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Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan sign agreement on Renaissance Dam

March 24 - 2015 KHARTOUM
Scale-model of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam at the source of the Blue Nile (File photo)
Scale-model of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam at the source of the Blue Nile (File photo)

Egyptian President Abdelfattah El Sisi, President Omar Al Bashir, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, signed a framework accord on the Grand Renaissance Dam in Khartoum on Monday.

The signed “declaration of principles” may end the long-running dispute over the sharing of Nile water between the three countries, and the building of Africa's biggest hydro-electric dam at the source of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia.

In the framework accord, the three countries agreed on the Sudanese and Egyptian shares of electricity generated by the Renaissance Dam, expected to reach 6,000 megawatts, a mechanism for resolving conflicts, and compensation in case of damages. The three signatories will be bound to the recommendations of the firm that will assess the impact of the dam on the water provision in Sudan and Egypt.

At the signing ceremony, President Al Bashir described the signing of the deal as an “unprecedented historic achievement”, and expressed his hope that an agreement on outstanding issues will be reached soon.

Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn stressed that the $4.7 billion mega-project “will not cause any harm” to the two downstream countries. The river will be slightly diverted, but will then be able to follow its natural course.

President El Sisi, however, commented that while the Renaissance Dam project represents a source of development for millions of Ethiopian people through producing sustainable energy, it represents a source of concern and worry for their brothers living on the banks of that very Nile in Egypt.”

“This is because the Nile is their only source of water, in fact their source of life,” he said.

In 2013, Ethiopia started diverting the Blue Nile, creating fierce reactions from the Egyptian authorities who feared that the Renaissance Dam would increase its water shortages. They strongly protested Ethiopia’s intention to replace a 1929 British treaty that granted Egypt the biggest share of the Nile's water, as well as veto power over any project involving the Nile by upstream countries. Some Egyptian officials even proposed military action over the construction of the Renaissance Dam.

The Nile, with 6,700 kilometres the world's longest river, flows through Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. Of the four major tributaries to the Nile, three originate from Ethiopia: the Blue Nile, Sobat, and Atbara rivers.

In 1999, the Ministers of Water Resources of Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt, established the Nile Basin Initiative, to prevent escalation of simmering conflicts over the use of the river’s water. Of those countries, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda are backing the Ethiopian dam project.

(Sources: Reuters, BBC, Sudan Tribune)

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