Egypt’s Nubians say they have right to their land

Sunday 04/12/2016
Nubians have become exasper­ated with failed promises

Cairo - Never before have rela­tions between Egypt’s Nubians and the gov­ernment resulted in direct confrontations but in recent weeks some Nubians cut off roads and staged a sit-in af­ter the government included Nu­bian land in the southern regions of Toshka and Khorqundi in a national land reclamation project.
The project, which includes the reclamation of approximately 1.6 million acres, is to be mainly car­ried out by private investors.
Nubians reacted angrily to the decision, considering it a threat to their history and land at a time when they have been struggling to protect what is left of it. On Novem­ber 19th, Egyptian security forces blocked a Nubian group heading to the disputed land. This prompted a sit-in on the road leading to the land.
Tens of thousands of Nubian families were evacuated from their villages in southern Egypt in the 1960s to make way for the con­struction of the High Dam, Egypt’s megaproject then for controlling Nile River flooding. They were moved to Comombo Hills, a bar­ren desert behind the site of the planned dam.
Successive governments have since pledged to return the Nubians to their original villages. The pledg­es have never been carried out.
The government’s latest decision to allocate plots of Nubian land to investors reignited the Nubians’ an­ger and reopened old wounds.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi enlisted the help of former Defence minister Mohamed Hus­sein Tantawi, a Nubian, to meet with the group’s leaders and ease tensions but he was unsuccessful.
Some have said the Nubians sought separation from Egypt, a charge they vehemently denied.
Abdel Sabbour al-Garhi, a mem­ber of the Right of Return, a com­mittee formed by Nubians who want to return to their original land in southern Egypt, described the claim that the Nubians seek sepa­ration as an attempt to block their efforts to obtain their legitimate right of return.
“By overlooking Nubian de­mands for years, the government exacerbated the already tense situ­ation,” Garhi said. “Giving Nubian land to investors just means that the real owners of this land will lose their rights.”
Rami Yehia, a coordinator of the Returning to Nubia Alliance, said the Nubians have become exasper­ated with the government’s failed promises.
“Nubians do not demand the im­possible,” Yehia said. “They got out of their land in the past for the best interests of their country and now they want to return to this land.”
He said Nubians cannot be kept away from the land while non-Nu­bian investors were allowed to take it and invest in it.
“We should be given priority to have this land,” Yehia said.
Nubians living outside Egypt, some political parties and politi­cians offering support to Nubians staging the sit-in gave encourage­ment to them, political analysts said, leading the Nubians to believe that this was an opportune time for them to make gains.
Nonetheless, the same analysts said they expected that a lack of response from the government and parliament in resolving the situa­tion would set off a new wave of Nubian protests.
“Things are also getting worse be­cause Nubians do not trust the gov­ernment,” said Mohamed al-Ghoul, a member of parliament’s Defence and National Security Committee.