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Me and my motorcade no. 62

Creating a moving drama

Egypt [ABDEL FATTEH EL SISI]

When Egyptian president Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi unveiled a new social housing project in Cairo earlier this year, his office was eager to ensure that his arrival would be greeted with the correct amount of pomp and circumstance. But the 4km-long red carpet that was eventually unfurled for his motorcade to drive down – and the largely unimpressed public reaction that greeted it – served only to show just how out of touch the military ruler is becoming.

“Those who carry the populist banner are going to continue beating the drum for Sisi,” says David Butter, a Chatham House expert on Egypt. “But you can certainly see through commentary and in the general media that he’s starting to lose a bit of his populist touch.”

Sisi has sought to set his image as far apart as possible from that of Hosni Mubarak, the former president whose 30-year tenure developed a certain bumbling reputation before the revolution. But in trying to project a more stately kind of presidency he has developed a penchant for grand-occasion theatrics. When the new Suez Canal was inaugurated in January, for instance, Sisi was the first to sail through, seated on the deck of the El Mahrousa presidential yacht and greeting the world to the sound of Verdi’s Aida, often mistakenly thought to be a “commission” for the original Suez opening.

“That this emphasis on symbolism will distract the population from increasing economic difficulties is a dubious assumption,” says HA Hellyer, who is a senior nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington. “In Egypt, no president can exist without trouble for too long if he isn’t perceived to be delivering.”

Gulf links

Oman [AVIATION]

With oil prices likely to hover at historic lows for some time, Oman is looking to the skies to diversify its economy. The Sultanate is aggressively expanding its national carrier Oman Air, with plans to nearly double the airline’s fleet to 70 planes by 2020. Its ambition is clear based on its recent record-breaking payment of €66m for a much-coveted take-off and landing slot at Heathrow Airport, which could double daily flights to the UK. The carrier also has plans under way to launch a low-cost airline, Salam Air. With air-traffic demand in Oman expected to increase by 40 per cent between now and 2019, a stronger aviation push should give the country’s ambitions in the property and tourism industries a much-needed boost.

Q&A

Erik Mararv

Manager, Garamba
National Park
DR Congo

Erik Mararv, a 30-year-old Swede, was born in the Central African Republic and runs Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His park is on the frontline in Africa’s poaching war.

What is Garamba and why does it matter?
It has the largest remaining population of hybrid African forest and savannah elephants anywhere and has Congo’s only giraffe population. It also has incredible geological features and is a World Heritage site. It’s a special area in such an unlikely place.

How has poaching affected the animal population?
In the 1970s there were 22,000 elephants, 500 northern white rhinos and 350 giraffes. Today there are fewer than 1,500 elephants, no rhinos and 38 giraffes, and this has been down to a mix of foreign and local poachers. [Neighbouring] South Sudan is a country at civil war; 80 per cent of poachers in Garamba come from there.

What approach do you take to managing Garamba?
I think of it like a company on the brink of bankruptcy that needs to be turned around and made profitable again.

How dangerous is it?
Four rangers were killed in 2015 and there were 28 contacts [firefights] with poachers. When a ranger is killed it’s demoralising but you don’t have a choice: that’s the nature of the work we do. You have to learn the lesson so it doesn’t happen again.

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