Sudan Played Big Role on the Positive Outcomes of the Discussions Regarding the GERD, Iterview

Mekki Elmoghrabi
By Mekki Center September 30, 2014

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  • Negash assumed the office of Executive Director on 1st August, 2014

I have the honor to be invited by ENTRO for a workshop on “Communications for Effective Cooperation in the Eastern Nile” held from 21st – 24th September, 2014 in Nazareth, the biggest nearest city to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Great issues and topics were discussed there; the opportunities of development, cooperative investments and “How to maintain the balance between environment and development”; this is one of the most important issues for me; on which I presented a paper two years ago.

According to my point of view, NBI countries, have to understand that the right to development is one of the universal human rights, and it was firstly recognized in 1981 in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as an individual and collective right, then it was reaffirmed by the United Nations in the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Program of Action. We, as Africans, must be very proud to be the first peoples who called and adopted for “the right to development”, which is not granted by historical agreements or international deals; it is similar to “the right to life”.

It was a good opportunity to interview Mr. Fakeahmed Nagashi, in the warm city of Nazareth; he is the new Executive Director of ENTRO, and a well-known Expert on water resources and hydropower projects. Prior to joining ENTRO, Mr. Negash was the Director of Boundary and Trans-boundary Rivers Affairs Directorate, in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water. Negash assumed the office of Executive Director on 1st August, 2014, “My management philosophy emphasizes participation and inclusion and I am open to all innovative proposals that staff brings forth”, said Mr. Negash to ENTRO’s staff; actually he is the man who is very famous of his strong belief in cooperation which appears very obviously in this interview.

Q: The essential concept of the Nile Basin Initiative – NBI is cooperation, how do you assess the level of cooperation between NBI countries in general?

A: The level of cooperation in NBI countries could be categorized into three parts: the first part is the level of cooperation between the most of upstream countries, including Sudan – I consider Sudan as an upstream country – in most of upstream countries the level of cooperation is very high. So far, the second part is the cooperation in downstream countries particularly Egypt is very low because they currently froze any kind of cooperation, so we can say that the level is very low. The third part in some of upstream countries, still the level is not high as the level of other upstream countries, as an example Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC. Then generally, if we look at the future, the cooperation will be strengthened again, because it the only option for the Nile Basin countries to cooperate to use their Nile resources sustainably. It is not an option to cooperate; it is an imperative to cooperate.

Q: In other words, if the core of NBI is cooperation, the defect now in the core of NBI?
A: Actually, the objective of the countries to come to cooperation is different, for this reason you can see that the conviction on cooperation between countries is not similar. Some countries come to cooperation genuinely; other countries come to cooperation to have some advantages, for this reason you can see that the cooperation is not at the similar level. The most important aspect, when we start cooperation, countries must have the similar objectives, the same principles and the same approach, so that, at the end of the day they can go all together successfully.

Q: How do you assess the Sudanese mediation between Ethiopia and Egypt?
A: First of all, it is important to know that Sudan is not a mediator between Ethiopia and Egypt, Sudan is also part of the discussions. It is a tripartite; Sudan as a sovereign country is a part of all activities, but taking in to consideration, the historical relations between Sudan with both Egypt and Ethiopia, and also the geographical location of Sudan as a transition between the two countries, Sudan is playing a big role which has very good impacts on the positive outcomes of the discussions regarding to the GERD. Sudan has played a very big and critical role in bringing the three countries together.

Q: So, are there any tangible results for the Sudanese role between Ethiopia and Egypt?
A: Definitely, Yes. I mentioned that when the International Panel of Experts was undertaking its studies, they came up with final report which was highly facilitated by Sudan, so the conclusion actually is a result of the involvement of Sudan. Now, as far the tripartite is concerned, the discussions has reached a final agreement, and they established a committee and they are going to highly international consultants. In all these steps, the role of Sudan is very big. We have also to understand that in this process the relation between Sudan and Ethiopia has reached a very advanced stage, so it is another important product that is facilitated by Sudan.

Q: Is it true that there was an Ethiopian proposal to Egypt and Sudan to construct the GERD in a partnership according to percentages of ownership.
A: First of all, we have to know that prior to the launching the construction of the GERD, there was a project known as Joint Multi-purposes Project – JMP, which was designed by Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, the project started but after that it collapsed due to the freezing of cooperation of Sudan and Egypt. The overall purpose of JMP is to study, design, plan, and to implement or to construct big infrastructure projects in the Ethiopian highlands, projects that can benefit the three countries and have no any significant impacts on any country of the three. Sudan and Egypt froze their cooperation, then the project collapsed. This is the first step toward having low level of partnership regarding the construction of dams.
There was no response to the proposal, so the issue of the GERD became a national issue of Ethiopia and was launched, but still we believe that when one looks at the benefits of the GERD to the two downstream countries it amounts to joint ownership, so there is still conviction on a partnership around the dam.

Q: We have heard that there was a specific Ethiopian offer of percentages on the construction of the dam: 50% for Ethiopia and 50% for Sudan and Egypt? Is it true?
A: actually, the government of Ethiopia at that time pledged to finance the dam, but still convinced that when one looks at the benefits of the dam to the two downstream countries, that Ethiopia should only finance 50% and 30% for Sudan and 20% for Egypt.
Even if we look at the benefits they are gaining today, they should finance it but the government of Ethiopia said I will finance it.

Q: So, now it is over? No Ethiopian proposal for joint finance for the GERD?
A: Now, this project is financed by the people of Ethiopia, because each and every Ethiopian citizen in Ethiopia or outside the country is financing the project. Really, to go for another form of financing it seems that we have to run a referendum in Ethiopia because the project is owned by Ethiopian people but still there are a lot of projects, if the level of cooperation between the three countries reaches a level of having a joint ownership, there are several options to look at. It is important to know that the joint ownership is the highest level of cooperation but the level of cooperation in the Eastern Nile Basin is still low.

Q: Did ENTRO make efforts to bring Egypt back to Eastern Nile cooperation?
A: Actually, ENTRO’s governments are doing a lot of efforts to bring Egypt back, and it is important to know that on 27th of August, after the tripartite meeting, the Eastern Nile Council of Minsters EN-COM, Chaired by Sudan, HE Mutaz Musa took the opportunity of the presence of the Egyptian delegation in Sudan to discuss with them the importance of cooperation, and the importance of Egypt joining ENTRO again.
ENTRO is trying to magnify the benefits of cooperation to bring Egypt back.

Q: Do you think that the last Egyptian visit to the GERD has put an end to the disputes between Addis Ababa and Cairo on the issue of GERD?
A: It is difficult to say it is the end but the visit can significantly improve the relations between the two countries. Weather it put the end or not, it depends on the inspiration on the Egyptian delegation of the visit, but what we understood that the Egyptian delegation has realized that the dam is a fact on the ground, they realized that the dam is being constructed with highest level of international standards, they checked every part of the dam to understand all things were handled professionally. So, we will wait and see their response to the visit.

Q: What are ENTRO’s programs to involve Media, NGOs and the private sector in NBI’s issues?
A: ENTRO, NBA and the three centers have been doing a lot in the last fifteen years, they worked on building confidence between NBI countries, and they worked on building capacities, they worked also on legal institutional issues, there are a lot of projects and programs implemented in reality or under implementation by NBI countries. These projects and programs are designed mainly to show the benefits of cooperation. They are not sufficiently communicated to the public but currently we are working hard to involve the media and the civil society; we are planning to build a big network so media can deliver the benefits of cooperation to the public at large.
At this junction, it is also important to recognize that cooperation can come only if the countries are convinced with cooperation. Genuine cooperation comes only if the countries are convinced, If they are not convinced there will still be cooperation to avoid the cost of non-cooperation. So, it is important to cooperate by being convinced with benefits of cooperation. Through this network we will convince the public and the governments of NBI countries with cooperation.

Q: The World Bank has the right to suspend NBI or ENTRO funds if the level of cooperation is not adequate to WB criteria? Is it true?
A: Yes, there are some funds administered by WB, and there are other funds outside of WB. The WB as an administrator of its funds can sometimes reduce the amount of funds if there is no all-inclusive cooperation but the most important source of the funds of Nile Basin development comes from the countries of NBI. Therefore, weather WB suspends funds or not, if the countries are convinced with the projects the cooperation will go ahead.


Mr. Fakeahmed Nagashi and Mekki Elmograbi

Information about NBI and ENTRO

Nile Basin Initiative – NBI:

The Nile Basin Initiative –NBI, is a regional intergovernmental partnership that seeks to develop the River Nile in a cooperative manner, share substantial socio-economic benefits and promote regional peace and security. It was launched on 22nd February 1999 by Ministers in charge of Water Affairs in the riparian countries namely Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, The Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Eritrea participates as an observer. NBI provides riparian countries with the first and only all- inclusive regional platform for multi stakeholder dialogue, information sharing as well as joint planning and management of water and related resources in the Nile Basin.
NBI was conceived as a transitional institution until the Cooperative Framework Agreement – CFA negotiations were finalized and a permanent institution created.
The highest decision and policy-making body of NBI is the Nile Council
NBI Objectives:
* To develop the Nile Basin water resources in a sustainable and equitable way to ensure prosperity, security, and peace for all its peoples
* To ensure efficient water management and the optimal use of the resources
* To ensure cooperation and joint action between the riparian countries, seeking win-win gains
* To target poverty eradication and promote economic integration
* To ensure that the program results in a move from planning to action
* To achieve sustainable socio-economic development through equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources.

The Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office – ENTRO:

Based in Addis Ababa – Ethiopia, the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (ENTRO) is the executive and technical arm of the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action (ENSAP) an institution jointly owned by Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Sudan. ENTRO provides expertise on investment-oriented opportunities that focus on water supply and sanitation, hydropower development, irrigation, flood control, drought management, fisheries, and watershed management. It also provides secretariat services to ENSAP’s governing body, the Eastern Nile Council of Ministers (EN-COM) and the Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program Team (ENSAPT). ENSAP adopted a two track approach: (i) the rapid implementation of a set of ‘fast track’ projects, which would demonstrate the early benefits of cooperation, and (ii) the longer term planning and implementation of a program of more complex, multipurpose regional investments – the ‘multi-purpose track’

Information about GERD – Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Location: Benishangul, Gumuz Region – Ethiopia

Construction began: April 2011, Opening date: July 2017
Construction cost: 4.8 billion USD
Owner: Ethiopian Electric Power Corp
Turbines: 16 x 375 MW Francis turbines
Installed capacity energy: 6,000 MW

The Latest Positive Development “the Tripartite Historical Visit to GERD”

Sunday 21 September is remarkable day in the context of the cooperation between the Eastern Nile countries, the three minsters of water from the three countries, Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan paid a historical visit to the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – GERD.
Egypt is famous of being against the construction of the dam for long time but lately started to be more flexible. The Egypt’s Water and Irrigation Minister, Hossam Moghazi, said the dam should not be a source of argument or quarrel; it should rather be a mean of collaboration. Hossam Moghazi invited the Ethiopian and Sudanese ministers to the tripartite committee’s upcoming meeting scheduled in Cairo on October 20 and 21.
The Sudanese positive position on the dam was reaffirmed by the Sudanese Minister of Water Resource and Electricity, Mutaz Musa Abdalla, he appreciated the engineering quality of the dam.
After extra discussions next day to the visit, the ministers gather in Addis Ababa and adopted the criteria and conditions under which an international consultancy will be formed to conduct the two studies recommended by the committee of experts in May 2013.
The committee will produce a detailed study on the dam’s effect on the flow of Blue Nile’s water to Egypt and Sudan; also it will study the environmental, economic and social effects of the Dam on the two downstream countries.

Mekki Elmoghrabi
By Mekki Center September 30, 2014