By Ronald Musoke
President Yoweri Museveni spared some few minutes at yesterday’s budget reading to warn the Egyptian government against uttering ‘chauvinistic statements’ in regard to the use of the River Nile waters.
Museveni’s caution followed an impassioned speech by the Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi ,on June 10 when he stopped short of declaring war against Ethiopia following the latter’s unanimous decision to build a multi-billion dollar 6000 MW dam—the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Morsi had earlier in the week said that although he was not calling for outright war, he would not allow Egypt’s water supply to be endangered by Ethiopia’s hydro-power project.
“Egypt’s water security cannot be violated at all. As President of the state, I confirm to you that all options are open. If Egypt is the Nile’s gift, then the Nile is a gift to Egypt,” Morsi is quoted by the BBC as having said in a television speech.
Early this month, Egyptian politicians were caught unaware on live TV during a meeting called by the president to discuss possible actions to Ethiopia’s development when one of them proposed direct military action against Ethiopia.
It is these kinds of statements that Museveni referred to yesterday (June 13) arguing that the work the Ethiopian government had started is ‘commendable,’ before adding that this is what the rest of Africa needs to do.
“It is therefore advisable that the new government of Egypt doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the past [Egyptian] regimes.”
“The Egyptians think that the threat of the Nile is building dams on it…The biggest threat of the Nile is the continued underdevelopment of countries in the tropics,” Museveni said in reference to the loss of forest cover [for wood fuel] that the upper stream riparian countries suffer from as a result of not utilizing the Nile to build hydro-power dams to provide cheap electricity.
“No African wants to hurt Egypt, however, Egypt cannot continue to hurt Black Africa,” Museveni said.
Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Parliament has gone ahead to unanimously ratify the Nile River Co-operative Framework Agreement—a treaty intended to replace the 1929 agreement that gives Egypt and Sudan the biggest share of the Nile waters. The 84 -year old colonial treaty also gave Egypt veto powers over any project involving the Nile upstream countries.
This accord had already been signed by five of the Nile-basin states—Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya.
The Ethiopian government spokesperson, Bereket Simon told Reuters on June 14 that Ethiopia had delayed signing the accord as a gesture of goodwill to the people of Egypt until a formally-elected government was in place.
“We have a principled stance on the construction of dams [and] we are determined to see our projects brought to completion,” Bereket said.
The Egyptian foreign minister Mohammed Kamel is expected in Addis Ababa on June 16 for talks about the dam.