Satellite images show Ethiopian dam filling as talks fail

This satellite image taken Friday, June 26, 2020, shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile river in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia. (AP)
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Updated 15 July 2020

Satellite images show Ethiopian dam filling as talks fail

  • Egypt accuses Addis Ababa of ‘provocation’ during negotiations

CAIRO: New satellite images of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam show the megaproject’s reservoir beginning to fill, Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

William Davison, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, told the US news agency that the photos taken by the Sentinel-1 satellite can likely be explained by natural rainfall rather than deliberate measures taken by Addis Ababa.

The images come a day after the end of the latest round of negotiations sponsored by the African Union between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. The talks lasted for 11 days without reaching agreement.

Negotiations involved water and irrigation ministers from the three countries, along with observers and delegates from the African Union.

Discussions between the technical and legal committees were reviewed, which reflected disagreements on the rules for filling and operating the dam.

“Egypt has been involved in the Renaissance Dam negotiations with a willingness to reach an agreement. It is showing flexibility until a fair and equitable agreement which meets the interests of the three negotiating countries is reached,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said.

“Unfortunately, there have been no developments in the negotiations to reach an agreement. Egypt will work with a clear vision to reach an agreement that guarantees development in the three countries. The UN Security Council is keeping up with the results of the negotiations. We have confidence in its mechanisms to maintain international peace and security,” he added.

The previous round of talks between the three countries — held from June 9 till June 17 — failed to produce an accord after Ethiopia refused to enter a legally binding agreement, announcing that it will begin filling the dam in July with or without the approval of Egypt and Sudan, the two downstream countries.

“The results of what is being negotiated about the filling of the dam will appear in the coming days,” said Mohamed El-Sebai, spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation.

“With an increase in the flood rate, we will be able to know the story behind the images. There are mechanisms to tell if Ethiopia started filling the dam lake by looking at the amount of water coming to Egypt,” he said.

“The water year in Egypt begins at the start of August. Then we can identify the extent of Ethiopia filling the reservoir of the dam,” El-Sebai added.

Alaa El-Zawahiri, a member of the negotiating committee for the dam, told Arab News there will be a meeting at the presidential level to discuss the dispute soon.

He claims that Ethiopia has a plan to take control of the waters of the Nile from Egypt.

“Ethiopia uses emotions and delusion to provoke feelings against Egypt during negotiations,” he said.

Egyptian water expert Abbas Sharaqi said there is a path to agreement if the parties show flexibility, provided that Ethiopia does not fill the dam or cancel talks.

He said that negotiations will continue through the Security Council, but if Ethiopia starts to fill the dam, Egypt will consider it an aggression and may forcefully stop the filling and the construction of the dam until a fair and just agreement is reached.

Mohamed Nasr Allam, former Egyptian minister of irrigation and water resources, questioned the intentions of the African Union.

He said he will try to end international intervention in the crisis and will work “in every way to prevent the Security Council from interfering.”

He added: “The African Union will also negotiate with and pressure Sudan and others to change positions in an attempt to isolate Egypt and impose its solutions on it, something that I fear will happen in the coming period.”

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”