Friday, July 20, 2018
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South Sudan parties fail to agree on power-sharing deal

The South Sudanese warring parties meeting in Khartoum on Wednesday failed to agree to a power-sharing deal.

South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei said the government agreed to create five vice president positions, including a first vice president, but opposition members rejected the proposal.

“Some few members from SSOA [South Sudan Opposition Alliance] were saying that it is not what they want. They want to see a very small, lean [government],” said Edmond Yakani, a member of the civil society delegation attending the talks.

Yakani said distrust between the parties made them unwilling to compromise. He also said some delegates are still putting their personal interests first, hoping to be included in the slate of Cabinet positions being discussed.

“You bring for them draft, the first thing they rush [for] is the numbers. What are the numbers, how is the numbers distributed, regardless of whether those numbers can help. This politics of numbers is very strong among political elite of South Sudan,” Yakani said.

Agreement on other issues

Bishop Enock Tombe, who represented the South Sudan Council of Churches at the talks, praised Sudan for pushing the warring parties to agree on other key issues.

“Within a short time they have achieved 2½ agreements; the Khartoum declaration (on the) 27 of June, then the second one is the security arrangement and permanent cease-fire agreement. And now they are really working to finish the remaining work on the governance agreement,” Tombe told South Sudan in Focus.

Several sources at the talks said South Sudan’s parties might still sign a power-sharing agreement, although the talks were slated to end in Khartoum earlier this week.

Entebbe proposal

Information Minister Makuei said the Kiir administration will not sign any agreement that fails to include the Entebbe power-sharing proposal, which increases the number of Cabinet ministers and members of parliament but, the opposition says, ignores the core issues that led to the eruption of war in the country.

“It is clear that it will not be possible for the government of South Sudan to sign such an agreement. Because, if we sign it, this agreement will be worse than even the agreement which we are trying to revitalize now,” Makuei told South Sudan in Focus. He said if the parties do not reach an agreement on power sharing, another summit should be arranged so that remaining issues can be resolved.

The warring parties are expected to continue negotiating in Kenya, but no dates have been announced for another round of talks.

Liberian police commissioner flogs officer for affair with his fiancée

John Saah, Liberia Deputy Police Commissioner and Chief of Public Safety

John Saah, the deputy commissioner and chief of public safety of the Liberia National Police (LNP), accused of authorizing the flogging of a Police Inspector Mark Kardamie for having extra-marital affairs with the commissioner’s fiancée, has been charged and forwarded to the Monrovia City Court for prosecution.

Saah, together with Superintendent Kais Sampson, Chris Doe and Rodney Macauley of the Major Crimes Unit, are currently standing trial for the commission of the crime of aggravated assault. Earlier, Associate Magistrate Eric Cooper had written Police Inspector General (IG) Patrick Sudue to have the defendants attend the court’s hearing into the matter.

A document, addressed to IG Sudue, and obtained from the court by the Daily Observer, supported Magistrate Cooper’s claim about the refusal of the accused to appear before the court, despite numerous communications from the court for them to do so.

Officer Mark Kardamie, while treating wounds he sustained from the flogging.

The communication, dated June 28 and signed by Associate Magistrate Cooper, requested IG Sudue to disrobe and turn the officers over to the court on July 2, but that request Sudue allegedly failed to honor.

“These officers are currently before the court for trial for the crime of aggravated assault, but have appeared in court in their official police uniforms contrary to our laws regarding appearance of offices before court for trial,” the letter claimed.

Cooper’s letter complained that Saah and his men, though they were released after posting US$5,000 bond, failed, refused and neglected to appear before the court to commence their case.

The case against Saah and his colleagues stemmed from a letter written to Police Inspector-General Sudue by Senator Thomas Grupee of Nimba County, also chairman on the Senate Committee on National Defense, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs , in which the lawmaker informed Sudue to conduct an immediate probe of Inspector Kardamie’s complaint against Saah and the other officers.

“I mandate that you launch an immediate investigation into the matter and furnish the committee with your findings within a week, upon receipt of this communication as the nature of the case involves the image of the LNP, which is one of the prominent concerns of the committee,” Grupee’s letter, dated May 21, 2018, said.

It was based on that communication that Sudue launched an immediate investigation that led to the imposition of aggravated assault charges against Saah and the other officers.

Before Grupee’s letter demanding an immediate investigation, on March 27, Kardamie complained to Sudue against Saah and Sampson, accusing them of committing unethical breaches of his rights.

That communication was ignored by Sudue, which led Kardamie to write a letter of complaint to Sen. Grupee. The action led to the subsequent charges against the accused that includes Saah.

In that complaint, Kardamie explained that his ordeal started in 2016, when he and Sampson transacted the sale of a Black Camry vehicle, which Sampson refused to pay. Therefore, Kardamie decided to lodge a complaint against Sampson to then IG Gregory Coleman and the LNP’s Professional Standards Division.

In his complaint Kardamie claimed that Saah had also accused him of being in ‘extra-marital affair’ with his fiancée (not named).

Kardamie also claimed that he does not know the lady in question.

“Because of that, I have been humiliated and subjected to torture by the two senior officers,” Kardamie’s letter to Sen. Grupee alleged.

Kardamie explained further that in 2016, while on his way home from the United Methodist University (UMU), where he attends, before reaching the Ashmum Street’s Metro 2 Police Depot, Superintendent Sampson approached him and inquired whether he had received his money from the LNP’s Professional Standard Division, where Kardamie had lodged a complaint him about his refusal to pay for his vehicle.

While he and Sampson were conversing about the transaction, Kardamie claimed that Sampson swore to not pay him a penny.

Afterwards, Kardamie alleged that Sampson gave orders to the other officers to get him out of his sight “because I was disturbing him, so they beat me unmercifully.”

At that moment, Kardamie claimed that one of Sampson’s bodyguards, identified as Mack Kollie, held him from the back and they started beating him right in front of Sampson, who stood there without saying a word.

In the process of breaking loose from Sampson’s men, Kardamie claimed that Saah arrived on the scene and began to hit him on his head with the handset radio that caused him to bleed profusely from the head.

“When I lay on the ground bleeding, Saah ordered that I be dragged from in front of the police depot which the officers did,” Kardamie claimed in the letter.

Kardamie also said that Saah and Sampson told him that they know IG Sudue personally and, as such, whatsoever they would do, nothing will come out of it.

After the incident, Kardamie claimed that he wrote IG Sudue on March 27 and made several follows-ups, but to no avail. It was when Kardamie claimed that Sudue set an April 13 date for them to meet him at his conference room.

Unfortunately, Kardamie alleged, Sudue through one of his female officers, told him about the cancellation of the Sudue’s called meeting.

Since then, Kardamie claimed Sudue, through aware of his complaint, was yet to reschedule the meeting.

‘We will rule forever,’ Tanzania’s Magufuli boasts

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has said his party will be “in power forever, for eternity”, according to a report by news agency AFP.

Mr Magufuli’s comments were broadcast on radio on Monday evening, and come hot on the heels of his controversial suggestion that prisoners be made to work long hours, and be punished if they are lazy.

“The CCM [his Chama Cha Mapinduzi party] is here and will continue to be here – forever,” he said.

“Members of the CCM, you can walk with your heads held high. There is no alternative to the CCM.”

He added party opponents will “always have problems”.

Rights groups have accused him of growing intolerance, and Mr Magufuli has lost his initial huge popularity by clamping down on the media and targeting opposition politicians.

Mr Magufuli is not the first leader to make such a prediction.

South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma said in 2008 that the governing African National Congress will rule “until Jesus comes back” and in 2014 he said the party will rule “forever and ever”.

Egypt approves new social media laws ‘to curb dissent’

Egypt’s parliament has approved a tough new law to regulate social media, raising fears that it could curb dissent against President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s regime.

The law states that social media users who have more than 5,000 followers could be placed under the supervision of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulations.

The council would be authorised to suspend or block any personal account which “publishes or broadcasts fake news or anything inciting violating the law, violence or hatred”, AFP news agency quotes the law as saying.

This would cover websites, blogs and personal accounts, it adds.

Some rights groups see the law – which still has to be approved by Mr Sisi – as an aggressive attempt to restrict social media, which remains one of the few remaining outlets for free expression in Egypt, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The law – along with other media-related laws – would legalize “mass censorship and step up the assault on the right to freedom of expression in Egypt”, the US-based newspaper quotes Amnesty International’s Najia Bounaim as saying.

Eritrea reopens embassy in Ethiopia

Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki reopened his country’s embassy in Ethiopia on Monday, the latest in a series of dizzying peace moves after two decades of war between the neighbours.

The embassy inauguration caps Isaias’s historic visit to the Ethiopian capital aimed at cementing peace less than a week after the former enemies declared an end to the conflict.

State-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) showed Isaias raising the Eritrean flag at the embassy in downtown Addis Ababa and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed handing him keys to the building, filled with dusty furniture that appeared untouched for years.

The embassy visit marked the end of Isaias’s three-day stay in Ethiopia which also saw him visiting an industrial park and attending dinner and a concert on Sunday evening.

Thousands of Ethiopians packed an exhibition hall, waving Eritrean flags and chanting Isaias’s name as both leaders pledged commitment to their newfound unity.

“Both nations have chosen peace as opposed to war,” said Abiy, as Isaias also voiced his support, saying: “We won’t allow anyone to stop this from happening.”

The 71-year-old Eritrean strongman left Addis shortly after the embassy opening, EBC reported.

‘Another milestone’

Writing on Twitter, Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said the trip had “inexorably elevated bilateral ties of both countries to new, promising, heights.”

He described the embassy opening as “yet another milestone in the robust (and) special ties of peace and friendship both countries are cultivating with earnestness in these momentous times.”

Once a province of Ethiopia, Eritrea voted to leave in 1993 after a bloody, decades-long independence struggle.

Ethiopia and Eritrea expelled each others’ envoys at the start of a 1998-2000 border war that killed around 80,000 people.

Relations remained frozen after Ethiopia declined to accept a 2002 United Nations-backed border demarcation, leading to years of cold war between the two countries.

Last month, Abiy announced Ethiopia would accept the demarcation and cede land to Eritrea. However, it has not yet announced the withdrawal of troops from the area.

Breakneck reforms

Abiy has pursued an aggressive reform agenda since taking office in April, including making peace with Eritrea, releasing jailed dissidents and liberalising parts of the economy.

After declaring his intention to make peace on June 5, events have moved at breakneck speed.

Abiy visited Asmara a month later, announcing the normalisation of diplomatic and economic ties, and on July 9, the two leaders signed a joint declaration declaring the end of the war.

Telecommunications links were quickly restored and Ethiopian Airlines will on Wednesday make its first passenger flight between the nations in 20 years.

Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Meles Alem told AFP Ethiopia had not yet reopened its embassy in the Eritrean capital Asmara.

Amnesty International has said the newfound peace should be a catalyst for change in Eritrea, one of the world’s most isolated nations.

Since the end of the war, Isaias has used the threat of Ethiopian aggression to justify a rash of repressive policies, including an indefinite national service programme the UN has likened to slavery.

Eight migrants suffocate to death in a lorry container in Libya

A lorry container where eight migrants including six children were found dead in Zuwara City, Western Libya

Eight migrants, locked in an abandoned lorry container in Libya’s western city of Zuwara, have suffocated to death, according to officials there.

Six children, one woman, and a young man spent their last moments trapped in the overcrowded container, breathing in fumes from gallons of petrol stored in jerry cans in the container.

The vehicle, which was discovered by a security squad in the east of the city, was holding nearly 100 people in it from various nationalities.

The other 90 migrants were rescued from the lorry, and officials in Zuwara said those who were in a critical condition were transferred to hospital for treatment.

A statement about the incident was published on the official Facebook page of Zuwara’s Security Directorate this morning.

The dead and the survivors include sub-Saharan Africans, Arabs, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis.

Officials also published pictures showing abandoned dusty slippers and a pile of clothes and life jackets, as well as several jerry cans of petrol, cooking gas canisters, and wood panels found in the container.

The coastal city of Zuwara is one of western Libya’s main transit points for migration to Europe by sea.

Smugglers frequently use lorry containers to transport migrants between southern and coastal cities – but it’s not clear why this one was abandoned near an oil and gas complex in the city.

Officials say a search is now under way to arrest those responsible for locking up the migrants in the lorry, but they did not provide any details about their identities.

AFP says Nigeria army ‘wants to be sole news source’

The news agency AFP stands by its report that a second jihadist attack on Nigerian troops in as many days was even more deadly and included an army base being overrun.

It adds that hundreds of troops are unaccounted for after the attack.

The Nigerian military’s dismissive response to this report is typical of its default stance of downplaying or denying losses.

It wants to be the sole source of news from the front line, and pits the media as purveyors of unfounded and unverified claims.

There have been genuine, laudable military successes in this campaign – but the force has also hurt its own credibility with some inaccurate or even untrue accounts.

It claims that residents of north-east Nigeria have nothing to fear, yet it restricts media access to certain parts of the region.

It wants journalists to trumpet its gains against what it considers a rag-tag militia – but also go silent on the continuing attacks on civilians and soldiers.

The Nigeria military describes its “gallant” troops as being in high spirits, yet for years we have had multiple accounts from those on the frontline complaining of being ill-equipped and even poorly fed.

Despite the much-repeated assertion of having defeated Islamist militant group Boko Haram, the insurgency is into its ninth year.

Tunisia’s president asks PM should quit if crisis persists

Tunisia prime minister Youssef Chahed with the president Beji Caid Essebsi

Tunisia’s president called on Sunday for Prime Minister Youssef Chahed to step down or seek a confidence quote if the country’s political and economic crisis continues, withdrawing his support for the premier, who has clashed with the president’s son.

President Beji Caid Essebsi’s son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who is leader of the ruling Nidaa Tounes party, called last May for Chahed’s dismissal because of his government’s failure to revive the economy. His call was supported by the powerful UGTT union, which rejected economic reforms proposed by the prime minister.

“There is a difference between the parties and national organizations about the government, between government and key players like UGTT and some parties,” Essebsi said in an interview broadcast by local Nesma TV.

“If this situation continues, the prime minister must resign or go to the parliament to ask for confidence,” he said.

Chahed, who was appointed by Essebsi in 2016, has accused the president’s son of destroying the Nidaa Tounes party, and said the crisis in the party has affected state institutions.

The moderate Islamist party Ennahda has said the exit of the prime minister would hit stability at a time when the country needed economic reforms.

Tunisia has been hailed as the Arab Spring’s only democratic success because protests toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 without triggering violent upheaval, as happened in Syria and Libya.

But since then nine cabinets have failed to resolve economic problems including high inflation and unemployment, and impatience is rising among lenders such as the International Monetary Fund, which have kept the country afloat.

Seven prime ministers have failed to fix a sluggish economy. Turmoil and militant attacks have deterred investors and tourists, eroding living standards of ordinary people and causing an increase in unemployment.

Annual inflation hit a record high of 7.8 percent in June as the dinar currency tanked, making food imports more expensive.

UN says Algeria resumes deadly migrant expulsions in desert

Algeria’s government has resumed expelling migrants into the Sahara Desert to die, leaving 391 people to wander through some of the world’s most hostile terrain in the middle of summer, a U.N. migration official said Saturday.

The migrants, from 16 different countries, were abandoned at the border with Niger, according to a tweet from Giuseppe Loprete , the head of the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration in Niger.

The Associated Press reported last month that Algeria has left more than 13,000 migrants in the desert of Niger and Mali since May 2017, forcing them to walk or die under searing heat,

For several weeks after the AP report came out, the expulsions appeared to have been suspended. IOM in Mali said the normally secretive Algerian government seemed to be trying to make an effort to communicate the movement of the migrants. An aid worker with contacts inside Algeria said the government instead was rounding up migrants to jail in detention centers.

IOM has been forced to find the migrants as they stumble through the desert, and many told the AP some of their companions died along the way.

Algeria has an agreement with Niger’s government to deport its citizens by convoy directly to the city of Agadez. But migrants from other countries who have been rounded up in repeated sweeps are trucked to around 15 kilometers (nine miles) from the nearest water and ordered to march through some of the world’s most hostile terrain, where summer temperatures reach well above 40 C (104 F).

The African Union, many of whose member governments count citizens among the expelled migrants, has demanded that Algeria stop abandoning people to die in the desert. The United Nations has also condemned the practice.

Algeria’s opaque government, however, has refused to acknowledge it. Soon after the AP report and a Human Rights Watch report came out detailing the desert expulsions, Algeria asked local journalists to observe the mass detention of migrants, claiming it was proof of their humane treatment. But journalists weren’t permitted to travel beyond the detention centers where they are held before expulsion.

Young Nubians revive dream of returning to land in Egypt

The world of their parents and grandparents was turned upside down more than 50 years ago when they were evacuated from villages along the Nile River to make way for the High Dam. Now a younger generation has revived the long-dormant cause of Egypt’s Nubians, campaigning for a return to their lands and struggling to preserve their culture.

Their timing could not have been worse.

Recent peaceful marches by Nubians were met by swift suppression from the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, which has shown little tolerance for dissent. To a state dominated by the military and security agencies, Nubians’ assertion of their distinct identity and heritage amid the Arab majority looks like a threat to stability.

“This country has so many colors and ethnicities, and it is so destructive that we are trying to give it just one identity,” said Fatmah Imam, a Nubian activist born and raised in Cairo. Even during her days at university, she recalled, the message instilled was that the country should be homogeneous.

“It is painful for me that I am unable to manifest my identity,” she said. “I see Egypt as a mosaic.”

Nubians are an ancient ethnic group who from Pharaonic times lived along the Nile in a stretch of territory from southern Egypt to northern Sudan, even becoming rulers for a period in the 25th Dynasty 3,000 years ago. Darker skinned than most Egyptians, they have a language and culture distinct from the country’s Arab majority.

The 20th century brought a series of displacements, starting with the construction of the first reservoir at Aswan in 1902. The biggest came with the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1950s and 1960s under the rule of the charismatic, authoritarian Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Some 50,000 were subjected to forced resettlement in 1963 and 1964, and the creation of Lake Nasser flooded their ancestral homeland.

Their dream since has been to return to land along the lake near their original villages.

Nubian activists have found inspiration from the 2011 pro-democracy uprising that overthrew autocrat Hosni Mubarak. In 2014, there seemed to be a breakthrough when the crafters of a new constitution included a clause that for the first time recognized Nubians as an ethnic group and committed the state to organize their return to traditional lands and develop those areas by 2024.

But so far, nothing concrete has been done, activists say.

Succeeding a generation traumatized by displacement, young Nubian activists say they are determined to bring change.

“You must not be worried about the future. I personally feel that the future, God willing, will be dear and generous for all of you.” —Egyptian President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, addressing Nubians in 1960.

Older Nubians remember vividly their lives in their original land. They talk of sprawling villages of large houses painted in brilliant colors spread out along the Nile. Receding river waters after annual floods left fertile land for crops.

Most important was the bond with the Nile. For generations they lived on its banks. Their rituals were closely linked to it. They would baptize their children in its waters, and before weddings, grooms would bathe in the river. On holidays they would float dishes of food on its current to the river’s mythical guardians. Though Muslim, Nubians have traditions from their Christian past mixed in with their identity; for example, at weddings the guests often call to Jesus and Mary for blessings as well as to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

When the government resettled the Nubians in the 1960s, it told them they were making a major sacrifice for Egypt’s progress, giving up their villages for the sake of a dam that would electrify and modernize the nation.

In return, the authorities promised, the socialist system would ensure them a prosperous future: new, model homes with electricity, running water and farmlands awaited them.

Officials raced to evacuate the Nubians as the Nile’s waters rose. Nubians of that generation recall families frantically packing possessions and pulling livestock to riverboats as officials, soldiers and members of the only political party at the time, the Socialist Union, shouted, “Yallah, yallah!” — “Come on!”

The Nubians were moved to 44 new villages, mostly clumped around the area of Kom Ombo, north of Aswan, more than 200 kilometers (120 miles) from their home region.

What they found was a startling blow. In some villages, houses hadn’t been built yet — there were just chalk outlines. Houses that were ready were small and cramped. Often there was no running water or electricity. Farmland couldn’t be farmed because a canal hadn’t been built yet.

Even worse for the Nubians, most of the villages were miles away from the Nile. The fact that all the new villages bore the same names as the Nubians’ now submerged home villages seemed almost cruel. They became known as the villages of “tahgeer,” or exile.

“People felt they were deceived and the first few years here were very tough,” Mohammed Dawoud, 71, recalled as he sat in a mosque after the sunset prayers in Abu Simbel, one of the tahgeer villages.

Nubians to this day still feel the trauma of having their community shattered. Many left the impoverished new villages for Cairo, Alexandria and other cities to find jobs, often as household servants or doormen. Customs fell away. Though the Nubian language is still spoken in some homes, it is not taught in schools, nor is Nubian history or culture. There is no official data, but some estimates put the number of Nubians today at 3.5 million to 5 million.

In the 50 years since, the tahgeer towns have become indistinguishable from neighboring Arab ones, a sprawl of dust-covered, eye-sore apartment blocks, mired in poverty and underdevelopment.

Speaking Arabic haltingly with a heavy Nubian accent, Naemah Hussein, an 85-year-old grandmother, said her house in her original home village of Eneiba was right on the banks of the Nile, where she baptized her first two children. Eneiba at the time had one of the best river ports in the country, built by the British in the 1930s.

Now she lives in the “tahgeer” Eneiba. Since being evacuated there, she had four more children.

The town “is a place that sends people away, no investments, no jobs,” one of her sons said.

It is also far from the Nile.

“Well, it’s a life,” Hussein said with bitter resignation. “Now I don’t even see the river in my dreams.”

“Our children are scattered everywhere working as help, serving the grandchildren of the foreigners and Pashas. And we are here, left like goats in the devil’s valley. … They killed us, my son. The folks with light skin killed us.” —From the short story “Adeela, My Grandmother,” or “Farewell, My Grandmother,” by Haggag Oddoul.

Haggag Oddoul, at 74, has spent a lifetime chronicling the miseries of the Nubians’ displacement in dozens of novels and short stories while campaigning for the rights of his community.

He calls the Nubians’ uprooting “the murder of a culture.” Successive governments, he said, have sought to dissolve the community into the broader Arab-dominated identity, seeing any diversity as a threat and suspicious that the Nubians, if back in their lands, will seek to secede. He dismissed any doubts over Nubians’ loyalties.

“We are part of the date palms and the Nile,” told the AP at his home, a small, high-rise apartment he shares with his wife in Alexandria, the city where he was born.

Oddoul sat on the commission that wrote the 2014 constitution and was a driving force in winning the inclusion of the clause recognizing the Nubians’ right to return.

He sees that as a gain — “I still think the constitution is more than just ink on paper.”

But, he said, Nubians will never get their rights without pushing for them. He cited as his inspiration the civil rights movement in the United States and the fiery rhetoric of the late heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali.

Today’s generation, he said, is less willing to put up with discrimination, pointing to the stereotype of the Nubian among Egyptians as a happy servant — the cheerful waiter or the loyal doorman.

“Young Nubians are aggressive now,” he said. “I personally have become fed up with the stereotypical good Nubian. Now, I am the aggressive Nubian.”

“They (Nubians) are going to a place where they will be compensated for oppression, humiliation and unemployment with justice, dignity, work and prosperity.” —Hikmat Abu Zeid, minister of Social Solidarity, addressing Nubians before evacuations began in 1963.

Siham Othman, a 30-year-old teacher born in Aswan, was raised on stories of the old country. After the evacuation, her family ended up in Alexandria and her grandfather became a merchant sailor, travelling the world.

When he told her stories, it was never about his travels, only about Nubia, she said.

“He is the one who planted the dream of return in me,” she said.

“The older generation of Nubians accepted the status quo,” she said. “Their activism was restricted to conferences, but no street activism. Now there is a new spirit.”

But it’s proving difficult. Othman is among 50 Nubian activists now on trial, facing charges that could land them in prison for up to five years, after protests last year.

In September, around 100 Nubians marched through Aswan, singing traditional songs and beating drums. Police quickly broke it up, arresting more than two dozen. One of them, a well-known activist suffering from multiple health issues, died in custody, prompting a new protest and a new wave of arrests.

The previous year, a convoy of cars set out from Aswan toward Nubian lands. They were intercepted by security forces and, after a four-day standoff, forced to return to Aswan.

“The government is becoming more and more hard line in its approach to the Nubian question,” Othman said.

That appears to be at least in part because of security agencies’ hand over the issue. Soon after passage of the 2014 constitution, parliament drafted a law for developing Nubian lands, but intelligence agencies objected to some provisions, said a senior official involved in the issue. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

Then el-Sissi issued a decree extending a security zone along the border with Sudan, a major route for militants entering Egypt to join an insurgency in the Sinai. The expansion put a number of areas the Nubians want to return to inside the zone, where settlement is barred.

In May, parliament passed a law creating a state agency to economically develop all of southern Egypt, but it made no specific mention of the Nubians. Activists oppose the law, saying it aims to dilute their cause by grouping it in with broader development.

In a debate over the legislation, parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al, a close el-Sissi supporter, echoed the attitude that recognizing Nubian identity threatens stability. He called the constitutional clause about Nubians “a land mine” and said referring to any group of Egyptians by their ethnic identity was dangerous.

During a visit to Aswan last year, el-Sissi spoke broadly about fulfilling Nubian demands, but talked about development without mentioning return.

“The government wants to implement the constitution and wants to see the Nubians return to their region. But this needs time,” Mustafa Bakry, a lawmaker close to the military who has mediated between activists and the government, told the AP.

The slow pace and the crackdown have convinced some activists that return will not happen any time soon. They are focusing on rescuing Nubian culture from disappearance. One has launched a YouTube channel that broadcast in Nubian for two hours every day. Another developed a mobile app to teach young people the Nubian language.

Fatmah Imam said activists must not let up the pressure, which she argued has succeeded in forcing officials to talk about the issue. “We have no choice but to continue our struggle,” she said.

“From what I see, there’s a lot of suppressed anger among Nubians. It has not come to surface yet.”