Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Egypt uses violence to press Ethiopia over Nile water

ADDIS ABABA: According to Ethiopian government officials, the Egyptian interim government has been pressing officials here in Addis Ababa to stop construction of the Renaissance Dam along the Nile River. It comes as Egypt finds itself in a messy internal conflict that threatens the stability of the country.

“We have been talked to over the past few days by top Egyptian officials who have urged us to stop the dam and they are using the recent clashes in their country as a way of not being seen internationally,” a top diplomat in the foreign ministry told Bikyanews.com on Tuesday.



It comes after months of meandering over water rights along the world’s longest river. Egypt is concerned that the dam project would damage its ability to deliver drinking water to its over 85 million population.

Egypt said that reports concerning a potential attack on Ethiopia are unfounded and wants to work with the East African country to best push forward on Nile River issues. But Ethiopia remains wary.

Getachew Reda, a spokesman for Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, said in June that Egyptian leaders in the past have unsuccessfully tried to destabilize Ethiopia.

Ethiopia weeks ago started diverting the flow of the Nile toward the $4.2 billion hydroelectric plant dubbed the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The project is about 20 percent complete.

“The Renaissance Dam is here to stay. It is advisable for all actors of the political establishment in Egypt to come to terms with this reality,” Getachew said in an interview.

Ethiopia announced last week it had begun the process of diverting the course of the Blue Nile River to continue the construction process of its Renaissance Dam, raising concerns over Egypt’s water supply.

The spokesman of the Ethiopian government, Shimeles Kemal, said on Tuesday that diverting the course of the Blue Nile, one of the Nile River’s two major tributaries, is essential for building the new dam.

“The river will return to its natural course after the completion of the dam’s construction,” Kemal said as reported by the Middle East News Agency.

Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Berhane Gebre-Christos said that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project would not affect Egypt’s share of the Nile water.

“The in-construction dam will be used exclusively for power generation and not for irrigation,” the Ethiopian minister told reporters on the sidelines of the African Union Summit currently taking place in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia announced in 2011 its plan to build the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa on the main stream of the Nile River.

The Renaissance Dam is built along the river that provides Egypt with about 60 percent of its annual 55 million cubic meters of Nile water.

Egypt and Ethiopia are members of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), a partnership among Nile states aimed at sharing the river’s socio-economic benefits and promoting regional security.

Ethiopia has said that the dam project will not affect Egypt’s water resources, said the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign affairs Berhane Gebre Christos on Monday.

“The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project is created to generate electricity and not for agricultural purposes,” the Ethiopian minister told reporters on the sidelines of the African Union Summit currently taking place in Addis Ababa.

“We do not seek to harm Egypt by building this dam, Ethiopia does not claim one bit that it possesses the Nile River alone,” Christos added, stressing that the project will not reduce Egypt’s share of Nile water.

Ethiopia announced in 2011 its plan to build the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa on the main stream of the Nile river. A decision that raised concerns about water supply in Cairo.

It comes on the heels of months of wrangling between the two countries and a Wikileaks report saying Egypt was ready to attack Ethiopia if the dam project went forward.

Government officials here in the Ethiopia capital told Bikyanews.com that they are “confident” that the situation will finally be resolved.

One foreign ministry spokesperson, who was not authorized to speak with the media, said that they hoped “the ongoing discussions between government officials would lead to a finality of the situation and help to build and mend the broken ties between the two countries.”

It is still unclear where the people fall in the ongoing negotiations, with many telling Bikyanews.com that they believe the time is now to end the tension along the border and start to build new economic relations.
http://bikyanews.com