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Ambassador Mona Omar: Egypt lacks a cohesive plan to deal with Africa and Nile basin countries - Daily News Egypt

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Ambassador Mona Omar: Egypt lacks a cohesive plan to deal with Africa and Nile basin countries

Presidential envoy discusses Egypt’s historic right to Nile water and its role in the region

Ambassador Mona Omar (Photo from Al-Borsa News)
Ambassador Mona Omar
(Photo from Al-Borsa News)

By Mohammed Abdel Monser

“International crises are not solved by severing ties between states or threatening war,” said Mona Omar, Egyptian presidential envoy to the African Union. “Instead, they are resolved by creating a climate of mutual trust between the two parties and allowing access to compromise and solutions.”

Relations have deteriorated between Egypt and Ethiopia due to the Addis Ababa Declaration, a plan to divert the Nile River for procedures associated with building a dam. Egypt questioned the safety of this measure as well as its impact on the water supply of countries downstream. The declaration came the day after former president Mohammed Morsi left the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa last May.

Egypt was not surprised that a number of Nile basin countries signed the Entebbe agreement, Mona Omar told Al Borsa,as the signatories gave Egypt an opportunity to find a solution in May 2013 but this chance was wasted. Egypt did not seek the permission of Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, to delay the agreement until new elections were held, she said.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Organisation for African Unity, now known as the African Union, former President Mohammed Morsi had come to an agreement with Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile Mariam Disalin,at the Special Summit for the Leaders and Governments of the African Union, to continue coordinating on the issue of the Nile. But hours after leaving Mercy airport in Addis Ababa, the announcement came from Ethiopia.

“Reports written by experts and technocrats about solving the question of the dam are conflicting, despite a full year of research. This makes politicians unable to determine whetherreal harm to Egypt is involved in the issue,” said Omar.

Members of the Technical Egyptian National Committee to Study the Dam have said that studies completed on the Ethiopian side were insufficient to prove that Egypt would not be harmed by construction of the dam. This pushed the tripartite committee to commission extra research.

Omar emphasised that it was impossible for any Egyptian representatives to come to an official agreement on Entebbe unless Egypt’s historic rights to the waters of the Nile are recognized,as international law requires governments to adhere to treaties signed in the era of colonialism. Signatories must adhere to these conventions and agree not to set up any projects on the Nile before getting the approval of Egypt. Any vote must be won by consensus, not majority vote, she said.

Omar explained the circumstances surrounding the agreements on sharing Nile waters. Egypt was under the yoke of colonialism during the signing of the treaty, she said, whereas Ethiopia was the independent state of Abyssinia in 1902. The third king of Abyssinia pledged, along with the British government, not to issue any directivesregarding facilities on the Blue Nile, Lake Tana or the Sobat River that could intercept water from the Nile unless the British government agreed in advance along with the government of Sudan. This treaty was signed in Amharic.

Omar elaborated: “The third article of the 1906 agreement between Great Britain and the Congo states that the last pledge not to undertake or allow the establishment of any projects on the Samliki or Ashanju Rivers that might reduce water flowing into Lake Albert, unless agreed upon with the government of Sudan. The third article of the 1891 treaty between Great Britain and Italy determined influence in each country in East Africa and provided against the establishment of any works on the Atbara River that would modify water flow to the Nile in any way. The Treaty of 1929, signed between Egypt and Great Britain on behalf of Sudan, Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda, stipulated that any projects on the Nile River, its tributaries or lakes fed by it are only possiblewith Egypt’s consent. This applied especially in cases involving generating electricity or anything that could potentially affect the amount of water obtained by Egypt. It further provided for Egypt’s right to control the course of the river from its source to its mouth as well as efforts to conduct research and monitor implementation of projects that could benefit Egypt.”

According to Omar, Egypt has been keen throughout its history to support development in the Nile basin countries. Egypt contributed to the construction of the Owen dam to generate electricity as part of the agreement between Egypt and Great Britain in 1949, which stipulates cooperation between Egypt and Uganda in constructing the reservoir.

Omar also pointed to an agreement between the Egyptian and Ugandan governments to regulate water flow by Egyptian irrigation engineers in Uganda. The electricity council in Uganda was to handle administration and maintenance of its reservoir, committing not to affect operation on the power plant or the amount of water reaching Egypt. When the agreement was signed by Egypt and Sudan in 1959, Egypt’s population was 20 million. That number has now reached 90 million and,according to Omar,Egypt’s share of the Nile must be agreed and amended through dialogue with the upstream countries.

Omar said the agreement provided for projects established along the river to increase revenue lost in the Mountain, Zaraf, and Ghazal Sea as well as its branches on the Sobat River, its tributaries, and the White Nile Basin. The costs of these projects will be divided up in addition to the water that it brings, an amount which is expected to total up to 18 billion cubic metres.

The fourth article of the convention states that the potential benefits from establishing the dam will be 22 billion cubic metres per year, said Omar. 14.5 of billion cubic metres will be sent to Sudan and just four billion to Egypt, thus Sudan’s share of the Nile water is 18.5 billion cubic metres while Egypt receives 55.5 billion cubic metres. This is built upon the assumption that the Aswan River produces 84 billion cubic metres of water but ten billion cubic metres are lost to evaporation.

According to Omar, Egypt has made progress in the Nile Basin Initiative and participated in a study of electricity projects across the countries as well as projects promoting regional trade and agricultural productivity. This would maximize trade crops for countries located along the southern Nile. Other projects are in place to promote fish production and provide necessary technical support to convert investment opportunities into bankable projects.

Within the previous framework, US$8,000,000 were allocated to carry out technical studies for sub-basins and other initiatives that have almost been completed. Organic farming formed one of these initiatives and demand for produce has increased internationally day after day in global markets, Omar said.

Omar added that the relatively small number of visits by former presidents Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak to African countries led to a lack of media coverage of events taking place there and an overall lackof Egyptian presence in Africa. “During the period of Sadat and Mubarak’s rule, Egypt missed an opportunity to be present on the continent of Africa. All accomplishments were merely a reaction and confined to sending aid in times of disaster. The businessmen who went to Africa were not able to compete with investors from China, India, Turks, and Arabs from the Gulf.”

Egypt has however contributed to development projects in Africa, said Omar. The Technical Cooperation Fund with Africa in the early eighties sent experts all over and funded many scholarships while simultaneously organising several training sessions to build capacity. These efforts, however, have largely not been covered in the media, she explained.

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  • Zereyaqqob

    Are you guys nuts? Do you really believe that shielding youselves with colonial treaties help you win this arguement? Those treaties that you boast of give Egypt a paramount and supreme power
    over the Nile Basin countries. This is unjust by itself. Can you please
    give me the name of a single project -past and present – that Egypt
    has/had in Ethiopia? My understanding is that you even shun from
    pronucing the name Ethipia. For sense of guilt, maybe.
    Ethiopia, you admit, has never be colonized. So you reasoning does not hold for it. But you are here saying countries like Uganda, that has suffered under colonilalism, must abide by these treaties , that is go on suffering, because the colonizers decided so? And this after a century? Sure you guys are nuts.
    You write that there are 90 milion Egyptians. Yes, there are. But there are also 95 million Ethiopians and about 400m milion human beings in the whole Nile Basin. You write only your side of the story. What about us: Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan? There will never be first-classa and second-class people of the Nile Basin.
    One last thing. The late Meles Zenawi said again and agin that the way forward was a win-win solution.

    • alex

      What a high level AU diplomat who is very ignorant of diplomacy reports on this article? I would like to tell Omar that she is adding up confusion to the issue of Nile water utilization. I can see that she is trapped into the usually’’ let all die but Egypt only’’ attitude like her arrogant predecessors.

      I guess she failed to realize the current dynamics of cooperation and the necessity of using the Nile water in an equitable and rational manner amongst the basin countries. Who are you after all to ask all the rest of the Nile basin countries to accept the colonial era treaties signed by your colonial masters? Aren’t we independent and free to determine how we need to use our resources or do you still wanting Egypt to be this century’s colonial power on the Nile basin countries by proxy, inheriting the divide and rule time bomb of Britain has had planted earlier. Without forgetting the Amharic and English version differences in the 1902 treaty, it requires Ethiopia to work with Britain but not with Egypt if you ask for that treaty. However, all the Nile basin countries including Ethiopia had rejected all the colonial treaties in respect to the Nile water utilization. Omar statement sounds that Egypt is trying to be the new colonial master on the black African Nile basin countries by simply covering herself under the umbrella of its ‘historical rights’.

      Why you failed to mention the contemporary international law that governs the utilization of trans-country flowing rivers. As an ambassador of Egypt to the AU, are you aware of the Pan African charter, the AU founding principles and have knowledge of the International law and these charters before echoing about Egypt’s claim? Which colonial treaties are accepted by the African nations and which treaties are not acceptable? How do you see the translation differences encrypted in the 1902 agreement signed by The Ethiopian Emperor and the then British colonial power? What implication such version differences would have on the agreement itself. What was Egypt’s stand when Ethiopia was objecting the 1929 and 1959 treaties, in which it was not part. Why you failed to disclose such facts if you are really genuine and trustworthy diplomat? Do you still think that the colonial era treaties that are crafted for your colonial masters (British) interest would remain intact in the 21 century. Do you think that this will continue to benefit Egypt by proxy, while Egypt always aspire to keep hurting the black Africans as the Ugandan president clearly stated it? What about the rights of the upstream people to use their water resources without Egypt’s prior approval as they are sovereign and independent nations?

      I am sure Egypt only use of Nile water will not happen as it has happened in the past half a century. I would like to let you know that Egypt need to swallow this hard pill at any cost as the upstream counties will start to benefit from Nile water for their badly needed economic development. You will start to see the Nile and its tributaries water being used for power generation and irrigation in all upstream countries and this will continue to happen.

      I have never seen Egypt’s positive concern and cooperative attitude apart its arrogance, manipulation and bullying attitude to the African nations. Egypt’s egoistic and unlimited aspiration for the Nile water was the main drive for creating the Jonglie canal project which ultimately triggered the civil war in the Sudan. Egypt’s uncontrolled desire for water and its leaders subversive attitude to the upstream countries ( as evidenced by the recent media disclosure and its historical involvement to destabilize the upstream counties, qualify your country as unreliable partner at this point in time. Changing direction from the so called ‘historical rights’ and signing the Nile basin cooperation agreement without any precondition are the two corner stones that the upstream countries need to watch at before qualifying Egypt as a trustworthy and reliable partner.

    • Fikru Gebre

      Don’t mind! What you Expect from doughter of slave

  • Tady

    The story tells the fact that Egyptians don’t woke up from their
    illusion. Still they assume they own not only Nile Water but Africa as
    their backyard to do any thing what they want, even for that matter they
    are considering to divert a Congo river from flowing to the west
    Atlantic, to Egypt North, Mediterranean, for reason based on Egypt ever
    increasing population.

    Egyptian are confused and
    do not know the order of the day. African are determined to do with
    their resource not to harm Egypt but to alleviate their social problem.
    Weather Egypt agree or not they will go ahead with their plan of
    developing their resource with out Egypt consent. It is happening in the
    recent past a lot of grand projects are being implemented on the Nile
    basin, which includes in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan even
    South Sudan has a plan.

    What the Egyptian assume are they are controlling the Nile, but the fact on the ground is not
    as what they assume, and as the time goes by every country develops Nile
    in its own way and it is Egypt who suffer at the End of the day.
    Ratifying the Entebe agreement will help Egypt but not ratifying it does not have a considerable impact on the upper riparian countries, except some obstacle on financing of the project. This can be overarmed as Ethiopia Achieved it in Financing a numbers of five Mega projects in Blue Nile.

  • alex

    Where is the comment I posted in the name of Alex? If you are transparent and open why not you posted it, rather than positng another messge in my name?iIs this part of the Egypts media game plan against thre truth and rights of the upstream countries?

  • Fikru Gebre

    All Egyptian leaders are colonial prisoners! Instead of sorting the issue with the direct person the want the colonial legase. It’s shame on her to argue that the other don’t befit from nile! They(Egptians) still thinks that tehey can control Africa(particularly Ethiopia) by lobbying with different! Africans future is on hand of it’s people not on colonial idolist! The most surprising thing is Egyptian wants to monitor Ethiopian dam constrution and operations! Really they don’t know that we are the hero of ati-colonilist! I think the know it well we do not entertain colonial ideas, we do not negotiate on our sovernity and our people dignity!

  • Pingback: The Water War Between Egypt & Ethiopia « MisBehaved Woman()

  • Jasmine

    It’s stunning to see that Egypt still believes it has the authority to disapprove upstream development efforts via a colonial-era agreement between British occupied Sudan and Egypt [both downstream]. The fact that Ethiopians, whose tributaries contribute about 86% of the Nile water, didn’t develop major project on the river earlier is not because they feel they are bound by such a bogus agreement. Truly speaking, the majority of the people don’t even know, let alone agree to, there was any such claim by Egypt on their water. If you believe Ethiopians are getting rid of their fear of Egypt’s disapproval, or as some foolish may put it: ‘Ethiopia is using the political unrest in Egypt as a window to proceed with the Dam’…the answer is no…Never. There is no hesitation of their absolute right, save for peace, co-existence, and ethical obligations, be it on the leadership or on the street wanderer’s mind that their rivers are theirs to develop, and to come out of humiliating poverty, which is the sole reason why they were not able to develop the rivers until now. Unless Egypt has a way of making us poor again, which no power on earth can do, there is no way, peace or war, that takes the Ethiopians resolve of poverty eradication with its own resources. Negotiated solutions are the only way forward…and it should be realized that Egypt has the weakest of negotiation hands…they have the most to loose peace or war… It is, therefore, time to pay sacrifices [mostly financial and sense of pride] and secure a negotiated solution that can benefit Egyptians not only on the GERD dam but also the many more perceived developments along and on the river in the decades to come. Point is: Ethiopia and any other upstream country has the absolute upper hand now…because, unlike your wishful believe, no recognized and binding agreement exists. Get yourselves on track and sign the Entebe Agreement, try to get the most out of it, If you want more water, pay more for replacement development initiatives that don’t reduce the water. Otherwise any other country can follow suit and go ahead with independent developments, which you really don’t have control on. GERD is the least of your problems to come when it comes to Nile…You might still think you have the key to every funding agency’s door when it comes to river developments. The bad news to that concept is that countries are funding their own projects now… And if not mega scale structures, any Sub-Saharan country, though still underdeveloped and poor, can independently divert the major tributaries to their arid lands by now. Ethiopia has an extensive experience on hydro-power dams…and when done with the Dams, maga scale irrigation projects will pop up….it’s really a no-brainer that when you have water flowing in your own yard and you develop the capacity to use it for anything that relives your hunger, there is little power on earth to turn you back from doing so, unless you get something to buy your food with instead. The risk of not realizing the extent and scale of these problems soon on the Egyptian people and leadership and trying to play chicken to secure the usual status-quo instead of reaching a negotiated binding agreement, is parallel to ignoring the elephant in the room. Otherwise, we say: The water in Ethiopia belongs to Ethiopia!

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