Egypt's cabinet announced on Wednesday that Minister of Interior Mansour al-Essawy would be taking the lead in countering what it called the "unlawful practices" of protesters in Qena Governorate, Upper Egypt.
Citizens in the governorate have been protesting since Friday, objecting to the nomination of a Christian governor, Emad Mikhail, demanding that he be replaced with a Muslim. Protesters had earlier blocked railways between Cairo and Aswan and threatened to prevent the new governor from doing his job, even vowing to cut water and electricity supplies to settlements on the Red Sea coast if their demands were not met.
In the statement, the cabinet said it could not remain silent in the face of the illegal activities of protesters, which represented a threat to public safety, utilities and the economy. The cabinet also stressed that it would adopt all means necessary to restore security and stability and to enforce the law.
"The mandate given to the interior minister will guarantee citizens' security and the regular operation of public utilities," the statement added.
It continued by saying that once daily life had been restored to normal, it would be possible to start an earnest dialogue aimed at achieving the aspirations of citizens within the framework of the law, taking into account the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful protest.
On Tuesday, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) sent Islamic preachers Mohamed Hassan and Safwat Hegazy, along with former parliamentarian Mostafa Bakry, to talk with protesters. Some protesters want a Muslim governor, refusing to be ruled by a Christian, while others are angered by Mikhail's appointment because he was a police major general under the former regime.