Egypt’s Sisi names military general as transport minister after train crash

Fire fighters and onlookers gather at the scene of a fiery train crash at the Egyptian capital Cairo's main railway station on February 27, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2019

Egypt’s Sisi names military general as transport minister after train crash

  • The pervious minister resigned after the train crash in Cairo
  • The new appointment is still pending for approval

CAIRO: Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appointed military General Kamel al-Wazir as transport minister on Sunday, after the previous minister resigned following a train crash that left more than 20 dead at Cairo's main station last month.
Wazir serves as head of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority, one of the main owners of the new administrative capital being built outside Cairo and a developer of large infrastructure and national projects commissioned by Sisi.
The previous minister, Hisham Arafat, stepped down immediately after the Feb. 27 crash, in which a locomotive smashed through station buffers and burst into flames, killing at least 22 and injuring dozens.
"When this (the accident) happened, we said the person who will take over (the ministry) is Kamel al-Wazir," Sisi said during a seminar organised by the armed forces to celebrate martyrs' day.
Sisi told Wazir, who frequently appears alongside the president at public events, that he can call upon any support he needs to revamp the rail system from all state institutions, including the military.
"If you want officers from the vehicles administration, the armoured vehicles or the engineers .. I don't have a problem," he said, as he turned to Defence Minister Mohamed Zaki, who was also on stage along with the speaker of parliament.
He then promoted Wazir from major general to lieutenant general, pinning new epaulettes on his uniform.
The appointment is part of what analysts say is a broader trend to expand the role of the military since Sisi led the 2013 military overthrow of Egypt's first freely-elected president, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Parliament is currently debating proposed constitutional changes that could allow Sisi to stay in power until 2034 and tighten his control over the judiciary.
The changes include amending article 200 of the constitution to add that the military has a duty to protect "the constitution and democracy and the fundamental makeup of the country and its civil nature".
The military's economic and civilian activities have expanded since Sisi became president in 2014, and companies owned by the military have flourished, causing concern amongst local businessmen and foreign investors.
"This trend is rooted in the claim that the military is uniquely capable of delivering results," said Timothy Kaldas, non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
"(This), in turn, justifies the military's expanding control over state institutions and participation in the economy as its businesses and enterprises continue to grow and diversify," he added.

Macron slams Turkey’s aggression in Syria as ‘madness’, bewails NATO inaction

Updated 23 min 1 sec ago

Macron slams Turkey’s aggression in Syria as ‘madness’, bewails NATO inaction

  • EU Council President Donald Tusk said the halt of Turkish hostilities as demanded by the US is not a genuine cease-fire
  • He calls on Ankara to immediately stop military operations,

BRUSSELS/ANKARA: Macron critizes Turkey's aggression in Syria as "madness', bewails NATO inaction

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has bemoaned Turkey’s offensive into northern Syria as “madness” and decried NATO’s inability to react to the assault as a “serious mistake.”

“It weakens our credibility in finding partners on the ground who will be by our side and who think they will be protected in the long term. So that raises questions about how NATO functions.”

EU Council President Donald Tusk said the halt of Turkish hostilities is not a genuine cease-fire and called on Ankara to immediately stop military operations in Syria.

Dareen Khalifa, a senior Syria analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the cease-fire had unclear goals. 

There was no mention of the scope of the area that would be under Turkish control and, despite US Vice President Mike Pence referring to a 20-mile zone, the length of the zone remains ambiguous, she said.

Selim Sazak, a doctoral researcher at Brown University, believed the agreement would be implemented and the YPG would withdraw.

“The agency of the YPG is fairly limited. If the deal collapses because of the YPG, it’s actually all the better for Ankara,” he told Arab News. “What Ankara originally wanted was to take all of the belt into its control and eliminate as many of the YPG forces as possible. Instead, the YPG is withdrawing with a portion of its forces and its territory intact. Had the deal collapsed because of the YPG, Ankara would have reason to push forward, this time with much more legitimacy.”