Egypt threatens Ethiopia over hydro project

Egypt’s foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, vowing not to give up “a single drop of water from the Nile,” said June 16 he will go to Addis Ababa to discuss a giant dam that Ethiopia has started building in defiance of Cairo’s objections. “No Nile—no Egypt,” he said at a press conference. Last week, Ethiopia summoned the Egyptian ambassador after politicians in Cairo were shown on TV calling for military action or supporting Ethiopian rebels. Ethiopia says the $4.7 billion Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile will eventually provide 6,000 megawatts of power. Egypt was apparently caught by surprise when Ethiopia started diverting the Blue Nile to begin construction last month.

The Ethiopian parliament has unanimously endorsed the new Nile River Cooperative Framework Agreement, an accord already signed by five other Nile-basin states—Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi. The accord is the fruit of long negotiations to replace the 1929 treaty drawn up by Britain that awarded Egypt veto power over any project involving the Nile by upstream countries. The new agreement would establish a permanent body to oversee river management, potentially overriding a 1959 agreement dividing the Nile’s waters between Egypt and Sudan.

Egypt and Sudan oppose the new agreement. Newly independent South Sudan, a new member of the Nile basin group, supports it, backing Ethiopia’s right to build the dam and calling on Egypt to enter into a dialogue to resolve the dispute. (Sudan Tribune, June 14; BBC News, Al Arabiyya, June 13; Reuters, June 9)

See our 2004 feature on the Secret Wars for the Nile.