Egypt plans dam-busting diplomatic offensive against Ethiopia (UPI)

February 28th, 2014 Print Print Email Email

Egypt may be in the throes of political turmoil, but the government has begun a diplomatic offensive aimed at stopping Ethiopia from building a huge hydroelectric dam on the Nile River that Cairo says will be a disaster for the Arab world’s most populous nation.

The military-backed administration began its effort to internationalize the thorny issue in hopes of gathering support for its case against Ethiopia, where the Blue Nile rises in the northwestern highlands, after bilateral negotiations deadlocked in January.

“The campaign initiated by Egypt … aims to persuade the international community to reject the dam’s construction because it may lead to further conflict and instability in the region of the Nile Basin,” an Egyptian diplomatic source in Cairo told the Middle East’s al-Monitor website Feb.19.

“More negotiations with Ethiopia only waste time and directly threaten Egypt’s water security,” said the source, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“We realized that Ethiopia doesn’t want genuine solutions to end the crisis, but is only trying to portray Egypt as approving of the dam’s construction to facilitate access to the funding.

“But Ethiopia hasn’t provided genuine guarantees the dam will not affect Egypt and has shown no intention to amend the technical specifications to minimize the potential risks according to the report by the international experts’ committee, which recommended reconsidering the dam’s safety studies.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said Feb. 13 that Addis Ababa will not back down on the $4.8 billion Grand Renaissance Dam, which will be the largest in Africa.

He observed that since there’s no international court specializing in arbitrating water disputes, Cairo had no choice but to negotiate to reach a settlement acceptable to everyone.

Gamal Bayouni, secretary-general of the Egyptian-European partnership at the Ministry of International Cooperation in Cairo, said Egypt now seeks to “target all countries that provide technical assistance for designing and building the Renaissance Dam through private contractors and also the states likely to fund to construction of the dam.”

On Feb. 6, Egypt’s minister of water resources and irrigation, Mohamed Abdul Muttalib, visited Italy, considered to be Ethiopia’s main technical supporter in building the dam.

Italy’s Salini Construction Corp. is building the 6,000-megawatt facility on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile that flows northward through nine African states to the Mediterranean.

The Blue Nile accounts for 85 percent of the Nile’s water flow. It joins the White Nile, whose headwaters lie in the East African highlands in Burundi.

Muttalib, who was accompanied by Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, said after a series of meetings that “the visit has achieved its goal. Italy has understood Egyptian concerns.”

Egyptian sources say Muttalib’s next trip will be to Norway, which is one of the countries funding the dam project.

But it’s not clear at this stage whether Egypt’s diplomatic offensive will be able to secure enough international support to influence Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopians consider the Renaissance Dam and the other dams they plan to build as a symbol of national pride as they will produce electricity that will transform the economic prospects not only for their country but for much of seriously under-developed East Africa as it stands on the cusp of a major oil and gas boom.

For Cairo, maintaining the current flow of Nile water is a matter of national security.

Egypt’s last two presidents, Hosni Mubarak, overthrown Feb. 11, 2011, and Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, ousted by the army July 3, 2013, both made thinly veiled threats to use military force to uphold Egypt’s current access to the waters of the world’s longest river.

The current military regime in Cairo is focused, so far at least, on riding out the domestic political turmoil and restoring stability amid a growing Islamist insurgency.

But it can’t afford to let this issue slide. The Grand Renaissance Dam is to become operational in 2017.

Egypt, with its 84 million people totally dependent in the Nile for water, cites British agreements in 1929 and 1959 that guarantee it the lion’s share of the water and a veto over upstream dam construction.

But Ethiopia, along with Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and five other African states with growing populations and mounting demands on agriculture, dismiss these accords as colonial relics.

  1. Sam
    | #1

    UPI reports “Egypt may be in the throes of political turmoil, but the government has begun a diplomatic offensive aimed at stopping Ethiopia from building a huge hydroelectric dam on the Nile river that Cairo says will be a disaster for the Arab world’s most populous nation.” The diplomatic initiative Egypt is doing by visiting Italy now and later Norway is not “offensive” per se. It is defensive. Egypt says the Agreement signed as British being an arbiter in the colonial time is, and will be, the starting point for any negotiation. To be basing any negotiation which Ethiopia had no any say hardly could be characterized as offensive. As for being a “disaster” for Egypt, it is highly hyped. True, the water flow might be impacted. Not significantly according to the Ethiopian government. The government ambiguous phrase “not significantly” might make nervous Egyptian politicians some argue. But given Sudan’s willingness to not be alarmed by the dam’s construction, the worry might be over hyped. What is true is Egyptian politicians have become to believe as Nile being theirs own only. That is an unacceptable. UPI also reports Egypt being the most “populous” Arab country. That is True. But the adjective “populous” works as well for Ethiopia. The country is the second most “populous” country in Africa. That means Ethiopia has millions of youth as Egypt has whose future to some degree might depend on Nile. Both the Egyptian and Ethiopian governments are averse to democracy. Both might wish to garnish public support in their respective countries to make a political capital out of the stalemate. The soon coming, the general led, Egyptian government might choose to rally Egyptians on this issue to cement acceptance. Ethiopia will have another election soon, and the government might use the issue to capitalize public support. Having known the Ethiopian government’s desire to rule for the next half century, I do not believe the opposition parties will have an equal playing field in the coming election. Despite that fact they should not be wrong on the Nile issue. That will be a political disaster.

  2. LM
    | #2

    It amazes me the efforts of some to keep Ethiopia from developing. They will be quick to tell you this is not true, but won’t offer any viable or realistic alternatives. There is a disdain for black Africans, as if they are some kind of burden, in the mainstream media and among Egyptians, apparently. It feels like Ethiopia is the front line for African development, at least in the East for a great deal of Africans and the Western and Middle Eastern world are coming against it. It seems like intense fear, but I don’t know why in the world they would be afraid of an Ethiopia that prospers. Wouldn’t they welcome it so they won’t have to worry about blacks being a burden to them? Or is it they want blacks to remain poor so they can boost their egos by comparing their civilizations to those of blacks… their economic conditions as well? Or is it that a weak Africa is an Africa easily molded in whatever political direction the West wants, and a place where they can have free reign over their resources?

  3. Asefa
    | #3

    EGYPT BEEN ANTI ETHIOPIA (CANCER) FOR LONG TIME.

    Building the hydro dam on Nile river does not only give the most needed boost to Ethiopias economy, but also will kill Egypts hidden attack on Ehiopia for once. As we all knows the Egypts gov has been financing anti-Ethiopian sentiment and anti Ethiopian unity organizations since 1940′s in order to divide and weaken ETHIOPIA, and to indirectly control the flow of Nile river. Now the time has come to end this Egypts enemity for once and forever by building this great hydro dam project.

  4. BAZ
    | #4

    I AM THE UNSTOPPABLE TYPE..OF DAM AND EGYPT HAS TRIED ALL OF THE ABOVE MENTIONED.

  5. Anonymous
    | #5

    @Asefa

    @LM
    if poeple are shearing nile water
    egypt must shear (swez canal) with countries in the red sea ( eriteria sudan djibouti saoudia……)
    many countries build big dams without any problem with their neighbours
    exemple turkish build dams upstream (syria and irak)
    china build the biggest dam in the word 25000MW upstream india….
    brasil build dams near paragway>
    i think thers no effect on the neighbours because the water will produce electricity then flow

  6. jajjibula
    | #6

    For sure, one very fact thing all Ethiopians know deep and wide is that Egypt rulers and Hiwhat-Askaris, the staunchest twin enemy of the motherland and Ethiopians.

    Ethiopia is the mother of Ethiopians, and Ethiopians are the eternal children of Ethiopia. Ethiopians have always been fighting against the external enemies, such as Egypt and the rest. Hiwhat-Bandas are the remains of Fascist Italians and shall be fought hard and crushed them until they are defeated to their ultimate and eternal death.

    The words of Ethiopians can not be altered or purged; it is everlasting. first, we will beat Hiwhat, then Egypt rulers.

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