Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has warned against attempts to stoke instability in the country following a recent spate of scattered and small-scale anti-government demonstrations.
The protests come amid mounting anger, particularly in rural and low-income areas, against sweeping government campaigns to stop illegal construction, which have required people to pay fines to legalise home-ownership. During his speech on Sunday, el-Sisi thanked Egyptians for not heeding the calls, saying the government was undertaking the measures as part of reforms.
“Some people have been trying in recent weeks to take advantage of the tough measures we are taking,” el-Sisi said at a ceremony to inaugurate an oil refining complex north of Cairo.
“They choose the hard conditions to harm and cast doubts among Egyptians over what we do.”
Dozens of people took part in rare protests in recent days in several villages in Egypt, according to a video shared widely on social media, especially by sympathisers of the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed group.
Exiled businessman Mohamed Ali, who has been urging anti-el-Sisi protests since last year, has intensified his calls in recent weeks in online videos, calling on Egyptians to take to the streets against the government.
On Sunday, Egypt’s public prosecutor said it ordered the release of 68 minors who took part in the demonstrations.
“The minors’ parents committed to maintaining the safety and security of their children, promising that they would ensure the minors do not return to such acts of destruction in the future,” said the prosecutor in a statement circulated on social media.
“Meanwhile, we continue to investigate in the cases of the other detainees,” it added.
Protests have been effectively banned in Egypt since 2013.
A renewable state of emergency has been in place since 2017, a measure that rights groups say has allowed the government to crush dissent.