El-Sisi shows ‘extreme concern’ over Nile dam to Ethiopian PM

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi greets Ethiopian Premier Hailemariam Desalegn in Cairo on Thursday. (AP)
Updated 19 January 2018

El-Sisi shows ‘extreme concern’ over Nile dam to Ethiopian PM

CAIRO: Egypt’s president on Thursday expressed his “extreme concern” to Ethiopia’s visiting prime minister over the lack of progress in talks on the impact of a massive upstream dam that Egypt fears could cut into its vital share of the Nile.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has warned that Egypt’s share of the Nile, which provides nearly all its freshwater, is a red line. But he has also sought to reassure Ethiopia and Sudan that Egypt has no intention of going to war.
El-Sisi was grim-faced during most of a news conference he jointly addressed with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn after the two held talks in Cairo.
El-Sisi said he appreciated Ethiopia’s repeated assurances that the dam, which is about 60 percent complete, would not have a negative impact on Egypt, but he said studies must still be completed and that all sides should abide by their findings.
Egypt is a mostly desert country that depends on the Nile for almost all of its water needs. Its 95 million people grow by at least a million every year, further straining its water resources and posing a perpetual challenge to its economic development.
“I expressed our extreme concern over the continuation of the state of stagnation besetting the tripartite technical track,” which is aimed at examining the impact of the dam on Egypt and Sudan, El-Sisi said.
He said cooperation among the Nile basin countries must not be a “zero-sum game.”
Relations have deteriorated between Egypt and Sudan, with Cairo accusing Khartoum of siding with Ethiopia in the dispute over the dam and reviving a long-standing border dispute.
Of special concern to Egypt is the speed at which a planned reservoir is filled behind the dam and the method of its annual replenishment. Egypt fears that a quick fill would drastically reduce the Nile’s flow, with potentially severe effects on its agriculture and other sectors.
Ethiopia says the $5 billion dam is essential, noting that the vast majority of its population lacks electricity. The dam will generate over 6,400 megawatts, a massive boost to the country’s current production of 4,000 Megawatts.
Egypt recently proposed that World Bank experts be brought in as neutral arbitrators. El-Sisi said Sudan and Ethiopia are still studying the proposal, but that Desalegn wanted a different team of experts.


At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

Updated 5 min 38 sec ago

At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

  • The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli
  • The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area

CAIRO: Over a dozen migrants trying to reach Europe drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their small dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya, the United Nations reported Friday, the latest shipwreck to underscore the deadly risks facing those who flee the war-afflicted North African country.
Libyan fishermen spotted the sinking boat late Thursday, said the International Organization for Migration, and managed to pull 22 people from the water, including those from Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Somalia and Ghana.
But at least 13 of the other passengers were missing and presumed drowned. Three dead bodies were found floating in the water, including one Syrian man and woman. The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, late on Wednesday.
The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area for more victims.
“So many boats are leaving these days, but autumn is a very difficult season,” said Commodore Masoud Abdal Samad. “When it gets windy, it’s deadly. It changes in an instant.”
Following the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants hoping to get to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. At least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014, according to the UN
Those who survived Friday’s disaster were taken to the Tripoli port, where they received medical care for their burns, a common consequence of leaked engine fuel mixing with saltwater, said Safa Msehli, an IOM spokeswoman.
Libyan authorities shepherded the survivors to the Zliten detention center, run by the Tripoli-based government’s Interior Ministry. Migrants rescued at sea and returned to Libya routinely land in detention centers notorious for torture, extortion and abuse. Amnesty International revealed in a report Thursday that thousands of migrants have been forcibly disappeared from unofficial militia-run detention centers.
The shipwreck, the second to be recorded by the UN in as many weeks, “signals the need now more than ever for state-led search and rescue capacity to be redeployed and the need to support NGO vessels operating in a vacuum,” said Msehli.
Since 2017, European countries, particularly Italy, have delegated most search-and-rescue responsibility to the Libyan Coast Guard, which intercepts migrant boats before they can reach European waters. Activists have lamented that European authorities are increasingly blocking the work of nongovernmental rescue organizations that patrol the Mediterranean and seek to disembark at European ports.