The CSS Blog Network

Did Sisi Save Egypt?

A man waves an Egyptian flag in front of riot police

This article was originally published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on 25 January 2016.

Five years ago, the leaders of Egypt’s protest movement shocked themselves by successfully bringing down President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power since before many of them were born. In those days, it was not unusual to hear talk of a new dawn for Egyptian politics and the Arab world. It is difficult to find many leaders of that movement who are so cheerful today. And their disappointment is broadly shared in academic, policy, and media circles around the world. Young and disaffected Egyptians, the story goes, revolted against a stultified regime and demanded a democratic government, a freer society, and more economic rights. They won the battle but lost the war, as the military, initially along with the Muslim Brotherhood and later without it, gained the upper hand and defeated the revolutionaries.

But there is a very different way to tell the story of 2011. This tale is not one of high but disappointed hope, but one of threatened chaos and rescue. From the perspective of Egypt’s security institutions—its military, police, and intelligence forces—the uprising threatened to bring down not only Egypt’s president but its entire social and political order. Averting such an outcome was an arduous task, one that the Egyptian armed forces still see themselves as undertaking.

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Yemen Deal Brings Little Solace

Protestors in the streets of Sanaa. Image: Sallam/Wikimedia.

This article was originally published by IRIN on 23 September 2014.

With northern rebels claiming the capital Sana’a and Al-Qaeda militants increasing their attacks in the south, Yemen’s security crisis is likely to continue, experts believe. While a new agreement between the Houthi rebels and the government may have temporarily reduced fears of all-out civil war, the country’s political, security and economic crises are unlikely to ease, leading NGOs to fear increasing humanitarian needs. » More

Reform First

One Egyptian Pound, courtesy of Winter Sorbeck/Wikimedia

This article was originally published 31 May 2014 by Peacefare.net.

Steven Cook, who knows lots about Egypt, offers an insightful analysis of its impending financial and economic problems. In a word, Egypt could go broke and the state could disintegrate:

“Egypt’s economy remains shaky and the threat of a solvency crisis lingers. Indeed, the continuation of violence, political protests, and general political uncertainty—even after planned presidential and parliamentary elections—along with a hodgepodge of incoherent economic policies, all portend continuing economic decline. This in turn could create a debilitating feedback loop of more political instability, violence, and economic deterioration, thus increasing the chances of an economic calamity and yet again more political turmoil, including mass demonstrations, harsher crackdowns, leadership struggles, and possibly the disintegration of state power.”

Only Gulf generosity has kept Egypt’s foreign currency reserves above the minimum required, tourism is in a tailspin, debt is close to 100% of GDP and subsidies (especially for fuel) burden the state’s budget. There are many ways in which Egypt could be sent into default. I recommend you read Steven’s trenchant account. » More

Tunisia Offers a Beacon of Hope

Photo: Gwenael Piaser/flickr.

Anyone looking at North Africa and the Middle East today would be forgiven for thinking that the Arab Spring has rapidly turned into a bitter winter. The revolutionary road embarked upon by a number of countries looks ever more precarious. Syria is still being torn apart by civil war, in Libya the government is struggling to impose its authority and Egypt appears to be experiencing a reversal of the democratic gains it had made as the ‘deep state’ consolidates its position. Yet, within this overwhelmingly gloomy picture, recent developments in Tunisia are cause for optimism.

Tunisia provided the spark for the Arab uprisings three years ago with the self-immolation of Mohamad Bouazizi in Tunisia’s neglected interior. As the transition got underway, hopes were high for this small North African country. Tunisia’s domestic situation seemed to augur well for the transition process. The country’s largely Arab and Muslim population was well-educated and traditionally orientated towards moderation. Indeed, promising first steps were made toward democratic transition, with free and fair elections, and the establishment of a transitional government tasked with drafting a new constitution. Economically, the country’s lack of natural resources seemed to be compensated by its vibrant tourist industry. » More

Signing Up for Peer Review Will Test Both Obiang and the AU

17th Ordinary AU Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Photo: Embassy of Equatorial Guinea/flickr.

When Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo stepped up to the podium at the African Union (AU) this week to sign up to the AU’s African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), it was not clear whether this was a high point or a low point for the initiative.

Was it a great triumph for the 11-year-long effort by the APRM to reform the political, economic and social governance of Africa that it had managed to entice one of the continent’s most notorious autocrats into its democratic embrace? After all, when the APRM was launched in 2003, it was strongly criticised for being a voluntary mechanism that would leave the least democratic African leaders untouched. And yet, here was one of them joining.

Or was Obiang’s signing onto APRM a Groucho Marx moment instead: as one journalist quipped, a case of ‘who would want to join any organisation that would have Obiang as a member?’ » More

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