Thursday, July 21, 2016

Egypt has Netanyahu mediate in Ethiopian dam crisis

Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in July 2016

Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in July 2016
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will mediate between Egypt and Ethiopia regarding the latter’s dam project which Cairo believes will have a detrimental effect on its economy, Israeli magazine Mida reported yesterday.
His appointment comes following Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri’s visit to Tel Aviv soon after Netanyahu returned from a tour of Africa. Netanyahu will replace former Fatah leader Mohamed Dahlan.
Mida reported that Netanyahu had told Ethiopians to continue in their talks with Egypt and advised them not to harm the north African state’s interests.
Cairo fears the Renaissance Dam will lead to a reduction in its water supply from the Nile, and also reduce the electricity it generates from the Aswan Dam, which will be cut by between 25-40 per cent when the first stage of the project is complete.
Russia had previously suggested Egypt build a nuclear power plant to combat the effects of the dam and ensure it has a sustainable electricity supply.
Construction of the dam is expected to be finalised in 2017.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Egypt may be ‘wasting time’ in GERD talks with Ethiopia: professor - Daily News Egypt

Al-Sisi and Desalegn met in Rwanda for bilateral talks including the controversial GERD issue

Renewed talks between Egypt and Ethiopia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) may be going in the wrong direction, as one professor at Cairo University believes.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi met with Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn on the sidelines of the 27th African Union summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
Presidency spokesperson, Alaa Youssef, said both parties were looking forward to the start of the international consulting desk’s studies regarding the GERD, in order to reach a common ground between Egypt’s concerns over a potential decrease in Nile water share and Ethiopia’s developmental endeavours.
Another tripartite summit is expected to be held soon between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia to discuss the procedures of flooding water in the dam for the first time.
The GERD, of which 70% has been completed, has strained relations between Ethiopia and Egypt since construction began in 2011, with relations reaching their lowest point in 2013.
In early June, Egypt’s foreign ministry said it is finalising the deals with the consulting agencies to assess the impact of the GERD. Last December, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan signed the Khartoum Document, addressing ways to enforce and execute the declaration of principles.
Nader Noor El-Din, water resources professor at Cairo University, warned against the direction in which Egypt is heading in this file.
“Those consulting studies are completely useless,” he told Daily News Egypt. “The studies are expected to take 17 months as an average while the GERD completion is scheduled for October 2017, which is 12 months away from now. The results of these studies are also non-binding.”
Noor El-Din suggested that Egypt should resort to the international court and the United Nations Security Council to prove the potential risks of the construction on Egypt’s access to water. Those risks are inevitable, according to him. “If this potential harm was proven later on, Egypt would not be able to take this legal path,” he said.
More practical actions should be taken, Noor El-Din further noted. “Egypt should start negotiating for its water share, otherwise it will be wasting its rights,” referring to the expedite progress in the GERD construction.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Controlling Nile Waters: Egypt Wants Lion’s Share

By John Agaba
Added 15th July 2016 09:29 AM
“We don’t have any other water resource in Egypt. Egyptians are recycling drainage water several times."
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The regional ministers took a group photo. (Credit: Kennedy Oryema)
ENTEBBE - The meeting of ministers on the council for water affairs from the 11 member states that share the River Nile waters concluded Thursday at Protea Hotel in Entebbe just like it had started, with the Egyptians sticking to their guns and demanding  to have a seal of approval for every mooted project on the Nile.

It had been hoped that following a series of discussions, the Egyptians would duck and let the Cooperative Framework Agreement signed in 2010 dictate proceedings on how the waters can be shared.

But after yet another meeting that involved ministers from all member states except South Sudan, the Egyptians still said the treaty was “unfair” and called for “more dialogue” to accelerate fair use of the Nile waters.
The Second Deputy Prime Minister Kirunda Kivejinja (2nd-R) launching the Nile Basin Initiative Atlas, with Executive Director John Nyaoro (R), Tanzanian Minister of Water and NBI outgoing Chairman Jerson Lwenge (2nd-L) and incoming chairman Sam Cheptoris (L). (Credit: Kennedy Oryema)

Egyptian water minister Mohamed Abdelaty said “we need to understand that Egypt relies on the Nile water for 95% of its water resources” and that “at the same time, Egypt is a desert”.

“We are not against other countries building dams [on the Nile]. But we want to give advice on how best this dam can be constructed to keep the waters’ natural flow,” he said.

“We don’t have any other water resource in Egypt. Egyptians are recycling drainage water several times. So you have to understand our position. If there is no River Nile, there is no Egypt.”

But the Egyptian minister said they are “open minded” and willing to discuss a way forward if member states are willing to be “flexible” and understand where their (Egyptians’) stand comes from.

Entitled the Cooperative Framework Agreement, the 2010 treaty joins countries – Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo – that are seeking what they consider a more equitable share of the river’s waters.

Egypt and Sudan are still mulling over the framework’s provisions. But Sudan seems to be leaning towards the nine (that have already signed), leaving Egypt as the only country opposing the move.

Under the treaty, any of the Nile Basin nations may use the waters of the River Nile without seeking approval from the Egyptians.

In 2015, foreign ministers of Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia had to first sit on a roundtable and reach an agreement on the use of the waters before construction of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam could be okayed.

Uganda’s water and environment minister Sam Cheptoris, who assumed the Nile Basin Initiative chair from his Tanzanian counterpart at the meeting, called for stronger cooperation between the countries to fight climate change as well as degradation.

He said the countries need to “work together” amidst the threat of climate change and to devise means that can sustainably use the Nile without ‘killing’ it.

Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of East African Affairs Kirunda Kivejinja, representing Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, said the ministers have to devise policies that will improve livelihoods of people and eradicate poverty in the communities that share the waters.

“Uganda will continue to adhere to the international law on the use of shared water resources,” he said.

The minister of water and irrigation for Tanzania Eng. Gerson Lwenge, who at the same time was the outgoing chair, expressed concern over increase in water scarcity as years come and go.

The meeting discussed challenges of inadequate funding. It said some member states were not remitting their $137000 contributions in time, calling on them to clear their arrears.

It also discussed the challenge of poverty in the region, saying 10 of the 11 countries still belong to the least developed.

Monday, July 11, 2016

How ominous for Egypt is Israeli PM Netanyahu’s Africa tour? - Al Arabiya English

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inspects a guard of honor at the National Palace during his State visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 7, 2016. (Reuters)
The four-day trip made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to four African countries - Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia - seems like a normal initiative to boost economic ties, but it was not seen as such in Egypt. Netanyahu was accompanied by 80 Israeli business people seeking to invest in Africa, but the trips’ strategic dimension could not be overlooked by the country that is seen as the most impacted by such a step.
Egyptian concerns are triggered by a number of factors, top of which is the fact that all the countries Netanyahu visited are part of the Nile Basin, and Ethiopia’s construction of the Renaissance Dam is expected to gravely affect Egypt’s share of the river’s water.
Journalist Ibrahim al-Shahat says Netanyahu’s visits are “by no means normal.” Shahat links them to the 1976 Entebbe rescue operation, in which Netanyahu’s brother Yoni, then commander of the unit dispatched to free passengers of a hijacked plane, was killed. “Netanyahu chose to start his visit in Entebbe on the 40th anniversary of the operation,” he wrote.
“This incident shaped the relationship between Israel and Africa for decades, and Netanyahu is now there to change this image.” Shahat says at the time, most African countries viewed Israel as a racist state and supported the Palestinian cause. “Egypt, the continent’s leading power at the time [of President Gamal Abdel Nasser], played an important role in emphasizing this image.”

Egyptian ties with Africa

Abdel Nasser “was aware of the vital importance of the Nile Basin, and that is why he strengthened ties with its countries. He also supported African independence movements, which further consolidated Egypt’s position in the continent.”
Shahat says gradual negligence of ties with Africa, starting with President Anwar Sadat and reaching its peak with his successor Hosni Mubarak, paved the way for Israel to seek acceptance in the same countries that had rejected its existence. “Israel is seeking a place in Africa like never before. Netanyahu’s choice of four Nile Basin countries to visit, amongst them Ethiopia, forebodes future leverage at Egypt’s expense.”
Writer and activist Abdel Aal Bahnasi says Netanyahu’s visits mark a crucial step in the “water war” Egypt is about to go through, and blames Cairo for giving Israel the opportunity to step in. “Netanyahu did what no Egyptian leader could do for decades. He received the warmest welcome in Africa and gained ground where Egypt could not,” Bahnasi wrote.
He said Netanyahu took advantage of Cairo’s lack of real effort to secure Egypt’s needs of Nile water. “Disputes over water between Egypt and Nile Basin countries are only a manifestation of the never-ending animosity between Egypt and Israel,” he wrote. “Israel’s initiative to take part in the development of Africa targets first and foremost Egypt’s security and stability.”
Attia Essawi, an expert on African affairs, said. “Ethiopia, where Egypt gets 85 percent of its Nile water, might become even more intransigent in its stance on Egypt’s share following the consolidation of ties with Israel. Also, the agricultural agreements between Israel and the countries Netanyahu visited would lead to the initiation of projects that are likely to affect the amount of Nile water that reaches Egypt.”


Essawi said Netanyahu’s Africa tour could be part of the “dismemberment policy” that Israel uses “to indirectly weaken a country perceived as a threat to its interests.” This policy, he added, is paralleled with the tendency in Africa to forge alliances with countries that can help with aid and development.
“Following Egypt’s gradual detachment from Africa after the death of [Abdel] Nasser and the African leaders he allied with, African countries started looking for alternatives. This is where Israel comes in. Israel doesn’t only offer financial aid, but also technical expertise, military training and intelligence assistance.”
When asked if Israel’s ultimate goal is putting pressure on Egypt to have a share of Nile water, Essawi replied: “According to international laws, the water of any river can’t go to countries outside its basin unless all basin countries approve. Egypt will never approve such a thing. Sudan won’t [either].”
Tarek Fahmi, professor of political science and director of the Israeli Studies Unit at the Regional Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said while Israel could be delivering a message to the Arab world in general, it is delivering a message to Egypt in particular.
“The visit doesn’t mark the beginning of ties between Israel and Nile Basin countries, but rather the beginning of making these ties public. Israel has been preparing for this visit in secret for years,” he said, adding that the strategy adopted by Ethiopia in the Renaissance Dam negotiations with Egypt is designed by Israeli experts. “An Israeli professor named Arnon Soffer led the team of academics and strategists that set this strategy.”


Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit dismissed speculation about the negative impact of Netanyahu’s visit to Africa. “Israel’s main purpose of this visit is to overcome its isolation as a result of its discriminatory practices against Palestinians. Israel wants to market itself as a normal country that is capable of taking part in the development of other countries,” he said.
Abul Gheit found it unlikely that African countries would prioritize their relations with Israel. “Those countries suffered at the hands of colonizing powers and struggled to gain their independence, so they are not likely to side with Israel.”