Egypt president pledges to help Nubian "minority"

June 11, 2009
Salah Nasrawi

Cairo- Egypt's president pledged Wednesday to promote development and care for the Nubians, as criticism to his government's treatment of Egypt's ancient but highly marginalized minority mounts. President Hosni Mubarak, in remarks made after touring Aswan Province where many Nubians live, said his government's plans to relocate many Nubians from their traditional dwellings along the Nile does not entail any ill will toward the population. His comments come as Nubians, fearing displacement, have begun to step up their opposition to the government's resettlement plans.

"Their demands and requests should be met because they are part and parcel of the Egyptian national fabric," he said.

Mubarak's statement is the first by such a high-ranking government official publicly acknowledging the dispute.

In the 1960s Egypt relocated hundreds of thousands of Nubians outside their historic homeland when the newly built Aswan High Dam flooded their traditional area.

Under a UNESCO plan, international efforts helped salvage several monuments from flooding including the famed Abu Simbol temple.

However, over the years, many Nubians quietly moved back into the area, living along the lake. The government is now trying to relocate them.

Early this year, Nubian villagers started collecting signatures protesting local councilors who agreed to the decision issued by the Aswan governor.

Campaigners demanded their new villages be built in locations similar to the original ones alongside the Nile.

During his tour Mubarak ordered the government to "coordinate" with the Nubians in building new villages.

Some pro-government media accuse the Nubians of wanting independence.

Nubians are known to be descendants of an ancient African civilization.