Conflict analysis of Egypt

Question

What does the literature indicate about the current conflict dynamics in Egypt (excluding the Sinai Peninsula), including key actors, proximate and structural causes, dynamics and triggers, and opportunities for peace and institutional resilience?

Summary

In 2011 Egypt experienced mass protests culminating in the fall of long serving president, Hosni Mubarak. The time in power of the country’s first democratically elected President, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, was short-lived. He was deposed by Egypt’s military on 3 July 2013, following anti-government demonstrations. Abdul Fatah el-Sisi, former head of the armed forces, was elected in June 2014. Sisi’s presidency has seen a return to military rule. There has also been a rise in the number of terrorist attacks in Egypt since he came to power in 2014.

Key actors in Egypt include the Egyptian Armed Forces, trade unions, the currently banned Muslim Brotherhood, other Salafist parties, and both Salafist and non-Salafist extremist groups.

Conflict in Egypt mainly takes the form of popular unrest and terrorist attacks. Proximate drivers of conflict in Egypt include:

  • Repressive political system: The authoritarian nature of the Sisi regime, and widespread repression in Egypt, have the potential to spark a populist backlash.
  • Military control over the judiciary: Military control over the judiciary has increased significantly, resulting in an increase in military trials of civilians. This has contributed to the atmosphere of repression.
  • Migration: Egypt is a source, transit and destination country for migrants. The main risks facing migrants are detention by the security forces and being kidnapped and extorted by
    people smugglers. Moreover, the presence of many Syrian refugees has put significant economic pressure on the communities in which they live.

Structural drivers of conflict include:

  • Economy: Egypt’s faltering economy dominates the literature. Challenges include rising inflation, a weak Egyptian pound and high unemployment. These have the potential to lead to widespread unrest, and have already resulted in nationwide protests.
  • Environmental factors: Climate change is affecting both water and food security in Egypt. This increases the risk of popular protests.

Egypt also faces external pressures. These include tensions with Sudan over the disputed Hala’ib triangle, trans-boundary water issues, and the impact of the conflict in Libya.

The literature does not identify any significant opportunities for peace or institutional resilience in Egypt. It does however provide some policy recommendations.

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Suggested citation

Strachan, A.L. (2017). Conflict Analysis of Egypt. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.