The International Panel of Experts on the Grand Ethiopian Millennium Dam and the Egyptian Media

Zerihun Abebe Yigzaw

Since the past few weeks the Egyptian media such as Ahram Online, daily news Egypt,  or Bikya Masr and other media outlets from other countries such as Al Arabiya have reported some issues in relation to the Nile politics in general. Different issues such as water war, the Hidase Gidib/Dam and the International Panel of Experts (IPoE) assessing the GERD and the CFA are mentioned in one way or another. But what is important to be noted here is some of the writings associated with IPoE and the way the Egyptian media reporting. Most of the reports from Egypt`s news outlets have been stating that they have information about the findings of the IPoE and for them it sounds that the IPoE will report that ‘the Dam in Ethiopia will not resulted in catastrophe and immediate drastic changes but it will recommend measures to be taken.’

Be that as it may, most of the news reports have though one thing in common that they say “the impact of a new Ethiopian megaRenaissance_dam 2 dam had revealed possible concerns of potential negative influence on Egypt’s share of the Nile Water.” And they ones quoted the President and the Minster of Water Resources and Irrigation have said that ‘they do not think the dam in Ethiopia might not harm Egypt`s share of the Nile.’ What must be underlined here is the phrase repeatedly stated as “Egypt`s share.” It must be clear that there is no any share or quota allocated to the Nile Basin states equitably and reasonably. The repeated statements of the Egyptian government as well as the media of this phrase is misleading and is an attempt to push the IPoE and the public as well as the scientific community on the Nile to accept what they have been unfairly claiming “Egypt`s share.”

The IPoE on the Nile Dam which was initially named as the Tripartite Committee is composed of ten experts. Each of the three countries Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan are represented by two experts of their own and another four international experts are in the panel. The IPoE officially commenced its study on 8 March 2012. According to the Terms of Reference, the IPoE on the GERD is reviewing the documents of the design of the Dam to enhance confidence and trust so that the benefits and costs associated the Dam can be studied and to assess the impacts, if any. In other words its work is more of technical and engineering aspect which is studying the benefits and costs associated with the Dam. If there are negative impacts seen then the IPoE will advise for measures. What must be clear is though the IPoE has no the mandate to discuss legal and political issues associated with the dam. In this context, it will never for sure mention the phrase “Egypt`s share” or “Sudan`s share”  in its final report expected end of May, as there is no any share allocated to the Basin states so far. Nevertheless, the Egyptian experts in the IPoE seconded by the Sudanese might have been pushing for this concept to be mentioned in the IPoE final report knowing the legal and political implication it will have. If it do mention the phrase the implication is Ethiopia has accepted that there is something called “Egypt`s share.” But I hope and I think and I am sure the Ethiopian experts and the four international experts in the IPoE will never let happen this in the report. It seems or sounds uncomplicated but the legal implication and the political crises it will create is foreseeable and is vicious. The CFA has divide the Nile Riparian states in to upstream Vs. downstream positions not because of any other reason but mainly because the CFA has no any room for any claimed “current uses and rights” on the Nile.

Hopefully, the IPoE will come up with a comprehensive, agreeable and scientific report. And if things have been going well and in scientific and apolitical manner for sure they will announce that the Hidase Dam will not affect the downstream states. Of course, till the dam is full it will need patience on downstream states and some measures will be taken. And I expect that the IPoE will recommend this. The Dam could be filled with in a short period of time-a year and half for example. But to maintain brotherhood and enhance trust and confidence, Ethiopia will be filling the dam slowly and it will take extended period to four or five years. Such a wise move will be another flavor of trust and enhance cooperation and integration among riparian states. What is always important is the trust and confidence the riparian states have. Then things will be going smoothly.

Though let us ask another side of the story. What if the IPoE report goes against the expectation of Ethiopia? Taking the long hand of Egypt and if apolitical scientific practice is thrown and unpleasant report is aired, what will then happen? The answer is clear Ethiopia will never stop the construction of the dam. It will press ahead and the Dam will be completed. The other question is what will be the reaction of downstream Egypt? This question is open for speculation. Let us leave this to a wait and see situation. But what is clear is though the Egyptians are well aware that Ethiopia is determined to finish the Dam at any cost and the country is capable of doing that, by cook or hook (say it Bond sales, salary contributions, loan on related projects as China recently did or …). IN a recent workshop held in the American University in Cairo under the theme “Egypt and the Nile” Fatma Al Zahraa Abdel Kawi the General Coordinator of Nile Basin Country Affairs and Nile Waters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt raised the same question but stranded in answering it. But from her face and the tone of expression of the words from her, one can understand that she was saying, Ethiopia will finish the dam by any means. Talking about the under construction of the dam she said, the GERD is in a situation where “Egypt will not accept or refuse the status quo.” The truth is that it is not about the status quo of the GERD rather it is about its completion and it must be clear that Ethiopia is determined to finish it. Then what will follow? Open to speculation but COOPERATION is the way out!!!

N.B. There is a more pressing issue that we need to address that the Egyptian media is reporting in recent days as well following the the celebratory African Union summit in Addis where the Ethiopian leaders are misquoted regarding the Nile Dam. In line with this the remarks that the egyptian leaders made including the President and the Minister of Water and Irrigation are important that we should look in to. I will come up with an article soon. The Grand Ethiopian Millennium Dam and the Cooperative Framework Agreement: A View  from Egypt and Ethiopia. stay tuned . 

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