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Historic Nile deal signed
Egypt, the downstream country that has been airing its concern regarding the giant Ethiopian hydro electric power project on the Nile River, and Ethiopia promised to boost their relation under a collegial spirit days after signing a monumental declaration of Principles on the Grand Renaissance Dam project.
Following the milestone deal signing among the three Nile basin countries, Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made a historic three days visit to Ethiopia that ended Wednesday March 25. The two countries’ heads of state signed the declaration in Khartoum on Monday March 23.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addressing the Ethiopian people and the parliament Wednesday, said that the two countries must expand their cooperation. He also acknowledged the development projects that are going on in Ethiopia.
Sisi’s visit to Ethiopia is the first official visit of an Egyptian head of state although various higher officials had paid a visit to the country on different occasions including continental meetings.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and al-Sisi met a year ago for the first time, during the AU summit held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. The encounter was considered as a new era in the relation of the two countries’ since al-Sisi’s ascendance to power.
In January this year, the Egyptian president came to Addis Ababa to attend the AU Summit, but had to leave a few hours later cutting short his stay after the Islamic State’s Egyptian wing killed 30 people in the Sinai Peninsula. Likewise, a few weeks ago, PM Hailemariam was in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt to attend the Economic Development Conference.
During Sisi’s last visit, he held discussions with President Mulatu Teshome (PhD), business representatives, and public diplomacy members.
Following their discussion at the National Palace, Sisi and Hailemariam announced to the media that the two countries have agreed to expand their relations in various sectors. Al-Sisi remarked at the occasion that the two countries are on the right path of mutual cooperation. The heads of states also discussed on ways to boost trade and investment ties between the two countries, as well as on security issues.
Ethiopian Ambassador to Egypt, Mohamed Dirir, on his part said that tremendous development is witnessed in the bilateral relationship between Egypt and Ethiopia. “When I say tremendous development, it is in the positive. The level of confidence that is being built is immense,” he told Capital.
“I invite you today to write together a new chapter in the history of Egyptian-Ethiopian relations underling the hopes and ambitions of our people looking forward to our desired future, a future replete in welfare and in hope,” said President al-Sisi warmly addressing the Ethiopian parliament.
“We are in need of building bridges of confidence, but we also want to sojourn gaps of suspicion and wariness that should not be left to expand or to become a chasm that separates us; and this is a common responsibility that lies with the politicians, the intellectuals and the media in our countries,” he added.
Sisi underlined that it is the duty of the two leaders together to leave to the new generation a better legacy than what they have inherited.
“We are, God willing, determined that Egypt regains its stature and that its civilization flourishes further provided that cooperation and partnership become our way to achieving development and welfare to us in Egypt, and to our brothers in Ethiopia and in the Nile basin as a whole,” president al-Sisi said.
“The time has come for realizing the prophecy of the African leader Nkrumah regarding ‘the Renaissance of Wise Ethiopia’ that he foretold at the end of the inaugural of the Organization of African Unity more than 50 years ago, and Egypt stand today, in all determination besides Ethiopia, to transform this prophecy to a sound reality ,” he affirmed.
The deal Ethiopia signed with the two downstream countries is the first ever document since 1959. Sudan and Egypt had a deal that dates back to the colonial period regarding use of the Nile waters.
In the 1929 and 1959 agreements that were signed without the acknowledgement of Ethiopia, the two countries had agreed to share the river water solely between them.
Ethiopia was developing projects using very little portions of the Abay River in the past, while the country contributes over 86 percent share of water for the Nile. When almost four years ago, Ethiopia launched the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project, Egypt had been very concerned that the hydroelectric project would reduce the amount of water that flows to the North African country from the Nile River.
For a long time, Ethiopia and other upstream countries of the Nile River had called for an equitable use of the basin waters.
Ethiopia had continuously assured that the project will not cause any significant harm on the downstream countries, stating that the source country of the Nile should also have the right to undertake developments on the river.
Ethiopia, the second highly populated country in the continent and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, repeatedly expressed willingness to continue talks with Egypt and Sudan.
Since the commencement of the project in April 2011, a technical committee that comprises experts from the three countries met to discuss on several occasions.
The historical deal signed Monday was endorsed by the international community including the US, a strong ally for Egypt and Ethiopia.
“The GERD deal focuses widely on acceptable norms and principles,” Mohamed Dirir, Ethiopian Ambassador to Egypt, told Capital. He reiterated that it will not only boost the relationship between the two countries and enhance investment and trade exchanges, but also exemplify relationships at the Nile Basin level.
“When we consider the three nations, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, we are talking about more than 200 million people, and the close relationships between these people is setting the norm for confidence building, better relationship and trust,” he explained.
The ambassador further noted that the Declaration of Principles does not include any statement concerning the capacity of the dam. “It is on principles of equitable sharing of the Nile water, the principle of not causing considerable harm, and a principle of confidence building,” he said.
“Agreement on conflict resolution mechanisms without the involvement of a third party, but among the leadership of the three nations is part of the deal,” he added.
According to reports both in the Ethiopian and Egyptian media since the Declaration of Principles signature, the document has ten major points that deal with principles of cooperation; principles of development; regional integration and sustainability; not causing significant damage; fair and appropriate use of the water; the dam’s storage reservoir first filling; dam operation policies; building trust; exchange of information and data; and principles of dam security.
The last two points concern the principles of sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the States, and the principles of a peaceful settlement of disputes.
Based on the accord, the three countries have agreed that the two downstream countries – Sudan and Egypt- shall be given priority for electric power export from the GERD, whose work is through by 42percent and is expected to be completed by 2017.
The project that celebrates its fourth anniversary this year is fully financed locally. It has a generation capacity of 6,000mw electric power, the highest energy resource in the continent.
The multibillion dollar project, USD 4.2 billion, that will be one of the icons for the country has grabbed immense international attention since its commencement.