Correction: Egyptians were outraged by a mistranslated Ethiopian foreign minister Nile tweet

Correction: Egyptians were outraged by a mistranslated Ethiopian foreign minister Nile tweet
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew has outraged Egyptians with a tweet declaring that 'the Nile is ours'.
4 min read
23 July, 2020
Gedu Andargachew claimed that the Nile was now a “lake” belonging to Ethiopia [Getty]

Egyptians were outraged by a mistranslation of a tweet by Ethiopia's foreign minister on Wednesday which falsely appeared to claim "The Nile is Ours", one week after Ethiopia took a notable step in completing its controversial upsteam Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam [GERD] project.

The mistranslation of the tweet read: "Congratulations! It was the Nile River and the river became a lake. It will no longer flow into the river. Ethiopia will have all the development it wants from it. In fact the Nile is ours!"

However, fact-checking website PesaCheck said this is a mistranslation.

"The correct translation of the tweet should have read, “Abay (Blue Nile) was a river but now it’s both a river and a lake. It will continue to flow as a river and serve as a lake that helps Ethiopia achieve its development goals. Abay is now truly ours", the website said.

The controversy comes amid reports that the US is considering sanctions against Ethiopia over its refusal to enter into a final agreement with Sudan and Egypt about the future status of the Nile.

Tensions have increased between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan after Ethiopia - which has rejected signing a binding agreement regarding the use of the Nile's waters - unilaterally started to fill the reservoir of the GERD last week.

The unregulated filling of the GERD's reservoir could potentially cut off essential water supplies to Sudan and Egypt, causing drought and famine.

Egypt has been dependent on the Nile's water for thousands of years and 85 percent of the water reaching it originates from the Blue Nile tributary, where Ethiopia has constructed the GERD.

Read more: Ethiopia’s Great Renaissance Dam – A Catastrophe for Egypt?

Egyptians posted angry replies to Andargachew’s mistranslated "Nile is Ours" tweet, with some threatening to defend the Nile with military force.

Mohamed Dardar tweeted: "You are not fit to be a foreign minister. The Nile River is for everyone whether you like it or not. We are a nation of over 100 million with over 50 million youth. We are all ready for a bloody war until our last breath for the right to life."

The official account of the 6 April Movement, which played a key role in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, responded to Andargachew in Amharic, saying, "Your reservoir is blocking the Nile. This is a historical fact that will never change."

'The Nile belongs to all'

In the first governmental reaction, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok said on Thursday that the Nile "belonged to all the downstream countries" and that a "carefully calculated accord" had to be reached.

Sudanese newspapers quoted him as saying, "Sudan is working seriously with its partners to reach an agreement guaranteeing that the interests of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan will not be harmed, so that a carefully calculated accord will be reached which will include all aspects [of dispute] including the filling and operation [of Ethiopia’s dam]."

Sudan reported on Sunday that the level of Nile water flowing into its territory had receded as a result of Ethiopia's filling of the dam.

Ethiopia has previously rejected an agreement drafted by the US administration regarding the filling of the GERD, saying it was biased in Egypt's favour.

It has also threatened military force to defend the controversial Nile dam. Egypt has also hinted at the use of force in the past and said that it could refer the matter to the UN Security Council.

Negotiations are currently ongoing under African Union sponsorship.

Possible US sanctions?

On Wednesday, the US journal Foreign Policy reported that several officials from the Trump administration commented that the Trump administration could cut aid to Ethiopia if negotiations stalled again.

The US Treasury Department has led previous negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan.

Foreign Policy said that it had recently requested a summary of all aid pledged by the US State Department to Ethiopia, in preparation for a possible cut-off of some or all non-humanitarian aid.

The article noted that there were "divisions and confusion" within the Trump administration about how to handle the simmering dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the dam.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article contained a mistranslated version of the Tweet circulated by Egyptians on social media. The article has been corrected to include input from a fact-checking site and the correct translation. The New Arab regrests this error.

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