Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 28 October 2020

Egypt’s El Sisi calls for stability amid attempts to ‘start a fire’ of dissent

Egyptian president says parties are trying to derail country’s progress as it tries to rebuild economy battered by pandemic

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi during his address to the UN General Assembly on September 22, 2020. UNTV via AP
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi during his address to the UN General Assembly on September 22, 2020. UNTV via AP

Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, on Sunday said his country’s progress relied on stability that was being threatened by unidentified parties.

Mr El Sisi said those parties were trying to drive a wedge between the people and his government by exploiting the economic hardships endured by many Egyptians.

“There are people who fill you with fear and doubt," he said in televised comments during a ceremony inaugurating an industrial complex.

"They are fishing in murky waters. People cannot be deceived by talk even if they are experiencing hardships. My money is still on the Egyptians. I thank them.

"They [the unidentified groups] have been trying to start a fire over the past few weeks, seeking to take advantage of the difficult situations we create [by introducing reform].

"The state and the people are united and no one can come between them.”

Mr El Sisi was apparently referring to an intense campaign of incitement against his rule by foreign media outlets loyal to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Some of the more recent decisions by the government, such as reducing the allowance of state-subsidised bread and increasing fares on the Cairo metro, have caused disgruntlement among Egyptians hurting from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Since taking office in 2014, Mr El Sisi has embarked on major construction projects, building about a dozen new cities including a new capital east of Cairo, an elaborate network of roads and the expansion of the Suez Canal.

Under a 2016 deal with the International Monetary Fund, Egypt introduced far-reaching reforms to overhaul its battered economy, lifting state subsidies on basic food items, fuel and utilities.

The price rises hit the poor and middle class hardest, despite a host of government measures to cushion the impact.

This year’s coronavirus pandemic has hurt the economy but stimulus packages by the government, including tax breaks, has averted a complete meltdown.

At risk were the benefits of harsh financial reforms brought in to reboot the economy since 2016.

The Interior Ministry said over the weekend that four people were arrested in the southern city of Luxor while in possession of firebombs that they intended to use to “incite rioting”.

It said police also detained a “group of people” who tried to torch a police car in the town of Badrashen, in Giza province.

A photo released by the ministry showed about 30 detained men. The ministry provided no further details.

“We are on the path of reform, development and construction and we intend to stay there," Mr El Sisi said.

"Was the economic reform easy? Everyone suffered, but Egypt is safe on account of God and its people.

“Everything anywhere in the world, and in Egypt too, is founded on achieving security and stability.

"You do that and investors will come to you and say, 'We will work here in Egypt because it’s stable and we can start projects here'."

Mr El Sisi on Sunday blamed the country’s economic woes on the 2011 popular uprising that toppled the 29-year regime of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

He said the political instability that followed crippled many development projects.

Mr El Sisi said the industrial complex inaugurated north of Cairo on Sunday suffered a 10-year delay because of the turmoil that followed the uprising.

It has been consistently criticised by pro-government media as part of a plot to destabilise Egypt by foreign agents, a reference to the young activists behind the 18-day uprising.

Updated: September 28, 2020 03:08 AM

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