Friday, July 26, 2013

Egypt Rules Out War With Ethiopia Over Nile River Hydropower Dam - Businessweek

Egypt has no plans to go to war with Ethiopia over the Horn of Africa nation’s construction of a hydropower dam on the Nile River, said Mona Omar, special envoy for Interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour.
Former Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi told supporters last month his government will “defend each drop of Nile water with our blood.” Mursi, overthrown by the army on July 3, had a failed foreign policy and Egypt plans to negotiate with Ethiopia about the dam, Omar told reporters today in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
“We cannot go to war with any African country,” she said. “When you differ in opinion it doesn’t mean you will go to war.”
Ethiopia is building a $4.3 billion, 6,000-megawatt hydropower plant on the Blue Nile River, the main tributary of the Nile River that provides Egypt with most of its water. The dam, to be completed by 2017, has raised concerns in Egypt that it will cut supplies of water allocated by accords put in place more than five decades ago.
The project, known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, is set to be Africa’s biggest hydropower plant when it is built.
To contact the reporter on this story: Fred Ojambo in Kampala at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at

Monday, July 22, 2013

Egypt unhappy about Ethiopia's not responding to meeting call on Nile dispute - WORLD -

Egypt on Saturday expressed deep concerns over Ethiopia's not responding to its previous call for an urgent meeting in Cairo over the two sides' Nile water dispute, which was slated for July 18.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bader Abdel Aaty said "almost one month has passed since ex-Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr's last visit to Ethiopia, in which both parties agreed to hold technical meetings at the level of irrigation ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, to discuss the recommendations of the international experts commission's report."

There is no reply from the Ethiopian government yet about the meeting, said Aaty, who asked Addis Ababa not to waste time to resolve the problem.

Ethiopia started in May the diversion of the course of the Blue Nile, one of the Nile's two basic tributaries, as a preparatory step for constructing its aspired Renaissance Dam. The move has raised worries of Egyptians over their share in the Nile water.

Some experts believe the dam would cause great harm to Egypt, including shortage of Nile water, drying agricultural lands, increasing Nile Delta soil salinity and reducing Egypt's High Dam power generation.

Without completing the technical studies, no side could identify the real influence of establishing the dam over other countries, Aaty said, hope for reaching a consensus for the interest of all parties, including Ethiopia's right in development as well as Egypt's right to preserve its only water source.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ethiopian dam on Nile angers other countries

Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan start Nile talks

Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan are to begin negotiations on recommendations by a technical committee on the Ethiopian Nile dam project, according to a joint statement released by the Egyptian and Ethiopian foreign ministers. 

The foreign and water resources ministers of the three countries are due to start talks on the political and technical aspects of sharing the Nile's waters, based on the findings of the technical committee which comprises members of all three countries as well as international experts. The talks relate to the ongoing crisis over water-sharing, arising from Ethiopia's construction of the $4.2bn Grand Renaissance Dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, about 40 km east of the Sudan border. 

The 6,000-MW dam relies on Ethiopia's plan to divert the course of the Blue Nile, one of the Nile's two main tributaries. The massive project is being financed solely by Ethiopia and is being built by Italian construction firm Salini. The dam remains a source of concern for Egyptians, with fears that the completed project could reduce the volume of Nile water reaching Egypt. Sudan, also downstream, shares Egypt's concerns. 

Egypt has long held veto rights over all upstream water projects, following a 1929 colonial-era agreement with Britain. A subsequent deal in 1959 saw Egypt share its Nile water rights with neighbouring Sudan. That agreement granted Egypt 55.5 billion cubic metres of water, and Sudan 18.5, out of an annual total of 74 billion cubic metres of water. 

However in mid-June Ethiopia ratified a controversial treaty ensuring its access to Nile water resources, allowing upstream countries to implement irrigation and hydropower projects without seeking Egypt's approval first.

Ethiopia has stressed that the dam will not affect Egypt's share of water, and that the dam will be used mainly for energy-generation purposes, and not irrigation which could reduce the flow of water downstream. 

In June Egypt and Ethiopia engaged in heated exchanges following Ethiopia's diversion of the Blue Nile in May in order to construct the new dam, which is currently 20 per cent built. Officials on all sides now agree for the need to move on from a hostile situation and come to a political solution instead.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Egypt's other existential crisis — the Nile - CBC News

Today's Egyptians are facing two overriding crises that threaten their national wellbeing.
The one that is getting all the world headlines involves the domestic unrest over the now former Islamist government; the other is a foreign threat to alter the flow of the country's essential life force, the Nile River.
For millennia, Egypt, which gets very little rainfall, has been totally dependent on the water and the silt of the Nile to survive and feed a now fast-growing population of 85 million.
So critical is this flow of the Nile that any diminution upstream is seen as a threat to the country's very existence. That's why Cairo has long vowed some form of direct military action, if necessary, to stop Ethiopia building a giant hydroelectric dam along the headwaters of the Nile that flows through its northern highlands.
This conflict has now shifted from the theoretical to the practical. Refusing to be cowed, Ethiopia has now started work, with China's help, on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the largest in Africa.
Ethiopia feels it has as much right to the Nile water, and an equal need, to escape its crippling poverty. The dam's future hydroelectric capacity, Ethiopia insists, will allow it to grow economically.
A girl rows her family's fishing boat on the Nile in April 2013. Most of Egypt's population is clustered around the river and its delta, and draw their livelihoods from it in one way or another. A girl rows her family's fishing boat on the Nile in April 2013. Most of Egypt's population is clustered around the river and its delta, and draw their livelihoods from it in one way or another.(Asmaa Waguih / Reuters)
That argument does not appease Egypt one iota. It insists the massive reservoir that will be created will reduce the downstream flow of water to Egypt by a catastrophic 20 per cent. Vast farming regions will be lost; millions will lose already fragile livelihoods.
What's more, Ethiopia's actions, if allowed to succeed, will surely encourage others to follow suit.
The Blue and the White Niles, which meet before flowing to Egypt, cross many other nations as well, all of which are desperate for hydroelectricity and irrigation.

Increasingly strident threats

So serious is the concern that, before the anti-government demonstrations and the Egyptian army's coup earlier this month, it was the Nile conflict that dominated news coverage in Egypt, fed by increasingly strident threats from officials and politicians.
"If we lose one drop, our blood is the alternative," then-president Mohammed Morsi vowed, shortly before his overthrow, a barely veiled threat of war echoed by, among others, the country's foreign minister.
The idea sounds incredible. But not to diplomats in the region who noted in early June a live television broadcast from Morsi's office that inadvertently picked up the president and senior political leaders discussing a possible pre-emptive attack on Ethiopia.
The military alternatives ranged from an Egyptian air attack on the dam construction sites to guerrilla sabotage and even moves to destabilize the Addis Ababa government.
When Ethiopia demanded an explanation of the broadcast, Morsi was unapologetic, vowing that "all options are open."
For its part, Ethiopia appears to doubt that Egypt has the capability to launch a direct attack against its own capable military, especially as the two countries are separated by the vast, harsh terrain of Northern Sudan.
However, Northern Sudan, along with Eritrea to Ethiopia's north, both side with Egypt in this dispute, so the Ethiopian government can't ignore Egypt's ability to at least stir up the kind of guerrilla activity that could dramatically escalate the crisis.

A military diversion?

Taking no chances Ethiopia has just rushed through a 15 per cent increase in its defence budget.
Top, the Nile as it flows through downtown Cairo. Bottom, construction begins on Ethiopia's Great Renaissance Dam near Guba Woreda, about 40 kilometres from the border with Sudan. Top, the Nile as it flows through downtown Cairo. Bottom, construction begins on Ethiopia's Great Renaissance Dam near Guba Woreda, about 40 kilometres from the border with Sudan. (Reuters)
It is also discussing with Russia the purchase of 18 modernized SU-30 jet fighters to further beef up an air force that is regarded as one of the most capable on the continent. (Ethiopian pilots now train South Africa's.)
Most analysts doubt this so-called "river conflict" will lead to actual war. However, we do live in exceptionally unpredictable times as the upheavals across North Africa and the civil war in Syria clearly show.
What is particularly worrisome right now is that the new military-backed government in Cairo may be strongly tempted to use such a dangerous foreign crisis to try to cool off demonstrations at home and unite its deeply divided population.
The pro-army elements in Cairo may well conclude that a period of sabre-rattling over so vital a resource would also allow Egypt's currently hard-pressed military to again parade itself in a "national guardian" role.
Beyond all the political posturing, however, there's no doubt that each side feels itself to be absolutely in the right, with no room to retreat. Either government would be weakened domestically by any hint of surrender.
Egypt appears to feel as deeply about a future decline in Nile water flow as Israel does about Iran getting nuclear weapons. In Egypt, it's seen as an existential threat, non-negotiable.
"This is a red line for Egypt's existence," Hussam Swailam, a prominent Egyptian military analyst has declared. This dam "would threaten us with thirst and death."

Power shift

Apart from outright threats, Egypt has always relied on dubious treaties, dating back to colonial times, to keeps its lion's share of the Nile constant.
A 1929 Nile waters agreement, enforced by Britain gave Egypt up to 90 per cent of the annual flow plus a right to veto upstream dams that threaten that supply.
Although Ethiopia's tributary, the Blue Nile, generates 75 to 80 per cent of the Nile's total annual flow, Ethiopia was never consulted when this agreement was drawn up.
It dismisses the veto as preposterous and unenforceable today.
So do a half-dozen other nearby nations. Uganda's long-serving President Yoweri Museveni recently insisted that the time when Egypt can dictate terms over the Nile is over. "Egypt cannot continue to hurt black Africa and the countries of the tropics of Africa," he declared.
Ethiopia, capable of being heavy-handed itself, is far from blameless in this crisis.
It has generally failed to consult Egypt over its plans and has been brusque in dismissing Cairo's concerns.
In a larger sense, the dispute is compounded by a perceived power shift in the whole region.
Egypt, the long-time kingpin in North and Eastern Africa, and a powerhouse in the Arab world, appears in decline at the very time that Ethiopia, the second largest country in Africa and with an equally large population, is on the rise.
Though still desperately poor, Ethiopia has surprised the world over the past decade with the highest economic growth rate on the continent (close to 10 per cent annually on average for most of the past decade). It has a newly assertive middle class and a strong modernization program in the works.
The dam, which is estimated to cost close to $5 billion, will make Ethiopia a net exporter of electricity in the region, and could potentially power Asian-style industrialization (with a big boost from close friend China).
Diplomats seem to feel the Nile conflict can still be defused if only Ethiopia can reassure Egypt over the water flow by limiting the size of its dam, and perhaps offer up a share of the power to be produced.
So far agreement seems unlikely, and the ongoing threat of chaos in Egypt is not expected to smooth the road to a solution, nor calm the rhetoric on either side.

Monday, July 15, 2013

2000 – British-backed dam threatens ancient lifestyle | Bonus Republic

The British Foreign Office has been severely criticised over plans to back a new dam in Turkey.
A report by the all-party Select Committee on International Development has expressed astonishment that the government is willing to support the £1.25bn Ilusu Dam project.
It is an 18-year-old scheme to flood large parts of the Tigris Valley in south-eastern Turkey to provide hydro-electric power.
But the Conservative chair of the select committee, Bowen Wells, said: “This is going to inundate one of the most sacred and most beautiful places of worship in Kurdish Turkey and exacerbate already bad relationships between the Turkish Government and Kurdish people.”
The medieval town of Hasankayf would be submerged and about 16,000 Kurds would have to be resettled. Some also fear that the diversion of water from neighbouring Syria and Iraq might provoke hostilities in an already volatile region.
Last December Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers suggested that he was in favour of granting export credits for a Balfour Beatty construction contract worth £200m.
The committee argues that the dam contravenes “almost every internationally agreed test” concerning social and environmental impacts.
As such the proposals are in direct contrast with the ethical foreign policy unveiled by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook three years ago.
The new report advises against supporting the dam project but the Department of Trade and Industry will not confirm its decision until the Turkish authorities have met four conditions.
The conditions are: that there should be independently monitored re-settlement plans; the saving of as much archaeology from Hasankayf as possible; control of water flows; and water quality.

Egypt's new FM says Ethiopian dam top priority | Middle East | World Bulletin

Egypt's new FM says Ethiopian dam top priority
Egypt's new FM says Ethiopian dam top priority
Foreign Minister-designate Nabil Fahmi asserted Sunday that the Ethiopian dam issue will top his agenda in the coming period. 

Foreign Minister-designate Nabil Fahmi asserted Sunday that the Ethiopian dam issue will top his agenda in the coming period.
Speaking shortly after accepting the new position, Fahmi said several important files will figure high on his agenda including “restoring Egypt’s regional role and the Ethiopian dam.”
Ethiopia unexpectedly announced in May changing the Blue Nile route as part of Renaissance dam project, which Egypt fears would affect its share of the Nile water.
Fahmi, who served as Egypt’s ambassador to the US between 1999 and 2008, said earlier today that Prime Minister-designate Hazem Biblawi offered him the top diplomat job and he accepted.
Biblawi was asked to form a new government by interim President Adly Mansour, who was sworn in under a roadmap by the powerful army that ousted elected President Mohammad Morsi and suspended the constitution.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Renaissance Dam Over the Water of the Nile

Last week, Africa took another step towards what could become a terribly bloody war. The government of Ethiopia announced its plans to increase defense spending by 15 percent, claiming that the increase matches economic growth. The militarization, however, comes at a time of rising tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia over the water of the Nile.
The origin of the Blue Nile lies in Lake Tana, which sits among the mountains of the Ethiopian Highlands—the so-called Roof of Africa. The Blue Nile descends through the Misraq Gojjam and into the embattled grasslands of southern Sudan, before meeting the White Nile at Khartoum and flowing through the Nubian Desert, Lake Nasser, and Lower Egypt into the Mediterranean Sea. Beyond the crocodiles and impalas, millions of people have, throughout history, lived off the bountiful flood plains of the Nile. However, the river simply cannot sustain development in East Africa.
Due to shocks of famine caused by climate change-induced drought along with land speculation, the entire region has seen widespread revolt. In spite of the revolt, the government of Ethiopia seeking capital investment over popular consent is driving people from house and home throughout the countryside to make room for vast infrastructure projects to become Africa’s number one energy producer. One of these projects is called the Renaissance Dam, which would divert the flow of the Nile in order to provide hydroelectric power and the irrigation necessary to enhance agricultural development in Ethiopia.
The Renaissance Dam would serve the GDP, but not the people of Ethiopia. The dam would provide electricity to Ethiopians while also enabling Ethiopia to sell excess electricity to Egypt and Sudan (a promise that rings tinny in the ears of Egyptians who have always relied on the steady flow of the Nile). At the same time, Ethiopia’s agricultural development calls for greater irrigation as part and parcel to the New Alliance forged between the US, multinational corporations such as Monsanto and Yarra, and several other African countries. The plan may wind up sourcing water for monocrop plantations dedicated strictly to food commodities for export, while also generating a huge amount of electricity.
Still, the government of Ethiopia has held fast against threats from downstream Egypt, which worries that it may lose valuable water to the Renaissance Dam. Relying on accords from the colonial era and beyond (1929, 1959), 90 percent of the Nile’s water is siphoned off for use in Sudan and Egypt. The latter country receives over 90 percent of its water from the Nile. In 2011, however, upstream Nile countries such as Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and Kenya signed a Cooperative Framework Agreement to enfranchise a Nile Commission that will divvy up the water more democratically. Egypt not only refused to sign on to the agreement, but has even threatened war should a drop of water be taken without its consent.
In 2010, a diplomatic cable uncovered by Wikileaks suggested that Egypt intends to put a military base in Darfur, Sudan, so that it can strike Ethiopian dams at will, if need be. Egypt vehemently denied the report, but major Egyptian politicians were caught on tape shortly thereafter discussing the possibility of air strikes and even proxy war using Ethiopian rebels as saboteurs.
Morsi would admit in early June that Egypt did not want war, but “would keep all options open.” He warned, “Our blood will replace any decrease of the flow of the river waters, even a single drop.” Within three weeks, it was Morsi himself who would be replaced. That the Egyptian military remains in power does not necessarily bode well, however.
As minister of water and irrigation Mohamed Nasr El Din Allam explained “The dam would lead to political, economic, and social instability. Millions of people would go hungry. There would be water shortages everywhere. It’s huge.” The major concern is not only that the dam would “regulate” the flow of the Nile, but that the water withheld from the natural stream would evaporate rapidly due to climate change (and may also be utilized for irrigation purposes if Ethiopia’s government so desires).
It was Mubarak’s military that in 2010 had already raised the ire of Ethiopia. Although Sudan has come out in favor of the Renaissance Dam, since it will inhibit siltation from compromising its own dams, Egypt’s bellicosity will likely not subside with Morsi’s decline.
The Nile is a large part of Egyptian nationalism. In 1979, the putatively peaceable Anwar Sadat exclaimed, “We depend upon the Nile 100 percent in our life, so if anyone, at any moment, thinks of depriving us of our life we shall never hesitate to go to war.” Even Boutros Boutros Gahali, as the Egyptian Foreign State Minister, prophesized that “the next war in our region will be over the water of the Nile, not politics.”
The Deputy Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan, joined in the fray in March, declaring that “There are fingers messing with water resources of Sudan and Egypt which are rooted in the mind and body of Ethiopia. They do not forsake an opportunity to harm Arabs without taking advantage of it.” While it is not clear exactly whose fingers the Prince sees messing around with Ethiopia’s water (even the World Bank refuses to finance the dam), the Saudi ambassador to Ethiopia disavowed the Prince’s words, opening up a kind of empty rhetorical space of international hegemony.
On June 12, 2013, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, tried to even out the situation: “Both countries need to use the Nile and I think it is important to just have discussions that are open… not in the context of colonial power, but in context of pan-Africanism and African renaissance.” Yet the notion of sharing the Nile may completely alter the Egyptian water plans, requiring vast bureaucratic adjustments that will prove all but impossible in the interim years between revolution and the brass ring of stability.
According to a Cairo University study written by the Group of Nile Basin, Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam project “in the eyes of the majority of Egyptians amounts to a flagrant assault on all the basic fundamental laws and the international norms.”
Given popular animus against the Renaissance Dam, as well as Ethiopia’s steadfast pursuit of the project, there is worry that the current military government of Egypt will see a fight as a chance to rally a politically tumultuous climate. It is in fact very possible that Eastern Africa is on the brink of war over the same resource that brought life to the first humans—the water of the Nile.