Egypt PM says will not allow protests to spread 'chaos'

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli denounces Egypt's demonstrations as part of 'brutal war' designed to create 'confusion'.

    In a speech to parliament, Egypt's PM warned against a repeat of the 2011 uprising [File: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]
    In a speech to parliament, Egypt's PM warned against a repeat of the 2011 uprising [File: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]

    Egypt's prime minister has warned his government would not allow protesters to spread "chaos" after small rallies recently erupted against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

    The rare protests broke out in defiance of a ban on demonstrations after Mohamed Ali, an exiled Egyptian businessman in Spain, accused the president and the military of rampant corruption.

    The rallies calling for el-Sisi's removal struck a chord with Egyptians who have been bearing the brunt of stringent economic reforms introduced in 2016.

    In his first official reaction, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli denounced the demonstrations as part of an external "brutal war" designed to create "confusion" in an address before parliament.

    He also warned of the dangers of any future dissent.

    "The people of Egypt will not allow the scenario of chaos to be repeated again," Madbouli said, implicitly referring to the 2011 revolution that unseated long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak.

    Authorities have detained about 3,000 people over the last three weeks including prominent academics, activists and lawyers.

    Rights groups maintain the arrests are part of one of the worst crackdowns since el-Sisi seized power in 2014.

    'Brave policemen'

    But Madbouli insisted "the state's agencies moved within the boundaries of the law" at the end of his 40-minute speech.

    "I am praising Egypt's brave policemen who dealt with this matter decisively... We didn't hear of any breaches or any major problems in this issue," he said to loud applause from legislators.

    Egypt passed a restrictive anti-protest law in 2013 after el-Sisi led the military overthrow of Egypt's first democratically elected president and leader of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, Mohamed Morsi. A renewable state of emergency remains in force.

    El-Sisi regularly invokes his track record of bringing relative stability in a turbulent region and boosting the country's economic outlook after introducing harsh austerity reforms in 2016.

    Egypt devalued the pound and slashed subsidies three years ago in its bid to secure a $12bn loan from the International Monetary Fund.

    Foreign reserves have been replenished at record levels, reaching more than $45bn last month and the Egyptian pound's value is slowly rebounding.

    However, prices have soared for the average citizen, economically squeezing Egypt's burgeoning poor and middle class, triggering discontent.

    Madbouli acknowledged the economic pressures affecting Egyptians but said "building a country" was an arduous process requiring a large budget.

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    SOURCE: AFP news agency