General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s comments spark fears military might once again intervene in day-to-day governance of Egypt
In an ominous warning, the head of Egypt’s armed forces has said that continuing civil unrest may soon cause the collapse of the Egyptian state.
Parts of Egypt are in turmoil following five days of rioting in which 52 people have been killed and more than 1,000 injured after protests against President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and police brutality turned violent. The unrest comes two years after the start of the 2011 revolution that toppled the former dictator Hosni Mubarak.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s comments have sparked fears that the military might once again intervene in the day-to-day governance of Egypt, a country effectively ruled for most of the past century by army officers.
Writing on the army’s Facebook page, Sisi said: “The continuation of the struggle of the different political forces … over the management of state affairs could lead to the collapse of state.”
Sisi, who was appointed by Morsi last year and is also the country’s defence minister, said the army would remain a “solid and cohesive block” on which the state could rely.
Controversially, the country’s new constitution solidifies the army’s judicial independence. It was also asked to help restore order on the streets of Port Said this week, prompting reminders of Mubarak-era state governance.
The military has, however, taken more of a backseat role since Sisi replaced General Hussein Tantawi as head of the armed forces last year. It still controls large parts of the Egyptian economy, but is felt in some quarters to be content for the time being with getting its own house in order.
Asked by the Guardian whether he feared military intervention should the unrest continue, Gehad al-Haddad, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, said: “No. I know enough about the way President Morsi removed General Tantawi to not be worried.”
On a street near Tahrir Square, protesters against the Muslim Brotherhood said they did not fear a military intervention, arguing that either regime was undesirable.
“If the army comes, we will still be on the street,” said Mina Remond, a 20-year-old student standing near clashes between police and demonstrators on the banks of the Nile.