Sunday, September 23, 2012

Egypt, Ethiopia can build new Nile River water relationship

CAIRO: Despite a Wikileaks report that claimed Egypt was looking to attack Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam project along the Nile River, with Sudan approval, there is still hope that the two countries can rebuild a relationship based on compromise on Nile water issues.
With the ascension of new Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to the country’s top position, the time is now for both Cairo and Addis Ababa to forge ahead with new strategies that will benefit both countries’ peoples along the world’s longest river.
In early August ahead of Ethiopia’s PM Meles Zenawi’s death, hope for change was already being felt. An Egyptian ministry of water and irrigation told that with the combination of Egypt’s new President Mohamed Morsi and the potential of seeing a new leader in Ethiopia, they hoped the tension over Nile River water could be resolved.
“While this can in no way be official policy at this point, I believe that there would be more maneuvering with a new leadership in Ethiopia because there would be the ability to communicate and not be seen as antagonistic,” the official said, adding that they were not authorized to speak to the media.
“Let us be frank about the situation between Egypt and other Nile countries,” the official continued. “We in Egypt have not been the best at compromise so I think overall, there is so much that can be done to help bring countries together, and Ethiopia has been a leader in its criticism of Egypt so starting there would be good.”
With the Nile comes a new set of issues, and with Egypt holding onto a lion’s share of water from the world’s largest river, upstream countries such as Ethiopia have taken it on their own to begin building dams and other water related endeavors, much to the anger of Cairo.
However, officials hope that solutions can be had in the new post-revolution Egypt that could see the growing tension between countries along the Nile reduce.
“While Egypt never wants to mingle in another country’s affairs, a new leadership in Ethiopia would go a long way to changing how things are run, just like it has in Egypt,” the official added.
Now that both countries have new leadership, it is time to end the infighting and revamp Colonial treaties brokered during British rule of the region. Those treaties deliver the lion’s share of water to Egypt and Sudan, which has led to consternation and frustration by many of the upstream countries, who need more water to promote better agricultural reform and fend off famine and drought.
Together, through new policies such as desalination in Egypt, funding could go to the development of the Nile River in a manner that is beneficial to both Egypt and Ethiopia, which could avoid any potential conflict that is brewing in the region.

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