The videos behind Egypt’s unrest

 

 

Viral videos posted online by an Egyptian businessman this month accusing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the military of corruption have sparked rare and spontaneous protests opposing his rule, and led to hundreds of arrests.

Mohamed Aly, 45, a fledgling actor who also runs a construction business, claimed in his first video on September 2 that Egypt’s military under Sisi’s direction has misspent millions of Egyptian pounds in public funds.

He also alleges that the military owes him hundreds of millions of Egyptian pounds for projects his company Amlaak Group was assigned to build, including palatial residences for Sisi.

Aly — who says he fled to Spain a year ago — has not provided any hard evidence to back up his claims. And Sisi has rejected the allegations as “lies and slander”.

In a fresh one-minute clip on Monday, Aly said he is on the run for his explosive accusations, after pinpointing some locations of the luxurious guesthouses and palaces in Cairo and other Egyptian cities on the Mediterranean.


And he has gradually upped the ante with his videos.

After the small-scale demonstrations erupted at the weekend, he implored Egyptians to join a “million-man march” on Friday to unseat Sisi.

“This is a people’s revolution … We have to link up together as one … and organise going down to the major squares,” he said in a Facebook appeal.

His 30-minute-long videos viewed and shared by millions, mainly on Facebook and YouTube, have spurred fierce debate online about the military’s vast economic interests.

The discussion spilled over into rare, scattered protests gathering several hundred people in various cities on Friday and Saturday chanting “Leave Sisi”.

Egypt has effectively banned protests since a law was passed following the military’s ousting of president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

But hundreds heeded Aly’s calls to take to the streets after a highly anticipated football derby last Friday between rival Cairo powerhouses Al Ahly and Zamalek.

It took authorities by surprise. Security forces responded by firing teargas and rubber bullets in Suez the following night and arresting more than 500 people countrywide over the past week, according to human rights groups.

In almost daily instalments of his videos, Aly appears with his shirt unbuttoned halfway and furiously smoking Marlboro cigarettes, mocking Sisi in rambling, expletive-filled monologues.

Referring to Sisi in his first video on September 2, he alleged: “You are throwing away billions and your men are wasting millions.”

In a July profile in the Spanish edition of Vanity Fair, the mercurial businessman is described as a “Catalan Pharoah” who came from humble beginnings in Cairo.

Aly divulged ambitious plans to build a university on the Spanish coast in the shape of a glass pyramid.

In many videos, he says he worked for the Egyptian military for about 15 years. Pictures of completed projects carried out by his firm for the armed forces can be seen on his company’s website.

AFP has repeatedly reached out to Aly’s media representatives in Barcelona, but has not received a reply from him.

The former headquarters of Amlaak Group, a two-storey villa in an upmarket Cairo suburb, was abandoned when AFP inspected it earlier this month.

It was cleared out two years ago, according to the landlord who said he had limited dealings with Aly.

Amlaak has since been registered as a company in Barcelona in February with a starting capital of €1.25-million, according to commercial records online.

Aly’s seemingly lavish lifestyle has triggered questions about his motivation for going after the military.

Earlier this year, he posted a photo of a Ferrari he purchased claiming Barcelona football star Lionel Messi was the previous owner.

Popular pro-Sisi television host Amr Adib lambasted Aly last week showing footage of him allegedly in a drunken stupor.

For decades, Egypt’s military has played a key though opaque economic role, producing everything from washing machines to pasta, as well as building roads and operating gas stations.

But it is difficult to assess the military’s share in the economy and its budget is not allowed to be published.

Since Sisi took the helm as president in 2013, the military’s financial involvement has been more visible amid rising costs and austerity measures imposed in 2016.

In December that year, Sisi said the military accounts for between 1.5% and 2% of the national economy, adding that “we would love for it to be 50%”. — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Farid Farid
Guest Author

Related stories

US foreign policy may be creating instability in Africa

Sometimes, the best foreign policy might be not to get involved at all

An Ethiopian perspective: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Striving to redress the injustice of the past on the Nile river

Bank guarantees foil Denel’s R4.5-bn Egypt contract

Loss of work is the last thing the beleaguered state enterprise needs

A quick trek to ancient Egypt during lockdown

Well, the pharaonic Voortrekker Monument to be precise for John Davenport

Time is not on our side in Libya

Simmering tensions could see the country partitioned between east and west

Damming the Nile

In a few weeks, when the rainy season arrives, water will finally begin to flow into the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Expect regional tensions to rise along with the water level
Advertising

Subscribers only

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The spate of arrests for corruption continues apace in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

Catholic NGO boss accused of racism and abuse in Sudan

The aid worker allegedly called his security guard a ‘slave’

Agrizzi too ill to be treated at Bara?

The alleged crook’s “health emergency” — if that is what it is — shows up the flaws, either in our health system or in our leadership as a whole

SANDF hid R200m expenditure on ‘Covid’ drug it can’t use

Military health officials are puzzled by the defence department importing a drug that has not been approved for treating coronavirus symptoms from Cuba
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday