By Staff Reporter
ADDIS ABABA – (BORKENA) – Egypt has been threatening Ethiopia with “using all options” unless the latter signed the binding agreement water sharing and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Nile River.
President Al Sisi of Egypt said years back warning Ethiopias “not to touch a drop of Egypt’s water because all options are open”.
Aljazeera held a joint discussion today, 29 August 2023, on the legally binding agreement on GERD filling and operation on its regular “Inside Story” program. One of the discussants who represented Egypt, Sara Kira, a former journalist and now a research Center head took the platform to rebuke Ethiopia saying that unless the binding treaties are respected and if Ethiopia does not sign the binding agreement, the map of Africa will change.
These people seem to step ahead to twist the hands of Ethiopia for this so-called binding agreement. What has happened to push Egypt to rush at this speed to enforce Ethiopia illegally to put its signature for a binding agreement? What does the “map of Africa will change” type of talk mean?
Sara Kira said that Egyptians need a guarantee that Ethiopia will not break international treaties. “We will respect our national security and our peace on the Nile River for the 97 percent or more of our water needs,” Sara said.
Sara further warned Ethiopia not to touch a single drop of water from the Nile River. She said “we need a guarantee that Ethiopia won’t hurt 1 cm of our water”. If Ethiopia dares to retreat from stamping the seal of approval for Egypt, the consequence will be severe, according to our newly emerged “master” from North Africa.
What people may get surprised by is the phrase Sara has used to frighten Ethiopia. If the old rusty colonial treaty on the Blue Nile is not respected, “the whole Africa map will change”. Two things can be said here. What has Ethiopia been expected to do with treaties in which it had not been part of? The treaties were signed among Egypt, Sudan and the then colonial power, Great Britain. This has nothing to do with Ethiopia, which is not the signatory state. The other thing is that what if Ethiopia doesn’t feel good regarding the issue of this binding agreement? Can the consequence “change the map of Africa”? or is she telling us that there will be an initiative to be taken to disintegrate the continent? (at least my guess)
Mohammed Jamjoom, the program producer, has given emphasis on two points. “What can Egypt do if the negotiation fails? How is the extreme weather affecting this?” These points seem to lead the panelists of Egypt and Sudan to their interest. What has been reflected by them throughout the dispute clearly shows this.
The Sudanese panelist, Allam Ahmed, who is the Director of Mid-Eastern Knowledge Economy Institute and President of World Association for Sustainable Development said fully supporting the stand reflected by Sara Kira that as Egypt provides fruit production to Sudan and Europe, it should have the biggest share of water. “Ethiopia needs to show will power to sign the binding agreement. It should show the trust to Egypt and Sudan, “ he said.
Allam emphasized that Ethiopia has never provided the technical file of the dam. He is of the opinion that the three sides should have approved the technical sides of the dam. “We can’t discuss the legal part without discussing the technical sides,” he said. He also raised the safety of the Sudanese people.
Representing the Ethiopian side, Yilma Silesh, professor of Water Resources Engineering at Addis Ababa University and an advisor of the negotiating team said that the filling up of the GERD was done as per the agreement reached among the three riparian countries. There is an agreement that the dam will be filled within five to seven years time, he said. “If there is drought in the lower riparian countries, Ethiopia will not fill up the dam. We agreed on how much water to release.” He also said that concerning the technical issue, experts from both countries and others at international level have made a close investigation. “Moreover, we have agreed that the operation phase of the dam will start in the next five, ten and 20 years…” Yilma said.
Yilma tried to convince the other two panelists from Egypt and Sudan that all riparian countries can share the Nile water fairly.
However, the reaction from the other side was not a friendly type. Sara, representative of Egypt said that there is no political will power from the Ethiopian side to resolve the dispute. Ethiopians “don’t need water for irrigation But we need it. We are already in water poverty,” she emphasized.
Yilma has responded in such a way that reflected the unswerved stance of all Ethiopians. He said among other things that Ethiopia has done what other countries in the history of the world has never done. For instance, “Turkey did not invite the lower riparian countries regarding the share of water of a dam it built. But Ethiopia has long been generous and kind enough to share the water of the Nile fairly with the lower riparian countries.” Yilma has also underscored here that “you can’t force the country [Ethiopia] to make preconditions for future development in Ethiopia”.
Yilma said that Egypt is asking wellover what it deserves. He said that Ethiopia needs a fair share of water from the Nile. “We fill our dam from our share. We don’t need any permission to do that. We are an agrarian economy. Ethiopia has also been hit by drought. We need water for drinking. We don’t need any permission from Egypt and Sudan to do that .. to drink water. We need to depend on irrigation. You say we can have hydropower water dams not for irrigation and drinking purposes. This is not acceptable,” Yilma underscored. All should know that the entire Ethiopians share the same views.
Meanwhile, Ahram Online reports on 29 August quoting a statement released by the Irrigation Ministry as saying that, “Egypt continues its vigorous efforts to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)”.
“This agreement should safeguard Egypt’s interests, protect its water security, and ensure benefits for all three countries,” noted the statement.
On the other hand Ethiopia made its position clear that it will work to reach an “amicable” conclusion to GERD talks with Egypt and Sudan. Ahram said in its August 27, 2023 issue that Ethiopian negotiation team leader, Sileshi Bekele “…underlined Ethiopia’s right to utilize Nile River water in the interests of present and future generations…”
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