Water rights are no joke in the arid regions of Africa and the Mideast, and Ethiopia has recently been working on an infrastructure project that will divert some of the waters of the Nile for a new hydroelectric plant. Egypt, as you might imagine, is not at all pleased; the two countries have been having some fierce words, and Morsi has warned that “all options are open” to dealing with any threats the dam might pose to Egypt’s water supply — and the Egyptian government is going to be even more incensed after today’s proceedings, via the Guardian:
Ethiopia‘s parliament has unanimously ratified a treaty that strips Egypt of its right to the lion’s share of the Nile river waters, raising the political temperature in a dispute between Cairo and Addis Ababa over the construction of a dam.
The parliament’s move follows days of irate exchanges between two of Africa‘s most populous nations over Ethiopia’s new hydroelectric plant, which Egypt fears will reduce a water supply vital for its 84 million people.
Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi said on Monday he did not want “war” but would keep “all options open”, prompting Ethiopia to say it was ready to defend its $4.7bn Great Renaissance Dam near the border with Sudan.
Six Nile-basin countries including Ethiopia have signed a deal effectively stripping Cairo of its veto, which is based in colonial-era treaties, over dam projects on the Nile, the source of nearly all Egypt’s water.
Last week, Morsi and his fellow Egyptian politicians had a rather unfortunate hot-mic moment in which they pretty much described the project as an aggressive act of war by Ethiopia, probably backed by none other than the United States and Israel, obviously. (Also last week, funnily enough, President Obama waived the prerequisite human-rights requirement usually attached to the $1.3 billion that Egypt is accepting in U.S. military support for 2013. Ahem.) Via the NYT:
Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, had some important information to share with a room full of politicians who, believing they were in a secret meeting, had just laid out all the covert ways that their country could stop a Nile River dam project in nearby Ethiopia: they were on live television. …
“O.K. Fine. It’s good that you told me,” he said. “The principles behind what I’m saying are not really secret. Our battle is with America and Israel, not with Ethiopia. Therefore, engaging in battle, this is my opinion … ”
Mr. Morsi then interrupted him, “This meeting is being aired live on TV.” …
Younis Makhyon, a senior member of the ultraconservative Salafi Nour Party, said he believed that the United States and Israel were secretly behind the dam project and “would use it as a lethal bargaining chip to pressure Egypt.” But not everyone at the meeting was opposed to the idea of foreign countries intervening in the domestic affairs of others.
By all means, guys, tell us how you really feel.