One month after the Egyptian revolution succeeded and ousted long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak on 11 February 2011, I was in Cairo with a delegation of the European Parliament. From the reactions of many young revolutionaries we understood that they didn’t feel any support from the West in their struggle for freedom and democracy. They had done this themselves and they were proud of it. During a meeting with prime minister and later presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik, another message was given to us, surprised Europeans: “You supported Mubarak.
Ten years after the Arab Spring, Egypt has become more authoritarian than ever. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who came to power through a military coup in June 2013, has reconstructed the country into a military-police state.
It has been a decade since the mass protests that called for the overthrow of the regime in 2011. These protests triggered a process of deep structural change, in a manner that the protestors did not anticipate. Indeed, rather than overthrowing the regime and liberalizing the political system, the current regime has morphed into an open military dictatorship, triggering a process of structural change in the state and the economy that will far out-live al-Sisi.
If the protests that began in Egypt on January 25, 2011, resulted in a coup-volution, then what has developed since can only be called a populocracy. The military exploited a genuine popular movement in 2011 to unseat President Hosni Mubarak, who had threatened the military’s primordial place in the state by grooming his son and his coalition of civilian business elites for succession.
After a decade, Arab Spring countries show socio-political extremes between, for instance, a Tunisia and a neighboring Libya, with Egypt in an intermediary zone. Egypt’s decade witnessed orderly legislative elections and three presidents when Mubarak had reigned for almost thirty years. But Egypt’s current president is the former Minister of Defense, a continuation - with a short interval - of the practice of military presidents since 1952.
Ten years have passed since January 25th, 2011, a date that marked the beginning of the Arab Spring in Egypt. But a decade later, a military-dominated autocracy led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi saw a sharp throwback, a counter-revolution with limited transformations, symbolic acts of economic liberalization and a deep securitization of society. What is left of the revolutionary movement that overthrew Hosni Mubarak's regime? What role does the military play in today’s Egypt? Can a political space still be opened for the oppositions, including the Islamists?
“We need to look beyond our immediate issues such as Eritrea, Somalia, and the problems of the two Sudans. Those [are] issues we can handle […]. We face two strategic adversaries. One is Egypt.” To make sense of the relationship between Ethiopia and Egypt, Alex de Waal’s long conversations with Ethiopia's late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi comes in handy.
Since 2013, Egypt has been strengthening its naval power: this particularly regards the strategic direction of the Red Sea. In fact, the military declared “strategic zones of military importance”, areas where infrastructural, mining and tourism-related projects are flourishing.
Over the last decade, the deep transformations moving through the broader Mediterranean region have created new opportunities and challenges. The Libyan crisis and the tensions in the Levantine Sea emerged as paradigms of the contemporary chaos in the region as a whole. This is a complex and ever-changing context in which littoral countries clash over natural gas and maritime borders, while regional and international powers could get drawn into these disputes.