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Egypt's Sisi names general as transport minister after train disaster

Wazir has been the head of the Egyptian military's engineering authority since 2015 [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 March, 2019

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday he would appoint a senior military officer as transport minister after a recent train crash at Cairo's central station killed 22 people.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday he would appoint a senior military officer as transport minister after a recent train crash at Cairo's central station killed 22 people.

Speaking at a military gathering, general-turned-president Sisi said Major General Kamel al-Wazir would be sworn in after the parliamentary recess.

Wazir's selection comes after a backlash from a February 27 crash at Ramses central station, which also wounded more than 40 people, forcing former transport minister Hisham Arafat to resign.

"I'm handing over this (transport) portfolio to one of the best army officers," said Sisi.

Wazir has been the head of the Egyptian military's engineering authority since 2015.

The unit is behind many of the army's mega-projects including a new capital east of Cairo and construction of everything from hospitals to sewage treatment plants.

At press conferences, Sisi often calls upon Wazir informally to give updates on the progress of major infrastructure schemes.

"You have to introduce a new railway network to the Egyptians by June 2020," Sisi told Wazir at the ceremony while also promoting the minister to lieutenant-general.

El-Wazir, who wore his military uniform, pledged to "work around the clock" to revamp not just the railway system but all facilities under his ministry.

Since he took office in 2014, Sisi has appointed military officers to high-ranking positions, including governorships.

He has consistently praised the military's role in delivering national mega-projects in record time such as the expansion of the Suez Canal in August 2015.

The crash triggered rare calls for protest online against the government's record on rail safety.

A day after the crash, a sole demonstrator who held a sign reading "Leave, Sisi" in downtown Cairo was arrested.

The government often blames the rail network's poor maintenance on decades of negligence and a lack of funds.

Last March, Sisi said the government lacks about 250 billion Egyptian pounds ($14 billion) to overhaul the run-down rail system.

Eleven people have been arrested over the recent crash when an unmanned locomotive slammed into a barrier inside Cairo's main Ramses train station, triggering a huge explosion and a fire.

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