Egyptians protest power outages and water shortages

August 26, 2010
Government makes empty promises, represses demonstrations

On Aug. 18, over 200 Egyptians blocked a major highway in Fayoum, southern Cairo, with burning tires and barricades to protest daily power outages. The blackouts began in early August at the start of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, when temperatures in Egypt can climb to 100 degrees F and above. The blackouts are especially punishing for Muslim Egyptians without air conditioning during this time of religious observance, which includes doing without water during the daily fast.

Power outages and water shortages are now frequent occurrences throughout the country.

The lack of electricity for 15 days in the village of Bassioun led the residents to file complaints with the electricity minister and the governor of Gharbyia. The residents also threatened to protest in front of the governorate headquarters if the power outage continued.

The lack of cooperation of the government and local authorities to provide such basic supplies as electricity and water provoked the protest. The working people and poor of Egypt have also had to put up with shortages of cooking gas and bread, and monetary inflation. In addition, the two-week blackout has spoiled stored food, greatly impacted bakeries and restaurants, ruined electric equipment and led to increased road accidents. The Mubarak government promised to provide more electricity utilizing the Aswan Dam’s hydroelectric plant. Pres. Mubarak also met with the oil and electricity ministers to discuss the outages.

Meanwhile, protesters have been met by police repression and dispersed. The government has also claimed that it is the people and not the government that is to blame for the shortages of water and electricity.. Government rhetoric has gone so far as to accuse shop owners of wasting electricity by lighting Ramadan decorations and to demand they be unplugged. Commentator Osama Heikal, who writes for Al- Masry El Youm, observed that the government is blaming the people for its own failure to communicate and provide for the people.

The Egyptian government, an ally of the United States and second biggest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel, having adopted neo-liberal economic policies, has failed miserably to meet the needs of the Egyptian people, such as education, jobs, housing, health care and basic necessities. The renewal for an additional two years of the 28-year emergency law that allows the government to arrest activists, opposition leaders and journalists without due process, has also provoked great anger among the Egyptian people.

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