Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 1 November 2020

El Sisi: Nile dam must benefit Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan equally

Egyptian president mixes stern warnings to Addis Ababa with renewed commitment to negotiations

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Tuesday said the Nile’s water was a gift that his country would never surrender and any deal with Addis Ababa on its new dam must be of equal benefit to Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Mr El Sisi mixed angry speech and stern warnings to Ethiopia with renewed commitment to negotiations on the dam during his televised comments on Tuesday.

"I want to reassure you because our case is a just one,” he told the Egyptian public.

“This civilisation was created because of water. God almighty is the one who brought this water to us.”

He urged the public to work hard to help Egypt grow stronger, and did not rule out military action to protect the country's share of Nile water.

“No one dares eat the lion’s food. Be lions. Being a lion is not just empty talk," Mr El Sisi said.

"Our right is not just to water but to life. No one dares encroach on us, on our interests or our national security.

"And I am not talking just about water. I am talking about everything.”

Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is expected to produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity when it is completed. Reuters
Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is expected to produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity when it is completed. Reuters

For almost a decade, Egypt has been trying without success to persuade Ethiopia to enter a legally binding agreement for running and filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, the source of more than 80 per cent of the Nile’s water.

Ethiopia also rejected proposals to ensure Egypt received enough water during drought, and for a mechanism to resolve future disputes.

Egypt depends on the Nile for more than 90 per cent of its water and hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake.

“We tell our brothers in Ethiopia and Sudan that, just as we want to live, we want you to live, too,” Mr El Sisi said.

The dam is expected to produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity when it is completed.

Mr El Sisi said Egypt was ready to lend a helping hand “on condition that this issue does not impact on the water we receive".

He said he shared the concerns of the Egyptian public over how the dam would affect the country.

“Your concern is both natural and legitimate, and I am worried too," Mr El Sisi said.

"But work harder every time you experience fear so you can be strong, capable and hard.

"When you work more, you will be stronger and no one will dare take way what’s rightly yours.

“If you are worried and afraid, don’t talk much or make threats and say things you shouldn’t say.”

He was referring to sections of pro-government media that have been advocating military action against Ethiopia.

“We are in the process of negotiations and they are like a battle that will last long," Mr El Sisi said.

"We will not put our signature on anything that does not safeguard our interests, that equally benefits and inflicts acceptable damage on all of us."

Sudan’s concerns about the dam pale in comparison, but Khartoum is increasingly worried that a breach in the dam would flood large parts of its eastern regions.

A lack of co-operation with the Ethiopians on running the dam could also affect Sudan's hydroelectric dams on the Blue Nile.

Mr El Sisi outlined some of the mega projects being undertaken by his government to reduce water waste and optimise its use.

But he made it clear that these projects were designed to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population.

“We have been alert about this for a long time,” Mr El Sisi said.

He said Egypt intended to invest about $50 billion (Dh183.63bn) on water projects, including recycling sewage water, by 2037.

Updated: July 29, 2020 12:37 AM

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