Nile dam dispute spills onto social media

A general view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, near Guba in Ethiopia. (AFP)
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Updated 10 July 2020

Nile dam dispute spills onto social media

CAIRO: As Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan struggle to resolve a long-running dispute over Addis Ababa’s dam megaproject on the Nile, some of their citizens are sparring online over their rights to the mighty waterway.
For nearly a decade, multiple rounds of talks between Cairo, Addis Ababa and Khartoum have failed to produce a deal over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Anxiety has mounted in downstream Sudan and Egypt, which fear for their vital water supplies after upstream Ethiopia declared plans to start filling Africa’s largest dam reservoir in July.
As tensions have run high in the political arena, they have also amped up online.
In one widely viewed video originally shared on TikTok, an Ethiopian woman pours water from a pitcher into two cups representing Egypt and Sudan.
She fills Sudan’s cup to the brim but only pours a trickle of water into Egypt’s, before emptying the water back into the pitcher.
“This is my water. When I give you water, it’s my call, not yours,” she says.
In response, an Egyptian woman created a compilation of the video and one of her own in which she knocks down a dam-shaped block structure with the Ethiopian flag superimposed on it before triumphantly downing a cup of water.
The video had been viewed more than 55,000 times on Instagram by Wednesday.
Social media “platforms are powerful,” said Wubalem Fekade, communications head at the intergovernmental ENTRO-Nile Basin Initiative.
“People on the social media platforms aren’t accountable, so it’s easy to disseminate unverified, incorrect, false, even conspiracy theories,” he said.
But, he added hopefully, “when used creatively and judiciously, they can help defuse tensions.”
The online row over the dam has been particularly heated between Egyptian and Ethiopian social media users.
Egypt has long enjoyed the lion’s share of the Nile water under decades-old agreements that were largely viewed by other Nile basin countries as unfair.
On Twitter, Egyptians echoed authorities’ fears that Ethiopia’s dam would severely cut their country’s supply of water from the Nile, which provides 97 percent of the arid nation’s water needs.
“We will never allow any country to starve us” of water, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris wrote on Twitter.
“If Ethiopia doesn’t come to reason, we, the Egyptian people will be the first to call for war,” he threatened.
Egyptian cartoonist Ahmed Diab has weighed in with a drawing of an outsized Egyptian soldier, rifle slung over his shoulder, facing a diminutive Ethiopian man with the dam in the background.
“You idiot, try to understand that I care for you ... ever heard about the Bar Lev Line?” the soldier tells the Ethiopian, alluding to Egypt’s military strength in referring to the Egyptian destruction of an Israeli defense line along the Suez canal in 1973.
Diab called the cartoon part of a “psychological war.”
“Besides a show of military might and strong media discourse, arts can boost people’s morale,” he said.
For their part, Ethiopians have rallied behind their country’s mega project, set to become Africa’s largest hydroelectric installation.
On social media, they have rejected any conditions of reaching a deal before filling the dam.
Filling the dam should not be held “hostage” to an agreement with Cairo, Ethiopian activist Jawar Mohamed wrote on Twitter.
“If agreement is reached before the filling begins in the coming days, it’s great. If not, the filling should begin and the negotiation shall continue,” he said.
Ethiopia, one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, insists the dam will not affect the onward flow of water and sees the project as indispensible for its national development and electrification.
Khartoum hopes the dam will help regulate flooding, but in June it warned that millions of lives will be at “great risk” if Ethiopia unilaterally fills the dam.
In a letter to the UN Security Council, Sudan raised concerns that water discharged from the GERD could “compromise the safety” of its own Roseires Dam by overwhelming it and causing flooding.
Omar Dafallah, a Sudanese artist, depicted Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed overseeing the water flowing from the dam through a faucet to fill a jug held by Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
The drawing also shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi with a large water container, waiting in line.
Last month, Egypt also appealed to the UNSC to intervene in the crisis — a move El-Sisi said underlined his country’s committment to a political solution.
Egyptian lawmaker Mohamed Fouad views the online debate as a way to “break the stalemate” in the diplomatic talks, “so long as they remain within the boundaries of healthy discussions.”


Arab News post-debate panelists: No clear winner between Biden and Trump

Updated 30 September 2020

Arab News post-debate panelists: No clear winner between Biden and Trump

  • Arab News correspondents Ray Hanania and Ephrem Kossaify, joined by veteran Arab American journalists Dalia Al-Aqidi and Warren David

 

CHICAGO: An Arab News panel of four distinguished Arab-American journalists and writers concluded Tuesday evening that there was “no clear winner” in the first of three debates between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Trump and Biden took the stage in a 90-minute sparring match held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and moderated by “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace.
Arab News panelists included Dalia Al-Aqidi, a former congressional candidate in Minnesota and award-winning international journalist and commentator covering foreign affairs; and Warren David, president of ArabAmerica.com, a networking website that disseminates events, news, music and culture.

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READ MORE: 

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AS IT HAPPENED: Trump, Biden in heated and chaotic presidential debate

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The discussion was moderated by Arab News New York correspondent Ephrem Kossaify, who has covered American elections since 2004, interviewing former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.
It was emceed by Ray Hanania, a veteran Chicago City Hall political writer who is Arab News’s US special correspondent and columnist.
“I don’t think anybody won,” Al-Aqidi said. “I don’t think this debate made any impact on undecided voters … It wasn’t a debate. It was boring at one point. So I don’t think there was a winner.”
David said the president was “bullying” during the debate. “Trump didn’t follow the rules of the presidential debate, and I think Biden somehow won because Trump was out of control,” David added.
Kossaify said: “We’ve never seen a debate like this one. It was more of a brawl than a debate. There was hope that somehow we’d rise above the chaos tonight, but I don’t think we really did. It was very chaotic throughout.”
Hanania noted that Biden called Trump many names, including “liar”, “clown” and “racist,” while the president spent much time interrupting Biden as he responded to questions, to the point where Wallace reprimanded Trump for violating the rules that were agreed upon by his campaign not to interrupt.
“But Biden did something no one expected. He didn’t stumble … They brought up he was too old to be president, and did he have the mental capacity. He proved he does,” Hanania said.
“Trump on the other hand, I don’t think he was mean as many people thought he’d be, other than using the term ‘Pocahontas’ one time in the beginning. He didn’t call anyone fat. He didn’t insult women. He didn’t insult Biden.”
All agreed that no clear, single issue stood out from either candidate. “It was the same thing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth,” David said.
“I was really disappointed in Wallace. He really came after the president several times, and Biden but more after Trump.”
Panelists agreed that the president interrupted Biden frequently, earning reprimands from Wallace.
What was most memorable of the 90-minute debate? “Biden managed to stay on stage for 96 minutes. The bar is so low for Biden, it was an achievement for him to stay straight for 96 minutes,” Al-Aqidi said.
“I think the biggest failure was Wallace. We didn’t hear clear questions … and he didn’t let us hear the answers. There were very important issues that needed to be discussed, but he couldn’t get a clear answer from both.”
The debate was broken up into short two-minute statements from each candidate on a topic, followed by several minutes of open debate, but it appeared chaotic at times.
The first question was on the appointment of a Supreme Court justice to succeeded Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.
Other topics included the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, what Wallace described as “race and violence in American cities,” and the integrity of the elections.
“Every issue discussed tonight is very crucial to what’s happening tonight — the Supreme Court nomination to fill the gap of the late Judge Ginsburg and what that would entail; in terms of health care that affects every American; abortion rights; women rights. Everything is in the balance,” said Kossaify.
David said: “This is the most important election in this country … 2020 has had so many issues, starting with COVID-19 and civil rights issues, and starting with impeachment at the beginning of the year … health care, the divisiveness — all of that and the Supreme Court, Roe vs Wade, all these big issues … We can’t afford to have a debate like this because our lives are on the line.”