Sisi praises 2011 uprising, urges patience

Egypt’s president paid tribute Sunday to the country’s 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, saying that protesters killed during the 18-day revolt had sought to revive “noble principles” and found a “new Egypt.”

President Abdel-Fattah a-Sisi delivered his remarks via a televised speech on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the uprising. A recent spate of arrests and a heightened security presence in the capital Cairo have made clear Egyptian authorities’ determination that the occasion will not be marked by popular demonstrations- or militant attacks.

Al-Sisi said the 2011 uprising had deviated from its course and was forcibly hijacked for “personal gains and narrow interests.” That was a thinly veiled reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been banned and declared a terror group after al-Sisi, as military chief, led the ouster in July 2013 of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood.

The “June 30 revolution” – a reference to the day in 2013 when millions of Egyptians demonstrated on the streets against the rule of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood – corrected the course of the 2011 uprising, al-Sisi said.

The June 30 revolution, he said, took place to “restore the free will of Egyptians and continue to realize their legitimate aspirations and deserved ambitions.”

Al-Sisi, who came to office in 2014 after a landslide election win, cautioned against high expectations for democracy and freedoms.

“Democratic experiences don’t mature overnight, but rather through a continuing and accumulative process,” he said, before emphasizing the need to exercise “responsible freedom” to avoid “destructive chaos”- rhetoric harking back to Mubarak’s 29-year authoritarian rule, when he repeated assertions that gradual democratization ensures stability.

“Egypt today is not the Egypt of yesterday, we are building together a modern, developed and civilian state that upholds the values of democracy and freedom,” he said of the 2 ½ years since the removal of Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president.

Al-Sisi has since presided over one of the harshest crackdown seen in Egypt in decades, detaining thousands of Brotherhood leaders and supporters as well as scores of the liberal, pro-democracy activists who fueled the 2011 uprising.

Under al-Sisi, rights activists say, the country’s highly militarized police have resumed the Mubarak-era practices that played a large part in igniting the uprising, including torture, random arrests and, more recently, forced disappearances.

Al-Sisi supporters, however, say the ex-general has tirelessly worked to spare Egypt the chaos and bloodshed roiling regional neighbors like Libya, Syria and Iraq.

Source: The Associated Press