Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Small and brief protests dispersed in several Egyptian cities

Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters in Cairo, where scores gathered on streets close to the city’s Tahrir square

A policeman stops traffic traversing the roundabout in the Egyptian capital Cairo's central Tahrir Square on September 21, 2019. AFP
A policeman stops traffic traversing the roundabout in the Egyptian capital Cairo's central Tahrir Square on September 21, 2019. AFP

In small and scattered street protests, hundreds of Egyptians called on President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to step down over corruption allegations against him and the powerful military by an exiled actor with business interests.

The protests, which were mostly small and brief, broke out late on Friday night in Cairo and a handful of cities north of the Egyptian capital. Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters in Cairo, where scores gathered on streets close to the city’s Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Similar protests took place in Alexandria on the Mediterranean, Suez on the Red Sea and Damietta and Mahalla in the Nile Delta.

Scores have been arrested, according to the officials, who did not have specific figures.

Contractor and actor Mohammed Ali alleged in videos posted online this month that Mr El Sisi was misappropriating state funds by building presidential palaces or embarking on mega projects that he said were neither economically feasible nor necessary. He called on Egyptians to take to the streets on Friday to show their opposition to Mr El Sisi’s rule. He also has called on the military to remove Mr El Sisi, who flew to New York hours before the protests broke out to attend annual meetings of the UN General Assembly, a trip he has made without fail since he took office in 2014.

Supporters of Mr El Sisi, a general-turned-president, have dismissed Mr Ali as a foreign agent and a tool in the hands of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The UAE also accused the Brotherhood of being behind the latest unrest.

“The Brotherhood’s organised campaign against Egypt and its stability has resoundingly failed,” the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, tweeted on Saturday. “Egypt is recovering and is determinedly facing challenges every day,” he wrote in defence of Mr El Sisi’s government.

Mr El Sisi has called Mr Ali’s allegations “lies and defamation”. In a live television broadcast last weekend, he defiantly acknowledged that he has been building new presidential palaces and that he intended to build more, saying that he was doing this for Egypt’s sake.

Mr Ali lives in exile in Spain and claims to be owed millions of pounds by the military for work he has done. His allegations have sparked a war of words on social media networks between critics of Mr El Sisi and his supporters. This comes as a time rising prices resulting from an ambitious reform programme that the Egyptian government says is needed to avoid an economic meltdown. The reforms have been praised by Cairo’s donors and international agencies.

Updated: September 21, 2019 09:10 PM

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