I would like to make two suggestions to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, regarding possible TV programmes for Ramadan 2022 and 2023. The first would be a third season of The Choice covering the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the numerous railway accidents during the era of the latest military regime to govern the country. The second would be a fourth season of The Choice, and this can be on the role of the Brotherhood in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam crisis, and how the movement forced Sisi to sign the 2015 Declaration of Principles. Both would be fictional, of course, but truth doesn’t really matter to Sisi and his regime.
I had to watch an episode of season 2 of The Choice, which talked about the 2013 Rabaa Al-Adawiya massacre. I expected there to be a falsification of the facts to mislead the people; outright lies; and fraudulent claims made about the protesters, but I never expected so much distortion of reality which made the victims look like the villains, and vice versa.
Who says that the winners do not write the history of the conflict? In the case of Sisi and the Rabaa massacre, we can only say that the one who won the battle over Egyptians’ remains and bodies is the one writing — and falsifying — history. Indeed, Sisi is doing this even while those who were eyewitnesses, either on the ground or via TV and social media coverage, are still alive.
Sisi’s mistake was not only in committing the massacre, but rather that it has lasted for seven harsh years in which the former general built his survival strategy on the remains of the victims. He has ignited the fire of division among the Egyptian people.
Last month, the voices of many Egyptian opposition figures at home and abroad were heard in wide-ranging discussions on social media about the importance of national unity. There were calls to end the divisions and forget the dispute with the regime in Cairo in order to unite in the face of the threat posed by Ethiopia’s determination to proceed with the second filling of the Renaissance Dam reservoir.
Such an initiative is being heard for the first time, and for the first time in seven years, some have started to discuss objectively the importance and gravity of the current situation in Egypt. There was talk about the willingness of the military regime in Egypt to give way for real national reconciliation and the release of political prisoners so that the country may benefit from the experiences of all Egyptian citizens in order to face the crisis of the Dam. Despite all of this, Sisi and his regime decided to bury these discussions under a deluge of fake history in TV dramas during the month of Ramadan, heightening social divisions in the process to the level that followed his massacre of protesters in Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square in August 2013.
At the same time as this absurdity, the Ethiopian Embassy in London invited me to attend a special seminar in which the foreign minister and two members of the team negotiating with Egypt and Sudan spoke about Addis Ababa’s view of the Renaissance Dam dispute. I was surprised to see that the invitation was extended to nearly two hundred people around the world who can be described as influential in different fields and specialisations. For two hours, the Ethiopians communicated their views to journalists, politicians, researchers, water experts, former diplomats, and ambassadors.
What really shocked me was not Ethiopia’s defence of its position, but the surprising Egyptian position that they talked about. According to the Ethiopian narrative, the Sisi regime did not object to the second filling of the reservoir and did not express any concerns about the impact on Egypt’s share of water from the River Nile or on the agricultural sector in Egypt. The main concern of the Egyptian negotiating team was, they insisted, to sign a new agreement with Ethiopia regarding the operation of the dam, which was rejected by Ethiopia as a violation of its sovereignty.
The other thing was the Sudanese position. Khartoum appears to welcome the dam and largely supports the Ethiopian position.
Ethiopia believes that because Sisi signed the Declaration of Principles in March 2015, there are no water agreements, international legal frameworks, or negotiation sessions that can force it to stop construction or the second filling of the reservoir. This is all inconsistent with the recent Egyptian propaganda.
Now Ethiopia is taking serious steps to form an international lobby that supports its position and is trying to gather the largest number of domestic and foreign allies who believe its narrative and can help to spread it around the world. Al-Sisi and his regime, meanwhile, carry out ineffective campaigns on social media, publishing videos that support the Egyptian narrative, which was weakened considerably when Sisi signed the 2015 Declaration of Principles.
There are no taking sides with a military regime like this one. The problem here is not a political dispute; rather, it is a clear position towards a regime that has proven through experience that it does not work for the benefit of the Egyptian people and cannot be entrusted with their interests. It has failed to deal with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and is still failing; it has killed Egyptians and then built its own survival on their blood, and it has divided the Egyptian people and then launched its black propaganda to spread hatred amongst them.
Everything else is a distraction from the real threat that Egypt has been facing over the past seven years. And that can be summed up in two words: Sisi’s regime.
Translated from Arabi21, 18 April 2021 and edited for MEMO.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.