This article is addressed to the Minister of Irrigation.
Al-Watan newspaper recently published disturbing news about a statement made by Sudan’s advisor to the minister of water resources, Ahmed Mohamed Adam, in which he said the High Dam will lose its value and become no more than a wall. In it, he stressed the importance of coming to an agreement with Ethiopia to safeguard the country’s water rights. He pointed out that the total population of the Nile Basin countries is estimated at 350 million people.
Saifuddin Hamad Abdullah, the Sudanese head of the technical staff of water resources and head of Sudan’s Joint Permanent Nile Water Technical Authority, revealed the Sudanese strategic vision for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) with the current tripartite discussions. He noted that the current water storage does not turn Sudan into a food source for the Arab world and the world. He added that the GERD is a strategic—and the best—storage source for Sudan.
The former minister of water and energy resources added, in a seminar about the effects of the dam on Sudan on Tuesday, that Sudan’s future depends on the storage of water in Ethiopia, whether we like it or not. He further pointed out that the storage capacity of the GERD is double the capacity of the High Dam in Egypt.
Adam emphasised that the GERD has transferred the strategic storage point from Egypt to Sudan, denying the existence of any disputes between Ethiopia and Egypt. He noted that there are no studies that indicate that any harms could result from the GERD. He however acknowledged that there is a media apparatus at play which he described as “vicious”.
He noted that Sudan is the only country of the Nile basin countries that threatens Egypt and that the country is affected by what is happening in Ethiopia, claiming that Egypt recently oversaw the expansion in agriculture and the creation of Al-Salam Canal, to transport water to Sinai. He considered this a dangerous development, and claimed it goes against international conventions that prohibit the transfer of water outside the basin.
He added that Ethiopia has objected to this matter at the United Nations, noting that the High Dam was developed geographically in Egypt and technically in Sudan. He claimed that without the consent of the government of Sudan to build this dam, it would have never been created, highlighting the importance of preserving Sudan’s rights in light of the concessions offered by the state.
The newspaper also highlighted the remarks made by Vice President of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Hani Raslan, whom I hope will be consulted on this issue when preparing for any negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. Raslan said: “The slew of objectionable statements negatively affects the Egyptian position, and contributes to completely incorrect estimates of the situation. It is clear that the new minister, Mohamed Abdel Atty, is reticent in his remarks, and this is a positive trend, as such strategic issues should not be dealt with in the naive manner that was adopted in the past.”
Raslan explained that the Sudanese regime’s intentions towards Egypt are clear, regardless of the ornate speech used in media. This situation became explicitly clear when top Sudanese negotiator Seif Hamad dropped his mask, speaking recently at a seminar held in Khartoum about Sudan’s anti-Egypt plan. He said Sudan has become the most threatening country to Egypt, and the High Dam will turn into a wall after the entirety of its water storage moves to Ethiopia. He added that it must be made clear to some fools in Egypt that Ethiopia’s bargaining points are supported by Israel.
I hope this message comes across the new minister of irrigation, and that he adopts a strategy of preparing for the worse.
Moataz Bellah Abdel-Fattah is an Egyptian professor of political science. He previously served as an adviser to the prime minister of Egypt, and professor of political science at both Cairo University and Central Michigan University.