Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Shifting centres

The Interior Ministry is on the move, reports Mai Samih

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Interior Ministry began moving to its new headquarters in New Cairo’s Fifth Settlement, near the Police Academy, on 23 January. Planning for the move has taken five months and is expected to be completed by May, with the building fully operational by the end of April.

“We are moving the ministry sector by sector. We need to ensure nothing essential is missing from the new headquarters and the communications systems linking the various departments must be tested,” said a ministry source.

The Interior Ministry’s predecessor — Dewan Al-Wali (The Ruler’s Department) — was established in 1805 by Mohamed Ali Pasha. Its remit was to solve disputes between Egyptians and between Egyptians and foreigners. It was headed by four scholars, each an expert in one of the four branches of Islamic jurisprudence. On 25 February 1857, under the rule of Mohamed Saeed Pasha, it was re-named Nezaret Al-Dakheleya (the Interior Authority).

“The current headquarters, inaugurated in 1971 by Anwar Al-Sadat, have become overcrowded,” said the source. “Work on new premises began more than five years ago, before the January 2011 Revolution, with the Ministry of Defence supervising the construction process.”

In November 2011, clashes between protesters and police forces in Mohamed Mahmoud Street, adjacent to the current building, left 47 dead and 3,000 injured. The first anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes in 2012 saw clashes that claimed the life of one protestor and left 52 others injured.

Yet any suggestion that the ministry is moving to avoid a repeat of such violence is false, says General Fouad Allam, a former head of the State Security Department at the Interior Ministry.

“Work on the new building began before the January 2011 Revolution and as soon as the building was finished staff began the moving process,” he said.

The Interior Ministry’s headquarters deals with up to 30,000 visitors a day, placing tremendous pressure on local infrastructure.

Moving the Interior Ministry is a significant step, says political analyst Hassan Nafaa. “There is huge political significance in moving the headquarters of the Interior Ministry, and planning to move the Mugamma,” he said.

“There are many government officials working there who could be an easy target for terrorists. The relocation is a precautionary security measures,” said Nafaa, noting that it is part of an ongoing plan to shift government buildings outside central Cairo. “They started with the Interior Ministry because it has been regularly targeted by protestors. The government wants it an area that can be secured more effectively.”

The new headquarters is built on a 47-acre site and is equipped with the latest communication technology. The Interior Minister’s office lies at the heart of the building, alongside the public relations, media departments, police and human rights departments. There is a mosque that can accommodate 1,000 worshipers and a multi-story garage with space for 1,300 employees’ cars. The perimeter wall of the headquarters is seven metres high and 40 centimetres thick.

“I’d like to see all ministries move from the downtown area,” said Allam. “Government institutions like Mogamma Al-Tahrir desperately need to be moved. They have been talking about relocating outside central Cairo for 50 years now. Al-Sadat city was specially built to house them but the plans were cancelled by Hosni Mubarak. The city is now deserted and rats have eaten the electricity cables.”

Allam suggested that half of the Interior Ministry’s old headquarters should be allocated to the Police Insurance Sector and the remaining portion offered for rent.

Downtown resident Noha Mohamed, 50, is all for the move. “Relocating ministries away from Downtown will save us a lot of headaches and ease traffic congestion, which has reached impossible levels. Al-Sadat City is already built. Why not use it? It will save the government lots of money.”

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