CAIRO, Nov 22 (Aswat Masriya) - Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail affirmed on Tuesday that Nubians will be given “absolute priority” in the sale of land in the disputed ‘Khor Qandy’ area, amid rising dissent from Nubians.
Tens of Nubians have staged a sit-in on the Abu Simbel-Aswan highway in Aswan governorate since Saturday in protest against two presidential decrees that would lead to selling lands that fall within Nubian territory.
Presidential decree 355, which was passed in August, designated 922 feddans of land in Aswan to the new Toshka development project. Protesters said large areas of these feddans belong to Nubia’s historic lands.
The second decree designates large areas along borders as military zones that can’t be populated. These areas include 16 Nubian villages, Nubian rights lawyer Mohamed Azmy said.
More than 200 Nubians took part in the protest in the first two days.
The prime minister’s statement indicates that Nubians will be given priority in the sale of land, “be it within the portion assigned to the company tasked with the new agricultural development project or outside of it.”
In reaction to Tuesday’s statement, Azmy told Aswat Masriya that it was not a “positive development,” adding that this is Nubian land “by constitutional order.”
“The government is not going to pacify us by saying that we have priority in the sale of land that is ours in the first place,” Azmy said, “what the government is doing through this company is strictly business.”
In a press statement, the prime minister clarified that the government is working with the parliament to draft a law that enables the implementation of article 236 of Egypt’s constitution, which addresses the economic and urban development of border and underprivileged areas, including Upper Egypt, Sinai and Nubia.
Ismail said that EGP 270 million is needed to fund projects being implemented in Nubia in accordance with the constitution during fiscal year 2016/ 2017.
Projects under implementation include building new schools and renovating others, providing medical support by hiring new doctors and nurses, establishing a cultural center, developing a number of youth centers, and providing a few boats for transportation to Abu Simbel as well as between villages.
Article 236 of the constitution also stipulates that development “shall be made with the participation of the residents of these areas in the development projects, and they shall be given a priority in benefiting therefrom, taking into account the cultural and environmental patterns of the local community.”
The article sets a period of 10 years after the constitution comes into effect for this to happen.
The prime minister has been in contact with the Aswan Governor and MPs over the current situation and has asked the governor to follow up with representatives of the Nubian people regarding their demands, according to the statement.
“There are two scenarios in front of us; either we end the strike and wait until the prime minister addresses our demands or we continue the strike and escalate,” Azmy said, "But we have yet to decide on the matter."
The protesters were still on strike on Tuesday.