24 Avril 2021
Nubia: The dam negotiations will not come to anything according to Egypt? Ethiopia is just trying to buy time? What are the arguments that Cairo puts forward?
Bassam: The project, released on March 31, 2011, started on May 28, 2013 and construction is expected to last until 2022.
It is causing tensions with the countries located downstream (Sudan and Egypt), which fear a decrease in water flows and silt inputs. Water from the Ethiopian highlands represents 86% of the water consumed in Egypt and 95% during flooding.The Blue Nile alone provides 59% of the Nile's flow.
The Renaissance dam project therefore created serious tensions with the government in Cairo.
In 1902 a treaty of May 15, commits Ethiopia not to build any hydraulic works on the Blue Nile or the Sobat without the agreement of the British authorities who then ruled Egypt.
In 1959, an agreement signed between Egypt and Sudan, allocating two-thirds of the water to the first and 22% to the second, the other riparian countries sharing the balance.
In 1999, the “Nile Basin Initiative” was created in Addis Ababa, which brings together countries bordering the Nile (Burundi, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) which question this distribution.
In 2015 Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia signed an agreement in principle on the distribution of water and on the Renaissance dam in March. They decide to call on a "National Independent Scientific Research Group" (NISRG) to assess the environmental impacts of the construction schedules proposed by these countries. This group met regularly and was preparing to issue a consensus report and recommendations as Egypt decided to seek mediation, which in the group put Egyptians in difficulty, being able to "feel obliged not to write or say anything that could undermine the negotiating position of their government ”.
In 2017 (December), Sameh Choukry, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited Ethiopia to advance the negotiations.
In 2018, on January 2, 2018, Egypt wishes to discuss directly with Ethiopia, excluding Sudan from the negotiations, and proposes the World Bank as a neutral mediator in the conflict.
On January 18, 2018, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Haile Mariam Dessalegn visited the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo in order to obtain a relaxation of the position of the two countries: Ethiopia would like a rapid filling of the dam, less than 7 years, in order to quickly benefit from electricity production, when Egypt would like to extend this period, so as not to reduce too much the flow of the Nile. Ethiopia refuses the arbitration of the World Bank which did not want to finance the construction of the dam.
At the beginning of April a new failure of negotiations took place, according to Ibrahim Ghandour, Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, while the dam was more than 70% built. This 4 pm meeting in Khartoum brought together Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. More than water, it is also Egyptian hegemony over the region which is called into question, while the dam is a symbol of national pride in Ethiopia.
On Thursday July 26, Simegnew Bekele, the director of the dam, was found dead in his car.
In 2019, while each country concerned is still awaiting the results of an independent scientific assessment on the risks of the dam for downstream countries, scientific experts are faced with negotiations between the three countries which seem to be at an impasse, in particular between the 'Ethiopia and Egypt, 90% of whose fresh water comes from the Nile and who "fears the dam will create water scarcity for its 100 million people over the next five to seven years to fill the river. dam reservoir. Egypt decided [in early October] to ask another country to settle the dispute - the United States being its preferred choice. Ethiopia rejects this proposal. " Another risk is that once the findings are published, political leaders refuse or are unable to change their positions. In the meantime, via a column in the journal Nature, the world of Research is pleading for Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to let researchers complete the work they have been asked to do.
The negotiations in early October 2019 in Khartoum between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia reached an impasse. Egypt wants the GERD reservoir to be filled as slowly as possible, in nearly fifteen years, while Gideon Asfaw, the Minister of Water in Addis Ababa, proposes four to seven years. Egypt demands a guarantee of a flow of 41 billion cubic meters per year, but Ethiopia refuses to commit to such a figure, but suggests that it could grant 30 billion cubic meters.
Egypt promises Ethiopia the possibility of exporting its goods to the Mediterranean via its territory if Addis Ababa relaxes its position.
Nubia: Can a war between these countries spill over into the whole region?
Bassam : UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned that "Ethiopia's stability is important for the entire Horn of Africa region".
If former US President Donald Trump had shown his support for Egypt if it decided to destroy the Ethiopian dam and even encouraged it to do so, current US President Joe Biden is losing interest in the conflict linked to the dam and is rather favorable to Addis Ababa by suspending the sanctions against the latter.
With a population of over 110 million and one of the continent's fastest growing economies, what happens in Ethiopia inevitably has wider implications.
A regional war is going to affect over 250 million people, so you can imagine the consequences.
Let us not forget either the foreign presence in the region. Djibouti and Eritrea host on their soil military, naval and air bases from several countries, including France, China, the USA, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and even more discreetly Israel and Iran (at least in the past).
The latest development of events there, comes from the statement of the Sudanese authorities, in which they expressed their concerns that Ethiopia send reinforcements in artillery and rocket launchers to the border. This is an indication of a real rise in tension between the two countries.
Nubia: Addis Ababa continues its provocations towards Cairo and Khartoum, does it really have room for maneuver, or is it trying to gain time to place everyone under the fait accompli? And what are Cairo's military options?
Bassam: In reality, Ethiopia finds itself isolated and without support, even though Washington has lost interest in the conflict over the dam, the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the rebel province has served as a pretext to put pressure on Ethiopia and Eritrea so that they withdraw their troops from the province of Tigray
Ethiopia has even tried to approach Turkey to gain support for the Egyptian position, but Istanbul apparently does not want to anger Cairo at this time. Egypt seems determined to thwart Ethiopian projects, this explains the visit of Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to Cairo and which was followed by a visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi to Khartoum on Saturday March 6, 2021. This is the first since the fall of General Omar Al-Bashir
For several months, Sudan and Egypt have embarked on a strategy of strengthening their relations, marked among other things by their common position on the Ethiopian dam.
The two heads of state spoke of the Renaissance dam on the Nile, which pits them against Ethiopia and aligned themselves with a common position to prevent Addis Ababa from carrying out its project unilaterally. This alliance between the two Arab countries dependent on the Nile, gives more consistency to the Egyptian threats. Now the Egyptian armed forces will be able to support a ground action of the Sudanese armed forces, in the event that an air raid is not enough.
A joint air strike is unlikely to fail, as Cairo has high performance attack aircraft such as Rafale F-3, Mig-29 M-2, F16 and Mirage-2000, all capable of travel the necessary distance and hit with precision. Egyptian pilots are well trained and prepared. Its air force is also equipped with anti-fortification guided bombs. Sudan is also lining up planes capable of participating in strikes. All these elements mean that Addis Ababa will not be able to continue to feign its opponents any longer and take advantage of the lost time.