April 1 /2021/ENA/ Ethiopia Cruises through 10-Year of Zigzags, Loopholes in Building GERD.
Ethiopians of all walks of life are currently marking the 10th Anniversary of GERD with various programs which among other things included Bond Sales Week and organizing a National Symposium related to the timeline of the progress in the construction and development of GERD.
Perched under the foot of Guba Mountain and majestically positioned 20 kilometers to the border with Sudan, the biggest dam in Africa and ranking 7th in the world, GERD has now reached a point of no return with almost 79 percent of its entire construction completed.
The people and government of Ethiopia possess all the reasons to mark the 10th anniversary of ground breaking and cornerstone placing, boldly and proudly by the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi.
Originally GERD was planned to be completed in a period of five years but it has taken 10 years to witness the first filling of the dam. What are the reasons behind such a delay?
As the country faced a considerable amount of opposition from Egypt in soliciting fund from international financial magnets, Ethiopia decided to build the dam from its own resources through massive public mobilization and sensitization to raise fund at national level which understandably took a longer period of time to collect enough finance from free financial donations and sales of treasury bonds. Besides, a number of adjustments were made on the blue print of the dam over time to ensure effective output of hydroelectric power.
The original projected budget for the dam was 78.3 billion birr but so far close to 112 billion birr has already been expended. It is estimated that the construction of GERD upon completion will cost 160 billion birr.
Undoubtedly, Ethiopia is at the threshold of lighting up Ethiopia and Africa with high tech electrical power changing the old rules of colonial conspiracy of controlling the sources of the Nile by generating 6.45GW of hydroelectric power. It is worthwhile to probe into the timelines of the preceding events that led to the construction of GERD.
The Anglo Egyptian treaty of 1929 which was the brain child of the British version of the Scramble for Africa barred all its colonies in East Africa from utilizing the Nile without consent from Egypt. Emboldened by this treaty and with no consultations with upper Nile riparian countries, Egypt and Sudan entered into a treaty that prevented all Nile riparian countries from utilizing the Nile.
In the most egoistic manner Egypt secured 55 billion cubic meters of water from the Nile annually while Sudan was left with 18.5 billion cubic meters of water per year. With all intents and purposes and with utter disregard to Ethiopia which contributes 86 percent of the Nile waters, both countries claimed a hydro veto power in gross miscarriage of justice on Ethiopia and other riparian countries.
In 1995, Ethiopia entered into an amicable agreement with the ousted President Hosni Mubarak to resolve any dispute on the Blue Nile in accordance to the cardinal principles of international law governing the utilization of Trans Boundary Rivers.
On February 22, 1999, the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) composed of DR. Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, The Sudan, Egypt, Tanzania and Uganda was instituted in which Eretria assumed a status of observer.
Following the initiative, a Cooperative Framework Agreement was drafted in 2010 and as the result of their disagreement with Article 14, b of the agreement which stated … not to significantly affect the internal security of any other Nile Basin State which all countries except for Egypt and Sudan agreed to ratify, Egypt came up with her own version of the article which stated not to adversely affect the water security and current uses and rights of any other Nile Basin State.
In 2015, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt signed the Declaration of Principle (DoP) and in 2018, a Joint Research Group was formed but could not agree on the general framework of the research program.
With a lobby from Egypt, the Donald Trump Administration and the World Bank attempted to participate in the Tripartite Negotiations as observers but shifted themselves to the level of arbitrators in which the US Treasury Department issued an agreement document which was not in its mandate and tried to force Ethiopia to sign the document which the country categorically rejected. President Trump openly threatened that Egypt can bombard the dam at any time contrary to international diplomatic ethics giving himself the right to directly interfere into the internal affairs of Ethiopia.
On the 19th of June, Egypt requested the UNSC to interfere into the negotiation process but the UNSC referred the case to the AU. On June 25 and 26, the three countries agreed to accept the negotiating role of the AU.
However, Sudan and Egypt were repeatedly withdrawing and rejoining the negotiations and were busy with looking for a means to pressurize Ethiopia to sign a binding document which stresses drought mitigation measures that Ethiopia should take. Ethiopia continued to stress that the DoP itself is enough to come to final agreement.
Responding to questions raised by the MPs recently regarding the current status of GERD, Prime Minister Abiy said that Ethiopia has no intention to harm the neighboring brotherly countries but will definitely keep the promise made to the peoples of Ethiopia by filling GERD on the second round. I call upon the countries to cooperate with Ethiopia in helping to develop the waters of the Nile for their mutual benefits.
As the nation celebrates the 10th Anniversary of GERD, the second round of filling the dam will no doubt take place in July and the government is completing all the technical requirements needed to process up the preparations for the inevitable filling of Ethiopia’s flagship dam project. Indeed, Egypt has built the Aswan Dam on the Nile and Sudan has also built Merowe and employing any means to obstruct the second round of filling GERD is not only against the law but also a triple jeopardy hurdled on Ethiopia.
Even then, Ethiopia will continue to work on the remaining issues related to the finalization of agreements on GERD in good faith and in a spirit of mutually beneficial approach on the equitable utilization of the waters of the Nile but the country will not accept any attempt on arm twisting the nation to sign binding documents that are not in line with the national interest of its peoples.
By December 2023, Ethiopia is to complete the entire construction of GERD and will start to generate electric power from the largest dam in Africa contributing to the fulfillment of not only local needs of the country but also to share power with African countries near and afar.