Former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and the UAE’s foreign minister have issued contradictory statements over the former’s fate in the country.
Shafiq claimed on Wednesday to have been prevented from leaving the UAE after announcing his intent to contest the Egyptian presidential elections expected to take place next year, but the Emirati minister of state for foreign minister disputes that.
In a series of tweets late on Wednesday night, Anwar Gargash, said there was “no obstacle” to Shafiq’s departure from the UAE.
Shafiq, who fled Egypt to the UAE in 2012 after losing the country’s first freely contested election, had claimed that UAE officials had prevented him from leaving the country and embarking on a tour of Egyptian expatriate communities.
“I reject any intervention in Egypt’s affairs by preventing me from participating in a constitutional right and a holy mission to serve my country,” Shafiq said in an exclusive video message to Al Jazeera.
“I call on the UAE leaders to order the lifting of any restrictions on my ability to travel,” he said.
Gargash hit back at Shafiq’s “lack of gratitude” in a tweet published shortly after the video was broadcast.
“(Shafiq) took refuge in the UAE and ran away from Egypt after the results of the 2012 presidential election. We presented him with every facility and generous hospitality despite our severe reservations about some of his positions,” Gargash said.
After losing the closely contested 2012 election to Mohamed Morsi, Shafiq fled to the UAE. He was placed on trial in absentia in Egypt and found guilty of corruption charges.
He was later acquitted, clearing his path for a potential return to Egypt.
Samer Shehata, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, USA, says it is unknown if Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi is behind Shafiq’s purported travel ban.
The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are among the staunchest supporters of the current Egyptian president, so they have an interest in Sisi continuing
Samer Shehata, University of Oklahoma
“It is not clear if Sisi or the Egyptian government is behind this move,” Shehata told Al Jazeera from Norman, Oklahoma.
He said Shafiq’s inability to leave the UAE is to the advantage of Sisi and also benefits the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
“The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are among the staunchest supporters of the current Egyptian president, so they have an interest in Sisi continuing.
“They are in favour of Sisi staying in power and not in seeing [the appearance of] any potential challengers.”
Shafiq was prime minister for just over a month during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, which led to the fall of long-serving leader Hosni Mubarak.
Morsi was removed in 2013 in a coup led by Sisi, then Egypt’s defence minister, but Shafiq remained in the UAE.
In the 2018 elections, Shafiq could again be one of the few candidates challenging Sisi. However, Shehata thinks Shafiq has got little chance of actually winning the presidential election.
“The reality is that the system is engineered so that Sisi will win. He will win another term next year”, Shehata said.