News / Africa

Nile River Dispute Between Egypt, Ethiopia Sparks Tensions

This photo, made available on April 2, 2013, shows the construction of the dam in Ethiopia's Asosa region.
This photo, made available on April 2, 2013, shows the construction of the dam in Ethiopia's Asosa region.
Peter Heinlein
A former high-ranking Egyptian diplomat says Ethiopia’s move to divert the flow of the Nile River has needlessly heightened regional tensions.  Ethiopia began diverting the river this week as it builds a massive hydroelectric dam. Egypt, which depends on the Nile for its water supply, stressed that it has not approved the dam's construction. 

Ambassador Tarek Ghuneim was a key player in Nile water negotiations until shortly before his retirement last year. In a interview, the former Egyptian diplomat said those talks were characterized by mutual mistrust.

He questioned Ethiopia’s timing in announcing the diversion of Nile water, one day after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s visit to Addis Ababa, and just days before release of a study on the effects of building a giant dam on the river.

Ghuneim also expressed doubts about the coming report of a commission examining the pros and cons of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam.  Critical information has been withheld from the tripartite commission, made up of independent experts and representatives from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, he said. "This committee would not be able to come to a full conclusion because of a lack of information being withheld from the Ethiopian side."  

Ghuneim expressed hope that the international community will intervene to make the three countries cooperate in a way that will benefit them all.  He said cooperation would have the additional benefit of persuading the World Bank and others to provide critically needed funding and quality control measures.

"We here in Egypt understand that lack of energy in Ethiopia; it needs energy, we understand," he said. "But do it in a way that it will not affect negatively any other country.  And that’s the problem they face in financing this dam from the international financial organizations, like the [World] Bank, because it’s standing policy is not to fund anything unless there is consensus from all parties involved."

Ethiopia has said the dam will provide essential energy for the country's development and will not harm countries further downstream.

Ghuneim said this might be a good time for some breakthrough in the long-stalled talks on Nile River water sharing.  He points out that the two leaders who presided over the stalemate, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi, have left the scene, replaced by a new generation that might be more willing to look at the issues in a different way.

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Comments page of 2
by: Mama Ethiopia from: London
May 30, 2013 6:51 PM
This is from Mama Ethiopia to you and all my Egyptian children-

Ethiopia will not harm you. I know ur concerns are genuine. How can a mother do such a thing to her creation? I Ethiopia created you Egypt. You are the gift of Nile and that of mine ( Ethiopia ). A mother would know what is best and does not need to abide by 1929 agreement where you my child had signed with a colonial master with out an appropriate adult or your mother present and be lectured on how to feed my children which I have done for millennia with no treaty before it.

Listen carefully my children in Egypt –we are now in times of environmental crises and my gift needs to be optimized in order to feed all as my duty of care and carefully manage my resources. First of all this is how water usage is calculated. In the EU on average a daily cost of $240 would be incurred per day/per person, this includes drinking, cleaning, agriculture and all sorts.

Let's say it's costs your mother Ethiopia half of this per day, say $ 120 per child (Egyptian) multiply this by 90millon of you. Your mother's gift is calculated to a whooping $1,0800000000 per day to my Egyptian children, this is a huge sum of money, even your cousins in the Arabian Peninsula and their thirsty Camels included would hardly match in million years let alone in one day as your mother does.

So now ! I your mother said, " children, I have now to take away 10% of my resources in order to ensure your survival. Fisrst of all with this Dam you can sort out your power shortage in Alexandra and cairo which in my opinion you should have done this long time a go. This Dam also helps your other brothers dawn stream" So tell me why would you think of war and repercussions? Why would you bite the hand that is feeing you for free again and again? If you my Egyptian child choose to fight me, be ware, you are committing a suicide, I say this for the following reasons.

I, Your mother fought so many invaders in the past and never held back this gift from you. Even when your uncles and their petro dollar cronies across the gulf spent billions on destabelising your generous mother for years, I continued to let this gift flow. You are my child and I will never ever try to heart you. In all honesty, even if you decide to attack me out right with Jets and bombs and what have you, still, I don't think I will let you suffer. What I am worried about most is that haven’t grown wiser and make a fatal mistake of distablising your mother once again. Perhaps you may even be foolish and decide to destroy the Dam and in the process destroy this gift of life turning it in to a contaminated waste of toxsic of radio active warheads from your western friends, who by the way wants you sick, weak and wish to see the end of Egypt my child. Remember, almost all my enemies who travelled to hurt me never lived to tell their story. If war is your choice, I am sorry can’t protect your gift any longer.

My children Dawn stream will not be bothered with radio active water, have plenty to to drink, they need it to power Africa so bright, you may even be able can see it all the way from Cairo, if you managed to live to see a day of light after attacking your mother. Please, I do not want to see this happen to you my child. So listen child- you need to be wiser, I am Ethiopia, your life and listen to me and hold me dear.

Mama Ethiopia.

by: Anonymous
May 30, 2013 6:34 PM
who are you Peter Heinlein?
Looking for a war in Africa? or Looking for a news to wirte?

there is no war and there will not be, unfrotunaltey for you.
You will need to find another topic, that help development and human security prgress.

by: Dave from: Canada
May 30, 2013 6:04 PM
In 1927, Ethiopian King came to USA and signed an agreement to construct a dam on the Blue Nile; however, that plan was blocked by the former colonial power, Great Britain. As a result of this more one million black Africans died by famine. The death would have been avoided if the colonial power wasn't blocked Africans to use their own resources to feed their people.

Africans have been suffering too much due to lack of clean water even though they are the sources of The Nile.

America is a supper power, they still pay for Canadians' water (specifically for Columbia river). South Africa is a big country, she still pays for Lesotho's water.

Egypt intention to use the Nile water in the expense of Africans shows their absolute ignorance and selfishness. Egypt need to understand that water is a natural resources for Africans as Oil and gas is for Egypt.

The solution is a win win situations: Africans pay for Egypt's oil and gas, Egypt need to pay for Africans water; and Egypt has to stop harming rebels and interfering in Africans' internal politics.
In Response

by: Zed from: Ethiopia
June 06, 2013 5:04 AM
Dear Joe Doe, do you think the ancient Egyptian civilizaton is about this day Egypt? Accept the disappointing fact for you-The ancient Egyptian civilization is black African civilization.Your people are migrants from the neighbouring Arab lands.You are trying to teach us the history of Egypt.But, Let me tell sth about Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the origin of human race and is origin of world civilization.
In Response

by: Anonymous
May 31, 2013 10:30 PM
@John Doe

Get your facts right. Ethiopia is not obliged to colonial era rule that obviously benefited Egypt, then part of the British empire. This is not irrigation, or any other project that results in a net loss of water flow. This is a dam, and by that the water will pass through the dam and eventually reenter the river without a significant loss except for possible evaporation.

Second, even if Ethiopia is to use the water in a manner that results in a net reduction in the volume that makes it to Egypt, it has the right to do so. Once again the Colonial Era treaty is not binding by no reasonable argument.

Ethiopians are peaceful by all measures, if the need arises for us to protect our investment we will do so by all means necessary.
In Response

by: Dave from: Canada
May 31, 2013 12:41 PM

Dear John Doe, Thanks for your comment, however " the 10th floor" theory is not relevant here. The Oil in Saudis belongs to Saudis, the water in Turkey belongs Turkey.
In Response

by: John Doe from: US
May 31, 2013 2:55 AM
First of all, Egypt and Ethiopia are both very old countries, but also a long-time friends. The speak about war is utterly ridiculous in every way. here is how the situation should be seen;
1. Egypt (of the Pharaohs) has long been there for a very long time and it is the mother of all civilizations. Denying that only shows ignorance regarding history facts. According to international law, the Nile is an international river that belongs to all the countries that the river runs through. The river Nile belongs to both countries. The fact that rain falls on Ethiopian mountains before forming the river doesn't in any way mean that the river belongs to Ethiopia, because Ethiopia doesn't own the rain. An example is a 10 stories building, if the resident in the 10th floor lived there for 20 years, and then the resident in the first floor comes in, the resident in the 10th floor will always be the one who came first even if the the 1st floor resident came and sat beside the gates.

2. Ethiopia has every right to set different projects on its own soil as long as it doesn't affect other neighboring countries regarding their international and agreed rights.

3. Egyptian fear after the decision of the diversion doesn't arise form the diversion itself but actually because of the unilateral decision making policy that Ethiopia has takes with no RIGHTS to do so. It is just the same when comparing a 10 stories high building, the first floor residents can't cut the water pipes going up just because they run in their apartment. The effect of teh damn later in the years must be studied well enough before construction, and that will be in the favor of all countries.

4. It is a must to know that Ethiopia can't keep all the water for itself even if Ethiopia wants to because simply as a river the water eventually needs to reach somewhere. That's a lot of water.
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