CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned on Sunday that Arab countries, including Egypt, were vulnerable to imploding from within under what he described as a barrage of rumours aimed at spreading instability.
Addressing a military academy graduation ceremony in Cairo, Sisi said that his government had detected 21,000 false rumours over a period of three months.
Sisi, who was elected president after he led the army in ousting Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against the Islamist president’s one year in office, sees himself as trying to rebuild Egypt following years of turmoil that began in 2011.
“The real danger is blowing up countries from within. Rumours, acts of terrorism, loss of hope and feeling of frustration, all these work in a grand network aimed at one objective, only one objective, and that is to move people to destroy their country,” Sisi said, speaking in Arabic.
“Destroying our countries will not happen unless it came from within. We must be alert and pay attention to what is being spun against us in secret,” he added, without naming any party.
He said that while he understood the economic hardships that ordinary Egyptians are enduring due to economic reforms, nothing justifies “causing chaos and destroying the state”.
Sisi’s government has faced criticism from ordinary Egyptians over the raising of fuel, electricity and transportation prices, part of IMF-backed reforms that called for lifting subsidies on fuel prices causing economic hardships to many Egyptians.
Critics accuse Sisi’s government of presiding over the most serious crackdown on dissent since 2011, jailing thousands of people, most of them Islamists but also including liberals who opposed his policies.
Supporters say Sisi’s policies were necessary to bring stability to the most populous country in the Arab world and save it from the anarchy and destruction witnessed by other Arab countries such as Syria and Libya.
At the ceremony, which was attended by senior army officers including former army chief Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Sisi also lavished praise on army officers who overthrew the monarchy in 1952 in what is known as the “July 23 Revolution”, including the late presidents Mohammed Naguib, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat.
Sisi also decorated Youssef Siddiq, one of the Free Officers who fell out of favour with the Revolutionary Command Council due to differences over running the country after 1952 until he died in 1975, with the Nile Medal, the country’s highest honour.
“My dad had no medals or any decorations. This is the first medal to be placed in the history of Youssef Siddiq,” Siddiq’s daughter, Laila, who received the medal, told Reuters.
“What happened today was an act of justice to Youssef Siqqiq and his history, which had been deliberately suppressed,” she added.
(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Mahmoud Mourad, writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Adrian Croft)