*** Note from the editor: this is a syndicated article originally posted by Kyle Scott Pirie for The Best of Africa ***
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi launched Mohammed Naguib military base with a grand ceremony on 22 July 2017. This inauguration came a week after the IMF approved a second loan of $1.25 billion to Egypt and Sisi’s government. The base, named after President Mohammed Naguib, is the largest military base in Africa and the Middle East; with several Arab statesmen attending the ceremony in El Hammam city. Ever since Sisi’s 2013 overthrow of Mohammad Morsi, Egypt’s economy has plummeted and the government has been in a never-ending battle to keep the finances stable.
The opening of this base marks the 65th anniversary of the Egyptian revolution which resulted in the abdication of King Farouk. The base is to be used for joint military exercises with other countries and consists of; 1155 “vital” facilities, 72 training areas, shooting ranges, a major conference hall, and an officer’s residence. In addition to military exercises, the base includes a research centre and a sports village. Due to the size, renewable energy sources were constructed to support the base; such as solar energy.
President Sisi, the commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, will also inaugurate another three military camps and attend the graduations of new military students. Prior to this, the Egyptian Army announced that another base has been established close to the border with Libya to prevent the infiltration of militants. The base is to also ensure security over the Red Sea and guard the recently discovered gas deposits in the Mediterranean (Leviathan gas field). According to Sputnik (Russian news agency), the base was built to protect a future nuclear power plant which will be built in partnership with Russia.
Those in attendance at the launch included Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Prince Khalid Al Faisal, Mohammad Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Sisi hopes that the Arab participation in the ceremony gave a clear message of Arab unity and Egyptian strength. The ongoing boycott of Qatar by Arab countries has only added further instability to the region however, Sisi used the launch to promote patriotism and cooperation. The newly graduated soldiers must carry the ideals of vigilance and perseverance as Egypt goes through a period of uncertainty. President Sisi paid tribute to not only his new soldiers but also the martyrs of the Armed Forces and police who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The president also tackled terrorism claiming that the morale of the Egyptian people will never be broken. However, Sisi also warned terrorists that the country will not idly standby and allow extremism to takeover. In addition to this, the president reminded international audiences that no country has the right to interfere in other countries’ affairs. He stated that nothing matters more than a country’s sovereignty.
The Egyptian government is fighting two very different battles; the war against extremism and the fight towards socio-economic development. Sisi addressed these two issues and recognises that the country needs to change to keep up in a fast-paced world. President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi explained that terrorism is a complicated phenomenon and that Egypt will never forgive terror-funding countries. Addressing terror sponsors, he said “killing innocent people will never go scot-free […] Egypt will remain a peace-loving nation and will never kowtow to terrorist threats and those behind them.” Sisi stated that economic development is and always will be his government’s priority – terrorism will never change this. Furthermore, the president pleaded to the people of Egypt as they are soon to enter a phase of severe economic reform. This period of reform is expected to modernise the state and will hopefully spread throughout the continent. Egypt’s longstanding problem has been its inability to capitalise on the resources it sits on; if given the opportunity Egypt may progress. The Egyptian people are willing to make sacrifices to achieve stability.
Sisi has put his faith in the new economic programme and that it will hopefully mark the beginning of something great for the country. The ceremony at El Hammam city was an opportunity for Egypt to attract Arab investment and push forward with their new economic programme. Sisi ended his speech by praising the people of Egypt for understanding the requirements of the economic reform programme. Egypt has turned to the IMF for support in order to fund the government’s projects but it has been the country’s poorest that have suffered the most. The prices of basic goods have skyrocketed and imported items are now more expensive due the devaluation of Egypt’s currency.
The launch of the Mohammed Naguib base goes beyond a mere demonstration of force. The government have been able to use it as a platform to not only preach patriotic rhetoric but also appeal for investment. The attendance of Arab dignitaries shows Egypt’s determination to succeed and prosper. The new economic programme proposed by President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi shows ambition but will it pay-off?