The Popular Diplomatic Delegation announced on Wednesday establishing a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to offer solutions to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam crisis.
In a press conference held on Wednesday, the committee announced that the NGO, to be inaugurated by committee member Alaa Abdel Moneim, will include all members who initially took part in the committee’s visit to Nile Basin countries in 2011, including Muslim Brotherhood members. Brotherhood Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein was part of the delegation in 2011.
The delegation, formed after the 25 January Revolution and made up of prominent political figures, visited the Nile Basin countries of Uganda and Ethiopia in 2011.
Hamdeen Sabahy, Al-Tayar Al-Sha’aby leader and delegation member, stated that the delegation would also be holding workshops to offer solutions to the dam crisis. George Ishak, the prominent Al-Dostour Party member and member of the delegation, added that Ethiopians and Ugandans would be invited to the delegation’s workshops and meetings to stress on the concept of “partnership” between the Nile Basin countries.
The delegation released a statement where it mentioned that the only possible solution is a peaceful one void of any threats. “The solution lies in brokering developmental projects which link Egypt to other Nile Basin countries,” the statement read.
“We stress Ethiopia’s right to development,” Sabahy said. “We also stress that such development needs to take place through partnership with Egypt. Egypt cannot remain isolated while Ethiopia is striving for development.”
The Al-Tayar Al-Sha’aby leader stated that it’s the right of all Nile Basin countries to pursue their development. Yet, Sabahy said, this right is governed by avoiding harm to any neighbouring countries’ interests.
“We are all one big family sharing one Nile,” he said, referring to the Nile Basin countries. “Even through disagreements, we need to maintain this spirit.”
Delegation members criticised the televised presidential meeting held between the presidency and political figures on Monday, while participants in the meeting later criticised the decision to broadcast the discussion live without them being notified.
The delegation stated that the meeting harmed Egyptian relations with other Nile Basin countries, especially Ethiopia. “The meeting further outlined Egypt’s arrogance when dealing with African countries, a matter those countries have long been suffering from,” the delegation’s statement read.
Delegation member and Al-Dostour Party figure Mustafa Al-Gendy stated that the delegation would do its best to reverse the consequences of what was said in the presidential meeting on Egyptian-Ethiopian relations. He issued an apology to the Ethiopian people for the utterances which came from some of the attendees of the meeting
During the meeting Ayman Nour as well as Al-Wasat Party Chairman Abu Elela Mady suggested military action against Ethiopia; others talked about using actors and sports figures to negotiate while Al-Azhar representative, Sheikh Hassan Al-Shafei, suggested embarrassing Ethiopia through international pressure.
“What the presidency did, broadcasting this meeting live, and being aware of its consequences, is high treason,” Al-Gendy said. “It was done for mere political gain by the authorities.”
Al-Gendy criticised the presidency for not inviting the Popular Diplomatic Delegation to the meeting. He claimed that when Sabahy called for their invitation, he was told it would come later for other meetings.
Ishaq expressed the delegation’s desire to view the entire report released by the tripartite committee on the repercussions of the Renaissance Dam on Egypt and Sudan’s share of the Nile water.
“The tripartite committee was formed upon the Popular Diplomatic Delegation’s request to late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi,” the statement read.
Amr Helmi, delegation member and former health minister, stated that Ethiopia’s cold welcome of the official Egyptian delegation during the latest African Union summit is reflective of the change in internal Egyptian politics.
“The delegation was met with utmost warmth by official as well as popular Ethiopian parties during our visit in 2011,” he said. He suggested Ethiopia fears the dominance of a single Islamist movement, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, over Egyptian politics.
“Ethiopia suffered from interference by the Sudanese Islamist regime; there were attempts to upset its sectarian harmony.”
Helmi claimed that the issue of the Nile Basin conflict was ignored by then-Minister of Irrigation Hesham Qandil upon the delegation’s visit in 2011. He added that Qandil did not want the solution to come through the Popular Diplomatic Delegation.
“An Ethiopian Popular Diplomatic Delegation arranged a visit to Egypt twice to discuss the dam issue,” Al-Gendy said. “Both times, they were refused entrance into the country by Egyptian authorities five days prior to their scheduled visit.”
“The issue of the Nile water is too grave to be left to the presidency and official institutions to handle independently,” Sabahy said.
Helmi stated that the issue is not just with the Renaissance Dam, adding that the Entebbe Agreement, an agreement which re-divides the Nile Basin countries’ share of the Nile water, is a much graver issue. “Dams get built every day; it’s preserving our share of the Nile water that’s a priority.”
The delegation’s visit to Uganda in 2011 was to talk the African country out of signing the Entebbe Agreement until the political situation in Egypt settles. They were then invited by Zenawi to visit Ethiopia, where the late prime minister assured the Egyptian delegation he would reconsider the dam construction if it negatively affects Egypt’s share of water.