Jean-Jacques Cornish

Egypt tries for African support on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

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Not even the waters of Africa’s greatest river can cool the heat generated by the row over the dam that Ethiopia has built across the Nile.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be filled with or without an agreement with the riparian countries Sudan and Egypt who view the dam as an existential threat.

They rely on the Nile for more than 90% of the water needs in their largely desert countries.

Ahmed recalls that Ethiopia was left out of negotiations on the use of the Nile waters between Britain, as the colonial power, with Egypt and Sudan.

He maintains that building the dam, which will make Ethiopia a hydro-electrical-generating power, is its sovereign right.

His predecessors warned that they would go war to protect their access to the Nile waters. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi subsequently ratcheted things down in favour of negotiations.

Recently though, both he and his Sudanese neighbour have resorted to bellicose language.

Egypt would not allow a drop of Nile water to be stolen from it, he said.

Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas warned “all options are open” in safeguarding his country’s access to the water.

Both the riparian countries and Ethiopia have in turn gone to the United Nations Security Council swapping accusations of negotiating in bad faith.

As African Union Chairman last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa attempted, without success, to mediate an agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD.

Current AU chair, Congolese President Felix Tshisikedi had a bash at mediation earlier this month that also ended in deadlock.

Al Sisi has taken yet another diplomatic initiative, sending his Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on a six-nation African safari, hoping to win support from continental partners.

Shoukry visited the Comoros, South Africa, the DRC, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia.

In South Africa, the minister engaged in some fence mending.

He thanked President Cyril Ramaphosa for his mediation last year.

It is no secret that Egypt was highly suspicious of these efforts, suspecting that Ramaphosa was biased in favour of Ethiopia

Shoukry’s trip will be viewed favorably by African leaders who hold fast to the principle of African solutions to African problems.

However Al Sisi maintains his wish to see the United Nations, the European Union and the United States involved in trying to get Ethiopia to take a more understanding view of Egyptian and Sudanese fears.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.