A recent reshuffling of governors was regarded by politicians and activists in Asyut to be business as usual. Most new governors come from a military background, including their own Major General El Sayyed El Boraie, formerly Deputy Governor of October city. Boraie took over from General Ibrahim Hammad, a member of the State Security who was appointed governor after the revolution and held the post for only three months.
Governorship 'should not be militarised'
Salah-Eddin Ayman, a member of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition (RYC) and Ahmad Gamal-Eddin of the Sixth of April Movement (6 April) said their respective organisations rejected the principle of a governor’s post being militarised, a practice they considered a means of oppression on the governorate level.
The two men dismissed the military as incompetent at running a civil government which requires experience in development and industry among other areas in order to overcome the current economic crisis. Sectarian demands are also feared to be ignored by the military which has allegedly lost touch with the people. Military governors, the two activists said, are unfit for an era of democratisation in Egypt.
Moreover, says Yasser Abdel-Hamid, founder of the New Ghad Party in Asyut, the governor should supervise local elections of leaders for every single administrative division according to specific criteria, which would establish democracy among officials.
However some experts disagree. Dr. Ibrahim Mansour, head of the academic think tank Centre for Future Studies in Asyut University, told EgyptVotes, “A governor being an army officer or civilian is no big deal, as long as he is a patriot and is known to be competent and honest.”
Trust between policemen and citizens must be rebuilt, Mansour said, and the rift between the political forces must be bridged through dialogue: two contributions that a governor should make a priority.
Governor vs. sectarianism
The new governor’s role in addressing the endemic sectarianism is another area of disagreement. Some see the governor as a key player in fostering coexistence and social peace between Muslims and Copts; others deem this an overestimation, limiting the role to enforcing law.
Yasser Abdel-Hamid explains the sectarian peculiarity of Asyut. "Asyut has the biggest Coptic presence in Egypt, with 20-30% of its population being Copts, and differences of a sectarian nature always erupting because of inter-religious marriages or due to disagreements between neighbours of different religions, and so on. This places sectarianism onstage always, and poses a challenge to the new governor."
Secretary of Freedom and Justice Party (Muslim Brothers) in Asyut, Dr. Ali Ezz-Eddin, believes the governor plays a key role in quelling sectarian strife, but a committee of wise men is also necessary.
Hilal Abdel-Hamid, founder of the liberal-leaning Egyptian Social Democratic Party, says the governor is not to be entrusted with tackling sectarianism, which can also be done by enforcing laws and passing a new anti-discrimination bill. Abdel Hamid believes that the Ministry of Education should counter sectarianism pre-emptively by establishing values of tolerance in a younger generation.
NGOs we talked to, on the other hand, saw things differently. Milad Qatamesh, member of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights, said the Grand Sheikh of al Azhar and the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria played the greatest role. They should work together in raising awareness among Egyptians, said Qatamesh, whereas the governor must focus more on development and executive issues.
Clearing institutions of remnants of NDP
Meanwhile, there is a near consensus in Asyut on the necessity of clearing the remnants of the dissolved NDP in different administrative departments. A monitoring committee was proposed by Sayyed Zakaria, Secretary of the Freedom Party. Nasserite leader Dr Ahmad Yassin Nassar seconded the proposal, adding governors should help select the academic administration, and form an interim coalition-based local council to assist him.
On a less political note, many demanded the return of the portion of flour that was taken off subsidy, roads be paved, sewage collection vehicles be prevented from unloading waste in the Nile, the new Asyut barrages be completed, the Asyut valley project be reconsidered, and the cattle fattening project be continued in order to control meat prices.
Governor open to all views
Asked to comment on the views above, General El Sayyed El Boraie said, “I’ll try hard to listen to all and reduce the gap between the different political forces, and will consider all their suggestions.” He also welcomed constructive criticism.
Providing examples of his reconciliatory efforts, El Boraie said he sponsored an iftar banquet for families of the revolution’s martyrs and wounded where he heard and comforted them. He said he also attended the Virgin Mary’s birthday festival at the Monastery of Doronka and delivered his wishes to Copts.
*Uncredited pictures provided by the journalist.