US-Based NGO files complaint against Sisi for failure to consult people over dam crisis

A legal communication submitted last week to ACHPR by US-based NGO, raised concerns over the actions of the Egyptian and Ethiopian government in relation to the Renaissance Dam.

US registered NGO, Egyptians Abroad for Democracy, has submitted a legal communication to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on behalf of Egyptian victims of human rights violations under the African Charter. The communication, submitted last week, also raised concerns over the actions of the Egyptian and Ethiopian government in relation to the Renaissance Dam.

Cairo and Addis Ababa are embroiled in a bitter row over the construction of a $5 billion dam near the border with Sudan. Ethiopia says it will provide the country with much-needed electricity and economic regeneration while Egypt believes it will restrict its access to Nile waters and wants the east African state to guarantee its access to 40 billion cubic meters or more of water from the Nile.

The focus of the communication was on the failure of the governments of Egypt and Ethiopia to meet their obligations to conduct effective consultations with Egyptian citizens who will be impacted by the dam.

Egyptians Abroad for Democracy says that since 2011, construction and operation of the dam, and high-level negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan- a third country affected by the dam – have been conducted in the absence of consultations with local communities. There have been no efforts to ensure their participation in decisions about the dam which impact their rights. This includes the victims’ rights to development, right to natural resources and rights to property and employment.

According to the legal communication, Ethiopia has taken unilateral actions to construct, fill and operate the dam before an agreement is reached between the states affected and before studies on the impact of the dam are completed. Egypt too has failed to conduct open and meaningful consultations while moving forward with inter-state negotiations.

The failure of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s government to consultant Egyptians is said to be having a devastating effect on lives. Farmers have seen policies from the Egyptian government which have restricted access to the Nile’s water and limited their land use. Such policies have detrimentally impacted their livelihoods. Complaints have been made locally to the Egyptian government, including by Egypt’s Hope Party, on the impact of the dam for Egyptian citizens and lack of consultations, however the Sisi government has failed to respond.

The communication alleges that Ethiopia and Egypt have violated the rights of the five victims, and other Egyptian citizens, under the African Charter. The commission is asked to find that Ethiopia and Egypt have violated rights enshrined under Article 22 of the African Chamber. The article on the “Right to Economic, Social and Cultural Development” requires effective and meaningful consultations to properly ensure no rights to a peoples economic, social and cultural development is violated.

Haydee Dijkstal of 33 Bedford Row Chambers, who acts as international counsel for Egyptians Abroad for Democracy and the individual victims before the African Commission, said: “The African Charter and international human rights law requires that States protect all citizens’ rights to determine their own economic, social and cultural development by creating conditions which are favorable to exercising this right. To do this, States must allow its citizens to be active participants in decisions which affect their own development through communications and good faith consultations. The available evidence indicates that Egypt and Ethiopia failed to meet this obligation to those most impacted by the Dam. The African Commission is looked to in order to recognize these violations, and ensure their rights are protected going forward.”