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Ethiopian decision to divert Nile expected to anger Egypt and Sudan

The Ethiopian government announced on Monday that it will start work soon on diverting the Blue Nile, a move that is expected to spark the anger of the two downstream countries, Sudan and Egypt. The governments in Khartoum and Cairo fear that Ethiopia's construction of the Renaissance Dam will affect their share of Nile water.


A spokesman for the Ethiopian government, Bereket Simon, said that his country will start to divert the Blue Nile tributary near the site where the dam is being constructed. Such a diversion will be the first in recorded history. Indeed, Mr Simon described this as a "historic" moment for his country as the event coincides with the 22nd anniversary of the ousting of the Mengistu Haile Mariam regime and coming to power of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front on 28 May 1991.

According to a source close to the Egyptian presidency, Egypt and Ethiopia had agreed this week on the importance of continued coordination between the two countries with regard to the River Nile so that the best interests of both countries are served. Each party committed to the principle of not harming the interests of the other. This was made clear during the meeting between Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in Addis Ababa on Saturday. The two were attending an African Union summit.

By diverting the Blue Nile, Ethiopia is pre-empting the findings of a report that is expected to be issued by the tripartite commission for assessing the Renaissance Dam by the end of May. Alaa Al-Zawahiri, a member of the Egyptian national technical committee for assessing the Renaissance Dam, told Anadolu Agency two days ago that the committee will recommend in its report that more studies should be conducted on the dam's impact on Egypt and Sudan. Studies produced by Ethiopia, he added, are not enough to assuage fears that there will be a negative impact on the flow downstream.

The tripartite commission for assessing the Renaissance Dam has 6 local members (2 from each of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia) and 4 international experts. The commission was formed in response to a suggestion from the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who called on the water ministers from the three countries to research and study all aspects of the issue, after his country had announced officially on April 2, 2011 that it would start work on the Renaissance Dam.

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