization with the Zionist entity
Normalization has now become one of the most important and prominent features of the current stage at the Egyptian and even Arab levels, where the dream sought by the Zionist state is soon to be achieved thanks to their supporters from Arab rulers.
Former Israeli ambassador to Cairo, Yitzhak Levanon, said in a statement, “Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is sparing no effort to improve Israel’s image in Egyptian society, reduce hostility towards it, and highlight positivity in the peace relationship between the two parties,” ruling that the plan to annex Palestinian lands would affect Sisi’s position towards Tel Aviv.
Levanon said – in an article in the Israeli newspaper Maariv – that if Sisi succeeds in such policy, this matter will help Israel in the future to advance towards normalization of relations.
Stay in power
The seventh anniversary of the military coup comes amid a major qualitative change after Sisi turned against the 2014 constitution that was promoted by the regime as the best in the history of Egypt. He granted himself absolute powers over the judiciary, by forming a higher council for judicial bodies headed by him to completely eliminate the principle of judicial independence.
The constitutional amendments that were passed through a controversial popular referendum granted Sisi remaining in power until the year 2030, amid talk on the possibility of changing the constitution entirely within 5 years.
Last May, Sisi took advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and conducted amendment of the Emergency Law No. 162 of 1958, by adding new articles that would permanently include military officers in the formation of the Supreme State Security Court – emergencies, which is an exceptional court in the first place, as well as expanding the investigation and trial of civilians before the military judiciary, amid tolerance and silence from the Supreme Judicial Council and the judicial bodies towards these amendments that beset the independence of the judiciary altogether.
The human rights file
Since Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi assumed power, the human rights situation in Egypt has witnessed a catastrophic and unprecedented deterioration. Through a series of brutal laws and repressive tactics committed by security forces, the Sisi government has organized an intensive campaign to tighten the regime’s grip on power, amid increasing erosion of the independence of the judiciary and stifling restrictions imposed on the media, NGOs, trade unions, political parties, and independent activists.
Under the guise of fighting terrorism, Egypt has witnessed thousands of arbitrary arrests, including hundreds of critics and peaceful demonstrators, as well as continued impunity over widespread human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment, collective enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial executions, as well as the excessive use of force.
The number of prisoners for political cases reached 80 thousand opponents, while Sisi expanded building of prisons to accommodate more opponents.
Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi’s security services, notably the General Intelligence Service headed by headed by al-Sisi’s confidante, Abbas Kamel, have now controlled all media after the “Egyptians Media Group” acquired most of the private satellite channels, such as Al-Hayat, Al-Nahar, CBC and DMC, as well as most of the daily newspapers and news websites, such as Youm7, Al-Dostour, and Mobtada, and Sout al Omma.
The six years after al-Sisi came to power also witnessed the closure of many media outlets and blocking of about 500 news websites, including Masr al Arabia, Mada Masr, and most recently the Al-Tahrir news website
What after 7 years of military coup in Egypt?
Al-Sisi did not fulfill any of his promises, especially his promise, that with the advent of July 30, “Egypt would be in another spot”. Unfortunately, Tiran, Sanafir, and the Nile River water were stolen and actually went to “another spot”; the Egyptian youth were either arrested and imprisoned or immigrated and left the country completely and have actually become in “another spot”; the prices and debts have doubled also went to “another spot”.
Despite the passage of 7 years since the July 2013 coup and its repercussions, we are still witnessing a renewable debate among Egyptians about causes of the coup amid a state of division, mockery and mutual attack on social networking sites in Egypt.
The crises of the Egyptian opposition at home are increasing year after year, amid an escalating state of dispersion and fragmentation among the various political spectra despite the dark tunnel that everyone has entered but never got out, and the increasing gap between all political entities and parties on the one hand and the Egyptian people on the other.
The opposition and the anti-coup political forces abroad are not better off than the conditional opposition at home, due to the state of political polarization that divided and fragmented them, leaving them weak and valueless, amid lack of knowledge of its required role, which made it flounder in many of its practices, losing effectiveness and ability to influence.
The observer of Egyptian political scene from the early days of the July 3 coup until today notes that the current regime has implicated itself in many of the issues that, if properly exploited by opposition, would have dealt severe blows to it.
The opposition, both at home and abroad, has been busy in recent years with one file at most, namely the human rights file, only focusing on political repression against the regime opponents, including enforced disappearance, imprisonment, torture, and others. Despite the importance of this file, but the political battle with any regime must expand to include everything not just one file.
One of the priorities at that stage is to overcome differences and unify ranks, because what most benefited the military was their success in the “divide and rule” theory against the opposition forces, and it is now essential to forget the past, reject differences, and unify the opposition spectra on a single national program to confront the military regime, something that the wise people have called for since the early days of the coup. Also, a comprehensive evaluation of what has happened over the past seven years is urgently needed, so that the national powers would learn from past mistakes. Then, the Egyptian national movement from all political spectra should only be occupied with the future.
The seventh anniversary of the military coup coincides with the first anniversary of the demise of Egypt’s first elected president, after Al-Sisi and his regime killed him through deliberate medical negligence, incommunicado detention, prevention of proper food, and prohibition of visits.
Before the death of President Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian opposition formed after 3 July 2013, lived in a state of successive fissures and divisions over demands for “restoration of legitimacy”. Will they be able to unite after the death of Morsi, and after seven years of suffering by Egypt and its people?
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