CAIRO: Ethiopia has opened the floodgates to further controversy over a giant dam scheme by rejecting Egypt’s historic claims to the waters of the Nile.
Ahead of the anticipated resumption of stalled talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project, two Ethiopian ministers poured water over the Egyptian stance on river rights.
In a speech to political party representatives and religious leaders regarding the latest developments in GERD negotiations, Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Seleshi Bekele said the talks, also involving Sudan, were being “clouded by Egypt’s tendency to recall and confirm the so-called (historic rights) in water, which can never be accepted by Ethiopia or Nile-sharing countries.”
Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gedu Andargachew added that his country’s position was firm with regard to utilizing its water resources in a fair way “in accordance with the agreed cooperation principles and not causing any major damage.”
Meanwhile, Ethiopian religious leaders have called on the government to press ahead with the construction of the dam while negotiating with Nile-sharing countries.
Ethiopia’s official news agency ENA, reported that a statement issued during a press conference by the Ethiopian inter-religious council of seven institutions, “underlined Ethiopia’s natural right in developing the Nile.” The council also called for the resumption of tripartite discussions.
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Patriarch Abune Mathias said the government needed to continue with construction of the dam on the basis of mutual understanding with upstream countries and without any foreign intervention.
Mathias pointed out that the Ethiopian people had played a big part in funding the project in the hope of improving their living conditions and seeing the development for their country, adding that work should carry on “for the sake of the people” without causing any damage to Nile-sharing countries.
Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, said that Ethiopia had “the right to develop its rivers in order to provide electricity for millions of its citizens, just like Egypt did. Egyptians are provided with electricity better than the Ethiopians. In our situation, students and families do not have electricity.
“Upstream countries must know that the Ethiopian people do not have the intention to harm Egypt or Sudan,” he added.
Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council Secretary-General Sheikh Qassem Mohammed Tag El-Din also agreed that Ethiopia should carry on with building the dam “in the best interest of its people who are living in darkness and who do not have electricity.
“Concerning the dam, we need to stand together in harmony and even make sacrifices if this is what it takes to complete the project,” he added.
The tripartite negotiations, which have been stalled for several months, are close to…