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Daily News Analysis

BRICS: Will Egypt’s Coup Leader el-Sisi Escape Scrutiny in South Africa?

Iqbal Jassat

Has the South African media been so consumed by the Putin-arrest saga that it has overlooked Egypt’s problematic participation at the forthcoming BRICS summit?

Dignifying its military ruler, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi with the expected red-carpet treatment will in effect be an endorsement of regime change via a military coup.

This is how Cairo’s despot overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohamed Morsi to grab power on July 3, 2013.

Incidentally, this month marks a decade since General Sisi appeared on TV in a military beret to announce the constitution’s suspension and the end of Morsi’s presidency.

RSF (Reporters Without Borders) documents that as he spoke, security forces were preparing to storm the Cairo bureaux of the Qatari TV channels Al-Jazeera and Al-Jazeera Mubasher and arrest their journalists.

That same evening, Sisi’s military goons led a purge against many more media outlets and shut them down for allegedly supporting Mohamed Morsi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, and arrested their directors.

RSF’s research reveal that these events were just a foretaste of the purge that Sisi would wage against the media.

“In the past ten years, at least 170 journalists have been jailed, dozens of others have been arbitrarily arrested and interrogated, access to more than 500 news websites has been blocked and six journalists have been killed,” according to RSF.

Fault lines in the architecture of global politics are clearly evident in the way Egypt’s notorious dictator is misleadingly endowed with a crown of honour and respectability.

Regrettably, most mainstream media has bolstered this faulty image, notwithstanding the fact that General el-Sisi’s regime is undoubtedly one of the most repressive in the world.

Rights organisations have painstakingly compiled reports that point to a catalogue of horrors, detailing terrifying conditions of abuse and cruelty.

Forced disappearances styled on America’s notorious “renditions”, extrajudicial executions, detention without trial, draconian secret prisons, persecution of opponents especially members and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, is routine.

Unsurprisingly the Sisi regime and its spin doctors will deny that such atrocities exist.

Dissidents and others who have managed to flee, including families of prisoners and employers of renowned journalists facing uncertainty behind bars, testify to the reality of severe repression and denial of human rights.

Ricard Gonzalez, journalist and author who spent a number of years in Egypt, sketched the background to el-Sisi’s bloody rise to power.

“In 2013, a military coup put an end to Egypt’s democratic transition that began with the resignation of dictator Hosni Mubarak following a popular uprising that took place against the larger backdrop of the Arab Spring.”

He confirms what is widely attested to by human rights organisations, that al-Sisi has since gone on to impose an authoritarian dictatorship even more brutal than that of Mubarak.

All dissent is ruthlessly suppressed and the regime’s security agencies have particularly targeted the Muslim Brotherhood, winner of the elections during the country’s brief democratic interlude.

A decade later, the bloodstained ruler of Egypt’s extremely violent military coup, roams about the world as a respected “statesman” while thousands of anti-coup activists languish in jail.

Surely, alongside fellow dissidents, they would have the expectation that democratic countries such as South Africa as well as the African Union will not only raise concerns but also call for their freedom?

The likelihood of Egypt gaining membership of BRICS while al-Sisi remains at the helm of what can only be described as a military dictatorship, will also raise questions about the organization’s political orientation.

Concerns about Egypt’s participation while a veil has been drawn across the country to conceal el-Sisi’s notorious reign, cannot be denied.

Iqbal Jassat is Executive at the Media Review Network, Johannesburg, South Africa

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