The leader of Egypt’s Second Army Division, Major General Ahmed Wasfi, has pledged that the army will uphold its duty to protect Port Said and called on its residents to step up to the task of securing their own safety, following weeks of on-going violence in the Suez Canal city that has left over fifty civilians dead and hundreds wounded. Port Said has been in a state of emergency since January and police are refusing to deploy to the city after having lost control over the violence.
Wasfi told a press conference over the weekend that he and his men will work to clean up the city and resume judicial procedures. He called on schools and businesses to reopen, urging for a return to normalcy. “Port Said should be an example for the rest of Egypt,” he said.
Violence erupted in January over the sentencing of 21 men to death for their alleged involvement in the tragedy in Port Said’s football stadium that claimed the lives of 74 people in February last year. Strikes, school walk-outs and attacks on government buildings have brought the city to a standstill and rioters have attempted to block the Suez Canal, but the General reminded Port Said’s residents that “the Egyptian people are the source of their own safety and security”.
He stressed that it is up to Port Said’s residents to get the city back on its feet. He encouraged Egyptians to work towards restoring normalcy, stating that Egypt cannot move forward without education, work and productivity.
Crowds erupted into cheers, chanting “the army and the people are one hand” and similar slogans in support of the Egyptian army.
The General said that peaceful protests were welcome and promised to bring protesters’ demands before the Minister of Defence. Wasfi met previously with the families of victims who have been killed in Port Said’s clashes, and he assured that the Ministry has already been working to meet their concerns.