Sisi’s broken promises

The Egyptians have never experienced such demoralising conditions, except perhaps during the colonisation period.
Sunday 01/07/2018
Painful decisions. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during the Fifth National Youth Congress at an “Ask the President” session in Cairo, last May.(The Egyptian Presidency)
Painful decisions. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during the Fifth National Youth Congress at an “Ask the President” session in Cairo, last May.(The Egyptian Presidency)

The biggest pessimists in 2011 could not have imagined that the revolution in Egypt would someday serve the Muslim Brotherhood and, in a repeat scenario, the huge mobs of June 30, 2013, were far from imagining that the price of recovering from the disastrous rule of the Brotherhood would be very high. Relentlessly, people were being driven towards the precipice that keeps demanding more of their longing for freedom.

Two Egyptian islands were surrendered in blatant defiance of popular will; prices for goods and services simply shot up; an unconstitutional law deprived young people and students demonstrating peacefully of perhaps the best years of their lives, and any wise suggestion or opinion is swiftly swept aside.

Too many disasters and still no light at the end of the tunnel for the Egyptian people.

That’s where the danger lies because the people cannot see a decent outcome for their sacrifices and no hope for their dreams of more equity and freedom. It seems more and more that their hopes are dependent on a new beginning after Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s term.

After the four years of Sisi’s first term, anyone who had a shred of hope for social equity got confirmation that he was just a copy of Anwar Sadat, Hosni Mubarak and Muhammad Morsi. He was slightly different from the others in that he did not fear the people and has an extraordinary gall for making painful and disastrous decisions.

The Egyptians have never experienced such demoralising conditions, except perhaps during the colonisation period.

In the early hours of June 25, 2017, Egyptians returned home from Eid prayers and were stunned to hear that Sisi had ratified the so-called maritime border agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Nobody really knows how much money was spent on heart, blood pressure and depression medicine on that sad day and its aftermath. It felt as if one had lost a child for no reason.

A particularity in Sisi’s discourse might shed light on how easy it is for him to make decisions that are painful for everyone else. When addressing the Egyptian people, Sisi does not open with the usual Arabic interjection “O people” or “O citizens.” He begins with “Hey, Egyptians.”

There does not seem to be a wise person in his entourage to draw his attention that that style is fit for invaders. Napoleon used a similar style to try to win the trust of the Egyptians and turn them against the Mamelukes. An invader cannot say: “O citizens.”

Sisi’s term will end in 2022. We, Egyptians, therefore have four years to rearrange our cards for a better future. Four years is a short time but enough for a peaceful transformation.

In January 2011, we were 80 million; in seven years we became 100 million. In four years there will be more voters such that misrepresenting the people’s will is practically impossible. We must act fast or else we will open our eyes four years down the road and be blinded once more by the horrible reality.

Then we’ll simply blot out that horrible reality by closing our eyes and abdicating all our responsibilities. We will indulge in self-flagellation and treat the wounds of dictatorship with irony, opium of the meek and losers. In the meantime, the rulers will not lose any sleep over our lot and will be happily repeating Caliph Muawiyah’s slogan: “We will not come between people and their tongues as long as they do not come between us and our kingdom.” Even the salutary opium of irony on social media will eventually be taken away from the oppressed.

When examining history, we cannot say “what if…?” Who would have predicted the modern tragedy we see in Egypt today? Here is a hero who likes to ignore the tragic fate of his predecessors but insists on treading in their path until the end.

Ironically, he bested his predecessors in popularity. Plain, simple citizens loved to print posters of his ID and paste them everywhere. So, instead of using that capital of popular strength to fend off attempts to put Egypt down, our hero could think of nothing better to do than waste that capital and disappoint his fervent supporters. He has lost the right to represent Egypt.

There will be no treachery from the Egyptian people. They are dignified folks who believe in destiny and are famous for their patience but they don’t forget. They consider the constitution and personal promises as their covenant with the ruler. In 2014, Sisi promised to improve living conditions in Egypt in just two years. The people had wholeheartedly given him a reprieve of two years but living conditions deteriorated.

Then, in April 2016, Sisi confidently declared: “There will be no hike in the prices of basic goods… and that’s a promise, Inshallah (God willing). It’s a promise, Inshallah.”

He asked for another reprieve of six months and 24 months later, around mid-June 2018, he announced that a happy surprise awaits the Egyptians after Eid. Eid, June 15, comes and goes and we haven’t lost another island but the following day, people wake up to learn that fuel prices went up 66% as promised to the International Monetary Fund.

Egypt needs a complete overhaul of the existing system but can’t afford a hunger revolution. It is best for the wise to abandon any hope for reforms during the next four years and to start thinking of a scenario for a peaceful transition.

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