Bloomberg News

Mursi’s Ethiopia Dam Stance Draws Fire From Egypt’s Opposition

June 11, 2013

A large Egyptian opposition movement accused President Mohamed Mursi of having no plan for dealing with Ethiopia’s plan to build a dam that could siphon off vital Nile River water.

Ethopia’s decision last month to go forward with the dam has added to the many pressures facing the Islamist leader, three weeks before he ends his first year in office. Egypt already faces a water shortage, and some Egyptians worry the dam would make the situation worse.

“As usual, all talk,” the April 6 youth movement said on its Facebook page, shortly after Mursi said in a televised speech that “all options” were on the table regarding the Ethiopian project. Mursi did not clarify how the dam would affect Egypt or how the government planned to deal with it, the group said. “Are we really able to face it or are we just going to stop at speeches?” it asked.

The Ethiopian project, known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, will be Africa’s largest hydropower plant, generating 6,000 megawatts once built. Ethiopia says it needs the dam to produce power for its development. In Egypt, it has become the latest piece of ammunition in an arsenal of grievances against Mursi’s stewardship of the Arab world’s most populous nation, more than two years after a mass uprising ousted his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

Anti-Government Rallies

Opposition groups are planning mass rallies on June 30, a year after Mursi was sworn in as Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian president, in a bid to push him from office and move up presidential elections. Some of his detractors say the dam controversy, which has mushroomed in the local media over the past two weeks, is an attempt by the president and his Islamist backers to distract Egyptians from the economic and security challenges and political polarization that have escalated over the past year.

“Mursi is trying to use the Nile water crisis to deflect attention away from internal problems; the popular anger against him” the Tamarod, or “Rebel” movement, which is amassing signatures in a bid to force Mursi from office, said on its official website, citing member of the group’s central committee Mohamed Abdel-Aziz.

The group said on June 9 that it has so far gathered 13 million signatures and has targeted gathering a total of 15 million, exceeding the votes Mursi secured to squeeze by his rival to win the presidency last year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Salma El Wardany in Cairo at selwardany@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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