Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1295, (12 - 18 May 2016)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1295, (12 - 18 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Terrorism and development

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s announcement of a continued state of emergency in Sinai is fuelling debate, reports Ahmed Eleiba

Al-Ahram Weekly

The president’s announcement on 29 April of the re-imposition of a state of emergency in the Sinai triggered debate in legal and parliamentary circles. Under the constitution, a decreed state of emergency can only be renewed once and, according to procedural details laid out in parliament’s bylaws, the president or the person acting in his stead must submit a statement to parliament outlining the reasons for the renewal.

But, in comments to the press, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Magdi Al-Aggati said that the 29 April announcement constituted a “new declaration” and was not an “extension” of the state of emergency. Prime Minister Sherif Ismail visited parliament on Tuesday to explain the reasons why a new state of emergency has been declared in parts of North Sinai, including areas in Al-Arish, Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid.

In the House of Representatives, MPs from North Sinai opposed the new decree, arguing that the state of emergency is counterproductive. MP Rahmi Abd Rabbo told Al-Ahram Weekly that emergency laws have already been imposed several times by presidential decree and under the constitution their renewability has expired. If there is to be a new declaration, he said, this has to be voted on by MPs. A simple majority (50 per cent plus 1) is required to pass an initial declaration of a state of emergency and a two-thirds majority for a renewal.

On the efficacy of the states of emergency that have been declared in North Sinai and whether another one is needed, Abd Rabbo said, “I think it is possible for it not to be extended. Curfews are only imposed for five hours in the middle of the night, and in neighbouring areas such as Bier Al-Abd and Ramana no curfews are imposed at all.”

The latest edition of the quarterly report issued by the Security Unit of the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies reports that in the first quarter of 2016 there were 13 terrorist attacks in North Sinai, the area subject to the emergency law. A total of 14 hand-held or planted explosive devices were used in attacks, five involved shooting and one attack used car bombs and mortars.

The last, the assault against the Al-Safa checkpoint in which 18 security personnel were killed, is the largest terrorist operation so far this year. The report also detailed how security forces succeeded in obstructing seven terrorist attacks. In the first quarter of 2015 there were 90 terrorist attacks in the same area. Clearly, the frequency of attacks has declined and, as the seven thwarted operations indicate, security forces are making progress by staging pre-emptive strikes.

In a related development, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi used a press conference held last week in Farafra Oasis to mark the first wheat harvest on newly reclaimed desert land to address development projects in Sinai. He said a new tunnel to the peninsula will be completed in two years and work is already in progress to establish fisheries, 15 marble factories, two cement production lines, industrial zones and an agricultural zone.

Two water treatment plants are being built with a capacity to pump a million litres of water a day. Al-Sisi said that more than LE20 billion had already been spent on Sinai development projects and 2,000 km of roads will soon be added to the peninsula’s road network to facilitate further development.

The army is overseeing the implementation of most Sinai development projects, and work is currently focussed in the central region. According to official and other sources, development plans will not, for the time being, extend to North Sinai owing to counterterrorism operations there.

“Basically, the greatest concentrations of natural resources are in Central Sinai, which is where the cement and marble factories will be established,” said Rabbo. “There are plans, however, to construct two tourist resorts in Al-Arish and the necessary road construction and infrastructure improvements are already being undertaken.”

He added, “We have been shown the detailed plans for the development projects in Sinai. We registered numerous observations which officials said would be taken into account when the plans were carried out.”

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