Egypt is in the Spotlight again for all the Wrong Reasons

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Egypt still has a bad reputation in the eyes of the international community and human rights groups. The country is still far from anything that can be considered remotely democratic mass arrests and detentions without trial continues as it has become clear president Abdel Fatah el Sisi has no respect for rule of law. The detention of human rights activist and blogger Wael Abbas is one such example. Abbas was known for covering human rights abuses by the police and this earned him the interest and enmity of the authorities. He was taken from his Cairo home on Wednesday on accusations that he disseminated false news and joining an outlawed group according to security officials.

The officials had spoken on condition of anonymity as they did not have the authority to speak. Sisi has been more style than substance when it comes to implementing any form of democracy.

Abbas has campaigned against torture in Egypt for well over a decade, before and after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak. He has published graphic videos showing torture and police abuse on his blog, misrdigital.com, and has been detained on a number of occasions. His YouTube account was shut down in 2007, resulting in the removal of hundreds of videos showing protests and abuses by security forces. In December, he wrote on Facebook that Twitter had suspended his account without providing an explanation.

Roger Anis, prominent activist and blogger Wael Abbas signs a copy of his book, “The Theory of Leaving the Bowl,” in Cairo, Egypt. — Roger Anis via AP
Roger Anis

The issue of mass arrests and torture by Egyptian police is only the tip of a very large ice berg which Abbas was trying to expose. Sisi has become harsher, in terms of his grip on power than any of his predecessors. Torture seems to have become an entrenched part of the police’s work ethics and daily routines. Sisi meanwhile has sort to do everything in his power to clamp down on any form of free speech. Going back to 2013 Facebook and Twitter faced massive shutdown. This was because they were major outlets for organizing and recruiting followers for the 2011 revolution that saw the over throw of longtime dictator and former president Muhammad Hosni Mubarak.

Sisi has sort to exercise a hold similar to a mafia crime boss over Egyptian society as regards to its internal affairs. In terms of its foreign and military relations, these appear to have come under the direction of Saudi Arabia and also possibly the State of Israel. Egypt also has to deal with its issue of corruption and this appears to been sorted out.

Recently Egypt’s Administrative Council Authority (ACA) had to arrest a number of supply ministry officials recently.

They are accused of receiving bribes from food supply commodities companies in return for issuing direct supply orders and facilitating payment of dues. ACA officers have seized documents related to the case and are currently undergoing procedures to refer the defendants to prosecution, the statement read. The officials were arrested on Tuesday inside the Ministry of Supplies and Internal Trade headquarters in Cairo. The case is not the first in recent years to involve corruption inside the supply ministry. In 2016, former minister of supply Khaled Hanafy resigned over alleged corruption and graft in the wheat supply sector. In January 2018, the prosecution of public funds dropped Hanafy as a defendant in a case involving the squandering of public funds in the ministry.

Egypt’s Administrative Control Authority (Photo:Ahram)

The Administrative Council Authority (ACA) is a formal investigative and judicial body and the arrests that were made shows that Sisi at least for now is interested in fighting corruption. The presidency of Sisi may have allowed such corruption to flourish given the naked abuse of power by the security departments such as the police, intelligence and the military. The officials responsible for the latest corruption scandal are worth scrutiny in this case. They were from the Ministry of Supplies and Internal Trade and were involved for having received from companies involved in food supplies and therefore agriculture Egypt’s mainstay.
Given Egypt having experienced a rise in food prices and other subsidies the move by the Egyptian government can be seen to revive some badly needed popularity, with the promise of improving the food distribution system. Sisi however has shown himself to rule like a tyrannical monarch rather that lead as a servant of the people. We will have to see what the future holds.