CAIRO: Qena residents stormed Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s press conference, held in the glass conference hall on the corniche in Qena, on Tuesday, demanding housing and jobs.
“The people in the conference chanted we want a Muslim [governor] at some point, but they were more occupied with their personal demands for apartments, cars and things of that nature,” lawyer and political activist Walid El-Qadi told DNE.
“The conference was so chaotic and unorganized that it badly portrayed Qena and its people,” El-Qadi added.
A limited number of people initially received invitations from the head of the Security Directorate of Qena permitting them to attend the conference.
The Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution in Qena boycotted the conference and claimed that hundreds of invitations went to former members of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), who hadn’t even participated in Qena’s protests.
“Sharaf should have held a popular conference for all the people of Qena to attend,” member of the coalition Mostafa El-Gaales told DNE.
Sharaf was interrupted by the people and barely gave a 10 minute speech, according to organizers of the event. The army and police forces were responsible for securing the conference.
Organizers told DNE that people banged on the doors of the conference hall, insulted the army and the police and forced themselves in.
“It hurts me to say this, but this conference was like a zoo,” Abdel Baaset Karim, a member of the Coalition for Freedom in Qena, told Daily News Egypt.
“The problem is the people of Qena have suffered 30 years of ignorance,” Karim said. “All the people cared about in this conference was taking pictures with Sharaf and sitting in the front row.”
“The conference was so chaotic, that as an organizer I didn’t know how to contain it,” Karim said.
Sharaf praised the people of Qena and said that he acknowledged the people’s demands and vowed to execute them. However, he didn’t tap on the people’s main demand to sack Governor Emad Shehata Mikhael and appoint a Muslim, civilian governor instead.
The executive secretary of Qena governorate, Maged Abdel Kerim, assigned to handle the governor’s duties for three months, also spoke at the conference, addressing reform and development projects in Qena.
Sharaf had frozen the executive powers of Mikhael for three months early last week, to diffuse tensions in Qena and end a sit-in that lasted 10 days.
Protesters opened all railway lines and ended the sit-in that was held in front of the governorate headquarters, following Sharaf’s decision.
Protesters said they wanted a governor unlike Mikhael’s predecessor, General Magdy Ayoub, who was also Christian and a career police officer. Residents said that Ayoub proved his failure in running the governorate and dealing with sectarian issues.
Sharaf prayed with the residents of Qena in Sidi Abdel Rahim El-Qenawy Mosque and visited the Coptic Orthodox Diocese before his press conference.
Minister of Local Development Mohsin El-Numani, Minister of Housing Fathi ElBaradei and Minister of Social Solidarity Gouda Abdel Khaleq accompanied Sharaf on his visit to Qena.