Egypt: “if Ethiopia does not reach an agreement with us, we will… call for war.”
Ethiopia: "Our country.... will continue to protect it (the Renaissance Dam) with every necessary deterrent force"
Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa
June 16, 2020
The statements of officials in Egypt about the failure of the tripartite talks with Ethiopia and Sudan over the Renaissance Dam were accompanied by voices calling for a military confrontation.
Cairo and on the political level, it ruled out that the ongoing negotiations would yield any result, attributing the reason to “Ethiopian intransigence.”
On social media, the drums of war sounded, as the Egyptian tweeters demanded a military strike that would silence Ethiopia and protect Egypt’s water security.
On the other hand, Ethiopians respond by threatening a relentless war if Cairo prevents their country from operating the dam.
The huge Renaissance Dam project on the Blue Nile, which Ethiopia launched in 2011, is a source of regional tension, especially with Egypt, which the Nile supplies 90 percent of its water needs, and is already suffering from water scarcity even before filling the dam.
With the deadline set by Ethiopia to start filling the Nahda Dam lake next month, some social networking influencers are beginning to talk about the military option.
Some Egyptian tweeters have retrieved historical statements by former officials that the military option may be resorted to in the event of wrecking Egypt’s water share.
The dam will deprive Egyptians of 20 billion cubic meters of their current share of 55 billion cubic meters during the years of filling the disputed dam between Egypt and Ethiopia.
The Renaissance Dam, according to the former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Dr. Mohamed Nasr El-Din Allam, will lead to “the rigging of about four million acres of agricultural land and the discharge of water from the High Dam, which will stop the turbines that generate electricity, and will lead to a deterioration in fish farms.”
Egyptians threatening Ethiopia
Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris said in a tweet on Twitter that “the Egyptian people will not allow any country to make him hungry, and if Ethiopia does not reach an agreement with us, we will be the first people to call for war.”
Egyptians distributed a hashtag # #AlNahda Dam, pictures of the Egyptian army, its equipment, and its planes, demanding the implementation of a military threat against the Al-Nahda Dam.
The director and member of the Egyptian House of Representatives Khaled Youssef republished a clip from a video of former Commander-in-Chief – the Field Marshal Mohamed Abdel Halim Abu Ghazala threatening to use force to preserve Egypt’s right to the waters of the Nile.
Abu Ghazaleh said in the video, “The action in these areas is not directed against Egypt, and if it is directed against Egypt, we must confront it. We must seek to use all comprehensive forces to prevent the implementation of projects in some countries of the Nile Basin that aim to reduce Egypt’s share of Nile water”.
“The lack of the Nile water flowing into Egypt means there is no life and there is no Ethiopia either,” said Adel Ghali, adding, “Be careful of the Egyptian people’s anger, and if Ethiopia is ready for war in order to invest in the dam, then we will be more prepared to fight for our lives.”.
The Ethiopians respond
On the other hand, the Ethiopian tweet did not sit idly by, as some of them used the Arabic tag “#Al-Nahdha” in addition to #itsmydam to respond to the Egyptians.
“Our country, which, thanks to God Almighty, has been able to continue the construction of the Renaissance Dam in the shadow of the Corona pandemic, will continue to protect it with every necessary deterrent force,” he said.
The Ethiopian Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Adam Mohamed, said on March 12 after negotiations postponed that his country’s army was ready to counter any military attack targeting the dam and responding to the source of the attacks in the same way, during his visit to the dam accompanied by the leaders of the Ethiopian army.
Ethiopian activist Yunus Al-Arami says that all races and ethnicities in Ethiopia stand together for one issue, the Renaissance Dam.
The $4.2 billion (€3.8 billion) dam will start generating electric power in late 2020 and reach its maximum operating capacity by 2022.
Then it will be the largest water power plant in Africa with a capacity of 6 thousand megawatts.
Ethiopians published a picture of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed Bazzi Askari, echoing his speech in Parliament several months ago that no one can stop Ethiopia from building the dam and not start filling it.
Hani Raslan, head of the Sudan and Nile Basin Unit at the Al-Ahram Center, did not rule out the possibility of Egypt resorting to weapons in the case of the Renaissance Dam.
Raslan said in a statement to “The Eastern Herald” that Egypt confirmed that it would use all means to defend its rights in the waters of the Nile, including the military solution, noting that Cairo’s official position did not exclude the military solution.
While Dr. Ayman Shabana, director of the African Research Center at Cairo University, stressed that Addis Ababa filling the dam was tantamount to declaring war on Egypt because it had threatened the lives of Egyptians.
Shabana told The Eastern Herald: “All alternatives will then be open to Egypt, from peaceful alternatives to coercive alternatives.”
The Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, expressed on Monday his lack of optimism about the results of the ongoing trilateral talks with Ethiopia and Sudan, because of what he called “Ethiopian intransigence,” noting that his country is considering resorting to other options.
Egypt is awaiting a crucial meeting on Monday, to find out the fate of the tripartite talks on the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam after it had reached a dead end, where the negotiations will be evaluated.
On Monday, Shukry affirmed in a symposium titled “Egyptian Diplomacy: Dealing with the current challenges,” Egypt’s commitment to the negotiation approach over the past years, and its sincere intentions towards reaching a fair and just agreement for this crisis, in a way that meets the interests of the three countries.
However, my thanks added that “the recent negotiating position does not herald positive results with the continuation of the Ethiopian intransigence approach, in a way that Egypt will have to discuss with other options, such as resorting to the International Security Council.”
He pointed out that Egypt’s resort to the Security Council in order to “fulfill the responsibilities of the Council in redressing the impact on international peace and security by preventing Ethiopia from taking unilateral action that negatively affects Egypt’s water rights.”
Over the past days, at the invitation of Sudan, the water ministers of the three countries met after an absence of about four months, and after Egypt took refuge in the UN Security Council, in a new attempt to reach an agreement before the date set by Ethiopia to start filling the dam next month.