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Upper Egyptian activists demand constitution combat marginilisation

Activists from Upper Egypt want more just distribution of budget to end decades of ignoring the south

Ahram Online , Wednesday 25 Sep 2013
Upper Egypt
File photo: Farmers pack sugar cane in the southern Egyptian town of Nagaa Hamady in Qena (Photo: Reuters)
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The activist group "No to Marginalising Upper Egypt" met with the constitutional committee on Wednesday to propose amendments that would "include Upper Egypt in Egyptian development plans," according to group founder Gamal Fadel.

The 50-member committee, which is responsible for amending Egypt's 2012 constitution, has been hearing amendment proposals from representatives of different Egyptian groups and sectors in recent days.

Upper Egypt has long been neglected by central authorities in Cairo.

According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), the poverty rate was at 43.7 percent in rural Upper Egypt compared to 16.7 percent in rural Lower Egypt in 2008/2009, and at 21.3 percent in urban areas in Upper Egypt compared to 7.3 percent in urban areas in northern governorates. 

The Upper Egyptian pressure group's proposals included a number of articles dealing with development in the region. The first suggested that the government be obliged to provide sufficient resources for the development of the southern region and to bridge the developmental gap between the south and other parts of the country.

The second proposed article posits the formation of a national council for developing Upper Egypt. The council would be tasked with assessing the region's developmental needs and supervising the implementation of development plans, as well as being consulted in the drawing up of the national budget.

A third proposed article stipulates the creation of a judicial body in charge of overseeing the allocation of national resources according to regional needs, and ensuring just distribution among different governorates.

Finally, the group proposed an amendment to Article 23 of the constitution, adding the sentence "for all the governorates of the republic" to the phrase stating that the national economy must work towards "just distribution."

Fadel told Ahram Online that the group was surprised a special meeting on Upper Egypt had not been set up and added that the group had made their proposals during a session of a sub-committee on Coptic Christians and Al-Azhar.

However, Fadel said the group's proposals were presented and he expressed hope that the committee would devote a special session to deal exclusively with Upper Egypt.

During political upheaval and violence in August, a large number of sectarian attacks targeting Coptic Christians, who make up a substantial part of the population in the south compared to the north, took place in Upper Egypt.

Some locations in the south have traditionally been strongholds of radical Islamist groups.

Some of Egypt's top ancient Egyptian monuments are also located in Upper Egypt's Luxor and Aswan governorates, making the region one of the country's most visited tourist destinations.

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