In a televised speech on Sunday el-Sisi warned of conspiracies aimed at destabilizing Egypt while labelling the 2011 protests as an effort to destroy the country.
Rabat – Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is speaking of war and destruction as his government uses increasing levels of repression to stifle dissent. El-Sisi gave a televised speech on Sunday as part of the Armed Forces’ 32nd Cultural Symposium. He used the opportunity to present his government as a source of stability in the face of an undefined external threat.
Egypt’s president appeared to justify his regime’s repression by highlighting a list of perceived threats to the country. El-Sisi urged awareness of “conspiracies that aim to undermine the country’s stability” in a likely reference to online discontent and calls for protests.
Doom and gloom
In his speech filled with doom and gloom, el-Sisi stated that “new wars” aim to “turn public opinion into a tool to destroy the state.” The president framed these threats as external by nature and urged citizens to be aware of the “solidity and the stability of the state.”
“We build and do not destroy, God will help us,” el-Sisi stated, even though his regime is actively destroying what it considers “illegal housing.” Egypt’s president clearly made no attempt to appease protesters, opting for a policy of repression and intimidation instead.
El-Sisi clearly aimed to present his regime as a source of stability, going as far as to call the 2011 revolution an effort to destroy the country. He stated that the revolution only succeeded because Egypt was “in calamity” and connected the event with the rise of the Muslim Bortherhood, which came to power following the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak.
El-Sisi never mentioned the Brotherhood by name but ruled out any reconciliation. “I cannot reconcile with those who threaten my state and nation,” he said, accusing the democratically elected Brotherhood government of trying to “kill and destroy a nation of 100 million.”
Repression in Egypt
El-Sisi’s remarks come amid brutal repression of protests that emerged over the last weeks. Egypt’s president repeatedly spoke of an “external war” and “conspiracies” that threaten the state. His remarks are likely references to Mohammed Ali, a self-declared whistleblower who lives in Spain and has long called for a new protest movement.
The reemergence of protests follows Egypt’s controversial policy of demolishing houses deemed “illegal.” Large scale demolition projects, police brutality, and declining living standards have broken the fear factor for some and sent protesters pouring into the streets. The death of nursing assistant Anwais al-Rawi in particular has galvanized frustrated citizens.
The Egyptian government has responded with widespread repression. Egypt has arrested almost 2,000 protesters since September. In a clear message to demonstrators last week, the government executed several people who were imprisoned for years. Political repression is nothing new in Egypt but el-Sisi’s regime appears to have chosen brutality as a way to crack down on critics.
El-Sisi is now apparently aiming to present himself as a source of stability in Egypt while he uses repression to silence his critics. Amid widespread corruption and increasing poverty, he seems to hope fear of greater instability will continue his grip on power.
El-Sisi faces a significant threat to his power as public discontent, anger over repression, and economic hardships are pushing people to speak up. A public MeToo movement in support of women’s rights online and a generation of young Egyptians with few positive outlooks might make it increasingly hard for el-Sisi to put the genie back in the bottle and silence the nation he claims to defend.