Band of journalists from Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia had visited the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on July 31, 2016. The training that was associated with the field visit is anticipated to have provided new insights through exchange of ideas, scholarly presentations and discussions with officials of Eastern Nile Basin countries.
Their visit is aimed at enhancing the spirit of mutual cooperation between Nile basin countries, strengthening regional integration and showcasing Ethiopia’s commitment to its stance of non-significant impact, transparency and responsibility to the construction of the GERD.
Some Egyptian journalists said that the visit has enabled them to understand the truth about the GERD and acquire absolutely new insight which is incomparable and contrary to what is being said in their own country.
Egyptian political scientists and journalists that used to broadcast and publicize perverted stories about the GERD (for example journalists of Aharm online who participated in the program) had given their testimony that the visit was very helpful and it enabled them to see the possibilities of cooperation between Ethiopia and Egypt.
After their visit, they said that media in both countries should avoid distortion and perversion of information and try to disseminate accurate information which is balanced and verified from credible sources (they are also of the opinion that parties should not unilaterally disclose information that has been decided bilaterally and trilaterally-without mutual consensus).
Although mistrust has been noticeable in Egypt, they said, Ethiopia has a right to development, prosperity and utilize Nile water for generation of electricity. They stressed that the Nile basin could be a possible opportunity of joint development endeavor and regional integration.
Hence, further discussions and negotiations should be made in a spirit of cooperation aiming at establishing amicable relation between the two countries. Experts and technical people of both countries dealing with the GERD has to work closely as one team and strive together on possible ways used to reduce the prevalent allegations in Egypt and build cooperation and trust between the two countries (and the door is still open to all politicians and discussants).
Indeed, there are problems emanating from biased attitude of leaders and politicians and defective trend established towards Nile. However, problems could be ironed out through cooperation, discussion and negotiation. We believe everything could be solved if Ethiopian and Egyptian people and governments work together in spirit of friendship and cooperation
Egyptian journalists that visited the GERD had said that a politician saying meaningless opinion based on fabrication and bias may induce dire consequence on the relation of Ethiopia and Egypt (this is what had happened in Egypt in the last three years).Hence, they said media houses and journalists should balance the fact from independent sources and publicize what is real and tangible.
To help people and politicians accept the glaring reality of Nile Basin, officials and experts at the training unanimously stressed that cooperation is not an option, but Hobson’s choice of the present time: no other alternative except cooperation and joint effort to protect Nile Basin from environmental degradation, depletion of resources and mutual exploitation of its fruits (to sustain its benefit to all riparian countries).
The Declaration Principles on the GERD was signed in March 2015 by Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan and all of them willingly accepted cooperation on the issue of Nile. However, some hardliner scholars, old-minded and obstinate politicians and media outlets in Egypt have been reporting confusing information about the Project and other issues on Nile.
While briefing journalists, GERD Project Manager, Engineer Simegenew Bekele said that construction of the GERD is being undertaken in line with space age technology that does not let any room to any fault. The design, material inputs, machineries and know-how of workers is on par with international standard.
He said currently, over 10,500 workers are engaged at the project site, of whom close to 400 are expats from over 30 countries. The construction is well in progress as per schedule and installation of two turbines that are designed to generate 666 MW of electricity in the first phase is being undertaken. The installation is not only a concrete testimony of the country’s capacity to accomplish mega projects as per schedule but also evidence to harmonious and far-sighted cooperation between people and the government.
The Manager said the commencement of turbine installation and other electro-mechanical activities will also herald the commencement of electricity production from the Dam which is being constructed only for the purpose of power generation (affordable, green and non-power consuming).
He said that unwavering decision of the government to construct the GERD has played a key role to the success gained in the construction. As a facilitator to the present achievement, the government has formulated visionary policy and strategy to improve energy supply and accelerate poverty reduction.
Until now, Ethiopia has unwaveringly adhered to its principle of cooperation, non-significant impact and mutual benefit. It is believed that unreserved call of the nation to cooperation and mutual benefit will continue until completion of the project. Fortunately, tireless call of nation has started fruition as the first crew of Egyptian journalists and researchers, after their visit, have proved that the GERD should be a source of cooperation. They said construction of the GERD is being undertaken in a transparent and responsible manner, which is completely contrary to what they have been hearing in Egypt.
The agenda of Nile water utilization and development is predominant agenda of Ethiopia not only viewed from its major contribution of water to the volume of Nile, but also from its desperate need to realize extrication from rock-bottom poverty through exhaustive utilization of resources.
Nation is time after time reaffirming its stance to justifiable use of water and development activities on Nile without any significant impact. It believes that any development endeavor that hurts the Nile water share of other countries is unacceptable and contrary to international water laws that deal with cross-border rivers.
Earlier, tireless diplomatic effort of Ethiopia has enabled to gain the support of Sudan towards the Dam. Tremendous effort has been exerted to publicize about the benefit of the Dam to regional development, integration and make Sudan detach from its deep-rooted stand that was established on colonial agreements.
Likewise, as proved by the current visit of journalists and the comments of higher officials and parliamentarians, Egypt has been showing keen interest in undertaking continuous discussions and forge cooperation with Ethiopia(hopefully it will try to recalibrate its Nile water policy which is established on prior use).
The GERD diplomacy has started to pay as many Egyptian journalists, scholars, leaders and parliamentarians have started to speak well of the GERD, benefit of cooperation and the right of Ethiopia to build Dam and utilize its resources. It could be said that diplomatic effort of Ethiopia has started to take roots in the hearts of Egyptians.
On the way to recalibrate its colonial stance, Egypt is also following the path of backing cooperation( even though it is reluctant about the water discharge and content of the GERD).Currently, the relation of these Nile riparian countries is going in an encouraging pace and Ethiopia is expressing commitment to strengthen relation and establish cooperation on rock-solid foundation.
Previously there was no access to the Dam and the coverage in Egypt was negative. However, the latest visit and training opportunity had given journalists of Egypt and Sudan to visit six main sites of the GERD( change their biased attitude after thoroughly understanding the transparent and responsible manner of construction that enabled them to say I came, I saw and I confirm. They said Egyptian people could benefit from the GERD project being undertaken in Ethiopia as it is going to be exported with affordable price. Egyptian people need credible sources to assure them that they will not lose the water. If anyone gives them positive information they will take it to their heart and endorse its positivity.
In this regard, Ethiopia awaits tremendous task to publicize all the relevant information about the GERD, convince Egyptian politicians and scholars that are used to distorting facts about the project and win the trust of Egyptian people. And activities used to boost the consensus of Nile riparian countries about the GERD should continue tirelessly (to make Egyptian people understand the fact that the interest of Ethiopia is development and poverty alleviation based on equitable use of Nile water).