In a patriotic rage towards their lands, Nubians took to Aswan’s streets in November 2016, demanding the state keep promised lands away from the government’s investment plans. Only at the National Youth Conference in Aswan on January 28 did President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi, along with national projects consultant and former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, vow that the Nubian village of Forkund be excluded from the “One Million and A Half Acres” project.
The mega project aims at reclaiming agricultural lands, offering 1.5 mn acres in the Western Desert that are not salable. The lands are offered to farmers and investors looking forward to irrigation work done by the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation–thus far, 1,100 wells have been dug out.
“This is great progress,” Nubian activist Islam Mohamed told Invest-Gate concerning Forkund’s exclusion.
During the National Youth Conference held in Aswan last weekend, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi announced nine resolutions, one of which guarantees excluding the Nubian village of Forkund or “Khor Qindi”, estimated to encompass 12,000 acres, from the project. The president also promised to provide an integrated development plan for Forkund within a timeframe not exceeding three months.
In the 1980s, after sending a judicial committee to the sites, the government relocated Nubians’ houses to geologically unstable lands, which made the houses crack quite often, according to Sakr Abdel-Nour, a Nubian researcher at the Higher Institute of Social Sciences (EHESS). “We had to fix our family house 10 times in the past 30 years due to the cracks resulting from the unstability of the land the houses were built on,” he tells Invest-Gate. He added that there was also a report by an engineering consultant affiliated to the state-appointed constructing company, claiming that he wanted the residents to sign avowals not to connect water to their houses as the houses would otherwise collapse.
To resolve such issues, on January 27, Mehleb displayed a number of decrees before the attendees of the conference concerning the Nubian situation. The president had signed his approval on the plan of an industrial district to be constructed on 50 acres of Nubian lands, pumping a budget of EGP 44 bn to include facilities, he said. Cracked buildings due to sewage in 44 villages would also be restored.
The president said he specifically picked the 44 Nubian villages to fix their sanitation problems so as to combat the unidentified “people of sedition” deemed to fire up conflicts between the state and Nubians.
A city plan for New Karak was also presented before the Nubian representatives by head of the planning authority, which the state has already began working on in collaboration with the Minister of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities with the aim of resolving drainage problems.
“There are other demands yet to be fulfilled [such as] the law concerning Nubians’ right to return, which has just been put up to parliament a few weeks ago,” General Nubian Union President Muhammed Azmy tells Invest-Gate.
Back in October 2016, the Nubian land was offered by state-owned company “El-Reef El-Masry” as part of the “Milion and A Half Acres” investment project. The Nubian community retaliated with a sit-in in southern Aswan, believing the state had failed them and demonstrating no will to act towards their “right to return” mentioned in the amended Egyptian constitution of 2014.
In response, the state invited members of the community for a seven-hour meeting gathering 30 Nubian advocates, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, and Nubian Member of Parliament Yassin Abdel-Sabour.
Demands concerning Forkund and the establishment law of Nubian return were settled in that meeting, except for presidential decree 444. Abdel-Aal claims, “The decree was not even presented before the parliament, describing it as a sovereign decision that cannot be altered as a matter of national security.” The decree declared Nubian villages at the southern border as a military zone.
“The Nubian community insists on amending decree 444 concerning the takeover of 110 square kilometers of Nubian land, equivalent to 16 promised villages, labelling them as military zones where habitation is forbidden,” Azmy affirms. “The decree still tooks, the Nubian community by surprise,” Mohamed states.
The government might be keen on developing the lives of the Egyptian Nubian community with a resolution believed to be a step forward, going inline with the constitution declaring the rights of Nubians; but the 444 Decree remains to be a big threaten their livelihood still.