As Egypt prepares to swear in its fourth leader since 2011, a huge slice of US$1.5 billion in US aid remains in deep-freeze amid fears the nation is sliding back into authoritarianism.
Former Egyptian general Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is to be crowned as the next president today after three years of political turmoil since the ousting of Hosni Mubarak.
Yet far from welcoming al-Sisi as a step toward stability, some analysts are urging Washington to rethink its decades-old, military-based aid program amid concerns over human rights abuses and a crackdown on civil liberties.
In a sign of Washington’s unease, no senior US Cabinet members are to attend the inauguration, with US Department of State Counselor Thomas Shannon asked to lead the delegation.
US officials announced in April they planned to resume some military aid to Cairo, suspended late last year, including 10 Apache helicopters for counterterrorism efforts in the Sinai Peninsula.
Yet the aircraft remain in storage in the US, and a request to release about US$650 million of the frozen aid has been put on hold in the US Congress by US Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of an appropriations subcommittee.
Leahy said he was “extremely disturbed” by Egypt’s “flouting of human rights” and would not sign off on delivering the aid “until we have a better understanding of how the aid would be used.”