28 March 2013

Egypt: Protests Continue in Cairo

Both the opposition and pro-Muslim Brotherhood groups are organising protests amidst ongoing civil unrest in Egypt.

The opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) has called for a protest in Cairo, in the vicinity of the High Court on 29 March.

The gathering has been called to denounce a recent decision by Egyptian authorities to arrest opposition activists allegedly involved in violence at a Cairo protest on 22 March. The opposition also alleges that President Mohammed Morsi has exercised undue influence over the judiciary with regard to its arrest of the activists.

In addition, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and its Islamist partners have recently announced that they will hold a protest near Cairo University to denounce both the 22 March violence and attacks against its offices in Cairo. The group has not provided a date for the protest.

The most recent dispute between the opposition and the Islamist-dominated government was sparked by violence outside of the Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) Cairo headquarters in Moqattam on 16 and 17 March.

The opposition alleges that MB members attacked journalists and activists at the site. The initial violence then triggered protests and further confrontations between opposition activists, the police and MB members.

Renewed anti-MB protests were held in the Moqattam area on 22 March. During the course of the day, a MB office was ransacked in the Manial area of Cairo and confrontations were reported between residents of Moqattam and MB supporters. Civil unrest was also reported near MB offices in other parts of the country.

The recent spate of accusations, low-level violence and protest action comes amid ongoing opposition agitation against the Islamist-dominated government of President Morsi and the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the MB.

In recent months, the largely secular, liberal and leftist opposition has been severely critical of the government and its management of the political transition since elections were held in early- to mid-2012. Specifically, the passing of a controversial constitution in December 2012 served to polarise political blocs in the country.

Recent widespread civil unrest, including the 25 January anniversary violence, the 26 January Port Said clashes and the recent violence near the MB offices, has also been presented by the opposition as an example of Morsi's inability to restore stability to the country.

In addition, the opposition has frequently alleged that Morsi is exercising undue influence over the judiciary to undermine the opposition and to further the goals of the MB.

The current spate of protests and counter-protests is expected to continue in the near-term, at least until legislative elections are held. Elections are now expected to be held in October, following the recent postponement of an April poll.

By Andre Colling, Risk Analyst at red24.

red24 is a crisis management assistance company providing guidance, assistance and response within crisis management, travel tracking, product recall, kidnap and ransom and travel security. Follow red24 on twitter @red24security.

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