Update on Egypt (29 January 2013)January 29, 2013 in Egypt
SUEZ REGION: Egyptian President Muhamed Morsi has declared a 30-day emergency curfew in the cities of Port Said, Ismailia, and Suez, following riots that left dozens dead and hundreds injured. Protesters poured into the streets to reject both Morsi and his state of emergency.
Violence erupted in Port Said on Saturday following a partial verdict in a trial accusing 73 people of murder and related charges stemming from a 2012 football massacre between Al Ahly and Al Masry football fans. The mêlée resulted in the deaths of more than 70 Al Ahly fans and left over a thousand wounded. The court issued a death sentence for 21defendants. Verdicts on the remaining defendants, including nine accused police officers, have been postponed to 9 March.
Al Ahly fans in Cairo celebrated the decision, but in Port Said, the defendants’ enraged families attempted to storm the prison facility where defendants are held. As tension escalated, the nature of the unrest shifted to dissatisfaction with Egypt’s current leadership. Since Thursday, over 50 people have been killed in demonstrations around the country. Further protests have been called for the week ahead.
In Ismaila, police fired teargas at protesters attacking a police station with petrol bombs and stones. In Suez, the governorate building and four police stations were attacked by angry mobs in protests on the second anniversary of the January 25 Revolution. Nineteen prisoners fled Suez police stations; 18 weapons were stolen. Security forces closed roads in and out of Port Said; army units have taken control of the main Suez Canal administration building, provincial government buildings, power and water facilities, and banks and courts in Port Said.
On Sunday, the Greek embassy in Cairo reported that a Greek ship had been attacked by a group of armed protestors. The embassy stated that “no losses were reported and the ship proceeded with its navigation route shortly afterward.” The Greek embassy also concluded that Egyptian officials fully cooperated with their counterparts, taking all necessary measures to protect the vessel.
The head of the Third Field Army reported that the Suez Canal’s navigational office is fully functional and that it is monitoring international maritime traffic.
NILE VALLEY: Fighting between anti-government protesters and security forces in Cairo continue in clashes over what demonstrators call a power grab by Islamists, two years after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. More than 50 people have been killed in the unrest.
In Alexandria, several thousand protesters blocked one side of the corniche road in the Sidi Gaber district in Alexandria to commemorate the second anniversary of the “Friday of Anger”, January 28 2011. Protesters also cut off roads near to Al-Raml train station, in downtown Alexandria, as well as the Azaretah district.
Tensions escalated following the passage of a new and controversial Egyptian constitution, and Morsi’s ill-fated attempt to give himself sweeping powers until its ratification. In addition, fears regarding media persecution have risen. While international media outlets have not been affected by the protests, under the new constitution, the jailing of journalists is not explicitly banned, and newspapers can be shut down or confiscated following a legal ruling. The wording is vague and easily manipulated.
Finally, Morsi’s declaration of emergency law is reminiscent of the Mubarak regime, which kept Egypt under emergency law during his entire 30 year rule. His police used the provisions to muzzle dissent and round up opponents, including members of the Brotherhood and Morsi himself. These laws raise fears of abuse and fuel deep-rooted anger.
The protests expose a deep rift in Egyptian politics. Morsi’s opponents accuse him of failing to deliver on economic promises or living up to pledges to represent all Egyptians. Backers say the opposition desires to topple Egypt’s first freely elected leader by undemocratic means.
In a televised address, Morsi warned that he would not hesitate to take action to stem the violence, and invited the nation’s political forces for talks to resolve the nation’s crisis.
Police have closed all the main roads and highways near Tahrir Square. Vehicles are not allowed to stop or wait near the square. The U.S. and British Embassies have closed offices and suspended public services.
Despite the protests and a sluggish economy, Arab banks see the crises in Egypt as an opportunity to invest in Egypt’s largest financial institutions. NBD, the UAE’s biggest bank, will buy France’s BNP Paribas operations in Egypt, the bank confirmed. The deal is scheduled to be finalized by the end of the first quarter in 2013.
Expert Ahmed Adam states, “Even with all the troubles clouding the current financial environment, Egypt is a significant economy in the Middle East, with huge potential.” Egypt’s banking sector came second among the highest profitable sectors on the Egypt stock market last year, and still appears to be a promising market.
Egyptian tourism is also on the rise, up 17% from 2012, but not yet at pre- revolution levels. Investor confidence is poised on next month’s parliamentary elections and a possible loan from the IMF. The ongoing power struggle is likely to keep tourists and investors on standby until the political and security risks are resolved.
EGYPT TRAVEL ADVICE:
Despite the protests in parts of Egypt, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated, but not changed travel advice. The FCO warns that demonstrations happen regularly across Egypt, often on Fridays. Some have been violent and resulted in deaths, and police may use tear gas for crowd control. In addition, disturbances in Cairo, Port Said, Suez, Ismalia and Alexandria have been violent. A state of emergency is in force in Port Said, Suez and Ismalia; the curfew is from 21:00 to 06:00, and is expected to remain in place until 26 February 2013.