In the dispute over the new dam, which will hold back the waters of the Blue Nile, some in Cairo are already thinking of the deployment of the military, so threatening are the plans on Cairo.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had long insisted on not provoking Ethiopia. But last week Egypt’s head of state was bursting of patience, after the 17th attempt to reach an agreement failed. “Nobody is allowed to touch Egypt’s Nile water,” al-Sisi explained. “For us, that’s a matter of life and death.” Egypt’s water supply through the Nile is central to national security, seconded the Cabinet in Cairo. In December, al-Sisi wants to make another attempt to reach an agreement with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Because the time to negotiate expires.
The bone of contention is the “Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam”, whose construction Ethiopia had begun in March 2011 in a night-and-fog action – when Egypt was heavily occupied with itself by the Arab Spring. In early 2018, the mammoth construction will be completed. Then Addis Ababa wants to fill the basin behind the dam – with a volume equal to the amount of Nile outflow of a whole year. An extremely threatening idea for Egypt.
Ethiopia’s regime is accused by Egyptians of creating facts without seriously discussing the consequences for their country. In addition, the Ethiopian regime has been able to pull its neighbor Sudan on its side with a supply contract for the electricity from the power plant on the new dam. Together with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Sudan intends to develop agricultural land along the Nile, which will also serve the two Gulf states.
Egypt’s right of veto against dam projects is not recognized. No wonder then that the political situation in Cairo these days is characterized by frustration, threats and panic. According to the treaties of 1929 and 1959, the two in-run states have the lion’s share of the river at 87 percent – Egypt 55 billion and Sudan 18 billion cubic meters a year. In addition, the British colonial power gave them a veto right against all dam projects on the upper reaches.
The conflict is mainly about the phase in which the basin is refilled. Egypt proposes a period of twelve to eighteen years in order to maximize the amount of flow. But Ethiopia wants to reach its peak within three years so that the dam can deliver electricity as soon as possible. According to a study by the Geological Society of America, a filling period of five to seven years would reduce the annual Nile volume for Egypt by a quarter: for Cairo that would be a catastrophe. Substantial parts of the agriculture would be endangered, but also the drinking water supply and the power generation at the Aswan dam.
In view of this, some are already calling for a military strike against Ethiopia: Egypt should not wait until the negative consequences of the new dam occur, said Hatem Saber, the legendary commander of Egypt’s elite unit 777 and today’s defense adviser. There are already targeted hostilities from Ethiopia and Sudan towards Egypt. “If all else fails, we have the right to destroy the dam,” Saber said.