CAIRO- A year after he deposed Egypt’s first freely elected president only to take his place, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi presides over a country roiled by militancy and ever-shrinking liberties, critics say.
On July 3 last year, the army, then led by Sisi, removed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi from office after millions took to the streets demanding his resignation.
Sisi went on to win May’s presidential election, partly thanks to his image as a strongman who can restore stability to a country in tumult since an uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
But the lead-up to the anniversary suggests the divisive ouster of Morsi still looms large over Sisi, who won the election with 97 percent of the vote against a weak leftist candidate.
On Monday, two policemen were killed defusing bombs outside Sisi’s palace, with the president pledging “retribution”.
A few days before, a court prolonged the detention of 24 secular activists jailed for violating a ban on all but police-sanctioned protests.
Some of these activists had supported Sisi when he ousted Morsi, but a crackdown on Islamists has since extended to other dissidents.
Morsi’s overthrow unleashed the bloodiest period in Egypt’s modern history as a crackdown killed more than 1,400 of his supporters, jailed thousands including top Brotherhood leaders and sentenced about 200 to death.
Militant attacks have since killed about 500 policemen and soldiers, says the government.
“It’s really a dark time… We are seeing citizen killing citizen, brother killing brother, families being torn apart. It is not a civil war, but it is a civil conflict,” said Shadi Hamid, fellow at the Brooking Institution’s Saban Centre.
“Egypt is very, very divided.”