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Mohammed Mursi

Mohammed Mursi is a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood and former president of Egypt, assuming office on 30 June 2012. He was unseated in a military coup on 3 July 2013 by the Egyptian defence minister Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi following widespread democracy protests across the country and calls for his resignation by leading opposition party members.

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EGYPT

Mursi turns up heat in battle against Ethiopian dam on Nile

We don't want war but all options are open, Egyptian leader warns

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 June, 2013, 11:04pm

Egypt did not want war with Ethiopia but would keep "all options open", President Mohammed Mursi said, turning up the heat in a dispute over a giant dam Addis Ababa is building across the Nile.

In a televised speech on Monday to cheering Islamist supporters, Mursi voiced understanding for the development needs of poorer nations upstream in the Nile basin, but rammed home in emotive language that Egyptians would not accept any reduction in the flow of the river on which their civilisation has been based for thousands of years.

Bellicose rhetoric, including talk of military action by Egyptian politicians last week, had raised concerns of a "water war" between Africa's second and third most populous states.

But Mursi, for whom the dispute is a chance to rally Egyptians behind him after a divisive first year in power, also appeared to leave room for compromise.

He did not renew an Egyptian call - flatly rejected by Ethiopia last week - for work to stop at the dam but said further study on its impact was needed.

Describing Ethiopia as a "friendly state", he said Cairo was pursuing all political and diplomatic avenues for a solution.

Egypt's foreign minister is to visit Addis Ababa to discuss the project for Africa's biggest hydropower plant. Announced two years ago, engineers made a notable advance late last month.

"Egypt's water security cannot be violated in any way," Mursi said. "As head of state, I confirm to you that all options are open." He later added: "We are not calling for war, but we will never permit our water security … to be threatened."

Drawing on an old Egyptian song about the Nile, he said: "If it diminishes by one drop then our blood is the alternative."

Cairo had no objection to "development projects in the Nile basin states", he added, "but on condition that those projects do not affect or damage Egypt's legal and historical rights".

Egypt, whose fast-growing population of 84 million uses almost all of the Nile's supply that reaches them, cites colonial-era treaties guaranteeing it the lion's share of the water to defend its position. Ethiopia, the second most populous state in Africa, says those claims are outdated.

Other African states south of the historic frontier of the Muslim Arab world - notably Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo - are also anxious to develop the water resources of the Nile basin.

Ethiopia insists the Grand Renaissance Dam an Italian firm is building on the Blue Nile near the Sudanese border will generate electricity that it can export and will not reduce the long-term flow of the Nile, once its huge reservoir is filled.

It says it does not plan to use the water for irrigation.

But Egypt expressed surprise and alarm when engineers began major work late last month to divert the river in order to start key parts of the site, a portion of which is already complete.

Sudan, which like Ethiopia already has dams of its own on the Nile river system, has given its support to the project, saying it would benefit from electricity. But Egypt, whose own major barrages on the Nile include the landmark Aswan Dam, has raised concerns about its safety and effect on water flow.

Mursi said Egypt had carried out studies that showed "negative consequences" from building the dam.

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