After the recent incident that involved the live transmission of a discussion among high level Egyptian officials at the national dialogue session held in Cairo on Monday to discuss the Grand Renaissance Dam (GRD) Ethiopia responded that the threats are irresponsible and aims at creating chaos in the country.
Pakinam al-Sharqawy, assistant presidential adviser for political affairs said on Thursday that Egypt will demand Ethiopia to stop the construction of the GRD. “Demanding that Ethiopia stop construction of the dam it plans to build on the Blue Nile will be our first step,” she said in comments carried on the state news agency MENA. “The national committee that will be formed to deal with this issue will determine the steps that Egypt has to take.”
Getachew Reda, spokesman for Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, told Capital that the comments and suggestions made by the political parties are irresponsible and will not in any way affect the construction of the project.
“During the past several years, Egyptian leaders tried to threaten us without success. It is their normal behavior.” “As the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi affirmed during the launching of the GRD: ‘Ethiopia will not for a minute stop the construction of the GRD, and will not be threatened by any acts,’ Getachew said.
The opposition parties who met with Egypt’s president proposed hostile acts against Ethiopia, including backing rebels and carrying out sabotage operations, to stop Ethiopia from building the GRD that will generate 6,000 MW of hydropower from the Blue Nile River.
Back in 2010, P.M Meles Zenawi was quoted as saying, “I am not worried that the Egyptians will suddenly invade Ethiopia.” “Nobody who has tried that has lived to tell the story. I don’t think the Egyptians will be any different and I think they know that.”
In another incident the head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Mohamed El-Katatni said that a military response to Ethiopia’s Nile dam project “cannot be taken without the consent and support of the Egyptian people.”
“Egyptians are peaceful by nature, but they have a historical entitlement to Nile water,” El-Katatni, a former parliamentary speaker, was quoted as saying. “And it is their right to defend it by any means necessary.”
Egypt, he added, had “several options” available to it to respond to recent moves by Ethiopia.
This comment further escalated the tension between the two countries. The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested for an immediate clarification on the issue from the Egyptian Ambassador here in Ethiopia.
A top Ethiopian army commander who wishes not to be quoted told Capital that it is impossible for the Egyptians to attacks Ethiopia. “But if they tried to do so it is going to be a big loss for them, they will put themselves in a position where they could not go out for a very long time,” he added.
Unconfirmed reports state that the Ethiopian embassy in Cairo is surrounded by heavily armored personnel and vehicles while Ethiopian citizens, both refugees and Ethiopian-passport holders, are harassed and beaten by ordinary Egyptians.
Getachew downplayed this incident by saying that such incidents might occur as some Egyptian citizens are wrongfully informed by some newspapers and media organizations operating in Egypt. “I have not heard about such occurrences, but if it happened, it is to be expected that it comes from citizens that are misinformed. However, during his visit to Ethiopia, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi met with Prime Minister Hailemariam to discuss the issue and the discussion went smoothly and was successful.”
Meanwhile, during the ill-fated discussion, some of the politicians appeared unaware that their meeting with President Mohammed Morsi was being transmitted live on TV. President Morsi did not directly react to the suggestions, but said in concluding remarks that Egypt respects Ethiopia and its people and will not engage in any aggressive acts against Ethiopia.
The President called the meeting to review the impact of the USD 4.2 billion hydroelectric dam, which Ethiopia is building on the Nile river and would be Africa’s largest. Egypt in the past has threatened to go to war over its “historic rights” to the Nile River water.
The most controversial proposal during the session was made by Ayman Nour, who suggested that Egypt disseminate rumors that it has obtained advanced fighter aircraft. He stated that this was an intelligence technique of intimidation.
“It might not be realistic, but it will bring results along the diplomatic path,” he said. Nour, however, stated that he believes diplomatic efforts will not yield great results. “Ethiopians have taken the decision, and it will be extremely difficult for them to backtrack,” he said.
The Chairman of the moderate Islamist Wasat Party, Abul Ela Mady, suggested sending army destroyers to the Bab al-Mandab strait and spread rumors that Egypt is about to strike the dam.
Another interesting development was that Mohamed ElBaradei, National Salvation Front Coordinator, called on President Mohammed Morsi to apologise to Ethiopia and Sudan for “the irresponsible utterances” made during the dialogue.
On his facebook page, ElBaradei –also the President of the Dostour Party– posted: “I apologize to the people of Ethiopia and Sudan and the Government of what was released yesterday in the “national dialogue” of abuse, and I call on the President of the Republic to make a similar apology on behalf of the Egyptian people.”
However opposition parties openly criticized ElBaradei’s apology. Salafist Nour Party spokesman Nader Bakkar is the first to criticize ElBaradei’s apology. “ElBaradei’s apology to Ethiopia is a contradiction that adds to a list of past contradictions. We never heard your opinion; you have never participated in a dialogue that concerns the nation,” said Bakkar.
Last week, Ethiopia started diverting the flow of the Nile to make way for the construction of the reservoir for the GRD. On completion, it will produce 6,000 megawatts, and its reservoir is scheduled to start filling up next year.
An independent panel of experts has concluded that the dam will not significantly affect countries downstream, Sudan and Egypt, which are highly dependent on the water of the world’s longest river.