Sisi tells Egyptians ‘not to worry’ about Ethiopia’s dam

'Enough nonsense talk': Sisi tells Egyptians ‘not to worry’ about Ethiopia dam amid calls for war
4 min read
16 July, 2021
In a new speech, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called for a peaceful resolution to his country’s bitter dispute with Ethiopia over a mega-dam it is building on the Nile, while members of his audience chanted pro-war slogans
Sisi said Egyptians 'shouldn't worry too much' about Ethiopia's dam [Getty]

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Thursday called for a peaceful resolution to his country’s bitter dispute with Ethiopia over the Great Renaissance Dam it has constructed on the Nile, while saying that Egypt's "national security" was "a red line that could not be crossed".

He also told Egyptians "not to excessively worry" about Ethiopia's dam.

Earlier this month, Ethiopia began unilaterally filling the reservoir of the Great Renaissance Dam – known by its acronym GERD - a move angrily denounced by Egypt and Sudan.

Egypt fears that the GERD will seriously reduce its supply of Nile water, potentially causing catastrophic drought and famine, while Sudan says the GERD could interfere with the operation of its own Nile dams and expose millions of its citizens to flooding.

In a speech on Thursday, given on the occasion of the first anniversary of a rural development initiative, Sisi said that "Egypt had many options to decide on according to the situation and circumstances in order to preserve its security", and that it "now had economic, military, and political power to protect its resources."

However, he also said that "Egypt has always stressed the wise use of power".

Thousands of people attended Sisi’s speech, including ministers, government officials, and members of pro-government political parties.

Some of the crowd chanted slogans calling for war with Ethiopia and a military attack on the GERD, The New Arab’s Arabic-language service reported.

Sisi smiled in response and asked for calm. The Egyptian leader's public appearances are usually carefully choreographed.

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He said that Egyptians' fears over the effects of the GERD were a "legitimate worry" but said that the media and the Egyptian parliament had to consider the issue "rationally, calmly and without anger", adding that Egypt was working on water projects but that the country had to prepare for water shortages.

Sisi also said that Egypt was prepared to share the Nile with Ethiopia.

"When we spoke about this subject with the Ethiopians and the Sudanese we would always say that we wanted the Nile to be a river of partnership and benefit to all and we never had conflict in mind. Construction and development is the principle.

"We said we were prepared to cooperate in electricity and agricultural projects, and in Egypt we have capabilities which are available to our brothers, as long as no one goes near Egypt’s water."

Egypt and Sudan signed a water sharing agreement in 1959 which gives 55.5 billion cubic metres of Nile water to Egypt per year and 18.5 billion cubic metres to Sudan.

Ethiopia, where 85% of the Nile’s water originates, was not a party to the agreement and has never recognised it. Earlier this year, Ethiopia's foreign minister Demeke Mekonnen accused the two downstream countries of trying to "monopolise"  the Nile.

Ethiopia has refused Egyptian and Sudanese demands for a binding treaty regulating the filling and operation of the GERD.

Egypt and Sudan have recently tried to get the UN Security Council involved in the issue, after the stalling of talks mediated by the African Union.

Sisi said that this was "a good and planned move, which Egypt is proceeding well in" but officials from France, a permanent member of the Security Council, have said there is little that the body can do to mediate the dispute.

He also said that it was not "fitting" for Egyptians to worry too much about the Ethiopian dam, adding in colloquial Egyptian Arabic: "enough nonsense talk!"

Some Twitter users later reacted negatively and mocked the Egyptian president for this phrase, using the Arabic-language hashtag #Enough_Nonsense_Talk.

Bahey El-Din Hassan, the Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, tweeted, "He thinks Egyptians are a nation of fools. He talks about a strong Egypt but it was clear at the Security Council that the world is indifferent."