June 21, 2013

Ethiopia urges Nile states to ratify controversial deal

Ethiopia has called on the Nile riparian countries to ratify a controversial deal opposed by Egypt.
A picture taken on May 28, 2013 shows the Blue Nile in Guba, Ethiopia, during its diversion ceremony.
A picture taken on May 28, 2013 shows the Blue Nile in Guba, Ethiopia, during its diversion ceremony.

Speaking on Thursday at the annual Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) conference held in South Sudan, Ethiopia’s Minister for Water and Energy Alemayehu Tegenu called on “all countries of the basin to finalize the process of ratification as soon as possible,” adding that it was a “very critical time in the history of the Nile basin.”

Last month, Ethiopia said it had begun diverting the flow of the Blue Nile for the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam, a USD 4.2-billion hydroelectric plant that sparked outrage in Egypt. The dam is feared to cause serious water shortage in the country.

On June 13, Ethiopia’s parliament approved a measure to push ahead with the project, while changing a colonial-era deal that gave Egypt and Sudan majority stake in the great river.

Ethiopia’s 547-member parliament unanimously agreed to ratify NBI’s Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), which states that a committee must be established to oversee Nile projects, including the controversial hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia.

The agreement was previously endorsed by five other riparian states — Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi.

On June 6, a senior Egyptian government aide said Cairo would demand Addis Ababa stop the construction.

On the same day, Dina Mufti, a spokesman for the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, said that Egyptian Ambassador to Ethiopia Trek Ghoneim had been summoned to give an official explanation regarding the Egyptian officials’ “hostile remarks” about the dam project.

Earlier this month, the Egyptian officials warned against a diminished share of the Nile River, while proposing a plan to sabotage or aid rebels against the Addis Ababa government.

Egypt faces a water crisis as its population increases. In the 1960s, the average water share per person was 2,800 cubic meters. Now, the figure has dropped to 600 cubic meters, much below the poverty line, which is 1,000 cubic meters per person.

On June 2, Egyptians gathered outside the Ethiopian Embassy in Cairo, calling for a halt to the construction of the dam.

The Nile, located in northeast Africa and the longest river in the world, supplies water to Egypt and Sudan. It is formed from two rivers: the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Egypt is dependent on the Blue Nile, which starts in Ethiopia.

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