Egypt is one of a few countries that produce numerous songs in praise of national glory. We sing in praise of the pyramids, the Sphinx, the Nile, ancient monuments and of course our civilization in general. The Egyptian government obviously supports this trend, rewarding such singers by enrolling them into its entourage. However, simultaneously while celebrating these songs, many of us abuse our national resources — by engaging in the illegal trafficking and mistreatment of our ancient relics, for example.
Our government is constantly repeating that the Nile is a matter of life or death for the Egyptian people. Yet we have been carelessly damaging this lifeline for decades by inefficiently consuming our share of the river’s water, polluting it with waste, and mismanaging our conflict with Ethiopia over Nile water allocation. Nonetheless, along with the abuse, we maintain our sentiments for the river, saying that visitors who drink from the Nile will always come back to our country.
Sadly, we have been carelessly damaging the Nile for decades by inefficiently consuming our share of its water, polluting it with waste disposal, and mismanaging our conflict with Ethiopia over water allocation.
The Egyptian singer who spent years singing a very emotional and popular song in praise of the Nile is currently being prosecuted because of a word that slipped out as she tried to make a joke at a live concert. Meanwhile, millions of citizens who have been abusing the Nile for decades continue to do so without being penalized.
Zooming out, many Egyptians often express their sentiments for the military and police apparatus that protect our national security, apparently convinced that spending their time singing for our soldiers who are facing terrorists and enemies on the front line is a serious pursuit that helps to keep our country in good shape. Not only is this hypocritical, it also reflects an unjust attitude toward citizens who put their lives on the line and to others whose utmost contribution is to express their love.
Many Egyptians are privileged by the state for humming “Long Live Egypt” in song. The phrase has become a password used by people to express loyalty to their country, in return for which they are granted state positions and immunity from being held to account for their ineffectiveness or for involvement in corruption. Meanwhile, Egyptians who want to play a constructive role in the development of their country are marginalized for not being in tune with the rhythm required by the state.
“Rest assured that we will solve the problem,” was President El-Sisi’s recent response to the grave concerns of Egyptians regarding their share of Nile River water upon learning that technical negotiations with the Ethiopian government on the Renaissance Dam had come to a deadlock. In my view, the Egyptian government should have negotiated this issue and struck a deal with Ethiopia when the dam was still a proposal. Now that it is close to realization, reaching a solution is infinitely more complicated.
Seeing the government lose a number of internal and external political battles makes us justifiably concerned. Candidness is not as essential a quality for a ruler as competence; a competent ruler would be able to solve our challenges — or at least to provide some sign that we are on the right track. Sadly, the Nile conflict might drag Egypt into an unpleasant internal scenario that could have been avoided had the issue been addressed well in advance.
• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom.