As Egypt markes the seventh anniversary of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s rise to power on 8 June 2014, and the eighth anniversary of the 30 June 2013 Revolution against Muslim Brotherhood rule, Egyptians must feel proud of their many achievements and triumphs during those tough years.
There is no question that Egypt was in a state of widespread chaos during the uneasy transition from the 30-year era under the late president Hosni Mubarak, which ended on 11 February 2011. Weaseling its way into power, the Muslim Brotherhood nonetheless failed to understand the needs of the Egyptian people, or the slogans raised during the 25 January 2011 Revolution against Mubarak.
Egyptians in Tahrir Square repeatedly chanted, “Bread, freedom and social justice.” The Brotherhood provided none of these demands, its only concern being to enable its leaders to control the country, regardless of the interests of the Egyptian people.
However, on 30 June 2013, and later with the election of President Al-Sisi less than a year later, Egyptians asserted that they would not accept the establishment of a dictatorship that used religion as a cover.
When Al-Sisi took office, he faced the toughest challenges any Egyptian leader had met since the 1952 Revolution against the monarchy. The Muslim Brotherhood propaganda machine portrayed the popular revolt on 30 June 2013 as a “military coup,” and championed an evil effort to isolate Egypt.
However, Al-Sisi and his new administration ignored such false claims, and slowly but surely restored the country’s leading regional and international role. By holding open and free presidential elections in early 2014, the African Union reversed its decision to suspend Egypt’s membership in the organisation that Cairo helped create back in the 1960s.
Several European governments as well as consecutive US administrations that had shown reserve in dealing with the new regime also recognised that facts spoke for themselves, and that the majority of Egyptians strongly supported the efforts exerted by President Al-Sisi to rebuild Egypt into a modern, prosperous country in the interest of serving and improving the lives of its people.
The president recognised that, in order to restore Egypt’s regional and international status, he needed to concentrate first on improving the country’s economy and infrastructure. Huge, unprecedented megaprojects were therefore launched, generating hundreds of thousands of job opportunities. Egypt needed to modernise nearly all sectors of the economy, building new cities, roads, harbours and airports. All these projects were carried out in an exceptionally short time, paving the way for local and international investments that would help improve the economy in the long run.
Meanwhile, the government was aware that major economic reforms would affect millions of the country’s poor and unprivileged classes. Several programmes were therefore launched to provide much needed support to poor families, reaching nearly 15 million people. Those families were not only provided with basic needs such as food supplies, they were also given small loans to start their own projects. Developing the lives of Egyptians went hand in hand with other national projects because of awareness that human beings should always come first.
Considering the very complicated and volatile circumstances the entire Middle East has been going through since 2011, President Al-Sisi, benefiting from his own military background, made Egypt’s security a top priority. The Egyptian army was provided with all the latest technology and training to protect the country and its close allies in the region. Several major arms deals were signed with France, Germany, Russia and China, besides maintaining close military cooperation with Egypt and its strategic ally, the United States.
Such strength in Egypt’s army and its capabilities were certainly behind the new opening in Libya that might restore stability in this war-torn strategic neighbour. The same applied to several other threats Egypt faced, whether in terms of fighting terrorism or protecting its vital resources, the most important of which is water.
Egypt’s internal achievements and increasing stability allowed the country to restore its historic regional and international role. This was clearly seen in the latest confrontation that took place between Hamas and Israel in Gaza. Egypt was the only trusted partner that managed to end the fighting and the killing of Palestinian people in only 10 days. Because he understands that Palestinians in Gaza need more than just peace, what is more, President Al-Sisi surprised the world by announcing that Cairo would provide $500 million to Gaza, not only to rebuild what Israel destroyed in the overpopulated Strip, but also to provide jobs and improve living conditions.
Indeed, Egyptians have a lot to celebrate these days, while still knowing that a lot of work remains to be done by both the country’s leadership and its people.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 June, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly