Nile| Museveni: Africa won’t let Egyptians bully Ethiopia
President Yoweri Museveni has sternly warned the Egyptian “government and other groups” against making “chauvinist and irrational statements” in the wake of Ethiopia’s decision to construct a multi-billion dollar electricity dam, Chimp Corps report.
“This is what the whole of Africa needs to do. That is one reason the economy of Ethiopia has been growing in double digits. It is, therefore, advisable that the new Government of Egypt and some chauvinistic groups inside Egypt should not repeat the mistakes of the past Egyptian Governments,” he added.
Museveni said Africa will not allow Egypt to continue hurting Black Africans, warning “Egypt should not repeat mistakes of past leaders.”
The President was speaking shortly after the reading of the 2013/14 national budget at Kampala Serena Hotel on Thursday evening.
Analysts say Museveni’s statement blew the cover off the simmering tensions between Uganda and Ethiopia on one hand and Egypt on the other.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, formerly known as the Millennium Dam and sometimes referred to as Hidase Dam, is an under-construction gravity dam on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia.
It is in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region of Ethiopia, about 40 km (25 mi) east of the border with Sudan. At 6,000 MW and 63 billion cubic meters, the dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed, as well as the 13th or 14th largest in the world sharing the spot with Krasnoyarskaya.
The potential impacts of the dam have been the source of regional controversy.
The Government of Egypt, a country which relies heavily on the waters of the Nile, protests the dam and its political leaders have discussed methods to sabotage it, including arming Ethiopian rebels.
“I confirm that all options are open to deal with this subject,” Egypt President Mohammed Morsi told hundreds of his supporters late on Monday.
“If a single drop of the Nile is lost, our blood will be the alternative. We are not warmongers, but we will never allow anyone to threaten our security.”
On June 3, while discussing the International Panel of Experts report with President Mohammad Morsi, Egyptian political leaders suggested methods to destroy the dam, including support for anti-government rebels.
The discussion was televised live without those present at meeting aware.
Ethiopia requested that the Egyptian Ambassador to explain the meeting.
Morsi’s top aide apologized for the “unintended embarrassment” and his cabinet released a statement promoting “good neighborliness, mutual respect and the pursuit of joint interests without either party harming the other.”
An aide to the Ethiopian Prime Minister stated that Egypt is “…entitled to day dreaming” and cited Egypt’s past of trying to destabilize Ethiopia.
Morsi reportedly believes that is better to engage Ethiopia rather than attempt to force them.
However, on 10 June 2013, Morsi said that “all options are open” because “Egypt’s water security cannot be violated at all,” clarifying that he was “not calling for war,” but that he would not allow Egypt’s water supply to be endangered
Egypt and Sudan fear a temporary reduction of water availability due to the filling of the dam and a permanent reduction because of evaporation from the reservoir.
The reservoir volume is about equivalent to the annual flow of the Nile at the Sudanese-Egyptian border (65.5 billion cubic meter). This loss to downstream countries would most likely be spread over several years.
The dam will retain silt. It will thus increase the useful lifetime of dams in Sudan – such as the Roseires Dam, the Sennar Dam and the Merowe Dam – and of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. The beneficial and harmful effects of flood control would affect the Sudanese portion of the Blue Nile, just as it would affect the Ethiopian part of the Blue Nile valley downstream of the dam.
Museveni speaks out
Museveni said leaders of Egypt should not be victims of the “misguided policies of past leaders.”
He further stressed that threat of the Nile is not the construction of dams but the “lack of electricity and underdevelopment in the tropics.”
“The biggest threat to the Nile is continued under-development in the tropics i.e. lack of electricity and lack of industrialization. On account of these two, peasants cut the bio-mass for fuel (firewood – enku) and invade the forests to expand primitive agriculture. Here in Uganda, the peasants destroy 40 billion cubic metres of wood per annum for firewood. They also invade the wetlands (ebisaalu, ebitoogo, entobazi, ebifuunjo, ebisharara) to grow rice,” he noted.
“This interferes with the transpiration that is crucial for rain formation. Our experts have told me that 40 percent of our rain comes from local moisture – meaning from our lakes and wetlands,” said Museveni, adding, “That is why, for instance, West Nile and West Acholi have got more rain than Karamoja being on the same latitude notwithstanding. It is, apparently, on account of the huge wetlands in South Sudan, the forest in Congo and the wetlands in Uganda.”
Ironically, said Museveni, the Egyptians wanted to drain the wetlands in South Sudan through the Jonglei canal.
“It was one of the causes for the people of South Sudan to wage war against Khartoum, which was collaborating with the Egyptian Government’s misguided and dangerous policies of that time,” he added.
Therefore, said Museveni, the threat to the Nile is lack of electricity in the tropics and lack of industrialization thereof.
“Electrification so that people stop using wood fuel and industrialization so that people shift from agriculture to industry and services is the correct way.”
Museveni also pointed to unknown diplomatic efforts aimed at persuading Egypt not to pursue the path of war.
“I have given these views to the past Egyptian Governments and to the present one. Therefore, it is advisable that those chauvinistic statements coming out of Egypt are restrained and through the Nile Valley Organization rational (not emotional and informed statements) discussions take place.”
“No African wants to hurt Egypt; however, Egypt cannot continue to hurt black Africa and the countries of the tropics of Africa,” he concluded his speech.
Ethiopia boasts one of the most advanced and deadliest armies on the continent.
The battle-hardened army derives its unwavering determination to protect its strategic interests right from the late 1980s when it resisted the wave of colonialism that swept Africa.
Responding to Morsi’s threats recently, Ethiopia’s premier, Hailemariam Desalegn, the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam would was “unstoppable.”
“All options include a war. I don’t think they will take that option unless they go mad,” warned Hailemariam, adding, “I urge them to abandon such an unhelpful approach and return to dialogue and discussion.”
Observers say Morsi is fanning anti-Ethiopia sentiments to divert attention from the resistance facing his unpopular domestic policies.
On Thursday evening, news came in that the Ethiopian Parliament had voted unanimously to repeal 1929 Nile water treaty that had granted Egypt the lion’s share of the Nile waters.
East Africa had criticized the treaty as a colonial relic considering that Egypt is guaranteed access to 55.5bn cubic metres of water, out of a total of 84bn cubic metres.
Interestingly, a Nile treaty signed by the upper riparian states in 2010, the Cooperative Framework Agreement, has not been signed by either Egypt or Sudan, as they claim it violates the 1959 treaty which gives Sudan and Egypt exclusive rights to the Nile’s waters.
The Nile Basin Initiative provides a framework for dialogue among all Nile riparian countries.
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan established an International Panel of Experts to review and assess the study reports of the dam. The panel consists of 10 members; 6 from the three countries and 4 international in the fields of water resources and hydrologic modelling, dam engineering, socioeconomic, and environmental.
The panel held its fourth meeting in Addis Ababa in November 2012. It reviewed documents about the environmental impact of the dam and visited the dam site.
The panel submitted its preliminary report to the respective governments at the end of May 2013. Although the full report has not been made public, and will not be until it is reviewed by the governments, Egypt and Ethiopia both released details.
The Ethiopian government stated that, according to the report, the dam meets international standards and will be beneficial to Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. According to Egyptian government, the report found that the dimensions and size of the dam should be changed.
At 4,132 miles from its source in Lake Victoria, the Nile is the world’s longest river with its main two tributaries – the White Nile and Blue Nile, flowing from Ethiopia before joining at Sudan’s Capital, Khartoum.
* Originally published on ChimpReports (Uganda), on June 13, 2013, titled “Museveni Warns Egypt As Nile War Looms“, authored by Giles Muhame.