By Addis Getachew
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Water ministers from Ethiopia and Sudan as well as a number of other officials and hydraulic experts from East Africa participated in a march held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Thursday to celebrate the Nile Day.
The Nile Day has been an annual event celebrated for the last 12 years to commemorate the day on which riparian countries situated along the banks of the Nile River, the world’s longest, came together to establish the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) -- a cooperation and dialogue platform.
Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Eritrea are the Nile riparian countries in a basin that is home to more than 250 million people.
The marchers wearing white caps and T-shirts displaying the theme of the day -- Shared River, Collective Action -- marched from the Meskel Square in downtown Addis Ababa to the premises of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) -- about half a kilometer away.
A brass band, music and performances befitting the spirit of the day enlivened the event.
Speaking at a meeting marking the day at the ECA, Ethiopian Minister of Water Seleshi Bekele said there was no alternative to the cooperation between the riparian countries on the Nile delta.
He urged Egypt to come back to the Nile Basin Initiative, from which it distanced itself by freezing its membership in 2010, after Ethiopia launched its Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) project -- a hydropower project on the Nile with a capacity of generating nearly 7000 MW.
Bekele said Ethiopia called on Egypt “to resume full participation” in the NBI by unfreezing its membership.
“Benefiting equitably calls for cooperation among all riparian countries,” he said.
The guest of honor of the event, Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome, also said enhanced cooperation should be fostered among the riparian countries.
The GERD continues to cause tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt. Egypt fears the dam would reduce its “traditional share” of the Nile waters while Ethiopia maintains that it has a right to use the resource for development.
Some 85 percent of the Nile waters originate from Ethiopia.
The Nile Basin Initiative was established in Feb. 1999.