France’s President Emmannuel Macron "honoured" el-Sisi, the Egyptian president, with the its highest award, the Legion d'Honneur.
It is presumably a reward to the authoritarian ruler for being a loyal customer of the French arms industry. France provides Egypt with advanced weaponry. France profits from weapons sales to Egypt, and during his visit Sisi met with both the executives of Airbus and Dassault Aviation, which sells Cairo Rafale advanced fighter jets.
No announcement about the conferring of the honour and no French correspondents were invited to cover the ceremony, as well as other events during Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s state visit to France. The French media were obliged to resort to state media in Egypt for footage of the events. Egyptian television channels and social media networks were filled with photos and footage of Sisi meeting with high-level French political and corporate elites, often presented with the president at the centre of the photo, surrounded by French officials seemingly paying him tribute.
The attempts to under-report Sisi’s visit by a nation which presents itself as a paragon of human rights and liberty yet embraces a most brutal and repressive regime with a worsening human rights record and prisons filled with dissidents, certainly appears to be an embarrassment for France.
Macron has insisted that he would bring no pressure on Egypt over its human rights record that includes enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, atrocious prison conditions, and mass trials.
“It is more effective to have a policy of demanding dialogue than a boycott which would only reduce the effectiveness of one of our partners in the fight against terrorism.” Macron was quoted as saying as Sisi’s visit began.
Ziad Majed, a professor of political science at the American University of Paris, explained, “They didn’t even pretend that they raised the issues of human rights, democracy or political prisoners. France plays a role in normalising the brutal suppression of the Sisi regime,” he said. “When you want to send a message of combatting extremism, the worst message that could be sent is accepting impunity and dealing with this regime without any conditions. It’s a way of saying, we accept double standards and the violations of human rights. This is the perfect condition for all sorts of radicalism.”