After a delay of two weeks, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf announced a reshuffle of governors that took many by surprise. The reshuffle drew fiery criticism from most political activists, on top of which the youth movements of the January 25 Revolution, upon grounds that most of the appointments were dominated by retired army and police officers. Not to mention that they even included former senior members of ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s erstwhile ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).
Mohamed ElBaradei, ex-chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a presidential hopeful, argued that “the recent reshuffle of governors was a setback.” He deplored that “right now and out of a total 27 governors, as many as 18 are retired army and police major generals.” “This,” added ElBaradei, “shows that many of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s pro-security policies are still facing no revolutionary change.” ElBaradei deplored that no Coptic figures or women were appointed governors. ElBaradei added: “Egypt is in pressing need of an intellectual revolution and not one merely based on just changing faces.”
The reshuffle included appointing 11 new governors and moving another four to different governorates.
The appointment of former Major General Seraggeddin El-Roubi as governor of the Upper Egypt governorate of Minya was the most controversial. No sooner had El-Roubi’s name been announced than it began facing criticism. El-Rouby — a long-time head of Egypt’s Interpol office — was accused by Ashraf El-Saad, a fugitive businessman, of taking a bribe of $1 billion in return for dropping charges against him. El-Rouby strongly denied the bribery allegations, arguing that they were motivated by revenge. “As a long-time head of Egypt’s Interpol office, I issued several orders for El-Saad's arrest and this is why he now wants to take revenge on me,” said El-Rouby.
The 6 April Movement said the appointment of El-Rouby was a setback, “but ... we are ready to cooperate with him if he devotes his energy to developing Minya.”
Also in Upper Egypt, the former army Major General Sayed El-Boraie was appointed governor of Assiut.
In Qena, the return of its old governor Adel Labib was generally welcomed by citizens. Labib, who served as Alexandria governor and a former major general police officer, is widely considered by Qena citizens as the founder of its modern image. Citizens of Qena protested strongly last April against the appointment of a Copt as the governor of their province, and asked for the return of Labib.
Some revolutionary forces such as the January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition, argued that “Labib was one of Mubarak’s men, not to mention a former state security police officer who should be stripped of playing any public role.” The coalition also took Labib to task for the torture of Sayed Bilal, a Salafist, while he was governor of Alexandria.
In Alexandria, the newly-appointed governor, Osama El-Fouly, was strongly attacked. El-Fouly is dean of the Alexandria University’s Faculty of Law. He was a long-time active member of Mubarak’s defunct NDP.
The wide rejection of El-Fouly reflects rejection in Alexandria as a whole of NDP officials and army and police officers. Alexandrian citizens believe that El-Fouly was appointed dean of law by force of the city’s State Security Police and the NDP, which played the largest roles during Mubarak’s era in manipulating Alexandria University appointments.
Meanwhile, Tarek El-Mahdy, a member of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), was appointed governor of the Wadi El-Gadid (New Valley) governorate. After the January 25 Revolution, El-Mahdy was given responsibility for running Egypt’s Television and Radio Union after the resignation of former Minister of Information Anas El-Fiqi.
Another former army major general, Salah El-Hamalawi, was appointed governor of the Nile Delta governorate of Beheira. El-Hamalawi was widely welcomed by El-Beheira citizens. In El-Hamalawi’s words, “I am the son of the January 25 Revolution and it is this revolution that put me in this place.”
In contrast with El-Beheira governorate, the appointment of Salah El-Maadawy as governor of the Nile Delta governorate of Daqahliyya sparked strong ire. The reason is that El-Maadawy was a senior member of the NDP.
In another Nile Delta governorate, Al-Gharibya, the appointment of former judge Mohamed Abdel-Kader instead of Mohamed El-Fakharani was welcomed. The 6 April movement said “it is a good step to get rid of a former police officer as governor of the most important governorate in the Nile Delta.”
In Sharikya governorate, there was a surprise. An opposition journalist — Azzazzi Mohamed Azzazzi — was appointed governor. Azzazzi is a Nasserist activist, contributing articles to such leftist and nationalist newspapers as Al-Arabi, Al-Karama and Al-Osbou. But the question remains why a journalist with no experience in local administration should be appointed governor.
In Azzazzi’s words, “I believe that I was selected governor of Sharqiya because I belong to this governorate and because the growing trend now is that the opposition should have a quota in topping senior positions.
In the Upper Egypt governorate of Beni Sueif, Judge Maher Beibars was appointed governor instead of Maher El-Domiati. This went over well with Beni Sueif citizens who were repulsed by the news that El-Domiati played a role in orchestrating the 2 February "Battle of the Camel," attacking peaceful protesters in Tahrir Square during the January 25 Revolution.
In Fayoum, engineer Ahmed Ali Ahmed was appointed governor instead of former army Major General Mahmoud Assem who was appointed governor of the Red Sea governorate.
In some governorates where no change was introduced, citizens organised street protests. In the north Nile Delta governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh, the 6 April Movement and the January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition strongly rejected Governor Ahmed Zaki Abdeen retaining his position. Abdeen is considered a remnant of the NDP and one of the longest-serving officials during the Mubarak era.
Mohamed Attia, minister of local administration, said “We know that the appointments were satisfying to the revolutionary movements, but we did our best after long study and ... new faces dominate the reshuffle.”
The general attitude, however, was that “the new reshuffle of governors fell short of expectations, failing to change the old Mubarak style in selecting former police and army officers — those in whom one can place trust — instead of selecting people of achievement and remarkable performance."