Sudan Reaffirms Support for Egypt’s Nile Water Rights

CAIRO, Egypt

Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir, despite demands from the International Criminal Court for his arrest for war crimes, traveled to Cairo on September 16 to meet with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, where he reaffirmed Sudan’s support for Egypt on Nile water rights.

The Sudan Tribune quoted Egyptian presidency spokesman Yasir Ali as saying the meeting confirmed the two nations had a “position” regarding the Nile basin that was “identical.”

Ali said the Nile River dispute is “an Egyptian national security issue.”

In particular, both Egypt and Sudan oppose upstream attempts to harness the river’s waters, especially Ethiopia’s hydropower projects.

Ethiopia is currently constructing what would be the largest hydropower plant in Africa -- the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile near Ethiopia’s border with Sudan.

The project is expected to cost $4.5 billion USD, produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity and create a reservoir that holds 65 billion cubic meters of water, which Sudan and Egypt say will decrease the flow downstream. The dam is scheduled for completion in 2018.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged Ethiopia to slow down construction and not devote so many funds to the dam that the rest of the nation’s economy suffers.

“I think there’s a need to rethink some of those projects a little bit to make sure that they don’t absorb all domestic financing just for that project,” IMF country representative Jan Mikkelsen told reporters on September 13.

“If you suck in all domestic financing to just a few projects that money will be used for this and not for normal trade and normal business.” 

However, the Ethiopian government said it would not take this advice.

“It was a well-considered plan and it’s one of the mega projects for which the government commits itself unconditionally,” Bloomberg quoted Communications Minister Bereket Simon as saying.

The sole reason Ethiopia is left to fund the project by itself is because of Egypt’s refusal to sanction not only this project but any development on the river, according to the Ethiopian government.

However, Egypt and Ethiopia did agree last week to further discussions about Nile River rights.

Egypt points to its population as a reason for it to have an even larger allotment of the Nile’s waters, but Ethiopian officials pointed out that Ethiopia now has a population of 85 million, slightly larger than Egypt’s 83 million.

As OOSKAnews previously reported, Wikileaks recently published emails from intelligence firm Stratfor that date back to 2010, in which the Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon and a high-level Egyptian security official based in Cairo describe the Egyptian government’s contingency plan to deal with the Ethiopian dam construction along the Blue Nile.

The plan included taking military action that could involve sending in ground troops or aerial attacks to destroy any structures the Ethiopians built.

However, the Egyptian government quickly denied these claims.

“The claims made by Stratfor intelligence firm about a contingency plan to bomb or sabotage the Ethiopian Dam are unfounded,” former Commander of the Air Forces and current Minister of Military Production Reda Hafez told reporters last week.

He said that the information was meant to “drive a wedge between Egypt and Ethiopia.”

“There are some countries that do not like to see a thaw in Egyptian-Ethiopian relations. They don’t want to see a diplomatic settlement of the Ethiopian dams issue,” he warned.

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