Egypt

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    About three thousand kilometers South of El Cairo: it is the core of the crisis that most worries Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s Egypt. And it is a core of water, for which tension has reached high levels in 2021, with threats of military operations if negotiations were to fail. At the centre of the harsh confrontation between Egypt and Ethiopia is the mega water project of Addis Ababa, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd) on the Blue Nile, in the western region of Benishangul-Gumuz, on the border with the other actor of this tripartite crisis, Sudan. Started in 2011, the Millennium Dam project has produced the most dangerous clash in 2020 and 2021, when fights erupted to prevent the reservoir from being filled. For Cairo, it means the end of a position of supremacy over the management of the Nile’s waters, which are crucial to its economic and supply arrangements. The commissioning of the Ethiopian Rebirth Dam would decrease the flow of the Nile into Sudan and Egypt by a massive amount. The Nile issue only partially diverts the attention from the iron fist that al-Sisi’s Regime exercises on the Egyptian population. Repression continues with arrests, disappearances, preventive detentions, torture in prisons and police stations, trials without respect for the rights of the accused, as denounced by all the most important international organizations for the defense of human rights. In Egyptian prisons there are tens of thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, who together with the inhuman conditions of detention have suffered the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Limits on freedom of the press and expression have also affected those, especially among Egyptian health workers, who have complained about shortcomings in care and higher numbers of victims than reported in official statistics. If on the one hand President al-Sisi has continued to build his internal consensus on grandiose urban and infrastructural projects such as the New Administrative Capital, the bridges over the Nile, and the railway line that will connect the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, in the regional sphere he has redesigned his role in the West and East of the borders. There are two crises, Libya and the Israeli-Palestinian issue, in which Egypt has focused its diplomatic efforts to recalibrate its role, even at the cost of breaking the anti-Islamist front on which it has focused its policy since the rise to power of al-Sisi. In Libya, Cairo has cooled its support to the rebel general of the Western Region, Khalifa Haftar, after the failure of the operation to take Tripoli. It has consequently decided to enter the political game, recognizing the Tripoli government and opening up to more conciliatory relations with Recep Tayyep Erdogan’s Turkey. On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the change in the US Presidency and the arrival of Joe Biden at the White House have brought Egypt back into its traditional role of mediator. The agreement of May 2021 on the ceasefire to stop the 11-day war between Israel and the Hamas regime in Gaza, negotiated by the Egyptian security services, has made Cairo regain positions, after a substantial marginalization in the last two years, a consequence of the Abrahamic Agreements supported by Donald Trump between Israel, Bahrain and UAE, towards which Egypt has shown all its coldness.