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Nile dam row: Egypt fumes as Ethiopia celebrates

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The Nile is seen as Egypt’s lifeblood – without its waters the country fears for its survival

As Ethiopia celebrated rains which began filling a controversial dam on a tributary of the River Nile, Egypt was fuming.

The North African nation had long been opposed to any development on the Nile upstream that could reduce the amount of water it receives from the river and has regarded the Ethiopian project as an existential threat.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd), which has been in construction since 2011, is now holding back water – and contains 4.9 billion cubic metres (bcm) of the Blue Nile’s water after this season’s rains.

This is despite Egypt’s insistence that no filling should take place without a legally binding agreement about how the process will be managed.

In another four to six years the reservoir, which sits behind what will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric plant when it comes into operation, is expected to reach 74bcm.

Satellite pictures from earlier in July showed the dam filling up:

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A large reservoir is beginning to form behind the dam

12 July 2020

Satellite image showing the River Nile from above in northwestern Ethiopia, 12 July

26 June 2020

Satellite image showing the River Nile from above in northwestern Ethiopia, 26 June

Egypt and Ethiopia, along with Sudan through which the Blue Nile also flows, have been negotiating for the best part of a decade, but all the while the dam has been built.

They signed a declaration of principles in 2015 which spoke about the “spirit of co-operation”, but Egypt feels that has been missing.

In the past year, it has invested time and political capital by lobbying at the highest international level and seeking help from the US and the UN, but to no avail.

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The US tried, but failed, to get Egypt and Ethiopia to sign up to an agreement

Egypt appears to have lost that battle.

It has failed to force Ethiopia to abide by what it saw as long-standing international convention requiring upstream countries to consult the downstream states before embarking on projects of this magnitude.

At this point it is hard to imagine what else Egypt could possibly do today other than acquiesce and do as much damage limitation as possible. However, a military option has never been explicitly ruled out.

The Egyptian leadership has repeatedly said it remains committed to resolution through negotiation. But it usually adds the caveat that “all options remain on the table” – a phrase that often alludes to possible conflict.

The government has repeatedly described the issue of the Gerd project as a matter of life and death. This will be especially true if there is a substantial reduction of the amount of the water that reaches Egypt as a result of the dam.

Explore the Nile with 360 video

a 360-degree version of the Damming the Nile VR series from BBC News

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Alastair Leithead and his team travelled in 2018 from the Blue Nile’s source to the sea – through Ethiopia and Sudan into Egypt.

But now, with the filling a reality the Egyptian government has tried to put a brave face on things.

Officially, it said that Egypt remained committed to the current diplomatic process which is being handled by the African Union, and repeated its old mantra that it will not accept unilateral action from Ethiopia.

Water poverty

It has also insisted that any future agreement must endorse what it sees as its established Nile rights to 55bcm of water from the river.

On average 49bcm of water flows through the Blue Nile tributary a year and Ethiopia has consistently refused to concede to giving Egypt a commitment to a specific amount that it will allow to flow through the dam. It sees Egypt’s demands as a legacy of agreements that were made without its involvement.

Egypt’s official response betrayed powerlessness rather than resolve.

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Media captionRos Atkins on…why can’t Egypt and Ethiopia agree on the Nile dam?

The stakes have never been higher for the country.

Describing the Gerd as an existential threat is not hyperbole. Egypt is an arid country and is seen as very water poor.

The World Bank classifies water scarcity as when there is less than 1,000 cubic metres of fresh water per person a year. In Egypt, the figure is 550 cubic metre per person annually, according to the government.

Just take a look at the map, where 90% of its 100 million population are squeezed into the narrow Nile valley, 6% of the country’s total area, beset by vast deserts on both sides.

‘Outmanoeuvred’

The Nile provides Egyptians with their primary source of water, for both drinking and agriculture.

Its current annual share of the Nile waters, the now endangered 55bcm, already falls far short of its needs.

This explains that while on an official level Egypt has so far exercised verbal restraint, the media and commentators have not held back.

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Egypt says the waters of the Nile are vital for its agricultural sector

To them, Ethiopia had used the drawn out negotiations to blindside the Egyptians while creating facts on the ground to exercise total control over the river.

A triumphalist tweet celebrating the first year’s filling of the Gerd by Ethiopia Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew – which read in part “the river became a lake… the Nile is ours” – particularly enflamed passions.

It confirmed what Egyptians had long feared and some replied with all sorts of threats.

An Egyptian columnist begrudgingly acknowledged that Ethiopia had outmanoeuvred his country, but it is not over yet, Imad-al-Din Husayn wrote in the daily Shorouq newspaper, in an effort to reassure his readers.

“The Ethiopians refuse to believe that without the Nile we would die, literally. They have many rivers and receive around 950bcm of rain water annually. We receive a paltry 55bcm, half of what we actually need, which is also half of what their livestock consumes annually,” he added in exasperation and summing up the imbalance that many Egyptians feel.

Diplomatic wrangle

On its part Egypt has launched several water management schemes, which include the recycling of waste water in agriculture, desalination plants, and an ambition program to change traditional forms of irrigation to the more water saving method of drip-irrigation.

But the argument about Egypt’s water poverty is perhaps its strongest card in the diplomatic wrangle, if it can be used to galvanise international support.

Apart from a short advert made in several languages, the Egyptian administrations has so far failed to launch a concerted information campaign to win over global backing.

More about the mega dam:

Both in sub-Saharan Africa and even in the US, the Ethiopians appear to have fared much better.

The current chairperson of the African Union is South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Many Egyptians believe that South Africa is biased in favour of Ethiopia, which does not augur well for the talks.

If these fail to produce a satisfactory result, Egypt believes it can take the issue back to the UN Security Council for a resolution that ties the hands of Ethiopia.

But it is far from certain that it can secure the support of all the five permanent members.

Recent reports have suggested that both China and Russia will oppose such a move, because they do not want to set a precedent as they both have their own river disputes with downstream neighbours.

Failure to bridge the gap between Egypt and Ethiopia could spell disaster for both.

Turmoil in Egypt as a result of drought and potential mass displacement could have far reaching consequences across the whole of North Africa and Europe. And an armed conflict between two of Africa’s largest and greatest nations should be a scary prospect not just for the Africans, but for the whole world.





Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded

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The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      





Source – observer.ug

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19

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Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  





Source – observer.ug

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Museveni issues ultimatum to police boss

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Museveni flagged off distribution of motorcycles for NRM chairpersons

President Yoweri Museveni has given Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martins Okoth Ochola a chilling ultimatum: You either do your work or I will do it myself!

Museveni disclosed the ultimatum he gave to the IGP today Monday at the NRM secretariat at Plot 10 Kyadondo Road in Kampala where he was flagging off the distribution of motorcycles to parish chairpersons of the ruling National Resistance Movement party across the country. 

“I told the IGP that if the police doesn’t do their work, I will do it myself by arresting the police officers themselves,” Museveni stunned his audience as he commented on the electoral violence that marred the NRM primaries held on Friday last week. At least 4 people were killed across the country during the primaries. 

“There was violence in Bukono county [Namutumba district] where people were beaten. I got information that police has not done much work. Some (policemen) have been arrested and given police bond; there is no police bond for somebody who has attacked Ugandans!,” Museveni added. 

Museveni vowed to deal with all persons who messed up the party primaries.  In some parts of the country, there were massive regularities where candidates who had been defeated ended up being announced winners. In some places like Namutumba, Isingiro, Ntungamo, Jinja, Katakwi, among others, there was violence that led to the killing and wounding of civilians. Museveni said that they are going to make sure that all those who participated in these irregularities and violence are held to account. 

Museveni said although the violence was orchestrated by the politicians, the police personnel are to be held accountable for failing to contain it.

Last week, police spokesman Fred Enanga warned police personnel especially those guarding VIPs against being drawn into the politicians’ political wrangles, reminding them that they would face the music if they did. With the president now threatening to go and conduct the arrests of errant policemen himself, IGP Ochola is likely to move fast to avert the spectacle. 

Museveni wondered why police would shoot at unarmed people who were fighting amongst themselves: “That policeman must be arrested; even the ones who are threatening people you will go to jail for that if we get evidence,” a seemingly incensed Museveni said.

He also said that the state minister of Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana who was captured on camera attempting to shoot people over the weekend in Ntugamo after he lost the  Rushenyi primaries, will be charged with threatening violence and attempted murder. 

 “This game is finished,” Museveni said.

Rukatana has since been charged and remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district in western Uganda. Museveni called upon all those dissatisfied with the election results to write petitions to the regional panels of elders which he said are going to be constituted to hear all election complaints.

“We are going to get three respected people who are not part of the struggles, then we shall go and audit village per village and we shall discover. If you have committed forgery, the registrar or the politician who ordered,  you all shall go to jail. The game is finished; the voting is by lining and if you miss-add, you are ‘miss-add’ yourself,” Museveni said.

Museveni’s speech came shortly before that of Justine Kasule Lumumba, the secretary general of the NRM who called upon the president to reign over some senior people who with impunity were freely changing the results of the elections.

“Some of our staff were lured into changing declaration forms on the way forgetting that people who had participated at the village don’t need to write; they registered the record in their faces…Some have done things with impunity… in Butemba county Kyakwanzi district, one of the candidates who got 3,000 votes brought in soldiers, cordoned off that place and was declared a winner and off they went away,” Lumumba said. 

The ball is now in Ochola’s court to get the police to execute their duties professionally and with impartiality. In March 2017, President Museveni warned Ochola’s predecessor Kale Kayihura to clean the police force of wrong elements. As months passed with no visible sign of police officers shaping up, Museveni resorted to other security agencies who started arresting rogue senior police officers and charging them in the military court for various crimes.

Kayihura was then removed from office, arrested and jointly charged with the errant officers in the army court. To avoid similar fate, Ochola is likely to use a firmer hand on the police officers so that by the time of the February 2021 elections, there is no laxity in the force’s execution of its mandate to maintain law and order.





Source – observer.ug

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