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Egypt is demeaned by its own president

President of France Emmanuel Macron (2nd R) and President of Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (2nd L) shake hands during an official welcoming ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on 24 October 2017 [Egyptian Presidency/Anadolu Agency]
President of France Emmanuel Macron (2nd R) and President of Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (2nd L) shake hands during an official welcoming ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on 24 October 2017 [Egyptian Presidency/Anadolu Agency]

Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi went to France using three Rafale fighter jets, the French aircraft that he bought last year after the government in Paris had been looking for a buyer for more than ten years, and every country had refused. France was unable to sell the planes until Sisi saved Paris and himself, using the jets to buy his own legitimacy. Rafale jets were the bribe offered by Sisi to France to allow him to fly to the heart of Europe.

So Sisi flew with this squadron as an escort, and the French reciprocated with a similar flight to welcome him. The media spin on this was that it was a good welcome, not that the Egyptian President was worried about his flight being intercepted by terrorists. It might be logical for France and the aircraft manufacture to use fighter jets in this way, but it was totally unreasonable for Sisi to fly from Cairo with three fighter jets for no other reason than a fancy “welcome”.

Sisi’s visit to France began with that vulgar display and ended with a scandal at a press conference, during which he reduced Egypt’s 7,000-year civilization to a country whose people are not as civilized as the Europeans. That was the effect of his response to a question about human rights violations in his country. The Egyptian leader was furious as he answered the question by asking journalists why they were asking him about human rights violations when they should, rather, ask about education, health, housing and employment as there is no good health, education, employment or housing in Egypt.

Although he is known to be economical with the truth, on this occasion he told the truth. Schools in Egypt have students sitting on the floor because they don’t have enough chairs or desks; some classrooms are overcrowded, with 100 students crammed in. This is what happens when the state president responds to a request to pay more attention to education and increase its budget by asking, “What will education do in a lost country?” He thus admitted that Egypt is “lost”, although he stopped short of admitting who is responsible for making a once great country such a sad case.

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To be honest, though, we cannot hold Sisi totally responsible for it all. His regime is merely an extension of the collapse that began with the July 1952 coup against King Farouk, when the army became the government and took all state facilities, institutions and resources under military control. The health, education and economic sectors all collapsed.

However, the economy’s worst collapse has happened on Sisi’s watch, during which the value of the Egyptian pound has fallen to its lowest ever level. A US dollar is now equivalent to 20 Egyptian pounds and Egypt’s debt is over one trillion pounds, whereas under the monarchy, a dollar was only worth 25 cents, and Egypt used to lend Britain money and give aid to Western countries. Today, Egypt has one of the highest levels of debt in the world; there are so many loans that we find out about new debts every day. The latest loan to be revealed is the African loan which was announced by the head of the Central Bank.

This comes at a time when foreign currency is being wasted on failing projects such as the branch of the Suez Canal, which has not brought in any extra revenues as promised. On the contrary, the revenues are lower than before, because there are fewer vessels using the waterway as a result of the expansion of the Panama Canal. This has pushed the head of the Suez Canal Authority to announce a reduction in the fees to use the canal by almost half in order to encourage countries to send their ships via the Red Sea and Mediterranean.

The bottom line is that this “lost country” and “quasi-state” — another Sisi description of Egypt — was created by military officers, the latest of whom is General Sisi who recently belittled Egyptians by asking them repeatedly, “Hasn’t anyone told you that you are poor?”

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In this he reverted to type, and was lying. The people may be poor, but Egypt is a very, very, very rich country, and I say this repeatedly just like he did. However, it has been stripped of its resources for the past 65 years by the military, which is the root cause of Egypt’s crisis. If it wasn’t controlled by the military in every aspect of life, Egypt would be one of the strongest countries in the world.

A government that sees no benefit in education is a fascist regime. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s regime is exactly that; it can spend a billion pound to construct a hotel in the new capital — we should call it a castle to be used by Sisi as a stronghold away from the people — instead of improving education and health provision by building schools and hospitals, or even factories to help create jobs and ease unemployment. The fact that he has been busy building new prisons exposes the fact that Sisi does not understand that Egypt has become a large open-air prison for ordinary people. The country is being demeaned by its own president.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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