Local Development Minister Abu Bakr al-Gendy apologized for a statement he made about people from Upper Egypt, saying the statement was not meant to insult them and was misinterpreted. He stressed his love and respect for the people of Upper Egypt.
Gendy, who was part of a recent limited reshuffle in Prime Minister Sherif Ismail’s Cabinet, said after he assumed his new position, that Upper Egypt residents who take the train to Cairo were the reason behind Cairo’s slums.
“I don’t want an Upper Egyptian resident to take the train to Cairo,” he said.
Gendy apologized on Monday evening on privately-owned satellite channel Sada al-Balad saying, “If my words were misunderstood, I apologize to Upper Egypt residents for my statement”.
Gendy said he meant that the people of Upper Egypt should live a decent life without the need to resort to Cairo, adding this can only be achieved through real development and investment in Upper Egypt.
Gendy mentioned that the development of Upper Egypt is a top priority, pointing out that he plans his first field visit to be to Upper Egypt.
MPs meanwhile sharply attacked Gendy on Monday in the House of Representatives’ general session describing his statement as “racist”.
MP Mostafa Salem said during the session that the statement by the new minister caused anger among the people of Upper Egypt, adding that many Egyptian scientists and businessmen who supported their country originally hail from Upper Egypt.
He added the minister had to think of his words before uttering them as his statement bore a kind of “racism and a division of the nation.”
MP Sahar Sedqy said that the minister started his speech well by talking about the development of Upper Egypt, whose people “are diligent […] and do not cause any randomness.” She called on the minister to apologize for his statement, pointing out that the majority of MPs belong to Upper Egypt.
“I know the minister well; he is a polite and disciplined man […] Maybe he was short of finding the right expressions,” said House Speaker Ali Abdelaal.
Egypt suffers from the problem of migration from both Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt to Cairo, due to the absence of development in these areas, said Abdelaal.
Current development project planned by the state in Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt will limit the problem of migration, he added.
MP Khaled Saleh Abu Zahad from Sohag also criticized the minister’s statement, describing it as provocative and offensive to the people of Upper Egypt.
“The minister’s statements provoked all the people of Upper Egypt. Therefore, he must apologize to Upper Egypt’s MPs, and the sons of Egypt, all of them,” he said.
The minister was supposed to talk about the development of Upper Egypt and the Ministry’s plans to address the problems of the people of Upper Egypt, instead of accusing them of being the reason behind slums, said Abu Zahad, citing numerous Egyptian public figures, scholars, writers and scholars who originally come to Upper Egypt.
MP Hany Morgan said that the government has shown a clear weakness and a big failure with regard to the “file of local councils”.
The biggest proof of this is the fall of the governor of Monufiya over corruption charges that confirmed that the government’s choices of officials were random, he said.
Morgan stressed that the minister had to apologize befor the parliament about his statement.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm