Ethiopia refuses World Bank arbitration over Nile River dam

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, right, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn talk during their meeting in the Egyptian Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 18, 2018. (The Egyptian Presidency via Reuters)
Updated 21 January 2018

Ethiopia refuses World Bank arbitration over Nile River dam

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: Ethiopia’s leader has rejected arbitration by the World Bank on a disagreement with Egypt over the hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Nile River.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Saturday refused the suggestion made by Egypt in late December that the World Bank should be brought in to resolve the dispute with Ethiopia over the construction of the dam on the Nile River that Egypt says threatens its water security. Sudan is also part of the negotiations because the Nile flows through it on the way to Egypt.
“Ethiopia will not accept Egypt’s request to include the World Bank in the tripartite technical committee’s talks on the dam,” Desalegn told the state-run Ethiopian News Agency after visiting Egypt on Friday where he met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. “There is an opportunity for the three countries to resolve possible disputes by themselves.”
Egypt’s suggestion came amid a 10-month impasse over technical negotiations for the dam, which will be Africa’s biggest hydro-electric plant. Egyptian officials have called the World Bank “neutral and decisive” and said the organization could facilitate negotiations “devoid of political interpretation and manipulation.”
But the Ethiopian leader said that “seeking professional support is one thing; transferring it to an institution is another thing. So we told them (Egypt) that this is not acceptable with our side.” Desalegn said that Egyptians are not getting accurate information about the source of Nile waters and how Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam will operate.
The $5 billion dam is about 63 percent complete. When finished it will generate about 6,400 megawatts, more than doubling Ethiopia’s current production of 4,000 megawatts. The dam will also help to spare Ethiopia from drought and famine.
Ethiopia maintains that the dam’s construction will not reduce Egypt’s share of the river’s water. It insists the dam is needed for development, pointing out that 60 million of its citizens don’t have access to electricity.
But Egypt fears that if the reservoir behind the dam is filled quickly and if too much of the Nile waters are retained each year, the reduction of the river’s flow would have negative effects on Egypt’s agriculture.
Desalegn tried to reassure Egyptian during his visit to the country. “The people of Ethiopia did not nor will ever subject Egyptians to danger,” said Desalegn, in Cairo Saturday on his first visit to Egypt as prime minister. “We will not hurt your country in any way and will work closely together to secure the life of the people of the Nile basin and take them out of the cycle of poverty.”
While Ethiopia has said the dam is a “matter of life or death” for its people, Egypt has said water is a “matter of life or death” for its people.


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.