In a recent Foreign Policy article Brotherhood member 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.
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.
They came back with $3 billion but little credibility. On the streets of Sudan, hundreds have demonstrated against Egyptian interference, chanting: “This is Sudan. Your border ends at Aswan.”
On 10 June, 89 Sudanese were among 97 refugees saved on a boat off the coast of Malta. Since Gaddafi was killed in the 2011 uprising, Egypt and Libya have seen thousands of Africans, among them Sudanese, attempting to reach its shore en route to Europe.
Al-Sisi has said that Egypt is “heavily burdened” by the refugee flow yet appears to have underestimated the long-term effects of stirring instability in Sudan. Undermining democracy in the northeast African country will only force more people to leave.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.