23 January 2014

Africa: Protests Predicted for Egypt's 25 January Revolution Day

On the third anniversary of the start of the revolution that toppled Mubarak, pro- and anti-government supporters are likely to take to the streets.

Egypt will commemorate Revolution Day on 25 January. The day marks the third anniversary of the start of the Egyptian Revolution that resulted in the resignation of long-serving former president, Hosni Mubarak, on 11 February 2011.

The government has called on citizens to commemorate the day in public squares across the country and has stated that security at these venues will be increased to safeguard the gatherings. Security will also be increased at key state facilities, including government buildings, police stations and prisons. In addition, political and civil society groups have indicated that they will also gather on the day. At least one pro-military/pro-government party, the Free Egyptians Party, has called on its supporters to gather countrywide. The anti-military/anti-government Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-led National Coalition in Support of Legitimacy (NCSL) has called for protests on the day, including in the capital, Cairo.

The upcoming anniversary marks a highly symbolic period in recent Egyptian history. The revolution significantly altered the political environment in Egypt by replacing the long-serving Mubarak and deposing the National Democratic Party (NDP), which had dominated Egyptian politics between 1978 and 2011. Groups from across the political spectrum continue to reference the 2011 revolution to legitimise their current political positions and objectives. Participating in commemorative public events is, therefore, important to further strengthen their public positions.

The anniversary period follows shortly after a constitutional referendum on 14 and 15 January, which was passed by an overwhelming majority. The referendum was boycotted by the NCSL and the opposition group continues to agitate against the military and regime. It also persists in its calls for Islamist parties, overthrown by the military in July 2013, to be returned to power and for the release of numerous Islamist leaders arrested since the overthrow.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians are expected to participate in demonstrations on 25 January in cities and towns across the country. Public squares, city/town centres, state facilities, mosques and universities are likely gathering points. Given the persistent elevated political tension and the highly symbolic nature of the anniversary, confrontations between supporters of rival political bodies are anticipated. Even if mixed gatherings do not occur, the threat of violence, particularly at anti-military/anti-government gatherings, is heightened, as the regime has banned the Muslim Brotherhood, declaring it a terrorist organisation.

Gatherings are also possible on the preceding day, 24 January. The day is a Friday, a traditional time for protest. Should protests occur on 24 January, they are likely to be led by NCSL supporters. Possible gathering sites are similar to those mentioned above.

Finally, it should be noted that Sinai-based Islamist extremists, such as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, have escalated acts of terrorism in recent months and a number of attacks have occurred in the North Sinai governorate and in northern Egypt generally, including Cairo. Militants may aim to target state facilities and personnel during the upcoming anniversary to gain maximum public attention. Due to the elevated security levels, attacks, should they be attempted, are more likely in secondary towns or against secondary targets, than in higher profile areas.

Andre Colling is Chief Analyst for Middle East and North Africa, at red24.

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