Resolving the Nile dispute

18 June 2020
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Updated 18 June 2020

Resolving the Nile dispute

Water is undoubtedly an essential natural resource in terms of sustainable development. The Nile River, which ties together millions of Africans, is no different. Ethiopia and other riparian states consider it a strategic resource.

Unfortunately, rapid population growth in the Nile River Basin, fast urbanization and industrialization, and global warming have made water a scarce commodity to the basin countries. This insufficiency is projected to rise in the coming years unless proper mitigation is implemented.

Hence at a time of water stress it would not be a surprise to see countries scramble to manage their transboundary water resources in a fair and sustainable manner. Managing their resources in line with shared responsibility is absolutely crucial to realize peace, stability and development.

It is out of this firm conviction that Ethiopia has its focus set with like-minded countries on using transboundary resources as a source of genuine cooperation and partnership between governments and people in the basin.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has reaffirmed Ethiopia’s political commitment to continue using transboundary resources without causing harm to others. In his address to an extraordinary session of the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives (HoPR) on June 8, he gave assurances that the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project will equally benefit the lower riparian countries.

This kind gesture demonstrates Ethiopia’s conviction to only use transboundary rivers as a source of cooperation. Of course, this is very much easier said than done. The latter necessitates a rise above hurdles that affect development toward a win-win.

It is for this reason that Ethiopia has been at the forefront of dialogue on any qualms over the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam from the very beginning. This is self-evident as the prime minister made it clear to the HoPR how Ethiopia informed both Egypt and Sudan on the full design and all relevant information related to the dam project.

Mismanagement of talks on transboundary resources could lead to tensions when nonaffected actors are increasingly present. Why the need to internationalize the issue? 

Political will and unwavering commitment to continued dialogue to iron out any suspicions and differences, which are natural, will definitely create favorable conditions.

Previously, cooperation between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan resulted in the signing of the Declaration of Principles. Another manifestation of regional cooperation for harmonious utilization of the river was the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement.

Egypt’s and others’ demand for their “historic rights” can only be suitably addressed in a broader resource-sharing arrangement through the Nile Basin Commission once the CFA is ratified. The matter should be resolved through dialogue.

• Nebiyu T. Negash is the deputy consul general at the Ethiopian Consulate in Jeddah.