By Fekadu Wubete
Recently, the Nile Basin States Summit held in Entebbe, Ugandan was presided by President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni. The summit was graced by Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, President Abdel Fatah El Sisi, Vice Presidents of Sudan, Burundi, South Sudan, DR Congo and Ministers from Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
The purpose of the meeting was to exchange views on how to further cooperation and best utilize the Nile waters in light of the socio-economic challenges being faced by countries of the Nile basin. The summit also seeks to find solutions to the issues regarding the Entebbe Agreement signed in Uganda over the sharing and use of the Nile water.
In his address, President Museveni said parochial argument has not and will not benefit Nile Basin Countries. The benefit of Nile Basin Countries is interdependent on the cooperation of all Nile Riparian countries and it has become a must to further cooperation in the Nile basin.
Museveni stressed that up and down stream countries will miss the main point if they start from the parochial point that Uganda alone stands to benefit without knowing that Uganda’s prosperity depends on others. Accordingly, he called on Nile Basin countries to engage in strategic level discussions on issues of mutual benefit, Nile Cooperation and CFA (Cooperative Framework Agreement) and GERD.
Accordingly, implementing unplanned and unilateral irrigation schemes in the up- and downstream countries is not imaginable means to meet the demands of all Nile riparian countries. Nile offers huge potential to water development and investment projects such as hydropower, irrigation, navigation, natural resource management and ecotourism, if only it is planned and implemented through cooperation.
This time Sudan has joined the Nile Basin countries, while Egypt poses onerous preconditions to secure its colonial water quota over Nile. Over time Egypt seems interested to see progress in settling Nile issues, though some are suspicious of the volatile and self righteous stand of Egypt known for mucking around negotiations regarding Nile; blowing hot and cold and flogging a dead horse to shore up colonial treaties. Currently, however, real time has come for Egypt to be forthcoming and join CFA.
Despite their reluctance, Ethiopia is stating that the current thawing of Sudan towards CFA is encouraging and Egypt is expected to come to terms with the CFA and GERD wholeheartedly soon. Cognizant of the benefit of cooperation, Egypt is expected to be more amiable towards CFA and GERD negotiations. Nile riparian countries unanimously agree on the idea that furthering win-win resolution, cooperation and equitable use of Nile water, one way or another, would benefit Egypt and the entire Nile Basin.
Nation believes the volume of water required to activate all 16 turbines is quite enormous and it needs rationalized time frame and wise decision. Hence, it will step up its effort to employ agreed time frame used to fill the whole Dam, possibly supported by recommendation of professionals (including consulting firms).
In view of this reality, Ethiopia is interested to continue negotiations and discussions with all Nile Basin countries, particularly Egypt and Sudan. The discussion is meant to focus on ways as to how fill the GERD in a rational way, to avoid significant impact on downstream countries. Nation is also keen on reaffirming its unwavering stand that its main interest of building the GERD is only to overcome poverty through power generation.
The length of time through which the GERD should hold water is something that nation will continue to discuss with downstream countries. Although Ethiopia has not reached at a final agreement until now, it will continue discussion with other riparian countries to judiciously decide up on the time span used to fill the Dam and secure the benefit of all countries. Nation very well understands the very fact that as far as breaking Nile impasse through reasonable GERD filling is concerned, the most significant issue high-on the agenda will perhaps be arriving at comprehensive agreement regarding reasonable time frame.
However, so far, various regional and international chroniclers had been publishing their speculations about the length of time planned to fill the GERD. Some projected seven years time while others boldly state twenty years of time. However, those all publications are unsolicited projections and mere speculations coming out of unauthorized sources, only for the sake of attracting readers and listeners.
The accurate span of time will be disclosed after rigorous discussion and unanimous agreement with the downstream countries. GERD filling time table will be set reasonably and justifiably taking into account mutual benefit, furthering regional cooperation and avoiding significant impact, and indeed in a manner to iron out problems and worries of Sudan and Egypt; knowledgeable GERD filling is anticipated to ultimately break deep feuding over the utilization of Nile waters.
Whatever the cause, nation is confidently moving to make GERD practical way of win-win development endeavour and overcome centuries of mistrust among Nile Basin countries. Until now, GERD has been pioneering a new era of regional cooperation and development, mutual benefit and formulation of far-sighted water policy and strategies harmonized with the interest of countries comprised within Nile basin (perhaps integrated with improved water management and enhancement of collective resiliency of Nile Basin nations to fend off impact of Climate Change threatening the basin).
Nation is over and over again reaffirming its stand to cooperation, mutual benefit and justifiable utilization of water and development activities on Nile, without any significant impact. It believes that any development endeavour that hurts the Nile water share of other countries is unacceptable and contrary to international water laws that deal with cross-border rivers.
Taking in to account the myriads of benefit of Nile Cooperation and mutual benefit, Ethiopia is striving to forge cooperation on the use of Nile based on the laws laid to deal with trans-boundary rivers. In this regard, the GERD has not only started to rectify the hegemony and imbalanced hydro politics that has shackled Nile basin since long ago. Besides, GERD has been motivating up and down stream countries to make continuous diplomatic relation, participate in CFA and other Nile-related forums and negotiations.
In the contrary, due to lack of cooperation, Nile riparian counties have been faced with challenges including rapid growth of population, lack of access to electricity and continued dependence on primitive agriculture, as well as the destruction of the environment. These challenges are pressing and they need the attention of all Nile Basin countries.
To address the challenges effectively, scholars advise, Nile countries should strive to use Nile water wisely, realize development projects that enhance mutual benefit and accelerate their journey to industrialization and modern economy. In addition, all Nile Countries should show commitment to mutual benefit through Nile Cooperation, CFA and GERD.
Ethiopia will leave no stone unturned to fully materialize Nile cooperation, reverse age-old and selfish use of the river (perverted by the propagandists of Mubarak and colonialists of Britain). The activity to start to strengthen cooperation will continue relentlessly.
So far construction of the GERD has reached over 60 per cent. Indisputably, nation will keep on its unreserved effort to finalize the construction and employ it for development; prioritizing its development agenda and poverty alleviation mission (without surrendering to any regional and international hegemony and pressure as has been seen before the construction of the GERD).
Besides, the construction of the GERD, the largest hydropower Dam on the Blue Nile has been urging countries, particularly Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, to continuously meet and discuss various development issues. Ethiopia has been undertaking the construction in line with the study and recommendations of the International Panel of Experts.
Cognizant of equitable water utilization and insignificant impact, water filling activity will be undertaken when the condition of the Dam permits to do so. So far, Ethiopia has been adamantly striving to discuss with downstream countries and come up with intelligent tips used to fill GERD in a win-win modus operandi and break Nile predicament entrenched since time immemorial.
Nation is expressing its commitment to Nile Cooperation and is reaffirming its unflinching stance of water security for all Nile Riparian countries. It believes practical reservoir filling strategies should be applied to minimize potential negative downstream impacts via trans-boundary coordination.
Nation is also time after time stating that construction on the GERD will not be halted for a moment while constructive discussions with all concerned states are going on. Until now, Ethiopia has unwaveringly adhered to its principle of cooperation, insignificant impact and mutual benefit. Quite sure to see light at the end of the tunnel, unreserved call of the nation to GERD cooperation and mutual benefit will go on.
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