Military responsibility in democratic governance expanding under El-Sisi

Following a train crash that left more than 20 dead at Cairo’s main station in February and led to the resignation of Egypt’s transport minister, President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has appointed military General Kamel al-Wazir as the new Minister of Transport minister.

The House of Representatives members approved the nomination of Kamel al-Wazir as Minister of Transportation during Sunday’s plenary session, March 10, plenary session. He succeeds Hesham Arafat who resigned in the aftermath of the Cairo Railway Station accident.

Wazir serves as head of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority; one of the Egyptian Ministry of Defense agencies tasked with the removal of the effects of disasters, floods, earthquakes, bombs and booby traps among others.

The previous minister, Hisham Arafat, stepped down immediately after the February 27 crash that saw a train smash through station buffers and burst into flames, killing at least 22 and injuring dozens. During a seminar organised by the armed forces to celebrate martyrs’ day, El-Sisi stated that “When the accident happened, we said the person who will take over the ministry is Kamel al-Wazir.” Wazir was also promoted to Lieutenant General from Major General.

Sisi went ahead to tell 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,” the president said.

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. Even analysts say the appointment of a military general is part of a broader plan 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.

According to Arab news, Timothy Kaldas, a non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy stated that the trend of military expansion is “rooted in the claim that the military is uniquely capable of delivering results, Justifying the military’s expanding control over state institutions and participation in the economy as its businesses and enterprises continue to grow and diversify.”

Wazir thanked a lot of people for his appointment while pledging to revamp all transportation facilities in Egypt. He also called on the employees of the Railway Authority to improve themselves. “I thank our Armed Forces, our great army, its chief, General Mohamed Zaki, the General Commander of the Armed Forces and the Minister of Defense and Military Production, and Lieutenant General Mohamed Farid, the chief of staff, who is my elder brother and friend. I thank all my colleagues, commanders, officers, and soldiers, at the Armed Forces Engineering Authority,” Wazir added.