Western governments and arms companies have contributed to the Egyptian military’s consolidation of political power, a new report said.
Titled The Officers’ Republic, the report was published by Transparency International Defence & Security on Friday a week before Egyptians take to the polls in an election that is expected to see the president and military general, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, secure another four-year term.
The report said Western defence companies – with approval from their governments – continue to provide Egypt’s military with aid and security support without any form of “meaningful transparency”.
James Lynch, deputy director of the UK-based organisation, said countries are assisting a military that has not only taken full political control of Egypt – albeit with little to no scrutiny – but one that is also struggling with local and regional instability.
“Western states, who could do much to influence this situation, are meanwhile failing to demand serious reform and instead carrying on with business as usual, while mistakenly still considering Egypt a trusted partner for security in stability in the region,” said Lynch.
Since former president Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down in 2011, Egypt’s military has gone from one political strength to another, and has expanded its economic goals. Yet, the report said, the military has remained a “largely opaque and unaccountable institution”.
The average defence budget is estimated to be about $4.4bn, but little is known about where that gets earmarked as it is treated as a state secret.
During the past five years, Egypt has become the third largest arms importer in the world, but Lynch said there is little to show in terms of protecting the safety and security of its citizens.
“The Egyptian people have a military that does everything but keep the country secure,” he said. “Its concern with building its economic and political power has hugely frustrated its efforts to deal with the security challenges it faces in the Sinai and other places.”
In recent years, several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have accused members of the Egyptian military of extrajudicial executions in the Sinai, showing “they fear no oversight or accountability for their actions”.
“This is a military that may very well be the architect of its own security crisis,” Lynch said.
Transparency in the face of opacity
As human rights abuses and state violence in Egypt continue to increase, the report made a series of recommendations for the international community to counter the opacity of the Egyptian military.
It called for making financial and security assistance dependant on achieving basic levels of transparency and accountability, and to amplify domestic voices advocating for that.
It also urged better domestic oversight of the armed forces by asking tougher questions on the military’s economic activities.
“The international community must understand that not only is it doing a major disservice to the people of Egypt by providing support to the armed forces with few strings attached,” Lynch said, “it is also contributing to the security crisis in the country and region.”