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.


Lebanese restaurant attracts star support following Beirut blasts

Updated 28 min 11 sec ago

Lebanese restaurant attracts star support following Beirut blasts

  • Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe donated $5,000 to the fund, set up by a group of Beirut-based foreign correspondents
  • Operating on a plat-du-jour formula, each day of the week would serve a homemade Lebanese specialty

LONDON: Lebanese restaurant Le Chef found an unlikely high-profile supporter after a GoFundMe page was set up to save the diner from ruin following the Beirut blasts on August 4.

Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe donated $5,000 to the fund, set up by a group of Beirut-based foreign correspondents.

When Richard Hall, one of the organizers and the former-Beirut correspondent of UK daily The Independent, highlighted the generous donation, Crowe tweeted: “On behalf of Anthony Bourdain. I thought that he would have probably done so if he was still around. I wish you and LeChef the best and hope things can be put back together soon.” Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain took his life two years ago.

Tucked away in the middle of the Gemmayze district, Le Chef – commonly seen as one of Beirut’s must-try hole-in-the-wall diners for tourists – was badly damaged in the recent blast.

The tiny diner with its neon-red logo and checkered tables was second home to many of the street’s residents and the country’s foreign correspondents. It featured in Bourdain’s report from Beirut during his travel show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in 2006.

“And yet I'd already fallen in love with Beirut. We all had — everyone on my crew. As soon as we'd landed, headed into town, there was a reaction I can only describe as pheromonic: The place just smelled good. Like a place we were going to love,” Bourdain’s field notes during his time on CNN's Parts Unknown said.

Operating on a plat-du-jour formula, each day of the week would serve a homemade Lebanese specialty – with Thursday’s mloukhiyye and rice a favorite among many journalists, according to Arab News’ correspondent Leila Hatoum.

“When I worked as a reporter based in Gemmayze between 2002 and 2006, Le Chef was the restaurant that provided home-cooked style meals at such affordable prices and in generous quantities…each dish literally could feed two persons,” Hatoum said.

“It was the meeting point for every reporter in the area, be it foreign or local. I would say Le Chef was the ‘it’ place for affordable but great home-cooked food.”

Other dishes include rice and lamb (kharouf mehshi) on Mondays, spiced Lebanese couscous with chicken (moughrabiyye) on Tuesdays, kibbeh bil sayniyye on Wednesdays, rice and fish (sayyidiye) on Fridays and roast lamb with potatoes on Saturdays.

“Le Chef was different, everything they served was as though my mom cooked it,” Netherlands-based designer Rawad Baaklini told Arab News.

“And it was so cheap! Their dishes were big compared to the price they charged. They used to deliver, so for me ordering from them was like eating at home,” Baaklini said, recalling his time working at a studio based in the area.

“My favorite dish was the kibbeh bel sayniyye … It was magical, I don’t know how they made it, but it was every time great.”