When a country descends into chaos, it can really descend the way Egypt does. The recent bombing of a tourist bus in North Sinai, resulting in the deaths of two South Koreans and their driver, and the warning issued by militants to all tourists to leave is a sign that the current crisis in Egypt is heading into a dangerous territory from where a return will be difficult.
This great Arab country of 84 million people is already fighting many battles. It is terribly short of land, water, electricity, housing and jobs. The country has large natural gas reserves but has failed to develop them, and the industry has been crippled by power shortages. The military is only kept going by American money. After the overthrow of Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mursi, the current administration has been surviving on liberal aid from its allies in the region. There is no doubt that this aid cannot go on indefinitely because the financial needs of a country like Egypt are huge. Even as the entire economy almost lies in ruins, the only hope has been tourism, which is the mainstay of the country’s economy. After the revolution, the tourist arrivals have plummeted and the tourist sites are looking like ghost towns. Now even the limited trickle of arrivals will be completely stopped as militants have sent the warning that they are no longer welcome.
The warning by Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis, the militant group that claimed responsibility for the Sinai bombing, that tourists should leave Egypt doesn’t have to be taken very seriously because the group doesn’t have that kind of power to sow terror all over the country. But tourists don’t inspect the network of the terrorists and one attack is enough to scare away all of them. They just act on the intuitive feeling that fun and murder do not mix.
The army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who has been riding a popularity wave due to his actions against the Muslim Brotherhood, must realize that his guardian status can melt like icecream if the economy sinks further and people are pushed into poverty. He will also have to find immediate solutions to two serious problems Egyptians are faching -- power cuts and fuel shortages, the same issues that plagued Mursi and helped trigger mass protests that enabled the army to oust him.
Fatah Al Sisi, who is almost certain to be the country’s next president, must look at these facts seriously and seek solutions instead of focusing on silencing the international media and suppressing dissent. What Egypt needs is peace and stability and for that he has to adopt an attitude of reconciliation rather than vendetta. There is nothing wrong with calling the Brotherhood for talks.