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Sailing on uncharted waters.

Summary: The Egyptian opposition is making a grave mistake by taking advantage of Ethiopia 's decision to divert the Blue Nile as a fresh opportunity to heap criticism on the policy of President Mohamed Morsi.

In the same vein, the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, adds to the country's problems by merely blaming the latest crisis on the former regime of Hosni Mubarak without coming up with a clear formula about how to grapple with the looming dangers.

Time is no longer on the side of the opposition and the Brotherhood. The magnitude of the increasing challenges should catalyse both sides to sit down and discuss how to reverse the ominous national situation and build a united front.

The secular-minded opposition and the Islamist president have been locked in a deepening dispute for several months now, complicating Egypt 's political and economic landscapes and fuelling the public's disenchantment.

Still, the Ethiopian move, part of a plan to construct Africa 's largest hydraulic dam, should be an occasion for both Morsi and his opponents to iron out their disagreement. The sooner this is done the better.

At stake is Egyptians' survival, given that the Ethiopian project threatens to harm Egypt 's share of the River Nile, which is this nation's lifeline. One can safely say that one reason for the bold Ethiopian move - unveiled hours after Morsi ended a visit to Addis Ababa last week -is the unending political wrangling in Egypt, which has undercut its regional clout.

Ethiopia 's Great Renaissance Dam, according to experts, could rob Egypt of 10 billion cubic metres of its annual quota of 55 billion cubic metres from the Nile 's water. It is also believed that the 4.2 billion-dollar Ethiopian scheme will cut power generation at Egypt 's High Dam by around 25 per cent. Should these figures be true, then the situation is nightmarish for Egyptians, who have already started suffering a shortage of water and electricity supplies.

Downplaying the consequences of the Ethiopian move - as reflected in the Morsi administration's reaction - or exaggerating them as the opposition has done - is not the ideal solution to the crisis. Healing political rifts in Egypt is necessary for holding successful negotiations with Ethiopia about how to ensure that its development projects will not compromise 'historic' Egyptian rights in Nile 's water.

The crisis comes close on the heels of the abduction of seven Egyptian servicemen in Sinai, in what was seen as an affront to the national pride and a reminder of the mounting lawlessness in the peninsula.

With the first anniversary of his taking office being a few weeks away, President Morsi should move towards achieving national reconciliation by taking steps that would defuse tensions, which have gripped the nation in recent months. This is vital for Egypt to be able to take on formidable challenges at home and beyond.

The first year of Morsi's presidency has been marred by economic decline, political tensions and street turmoil. One major reason for the bad situation is the Brotherhood's exclusion of others and its erroneous belief that it can efficiently manage the country's affairs single-handedly. An unequivocal fact is that Egypt 's problems are too many for a single political faction to address on its own.

The latest challenge posed by Ethiopia should not be a motive for the Brotherhood to continue clinging to its counter-productive approach of tightening its hold on power, or for the opposition to gloat over its rival's predicament. It should prompt both rivals to bury their hatchet - even temporarily - and join hands to find a way out.

If they didn't, each and every Egyptian would be a loser.

Copyright Eltahir House 2013

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Publication:The Egyptian Gazette (Cairo, Egypt)
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Jun 4, 2013
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