Four years on, Egypt can still seize the day
Egypt was literally split down a jagged-edged middle between anti-military and anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiments
With Egypt now "celebrating" the fourth anniversary of the January 25 revolution, the Arab world's most populous country is still suffering from countless persisting woes except for one: A stable regime.
The condition of Egypt were not easy before January 25, 2011 when thousands of Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo and elsewhere demanding the departure of Hosni Mubarak's regime. Economically and socially, Egyptian people have long suffered from increasing rates of poverty and unemployment and such accumulated problems were the direct reasons behind the Tahrir Square uprising. No doubt political persecution, marginalization and a crackdown on freedoms were among the driving forces - but not the major motivators, in my opinion.
After the Jan. 25 uprising, Egypt has undergone four transitional periods during which the consecutive ruling "pseudo-regimes" had given supremacy to politics over economics, thus adding more complications to Egypt. Before the election of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi as president, Egypt's affairs were on several periods run by either military-led governments or interim leaders which meant an inactive involvement of other major state institutions, like the parliament or partial ruling powers. Such ruling systems were no doubt necessary during those periods when security was the first and foremost priority. In fact, any talk in Egypt during those periods about social welfare, democratization, political parties' and civil society organizations' empowerment was a form of "luxury."
Following the June 30, 2013 mass protests, which led to the ouster of Islamist leader Mohammad Mursi, Egypt has suffered from an unprecedented state of polarization. Egypt was literally split down a jagged-edged middle between anti-military and anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiments.
My aim, through an analytical projection of events in Egypt, is to show the heavy political, economic and social burden President Sisi has inherited. However, it is indisputable that Egypt under his rule has remarkably restored overall stability aside from the fragmented security incidents witnessed here and there across the country. It is also unquestionable that Sisi has resurrected harmony on the ground, in contrast to events before his rule. The president is also visibly attempting to restore Egypt’s role as a soft power and regional leader.
Fully aware that it is economy that matters most in Egypt, Sisi unveiled during his early days in office the new Suez Canal project to be implemented by the Egyptian army’s engineering corps. In addition to economic value, the Egyptian leadership's other indirect objective behind the mega project was to gather Egyptians around one mutual goal after a period of division. The millions of Egyptians who rushed to buy certificates to hold shares in the development, which helped the government secure the necessary funding, was in part a testimony to Sisi's popularity and the Egyptians' thirst for a unifying factor.
Egypt was literally split down a jagged-edged middle between anti-military and anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentimentsRaed Omari
For more economic benefits, Sisi is also required to "decode" Egypt's natural gas dilemma. During Mubarak's rule, Egypt had plans to export natural gas to several regional countries and Europe and it constructed a pipeline for that purpose. Yet, the Egyptian government has previously resorted to power cuts to address the energy shortage.
But Sisi has been also showing determination in addressing another internal challenge: security. The Egyptian army has been chasing jihadist militants in Sinai and in other parts, striking their posts and dismantling sleeper cells.
For more internal stability, Egypt needs to move ahead now with the remaining component of the roadmap announced by the army after it ousted Mursi: the long-awaited parliamentary election that should lead to an inclusive legislature that should not be governed by one party as was the case during the Mubarak and Mursi years.
Certainly due to the countless internal issues Sisi has to address, inadequate attention has been paid to other foreign affairs. I say inadequate as an Arab citizen fully aware of the pivotal geopolitical status of Egypt within the region and its historic leading role in the Arab world.
Egypt, which is referred to in Arab lexicon as the "big brother" or "big sister", has been for a considerable period of time detached from Arab causes during stages shaky ties within Africa, as well as internal instability. This does not mean in any case that Egypt should give up its role within the African continent or reduce its attempts to enhance its domestic national identity but to realize its significance within the Arab world and act accordingly.
Over Arab modern history, the four Arab capitals Cairo, Riyadh, Damascus and Baghdad have been the places where Arab collective causes are decided. With Damascus and Baghdad out of picture now, a strategic partnership between Riyadh and Cairo, also including Amman and Abu Dhabi, can serve as a cohesive alliance to face Israeli, Turkish and Iranian ambitions in the Arab world.
What makes the Arab world increasingly vulnerable is the absence of a strategic Arab alliance. It’s time for Cairo to set the scene for this.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2
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