Egypt's Sisi 'considering cancelling US visit' amid fear of protests at home

Egypt's Sisi 'considering cancelling US visit' amid fear of protests at home
Egyptians have called on social media for protesters to take to the streets on Friday in protest against alleged corruption.
3 min read
19 September, 2019
Sisi is reportedly worried about plans for protests this week [Getty]
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is reportedly considering cancelling a planned visit to the United Nations in New York amid fears of protests at home, government sources said.

Sisi has faced an unprecedented wave of dissent in recent weeks, with Egyptians spurred on to challenge the former general after videos alleging widespread corruption among the regime and military top brass went viral earlier this month.

The videos released by Mohammad Ali, an former contractor on military-linked projects in Egypt, from outside the country have seen an uptick in vocal dissent against the president, who seized power in 2013 in a military coup.

Egyptians voicing upset over the claims that Sisi had used government funds to build several luxurious residences for himself caused the hashtag #ThatsEnoughSisi to skyrocket in popularity, garnering more than a million tweets in its first 24 hours.

But calls for Egyptians to take to the streets in protest against the graft claims on Friday have reportedly caused legitimate fear for Sisi's regime, which has kept a tight lid on demonstrations since its troops killed more than 1,000 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in the 2013 Rabaa massacre.

Ali himself called for demonstrators to take to the streets in a fresh YouTube broadcast on Thursday, calling for the protest to begin in Cairo after the end of a football match between the Al-Ahly and Zamalek teams on Friday night "as an expression of their rejection of Sisi's continued rule".

Such a large-scale protest, Ali said, should prompt Egypt's defence minister to either force the president to step down or arrest him.

Calls for protests have not only come from the defected contractor.

A hashtag urging Sisi to step down or face protests trended on Twitter in Egypt on Thursday.

Sisi is reportedly afraid to leave the country amid the widespread calls for protests, fearing that his planned attendance at the UN General Assembly in New York over the next week could embolden demonstrators.

Governments sources told independent Egyptian news outlet Mada Masr that the president was considering cancelling the trip entirely or shortening his stay in the US.

While Sisi has not yet cancelled his trip, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has been informed that he may head the Egyptian delegation to the UN, three sources said.

Intelligence chief Abbas Kamel has reportedly spoken out, urging Sisi not to cancel his trip lest it sent the wrong message.

The president has also held multiple meetings with security and military officials to ensure there is a plan of action to contain protests if they occur, one source said.

Analysts, however, are unsure whether protests will actually take place on Friday due to Egyptian's well-founded fears of a violent crackdown.

Reports earlier this week indicated that Sisi was also considering a reshuffle of his cabinet, including replacing the current prime minister, in an attempt to address the controversy.

The backlash against his regime even prompted the president to give a public statement addressing the allegations last week, telling a youth conference in Cairo the accusations were "lies and slander" designed to "break the will (of Egyptians) and make them lose all hope and confidence". 

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