Angry Egyptian lawmakers accused the country’s Prime Minister and government on Monday of doing nothing to prevent Ethiopia from completing a dam that threatens to leave Nile-dependent Egypt with a dangerous water shortage.
Prime Minister Hesham Kandil had just finished addressing Parliament about how the government planned to work diplomatically, legally and technically to negotiate with Ethiopia over the dam when the session heated up.
He called the dam’s construction an “act of defiance” and stressed that Egypt will not give “a single drop of water,” but then hurriedly left the chamber despite calls for clarification over how to handle the situation if Ethiopia rejects overtures.
“Egypt will turn to a graveyard” if the dam is completed, Geologist and Egyptian lawmaker Khaled Ouda shouted to Parliament. “The Prime Minister didn’t provide anything.”
“We have to stop the construction of this dam first before entering negotiations,” he said.
The crisis started when Ethiopia diverted the flow of the Blue Nile, one of the Nile’s sources, to make way for the dam last month — before a 10-member panel of experts from Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and other countries released a study on the dam’s impact. The move took the Egyptian government by surprise. Eighty-five per cent of the Nile’s water comes from Ethiopia.
Egypt in the past has threatened to go to war over its “historic rights” to the waters of the Nile River. Last week, Egyptian political leaders caused uproar after proposing to aid rebels against the Ethiopian government or even sabotaging the dam itself. Ethiopia demanded an official explanation.
Egypt faces the prospect of its current water shortage worsening when the so-called Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is completed.
Ethiopia’s decision challenges a colonial-era agreement known as that had given downstream Egypt and Sudan rights to the Nile water, with Egypt taking 55.5 billion cubic meters and Sudan 18.5 billion cubic meters of 84 billion cubic meters, with 10 billion lost to evaporation.
Ethiopia’s unilateral action seems to ignore the 10-nation Nile Basin Initiative, a regional partnership formed in 1999 that seeks to develop the river in a cooperative manner.
Ethiopia is leading a group of five nations threatening to sign a new cooperation agreement known as the Entebbe Agreement without Egypt and Sudan, effectively taking control from Egypt of the Nile, which serves some 238 million people.
In another blow to Egypt, newly independent South Sudan said it too would join the agreement.