Egyptian anti-Sisi whistle blower announces return to political life
Dissident Egyptian construction contractor Mohammed Ali told his social media followers on Friday to expect a new video from him after four months of silence.
In post on Facebook and Twitter, Ali said that he would broadcast a new video at 8pm Cairo time (6pm GMT) on Sunday, which will be the first day of the Muslim festival of Eid which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
The 45-year-old businessman triggered a major scandal in Egypt in September 2019 when he revealed details of autocratic President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s corruption.
In a series of videos watched by millions of Egyptians, Ali, whose company had previously worked with the Egyptian army, said that Sisi had built a number of luxurious palaces and residences for himself and his family using public funds, at a time when austerity measures were being imposed on ordinary people and poverty rates in Egypt were increasing.
Sisi appeared on television to answer the allegations but did not deny them, saying that he built the palaces for the state and would continue to “build and build and build”.
Anti-Sisi hashtags started by Ali quickly became the top trending Twitter hashtags worldwide, and thousands of Egyptians took part in protests in Cairo and other cities, braving the risk of arrest. The scandal became known as ‘Palacegate’.
Sisi’s government responded with repression, detaining thousands of people, and the protests fizzled out. While Ali’s exposure of financial corruption posed a major challenge to Sisi, his videos were often rambling and he failed to present a coherent opposition political programme.
Ali himself said that he was inexperienced in political life and announced his retirement from politics at the end of last January, saying that people had failed to protest against Sisi on ninth anniversary of the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
However, on Friday Ali announced on Twitter that he “wanted to talk” to the “great Egyptian people” again, adding that he prayed that “the darkness would be lifted [from Egypt] “ and that “Egypt would once again return to its owners, the people, God willing”.
Most of the replies to Ali’s posts seemed to be positive, with one Twitter user jokingly saying that Sisi’s Eid holiday would be spoiled.
However, some of his supporters took him to task for his long absence. One Twitter user asked him, “Why did you go away Mohamed? Why did you make them feel like they’ve defeated you and defeated us as well? We were so happy with you and your spirit? Try to come back and hit them hard.”