Former official faults Egypt’s indecisiveness for present impasse on Blue Nile Dam; forms Nile NGO

6 Mar

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory

Following a conference organized in Cairo Wednesday by the liberal Free Egyptians Party and Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, a Mubarak era Water and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Naser El-Din regretted Ethiopia having a free hand in imposing “its own agenda” in the negotiations on its Renaissance Dam.

Mr. El-Din accused the post-revolution Egyptian governments, according to Ahram Online, of taking reactive steps regarding the Renaissance Dam. He described Egypt’s position coming “always either late or indecisive.” Moreover, he also pointed out that Egyptian negotiators’ information “about the Nile Basin countries is neither enough nor upto the standard.”

The former official partly attributed this to “shortage of qualified technical manpower, as a consequence of limited training programmes, weak financial incentives and a lack of education in universities and research centres”. While this is uncharacteristic of Egypt when it comes to water issues, it is also difficult to contend with his perspective. After all, he has been a man in the field as a water engineer, a well-experienced policy hand and since the end of the Mubarak era both a consultant and in hermitage in an academic environment.

From Mr. El-Din’s utterances at the press conference, Ahram quotes him hinting that the Free Egyptian Party, along with university professors, is in the process of organizing Egyptian Water Council, a non-governmental organization. The main function of this NGo would be to undertake “studies and analyse technical, economic, legal, political and funding issues required to maintain the interests of Egypt in the Nile River.” We hear that some Gulf States, where Mr. Din has been a frequent visitor, and two EU member states are said to be contributing generous funds toward formation of the council, although this information has not been verified.

In what sounded as the establishment view, Amr Moussa – the outgoing 50-Member Committee that amended Egypt’s 2012 Constitution – seen by many in political Cairo as the man-in-waiting for a very senior post in the Al-Siis government, Wednesday reacted at the press conference of being the mind that “Egypt has been taking all diplomatic procedures to halt the construction of the Ethiopian dam.”

The difficulty Egypt has faced on the Renaissance Dam can be seen not only from the cleavage within the elites, as the Ahram article has reflected. But also Egypt’s present Irrigation Minister Mahmoud Abdel-Muttalib has to reverse himself time and again, inlcuing last Monday, even veering away from the Fenbruary 19 decision by the Egyptian cabinet, which by itself is sufficient evidence of the political problems Egypt has faced.

In Seems certain Nile solution has evaded Ethiopian & Egyptian water ministers of February 12, this blog reacted to all this with the following perspective:

    Victory at any cost is not what our two oldest nations need today! I fear that already the tussle and the back and forth has taken immense energies from both sides. If Egypt gets one clear policy and guidance, whichever way, possibly both countries in their own self-interests might easily find an accommodation.

    One problem today is that Egypt’s policy on the Ethiopian dam is all over the map, as much contributing to the impassé. Today it is “yes” and tomorrow “No”. This has forced consistency on the Ethiopian side, rather sign of their distrust of Egypt.

    Perhaps the benefit of the two sides finding mutually agreeable, credible and impartial outside interlocutor(s) is something whose time has come.

As if to confirm that, the Aharm article refers to Ethiopia’s Water and Energy Minister Alemayehu Tegenu – even whose name either the paper or Egypt’s government have never spelt out properly – implicitly hinted of him often reacting to all the Nile theatrics with unmistakable consistency stressing his country’s commitment “to the recommendations of an international committee of experts.”

The other problem Egyptian relates to procedural considerations and practices that would have bearings on constitutional matters. While in office, the interim government can and must protect Egypt’s interests at any time and whatever the costs, however, it could not take decisions on matters such as the Nile Question that would have long-term implications due to its limited mandate. Therefore it has to pass certain things to the government that is to come shortly after with sort of popular mandate.

Consequently, the interim government has been pushing papers regarding the dam question, rolling positions that have been contradictory. The intention behind this is to be seen doing something, while counting the days to hand over the responsibilities to its successor.

It would possibly be the El-Siis government, which would have to determine what course of action Egypt should take regarding the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The only thing we have to hope is that, the new administration would not be overwhelmed by its internal problems and see the Renaissance Dam as offering the way out.


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