Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1294, (5 - 11 May 2016)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1294, (5 - 11 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Interior Ministry moves to the suburbs

With the opening of the Interior Ministry’s new headquarters on the outskirts of Cairo, barriers that have long blocked several downtown streets are being demolished, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Interior Ministry completed its move to new headquarters on the outskirts of Cairo last week. The inauguration of the new offices, located within the walls of Police Academy in New Cairo’s First Settlement, was broadcast on state television.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi inspected the new headquarters during the official opening, says presidency spokesman Alaa Youssef. With him were Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi and Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar.

Last week’s inauguration marks the completion of the move to the new premises which began in January, two days ahead of the fifth anniversary of 25 January Revolution. The transfer of all departments and administrative offices from the ministry’s old headquarters in Lazoghly Square in downtown Cairo is now complete.

“The new headquarters contains offices for the Interior Minister and his technical support staff,” an Interior Ministry source told Al-Ahram Weekly. The human rights, media and public relations departments have also been relocated to the New Cairo building.

State news agency MENA reported that the new offices have areas to receive citizens who want to file complaints or make inquiries, as well as a hall for reporters covering Interior Ministry news.

Al-Sisi said the new facilities will help bolster police capacity by providing modern tools to maintain security and protect the rights of citizens. During the inauguration, he insisted that the building should be secured using the fewest possible number of conscripts. Instead of conscripts, security should rely on new technology and the cadets enrolled at the adjacent Police Academy.

“The current number of conscripts — 1,000 — used to secure the building costs the state LE12 million annually. We’re calculating everything. Please revise your plans and reduce the number of conscripts,” Al-Sisi told Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar.

Abdel-Ghaffar responded by saying that Al-Sisi’s instructions will be carried out. He also expressed his gratitude to the Defence Ministry, the Military Engineering Authority and other specialised companies for completing the project in less than two years.

In the aftermath of the 2011 uprising, the area where the ministry’s original headquarters were located became the site of regular clashes between protesters and security forces. The most intense battles took place in Mohamed Mahmoud Street, which connects the area to Tahrir Square. The clashes, which began in November 2011, during the rule of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, left 47 dead and 3,000 injured.

The 2011 uprising was fuelled by public anger over the torture, corruption and oppression that had come to characterise the police. It was no coincidence that the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak began on National Police Day. For decades the security apparatus had acted as the iron fist of the regime. The abuses reached an apogee under Mubarak’s long-time interior minister, Habib Al-Adli, who officially opened the Police Academy in New Cairo in 2000.

Moving the Interior Ministry headquarters was first suggested in 2011, under Interior Minister Mansour Al-Essawi. Repeated clashes and protests around the ministry and the concrete barriers built across streets to prevent protesters from reaching the ministry’s headquarters caused gridlock in central Cairo.

On Monday the concrete barriers closing Mohamed Mahmoud, Lazoghly, Sheikh Mansour, Sheikh Rihan, Abdel-Aziz Gawish and Mohamed Fahmi streets were finally being demolished.

Major General Alaa Al-Degwy, head of Cairo Traffic Administration, said the removal of the barriers had been requested by the Interior Ministry following its move to the new headquarters.

“We have already removed a large number of concrete barriers from downtown and the rest will disappear soon,” said Major General Mohamed Ayman Abdel-Tawab, the deputy governor of Cairo. “All closed streets are being reopened to pedestrians and traffic to ease congestion in the area.”

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