Amid the recent Nile Basin Initiative controversy among member states and Egypt/Sudan claiming to still control the majority of the Nile, Ethiopia has seized the opportunity to build a new major hydro dam along the Nile River.
The East African country will begin building a 5,000-MW dam in the Benishangul region near its border with Sudan, expected to be complete in five to 10 years. The country’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said at a press conference, “We are planning to carry out a number of important projects, including a major project in the Nile.”
This is significant considering the recent bouts that have Egypt and Sudan partnering against all the signees of the Nile Basin Initiative that include Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and newest member Burundi. A colonial era treaty gave Egypt 87% control over the Nile with the remaining 13% control going to Sudan. A dispute broke out when Ethiopia accused Egypt in April 2010 of using stalling tactics to delay the East African Power Pool’s regional power scheme aimed at sharing the Nile River’s water resources.
It appears that Ethiopia is taking advantage of the turmoil that continues in Egypt after recently ousting its president Hosni Mubarak and with no clear leader in control. In addition, Sudan also is in political limbo as South Sudan has just successfully won its referendum to secede from the Khartoum-ruled north. Egypt’s former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mahmoud Abu Zaid said that Burundi’s decision to join other upstream countries in signing the pact does not mean the river’s sources will be reallocated. He said that the agreement’s implementation would depend on a number of procedures including ratification by each country’s parliament. However, Egypt will not have a Parliament until upcoming elections in July and the Nile Basin Initiative seems like the last thing on either Sudan or Egypt’s mind which seems to suit the Nile Basin Initiative member countries.
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