01 October 2015

Negotiations to Continue Next Week on Renaissance Dam

More meetings between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia will convene next week about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Rhetoric sounds like negotiations will continue, despite one of the consultancy firms hired to conduct an "independent high quality" assessment, withdrawing. Perhaps the Tripartite will be looking for another group to conduct this. I know some scientists and we are ready to come over and help!

No alternatives to negotiations on Ethiopian dam: Minister

No alternatives to negotiations on Ethiopian dam: Minister
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam - AFP 
CAIRO: There is “no alternative” to negotiations in the case of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD,) Minister of Irrigation Hossam Moghazy told Youm7 Tuesday.
The agreements between the Egyptian and Ethiopian political leaders are positive, Moghazy said, confirming a meeting of the Tripartite National Committee (TNC) Oct. 5-6 in Cairo to discuss pending issues between Deltares and BRL.
The TNC will tackle means to allow the two consultation firms to conduct joint studies on the impact of GERD on Egypt and Sudan, according to Moghazy.
Dutch Deltares withdrew from the GERD studies earlier in September, citing TNC and BRL conditions that “did not provide sufficient guarantee for Deltares that an independent high-quality study could be carried out.”
Water resources experts previously recommended that Sisi intervene in the prolonged negotiations.

Glowing Nile River Image From the Space Station

The astronaut Scott Kellly of NASA recently shot a beautiful image of the Nile River from the Space Station. This image, along with other stunning snapshots of our planet from above, fill his Instagram account. The photograph was taken at night and shows the nighttime lights highlighting the river's path through Lower Egypt. This visual demonstrates how developed the banks of the Nile River are in Egypt.
Seeing images such as this are truly humbling for an Earthling. Maybe someday Elon Musk's SpaceX will make it possible for civilians to see these views too.

The Nile River is a Glowing River of Light Snaking Across a Darkened Planet

The Nile River is a Glowing River of Light Snaking Across a Darkened Planet1
Our planet is truly gorgeous. The rich orange lights of cities marking the complex geography of humans scrabbling in the dust, the bright white clouds drifting with the winds, and the pale green airglow ringing our planet come together for this perfect moment from space.

Image credit: NASA/Scott Kelly

Contact the author at mika.mckinnon@io9.com or follow her at @MikaMcKinnon.

17 September 2015

Can the Egyptian Orthodox Church Play a Role in Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam Negotiations?

The following news article by Al Monitor, reports that the Coptic Church of Egypt will or is engaged to reach out to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church over the subject of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The two churches split over some political differences, but in the past were one unified church, arguably one of the oldest Christian Traditions on Earth. The Coptic Church in Egypt has been under fire in recent years, literally, as revolution in Egypt sparked religious extremism toward Christians. It is, to me, quite reassuring to see that the current President Sisi wants to engage the Church in a respectful and cooperative manner. I hope that this sends an even broader message.

Coming at transboundary, or shared, water resources from a religious angle, essentially cultural, is something that is touched upon, but often excluded from discussions on water. The importance of keeping the religious element in the discussion over water is something that my previous supervisor, Dr. Aaron Wolf, addresses in his scholarship, lectures and presentations. To me, there are two ways to look at how religion is important - one is that religion has a significant influence on people's decisions and ways of life, including water resources use; the second is that water resources, rivers, lakes, springs, often hold religious or spiritual significance. In the former, one of my colleagues, Dr. Catherine Pfeiffer, encountered the role of God in the Ethiopian Highlands when she was conducting social inventories in food insecure agricultural communities raising rain-fed crops. She had come back from the field confounded as some farmers felt that any alteration of water use to increase their yields would be going against God's Will - as He brought the rain for their crops. I remember her passionately announcing that in order to change the lives of the people in Ethiopia, scientists, water managers, and decision-makers absolutely need to work with the Orthodox Church.

Coptic Pope Tawadros II (R), head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, shakes hands with former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi upon Sisi's arrival for a visit the night before Easter, in Cairo, April 19, 2014. Sisi was elected president a month later. (photo by REUTERS)

Egyptian Coptic Church tapped to play the role of mediator in Nile River dispute

CAIRO — As tensions continue between Cairo and Ethiopia over the construction of the Renaissance Dam of Ethiopia despite political efforts in both countries to overcome the dispute over sharing Nile water, the Egyptian government is involving the Egyptian Coptic Church and encouraging it to play a role of mediation and convergence of views over the issue.
Summary⎙ Print Egypt is looking to capitalize on the Coptic Church’s disputed influence to affect relations between Ethiopia and Egypt on the Nile water-sharing and Renaissance Dam dossier.
Author Ayah AmanPosted September 16, 2015
TranslatorPascale el-Khoury
On Aug. 25, the minister of water resources and irrigation, Hossam El Din Maghazi, announced at a press conference attended by Al-Monitor the signing of a cooperation agreement with Pope Tawadros II, the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.
Maghazi said, “The church supports the efforts of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the government to manage the issue of the Renaissance Dam and build confidence between the two sides,” expressing hope that the church’s efforts would resolve the crisis of the dam for the benefit of the two countries.
Khalid Wassif, spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, told Al-Monitor, “We appealed to the church to help solve the water crisis in Egypt given its important influence on Egyptians and since it has the ability to deliver a message explaining Egypt's water crisis to a broad sector of local and foreign public opinion.”
Wassif added, “The cooperation program with the church will allow training 500 pastors, servants and priests to be water ambassadors and convey messages based on religious devotion to protect the Nile River.”
He said, “The church does not have a direct role in the political or technical negotiations with Ethiopia and the Nile upstream countries, yet it has another role, that of cultural and religious influence aimed at activating soft policy through the Egyptian church’s activity in Africa.”
In another development, Tawadros is expected to travel to Ethiopia Sept. 27 to participate in a celebration of what tradition says was the fourth-century discovery of remnants of Jesus Christ’s cross. The pope had indicated in press statements that the “visit is in response to the visit of Patriarch of Ethiopia Pope Matthias I to Cairo on Jan. 10, and the Nile water issue has paramount importance in all of our dialogues.”
Regarding the pope's visit to Ethiopia, Bishop Beemen, the liaison between the Egyptian and Ethiopian churches, said in a press statement Aug. 27, “The pope did not ask for meetings with political and executive leaders of Ethiopia.” He added, “The church has soft power in terms of negotiations over the Renaissance Dam through [spreading] messages of peace and love, reassuring the Ethiopian side with regard to Egypt’s intentions. Our message is clear. We seek the development of Ethiopia, but at the same time we will not accept any damage to our country.”
The Egyptian Coptic Church is the mother church in the African continent since its inception in the first century, and has a strong and active role in Africa, which is not limited to the religious role, but also covers a range of political, cultural, educational and developmental duties.
The Coptic Orthodox Church had sent several missions to Africa, where it built its first church in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1976; there are 55 churches in Kenya alone. Egyptian Coptic churches have spread to Tanzania, Zambia, Congo and Nigeria. Abune Boulos, the general bishop of the Bishopric of African Affairs, has documented the Egyptian church’s services in Africa in the documentary “Miracles in Africa,” which presents the church as helping provide medical, social, educational and cultural as well as spiritual services.
The Egyptian and Ethiopian churches have a special historical relationship. The church of Alexandria is the mother of the church of Ethiopia, which became part of the See of St. Mark the Apostle. According to the prevailing tradition, the head of the Ethiopian church was an Egyptian bishop assigned by the pope of Alexandria. However, in 1959, Abune Basilios, an Ethiopian, was enthroned as the first patriarch of the Ethiopian church. In 1974, under communist rule and following the military coup led by Mengistu Haile Mariam against the emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, the ties between the churches were severed. Moreover, the church in Ethiopia faced fierce attack under communist rule and lost its influence on the political administration in Ethiopia.
Despite the strong spiritual influence of the Egyptian church in Africa and its distinctive relationship with Ethiopia, experts in African affairs rule out the possibilities of potential progress to mitigate the crisis with Ethiopia over Nile water.
Hani Raslan, an expert in African affairs at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor, “Resorting to the church or religious institutions at the present time to resolve the ongoing dispute over the Nile waters is a waste of time and will not push negotiations toward a solution.”
Still, he believes the role of the church and the exchange of visits could improve relations between Egypt and the Nile Basin countries, especially since most of the problems between Egypt and its African neighbors are due to the bad perception African countries have about Egypt in general. “Ethiopia is a secular state and the Ethiopian church has no influence over the government’s decisions,” Raslan said.
Moreover, he did not expect the visit of Tawadros to Ethiopia to have concrete results, saying, “Sisi himself went to Ethiopia, talked with the political leadership and signed a declaration of principles, but the crisis persists.”
It should be noted that the technical negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, which began in August 2014, failed to reach tangible results to minimize the negative impacts of the Renaissance Dam on the Nile water’s flow to Egypt and Sudan. Despite the political momentum in these three countries on this file, Egypt expressed — in an official statement of the Ministry of Water Resources on Sept. 6 — its dissatisfaction with the slowdown in the implementation of impact studies showing the dam’s bad effects on Egypt so far. Moreover, Egypt reiterated its call for urgent consultations with Sudan and Ethiopia to rescue the negotiations on the construction of the dam in order to preserve the common interests of the three countries.
It seems that Egypt is keeping the door open to any initiatives that will strengthen its position and resolve the ongoing crisis with Ethiopia and the countries of the Nile Basin over the management of the Nile water. However, the political administration must exert more effort in the negotiations to reach technical and legal solutions guaranteeing the interests of all parties while not prejudicing any of them.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/09/egypt-ethiopia-renaissance-dam-coptic-church-mediation.html#ixzz3m0uH6FBa