President Mohamed Morsi delivered a speech at the Popular Conference on Egypt’s Rights to Nile Water on Monday; the speech stirred controversy on the political arena, some considered it inflammatory, some viewed the president’s statements as a declaration of war and others thought decisiveness and tone intensity were necessary at this point.
“Unjustified escalation,” Hany Raslan said about Morsi’s speech. Raslan is the head of the Sudan and Nile Basin Unit at the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.
He added that the threatening tone and talking about blood was unjustified especially that the president had announced intentions to negotiate with Ethiopia.
“I believe the regime is using the crisis politically to evade protests on 30 June, calling for unity and saying it’s time to give up our disputes,” Raslan said.
He criticised how the regime dealt with the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam saying that the cabinet went from one extreme of refusing to acknowledge the problem, to the other describing the dam as a threat to national security.
“The President used a threatening and arrogant tone against Ethiopia which may lead to hostility between sisterly African nations,” Al-Tayar Al-Sha’aby spokesperson Heba Yassin said, adding that the speech “lacked wisdom”.
She added that relations with Ethiopia have been tense since the national meeting that was “mistakenly televised”. Yassin said she believes Egypt needs wisdom, diplomacy and to show goodwill towards Ethiopia.
Regarding the president’s call for national unity, Yassin said Al-Tayar Al-Sha’aby has always been supportive of a serious dialogue based on national partnership between the regime and the opposition.
“The President’s call for reconciliation isn’t a serious one; he is in trouble after his popularity has declined and opposition forces are calling for protests on 30 June against his him,” she said.
Constitutional Expert Mohamed Nour Farahat criticised the Popular Conference for discussing an issue of national security in such a festive atmosphere. “The organisers of the conference are taking Egypt’s security lightly,” he said on his official Facebook account.
He added that the public needed a practical plan, and not speeches, to deal with the Nile crisis.
Farahat said Morsi’s call for national unity was a good step, “but would the president agree to hold a referendum on early presidential elections, forming a committee to draft a new constitution, limiting Shura Council jurisdiction to urgent legislations during the transitional period, forming a new consensus government and rethinking the Brotherhood’s increasing influence in the country? If so then we should welcome the reconciliation.”
Deputy Secretary General of the Salafi Al-Nour Party Shaaban Abdel Alim criticised claims that the president’s speech was inflammatory. “The intense tone is a must; it’s a matter of life or death,” he said.
He said the president was using diplomacy to resolve the Ethiopian dam issue but added that all options are still on the table.
Regarding national reconciliation Abdel Alim said he appreciated the president’s call, but it should be implemented by taking steps to unite the political powers and reassure the opposition.