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Sinai locals step up to fight against terrorism alongside army: Egypt's Sisi

In his third monthly televised speech, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi addressed the Sinai insurgency, major development projects including Suez Canal renovations, and plans to increase energy capacity

Ahram Online , Tuesday 12 May 2015
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (Photo: Reuters)
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Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Tuesday that the fight against terrorism in North Sinai is not waged only by police and army personnel but also by locals.

"[The locals' involvement] is a strong, moral message that shows they won't accept the current conditions," El-Sisi stated in a televised monthly speech.

He added that the people of Sinai have endured the current situation, and weren't scared by the threats they have received [from militants].

El-Sisi also said that terrorist attacks in North Sinai are being made so that "this land won't be ours".

The president added that a number of projects will be launched soon to create real development and jobs in the restive North Sinai governorate.

In the past two years, Egypt has launched a war against a decade-long militant Islamist insurgency in North Sinai.

Hundreds of police and army personnel have been killed and wounded in terrorist attacks.

Hundreds of militants have also reportedly been killed as a result of military offensives. Earlier this week, Egypt's army spokesman announced that in the past six months, 725 'terrorists' were killed.

Reclaiming one million feddans

A project to reclaim one million feddans (or acres) of land will be completed in no longer than two years, El-Sisi said.

The reclamation of the million feddans of land require the digging of 4,000 water wells, a quarter of which will be ready within four months, he added.

The government will start with the town of Farafra, which will be used as a model of an integrated urban community, focusing on agriculture activities on an area of 10,000 Feddans, El-Sisi said.

The reclamation of vast areas of land for agriculture was one of the cornerstones of El-Sisi's presidential campaign, in a country of 90 million that relies heavily on imports of basic foodstuffs. Currently less than 4 percent of Egypt's total land area is arable.

Energy and electricity

Egypt will have introduced 3,600 megawatts of electricity by August and an additional 3,000 megawatts by the end of December, as part of an urgent plan to solve an ongoing energy crunch, El-Sisi said.

The government is also overseeing the establishment of three new power stations with a production capacity of 4,400 megawatts each. The stations will be completed in a little over two years' time, El-Sisi said.

Egypt has been suffering from an acute energy crunch, as foreign oil companies suspended extraction on the back of growing arrears, as political turmoil took hold in the aftermath of a popular uprising in 2011.

Parts of the national grid are also in need of renovation. But the government has been paying its debt to foreign oil firms, which stood at $3.1 billion in December of last year.

Since El-Sisi took office in July last year, Egypt has signed 56 petroleum agreements and has seen $30 billion worth of investments in the sector, El-Sisi said in the televised statement.

Fight against corruption

In his third monthly speech to the nation, Egypt's president said that the country needs to rely more on technology to reduce incidences of corruption.

"[Combating corruption] will take time," El-Sisi stated. The monitoring bodies combating the problem have been working on it consistently and are building on previous work.

El-Sisi also said that corruption is fought through both security procedures and the judicial system, with the introduction of new legislation.

He added that, in the period of one month, there had been 334 documented cases of corruption and profiteering.

The president used the example of land, saying that within one month, 135 square metres of land acquired illegally throughout the country had been returned. 

Recapping development projects

El-Sisi confirmed the completion of dry digging in the mega-project of expanding the Suez Canal. He said that 1.7 million cubic metres of sand are being dredged daily.

Several heads of state have already been invited to the grand opening of the new waterway planned for August 6, El-Sisi said.

The widening of the already operational Suez Canal will create a two-way lane for ships passing through the canal, which will double the countries revenues by 2023.

El-Sisi also said some 3,200 km of roads will be finished by August, including a 400-km regional ring road that connects more than 20 governorates.

Also to be completed by August, 100 of Egypt's poorest towns will be developed, El-Sisi said. Up to 1,200 towns are part of the overall development plans. He said that he allocated EGP500 million from the Long Live Egypt national fund to the project.

On the housing front, Sisi said that, over the past 10 months, some 70,000 housing units have been completed and another 170,000 are anticipated to be completed by the end of the year, for a total cost of EGP 35 billion.

With all the mega-projects planned, attention has also been given to small and medium enterprises, El-Sisi said. He revealed a planned project in the Nile Delta city of Damietta for the launch of a furniture business hub on 350 acres of land. 

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