CAIRO: “Porto of the People” is a new campaign that aims to “embarrass” local councils by exposing the needs of residents in slums and deprived areas, Mohamed Fouad, spokesman of the April 6 Democratic Front, told The Cairo Post Sunday.
The logo resembles that of real estate developer Amer Group’s chain of luxury resorts on the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, such as Porto Sokhna and Porto Marina, and other resorts near gated communities in 6 October City and New Cairo.
“The campaign does not aim to stir a class conflict, but rather send a message that the poor are a priority. Deprived areas are more in need of the government’s attention than areas controlled by businessmen,” Fouad said. “We want to shed light on the problem of sewer overflow, the lack of proper sewage systems, the unavailability of drinking water and trash collection.”
Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 Youth Movement from which Democratic front split off, and its leading member Mohamed Adel, are serving 3-year prison terms for organizing illegal protests per a December court sentence. The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters banned the group’s activities on April 28, 2014. The group—founded in 2008—was accused of defaming the State and espionage.
However, Fouad said the ban has not affected the movement’s activities, as it has always been “quasi-banned” since the era of former President Hosni Mubarak.
“Egypt’s successive governments have only worked under popular pressure, and April 6 offers solutions to the problems it exposes, Fouad said in response to frequent accusations of “destructive criticism” and “damaging Egypt’s reputation.”
“It is accidents, mass death sentences, farcical trials and suppression of freedoms that damage Egypt’s reputation,” Fouad told The Cairo Post in a phone interview.
The first event of the Porto of the People campaign is taking place in Alexandria Sunday, but Fouad was reluctant to state the exact time and location.
“We work in some secrecy, because we want to protect our members and not have them arrested. Anyone working in the streets now gets arrested. We do not announce locations beforehand because the factor of surprise is important for our safety,” Fouad said.
“Before we make any event or activity in a specific area, we study it carefully and also talk to locals there to determine their needs. We do not hide our identity, and respond to their questions about the movement and its goals to counter the media smearing of the movement, and also to maximize safety when we actually make any event there,” he added.
Reports occasionally emerge about “locals” who attack protesters, but activists have expressed their belief that these locals are incited by the police and pro-government media.
“We target the poor, we want to use our movement to be the voice of the poor, and we will make it heard where they want it to be heard,” Fouad said.
The slogan of Porto of the People’s Facebook page is “Ecstatic people, and the people eat from garbage.” Its pink logo, which has stains on it, also reads, “You do the weariness and hard labor, and we do the humiliation and costliness.”
The page has so far posted pictures of piles of trash and drainage water, calling them “piscines” (French for swimming pools), and images of people crowding in line to buy subsidized bread and gas cylinders.
However, it also posted a picture of a smiling woman sprinkling water over vegetables she was selling with the comment, “Porto of the People might really disgust you, but do not forget that we have beautiful things that they don’t have. We have a pure laugh.”
Another picture shows smiling schoolgirls walking over trash, and another a group of laughing women sitting on the ground drinking tea.
Unplanned areas—slums—have accumulated in Egypt over the decades, and because they are illegal, they are deprived of the majority of basic services. The government has announced in the past few months several development projects to modernize these areas.
About 60 percent of Egypt’s residents are living in unplanned areas that were established unlawfully, representing 37.5 percent of the cities’ total urban areas, Minister of Urban Development Laila Iskandar told Al-Arabiya television channel on Aug. 22.
Egypt needs 813 million EGP ($113.7 million) to develop slums, Iskandar said, adding that her ministry’s budget is around 600 million EGP while there are 1,034 slums in Egypt, 57 of which are in Cairo.
On Aug. 26, the European Union Delegation in Egypt called for project proposals to improve select informal areas in Greater Cairo, and the EU offered 10 million euro ($13.1 million) to implement them. The informal areas are in Ain Shams, Ezbet el-Nasr, Warraq and Geziret el-Dahab.