Cherry-picks of the new cabinet

Dina Ezzat, Yasmine fathi, Hatem Maher, Marwa Hussein, Monday 7 Mar 2011

Profiles of the most commended and controversial new ministers

Essam Sharaf

Mohamed El-Gendi, minister of justice

Veteran judge and respected professor, Mohamed El-Gendi was appointed in place of the allegedly corrupt former minister of justice, Mamdouh Marie. Gendi, on the other hand, has stated himself as "determined to tackle any kind of corruption."

There was no room for Marie in the new cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf after he was widely vilified for being corrupt during his four-year tenure.

Some lawyers and judges have even called on Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to prosecute Marie “for masterminding the rigged presidential elections in 2005.”

Marie headed the elections committee that oversaw Egypt's 2005 presidential elections, which Mubarak won after comfortably beating off competition from his nearest challenger, the prominent opposition figure Ayman Nour.

The 72-year-old was also involved in several disputes with the judges, who accused him of trying to undermine their authority and impose government restrictions on their work.

The selection of the highly-respected El-Gendi could be the solution desperately needed to kill off uncertainties regarding the integrity of the justice minister.

"We have no reason to oppose El-Gendi's appointment, he fully deserves that post," counselor Ahmed Mekki, the vice president of the court of cassation and a member of the independence of judges movement, said in a phone interview with Ahram Online.

"He is the father of all judges, he taught many generations and is fully respected by everyone in our sector.

"He has been working in that field for 50 years, during which he set an example to follow in terms of discipline and integrity. He retired more than ten years ago and his presence was missed."

El-Gendi, who is in his 80s, served as Egypt's public prosecutor in the late 1980s and acted as an adviser to a handful of ministers afterwards.

In recent years, his activities spread to educational and environmental issues.

"I will do my utmost to live up to the expectations of the judges," El-Gendi said in a television speech after being unveiled as the new justice minister.

"The judges will oversee all elections from now on. I'm determined to tackle any kind of corruption." 

Nabil El-Arabi – the perfect uplift for Egyptian diplomacy

The new foreign minister of Egypt has a daunting task.

"Egypt has a big and a historic role, not only at the Arab and African fronts but indeed at the international front. As such it is totally unacceptable that Egypt's foreign policy decision should be managed in an impulsive and unstudied fashion or that Egyptian diplomacy should be involved in gross violations of international law."

This is the basic vision of Nabil El-Arabi, Egypt's new foreign minister as quoted in the independent daily Al-Shorouk days before this veteran diplomat and international judge was selected to head Egyptian diplomacy.

In the Al-Shorouk article, El-Arabi was very straightforward in his criticism of the administration of Egyptian diplomacy during the past few years and also in insisting that a total revamp of this policy is well in order "after the success of the great white revolution of 25 January." He went on to state that now is the time to re-work Egypt's foreign policy.

During a seminar held at Al-Sawi Culture Wheel on Friday night, El-Arabi believes that through the revolution, "the Egyptian people has retained its survivalist nature."

Ending the siege    imposed by Egypt on Gaza during the past few years was suggested as a priority by El-Arabi, who knows very well that this siege violates international law.

Getting Egypt to finalise its negotiations to join the International Criminal Court and ratifying all human rights declarations seem to be another priority for this 75-year old diplomat who was a member of the International Court of Justice and has a Ph.D in international law.

El-Arabi's selection as foreign minister was warmly welcomed in many quarters of the foreign ministry who know that this diplomat has the integrity to raise the perception of Egyptian diplomacy which was subject to considerable – and, at times, harsh – criticism during the past few years.

El-Arabi is a modest and pleasant man who has never been anyone's "yes man". Early in his diplomatic career, he dared to challenge late president Anwar Sadat during the Camp David negotiations and to argue that the details of the accords were not exactly favourable to Egypt's national interest.

El-Arabi was previously nominated for the top diplomatic job in Egypt in 1990 but the job went to Amr Moussa, now a likely runner for the top executive job in the post-Mubarak Egypt.

It is not clear whether or not El-Arabi will be the Egyptian candidate for the Arab League secretary general seat that will be vacant as of mid-May, but it is certain that his name was proposed as "credible candidate with good chances" by Moussa and senior advisors at the foreign ministry.

El-Arabi's predecessor, Ahmed Abul-Gheit, headed Egyptian diplomacy from 2005 and took much of the blame for the political choices made by toppled president Mubarak, especially in relation to the suffocation of 1.5 million Palestinians in the impoverished Gaza Strip.

Abdallah Ghurab, minister of petrol

Ghurab replaces Mahmoud Lateef Amer who held the post for only ten days, before former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq stepped down.

Ghurab used to head the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation. Oil analyst Amr Hammouda described Ghurab’s appointment as a “disappointing big mistake,” and branded him as “old school.”

“He was close to former minister Sameh Fahmy and is considered one of his men,” says Hammouda. “To me this means he’s going to try and bury all the corruption files from the old regime and insure that the same corrupt system remains.”

Hammouda believes that Ghurab was only offered the post after it was turned down by three different candidates.

The ministry of petrol dubbed the “black box” by many due to the secretive way its officials work, is going through a tough patch, with the arrest of Fahmy on 22 February leading many to shy away from the position, according to Hammouda.

“Even Amer who replaced Fahmy for only ten days before being replaced himself is now being investigated on corruption charges, mainly wasting of public funds,” says Hammouda.

Hammouda says that he and many others in the petrol sector were shocked by today's announcement of Ghurab as the new minister. He goes on to state that a complaint has been filed with the prosecutor general by Ibrahim Youssry, a cassation lawyer, oil experts and political activists against Fahmy, Ghurab and several others for allegedly wasting public funds and oil and gas reserves.

“So there is a big question on why they appointed someone who is currently being investigated,” says Hammouda.

Hammouda also wonders if Ghurab will amend the contracts that saw Egypt sell gas to Israel and several others well below its market value and if he will annul what he calls the “secret agreement” to sell Egypt’s crude oil reserves, which belong to the future generations.

“They have sold oil fields in Gaythoum in the Red Sea which is a big violation because it was reserve oil for the coming generations,” explains Hammouda. “Will he annul these contracts? I don’t think so.”

Mansour El-Essawy, minister of interior

Choosing a new minister of interior is not easy. But when Egypt’s new Prime Minister Essam Sharaf announced that Mansour El-Essawy as the man for the job, many sighed in relief.

El-Essaway is a former governor of Minya where he was known for standing up to corruption and beside citizens fighting for their rights. Born in Qena to an Upper Egyptian family, he has held a series of public posts. However, he has shied away from media attention since he left his post in the ministry 15 years ago.

He has worked as an inspector for the Cairo police headquarters and a deputy to its administration and was also the head of the Giza police headquarters.

He has also held the post of assistant to the minister of interior in both Upper Egypt and Cairo as well as being the assistant for general security in 1995.

Despite being away from the public eye for close to two decades, El-Essawy felt it important to be part of the ministry, given the turbulence in the country and the ministry's bad reputation.

He returned to Cairo from Paris on Saturday to take the oath of office today. His first official statement regarding his plan to return security to the Egyptian streets following the cracks in security that took place during the revolution was met with warm approval by the Egyptian public.

Ahmed Hassan El-Borai, minister of labour

El-Borai, an expert in labor relations, played a prominent role in drafting the unified labour act of 2003. He was supported by labor activists, among them the Centre for Trade Unions and Workers Services.

El-Borai's name was mentioned when former prime minister Shafiq was appointing his own cabinet, but he lost out to Ismail Ibrahim Fahmi. The pro-Mubarak Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) had objected to El-Borai's nomination and suggested a member of the federation; Ismail Ibrahim Fahmi, an employee in Egyptair which was headed by the former prime minister.

“They didn’t want him because he is pro-syndical pluralism while they want to keep a status-quo,” says Kamal Abbas, general coordinator of the Centre for Trade Union. El-Borai has stated on several occasions that he is pro-trade union.


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