Five days of disagreement during Renaissance Dam negotiations

Water flows through Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, September 26, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 July 2020

Five days of disagreement during Renaissance Dam negotiations

  • Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the River Nile for its fresh water, fears the dam will diminish its water supply, which is already below scarcity level
  • Ethiopia hopes that the massive $4.8 billion megaproject on the Blue Nile will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter

CAIRO: Five days of negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over a multi-billion dollar dam megaproject have seen nothing but disagreement, according to one of the parties involved in the talks.

Meetings to resolve the dispute were held under the auspices of the African Union (AU) for technical and legal teams from the three countries to try to bridge some points of disagreements, but the discussions did not result in anything new, a statement from Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation said.

The ministry added that, other than the disputes over the rules for refilling the dam after periods of prolonged drought, when the dam would be at the lowest levels of operation, Egypt was adhering to the application of certain rules for refilling but that Ethiopia was pushing to apply the same rules for the first filling, which added a burden to the High Dam in Egypt.

Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the River Nile for its fresh water, fears the dam will diminish its water supply, which is already below scarcity level.

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Ethiopia hopes that the massive $4.8 billion megaproject on the Blue Nile will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter. 

The Egyptian ministry statement also said that Ethiopia refused to include the annual operating curve of the dam by agreement and was determined to change the operating rules in a unilateral manner, a stance rejected by Sudan and Egypt.

On Wednesday evening, the delegation of each country met separately with AU observers and experts in order to reach a compromise.

In light of the negotiations Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed confirmed that his country would not harm Egypt regarding the Renaissance Dam. He added that it would start filling the dam to take advantage of the heavy rain season, saying the disagreement with Egypt over the operation and filling of the dam would be resolved.

“We will not deprive Egypt of water and we will reach an agreement soon,” Ahmed added.

Muhammad Al-Sebaei, a spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources, said there remained disagreement on a number of issues between the countries and that no progress had been made.

Al-Sebaei added that, if Ethiopia remained insistent over its demands and the points that it wished to implement, an agreement would not be reached.

“Next Sunday is the deadline for the end of the Renaissance Dam negotiations, in the event that a new variable does not appear.”

Former Egyptian minister of irrigation, Mohamed Nasr Allam, told Arab News that there were aspects that must be taken into account by the Ethiopian side during the negotiations. Among these were, he explained, not to harm Egypt and Sudan’s share of the Nile waters according to historical agreements. Allam said that if Ethiopia objected again to historical agreements, then Egypt must resort to the International Court of Justice.

The previous round of negotiations failed to produce an accord due to Ethiopia's refusal to enter into a legally binding agreement and its announcement that it would begin filling the dam this month with or without the approval of the two downstream countries.

Mustafa Kamel El-Sayed, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said that Egypt should use its good international relations, especially with China and Russia, to pressure the Ethiopian side. 

Chinese companies were involved in building the Renaissance Dam, and China was in charge of building the electricity network that would transfer the generated energy from the dam to other parts of Ethiopia. “So, without cooperation from China, the construction of the dam and the associated electricity projects will suffer,” El-Sayed told Arab News.

According to El-Sayed, Russia had relations of strategic importance in protecting the dam. It had provided Ethiopia with the knowledge and equipment in the nuclear field by building a nuclear power plant and reactor, which was “very significant” for any country looking to be a nuclear power as well as helping in the field of energy and armament.

He advised Egypt to inform China and Russia that their interests in the country were determined by the extent of their assistance in helping with the Ethiopian position.

“Egypt is important to China in implementing its ambitious project known as the Belt and Road Initiative, which crosses Egypt on the way to Europe. It is very beneficial to China. Russia has major investments in Egypt that exceeds its investment in Ethiopia,” El-Sayed added.


A shattered Beirut emerges from the rubble stunned, wounded

Updated 36 min 49 sec ago

A shattered Beirut emerges from the rubble stunned, wounded

  • Tuesday’s explosion was the worst the city has ever seen
  • Lebanon was already mired in a severe economic crisis

BEIRUT: Residents of Beirut — stunned, sleepless and stoic — emerged Wednesday from the aftermath of a catastrophic explosion searching for missing relatives, bandaging their wounds and retrieving what’s left of their homes.
The sound of ambulance sirens and the shoveling of glass and rubble could be heard across the Lebanese capital. Almost nothing was left untouched by the blast, which obliterated the port and sent a tide of destruction through the city center.
Elegant stone buildings, fashionable shopping districts and long stretches of the famed seaside promenade were reduced to rubble within seconds of Tuesday’s blast.
The explosion appeared to have been caused by a blaze at a fireworks warehouse that ignited a stockpile of ammonium nitrate stored at the port since 2013. But many blamed the catastrophe on the country’s long-entrenched political class, with some saying it marked the final straw after decades of corruption and neglect.

At least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 wounded. The number of dead was expected to rise as rescuers sifted through the rubble.
“Beirut is gone” said Mohammed Saad, an out-of-town driver making his way through the mangled streets.
“We don’t deserve this,” said Riwa Baltagi, a 23-year-old who was helping friends retrieve valuables from their demolished homes.
Some of the worst damage was in the leafy neighborhoods of Mar Mikhael and Gemayzeh, where the blast damaged some of the few historic buildings that survived the 1975-1990 civil war. Balconies had dropped to street level, where shops and restaurants were buried and chairs and tables turned upside down.
“I have nowhere to go,” a woman said as she wept in what remained of her home in Gemayzeh. “What am I supposed to do?” she screamed into her mobile phone.

A statue representing the Lebanese expatriate is seen in front of a building that was damaged by an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (AP)

Furniture and cushions were strewn along the streets amid the endless shards of glass. The damage could be seen across town in the popular shopping district of Hamra, and at the international airport south of the city. The blast could be felt as far off as Cyprus, a Mediterranean island some 200 kilometers (120 miles) away.
Few lamented the damage at the headquarters of the state electricity company, a symbol of the corruption and poor governance that has bedeviled Lebanon since the end of the war. Many blamed the latest catastrophe on the country’s long-entrenched political class.
“They are so irresponsible that they ended up destroying Beirut,” said Sana, a retired schoolteacher who was preparing to leave her heavily damaged apartment in Mar Mikhael. “I worked for 40 years to make this home and they destroyed it for me in less than a minute.”
“The political class must go. This country is becoming totally hopeless,” she said. “It cannot get worse.”
Lebanon was already mired in a severe economic crisis, with soaring unemployment and a plunging exchange rate that had erased many people’s life savings. The blast demolished a major wheat silo at the port, raising concerns that the small country, which relies on imports, may soon struggle to feed itself.

There were some glimmers of hope amid the tragedy: Volunteers could be seen ferrying the wounded to hospitals on trucks and motorcycles, while others provided first aid.
A widely circulated video showed a crowd erupting in applause as a civil defense worker was rescued from under the rubble. In another, showing the moment of the blast, a nanny grabs a little girl and pulls her to safety as the windows of the apartment shatter inward.
Throughout the night, radio presenters read the names of missing or wounded people. An Instagram page called “Locating Victims Beirut” sprung up with photos of missing people. Another account helped to connect the newly displaced with hotels and homeowners who were willing to host them.
Lebanese have been forced to learn self-reliance throughout the country’s painful history. Beirut was split in half during the 1975-1990 civil war, and in the years since has been rocked by a war with Israel, targeted killings and terror attacks.
But Tuesday’s explosion was the worst the city has ever seen.
Children were among the thousands rushed to hospitals, where many patients had to be treated in hallways and parking lots once the wards filled up.
Elie Khoueiry, a 38-year-old father of two, said he’s had enough.
He estimates the blast caused up to $20,000 worth of damage to his pub, where business was already suffering because of the economic crisis and a coronavirus lockdown.
“If the ruling class wants us to leave, let them give us tickets and we will go,” he said.