Egypt's misleading propaganda
- a meaningless exercise
the last three years, since the launch of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam
we have seen numerous articles that are factually inaccurate and logically
flawed. To rebut all such erroneous comments is difficult, if not impossible,
as well as time-wasting.
the recent press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt entitled "Egypt’s
Perspective towards the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam Project (GERDP)"
was one of the few detailed statements from the government of Egypt in the past
three years. Regrettably, it was full of misleading claims and a disappointing
one to all who have been working to bring a regional cooperation based on
mutual benefit and good neighborliness.
these kinds of statements are likely to be used as "reference" by
other writers who may be ignorant or careless of the realities. Therefore, the
recent press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt deserves a
we will be show below, the statement consist mega-errors of facts and flawed
statement started claiming that:
Ten years ago within the Nile Basin
Initiative (NBI), the three Eastern Nile Countries (Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan)
jointly agreed to study their national plan projects through an agreed
mechanism which was named the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program (ENSAP). A
regional power trade study was conducted, in which two sites in Ethiopia were
identified for potential dam projects,
happened to the NBI? The statement doesn't say anything! Indeed, the Nile basin
countries, except Eritrea and South Sudan, founded the Nile Basin Commission,
later Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), in 1999, with funds from World Bank, aiming
‘to establish a diplomatic protocol for evaluating the fair use of the river
for agricultural and energy projects’. The Commission paved the way for the
drafting the ‘Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), for the
equitable sharing of the Nile waters.
the CFA faced resistance from Egypt; while it was warmly endorsed by six Nile
basin countries from May 2010 up to February 2011 (Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda,
Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi). Though Congo didn't sign yet, it has expressed
one water expert eloquently elucidated: “CFA has, however, faced a serious
impasse as a result of the introduction of the concept of ‘water security’. The
introduction of this non-legal, indeterminate, and potentially disruptive
concept is, indeed, a regrettable detour to a virtual blind-alley. The
justifications for this fateful decision are totally unfounded and specious.
The decision rather makes sense as an unwarranted move pushing into further
obscurity the already intractable Nile waters question, at best, and a logical
cul-de-sac in the decade-long negotiations which have arguably fallen prey to
the hegemonic compliance-producing mechanism of ‘securitization’ sneaked in
under the veil of ‘water security’, at worst”.
statement makes no comment on this important aspect of the NBI. The statement
raised the NBI only because it wanted to claim that Ethiopia has abruptly
departed from it. However, Ethiopia has been the most loyal of NBI members,
even if she has no legal obligations to. That was with a belief that Egypt will
ultimately join the cooperative framework.
Unexpectedly, and without any prior
notification, the Government of Ethiopia (GOE) declared in February 2011 its
intention to construct a new dam on the Blue Nile named “Project X”. This
declaration led the Norwegian government to cancel the studies of the
additional dams due to the unclarity of Ethiopian plans and preferences.
the end of April 2011, Ethiopia announced unilaterally the construction of a
large dam on the Blue Nile called “Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam” (GERD) with
a height of 145 m, storage capacity of 74 BCM, installing capacity of 6000 MW,
and a total cost of US$ 4.78 billion.
claim is both illogical and inaccurate.
the first place, the Norwegian study was never interrupted as the dam under
study is far away from the GERD and Norway as a responsible development partner
wouldn't cancel studies for an unrelated reason. In fact, the construction of
the Mendeya dam that was under study will be launched in 2015.
few were informed of the launch of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project
until weeks before its date of launch on April 2, 2011. The government
announced it on the media only weeks earlier. But that doesn't mean cast doubt
on the legitimacy of the projects.
the citizens of Ethiopia, there is no difference of opinion on generating
hydro-power from dams, while harnessing the Blue Nile for national development
has been an aspiration of generations of officials, professionals and ordinary
citizens. In fact, the public's support was demonstrated in the Tana Beles and
Tekeze projects - built on tributaries of Blue Nile. The target of achieving
10,000 MW generating capacity by 2015 was already endorsed in mid-2010 as part
of the 5-years Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP). It was also stated on the
annual plan of EEPCO for year 2009/2010, though as labeled "project
x" without reference to Nile.
this strong public mandate on its hands, the question of whether to keep the
preparations and launch date of this project secret or not, is a matter that
can justifiably be determined based on national security considerations. In the
12 months preceding the launch of the project, Ethiopia was conducting an
election, then forming government, then seeking donor's pledge for the GTP.
regard to the absence of notification that the Egyptian statement complained
about: Firstly, Ethiopia has no treaty obligation to seek permissions from
Egypt. Second, the impacts of dams on downstream countries have been a subject
of study and discussion for at-least a decade in the context of successive Nile
basin initiatives and annual conferences.
and no less importantly, prior notification is an act of good will gesture
based on reciprocity. As Egypt never consulted Ethiopia on studies prior and
after building dams and related projects on Nile, it cannot demand that from
Ethiopia. After all, reciprocity is a fundamental component international
relations as well as social life.
statement has more incomprehensible claims. It said:
officials claimed at the beginning that the downstream countries (Egypt and
Sudan) would not be harmed and in fact would benefit from the project. However,
these statements were then changed gradually to reflect the recognition of the
GOE that the dam would have impacts on the downstream countries, but that those
impacts would be mitigated and compensated through water saving projects in
the first place, as the Egyptian have learnt from the disastrous Aswan dam
project, human endeavors are, unlike God's work, are not immune from negative
impacts. Therefore, no one said the GERD is a God's work. For example: Ethiopia
had to relocate a few dozen households from the GERD site. That is an impact.
the question is whether those impacts can be mitigated and avoided with careful
planning and cooperative regional work. In line with that whether the benefits
outweigh those mitigation works. The answer is a bold YES.
the former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said during the launch of the dam,
"the benefits that will accrue from the Dam will by no means be restricted
to Ethiopia. They will clearly extend to all neighboring states, and
particularly to the downstream Nile basin countries, to Sudan and Egypt. The
Dam will greatly reduce the problems of silt and sediment that consistently
affect dams in Egypt and Sudan. This has been a particularly acute problem at
Sudan’s Fosseiries dam which has been experienced reduction in output. When the
Dam becomes operational, communities all along the riverbanks and surrounding
areas, particularly in Sudan, will be permanently relieved from centuries of
flooding. These countries will have the opportunity to obtain increased power
supplies at competitive prices. The Dam will increase the amount of water
resources available, reducing the wastage from evaporation which has been a
serious problem in these countries. It will in fact ensure a steady year-round
flow of the Nile. This, in turn, should have the potential to amicably resolve
the differences which currently exist among riparian states over the issue of
equitable utilization of the resource of the Nile water."
other words, the Millennium Dam will not only provide benefits to Ethiopia. It
will also offer mutually beneficial opportunities to Sudan and to Egypt.
Indeed, one might expect these countries to be prepared to share the cost in
proportion to the gains that each state will derive. On this calculation, Sudan
might offer to cover 30 per cent and Egypt 20 per cent of the costs of the
the International Panel of Experts attested in its final report (which is a
consensus report signed by the representatives of the three countries Egypt,
Ethiopia and Sudan and the four international experts), that the design and
construction of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam is based on international
design criteria and standards, codes, guidelines and engineering practices.
Moreover, it re-confirmed that the GERD does not have significant impact on the
downstream countries and in fact will provide huge benefits to all the three
riparian countries, namely Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Prime Minister, Dr. Essam Sharaf, Prime Minister of Egypt at the time, agreed
with the late Ethiopian Prime Minister “Meles Zinawi” during an official visit
to Addis Ababa in May 2011, to establish an International Panel of Experts
(IPOE), composed of two National members from each of the three countries, in
addition to four international experts, in order to provide sound
review/assessment of the potential impacts of the project on the two downstream
countries, and any associated benefits to be expected.
statement went further to misrepresent the final report of the International
Panel of Experts.
truth, it was upon the initiation and invitation of the government of Ethiopia
that the International Panel of Experts (IPoE) was established. Moreover, Ethiopia
has also shown its commitment by accepting the report of the IPoE and is
implementing the recommendations that are related to dam engineering and safety
in a timely manner and agreed to jointly conduct the two studies recommended by
Egyptian statement deliberately omits an important element of the agreement
establishing the Internal Panel of Experts, that the study should be conducted
while the construction continued. It also ignores the fact that the Panel
outlined the benefits accruing from the Dam, benefits that were consonant with
Ethiopia’s own studies.
the response from Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry pointed out: Egypt's statement,
apparently deliberately, falsifies the findings of the International Panel of
Experts. In the first place, the allegation that Ethiopia denied documents to
the Panel members is untrue and the Panel nowhere suggests this occurred. Nor
is it true that Ethiopia deliberately delayed the completion of design
documents until after the launch of the Panel’s report. This claim shows
complete ignorance of the process involved. The nature of the Engineering
Procurement and Construction contract makes preparation of the design documents
a phase-by-phase undertaking. Ethiopia, as indeed the Panel recommended, has
finalized the updating of the design documents from level one to level two as
the project progressed and in line with the EPC contract. In any case, this had
no relevance to the Panel’s studies of the design documents and had no effect
on the discharge of its mandate. Indeed, the Panel’s report unequivocally
confirmed that the design of the GERD fulfilled international standards on
comment that the Panel’s findings suggested that the Hydrological and Reservoir
Simulation Study showed “detrimental impacts on Egypt’s water demand and High
Aswan Dam Hydropower generation” is a serious distortion. In fact, the study is
praised by the Panel for meeting international standards and the Panel had no
issue with its findings. The reason the Panel recommended a further simulation
study was in order for the three parties to conduct a study with a simulation
model that all three parties agreed on. The socio-economic study was also
recommended in order to add further primary data collected from Egypt and
narrative of the trilateral ministerial meeting on Egypt's statement was
similarly detached from reality. In the meetings, Egypt’s suggestion was to
create a new Panel of Experts, parallel to that already agreed upon, that is a
second panel of experts to review the report of the first panel for the
ministers. This was seen by both the Sudan and Ethiopia as unreasonable and
and above this was the additional outrageous Egyptian demand that the opinions
of new panel of international experts should be binding as if it was an
arbitration tribunal. This was totally unacceptable and Ethiopia, of course,
rejected it and continues to do so. The Egyptian suggestion for “Principles of
Confidence Building” was totally out of agenda in a meeting to discuss the
Panel’s recommendations, and the “principles” which involved requesting
Ethiopia to accept Egypt’s claims for water security, were rejected by Ethiopia
– and strongly criticized by the Sudan.
Egyptian Ministry complains that the Water Ministers’ meeting to consider the
recommendations of the Panel was delayed and regrets continuation of the
construction of the dam during this. In fact, according the report itself, the
Panel’s recommendations were to be implemented while the construction of the dam
continued. As regard, complaint over delays in the Water Ministers’ meeting,
this had nothing to do with Ethiopia. Following the June 18 visit of the then
Foreign Minister of Egypt, Mohamed Kemal Amr, to Addis Ababa it was agreed to
hold a meeting of the Water Ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to discuss
ways to implement the recommendations of the Panel as soon as possible. It was
at that point that President Morsi was removed and Egypt fell into political
turmoil, and presumably as a result there was no response to the invitation,
sent on July 26, for a meeting on August 6. A second invitation was sent on
August 26. Egypt finally responded to agree to a meeting for October 20. This,
however, did not materialize due to the unfortunate flooding in Khartoum. It
was not until November that the first session of the Water Ministers’ meeting
eventually took place. The delays were nothing to do with Ethiopia.
Ethiopia repeatedly urged, it is in the interest of all concerned countries
that Egypt changes course and engages in discussions in good faith rather than
aiming at short-sighted propaganda.
commitment to mutual benefit and good neighborliness is not a knee-jerk
decision rather an outcome of a scientific, prudent and developmental foreign policy.