Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Church mediates Egypt-Ethiopia dispute over Renaissance Dam

In an exclusive interview with Azzaman, Hisham Geneina, head of Egypt’s Central Auditing Organization, denied reports that the Muslim Brotherhood would support him in the presidential elections, and stressed that he was not affiliated with any particular movement and he is not considering running for president.
Hisham Kamal, a member of the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL) and spokesman for the Salafist Call, denied allegations that the alliance intends to support Geneina or any other political figure, because it does not trust in the situation on the scene and is still committed to acting on the basis of legitimacy.

On the news that the Brotherhood might support Geneina in the upcoming presidential elections, Kamal said that these were mere rumors that might have originated from the intelligence services or the Ministry of Interior. He noted that there had been previous attempts to impose conditions on the alliance for a so-called reconciliation. Yet, he said, the alliance has refused to comply with these conditions and would not accept any future reconciliation unless it were based on legitimacy, and was accompanied by the trial of those who killed peaceful demonstrators and the restoration of rights.

Additionally, political activists have started to collect signatures supporting the candidacy of Geneina to the post of president in several provinces. Maj. Gen. Adel al-Qala, head of the Egyptian Arab Socialist Party, described the Brotherhood’s moves in this regard as an attempt to confuse the political scene. On the other hand, sources tied to the campaign of Field Marshal Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi revealed that Sisi would probably accept the invitation of the Orthodox Church to attend the Mass celebrating the Resurrection on April 19, while sources tied to the campaign of Hamdeen Sabahi said he would also accept the invitation of the church to attend these celebrations. Observers in Cairo described that as an attempt by the candidates to win the votes of Copts. Informed sources said Sisi would more likely get the majority of votes of the Copts as a result of his support for the June 30 Revolution. In the same context, a number of political forces called for the adoption of an electoral code of conduct to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.

George Isaac, a political activist, said the climate that currently prevails in the country requires an electoral code of conduct and the enforcement of the law to ensure integrity and impartiality of the elections.

He added that the most prominent article in this code of conduct should be to ban the use of the state’s apparatuses to publicize a candidate at the expense of another. He stressed that every citizen has the right to run in the elections without anyone delving into the details of his personal life. Safwat el-Nahas, secretary-general of the Egyptian Patriotic Movement, said it would be better if all candidates, campaigns and supporters commit to the electoral code of conduct in terms of publicity or any other electoral matter for the benefit of Egypt and for the success of the electoral process. Amr Ali, a member of the Free Egyptians Party, described the idea of ​​the electoral code of conduct as mere ink on paper, given the political atmosphere in the country and the prevailing turmoil, which does not allow its implementation.

He pointed out that the application of the electoral code of conduct would be possible after a high level of political awareness was reached.

On another note, Patriarch Abune Mathias of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church will arrive and spend five days in Cairo late this month, at the invitation of Pope Tawadros II, pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, to visit the Egyptian church, after Mathias was elected head of Ethiopia’s church.

Sources within the church told Azzaman that Tawadros will try to persuade Mathias that the Ethiopian church assume a role in resolving the crisis between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Renaissance Dam, given the historical relations between the two churches. Tawadros will be asking the patriarch for the church to exert pressure on the Ethiopian government to make concessions to preserve the historical relations between the two peoples.

In the same context, a conference titled “The Nile is a Cooperation not a Clash” was held on April 5 by the Arab Healthy Water Association. During the conference, international water-law experts offered an integrated vision of the dangers that would emanate from the Renaissance Dam and the ways to prevent them.

Maghawri Shehata, an international water expert and president of the conference, told Azzaman that the experts taking part in the conference will clarify the reality of the water situation, the water crises and shortages in Egypt’s share of the Nile's waters.

Shehata noted that for the first time, the conference would discuss the report of the tripartite technical committee on the assessment of the environmental and technical impact of the dam on the two downstream countries, and on the danger of Ethiopian plans to build a series of dams on the security of Egypt's water. This issue will be discussed by Mohamed Nasr Allam, former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, in a working paper — which will be submitted to the conference — in a technical and neutral way, so that facts will be clarified without exaggeration or underestimation.

He added that in a study conducted by Mufid Shehab, head of the Egyptian branch of the International Law Association, the conference would present the legal aspects and the chronology of the issue. He will also talk about how Egypt can apply its legal rights to use the waters generated by the Renaissance Dam and to secure its share of water in general, according to the documents, conventions and treaties that Egypt has signed, and under the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses.

He noted that the conference would be discussing a study on the political dimensions of Egypt’s water security within the framework of Egypt's water policy in the Horn of Africa. The study will be presented by Mohammad Salman Taya, a professor in the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University.

He added that the conference aims at finding solutions to ensure a win-win situation — namely to ensure Ethiopia has the power and Egypt the water — by developing a map that would allow the upstream and downstream countries to reap the benefits of the Renaissance Dam. He pointed out that the conference will prepare a report that consists of the suggested solutions to the crisis of the Renaissance Dam and will submit it to the relevant authorities and institutions, most notably the presidential and governmental institutions.

On the other hand, the statements on the Renaissance Dam issue and water crisis, which were made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Fahmy and the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohammed Abdel Matlab, have sparked angry reactions. National and political forces have demanded that the minister of foreign affairs stop making statements such as the one in which he revealed that Egypt was ready to take part in the financing of the Renaissance Dam. Nader Noureddin, a professor of water resources and agricultural land at the University of Cairo, described the statements made by Fahmy that Egypt offered to finance the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as catastrophic. Noureddin said that Fahmy’s statements are dangerous and wrong, and his remarks are incomplete and unclear. They may be exploited in a bad way by Ethiopia, since Ethiopia has refused Egyptian participation in financing construction of the dam, which has a 14 billion cubic-meter capacity and other specifications that guarantee the sharing of Nile water by Egypt and Sudan.

In the meantime, political forces condemned the statements of Matlab in which he said that the water reserve in the Aswan Dam will serve Egypt for two more years. They stressed that these statements would harm Egypt's negotiating position. Sovereign sources revealed that high-level parties have asked Matlab to stop making such statements without first referring to the intelligence services or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which are currently managing the Renaissance Dam file.