Egypt’s defense minister has warned that the army will intervene if violence breaks out in the country where opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi are planning rallies against him this month.
“The armed forces have the obligation to intervene to stop Egypt from plunging into a dark tunnel of conflict and infighting,” General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday ahead of the first anniversary of Morsi’s election, as opposition leaders clamored for his resignation.
Morsi’s opponents, who accuse him of hijacking the 2011 uprising that toppled former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s regime, plan a rally on Sunday to mark the day Morsi was sworn in as Egypt’s first civilian and Islamist president a year ago.
The defense minister urged Egyptians to set aside their differences, saying it was the army’s duty to act to prevent chaos.
“It is the national and moral duty of the army to intervene ... to prevent sectarian strife or the collapse of state institutions,” Sisi said during a meeting with soldiers.
He also criticized those who made anti-army statements.
On Friday last week, a member of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, Mohamed al-Baltagui, criticized the army at a rally organized by supporters of the president ahead of the opposition’s planned protest.
“Those who think that we ignore the dangers facing the Egyptian nation are mistaken. We will not remain silent in the face of the country’s plunge into conflict,” Sisi said.
Morsi met Sisi later on Sunday, to go over the plans for the military “for the upcoming period,” the presidency said in a statement.
The president told his defense minister “to rapidly put in place all measures needed to assure the security of all vital and strategic structures in the country in coordination with the interior ministry,” the statement said.
There are fears ahead of the anti-Morsi rallies that violence could erupt between his supporters and opponents.
Egypt is deeply polarized. Morsi’s supporters say he is clearing institutions of decades of corruption, but his critics accuse him of concentrating power in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since taking office a year ago, Morsi has squared off against the judiciary, media, police and most recently artists.
Leading opponent Mohamed ElBaradei, a former head of UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency, urged the president to resign for the sake of national unity.
“For Egypt’s sake, I call on President Mohamed Morsi to resign and give us the opportunity to begin a new phase based on the principles of the revolution, which are freedom and social justice,” ElBaradei said.
A campaign dubbed Tamarod (rebellion) first called the anti-Morsi rally to coincide with the first anniversary of his taking office.
Tamarod rapidly picked up steam, and organizers said they have collected 15 million signatures demanding that Morsi step down.