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Cablegate: Aswan: Goe Enlists Loyal Ngos to Cooperate On

DE RUEHEG #2258/01 3411221
R 071221Z DEC 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 002258



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/07/2029

REF: A. CAIRO 1975 B. CAIRO 1531 Classified By: Economic-Political Minister-Counselor Donald A. Blome for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.KEY POINTS -- (C) On November 23 in Aswan, a local Ministry of Social Solidarity official told us that due to scarce resources, the GOE relies on local foreign-funded NGOs to supplement basic social services. -- (SBU) The official said the GOE guides the NGOs to focus on urgent socio-economic needs, such as clean water, sewage management and education. -- (SBU) Several local NGOs told us they work with the GOE on social service projects, and with the NDP on voter registration and election monitoring. -- (SBU) The NDP dominates Aswan, Egypt's southernmost governorate, which has a negligible secular opposition presence. Contacts told us the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is virtually non-existent.

2.(C) Comment: The GOE's relative neglect of remote Aswan, where it faces no significant political challenge, is in sharp contrast to its efforts elsewhere. For example, the GOE is funding services in wealthier Alexandria in advance of the 2010 parliamentary elections, apparently to supplant the MB's traditional strength in a city where the Brotherhood has been popular (ref A). End comment. ---------------------------------------- Aswan Governorate: Geography and Economy ----------------------------------------

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3.(U) The Upper Egyptian Governorate of Aswan's population is about 1 million, half of whom are ethnic Nubians. Aswan stretches from the Sudanese border about 200 miles north to its largest city, Idfo (population 300,000). Aswan City (population 200,000) is an historical tourist destination, and its high dam provides about one-third of Egypt's electricity. The Governorate's economy is based on tourism, the high dam, and agriculture. Contacts described the governorate's population as "very poor," especially outside of Aswan City, but less impoverished than other areas of Upper Egypt. ------------------------- GOE Looking to Local NGOs -------------------------

4.(C) Ahmed Badawi, a Ministry of Social Solidarity official in Aswan Governorate, told us that the GOE has "given local NGOs the lead" on socio-economic projects. Badawi said that the GOE directs local NGOs to focus on the most urgent development needs with foreign funds, as the GOE does not have resources to provide anything more than the most basic services. He appealed for U.S. funding for infrastructure projects and education in the governorate, saying that the ministry and the Aswan Governor could provide information on specific development needs and on which NGOs are best suited to address them. (Note: USAID has worked in Aswan with the Education Ministry on a number of projects, including building schools, training teachers, and providing books for hundreds of school libraries. USAID is also starting a nurses training program in Aswan, working directly with hospitals. AID previously ran sanitation projects in Aswan. End note.) --------------------------------- Loyal NGOs Follow the GOE Program ---------------------------------

5.(SBU) We met separately with about a dozen local NGOs in Idfo who described their work in cooperation with the GOE and NDP. The NGOs noted that they all work on a similar set of socio-economic issues, including sewage, education, child care, healthcare, assisting the disabled, and providing legal aid for divorced women. The NGOs told us that their funding comes from the European Union, European governments such as Switzerland, and international NGOs like CARE.

6.(SBU) The NGOs use the foreign funding to establish and staff schools, child care centers, vocational training centers and the city's one youth club. They work with the Cairo-based quasi-governmental National Council for Women to CAIRO 00002258 002 OF 002 provide legal assistance for divorced women, and they administer micro-loans from the Ministry of Social Solidarity to enable women to start hand-made crafts businesses. The NGOs use foreign grants to collaborate with the GOE on helping households in Idfo and the surrounding villages gain access to sewage facilities and clean water. (Note: The extent of the GOE's current reliance on Aswan NGOs for water and sewage management appears to be unusual. End note.) The NGOs also assist residents to petition the Local Councils for help finding jobs, and refer children to the Health Ministry for treatment.

7.(SBU) Many of these NGOs, which focus on socio-economic issues, told us they have also worked with the NDP to hold party membership elections, verify voter registration lists for the 2005 parliamentary and presidential elections, and monitor the 2005 elections, and the 2008 Local Council contests. These NGOs noted that they plan to verify voter registration lists for the 2010 parliamentary elections, and monitor those contests. --------------------------------------------- --------- Independent NGOs Criticize GOE Socio-Economic Policies --------------------------------------------- ---------

8.(C) Representatives of the XXXXXXXXXXXX criticized the GOE for not having a serious plan to address the governorate's socio-economic problems. They asserted that the governorate's medical facilities are sub-standard, and residents regularly need to seek treatment in Cairo, 300 miles north. They said that the GOE only invests in tourism-related infrastructure. XXXXXXXXXXXX characterized GOE policy as haphazard, noting that after Gamal Mubarak heard complaints from villagers during an August visit to Aswan, workers began installing sewage pipes in that one village, apparently on the Governor's orders. However, she asserted, the GOE has no systematic sewage plan for the governorate. ------------------------ NDP Political Domination ------------------------

9.(C) XXXXXXXXXXXX representatives said that with no political opposition, the NDP divides local council and parliamentary seats among the governorate's Nubians and tribes. They said that although the MB never had deep roots in Aswan due to the strength of local tribes, the GOE almost completely eliminated the MB's presence, along with the separate, violent Islamic groups, in the 1990's. They noted that the secular oppositon's presence in the governorate is negligible, and consists of a few scattered activists. Tueller

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