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No International Law Prohibits the GERD project

By Mohamed Siraj
Tigrai Onlne - February 26, 2014

It’s obvious that the reason why our country wasn’t able to use the Nile River for all these years has to do with its own shackling poverty, rather than its fear for Egypt; who was been using the Rivers’ Eighty five percent. There isn’t a single international water allocation treaty that prohibits a country from using its own river.

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The Ethiopian Government says the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will not stop even for one second.

However, it’s our own poverty; which shackled the country for years, which had disallowed the country even from starting meager developmental projects, let alone damming big Rivers like the lights of Nile that can be used for grand developmental projects.

It’s very disappointing to see a country and people that used to be a cradle of civilization, lagging behind everybody else. Although it’s difficult to pin down exactly the reasons responsible for losing our footing, however, it’s not debatable that former Emperors and dictator leaders who previously administered the country are responsible.

For a long time, we have only eulogized or disparaged the river through songs; not using the diamond on our hands. The river wasn’t anything more than water in the middle of the desert for us. We saw through our own eyes the river not only solely benefitting the downstream countries, but also awashing them with our own soil and resources.

In parallel with this, every leader that administered Egypt at different times have all plotted various sinister plots to forbid our country from using its own river.

This kind of ‘We should use the river alone’ antique thinking has continued unto their current leaders’ psyche, as can be seen from their recent statement, “In order to protect our historical right on Nile River, we will take the issue to the UN”.

This stunt is to confuse the international community to make look as if Ethiopia has a desire to use the river solely of course our country’s ‘foreign policy and National Security strategy’ has clearly stated Egypt’s leaders’ previous and current position with regards to utilizing (using) the Nile River. That is ‘if Ethiopia is occupied with never ending war, the country can’t focus on development; even if there’s an effort to develop itself, the poverty wouldn’t let it be successful in its endeavor’.

So, in order to realize this antique thinking of theirs, the country’s leaders that administered the country at various times had all strategized different strategies to prohibit our country from the using the River.

The foreign policy and National Security Strategy briefs with according to regards to Nile River utilization, Egyptian leaders have all tried their might to halt our country from using the River, especially for irrigation (development).

What they reason for their action is a groundless fear that has to do with, Egypt will face a grave threat, if Ethiopia started to use the River, with this in mind, the 1959 agreement Egypt made with Sudan shut out our country; 85% source of the River, from utilizing a single liter, while both countries shared the spoil.

What’s Surprising here is the strategy of Egyptian leaders which goes like ‘if Ethiopia uses the river, Egypt will be hurt; while when Egypt is using the River, Ethiopia has to lift its hands from using the water’. When we look into this two thinking, we find that they’re both contradictory.

In Egypt’s side, there’s an outlook that depicts the River Nile is not enough for all, while on the while using the water in such lavish fashion. A fine example of this the dam that’s built on Aswan; which loses more than 10 billion cubic meters of water annually, as a consequence to the dam’s position which in the middle of the desert and has a high exposure to evaporation.

This is more than the annual water flow of Tekeze River. Those experts who have studied the issue thoroughly believe that Ethiopia’s and Egypt’s interest with regards to the river actually align. for instance, if Ethiopia is to develop or make the area around the Nile basin green, it will be able to control the soil that’s washed away by the river and fill up the dams of Egypt and Sudan and cause them problem.

With this, there’s a chance that both Ethiopia and Egypt will equally benefit. In addition to this, Ethiopia can get rid of the heavy flood that sweeps Sudan every year. And the downstream countries can get cheap electricity. As the water won’t be exposed to high rate of evaporation, it will save up to at least three billion cubic meters of water that can be used by the riparian countries.

While, the facts and opportunities for cooperation are great, the Egyptian authorities had for years succumbed to various unhealthy thinking that would halt Ethiopia from using the Nile River, by presenting the issue as if their interest can’t align. One of those thinking includes starting a huge campaign to prevent our country from getting loan and aid from other countries, so that it won’t able to use it to make the Nile River for developmental purposes.

And they have recently confirmed that they will still follow this unhealthy path.

Although in previous times Egypt was able to deploy strategies to cut out our country from getting any kind of loan and aid (support) from other Arab (using its influence) so that it won’t be able to use the River. I don’t think Egypt has understood that ‘yesterday is not today’.

What they use to follow through their previous leaders and the antique approach that’s being deployed by the transitional government won’t work today. The Ethiopia of today is not of the past.

Today our country has its own capabilities to undertake major developmental projects by mobilizing its own people, without needing anybody’s help – thanks to government’s policies and strategies that’s increasing our people’s benefits and making our country’s economy come up in international level.

Nowadays our people’s attitude towards (self) growth and development has changed. It can be safely said that the days of Egypt’s ‘you have no right to use the River’ rhetoric has now ended. In our country, we are being successful in building a developmental and democratic government.

This developmental and democratic government is being able to lead the country’s economic growth forward by employing policies and strategies that have values and that guarantee the public’s participation. With this, there have been and still are grand projects that are being built through the participation of the public.

One great instance for this is the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam. Our people that was sleeping at one time have now woke up by the buzz and waves our developmental and democratic critic government’s is making, and has started the long road back to our fore father’s great civilization.

It was not our country’s nation, nationalities and people’ choice to struggle with poverty, it has to do with the previous regimes’ inability to come up with policies and strategies that benefits the people, except for themselves. These former imperial and dictatorial leaders, instead of mobilizing the people for development and prosperity, they did everything from the point of view of elongating their rule.

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But today, the developmental and democratic government, by formulating policies and strategies that benefits the people step-by-step and that are successful, it’s doing last any responsible government developmental works that are visible that includes the construction of grand dams.

As it’s known there are many River dam projects in the world. One of those projects is Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Dam that was finished in 1972. This dam, like Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, generates six thousand Mega watt power.

Notwithstanding the dam’s high position in the world, there wasn’t any law that prohibited Russia from using its own water resource; and there can’t be. Of course there isn’t an international water law that prohibits a country from utilizing its own natural resource. If there was such a law, we wouldn’t be seeing grand hydro electric generating dams all over the world.

All in all, by exercising its right to use its own natural resource, our country has started the GERD project. The project is financed not with foreign loan and aid but with our own people’s wealth.

According to recent reports, 30 percent of the project is completed. But, this report has become a nuisance to the Egyptian authorities. The Egyptian authorities instead of working to solve their internal problem, (they have chose to use the GERD project to deflect the attention of the public). Considering Egypt’s authorities known trend of using the Nile River to deflect the public’s attention from simmering internal political tensions goes as far back as many years, it’s not surprising to see them doing it now.

Following FDRE government’s statement that announced the project 30 percent completion, there were two types of thinking reflected by Egyptian authorities. President Adli Mensour; who took power by overthrowing the publicly elected Mohammed Morsi, had said that the claim made about 30 percent of the GERD project being completed, is not true.

He even went as far as saying that the project has met financial constraints. This statement of the president is flat out baseless at its best. It’s obvious why the president made this kind of unfounded remark – to subdue the popular unrest that’s sweeping the country.

The other Egyptian official that made remark with regards to the GDRD project was the Minister Egypt’s ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation. The minister on his part believes the project that’s being by the Ethiopian government, inflicts, heavy harm on Egypt and has to be stopped – not clear if it’s a warning or a command.

If we are to look at the comments by these two Egyptian authorities, we can see both are contradictory. The first claims that there are financial constraints to successfully carry out the project, and the second stresses that the project should be stopped because it will harm Egypt.

Nevertheless, the Ethiopia government has given a reply to Egypt’s politicians and authorities’ contradicting remarks given towards the GERD project. FDRE foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ambassador Dina Mufti has given a reply to the untrue and baseless remarks thrown from the side of Egyptians.

According to Ambassador Dina’s statement, Ethiopia doesn’t accept Egypt’s international diplomatic and political effort to halt Ethiopia from the GERD project that’s being constructed on the Nile River and Ethiopia will continue with its efforts to make sure that the international community is aware of the fact that the dam’s construction doesn’t inflict any kind of harm on the riparian countries. In addition to this, he has said that assuming that the GERD project will be stopped even for second, fearing Egypt’s smear campaign on the project is naiveté.

This Egyptian politician’s campaign is also operating within religious institutions and other public places using famous people to lobby to the public that the GERD project will inflict heavy damage on Egypt and should be stopped. This distorted lobby is made to be delivered not only to Egyptian at home, but Egyptians in the Diaspora too. Egyptians has also condemned the GERD project through their new constitution.

As its known Egypt; where popular unrest still simmers in Tahrir square and other places, has recently ratified a new constitution, the first since President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown from power. And this constitution under Article 44 stipulates that the Egyptian government should protect the river from wastage and pollution, support every scientific research that’s carried out on the River and, guarantee the country’s historical ownership of the River and right to use its waters.

Ambassador Dina Mufti has replied to this new kind and astounding constitution by saying that Ethiopia applauds Egypt for its new constitution, but he stressed that a country should formulate a constitution with the right and interests of other countries in mind. The Ambassador recalled former Prime Minister Ato Meles Zenawi’s interview with the ‘Associated Press’.

In this interview, the journalists had asked the question ‘what would you do if Egypt decides to invade Ethiopia?’ And the late Prime Minister replied by saying “their fathers who invaded our country before never lived to tell their stories. And I don’t think the current politicians have forgotten this’. This implies that any kind of threats and action from the part of Egypt won’t be successful.

However, recently Egypt's Irrigation and Water Resource Minister official spokesperson Khalid Waseef  have told one astounding thing to Al-monitor – if the GERD is completed and fully realized (as it will inflict harm to Egypt), they will take the issue to the international institution and are in the process of finalizing the necessary preparation.

The things the spokes person mentioned in this statement includes: We will work to halt other countries forming aiding to Ethiopia and we will go to international institutions to guarantee our historical rights on the river by citing 1929 and 1959 agreement; in which Britain representing Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda signed with Egypt.

With regards to this, Ethiopia’s director of Boundary and Trans-boundary Rivers Affairs Directorate of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Ato Tawfiq Ahmed has recently stated to local media outlets that Ethiopia doesn’t accept the colonial–era agreement and it has nothing to do with the country, by citing that the 1929 and 1959 colonial–era agreement is changed with the new Comprehensive Framework for Agreement (CFA) signed by the six riparian countries.

Here, one question should be raised. That is, ‘why would Egypt insist on the 1929 and 1959 colonial–era agreements in which Ethiopia didn’t sign (as it was not a colonized country), instead of accepting the agreement fully signed by six of the riparian countries?

As its known the Nile River is 56 billion cubic meters of water. And the riparian countries are ten. Egypt is demanding billion cubic meters of water. Egypt’s thinking is not based on the principle cooperation, but rather it emanates from self–centered outlook of ‘Nobody but me touches the water’.

As its known, politicians that are able to hold the office in Egypt at any given time, all look at the issue of Nile as their first agenda (priority). And the incumbent Egyptian leadership is no different as it is continuing with its pressure to stop the construction of the GERD project.

However, the alpha and omega of the Egyptian leadership recent demand has nothing to do with the dam’s harm towards Egypt – it’s aimed at covering up their own internal political problems and to diffuse the popular revolt that’s gripping the country.

All in all, I think it’s important here to ask the question ‘can Egypt really stop the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project”. By mentioning two issues, we can understand that this thinking is impossible and have no foundation.

The first is Cairo cannot give any scientific explanation on how the project will harm Egypt, and secondly there’s no law that can be cited to argue against stopping a country from using its own river in a way that would also make others beneficiary. These realities (facts) would make Egypt’s cry meaningless and empty threats.

Although the Egyptians want to start meaningless argument, it’s important to elaborate about the GERD project for my dear leaders. And these are the realities with regards to the project. Its only 2 months shy from celebrating its third year, and 30 percent of the work is completed.

The dam will be first in our continent, while it will be ranked 7th in the world, when the project is completed and starts to generate 6 thousand mega watts. The dam will have sixteen turbines; ten on the lift and six on the right.

These turbines generate 350 mega watts each. Next year’s Ethiopian nation, nationalities and people’s day will be celebrated around the area where the dam’s construction is taking place. And at the time, it’s expected that two turbines (out of the sixteen) will start to give seven hundred mega watt electric powers to our country.

The project civil engineering work is being done by the Italian Salini construction, while the hydro electric and electro mechanical work is being carried out by the FDRE Metal Engineering cooperation (METEC). Although it’s the first time for the home-based METEC to be responsible of such a huge task, it’s believed that it will gain invaluable experience through technological transfer when the project is finished.

With this project, more than 6500 Ethiopians workers have found job. And this shows on how the project is playing its own role in job creation.

The thing that makes the GERD construction unique to other dams around the world is the fact that it’s a project that’s shaped by its people full participation. Thus, the project has become a hand that aligns the people attitude towards development in one breath (voice). 

The current Ethiopian government effort to dam the Nile River; in which previous regimes were not able to, is amazing. Even now, the government is continuing the project in a way that involves Ethiopia’s nation, nationalities and peoples.

On the contrary, Egypt is working to stop the project citing baseless and outdated treaties. As the Arab’ saying ‘the dogs bark, but the caravan goes on’ entails, we will have to prepare ourselves to another developmental project by finishing the GERD project as we started it. As there is no international law that prohibits a country from using its own natural resource in a fair and beneficiary fashion.

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