Egypt, which along with Tunisia was at the heart of the 2011-12 ‘Arab Spring,’ is in the midst of a new upsurge. It is premature to call it an uprising, but something is afoot in Egypt in opposition to the repression and corruption of the el-Sisi regime.
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in 2013 in Egypt as a result of a military-led hijacking of a massive protest against the power-grab by the administration of former President Mohamed Morsi. Instead of deepening the process of democratization in Egypt, el-Sisi and his military cohorts reversed course and re-created a strongly authoritarian state. Dissent has been largely crushed, or at least so it seemed until very recently.
When Donald Trump allegedly referred to el-Sisi as his ‘favorite dictator’ that said a great deal about both el-Sisi and Trump. What it said about el-Sisi was to remind the world that his regime is among the favorite of the United States elite in its policies in the Middle East and North Africa. El-Sisi has no interest in providing assistance to the beleaguered Palestinians, is actively participating in the further destabilization of the internal situation in Libya and has worked to subvert the Sudanese Revolution.
What it said about Trump was to remind us that this is an administration that does not even pretend to have scruples. Just as they have covered for the Saudi Arabian monarchy in the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi (while he was in Istanbul), going so far as to suggest that a financial relationship between the USA and Saudi Arabia was more important than human rights, the Trump administration has been quite willing to support the repression conducted by el-Sisi. In fact, Trump applauded el-Sisi, offering the view that el-Sisi had brought order to chaos and that el-Sisi was a great leader.
El-Sisi’s regime has clamped down on non-governmental organizations, independent trade unions, and members of the press. There is nothing in this regime that would suggest an expansion on human rights and political liberties. But the point is that this is irrelevant to the Trump administration.
Despite Trump’s applause of el-Sisi, thousands of Egyptians, seemingly out of nowhere, began protests against corruption and human rights abuses by the governing regime. There is no way to anticipate whether this will be a brief episode or whether it will evolve into something that threatens the regime. What can be said, however, is that el-Sisi and Trump appear to be trying to keep a bubble (the Egyptian people) under water.
That rarely works.
(Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the executive editor of <www.globalafricanworker.com>. He is the former president of TransAfrica Forum and the author of the mystery novel The Man Who Fell From the Sky.)