FILE- Minister of Justice Hossam Abdel-Rahim
CAIRO – 14 February 2018: Per President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s directions, the national committee responsible for accounting those entitled to compensations after being displaced following the construction of the Aswan High Dam has finally finished its job. The numbers of families have been affirmed and the list was referred to Egypt’s Cabinet.
The committee, headed by Justice Minister Hossam Abdel-Rahim, was formed as a result of the second round of Egypt’s National Youth Forum (NYF) held in Aswan in January 2017. The final recommendations of the forum included several recommendations for tackling Upper Egypt’s challenges and main problems, which included the relocated Nubian people and their undelivered compensations after nearly sixty years since building the dam.
The recommendations also included the complete transformation of Aswan into an economic and cultural capital for Africa, along with improving the quality of life in Upper Egypt through education, health, transportation and housing.
Choosing Aswan for the national conference was a true message, according to Sisi, that Aswan and the Nubian people have given and sacrificed a lot for their country, yet they still haven’t received what they fully deserve.
“I’m fully aware that you didn’t get what you really deserve yet, and we realize what you all have been through during the past years. I appreciate your sacrifices and stamina. I assure to you all that Upper Egypt’s development and issues are on the top of our priorities, and that’s why we decided to choose Aswan for the conference,” Sisi said during his concluding speech at Aswan’s NYF.
He affirmed that the conversations held during the conferences’ events were “honest” in attempting to reach proper solutions for the issues.
Origin of the Nubian issue
Nubians were displaced from their original homeland several times. After the government decided to build the Aswan Low Dam in 1902, villages were flooded with water and the locals had to move. Later, in 1912, the government decided to raise the height of the dam for the first time, and in 1932 it was heightened again for the third time. Each time caused more villages to flood and Nubians to move.
During the era of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s was considered a national project proving Egypt’s capability to do whatever it wishes. Several families were displaced and compensated by the country then, and they relocated to Kom Ambo or the new Nubia south of the dam, where Lake Nasser was created and new houses were built.
Several Nubians since then have said that they didn’t receive the real compensations they deserve from the government for various reasons, and some claimed they never received any compensation. Since then, Nubians have been demanding to be relocated again to areas mostly located behind the dam.
Several demonstrations were organized by the Nubians since then, demanding the government abide with article 236 of the 2014 constitution, which states that the country ensures the development and implementation of a plan for economic and urban development of borders and disadvantaged regions, including Upper Egypt, Sinai, Matrouh and the areas of Nubia.
The Article states:
“Economic and urban development of border and underprivileged areas: The state shall develop and implement a plan for the comprehensive economic and urban development of border and underprivileged areas, including Upper Egypt, Sinai, Matrouh, and Nubia. This is to be achieved by the participation of the residents of these areas in the development projects and the priority in benefiting from them, taking into account the cultural and environmental patterns of the local community, within ten years from the date that this Constitution comes into effect, in the manner organized by law.
The state works on developing and implementing projects to bring back the residents of Nubia to their original areas and develop them within 10 years in the manner organized by law.”
During their demonstrations, Nubians were keen to hold signs affirming that Nubia is an integral part of Egypt and that they refuse any attempts of using the case for other benefits. Nubians are one of the most ancient ethnic groups on earth, dating back to ancient Egyptian origins.
President Sisi’s initiative to highlight and re-open the Nubian issue and put it on the top of his priorities, by forming a specialized committee to give them what they really need and deserve, was considered as a positive step by the Nubian elders after a long time of demanding.
“We are here today to reach solutions for our concerns and to achieve real development on all different levels. Upper Egypt is on the government’s top priorities and I gave direct orders to work hard for improving the situation of the people at all levels,” Sisi said during Aswan’s NYF in January 2017.