Egypt’s government said on Thursday it would “firmly” and “decisively” deal with any attempt to destabilise the country, a stern warning seemingly against a call by a businessman in self-imposed exile for anti-government protests on Friday.
The warning by the Interior Ministry, which oversees domestic security, came as a large number of policemen were deployed in Cairo’s downtown area around Tahrir Square. Police at the square and nearby streets have been conducting random checks on motorists and pedestrians.
In response to an earlier call by the businessman, Mohammed Ali, hundreds of Egyptians participated on September 20 in small but quickly dispersed anti-government protests in Cairo and a string of cities north and east of the Egyptian capital.
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has dismissed corruption allegations made by Mr Ali as “lies”.
Mr Ali is an actor and contractor who claims to be owed millions of pounds by the government for work he has done. He made the allegations in a series of online videos that have gone viral.
In New York to attend meetings of the UN General Assembly, the Egyptian leader said “political Islam,” a phrase widely used to refer to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, was behind last week’s protests.
Security officials on Thursday said supporters of Mr El Sisi planned their own demonstrations in Cairo on Friday to counter possible anti-government protests. Pro-government entertainment celebrities have meanwhile been posting videos online expressing their support for the president and accusing the Brotherhood, which Cairo branded a terrorist group in 2013, of being behind last week’s protests.
Television talk show hosts have been warning against the country plunging again into the sort of turmoil and violence that engulfed Egypt in the years that followed the 2011 uprising.
“The Interior Ministry appeals to citizens to adhere to the law and rules on maintaining public order,” said the Interior Ministry statement. “It will deal decisively and firmly with any attempt to shake stability and social peace.”
Mr El Sisi led the military intervention in 2013 to remove President Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood stalwart, amid mass demonstrations against his divisive, one-year rule. Mr El Sisi was elected to office the following year and has since worked to dismantle the Brotherhood. Most of the group’s leaders and thousands of its supporters are now in jail, facing legal proceedings on a wide array of criminal charges.
The Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, endorsed last week’s protests and is appealing to Egyptians to take to the streets on Friday, evidence used by the pro-government media to show that the group remained determined to bounce back.
The latest unrest in Egypt comes amid widespread complaints against rising prices resulting from an ambitious reform without which, according to Mr El Sisi, Egypt could have faced economic meltdown. The programme, which began in 2016, has been receiving lavish praise from investors and international financial institutions.