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Egypt’s Nubians get second chance at requesting compensation

On the occasion of the anniversary of laying the foundation stone of the Aswan dam, the Egyptian state opened the door to the second phase of the compensation paid for the Nubians who were displaced from their lands.
Nubian girls play outside their home in the village of Abu Simbel in Egypt's far south, over 1100 kilometres south of the capital Cairo and near the border with Sudan, on February 4, 2020. - The Nubian language, according to locals, is unpractised by many in the generation born decades after their mass eviction from their ancestral lands to make way for the construction of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile in the 1960s. Built under Egypt's late president Gamal Abdel Nasser, the colossal project aimed to harnes

The people of Nubia in Egypt’s Aswan governorate have been awaiting the payment of compensation for the damage they suffered about a century ago from the inauguration of the Aswan Low Dam (the first Aswan dam) — currently known as the Aswan reservoir — in 1902 and later the construction of the Aswan High Dam, which was built between 1960 and mid-January 1971.

The Nubians were displaced from their villages, which stretch over 350 kilometers (217 miles) along the banks of the Nile River in southern Egypt, in 1902, when the Egyptian government began building the Aswan Low Dam to prevent flooding that led to the drowning and displacement of most of the Nubia residents.

Since then, the Nubian community has been demanding to return to their villages and financial compensation for the loss of their lands. 

In January 2017, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a decision to establish a specialized committee tasked with the distribution of compensation to the Nubians.

Coinciding with the anniversary of the inauguration of the High Dam Jan. 9, Alaa al-Din Fouad, minister of parliamentary affairs and head of the committee for the disbursement of compensation to Nubians, announced the launch of the second phase to receive requests from those entitled to compensation.

During a Jan. 7 press conference, Fouad said that 6,171 Nubians out of 11,500 entitled to compensation have submitted compensation requests during the first phase of the project to disburse aid to the Nubian community in January 2019.

He said the committee paid compensation to those who submitted the required documents but suspended payment to those who failed to submit the required inheritance notices or powers of attorney on behalf of heirs of other beneficiaries. Compensation, he said, will be paid upon receiving the required documents.

Fouad said that the committee’s work is based on three phases. The first phase consists of handing over in-kind compensation bonds and disbursing monetary compensation to beneficiaries who submitted the required documents. 

He explained that some of the beneficiaries who submitted the required documents have received ownership contracts for the lands on which their homes were built, while others received certificates of usufruct for lands adjacent to the rivers.

He noted that a number of beneficiaries received contracts of ownership of housing units while some were instead given the amount of 225,000 Egyptian pounds ($14,320). He added that contracts to own arable land in the areas of Wadi al-Amal and Khor Qandi were handed over to beneficiaries. Others were instead given 25,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,590) for each acre.

Others asked to take part in the development projects implemented by the Upper Egypt Development Authority, a government agency tasked with development in Upper Egypt.

Fouad said that as part of the second phase, 3,640 eligible individuals have submitted compensation requests, but their payments have been suspended due to the lack of required documents.

The committee, through the Aswan governorate, receives the documents to process the compensation of citizens, and has so far received the required documents of 705 individuals.

As for the third phase, Fouad said that the government has requested that the committee allow compensation requests to be submitted by those who failed to do so in the first phase.

In regard to the parliament’s position on the compensation of Nubians, Ayman Fouad, a member of parliament representing Nubia, praised the government’s compensation to the Nubian community. He told Al-Monitor that Nubia has sacrificed a lot for the establishment of the Aswan dam, which is why the Nubian people must be compensated. 

He called on the members of the committee to disburse compensation to Nubians in order to facilitate the process to receive requests during the one-month second phase that began Jan. 17. He stressed that compensation must take into account the losses people have suffered. 

As for the details of the second phase of compensation, Aswan Gov. Maj. Gen. Ashraf Attia Abdel Bari said during a press conference Jan. 7 that this phase aims at providing 1,185 housing units and arable lands in Wadi al-Amal and Khor Qandi.

He noted that the Aswan governorate tasked 16 subcommittees spread across the cities and centers of the governorate with receiving such requests.

In January 2019, the Egyptian state disbursed compensation for the people of Nubia as part of the first phase during a large ceremony attended by the prime minister and a number of officials, titled, “Keeping the promise, handing over compensation to the Nubians.”

During his speech at the ceremony, Minister of Justice Omar Marawan said that the committee for the disbursement of compensation to the affected Nubians has provided compensation to those who submitted requests — people seeking in-kind or cash compensation or people looking to benefit from the state’s development plans.

He indicated that compensations were distributed based on the beneficiaries’ requests. Some 2,009 citizens are to be compensated in kind through land ownership contracts, while 187 persons are to be compensated through land usufruct contracts. In addition, he said that 198 beneficiaries are to be compensated in kind through housing unit ownership contracts.

Marawan noted that 2,020 individuals are to be compensated with ownership contracts of arable lands: 1,812 of them are entitled to the Khor Qandi area, stretching over ​​2,909 acres, and 208 beneficiaries are to be compensated in kind by owning arable lands in Wadi al-Amal, stretching over ​​445 acres.

He added that it was decided to compensate 1,680 beneficiaries in cash, from those who lost land or housing, and the total value of the cash compensation reached about 302 million Egyptian pounds (about $19.2 million). 

Mohammed Ahmad, a Nubian, told al-Monitor over the phone that he is extremely happy about the government’s compensation plan and said that he has obtained a contract to own the property in which he and his family reside, and that there are hundreds of Nubians who have received compensation.

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