From AU festivity to dam quagmire

The Ethiopian Reporter has published an article relating to the GERD politics and the developments since the AU celebratory summit. A very interesting article indeed. But this blogger is to correct a minor endorsement but big in the last paragraph. The paragraph reads as follows:  “Still, Ethiopian officials are laminating the fact that the GRED will not cut into Egypt’s share of Nile water. This was said by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Berhane Gebre-Christos on the eve of the announcement of the diversion. Speaking to reporters at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa Berhane said that the dam will be used exclusively for power generation and not for irrigation.” However, it should be underlined that we need to be careful of the phrases we use. The first sentence “Still, Ethiopian officials are laminating the fact that the GRED will not cut into Egypt’s share of Nile water” has a problem as it recognizes there is something called Egypt`s share. Rather the right way of expression could be the construction of the GERD will not adversely affect downstream states both Egypt and Sudan. State Minister Berhane Gebrekirstos is misquoted as i stated in criticizing the Egyptian Media on the issue. 

01 JUNE 2013 WRITTEN BY  

Lat week, Addis Ababa was busy hosting guests who came here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity/African Union (OAU/AU).

In the 1970s, after assuming power, Colonel Mengistu Haile-Mariam’s Marxist regime invited experts from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to begin studying the feasibility of damming the Nile’s tributaries and exploiting their waters. This provoked Egypt into threatening that any dams built would be destroyed by military force.

So, in 1979, Egypt’s then president, the late Anwar Sadat, made the Nile’s fate into an imperative issue of national security. “The only matter that could take Egypt to war again is water,” he said in reference to Ethiopia’s plans to tap into its most valued natural asset.

“Although such threats gave rise to the commonly held notion that future African wars would be over water, the fact is that these tensions were a spin-off of the Cold War,” Rushdie Saeed, one of Egypt’s most prominent experts on water issues, argues.

According to historical accounts, ancient Ethiopian kings and emperors had threatened to divert the flow of the Blue Nile whenever there were misunderstandings with Egypt. Centuries later the Ethiopian government has done what the forefathers have only threatened to do. And on Tuesday, during the celebration of the 22nd anniversary of the downfall of the Derg regime, the Ethiopian government announced that the diversion of the Blue Nile has officially commenced.

The move, from the get-go, was considered to be an incubus by the Egyptians. However, Ethiopia seems to be determined to construct Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam, which is expected to generate 6000 MW of power, on the world’s longest river. The Egyptians are worried that the dam will affect flows of water to the Nile-dependent north African country. This has eventually sparked outrage, anger and fear in Egypt.

Egypt in the past has threatened to go to war over its “historic rights” to the Nile River water citing the 1929 and 1959 colonial agreements but diplomats from both countries this week played down the potential for conflict.

“A military solution for the Nile River crisis is ruled out,” Egypt’s irrigation and water resources minister, Mohammed Baheddin, said on Thursday amid reports recalling the threats of war from Egypt’s two previous leaders, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak.

Ethiopia’s decision challenges a colonial-era agreement that had given the two downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan, rights to the Nile water, with Egypt taking 55.5 billion cubic meters and Sudan 18.5 billion cubic meters of 84 billion cubic meters, with 10 billion lost to evaporation. That agreement, first signed in 1929, took no account of the eight other nations along the 6,700-kilometer (4,160-mile) river and its basin, which have been agitating for a decade for a more equitable accord.

Talking to the Associated Press, Mohammed Abdel-Qader, governor of Egypt’s Gharbiya province in the Nile Delta, warned the dam spells “disaster” and is a national security issue for the North African nation.

“Taking Egypt’s share of water is totally rejected … The Nile means everything to Egypt,” Abdel-Qader said.

At a ceremony marking the diversion of the Nile, Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen said Ethiopia could export cheap electricity from the dam to Egypt and Sudan. He insisted the dam would not affect the flow of water to Egypt.

However, the remarks of Demeke did little to ease Egypt’s ire. After the announcement of the diversion, according to the leading Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram, Egypt’s foreign ministry on Wednesday summoned Ethiopian Ambassador Mahmoud Driir to express its displeasure with Ethiopia’s construction of a major dam on the Blue Nile.

The head of the ministry’s African affairs committee, Ambassador Ali Hefny, along with other diplomats, met with Driir Wednesday to convey Egypt’s unhappiness with the move, Al-Ahram wrote.

Egyptian diplomats further criticized Ethiopia for going ahead with the project without taking into account the recommendations of a technical committee – tasked with studying the issue – consisting of ten specialists, including representatives of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

The anger did not stop there. Opposition figure Hamdeen Sabbahi says Egypt could use the Suez Canal as bait and block the canal to ships from countries that help Ethiopia build controversial dam on the Blue Nile in the event that the dam threatens Egypt’s supply of Nile water.

The opposition leader told the Egyptian daily, Al Ahram: “The state is capable of holding talks with the countries financing Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam project, especially China and Italy.”

He went on to assert that Egypt was capable of prohibiting ships from those countries from transiting the Suez Canal “until they stop harming Egypt’s interests.”

He also said that Ethiopia’s decision to go ahead with the project – only days after President Mohamed Morsi’s state visit to the country to attend the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU– was “extremely humiliating to Egyptians.”

Eventually, President Mohammed Morsi convened a meeting of high-level ministers on Thursday, to discuss Egyptian steps in response to Ethiopia’s latest move.

Still, Ethiopian officials are laminating the fact that the GRED will not cut into Egypt’s share of Nile water. This was said by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Berhane Gebre-Christos on the eve of the announcement of the diversion. Speaking to reporters at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa Berhane said that the dam will be used exclusively for power generation and not for irrigation.

Available at:   http://www.thereporterethiopia.com/index.php/news-headlines/item/551-from-au-festivity-to-dam-quagmire

 

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