Editor’s letter: Low budget presidential thriller

Maher Hamoud
5 Min Read

Maher HamoudDuring a disastrous meeting at the Presidential Palace on Monday with the objective of handling the threat of Ethiopia’s project building a massive dam on one of the Nile’s main tributaries the Blue Nile, some of Egypt’s “top politicians” came out with a number of solutions, hysterical enough to start a war that can easily fail before it breaks out.

Younis Makhyoun, leader of the Salafi Al-Nour Party, said during the meeting: “Ethiopia is fragile because of rebel movements inside the country… We can communicate with [these rebels] and use them as a bargaining chip against the Ethiopian government.” Then he concluded: “If all this fails, then there is no choice left for Egypt but to play the final card, which is using the intelligence agency to destroy the dam.”

The once-upon-a-time presidential candidate running against Mubarak in 2005, Ayman Nour, suggested “spreading rumours” about Egypt refuelling aircraft to create the impression that it plans an airstrike to destroy the dam and added: “This could yield results on a diplomatic track.”

Abou Elela Mady, leader of the Islamist Al-Wasat Party, suggested that rumours of plans to destroy the dam could scare Ethiopians into cooperating with Egypt during the construction of the dam.

These are not quotes from a low-budget Hollywood thriller. They are real and have been said during an actual presidential meeting. And how did we know about such a supposedly top secret “Star Wars” fantasy? Well, the meeting was televised live “by mistake”. A mistake that did not only last for a moment; it was a two hour and 22 minute session of unbelievable nonsense.

For those who are not fully aware of Egypt’s most recent crisis, Ethiopia started diverting the flow of the Blue Nile last week to make way for its hydroelectric project called the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Arguments all over local media assume that this dam will significantly affect the downstream countries of Egypt and Sudan, which are highly dependent on the water of the world’s longest river.

Such a terrible mistake of broadcasting that meeting live was ridiculously too long lasting on TV screens, leaving Egyptians, Ethiopians and the international media in a shock; a heavy scene from an absurd black comedy that briefly sums up how the country is being currently run.

A president, whose maximum ability is to head a Friday prayer, seeks advice from a bunch of politicians who seem mostly suited for secondary roles in soap operas concerning an urgent and highly sensitive crisis.


I wonder how Pakinam El-Sharkawy, the president’s aide for political affairs, would justify this fatal mistake given that she was the one responsible for managing the so-called “National Dialogue”. I think soon we will miss her entertaining thoughts and comments on Egypt’s current political affairs. Or maybe not, since the Muslim Brotherhood’s interests are very obviously of higher importance than the country’s stressing challenges.

From another dimension, the disaster is far beyond such an unbelievable technical mistake. Let’s assume that it simply did not happen and the meeting was not televised as the participants mistakenly thought. A very sad question emerges here: Is this what your mighty minds can cleverly bring to a crisis management discussion table? This is absolutely disappointing.

The discussion actually showed a high level of incompetence and very poor taste of addiction to cheap thriller movies as a sole source of political knowledge. It is actually dangerous that these people are being heard at the Presidential Palace. Egypt is clearly going through one of its most vulnerable eras in history.

Exceptionally, there was a voice of wisdom and sanity among the participants. It was Magdy Hussein, leader of the New Labour Party, who warned that talking about military action against Ethiopia is very dangerous and will only turn Ethiopians into enemies. He also suggested soft diplomacy in dealing with the crisis, including “organising a film festival and dispatching researchers and translation missions.”

Obviously, the government, the “opposition” that participated in the National Dialogue and the opposition that was too busy tweeting to participate are nothing but extra evidence that Egypt is in a pathetic mess.

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Former Editor-in-Chief of The Daily News Egypt, and currently Media Politics Analyst. He can be followed on Twitter @MaherHamoud1, his public page on Facebook, or email: [email protected]