Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1372, (7 - 13 December 2017)
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1372, (7 - 13 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

MPs express concern over water

A planned visit to Cairo by Ethiopia’s prime minister ignites heated debate about the Renaissance Dam, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

MPs express concern over water
MPs express concern over water

No sooner had reports appeared that Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn would visit Egypt this month than MPs began voicing objections.

Twenty MPs submitted a memorandum to Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal opposing the visit and rejecting any suggestion Desalegn should address parliament.

The memorandum, drafted by leftist MP Abdel-Hamid Kamal, said: “We, the undersigned, strongly object to the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s planned visit to Egypt which will only benefit Ethiopia at Egypt’s expenses.”

“Ethiopia has spared no effort in recent months in spreading political, economic and legalistic lies about the Renaissance Dam and its impact on Egypt’s annual quota of Nile water. Desalegn’s visit will only serve to give credence to these lies, seriously undermining Egypt’s national security.”

The memo went on to request a series of parliamentary hearings to discuss the situation, to be attended by the ministers of foreign affairs, agriculture, irrigation as well as experts such as former irrigation minister Ismail Nasreddin.

Kamal told reporters that Nile water was “a red line”, an integral part of Egypt’s national security, adding that he hoped “the parliament speaker will be up to the challenge and reject this visit”.

Many other MPs, however, said they had no objection to Desalegn’s visit or his addressing parliamentarians.  Al-Sayed Felafel, head of parliament’s African Affairs Committee, said the visit afforded an opportunity to assess Ethiopia’s intentions and the extent to which it is willing to take Egyptian concerns into account. Felafel revealed Taye Atske-Selassie Made, Ethiopia’s ambassador to Egypt, spoke to speaker Abdel-Aal on 27 November and conveyed Desalegn’s wish to address the House.

“The Ethiopian ambassador discussed a number of issues with members of the committee, including the Renaissance Dam,” said Felafel. The Ethiopian ambassador said Desalegn wanted to use parliament as forum to convey a message to the Egyptian people as a whole, not only to MPs only.

“The ambassador said his country is very keen negotiations with Egypt on the dam end positively and reinforce cooperation across many other fields,” said Felafel.

He said the Ethiopian ambassador had repeatedly stressed Addis Ababa was keen Egypt should sustain zero harm as a result of the dam.

Felafel said MPs suspected Qatar was funding the Renaissance Dam with the goal of damaging Egypt “but the ambassador denied that the recent visit by Qatari officials had anything to do with Renaissance Dam”.

MP Hatem Bashat, former head of the African Affairs Committee, also has no objections to Desalegn’s visit to Cairo.

“Just as President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi addressed Ethiopia’s parliament in 2014, so Ethiopia’s prime minister should address the House of Representatives,” said Bashat.

Desalegn’s visit to Cairo, expected in the second half of December, comes amid negative developments over the Renaissance Dam.

Egypt complains Ethiopia is still unwilling to acknowledge that the dam may reduce its Nile water quota – 55 billion cubic metres per year – especially during the early filling stage.

“We will not accept the quota be decreased in any way… indeed, we want to increase it to meet the needs of our growing population and to further development,” President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi told last month’s youth conference in Sharm El-Sheikh.

“We fully understand Ethiopia’s development and electricity needs but we have said many times they should not come at the expense of Egypt’s Nile water quota,” said Al-Sisi.

Two weeks ago Ethiopia’s irrigation said “we hope to resume negotiations with Egypt very soon but we will not stop constructing the dam despite Egypt’s objections”.

Ethiopia began work on the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, Egypt’s major source of water, in 2011.

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