Sinai Residents Demand More from Egypt, Morsi

Residents of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula are demanding more funds and more participation in the Sinai Development Authority.  Mohammed Haroun reports that $270 million has been newly allocated to Sinai, but the people say they rarely see any results.

al-monitor Bedouin children from al-Aweida tribe stand next to their tent in north Sinai, about 450km (280 miles) northwest of Cairo, April 12, 2008. There are about 10 Bedouin tribes in Sinai, mostly Muslim. Photo by REUTERS/Amr Dalsh.

Topics covered

tribes, tribal politics, sinai tribes, sinai peninsula, sinai

Sep 6, 2012

According to a number of tribal sheikhs in south Sinai, the Commander of the Second Field Army is to hold a meeting next week with the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Sinai Development Authority and representatives of the residents of Sinai in order to discuss their demands and ways to use the approximately 1.7 billion [Egyptian pounds, or about $270 million] that have been allocated to the area.

Sheikhs said the move came following the people’s objection to the government’s vague plans for the Sinai and its knee-jerk decisions that did not reflect reality on the ground.

Sulaiman al-Zamlout, one of the tribal sheikhs, said that there were practically no representatives of Sinai residents in the Board of Directors of the Sinai Development Authority, which constituted a return to the former regime. He stressed the need for people of the province to be represented in the authority so as to reflect all point of views and to provide the necessary services and projects for the people, instead of issuing immediate decisions that do not reflect the people’s demands.

Zamlout toldt Al-Masry al-Youm that the financial allocations for the Sinai must be employed in the province in coordination with the residents, so they would not be surprised by preset plans that do not reflect their best interests. He added that a number of tribal sheikhs requested a meeting with [Prime Minister Hisham Kandil] to voice the problems and obstacles they are facing.

The sheikhs stressed the need to establish a development ministry in the province to replace the current authority, which they say is incapable of decision making. Zalmout said newspaper rumors that hundreds of millions of dollars were spent in Sinai for the implementation of strategic projects were “only talk.” Projects have not been even considered or studied, he said.

Moreover, according to Samri Marih, chairman of the Revolution Protection in Sinai, there is no coordination of any kind between residents regarding the development plan in the region. He stressed the need for the political authorities to consult the relevant stakeholders with regard to development projects, rather than issuing decisions that do not take the people’s needs into consideration.

He added that the government rejected their demand to establish a development ministry in Sinai, claiming that it would open the door for other border provinces to follow suit. Marih demanded that the Sinai Development Authority be directly affiliated with the presidency, and that the head of the authority be of ministerial rank so that he would be able to implement the necessary decisions.

According to the authority’s media spokesman, Saeed Abu Hajj, there are many reservations on the land title act in Sinai No.14 of 2011. The ownership procedures require the approval of more than 6 governmental authorities, in addition to paying sums of money so that Sinai residents can appropriate their own houses.

He called for exempting the residents of Sinai from paying to own land, and for simplifying the procedures concerned, especially since all homes in the governorate are licensed and have been owned by their owners for decades. He suggested transferring the ownership of cultivated desert lands to current owners in return for symbolic fees and making use of water wells in land cultivation. He said that all talk about ongoing development in Sinai was just a “media show” and that there is nothing concrete on the ground.

A government source revealed that the executive list concerning the land ownership law in Sinai is under review and will be announced in the coming days. He noted that the law contains a clear clause, which gives all Egyptians, including the residents of Sinai, the right to own land in the governorate.

The source added that there has been objection from Sinai residents regarding the formation of the developmental authority in Sinai. He stressed that after the local elections, every area of Sinai will have a representative in the development authority.

He said there were suggestions to make amendments to the executive list, which includes amendments to the authority’s board of directors, in addition to activating the role of ministries, governorates, and local [councils] in Sinai whereby they would be involved in tackling the infringements and violations of lands, rather than leave it up to the authority so that violations could be handled without bureaucratic obstacles.

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