Posts Tagged ‘egypt’

Ahead of the upcoming African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s prime minister has sought to soothe Egyptian fears over the potential impact of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam on the Arab country’s share of Nile River water.

In an interview conducted by Egyptian journalist Abdel Latif Elmenawy for Al Tahrir television channel on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said his country had “no reason” to make “the Egyptian people feel that they are threatened because of the Nile River.”photo 1 (1)

“We say that this is a God-given resource for all of us, and we have to use this resource in both a rational and reasonable way. That both Ethiopia develops and Egyptian people get their safe share to develop from the Nile water,” Desalegn said.

“I think we can share this resource without harming each other, without impeding Ethiopian development, without making insecurity in Egypt. We know that it is a bloodline. The Nile is a bloodline to Egypt. To the people of Egypt,” Desalegn added.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is expected to fly this week to Ethiopia to attend the African Union summit where he will meet with Prime Minister Desalegn in a rare opportunity for direct talks between the two countries.

Ethiopia – nicknamed “Africa’s water tower” – is the source of about 80 percent of Nile water, but Egypt is the most dependent on the river. Cairo fears that Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance dam could cut its share of the water.

The legal framework that governs the management of the Nile is a 1929 treaty between Egypt and colonial Britain and a 1959 treaty between Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia considers the arrangement to be unfair, because it was not colonized and Britain did not speak on its behalf.

The Ethiopian prime minister said Egypt should not be concerned about the Renaissance dam, saying: “There is a scientific way” of ensuring everyone gets their fair share of the water.

“The filling of the dam is scientifically determined, in what period of time whatever has to be decided.”

He said his country has taken an initiative to establish an international panel of experts to study the impact of the dam on countries downstream from the structure, “especially Sudan and Egypt.”

He said he believed differences with Cairo could be resolved through dialogue, saying any use of threats on the part of Cairo would be a ‘failed strategy,’ referring to previous threats made by ousted president Mohammad Morsi.

“The era of the Egyptian leadership during the Muslim Brotherhood – especially president Mursi – was a tough time. A very complicated era, because you know a statesman, in a televised way, threatening Ethiopia that he was going to take military actions against us, which is an open televised statement,” the Ethiopian prime minister said.

“It is a failure, when you think to threaten a country militarily, it’s from the inception, it is a failed strategy.”

‘When al Sisi came to power we came to understand that he is a man of sincerity, a man of understanding, and also a man of genuine engagement with countries, with Ethiopia,” he added.

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Egypt is going through a phase of sharp polarization. The situation pushes us to think of ways out and it seems that the easiest way out is to issue regulatory laws. It’s in this context that one can explain the announcement of the desire to issue laws that protect the January 25 and June 30 revolutions, but I think this situation will only end if we move forward.images

What’s required today is a law that looks forward and that does not take us back or stir disagreements. Implementing the president’s electoral slogan is the means to “stability, security and hope.” If there’s hope, disagreements and polarization will end.

As I have previously said on several occasions, both progressive and backward societies still embrace many of their primitive stages to varying degrees. I think a huge part of our problems is due to the sanctifying of ideas which leads to clashes that sometimes end in murder. This appears in the religious frenzy, the sharp political, sectarian and religious polarization and the spread of violence and terrorism, and there’s no room for rationality and consensual solutions when it comes to all that.

I brought up this phenomenon when the issue of legislation to protect the January 25 and June 30 revolutions from any insults was being debated.

Deterring penalties

Some sources said the law will include deterring penalties to whoever insults either revolutions and that the punishment will be based on the Egyptian constitution issued last January which considered both the January 25 and June 30 revolutions as revolutions. I hereby seize the opportunity to announce my rejection of such legislation. I don’t reject it due to its attack on freedoms of speech or only because issuing such a law provokes people, but I reject it because it actually contradicts with what should be the ruling mentality.

I hope that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was known for having his finger on the public pulse, does not get influenced by some voices calling for protection because they believe it should be illegal to criticize their opinions. Revolutions are a social act that continue or end according to societies’ development.

According to my humble knowledge, there have not been any laws prohibiting the discussion of revolutions throughout history. The French revolution is still a matter of controversy and the same applies to all other social metamorphoses.

If we enter that tunnel of change, there’s no exit from it. We will pay the price of drowning in rivalry if such a law is issued. It’s the right of those who are described as “slaves of the military boot” by others to demand a law that protects them and protects their political choices. It’s also the right of whoever believes in an idea, movement or orientation to scream out for protection.

 

If you ask any official about Egyptian-African relations and whether Egypt has dropped the ball when dealing with African counties over the past decades, the diplomatic answer would be a clear cut no and that Egyptian-African relations are the best they could be. The official would also remind you of Egypt’s vital political fields: Arab, African, Muslim and non-aligned states.hqdefault
However, this answer is a mere diplomatic one that does not reflect the truth: We in Egypt have l0ng neglected the African file. The current controversy between Egypt and Nile Basin countries is part of the price we’re currently paying as a result of this negligence.

Egypt’s attention to the Nile Basin countries’ issue began a while ago. This was seen through high-ranking officials’ concerns regarding relations between Egypt and these countries. We have, for the first time in a long time, begun to witness official Egyptian visits to these countries’ and their prime ministers. This is certainly positive even if it comes late in the day. Nile Basin countries are of strategic importance to Egypt. Therefore, it’s important for Egypt to deal with these countries within a comprehensive strategy and not just based upon bilateral relations. The basis of relations must thus be linking all Nile Basin countries’ mutual interests to the concept of increasing these countries’ benefit from the Nile River’s water and establishing projects which achieve this aim.

Bilateral relations

This means that Egypt must go beyond bilateral relations as I mentioned and head towards agreements that organize sharing the Nile River water upon a more comprehensive concept which includes different fields and finds a cooperation mechanism with each country alone as well as a cooperation mechanism between Nile Basin countries altogether.

Obstructions are numerous when it comes to Egyptian relations with Nile Basin countries. There is a decrease of commercial trade, the lack of regular navigation or aviation shipping lines, cancelling some EgyptAir flights to a number of these countries, a lack of railways, the increase of shipping prices and most importantly a lack of Egyptian presence in these countries.

It’s true that the Nile River water and Egypt’s rights are non-debatable but confirming this will only be realized through a mature policy that’s strategically devised and that enables us to contain any problems.

Therefore the proper approach to this situation is that which Egypt chose – even if it came late. It is based on cooperating within the context of mutual development. This stance corrects the current situation of countries who suffer from weak development and feel exploitated.

Therefore, it is only right that Egypt takes such an approach, one that depends on partnership in different projects and on marketing the idea of cooperation. Egyptian diplomacy is thus expected to head in the direction of establishing balanced and strong relations with other parties, pushing the wheel of investment and prioritizing different parties’ mutual interests.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, misinformed approaches will certainly lead to undesired results. This logic can be applied to any public, private, social, political or economic case. If one’s approach is confrontational, the end result will not be positive. I therefore think that Egypt has adopted the proper approach to dealing with some African countries. I hope this bodes well for the future.

I have known Faiza Abou el-Naga for a long time: ever since she was minister of international cooperation during Mubarak’s reign. With her permanent and remarkable smile, she seemed to be quiet, chic, a promising and responsible person capable of taking on greater responsibilities. I used to come across her by chance at opera nights in Cairo.Abdul-Latif-Al-Minawi

When I visited a number of African and Arab countries, I heard a lot about her from officials there, before getting to know her in person. With her Egyptian look and European culture, she was able to win the hearts of those she met during her visits.
All those who met her agreed that her strong personality and decisiveness were remarkable; she was sympathetic and had the ability to contain and undertake positive debate.

I personally met her later on in the military council. At this stage, the conditions and challenges allowed the lady to reveal her potential and ability to deal with different situations. When she was at the ministry, I heard from many members of the military council that she was the “manliest” minister in the ministry, and if it wasn’t for the existing conditions she would have been the fittest to be appointed as prime minister.

If it wasn’t for the existing conditions she would have been the fittest to be appointed as prime minister.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

 

At this stage, I followed her from a different angle and she proved that what was said about her was true indeed. She was eager to resolve outstanding matters; the national interest with respect to the interests of others was a priority for her.

The reactions to Faiza Abou el-Naga’s appointment as national security advisor to President Sisi were varied: some considered this position to be challenging the United States because of Naga’s position on the issue of civil society organizations that have led to a crisis between Egypt and the United States. Naga had clearly criticized American and Western behavior in disregarding Egypt and providing financial support to these organizations in order to undermine the Egyptian state. The United States did not like this. Upon the formation of the government, a U.S. official humorously told me: “we will accept any government as long as Faiza Abou el-Naga is not in it.”

This choice by President Sisi was therefore seen as a challenge to the Americans, but the answer here is simple: if the relations between the two states weren’t more mature than these observations, Egypt would have asked in return: Why doesn’t the U.S. administration give notice to Susan Rice, who is known for her hard-line attitudes toward Egypt?

Appointing Naga as the president’s national security advisor has been the president’s best decision so far.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

Similarly, those who expect Naga’s presence to be bad for civil society groups are also wrong because what governs the relationship of the organizations is the law and as long as they respect the laws of the state there will be no problem.

Consequently, these organizations should not be worried about it as long the sovereignty of the country and its laws are respected. The national work leads to the community’s development with no violations threatening the national security.

In my opinion, appointing Naga as the president’s national security advisor has been the president’s best decision so far. I hope that his team, which he really needs, carries on with the same level of choices in various disciplines. This choice also expands the concept of national security in the eyes of the leadership and people because national security is not just a border security issue but rather starts from the bread queue. This developed way of thinking and the right choice will raise hopes for the country.

This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014.

Egypt’s roads are not leveled and many drivers are not disciplined. There are no signs of any security deterrence on roads and bridges. Even if there is, it’s a materialistic presence. Cars zoom past quickly, crossing paths and racing.000_0_443079782

A large vehicle could be on the right side of the road and its driver may suddenly decide to deviate to the left without prior warning because he/ she wants to win a “race” against a car ahead. A cocky police officer drives his car irresponsibly as a soldier sits next to him in surrender. A boy is driving a three-wheeled rickshaw because he has decided to defy everyone around him. A cart carries garbage and is being drawn by a donkey. Delivery motorbikes jump between cars as they race with time and defy the capabilities of the vehicle they’re driving. Amid all this, microbus drivers argue with many around them as they scream out their destinations. Theme parks can be compared with these roads.

Theme parks can be compared with these roads

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

Somewhere amid this chaotic scene, a crash occurs and blood is shed on the asphalt – or whatever is left of it.

Unfortunately, many transportation vehicle drivers do drugs, and a high percentage of road accidents are because of them. Blood analysis campaigns used to deter them and force them to adhere to safety measures. This helped reduce the number of accidents caused by transportation vehicles.

However, accidents are also caused by the absence of road signs and lighting, poor road conditions, and the thoughtlessness and inattention of private vehicle drivers.

Estimates of the number of deaths caused by road accidents range from around 8,000 to 12,000 a year. What is agreed on is that Egypt ranks highest in terms of such accidents, according to the World Health Organization. This has led to economic losses estimated at 17 billion Egyptian pounds a year.

 

I do not remember when was the first time I met with Ibrahim Mahlab, but his name has always been associated with positive decisions. However, I clearly remember the day I visited him in his office when he was head of the Arab Contractors Company. What made me see him at the time was the administration’s ability to turn the company into a real success story. I often refer to it as a model of successful management.images11

During my visit, Mahlab noted that his office contained questionnaires on employees, as the major problem he confronted when he became the company’s head in 1997 was how to build a special relation between employees and the firm. The questionnaire contained employees’ personal details, education, health, interests and priorities in life.

I saw in Mahlab the right figure to lead the government for two major reasons

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

Mahlab used the data to devise a model of services based on understanding employees’ real needs. I think this is the main reason behind the company’s success, and I hoped to implement this strategy at the post that I held at the time.

Mahlab was in Saudi Arabia when he was offered the post of Egyptian housing minister. He had been subjected to injustice – like many others – as he was targeted by a campaign aimed at distorting his reputation.

Although he held a senior post at a private Saudi company, he immediately returned to Egypt without “making any calculations” to assume the ministerial post. After all, some decisions are not calculated when it comes to the national interest.

Some voiced doubt

Before being tasked to form a government, some people voiced doubt that he was the right man for the job at a difficult time. Some cited Egypt’s need for more of a politician than an executive. They thus thought that a politician capable of dealing and maneuvering with political parties was more appropriate than Mahlab. Others demanded that the prime minister be an economist, given that the economy is the country’s biggest challenge.

I saw in Mahlab the right figure to lead the government for two major reasons. The first is the special relation that he built between himself and the simple citizen. This is due to his spontaneous behavior, which made people feel that he was one of them, not a stranger or superior. This is in addition to Mahlab’s ability to communicate in a way that bridged the gap between officials and citizens.

The second reason is his ability to strengthen the value of work and efforts. His presence among employees at different sites presented a model of an official who is capable of executing what he is tasked with.

These two characteristics earned Mahlab real popularity among ordinary Egyptians, despite some people’s reservations. I saw in Mahlab “the man of the phase,” and this point of view turned out to be right.

I haven’t been able to visit my family in my hometown for quite a while. The recent Eid al-Fitr holiday was an occasion to make this visit. It was a chance to take a trip down memory lane. City residents’ visits to their hometowns have for a long time been an occasion for those residing elsewhere to send messages to the authority in the capital. It doesn’t matter if these visitors from the city are of real influence in the capital, but their mere presence in the city is considered a communication privilege.images

This is an old habit of townspeople. Despite modern means of communication and the various media outlets – which have turned into a wide spread, controlling monster – there’s still the habit of conveying one’s voice via residents of the capital, especially if the latter have real contact with decision makers.

I personally experience this every time I left Cairo to visit my hometown.

But this time was different. The messages they conveyed were a mixture of hope, worry, anticipation and suppressed anger. I noticed that all these messages began with the phrase “tell Sisi.” Each message carried a certain tone but even as tones differed, all messages implied hope in Sisi and his ability to govern. This hope however did not prevent people from expressing anger – which are restrained by many positive feelings towards the president currently felt in the country.

‘We want to know’

“Tell Sisi that we love him and that we accepted the increase of fuel prices although they were a direct cause to the increase of all prices. Tell Sisi not to believe statements from government officials who say they have been able to control price increases or that merchants have promised to have fixed prices. The cost of living has become very high. Tell Sisi we can tolerate more than this but on the condition that our hopes are fulfilled in the future. Tell him to instill hope in us for what lies ahead. We can tolerate power cuts, but we want to know who is responsible, when the problem will be solved and how it will be solved. We want to know.”

“Tell Sisi hospitals still suffer and we still suffer. You solved the problem of doctors (going on strike) but hospitals’ services are still as bad as they were. There are hospitals in Egypt that deserve attention other than the Qasr el-Aini Hospital which the prime minister visited more than once. There are other hospitals across the country’s towns and cities. There are also other hospitals which are far from the capital which if are not fixed, attempts to reform the health system will not succeed.

“Tell Sisi the plan to build more than 3,000 kilometers of road is an important and great project but we are asking him to look into the situation of existing roads with reports he commissions himself. Tell Sisi to try traveling on the ‘coastal international route’ which has parts as long as 100 kilometers are with no lighting and no evidence of maintenance being carried out. It’s a real death road. And they call it an international road, so what about other roads? The Cairo–Alexandria desert route should not be the only focus. Let’s establish new roads. This is important but before that let’s save whatever roads we have. Let’s save lives being wasted and let’s save the bleeding economy.”

The messages haven’t ended yet.

This article was first published in almasry alyoum on August 18, 2014.