Egypt should not trust Ethiopia, international community to intervene: Ex-minister

Mohammed El-Said
5 Min Read

Egypt should take the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to the United Nations (UN) for international intervention, according to Egypt’s former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Nasr El-Din Allam.

Allam added that this is because Egypt should not trust Ethiopia, making the international intervention on the controversial Ethiopian dam an important aspect of resolving the stalled negotiations.

The former minister added, “There is no point in continuing the negotiations in light of this Ethiopian intransigence, because time is on Ethiopia’s favour.”

He also said that the talks should focus on the disputed points related to filling and operating the dam, although Ethiopia seeks to review all the agreements and the 2015 Declaration of Principles. 

Allam said that Addis Ababa is trying to evade its responsibilities towards downstream countries. It is also not taking into account the principle of not harming the only water resource feeding the two countries that lie downstream, namely Egypt and SUdan. 

On Saturday, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has highlighted his country’s keenness to take part in talks on the issues relating to the controversial Ethiopian dam. He also said that negotiations on the massive dam, which lies on the Blue Nile River, are ongoing to ensure an agreement is reached between the parties involved in the issue. 

In a televised speech on Saturday evening, the President noted that negotiations take a long time, but that Egypt has taken several measures to diversify its water resources. “We will reach a result on the GERD with a long mind and patience, and we do not have to worry at all,” he added. 

President Al-Sisi pointed out that Egyptian concerns regarding the GERD issue are justified and legitimate. Egypt, however, is always manoeuvring in the negotiations framework, in order to protect its River Nile water rights.

He highlighted Egypt’s additional efforts to avoid water wastage, and instead preserve its access to water. These efforts include projects, such as lining the country’s canals, and establishing treatment plants such as the Bahr Al-Baqar plant, which will be inaugurated in June. 

At a cost of EGP 20bn, the project aims to treat the agricultural, industrial and sanitary drainage of Manzala in Daqahleya Governorate, which has a capacity of 5.6 million cubic litres per day. Moreover, President Al-Sisi said that more than 120 km of open canals and water lines have been created to irrigate nearly 400,000 acres in Sinai.

Allam highlighted the state’s efforts to ensure the nation’s water security, stressing that Egypt could not bear any decline in its water share. He also said that the country will never accept imposing a fait accompli against its people’s will. 

Meanwhile, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdouk said, on Saturday, that the GERD issue should be solved in accordance with international law. Hamdouk noted that the Ethiopian dam poses a threat to the safety and security of more than 20 million of his country’s citizens. 

During his speech before the 34th African Union (AU) Virtual Summit, Hamdouk said that Sudan agreed to move forward to solve this issue as part of the principle of African solutions to African problems.

Furthermore, Sudan’s Minister of Water Resources Yassir Abbas said, on Saturday, that Khartoum has proposed an expansion of the negotiations between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia on the GERD issue. This would include the AU, the US, the European Union (EU), and the United Nations (UN). Sudan seeks to make the role of these parties as mediators, rather than just observers. 

For his part, Allam supports Abbas’s views on the subject, and highlighted that the international community should play role in negotiations to reach a consensus on the disputed points and ensure international law is applied. 

Both Egypt and Sudan fear the consequences related to the filling and operation of the $4.6bn mega-dam, as it may restrict their vital water supplies.

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Mohammed El-Said is the Science Editor for the Daily News Egypt with over 8 years of experience as a journalist. His work appeared in the Science Magazine, Nature Middle East, Scientific American Arabic Edition, SciDev and other regional and international media outlets. El-Said graduated with a bachelor's degree and MSc in Human Geography, and he is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at Cairo University. He also had a diploma in media translation from the American University in Cairo.