NewsNorth AfricaEgypt - Ethiopia: Storm on the Nile

Sat,01Nov2014

Posted on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 15:58

Egypt - Ethiopia: Storm on the Nile

By Laurent de Saint Périer

Egypt believes Ethiopia's Renaissance dam could affect its water supply

Sabotage, corruption and intimidation to hamper the construction of Ethiopia's hydroelectric dam were brought to fore as Egypt weighed its options during a crisis meeting... on television.

 

But Ethiopia won't be intimidated.

Ethiopia evoked the wrath of the powers that-be in Egyptian politics on 28 May, as the East African country prepared to divert water from the Nile River to test its Renaissance Dam.

Egypt believes the Ethiopian dam could affect its water supply.

On 3 June, a meeting called by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi quickly turned into a council of war.

Some of the attendees suggested a number of actions to disrupt the construction of Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam, including destroying the infrastructure, corrupting top Ethiopian officials or even funding rebel groups.

The confabulation, transmitted live on television without the prior knowledge of the officials, reportedly, was met with rage.

In a twitter posting, Ethiopia's Foreign minister said his country won't be intimidated.

But Morsi later assured Ethiopia that his country will take no such action. One of his advisors was also quick to add that the Egyptian officials had not been warned about the live transmission of the meeting.

The construction of the $3.2bn Renaissance Dam was announced in 2011 and is part of a vast $9bn hydro-electric energy programme being undertaken by Ethiopia. Works will be finalised by 2016.

The dam is expected to generate about 6,000MW of electricity, the largest on the African continent, and could see Ethiopia becoming a net exporter of cheap electricity in countries within the sub region, including Egypt.

The Renaissance Dam is being constructed near the Sudanese border, on the Blue Nile - which meets with the White Nile in Khartoum to form the Nile river that flows through Egypt.

Despite Egypt's opposition to the dam's construction, Ethiopia argues that the Nile's downstream flow will not be affected.

Experts estimate that Egypt could see a 20 percent reduction of the Nile's downstream flow in the initial months following the opening of the dam in 2014. The filling of the dam is expected to last between three and five years.

Colonial-era agreements signed with Sudan in 1929 and 1959 saw Egypt taking an estimated annual share of 51 billion square metres and Sudan parting with an estimated 18 billion square metres, giving the two countries over 90 percent of the Nile's water.

Ethiopia says it contributes to more than 80 percent the Nile's water.

In April 2010, riparian countries of the Nile, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya signed the Entebbe agreement, which stipulated the redistribution of Nile's water.

Egypt and Sudan boycotted the talks, with Egypt saying the agreement was non-binding.

But the inclusion of Burundi meant that the majority of countries on the Nile water course had assented to the agreement despite Egypt's protest.



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