Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Gulf tension: Are Egypt and Sudan about to go to war? | Middle East Eye

Gulf tension: Are Egypt and Sudan about to go to war?

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Cairo and Khartoum have allied themselves with opposing power blocs, building on inherent tension between the neighbouring countries
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir visits Bilal in the war-torn Darfur region on 22 September 2017 (Reuters)
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KHARTOUM - Tension between Egypt and Sudan has increased this week amid military build-ups on their borders and fears that the crisis in the Gulf has now spread to eastern Africa.
Turkish media reported on 4 January that Egyptian forces have arrived in Eritrea, which borders eastern Sudan, with backing from the UAE and opposition groups from the region.
That same day, Sudan recalled its ambassador from Cairo, then two days later declared a state of emergency in Kassala state, which neighbours Eritrea, and shut the border without explanation. Eyewitnesses in Kassala have since said that large numbers of troops have passed through, heading towards the border area.
During the past year Sudan and Egypt, which have a long-standing emnity, have increasingly allied themselves with opposing Middle Eastern power blocs
Ahmed Abu Zeid, Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman, said Cairo was "comprehensively assessing the situation with a view to making the appropriate response".
The increase in tension comes just weeks after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Khartoum, the first visit by a Turkish leader since the Ottoman Empire withdrew from Sudan in 1885. Sudan and Turkey signed 13 agreements during the December visit, including military accords.
Cairo didn't officially comment on Erdogan’s visit, but pro-government media have accused it as being a conspiracy against Egyptian national security. Khartoum in turn has denied the Egyptian accusations and says that Cairo has no right to interfere in Sudanese issues.
During the past year Sudan and Egypt, which have a long-standing emnity, have increasingly allied themselves with opposing Middle Eastern power blocs. Egypt has the backing of Saudi Arabia and UAE, the key advocates of a months-long blockade against Qatar. Sudan meanwhile has allied itself with Qatar and Turkey, which has a military base in the Gulf kingdom.
This is not the first time the two countries have fallen out.

Reason 1: Disputed borders

Aside from Eritrea, two other territorial disputes have strained Sudanese-Egyptian relations during the past half century.
The province of Darfur, in western Sudan, has been riddled by war for the past two decades, with up to 300,000 dead and at least 2.7 million displaced.
In May last year, President Omar al-Bashir said: "The Sudanese army has captured several Egyptian armoured vehicles in recent fighting in Darfur.” He has also previously accusedEgyptian intelligence services of supporting opposition figures fighting his troops in the conflict zones of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
Member of the Sudan Liberation Army (Abdul Wahid faction) in North Darfur in May 2012 (UNAMID)
However, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi dismissed the accusations and said Cairo was not playing a role in Darfur. Rebel leaders have also rejected Bashir's comments.
Then there is the Halaib Triangle to the north of Sudan, run in effect by Egypt for the past two decades and which Cairo says is Egyptian territory. The region, rich in minerals and oil, has been disputed by Egypt and Sudan since the latter became independent in 1956.
Cairo has increased its military presence in the area since 1996, despite Khartoum's repeated complaints to the UN Security Council and calls for the dispute to be solved through arbitration.
In January 2016, Sudan put its forces on standby on the border with Egypt, the first time it has done so in 60 years, saying that Egypt's military was "provoking" the Sudanese army in the disputed area.

Reason 2: Deals with Turkey

Khartoum has been diplomatically and economically impoverished during the past decade. The country is still subject to international sanctions as a result of the conflict in Darfur, while Bashir is still wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes of genocide. South Sudan took three-quarters of the country's oil revenue when it became independent in 2011.
Small wonder then that Sudan has sought international alliances where it can. During his visit, Erdogan said that the two countries aimed to boost two-way trade from $500mn a year to $1bn in an initial stage and then to $10bn.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) is embraced by President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir during an official welcoming ceremony at Khartoum international airport on 24 December (AFP)
Turkey, meanwhile, wants to boost its influence in the region, not least near international trade routes that pass through the Suez Canal to the north and the Gulf to the east.
Ankara has been active militarily in Somalia since 2009, when it joined the multinational counter-piracy task force off the Somali coast.
In September 2017, Turkey opened its largest overseas military base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. It reportedly cost $50mn and will train 10,000 Somali troops, according to Turkish and Somali officials.
Ahmet Kavas, a former Turkish ambassador to the republic of Chad and an adviser to the prime minister on African affairs, told Middle East Eye that Turkey's presence in Africa made more sense than that of any other country.
"If you were to think of any one country that should be present in Africa, that country would be Turkey," said Kavas. "The anomaly was the 20th century, when we were largely absent from the continent and the western Europeans stepped in."
Two of the deals signed during Erdogan's visit drew particular drew sharp attention from Cairo.
The first leases Sudan's Red Sea island of Suakin to Turkey for 99 years. Over the centuries the island has been a commercial crossroads between Africa, Europe and the Gulf, as well as a gateway heading to the Arabian peninsula for Hajj. Historically, it is home to several ancient sites, dating back to when the Ottoman Empire colonised Sudan in the 18th century.
Turkey has said that parts of the island will be restored by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency and the ministry of culture and tourism.
But Asma Al-Hussieni, editor in chief of the Egyptian daily state newspaper Al-Ahram Egyptian, said in early January that Khartoum and Turkey have secretly agreed to establish a military base on the island, threatening the shipping lanes of the Red Sea.
The second deal allows Turkey to have an enhanced presence in Sudan's territorial waters across police, security, military and defence ministries, ostensibly to protect Sudanese naval ships as well as to fight terrorism.
Sudanese security expert and retired general Alabas Alamin said that Turkey's increased presence in the Red Sea is a "breakthrough for Turkish ambitions, which worries the Arab countries aligned with Saudi Arabia, especially Egypt".
There have been complaints about the deals from within Sudan. Abdallah Musa is a leading member of the Beja congress party, which represented a former rebel movement in eastern Sudan that signed a peace deal with the government in 2006.
Reports suggest Khartoum and Turkey have secretly agreed to establish a military base on the island of Suakin (Bertramz wiki commons)
He said the move is "a violation of the Sudanese sovereignty that will put Sudan in a critical situation amid regional conflicts" and that Egypt and Gulf states could be blackmailed if the waters were closed, disrupting oil routes to international markets.
However, the Turkish ambassador to Sudan, Irfan Neziroglu, denied Turkey would become involved in international affairs on Sudanese territories. "Turkey and Sudan have nothing to hide over the Red Sea or Suakin island," he told MEE. "What we announced openly is what will happen in the Red Sea."

Reason 3: Gulf alliances

The Gulf crisis which began in summer 2016 saw the Middle East divided between a power bloc opposed to Qatar which included Saudi, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt, and supporters of Doha, which include Turkey and Iran.
Emad Hussien, editor in chief of Sudan's Alshorooq newspaper, said: "Khartoum is clearly pragmatic and opportunistic as it jumps from one camp to another without any strategic goals other than to break the isolation of the regime."
Alhaj Warag, a political analyst and editor-in-chief of Turkey's Hurriyat online, said on Egyptian TV that Turkish ambitions have pushed Khartoum to build its current partnership with Ankara -  but that this could put Sudan in a difficult position.
Sudan, Warag observed, had shifted from alliances with Iran to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen to Turkey and Qatar. "Playing the regional axis to draw some benefits will end up having a serious effect on Sudan."
Musa warned that Sudan risked becoming the next Yemen. There, three years of war between sides backed by rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran have ripped the country asunder.
"To solve its economic crisis, Khartoum is putting the entire country in the middle of the regional polarisation," Musa said, "but that will lead to serious consequences."

Reason 4: Africa's biggest dam

Egypt is deeply worried about the impact on its water supply of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, now being built near the border between Ethiopia and Sudan and set to be the largest on the continent.
Addis Ababa hopes the $5bn project will lift a large segment of its more than 80 million people out of poverty as well as allow it to sell on the energy produced and boost the economy.
Workers build the Grand Renaissance Dam near the Sudanese-Ethiopian border in March 2015 (AFP)
But in Egypt, where around 90 percent of the population live on or near the banks of the Nile, there are fears that there will be less water for irrigating crops. Cairo is also concerned that Sudan, through which the Nile flows, will side with Ethiopia in talks over the dam.
In December, Ethiopian media reported that Egypt wanted to exclude Sudan from the talks and invite the World Bank to arbitrate.
The Egyptian foreign ministry has denied the suggestion, stressing that Sudan is part of the talks that can't be excluded.
But a Sudanese diplomat, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorised to the talk to the media, told MEE the report was correct, adding: "The Egyptian stance regarding the dam is regrettable. Such moves from Egypt are unacceptable as they will only lead to more complications during the talks over the dam rather than solving the disputes."

Reason 5: The Muslim Brotherhood

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power after he drove his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, from office in July 2013. Morsi was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now banned in Egypt and whose members have been subject to unfair trials and torture, according to human rights groups.
Mohamed Morsi, former Egyptian president and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, is currently in prison (AFP)
In contrast, Sudan's Bashir rose to power in 1989 amid a military coup backed by the brotherhood and its leader, Hassan Alturabi, whom the current president later ousted when the organisation split in 1999.
Egyptian pro-government media have repeatedly accused Sudan of harbouring Egyptian members of the brotherhood, an accusation which has been denied by the Sudanese authorities.
Under the title of "Al-Bashir and the political suicide" Emad Adib, a columnist for Al-Watan, daily Egyptian newspaper wrote that "Sudan is conspiring with Turkey and Qatar against Egypt".
Turkey has been supportive of the brotherhood: in February 2017, Erdogan said he did not consider it "an armed group, but is in actual fact an ideological organisation" and that if they had been associated with terrorism then they would have been driven from Turkey.
Hassan Ali, a political science professor at Alazhari University, believes the tension over the brotherhood is a sign of the ideological divide between Khartoum's Islamist government and the leadership in Egypt, which is increasingly having to deal with militant attacks in Sinai.
"These ideological differences are the main cause of tension between the two sides. The remaining issues including Halaib, the Ethiopian dam, and others are pending issues that been used as cards by the two sides to put pressure on each other."

So will there be war?

Yet despite the disagreements over dams and brotherhoods, islands and power blocs, experts believe it is in neither country's interest to engage in war.
Abdul Moniem Abu Idriss, a Sudanese political analyst, believes that the current tension is unlikely to descend from diplomatic and media spats into open military conflict.
Both countries, he said, are suffering deep economic crises, which will curtail their ability to fight or engage in escalation.
"Since 2011, these two neighbours have been suffering economic deterioration. Sudan has lost has the majority of its oil revenues since the separation of South Sudan in that year.
The two dictatorships in these two countries actually want to draw the attention of the people away from their domestic crises
- Alhaj Hamad, Sudanese Centre for Social and Human Development
"Meanwhile Egypt's tourism, which is a vital sector for the Egyptian economy, has been hit by the continuous terror attacks."
Egypt also goes to the polls in March – and a wave of nationalist fervour, sparked by relations with Sudan, might strengthen the hand of Sisi with his previous background as defence minister, commander-in-chief of the armed forces and director of military intelligence.
Idriss also believes that each side is "attempting to create an imaginary enemy to draw the attention of the two nations from their realistic and daily life needs that they failed to provide".
"Even the Egyptian military presence in Sudan, especially in Halaib, is old and dates back to 1996, so I don't think that there is something new in this regard," he added.
And despite Turkey's pledges to back Khartoum in any Egyptian attack on the Red Sea coast, both sides are too fatigued for war.
Alhaj Hamad, director of the Sudanese Centre for Social and Human Development, said: "The two dictatorships in these two countries actually want to draw the attention of the people away from their domestic crises."
He said that neither side could afford even the pretence of engaging in open war. "I don't think that they will go further. This current situation is best called the balance of weaknesses."

Sudan threatens further escalatory actions against Egypt: ambassador - Sudan Tribune

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January 13, 2018 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s Ambassador to Egypt Abdel-Mahmoud Abdel-Halim said his country would take further escalatory actions against Egypt within days.

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Ambassador Abdel-Mahmood Abdel Halim
On 4 January Sudan summoned its ambassador to Egypt for consultation, hours after the head of the Sudanese Border Technical Committee, Abdallah Al-Sadiq, accused Egypt of trying to drag Sudan into a direct military confrontation.

Speaking to journalists on Friday night, Abdel-Halim said his summoning was a step in a series of moves that could include “withdrawing of ambassador or expulsion of other country’s ambassador or breaking off the relationship and declaring war”.

He pointed out that Sudan has taken the first step in the diplomatic battle with Egypt and didn’t yet resort to other options.

However, Abdel-Halim did not explain the reasons for the Sudanese escalation towards Egypt, but only expressed hope the two countries could overcome the current challenges.

“In every challenge there lies opportunity and we want to take advantage of this opportunity to put our relationship with Egypt on the right path through resolving the outstanding issues which prompted my summoning,” he said

The Sudanese diplomat warned that his country could take further escalatory moves, saying important developments will occur in the next few days in this regard.

New tensions have erupted between Sudan and Egypt following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Khartoum in late December.

Last week, Sudan closed its border with Eritrea after the deployment of thousands of troops from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) fighters to Kassala State.

On Thursday, Sudan admitted that the deployment of troops along the Eritrean border came as result of military threats from Eritrea and Egypt against the country.

CALL FOR MILITARY MOBILIZATION

Meanwhile, the governor of Khartoum State and head of the National Congress Party (NCP) in the capital has underscored readiness of the army, security, and the RSF to counter any kind of aggression against the country.

Hussein, who spoke before the meeting of the NCP’s Shura Council, called on the members of the ruling party to get ready “to wear the Khaki (army uniform) and go to the battlefield in defence of Sudan’s dignity and the dignity of its people”.

However, Hussein didn’t elaborate on the nature of the military aggression.

He said the summoning of Sudan’s ambassador to Egypt was meant to underline Sudan’s keenness to maintain the fraternal relations between the two countries on the bases of mutual respect.

Hussein also demanded to stop the hostile Egyptian media campaign against Sudan led by some who hold hidden agenda to hurt bilateral relations.

Sudan amb. remarks against Egypt out of context: Khartoum - Egypt Today

Foreign Minister of Sudan Ibrahim Ghandour- Egypt Today/Asmaa Abdel-LatifForeign Minister of Sudan Ibrahim Ghandour- Egypt Today/Asmaa Abdel-Latif

Sudan amb. remarks against Egypt out of context: Khartoum



Sun, Jan. 14, 2018
CAIRO - 14 January 2018: Sudan has denied media reports that its ambassador to Cairo Abdel Mahmoud Abdel Halim said Khartoum would “escalate” the situation against Egypt, a few days after being summoned to his country for consultation.



“The Sudanese Foreign Ministry has totally denied any remarks were given by its ambassador to Egypt…The ambassador was attending a social event and he talked about the (diplomatic) meaning of summoning an ambassador,” the Sudanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.



“Sudan is keen on achieving stability and peace in both countries,” the statement added, noting that the ambassador was quoted out of context.



Russia Today reported on Saturday that Abdel Halim told Sudanese reporters that Khartoum “has taken tougher steps against Cairo and new development will take place in the coming few days and will be more violent.”



“We are at the beginning of our diplomatic process, which starts with summoning the ambassador for consultation and then withdrawing the ambassador…and third, dismissing the ambassador of the concerned country. Fourth, boycotting the diplomatic ties and fifth, declaring the war,” stated an Egyptian government official.



On January 4, Abdel-Halim was withdrawn for consultation, according to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, which replied that Cairo was evaluating the situation in order to act accordingly.



Two days ago, Ibrahim Mahmoud, the assistant to the Sudanese President, said that his country “faces (potential) military threats” from Egypt and Eritrea after claiming that there have been “military movements from Cairo and Asmara along the Sudanese eastern borders,” BBC reported. However, Eritrea has totally denied any Egyptian military movements, saying such remarks are “groundless.”



In a phone call to Sabahak Masry talk show on MBC channel on Monday, Egyptian ambassador to Eritrea Yasser Hashem stated that Egypt has no military bases in Eritrea or any other country.



Sudan claims that it has sovereignty over Halaib and Shalateen triangle, which is located inside Egyptian territories. Halaib and Shalateen, or the Halaib Triangle, is an area of land measuring 20,580 square kilometers, located on the Egyptian-Sudanese border on the Red Sea coast. It is part of the Red Sea governorate and consists of three major towns.



The area belongs to Egypt politically and administratively, but has been one of the major sticking points in Egyptian-Sudanese relations since the demarcation of borders between the two countries carried out during the British occupation of Egypt in 1899, at a time when Sudan was part of the Egyptian Kingdom.



Recently, the bilateral relation tensed concerning the controversial Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Sudanese media claimed that Egypt has sought to exclude Sudan from the tripartite talks with Ethiopia. On January 8, Foreign Minister Shoukry stressed that Egypt did not ask Ethiopia to exclude Sudan from negotiations.



Egypt has voiced its concern over Ethiopia’s dam construction, as it would affect Egypt’s 55 billion cubic meter share of the Nile water. However, Addis Ababa sees the dam is necessary for its development and would not negatively affect the downstream countries (Egypt and Sudan).

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Damming the Nile – Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia battle it out JP



By NEVILLE TELLER

The three nations are locked in a dispute about the vast dam being constructed across the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, the source of 85% of Egypt’s water.  

                          

            That Egypt’s economic well-being is dependent on the Nile has been a geopolitical fact of life since ancient times.  Fly over the country, and Egypt’s dependence on the river is starkly illustrated.  Amid vast deserts, the river and its cultivated banks appear as a narrow green ribbon snaking its way to the north, where it widens into a delta before reaching the Mediterranean. The vast majority of Egypt’s 94 million people live adjacent to this fertile belt, along which its main cities from Aswan to Cairo to Alexandria cluster.  The lower Nile valley and the delta together comprise about 3.5 percent of Egypt’s total area.  The remaining 96.5 percent is mostly desert.
          The Nile that enters Egypt is fed from two sources.  The White Nile, flowing through Sudan, supplies Egypt with 15 percent of its water; the Blue Nile, emanating from Ethiopia, provides 85 percent.
          During the colonial era the fact that one of the the Nile’s main tributaries rises in Lake Victoria, which lies in Tanzania and Uganda, and runs through what are now eleven African countries before discharging into the Mediterranean, held little significance.  Scant consideration was given by colonial rulers to the needs or the rights of the African hinterland. Given the priorities of the time, it is scarcely surprising that a 1929 treaty with Britain provided Egypt with a virtual monopoly over the Nile waters with veto rights over all upstream projects. In 1959, under the provisions of this treaty, Egypt signed a deal with Sudan which guaranteed the two countries use of 90 percent of the Nile waters.
          But the world was changing fast. The eight other nations that shared the Nile basin at that time viewed Egypt’s historic dominance of the Nile as increasingly untenable.  Egypt’s upstream neighbours were all undergoing rapid socio-economic development, and these emerging regional powers began to challenge Egypt’s control of what each regarded as its river.
          The affected countries eventually got together, and in the 1999 Nile Basin Initiative put forward a proposal to “achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile basin water resources.”
          Ten years of negotiations followed.  Finally in 2010, six Nile Basin countries signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA):  Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi.  They were joined in June 2012 by the newly-created South Sudan.  The CFA was meant to replace the 1929 colonial agreement that gave Egypt absolute rights over all the waters of the Nile, and provide a mechanism for cooperation among all ten member countries in managing the Nile basin water resources. However Egypt and Sudan rejected its reallocation of Nile water quotas under the 1959 agreement, and Congo also refused to sign.
          This was the moment a further major complication entered the already complex Nile situation.
          Back in the late 1950s, the US Bureau of Reclamation had undertaken a survey of the Blue Nile to identify where a dam might be sited to generate hydro-electricity for the region.  Forty years later, in 2009, the Ethiopian government suddenly decided that the time was ripe to press ahead with the project.  The driving force was former prime minister Meles Zenawi, who had run the country for more than two decades and was obsessed with Ethiopia’s rebirth.
          By November 2010 a design for the dam had been drawn up.  On 30 March 2011 the project was made public.  Two days later, on 2 April, Zenawi laid the dam's foundation stone.  The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (or GERD), will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa.  Almost incredibly, once constructed the reservoir is estimated to take from 5 to 15 years to fill with water.
          In August 2017, as construction on the dam reached 60 percent completion, tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia began to rise.  Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the Nile was “a matter of life and death” for his country and that “no one can touch Egypt’s share of the water”. He demanded that Ethiopia cease construction on the dam as a precondition to negotiations.  Ethiopia retorted that the dam was a matter of life and death for it, too, since it was a vital component in its plans for economic development.
                                             

           The Blue Nile rises in Ethiopia, but runs for much of its length into Sudan before joining the White Nile and flowing on into Egypt.  In an attempt to resolve differences, discussions were arranged between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to consider how best to manage the impact of GERD.  In November 2017 the talks broke down. On December 26, Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister, flew to Addis Ababa to emphasise Egypt’s concerns.
          At the heart of the dispute lies Egypt’s fear that, once the dam is built, and especially during the initial phase when the reservoir is being filled, the country will receive less than the annual 55.5 billion cubic metres of water it says is the minimum it needs.  With a surging population that President Sisi has termed “a threat to national development”, Egypt will be requiring more, not less, fresh water over the next decade.
          Although most of Egypt’s water comes from the Blue Nile, on which the dam is being built, Ethiopia is adamant that, once the reservoir has been filled, GERD will not adversely affect downstream countries. At the same time it refuses to acknowledge Cairo’s right to 55.5 billion cubic metres of water every year, since this emanates from the 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan to which Ethiopia was not a signatory.
          Ethiopia is due to start testing the first two turbines shortly, with construction of the dam due for completion by the end of the year. But Egypt. Sudan and Ethiopia have yet to overcome their mistrust of each other and agree mechanisms to contain the impact on downstream countries, both during the filling period and once the dam comes into operation. They need to start co-operating soon.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Egypt ups political steps to counter Ethiopia over water crisis

Egypt ups political steps to counter Ethiopia over water crisis

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ARTICLE SUMMARY
Egypt is holding on to political escalation in the coming phase to face the Renaissance Dam crisis after the failure of negotiations with Ethiopia.


CAIRO — Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit transmitted a warning from the league to Ethiopia during the opening session of the fourth Arab Water Forum Nov. 26, saying, “Water security for Egypt — the biggest Arab country in terms of population — is part and parcel of the Arab national security.”
After announcing, on Nov. 12, the failure of negotiations to resolve the Renaissance Dam crisis with Ethiopia and Sudan, Egypt is now taking several measures to internationalize the Nile River quota crisis. Egypt mainly wants to establish an international coalition for the downstream countries harmed by the dam projects conducted by upstream countries. The measure was proposed during the Arab Water Forum, which was organized by the Arab Water Council and held in Cairo on Nov. 26-28, under the umbrella of the Arab League and in coordination with the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation.
Egyptian and Arab officials talked about the internationalization of the Renaissance Dam issue on the sidelines of the Arab Water Forum.
Saudi Prince Khalid bin Sultan, the honorary president of the Arab Water Council, called for holding a water summit to face water piracy and terrorism. He said in his speech, “Water terrorism is as dangerous as any other kind of terrorism. We have to be armed with all methods to fight it.” He added that a force is needed to prevent water extortion.
Aboul Gheit noted that the Arab League is following up on the talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia with concern. He said, “We do not feel Ethiopia is willing to coordinate and cooperate much. Ethiopian plans to operate the dam and use its water for irrigation are still vague and worrying.”
Meanwhile, a meeting is scheduled in Cairo between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at a date to be decided on, some time in mid-December. Desalegn will address the Egyptian parliament and discuss the Renaissance Dam establishment on the Blue Nile and Egypt’s concerns of the negative repercussions on its water share.
On Dec. 4, 19 members of parliament submitted a memorandum to Egyptian parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel Aal refusing to welcome Desalegn in parliament, as the visit could give Ethiopia the upper hand in international forums over Egypt.
Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the head of the Arab Water Council and former minister of water resources and irrigation, told Al-Monitor, “The Arab Water Forum discussed — with government officials and water experts representing 22 Arab and African countries in different sessions — ways to deal with conflicts over water shares in the Middle East and North Africa region.” He indicated that the council is trying to develop a global coalition of downstream countries to face the dominance and control of upstream countries with transboundary rivers over water.
Hussein el-Atifi, the coordinator of the forum and former minister of water resources and irrigation, told Al-Monitor, “Upstream countries like Ethiopia believe the agreements regulating the management of shared rivers with their neighbors conflict with their desire for sovereignty and control of river resources.”
One of the forum's sessions — titled “Shared Water Resources” — discussed the actions of Ethiopia, a state from which 22 rivers flow, against seven of its neighbors that share rivers with it. Al-Monitor attended the session in which an official Somali convoy took part. Abdullah Elmi Mohammad, the head of the Somali Center for Water and Environment, explained the damages on Somalia due to Ethiopia’s construction of the Melka Wakena Dam on the Shebelle River.
During the session, Abu Zeid elaborated on Ethiopia’s construction of 15 dams, excluding the Renaissance Dam, on the shared rivers with seven neighboring countries without consulting anyone, which constitutes a threat for these countries’ water security. There are four dams on the Blue Nile shared with Sudan, South Sudan and Egypt; the Upper Atbara Dam that is shared with Eritrea and Sudan; four dams on Awash River shared with Djibouti; two dams on Shebelle River shared with Somalia; and three dams on Omo River shared with Kenya.
Abu Zeid noted, “The total annual hydropower capacity in Ethiopia is about 3,696 megawatts. Ethiopia's current export of electricity, its national hydropower annual potential of 45,000 MW generated from all its rivers and its plans to export electricity generated from the new 6,000 MW of the Renaissance Dam confirm that the country does not need the power it wants to generate from the Renaissance Dam for local demand.”
Ashraf Badr, the media adviser at the Arab Water Council, told Al-Monitor, “Ethiopia’s greed to produce hydroelectric power from dams aims at monopolizing the energy export markets rather than fulfilling local demand.”
Somalia's Minister of Irrigation Salim Aliyu told reporters on the sidelines of the forum, “Somalia is currently negotiating with Ethiopia through the East African Community to reach an agreement on the joint management of transboundary rivers.”
Egypt started mobilizing Arab support on the Renaissance Dam issue through various steps. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with his Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir, on Nov. 14, and the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the kingdom understands the Egyptian concerns about its water security. The Egyptian government also issued a statement Nov. 15, in which it affirmed that it has taken the necessary measures at all levels because its water security is one of the pillars of its national security.
Egypt’s former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam Maghazi told Al-Monitor, “Egypt’s political escalation in the Renaissance Dam issue has become necessary. With the dead end that the technical negotiation path has reached, Ethiopia seems ready to start filling the dam reservoir in 2018.”
Walaa Hussein is the editor-in-chief of the parliamentary news division at Rose al-Yusuf. An expert in African affairs, Hussein has collaborated with the Nile Channel, writing and preparing newscasts. On Twitter: @walaahuseen