Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el Sisi warns of conflict over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile tributary, which Cairo and Khartoum fear will imperil their supply.

The Blue Nile River is seen as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam reservoir fills near the Ethiopia-Sudan border, in this broad spectral image taken November 6, 2020.
The Blue Nile River is seen as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam reservoir fills near the Ethiopia-Sudan border, in this broad spectral image taken November 6, 2020. (Reuters Archive)

Uganda and Egypt have signed a military intelligence-sharing agreement, the east African country has said, against a backdrop of rising tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia over a hydropower dam on a tributary of the River Nile.

According to a statement by the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF), the agreement was signed between UPDF's Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and the Egyptian Intelligence Department.

"The fact that Uganda and Egypt share the Nile, cooperation between the two countries is inevitable because what affects Ugandans will in one way or other affect Egypt,", a top Egyptian intelligence official who headed Cairo's delegation to Kampala, was quoted in the UPDF statement as saying.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi has warned of the risk of conflict over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile, one of the tributaries of the Nile.

Ethiopia is banking on the dam to boost its power generation capacity and fuel economic development but Egypt fears the project will imperil its fresh water supplies.

Sudan is also concerned about the impact on its own water flows.

Uganda, where the Nile begins, has historically opposed Egypt's attempts to exercise control over hydropower projects in upstream countries.

The two countries, according to the agreement, will now "share resourceful intelligence on a regular basis." 

READ MORE: Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan agree to resume talks over Nile River dam

Conflict unnecessary 

Al Sisi had earlier warned of the risk of conflict over the dam after talks involving the two countries and Sudan ended without progress.

Delegations from the three governments met earlier this week in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo but failed to bridge their differences.

Speaking at the opening of a new government complex, Sisi said Sudan and Egypt were coordinating on the issue and that "cooperation and agreement are much better than anything else".

Referring to past regional conflicts, he said: "We have witnessed the costs of any confrontation."

"I am telling our brothers in Ethiopia, let's not reach the point where you touch a drop of Egypt's water, because all options are open," he said.

Ethiopia's water minister Seleshi Bekele sought to defuse tensions.

"There is no need to enter an unnecessary war. A war can't start because of water. Water flows if you fight today, it'll continue to flow tomorrow," he told reporters on Wednesday.

In a text message to Reuters he rebuffed accusations that Ethiopia was using another country's water.

"We are not utilising water generated from Egypt or Sudan as water doesn't flow upstream to Ethiopia," he said.

"We are utilising water from Ethiopia for our dire need following equitable and reasonable utilisation without causing significant harm to our neighbours."

Egypt and Sudan, in statements after the Kinshasa meeting, accused Ethiopia of intransigence on restarting negotiations in advance of a second filling of the dam this summer.

Ethiopia said on Tuesday it could not enter into an agreement that infringed on its rights to utilise the Nile.

Sudan's state news agency SUNA reported that the Khartoum government, which is also locked in a border dispute with Ethiopia, had asked that Ethiopian peacekeepers on a United Nations mission in the south of Sudan be replaced.

"There is a path of political escalation and all options are open to Sudan according to international law," including turning to the UN Security Council, Sudanese irrigation minister Yasser Abbas told a news conference in Khartoum on Wednesday.

Sudan and Egypt had proposed including the European Union, the United States and the United Nations as mediators in addition to ongoing African Union facilitation of the talks. Both countries said Ethiopia rejected the proposal during the meeting, which Seleshi said was part of an attempt to cause delay, according to state news agency FANA.

Last week, Sisi said there would be "inconceivable instability in the region" if Egypt's water supply were affected by the dam. 

READ MORE: What are Ethiopian reservations about US dam mediation?

Source: Reuters