Egypt’s president has asked his defence minister to assign a military officer to “each and every village” in Egypt.
Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi announced the news in a tweet as part of a project he launched last year to develop the Egyptian countryside, called “A Dignified Life”.
The initiative promised to provide sanitation, drinking water and other services to villages within a 600 billion Egyptian pound ($38 billion) budget to be spent over three years.
However, analysts have said that the initiative is more likely an attempt by the government to increase the presence of state institutions and security services in rural areas.
Arabi21 reports that this is a dangerous move and the start of the militarisation of the Egyptian countryside in revenge for the September 2020 protests.
Protests erupted in Egypt last year following a call by whistleblower Mohamed Ali to take to the streets and unite against the regime amid severe human rights abuses, soaring living costs and house demolitions.
The demonstrations were widespread in the villages and countryside because of the heavy security presence in the main squares in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, earning them the name “the galabiya uprising” in reference to the long robe traditionally worn in the countryside.
Just before the demonstrations Al-Sisi threatened to order the army to raze villages constructed illegally with tens of thousands at risk of losing their homes and with no viable alternative.
Head of the political bureau of the Egyptian revolutionary council, Amr Adel, told Arabi21 that there was no relationship between Al-Sisi’s ‘dignified life’ proposal and appointing a military officer to each village.
He said it could be a pre-emptive move by the Egyptian government against further unrest considering the growing dissatisfaction with the government’s inability to secure Egypt’s water rights in the ongoing Renaissance Dam negotiations.
Predicted water shortages because of the filling of the Ethiopian dam will affect rural farmers who may take to the streets in protest.
In May, a legal communication was submitted to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights on behalf of five Egyptian farmers who say government policies have restricted their access to the Nile’s water and limited their use of the land.