The leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on Monday signed a major deal that allows the latter to proceed with the works on its proposed $4.2 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River, a project that had caused regional tensions after Cairo fiercely opposed the move.
The tripartite agreement has not only been welcomed by the three parties but by the other broader Nile Basin countries as well, with Rwanda’s Minister for Internal Security Sheikh Musa Fazil Harelimana, who witnessed the signing ceremony in Khartoum, saying it would serve as a springboard for similar crucial development projects in the region.
It is expected that, the hydroelectric power plant, which upon completion is expected to generate up to 6000 megawatts – making it the largest in Africa – will not only benefit Ethiopia but its neighbours as well in a region that badly needs electricity to boost its economic ambitions.
Analysts say the new treaty could turn out to be a stepping stone towards ending the stalemate that surrounds another, broader treaty signed in Entebbe, Uganda by the majority of the Nile upstream countries, including Rwanda, which seeks equal rights on the management of the Nile waters among the 11 Nile Basin Initiative member states – a move that did not go down well with Cairo and Khartoum.
Egypt has particularly enjoyed the lion’s share of the Nile waters largely because the Nile is responsible for its civilization and remains its only lifeline but also due to colonial era arrangements that gave it powers to veto and inspect the use of the waters of the world’s longest river in all the countries with access to the mighty river. Sudan is the other country that benefited from the archaic deals which locked out the other countries.
While concerns of the downstream countries are understandable considering the significance of the Nile to their economies, particularly Egypt’s, it is important that they both genuinely engage the other NBI states on the 2010 Comprehensive Framework Agreement with view to joining the multilateral arrangement to pave way for mutually beneficial projects across the region.
This would help build confidence and mutual respect among member states, key ingredients in any meaningful and sustainable relationship.
The Nile should be seen as a blessing to all the peoples of the nations that it snakes through, and as a unifier, not a divider. Nile Basin states stand to gain more when working together than when selfishly pursuing unilateral benefits.
And the Nile has enormous potential to benefit all without any country progressing at the expense of another.
All that’s needed is all the member states to reason together and forge ahead with a common purpose.