Lessons from African history show us that when statesmen endeavour to solve national or interstate challenges, they often succeed. But they can also fail. This duality of outcomes best fits summit negotiations and mediation efforts for natural resource sharing on the continent.
Attempts to equitably and sustainably share natural resources if positive, can create statesmen, and if not, then the resource will be a curse to the people.
In recent days, media outlets in the region and beyond have been awash with two news items; a stalled cargo ship in the mouth-end of the Gulf of Aden of the Suez Canal and statements issued at the summit level which border on threats to other sovereign countries on the Nile River basin.
On the latter, the diction that African problems need Africa solutions cannot be re-emphasized. The challenges confronting the sharing of the Nile waters are decades old; allocation of the Nile waters and apportioning its entirety to downstream countries by the 1929 and 1959 Nile River treaties was classic demonstration of ill-will, crafted during colonialism to fit colonial needs.
For Ethiopia, the time is now, for Nile riparian countries to sojourn on a new path to development while ensuring sustainable and equitable use of the water resources. Since the construction of the Great Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (Gerd) started, the government has taken steps in the spirit of good neighbourliness to ensure that downstream countries are not affected whatsoever.
The just finished tripartite negotiation in Kinshasa, under the auspices of the African Union was a course that Ethiopia was committed to. Eventually, Ethiopia believes when concluded, a negotiated win-win outcome will impact on the region and continent and truly demonstrate that the best solutions to our challenges are homegrown.
The ownership and commitment of the triparty negotiation process by Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia cannot be gainsaid. Distractions of any kind will prolong the outcome and put doubt on the level of commitment by the three countries. Thus, future engagements ought to be fully exhausted and accorded commitment towards concluding the negotiation without threats of sabotage, withdraw or delay.
Commitment to the trilateral negotiation process will yield positive outcomes if given a genuine chance. Stalling the resumption of the negotiation by rejecting the joint communique prepared by the African Union sends wrong signals.
Ethiopia is not selfish about its share of contribution to the Nile River; and cannot afford to expose water as a resource to the frame of analysis befitting conflict. The dividends realised from the completion of the dam will benefit present and future generations in the region and beyond. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Demeke Mekonnen, emphasised that while the rights of all riparian countries to use the Nile River are paramount, the monopoly enjoyed by downstream countries should be reversed.
Like other Nile riparian countries, the identity of Ethiopian people is attached to the abundance of benefits they can reap from the Abay River upon completion of the dam.
Meles Alem is Ethiopia’s ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the F.D.R.E, to Kenya, Malawi, Seychelles and the Comoros, and permanent representative to UNON.