Sudan boycotts faltering talks over Ethiopia’s mega-dam

In this file photo, the Blue Nile river flows near the site of the planned Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam near Assosa in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia, near Sudan, some 800 kilometers (500 miles) from the capital Addis Ababa. (AP)
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Updated 21 November 2020

Sudan boycotts faltering talks over Ethiopia’s mega-dam

  • It was the first time that Sudan refused to attend talks with Ethiopia and its northern neighbor Egypt
  • Abbas said in a statement that the current approach to reaching a tripartite agreement on the filling and operation of Ethiopia’s dam had not yielded results

CAIRO: Sudan boycotted talks on Saturday between Nile Valley countries over Ethiopia’s controversial mega-dam, calling on the African Union to play a greater role in pushing forward the negotiations that have stalled for years.
It was the first time that Sudan refused to attend talks with Ethiopia and its northern neighbor Egypt, which has expressed for years its fears that the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance dam on the Blue Nile will dramatically threaten water supplies downstream.
Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said in a statement that the current approach to reaching a tripartite agreement on the filling and operation of Ethiopia’s dam had not yielded results, and the AU should do more to “facilitate the negotiation and bridge the gab between the three parties.”
Sudan’s boycott, however, could derail the complicated talks, which the AU has already taken the lead role in supporting.
On Thursday, the foreign and irrigation ministers of the three Nile Valley countries met online, two weeks after they failed to agree on a new framework for negotiations.
There were no immediate comments from South Africa, which heads the African Union, Egypt or Ethiopia to Saturday’s move by Sudan. It was not clear when they would restart negotiations.
Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam has caused severe tensions with Egypt, which has called it an existential threat and worries that it will reduce the country’s share of Nile waters.
Ethiopia says the $4.6 billion dam will be an engine of development that will pull millions of people out of poverty. Sudan, in the middle, worries about the effects on its own dams, though it stands to benefit from access to cheap electricity.
Key questions remain about how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the three countries will resolve any future disputes. Ethiopia has rejected binding arbitration at the final stage of the project.
As well as tension with its Nile Valley neighbors, Ethiopia was plunged earlier this month into a deadly internal conflict when its federal government launched a military attack on the northern Tigray region’s administration.
The conflict threatens to pull in Ethiopia’s neighbors, which include Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea, whose capital came under rocket attack from the Tigray forces over the weekend. The fighting has sent over 35,500 Ethiopian refugees into Sudan.
Ethiopia rejected a US-crafted draft deal over its dam in February and went on with the first stage of filling of the dam’s massive reservoir, leading Washington to suspend millions of dollars in aid to Addis Ababa.


Egyptian festival celebrates Aragouz traditions

Updated 25 November 2020

Egyptian festival celebrates Aragouz traditions

  • The festival this year sheds light on the creative icons that inspired the aragouz

CAIRO: The second Egyptian Aragouz Festival has opened on Nov. 24, at the ancient Bayt Al-Sinnari, in Cairo. The aragouz is a traditional puppet figure dressed in red invented by Egyptians to ridicule situations comically.

Khaled Bahgat, a professor of theater at Helwan University and the founder of the festival and the Wamda Troupe for Aragouz and Shadow Puppets, said the festival is part of the initiative to preserve the Egyptian aragouz, after it was recognized by UNESCO in 2018 as one of the most important Egyptian artistic elements. He said that he wants the Egyptian art of aragouz to reach the world because it is an ancient Egyptian art.

The festival this year sheds light on the creative icons that inspired the aragouz.

The festival opened with a tribute to the great Egyptian creator Abu Al-Saud Al-Abyari in a reading of his story “Aragouz, Author and Idea,” which he published in 1953. Al-Aragouz was an important source of creativity for Al-Abyari.

The reading was followed by entries exploring how the art of aragouz shaped Egyptian comedy in the twentieth century.

The day closed with puppet performances of “The social media aragouz,” which reflected the impact of social media, directed by Ali Abu Zeid, and “The aragouz in the city,” directed by Nabil Bahgat.

On the second day, Reem Heggab will honor her father the late Egyptian poet Said Heggab, reciting one of his poems on the aragouz. This will be followed by two aragouz shows, “The Take Away,” directed by Mahmoud Sayed Hanafi, and “Aragouz, the Land of Myths.”

On Thursday, the theater department of the University of Alexandria will celebrate the aragouz with a lecture by Hany Abou El-Hassan, the head of the department, a workshop and a performance titled “Lorca and the aragouz,” directed by Nabil Bahgat and presented by the Wamda Troupe.

The performance honors the creativity of the Spanish poet and innovator Federico García Lorca, and will be held in the presence of the Spanish cultural attache.

The fourth day of the festival will honor the poet Fouad Haddad, whose son Amin Haddad will recite several poems from his father’s book of poetry entitiled Al-Aragouz. The poetry reading will be followed by a discussion.

Then there will be performances of “Aragouz Al Sima,” directed by Mustafa Al-Sabbagh, and “Al-Aragouz in Danger,” which deals with the greatest challenges facing the art of aragouz.

On the last day, the Faculty of Arts at Helwan University and the Department of Theater Sciences’ troupe will hold an open seminar with the department’s students to discuss ways to preserve the Egyptian aragouz.

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