From our correspondent
Throughout Egypt, campaign posters have flourished for three weeks. The roadsides are dotted with giant portraits of Marshal-President Abdel Fattah Al Sissi. And as they approach the Suez Canal, the gateway to Sinai, they are accompanied by a martial slogan: “National hero of the war against terrorism. » Candidate without real opposition in the presidential election of December 10, 11 and 12, the raïs promises to invest massively in the north of the Egyptian peninsula, a desert region ravaged by ten years of war between the army and different Islamist groups, particularly linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh.
The desolate landscapes which line the last kilometers of the road separating Al-Arich, the capital of the governorate, from the Rafah border post bear witness to the violence of the reprisals. Between the barricaded checkpoints, often riddled with bullets, entire villages have been demolished by the fighting, leaving behind some scattered ruins. Using a lot of explosives, the army carved out a 79 square kilometer buffer zone on its border with Gaza. Between 2014 and 2019, the Egyptian city of Rafah, 78,000 inhabitants, was literally wiped off the map, and several thousand families expelled. The stated objective: to cut all links between Hamas and the armed groups of Sinai.
Attacks are still frequent, the last one having killed four police officers in July. This did not prevent President Al Sissi from trumpeting it loud and clear last January: “We have defeated terrorism. » For the now candidate, who has made the development of the area one of the central themes of his electoral program, the guns must be silent, and give way to the bulldozers.
During an on-site visit on October 31, while all eyes were on the Rafah crossing point where humanitarian aid currently transits towards Gaza, the Prime Minister brought together the leaders of the local Bedouin tribes for their announce the release of a colossal envelope across the region. By 2030, more than 11 billion euros will be injected into reconstruction and various infrastructure projects. President Sissi has many reasons to occupy the ground well, and to take the opportunity to strengthen security on the border with the Gaza Strip: he wants at all costs to avoid a resumption of fighting which would lead to massive immigration of Gazans towards Egypt.
The government therefore promises to invest in all directions, both in the health and social protection sectors as well as in tourism and industry. “Apart from the massive construction of housing to accommodate evicted families, the projects that will be carried out on site are still unclear,” objects Sarah Daoud, doctor in political science affiliated with Ceri (Sciences Po Paris).
If the authorities assure that the windfall will be placed in the hands of residents so that they implement the projects they need, the researcher emphasizes that the real imperative lies elsewhere: allowing the army, a major player in the economy Egyptian, to secure its interests. “It is clear that the regime is using its war against terrorism to put this region under a state of emergency since 2014, expropriate local populations and develop construction projects led by the army and which benefit the army. »
Now that the terrorist threat seems to be receding, the displaced residents want to return to their land, as promised by the authorities. However, at the end of October, the army violently dispersed a vigil organized near the commune of Sheikh Zuweid by dozens of members of local tribes. A return to “the policy of humiliation and repression practiced until recently”, analyzes Sarah Daoud. The clashes in Gaza, put on hold by a truce considered precarious, and the regime’s fear of seeing the conflict spill over into its territory should reinforce this iron fist imposed in the Sinai.