Neither politicisation nor sabotage should guide policies over the Nile

31 May 2021

Following the official launch of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in April 2011, Ethiopia proposed setting up a tripartite committee and a range of fora, which eventually led to the adoption of the Declaration of Principles on GERD (DoP) in March 2015, signed by Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to facilitate the trilateral dialogue. Principally, the DoP underlined the critical need for equitable and reasonable use of the Nile waters.

Ethiopia has held innumerable discussions with both Egypt and Sudan throughout the entire period of construction of the GERD and has made it clear from the very beginning that construction of the GERD is based on its sovereign and legitimate rights to use the Nile waters and its commitment to not cause significant harm to downstream countries. Ethiopia has consistently promoted the concept of collective security and multilateralism at international, regional, and sub-regional levels.

As a hydroelectric dam, the GERD will not cause significant harm to downstream countries. The fact remains that GERD increases Ethiopia’s electricity generation capacity to meet its domestic and industrial demands.

More than 65 million Ethiopians do not have access to electricity. The power generated from the GERD is meant to pull them out of darkness.

In fact, the survival, development, and prosperity of Ethiopia, and the region as a whole, are inextricably linked with Ethiopia’s ability to develop its water resources.

The GERD has a range of benefits to Nile Basin countries, including the promotion of access to reliable economic power supply, opportunity for better flood and erosion control as well as the prospect of a new era of regional cooperation for mutual development.

While Egypt and Sudan are fully aware of the benefits of the GERD, they have been intentionally politicising and internationalising the matter to exert unnecessary pressure on Ethiopia and to maintain their self-claimed water quota, in line with colonial-era treaties. Ethiopia cannot and will not agree to such unfair terms that intend to elicit its endorsement for a colonial-era treaty that maintains the hydro hegemony of Egypt and Sudan.

The downstream Nile riparian countries will therefore need to abdicate the self-claimed full control over Nile waters and demonstrate the necessary political will and commitment to negotiate in good faith with upper riparian countries, to achieve a comprehensive settlement that will ensure benefits for all riparian countries.

As the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Demeke Mekonnen reiterated ‘’Neither politicisation nor sabotage should guide policies over the Nile—not anymore. Instead, promoting cooperation, understanding, and integration should be our guiding spirit.’’

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