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CFA has reached a Point of No Return albeit Reservation from Egypt

CFA has reached a Point of No Return albeit Reservation from Egypt

Gebreab Gebrewold  Uganda, Kampala 04-05-18

Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA) is a framework, which appreciates accommodating the rational interests of all riparian countries of the Nile Basin. CFA is signed by six countries namely Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and out of which Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania have ratified it. For the countries that ratified, CFA has become part of their national laws. This asserts that CFA is by no means a subject for negotiation.

Nile River is the longest and the third largest River in the world. It crosses ten countries including Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Eritrea is with an observer status.

The Nile Basin is home to over five hundred million people and over four hundred million of which are inhibited in the upper riparian states. The upper riparian states are all except Egypt and Sudan. These upper riparian states are required to feed, educate, provide access to electricity and improve the livelihood of their people as the lower riparian states required of doing the same.

However, paradoxically, with the exception of Egypt and Sudan, the riparian countries had never benefited out of it. On one hand because the use of the Nile River has, for centuries, been monopolized by the two lower riparian countries- mainly Egypt and lack of internal leverage of the countries to use out of it on the other hand. But, the compelling rational for the upper riparian countries for not using their resources was not because of Egypt. It was because the countries were internally unable to do so.

This status caused tense tensions among the riparian countries. As a result, this hegemony over the Nile Waters was challenged by the principle of equitable share of the Nile River waters. Nevertheless, the two lower riparian countries, especially Egypt is stubborn enough on its obsolete position-‘historic right’. In fact, there would no history and right to utilize the source of others. ‘Mine is mine and yours is also mine’ does not work for the 21st century. This is absolutely old fashion that no one can buy.

In this regard, colonial treaties signed between the colonies and their ‘masters’ and the treaties concluded between Egypt and Sudan are often mentioned as the legal foundations of their right to monopole the Nile waters by Egypt. Ethiopia had strongly been rejecting these treaties since the beginning. It was not part to the treaties though. Neither was it invited to participate. In the view of Ethiopia, the colonial treaties are legally invalid which have no legal effect on the use of the Nile basically not because they were ‘colonial treaties’ but because Ethiopia and like countries were not part of the treaties and are not fairly put. This view, now, is shared by all the upper riparian states.

Due to this understanding, a new and different breakthrough had come to the hearts and minds of the leaders of the Nile Basin countries. Thus, the leaders of countries of the Nile basin sat together, in 1999, to open a new chapter. After consecutive and prolonged debate, they have come up with a new legal book called CFA. Egypt stood debating with its ‘historic right’ position negating the new revelation. Egypt is not able to see the dynamism happening in the globe. The debate over the monopole use of the Nile, in fact, did not hold water and the upper riparian countries have gained momentum over the fair and above all equitable share of the waters of the river. Now, no riparian country including the Sudan hangs around to get a node from Egypt.

The upper riparian countries took the initiative to discuss among all the riparian countries on how to better utilize the Nile Waters. These countries need to negotiate on their interests not their positions. They realized that Egypt’s position of ‘Historical right’ no long works. It does not benefit Egypt either. Primarily Egypt’s stubborn position affects only Egypt not Sudan or the other riparian states.

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How could Egypt be affected by its position? Egypt continues to oppose the common benefit of all other riparian countries due to its access to the European Union and other donors of the Nile Basin initiative projects. Egypt continues with its dream of destabilizing Ethiopia by injecting hundred thousands of dollars, if not millions, to and arming the anti peace elements in collaboration with the group in Asmara. Egypt is exerting all its possible efforts to coerce some countries, Ugandan position is a subject of scholarly discussion,  in order not to push forward the implementation of the CFA.

Due to these all positions:

  1. The upper riparian states can be triggered to take unilateral decisions to utilize the Nile waters as they are the source and they do not need to sit together with Egypt.
  2. Egypt cannot afford the diplomatic strife with those all African countries due to its obsolete positions.
  3. Egypt is investing its precious time in trying to reverse the irreversible shift and pursuing diversionary policy to its internal political situation.
  4. Finally, Egypt can be described, in the minds and hearts of Africans, that it is a country in the North of Africa which stands against the causes of Africa.


The Rational behind the Construction of GERD  


Despite Egypt’s reservation and all its unhelpful activities, and despite its all outdated rhetoric, Ethiopia is constructing the continent’s biggest hydropower dam, Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which is 64+ per cent of its construction is completed. Ethiopia will, certainly, keep constructing other dams to meet its power demands. These days, every economic activity in Ethiopia, in fact anywhere else, requires the development of infrastructures. The need to electric power is prerequisite for the transformation and economic development of the country.


Achieving rapid economic development is a matter of survival to Ethiopia. Economic development anywhere else without electric power is impossible even to think. As a result, power generation to Ethiopia is a matter of life and death and a point of no-negotiation. It is absolutely not a subject for compromise. Transforming the economy from agriculture to industry requires available sufficient electric power. For this, Ethiopia envisages to be light manufacturing industry of Africa in 2020. The Ethiopian government has decided to allocate 37 percent of Ethiopia’s present capacity that stands at 4,290 MW to the newly constructed Industrial Parks.


However, the allocated electric energy is not sufficient to operate all the industrial parks at their installed capacity. For instance, only two Industrial Parks 500 MW and 300 MW of electric power respectively. This attracts more construction of dams to meet the demand for power in Ethiopia. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is to generate 6450 MW. Abay (Blue Nile) river contributes over 86% of the Nile River that flew towards the Mediterranean Sea crossing the land of Egypt.


In this regard, Ethiopia to achieve its economic Growth, Transformation and Sustainable Development, electric power is a prerequisite. This asserts that constructing huge dams like the GERD are a matter of life and death.


For this reason, whatever happens, the Ethiopian people will continue to build dams for electricity and for irrigation. The people are pretty enough ready to pay any cost and sacrifices to get rid of poverty and backwardness. Late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi strongly articulated his confidence that the people are determined towards executing such mega-projects by saying “No matter how poor we are, in the Ethiopian tradition of resolve, the Ethiopian people will pay any sacrifice. I have no doubt they will, with one voice, say: build the Dam!” Dr. Arkebe Oqubay Made in Africa, 2015.


Not less than fifty percent of the one hundred million plus people of Ethiopia have no access to electricity. This significant number of population continues to rely on traditional fuels for cooking. In this regard, the demand and benefits of better access to electricity in Ethiopia are pretty clear to everyone. The demand for the construction of high dams for electricity is very high. The causes for the high demand vary but at most industrial revolution in Ethiopia is unparallel. Consequently, the people are creating wealth. Middle income population is rapidly growing. Living standard of the people in rural and urban areas is dramatically changing. The electric power supply that Ethiopia currently has and that would have in near future in total is not enough to the country’s economic performance and aspiration.


In a rational thinking, Economic development without electric power is impossible to imagine. Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with an average double-digit growth since 2005.


Not only power, Ethiopia hardly needs to develop its agriculture. To develop and change the traditional or subsistence farming, it needs to pave the way to irrigation. Irrigation requires enough water which Ethiopia can use the dam.



Benefits of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to the Riparian Countries


While stopping other riparian countries from development is Egypt’s national security interest, Ethiopia’s national security interest is eliminating the abject poverty. For Ethiopia, registering fast and sustainable economic development is a matter of life and death. Egypt is always hell bent on using every opportunity to keep Ethiopia preoccupied with issues other than its developmental course.


GERD has multiple benefits to the down steam countries of the basin. As the Dam minimizes the evaporation loss from Dams located in Sudan, it conserves water. Besides, the Dam contributes to the Sediment management, Climate Change Impact mitigation/ Drought and flood management. The other benefits that the lower riparian countries harvest from the Dam are regulated sustainable minimum flow levels in the dry season, sustainable and regulated flow will ensure reliable all-season supply to Downstream irrigation schemes, thus reducing harvest loss due to shortage of water during critical growing periods.


Finally, the dam increases energy production and power trade. Existing underperforming Downstream Hydropower schemes will perform better due to more reliable, sediment-free, regular availability of water, which will make building of new dams redundant. Increased power availability for the entire system would enhance regional power trade among the three countries.


The role of the Dam to the regional economic integration is pivotal. The Dam will highly contribute to the Continental African Free Trade Area.  The foregoing benefits, in a nutshell, add up to fostering confidence building, laying the cornerstone for mutually beneficial and diversified trade and investment among the three countries.


Ethiopia is pursuing an essential human development project. One among many fundamental human development projects in Ethiopia is the GERD. The benefits for Ethiopia and for many electricity-importing countries such as Djibouti, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Rwanda and Tanzania are paramount. As a result, the implications for downstream countries are all positive. So far, power purchase agreements are signed between Ethiopia and Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Power is also being sold to Sudan and Djibouti. Why Egypt fear for the certain benefit will be dealt on the upcoming article.

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