Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Presidents Set For More Talks On The Nile

By Gerald Tenywa
Added 16th October 2017 01:16 PM
Egypt and Sudan, which are favoured by two colonial agreements of 1929 and 1959 were opposed to the fresh agreement (Cooperative Framework Agreement opened for signing in May 2010) on grounds that it does not recognise their historical rights.
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A new move to fast track the resolution of the impasse over sharing of the waters of River Nile will involve regular meetings of presidents in the countries sharing the Nile Basin.

This follows a recommendation from the Nile Summit which was chaired by President Yoweri Museveni and convened at State House, Entebbe, three months ago.

“The heads of state provide the highest level of engagement on Nile issues,” said Sam Cheptoris, the Minister of Water and Environment in Uganda, adding that the Summit at Entebbe wanted to constitute the heads of states in the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) and meet regularly.

He was  speaking at the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-Com) convened at Imperial Botanical Resort Beach, Entebbe last week. Nile-COM is the highest decision-making organ on all political and development matters relating to the Nile Basin Initiative.

The meeting was attended by Ministers in charge of Water Affairs from Burundi, Sudan and Uganda. Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania sent representatives.

The countries in the catchment of the Nile are Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Egypt, Eretria and DR Congo. Eretria is an observer.

Egypt and Sudan, which are favoured by two colonial agreements of 1929 and 1959 were opposed to the fresh agreement (Cooperative Framework Agreement opened for signing in May 2010) on grounds that it does not recognise their historical rights. Both countries pulled out of NBI but Sudan later agreed to return. The countries in the Nile Basin have been discussing to resolve outstanding issues for Egypt to participate in the NBI meetings.

NBI is a framework which was set up in 1999 is a Programme of the 11 countries funded by several donors including the World Bank, GIZ and EU. It has been facilitating the meetings of the ministers and technical negotiators. It was expected to produce two outcomes; the Nile Cooperative Framework and the Nile Basin Commission.    

The meeting on Thursday came up with NBI’s 10-year Strategy referred to as the new strategy, approved by the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM). The strategy captures the development goals of the NBI, considering the prevailing context and challenges in the Nile Basin as well as priorities in the catchment of the Nile.

“These have been conceptualized into six goals; namely increasingly hydropower, development and power trade; improving food security; protecting and restoring ecosystems across the basin,” said Kebede Gerba, State Minister, for Water, Irrigation and Electricity of Ethiopia.

“The other goals are improving basin resilience to climate change impacts; strengthening trans-boundary water governance in the Nile Basin as well as enhancing availability and sustainable management of trans-boundary water resources of the Nile Basin.”

Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, Dr. Eng. Sileshi Bekele replaced Uganda’s Minister of Water and Environment, Sam Cheptoris. Ethiopia will chair both the Nile Council of Ministers and the Nile Technical Advisory Committee of the NBI for the next one year. 

The Nile-COM is the highest decision-making organ on all political and development matters relating to the Nile Basin Initiative. The meeting was attended by Ministers in charge of Water Affairs from Burundi, Sudan and Uganda. Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania sent representatives.                                                                          
“The River Nile is one of the world’s great assets. As such, cooperation is not a choice, but a necessity, if we are to achieve its sustainable management and development. This is important for Member States to jointly address the shared challenges such as climate change and environmental degradation,” said Gerba.

He said the Nile Basin Development Forum will be hosted by Rwanda on October 23-25, 2017. Rwanda will also host the Nile Media Awards ceremony on October 23, 2017 as well as a Strategic Dialogue Forum between NBI and development partners on October 26, 2017.

Ministers of Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia inspect Renaissance Dam - Egypt Today

Water supply ministers of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia at the construction area of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – Press Photo by Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water Supply Water supply ministers of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia at the construction area of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – Press Photo by Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water Supply

CAIRO – 17 October 2017: The Water supply ministers of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia visited the construction area of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Tuesday. They met to check up on the construction progress by visiting six sites that lie inside, outside, and at the borders of the reservoir.

The ministers and the members of the technical committee listened to the project manager give an overview of the constructions at the right and left sides of the dam.

The manager stressed on Ethiopia’s eagerness to secure its needs from energy and push for economic development while fulfilling the interests of the Nile Basin countries.

This visit aims to follow up on the studies recommended by the International Panel of Experts regarding the effects of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile Basin States.

Since the beginning of the dam's construction in 2011, the upstream countries, Egypt and Sudan, opposed the technical studies of the dam as it would decrease their share in the Nile water resources by 55.5 billion cubic meters and 18.5 billion cubic meters respectively.

However, Ethiopia denies that other downstream countries will be adversely affected by the dam and the prospect of war was raised in 2013 and 2014.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi signed a tripartite joint cooperation agreement in Khartoum on March 23, 2015, between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. The three countries held 14 rounds of consultation on resolving the disputes over the Renaissance Dam. However, these rounds failed to solve the dispute.

Consequently, the Nile Basin countries asked the French firm Artelia Group to join the French consulting group BRL IngĂ©nierie in 2016, while they study the documents of the dam’s construction; assessing the hydrological, environmental, and economic impact of the mega project on the downstream countries

Monday, October 9, 2017

Egypt: ‘Obstacles’ threaten agreement over Ethiopia dam – Middle East Monitor

Egypt: ‘Obstacles’ threaten agreement over Ethiopia dam

Constriction work on the Renaissance dam in Ethiopia on 21 August 2015 [Sigma PlantFinder/Twitter]
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that there are obstacles threatening the tripartite “Declaration of Principles” signed in March 2015 by Cairo, Sudan and Ethiopia over a dam being built by the latter on the Nile River.
Shoukry’s remarks came in an interview with the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper yesterday, where he said Egypt “couldn’t overcome” these obstacles.
The minister noted that the agreement includes Ethiopia’s acknowledgement of the do-no-harm principle in a document signed with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. The document also stipulates that “Egypt acknowledges the dam and Ethiopia’s developmental needs and Sudan would be a third party in this equation,” Shoukry added.
“The agreement includes the acknowledgement by the three parties that any repercussions resulting from the [construction of] the dam must be approved by a non-biased party so that conflict will not occur, and the non-biased entity would refer to purely scientific considerations, and scientific facts and equations that are not subject to interpretation.”
The Egyptian foreign minister also commented on the technical aspect, pointing to “slowness” and “obstacles” that could not be overcome at the technical or political levels. He said that these obstacles “threaten the principles that the tripartite agreement were based on” without giving details on the nature of those obstacles.
In line with another deal reached in September 2016, the three parties to the agreement are awaiting the results of a technical report that is being prepared by two consulting companies on the Ethiopian dam and the damage it could cause to other countries that share Nile waters, mainly Egypt.
The technical report must be completed before the dam is fully constructed, Shoukry told Al-Ahram, because it will affect any decisions related to the phase of filling the dam and the rules that will be adopted for operating it.
“Achievements on this path are not at the pace we hope for, and we urge our partners in Ethiopia and Sudan to interact in a way that will create confidence, reinforce agreements and avoid any confrontation.”
“At the same time, we know very well what our interests are and the threats that we might be subjected to, and we act in every phase in line with developments. We do not pre-empt events or assume things in a theoretical manner, but that does not mean that we do not prepare ourselves for any orientation, disagreement or approach.”

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The USA and Gulf States Want to “Make Egypt Thirsty” Awate

On Thursday, September 7, 2017, Al Masri Al Youm published an interview it conducted with the Eritrean ruling party ambassador in Cairo. Here we present the English version of the Arabic original, which was translated by the Awatestaff.
The Ambassador says, “some Gulf States” but given the context of the present crisis in the Arab Gulf, it is no secret he is accusing Qatar, in collaboration with the USA, is trying to make Egypt go thirsty by choking the flow of the Nile River to Egypt. Qatar used to be the main supporter of the Eritrean regime until the current Arab Gulf crisis when it betrayed Qatar.
In 2010, we have translated another interview Fasil gave to the same Al Masri Al Youm, where he made an outrageous statement telling his interviewer that, “the Egyptian security authorities who warn the Eritreans when they try to flee across their borders, something that pushes them to direct their fires to them if they do not heed to their warnings, with the aim of securing and protecting their borders.” Thus stating, that the Egyptian security forces have the right to shoot refugees crossing through the border.
That was his response to an incident where a few Eritrean refugees were shot by Egyptian security forces while crossing the Sinai desert into Israel which used to be a major escape route for Eritrean refugees. Hundreds of them fell in the hands of human traffickers—some were released after paying huge amounts of ransom while others had their human organs harvested by the criminals who roamed the Sinai desert. Many refugees managed to cross to Israel and many others have died in the desert.
The following is the recent interview, which was conducted by Samer Ibrahim for AlMasri Al Youm.


The Eritrean Ambassador to Cairo, Fasil Gebreselassie Tekhla, said that the relations between Egypt and Eritrea is strategic and historical and has been in good shape since the era of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser. he pointed out that the common factor between Abdel Nasser and Abdulfatah Al Sisi lies in their sincere orientation towards Africa. But there are differences in the political conditions and factors in the region between the era of the two presidents.
in his interview with «Al-Masry Al-Youm», he added that the construction of the “Ethiopian Renaissance Dam” has no positive purposes in the interest of the Ethiopian people and that the decision to build it is political and not an economic decision. Ethiopia has a “Phobia” of Eritrea’s relationship with any other country, not only with Egypt. In addition, the Ethiopian regime wants to distract the people from [focusing] on their economic and political problems, and the idea of an external enemy is spread to them. He noted that some Western and Gulf countries are behind Ethiopia’s attempt to “make Egypt Thirsty” through the “construction of the Renaissance Dam. The full interview follows:
■ How do you see the relations between Egypt and Eritrea?
The relations between the two countries are in good shape, since the time of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser. They are deep strategic and historical relations. Egypt has helped Eritrea in the time of its armed struggle to gain independence, and it provided us with arms, financial, and political support. It also helped our students and established a home for them. And it opened its colleges and universities for them.
■ You talked about Egypt’s support to Eritrea during the era of President Abdel Nasser. What about the relations between the two countries under President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi?
The common factor between Nasser and Al-Sisi is that they have an honest approach towards Africa, but there are differences in the political conditions and factors in the region between the eras of the two presidents. During the era of Nasser, the revolutionary tide, liberation movements and pan-Arab nationalism prevailed in the African continent. But presently, the future lies in economic exchange projects between peoples. And I believe that economic relations are what guarantees of the survival of the relations between countries, unlike political relations that can be negatively affected at any moment.
Al Sisi is also sincere in implementing the economic projects and development plans that are agreed upon. And his {recent] visit to Africa is not “a media show”. During the reign of Al Sadat and Mubarak, Egypt did not undertake a single economic project in Eritrea.
■ How do you see the Renaissance Dam crisis?
Eritrea has officially declared that the construction of the Renaissance Dam has no positive purpose in the interest of the Ethiopian people. The decision to build it is a political decision and not economic. We are not against any development project in any African country, but the dam is not for a developmental purpose.
■ What is the real purpose behind this “political goal”?
Ethiopia is mainly dependent on economic aid. It is the main African country that receives the most economic assistance from the United States, the European Union, and the World Bank. It is a country that has a “famine” and asks for assistance from the United Nations to feed its people. There are some countries that help it to finance the construction of the dam.
■ Who are these countries?
Any country that wants to fight Egypt will not resort to a direct military solution. This method no longer exists on the ground, so the last card in that war is to “make Egypt Thirsty.”
■Do you mean that Ethiopia wants to “make Egypt Thirsty”?
Not only Ethiopia, but some Western and [Arab] Gulf countries stand behind Ethiopia and support the construction of the Renaissance Dam. Particularly since the area where the Renaissance dam is located is not suitable for agriculture.
Here I would like to go back in history.
In 1993, in its first official representation as an independent state, Eritrea attended in one of the African conferences in Cairo, where the then Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was present. At the time, the relation between the two countries was excellent. And here Zenawi presented an idea: Just like the Arabs sell oil to us, we sell water to all countries. The Eritrean president strongly rejected the proposal, and here, the late General Omar Suleiman, the former head of the General Intelligence responded to him. He said to Zenawi: “And who are you to say that?”
■What is your position on the Entebbe Agreement?
Void, in accordance with previous international treaties relating to the Nile Basin countries.
■ Some political analysts said that Eritrea is the best party to exert pressure on Ethiopia because of the old war between them, and deepening relations between [Eritrea] and Egypt carries signals and messages that will quickly reach Ethiopia. What are your views?
Ethiopia has a “Phobia” of Eritrea’s relationship with any other country, not just Egypt. In addition, the Ethiopian regime wants to distract the people from [focusing] on their economic and political problems. The idea of an external enemy is spread to them. As an example, Ethiopia benefited a lot internally from the meeting that the former President Mohamed Morsi held with the national forces to discuss the crisis of the dam, to amplify the idea among the Ethiopian people. The more Eritrea works to strengthen its relationship with Egypt, Ethiopia accuses us that we will help Egypt to target the dam militarily through our territory. This is not a talk of nations, but “child play”.
In fact, Egypt does not want to target the dam militarily, at all. And it has no political gains in this matter. All African countries will not allow that, nor will we allow the use of our territories to achieve those goals. Despite the differences between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Egypt is free to establish strategic relations with any country of its choice, even with Ethiopia, because that is a political right of Egypt, and we have nothing to do with it.
■ What are your views regarding some media reports that were published in a number of foreign newspapers that Egypt has snatched Eritrea’s consent to establish a military naval base in its land?
Not everything that is published in newspapers is true. There is some news that is a mere “testing balloons”, and others are leaked on behalf of some Western intelligence services.
Our main disagreement with America is Eritrea’s refusal to establish a military base on its soil. If we had agreed to that request, we could have avoided many wars and international pressures on us. Our country does not make political concessions to any country, whatever type of relationship we have with them.
The Eritrean regime wants the Egyptian role to return again in Africa, not for our personal interests, but first for the interest of Egypt. If we look at the Suez Canal, we find that its security and the security of the global trade movement starts from the South [of the Red Sea]. A large part of the victory of the war of October 6 [1973 war over Sinai] is because of the important role played by the Egyptian naval forces in maintaining the security of the South [mouth of the Red Sea]. It is high time to highlight the role of Egypt and its emergence more than it is in the region.
■ What do you mean by “highlighting the Egyptian role” in the South?
American military battleships roam the world to convey a clear message that they are permanently present in the scene, and now Egypt owns modern and sophisticated military battleships, and I think its time has come.
■ What caused [Eritrea’s] differences with Ethiopia?
In the 1990s, the Eritrean people wanted independence. We submitted a request to the United Nations under the chairmanship of the late Dr. Boutros Ghali at the time, to hold a popular referendum on [Eritrea’s] independence and separation from Ethiopia. America refused to the holding of a referendum, [refused] the demand. But we held to our demand to the last moment and the United Nations and the United Nations agreed. The referendum was held and resulted in a 99.9% vote in favor of independence from Ethiopia.
In 1993, the state of Eritrea was officially declared a state and we started to strengthen our foreign relations with the rest of the world countries. And here America began to set its conditions for us to return the American military base to our country again, in addition to providing some facilities in the Red Sea waters. We totally rejected the demands because we do not give up our right to decide freely, and our the sovereignty of our territories. Moreover, Eritrea is the only country that officially condemned the US invasion of Somalia. The League of Arab States did not issue a statement condemning that invasion. Even Mubarak said, “We understand” and he didn’t condemn the invasion. This is the biggest proof that the political decision at the time was not in Egypt’s hands.
All these reasons prompted Ethiopia to create a conflict with our country and occupied a border area called “Badme” to give us a harsh lesson, and to achieve many Ethiopian and American gains in the region. Following these events, the summit of Algeria was held, and America is the one who drafted the border demarcation agreement between Ethiopia and {Eritrea] from A to Z. And the three most important points of the agreement  that the border dispute is the responsibility of the International Court of Justice, and that the decision of the Court is final and binding to the parties, and any country that refuses to implement the resolution will face a number of international sanctions on it. The purpose of those points was to cripple Eritrea, because America was expecting the judgment would be issued in favor of Ethiopia. But contrary to the American expectations, the court ruled that the occupied territories are Eritrean territories and Ethiopia must withdraw from them. The border was demarcated in its new form, but Ethiopia refused to withdraw and implement the court’s decision. And since that time, the crisis is still pending between us because the solution is in the hands of America, which is the only country capable of getting Ethiopia out of our country.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Nuts and Bolts of the Controversial Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia - Face2Face Africa

Grand Renaissance Dam
The Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia. Photo credit: Gamaltaha

For decades, Ethiopia has been viewed through the lens of extreme poverty, political instability and starving children. But this perception is expected to change once the construction of the controversial Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile River is complete.

The dam, which has been under construction for the last six years, covers about 150 square kilometers and is expected to generate close to a third of UAE’s energy output. It is one of the largest dams in the world, costing more than 10 billion Ethiopian birr.
Once completed, the dam will guarantee the people of Ethiopia sufficient water supply and a steady source of energy.  Majority of Ethiopians are optimistic that perennial droughts and power outages in the country will soon be a thing of the past.
Disgruntled Neighbors
But while Ethiopians are celebrating, some of their neighbors are worried about the mega project. For instance, the Egyptian government argues that the water reservoir will disrupt the flow of River Nile thereby affecting the livelihoods of millions of people who depend of the river for survival.
A major diplomatic row between Egypt and Ethiopia over this project has been simmering since its conception six years ago, with the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at some point considering a military action against Ethiopia.
Experts have also voiced their concerns over the possible long-term impact of the dam on people living downstream. At the moment, over 70 percent of the population in Egypt and Sudan heavily rely on River Nile for farming and water supply. Studies show that Egypt gets at least 60 percent of its water from the Nile.
Aside from the fear of a major disruption of the flow of River Nile, Sudan and Egypt are also concerned about the set time frame of filling the reservoir. They argue that the shorter the time taken to fill the dam, the greater the effect of reduced water flow downstream.
 A recent study by the University of Yale revealed that the dam will take five to 15 years to fill.
Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam

The Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam. Photo credit: Ventures Africa
According to Haytam Awad, the former head of Irrigation Engineering and Hydraulics Department at Alexandria University, the filling of the Grand Renaissance Dam by Ethiopia before the completion of technical studies done by international consultancy firms would amount to a contravention of Article V of the Agreement on the Declaration of Principles on the project signed between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

Ethiopia maintains that once the dam is full, the flow of water downstream will normalize, but Egypt and Sudan are worried that years of reduced water flow might have an irreversible impact on their populace.
It is also uncertain how Ethiopia plans to achieve the targeted electricity output, with some experts arguing that the 6,000 megawatts may be hard to realize without peak water levels. It therefore means that the company in charge of the reservoir will be forced to keep it at its highest levels all year round.
The Way Forward
On its part, the Ethiopian government is certain that the Grand Renaissance Dam will be of great benefit to the people downstream as it will serve as a supplementary upstream reservoir with a more reliable flow from the Nile. But it has to be properly managed to avert possible bursts that might cause flooding in Sudan and Egypt.
Already, the three countries have formed a committee called the National Tripartite Committee to discuss the rules and regulations of the first filling of the reservoir, yearly operational rules and how to mitigate the possible negative effects of the dam.
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Photo credit: All Africa
The only thing remaining now, before the filling can commence, is the impact assessment report from a study being conducted by several international consultancy firms. Unfortunately, parties involved in the study have often disagreed on various implementation procedures, making it difficult for the committee to reach a timely conclusion.

Notwithstanding the back and forth and counter accusations between the various stakeholders, the three countries have to sit down and agree on the best way to make this project beneficial to everyone while minimizing its negative impact.