South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today signed a crucial treaty on the Grand Inga Hydropower Project.
The Grand Inga project is expected to be the world’s biggest hydroelectric project, with the potential to power half of the continent.
President Jacob Zuma made the announcement earlier today, 29 October 2013, while addressing the Parliament of the DRC.
Zuma said that the treaty was a major step towards the realisation of the long cherished dream of the people of the DRC.
“It is with great pleasure that an important treaty on the Grand Inga Hydropower Project has been signed this morning. This long talked about project has got the potential to change the economic prospects of the DRC, the region and the continent.
“I must convey how particularly pleased and excited I am by the progress taking place towards the realisation of the Grand Inga Hydropower Project.
“This incredible feat of human ingenuity, when completed, will have the capacity to power Africa and indeed to export electricity beyond the continent,” he said.
The government of the DRC is seeking to harness the power potential of the Congo River by building Grand Inga, the biggest hydroelectric project ever built that would use sub-Saharan Africa’s greatest river.
“South Africa is extremely proud to be working so closely with the DRC in realising this accomplishment. This represents one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken on the African continent, and one which will long be a resounding symbol of the rise of Africa and her people,” Zuma said.
SA to share experience with DRC
Zuma said South Africa stands ready to share its experiences and lend expertise where possible, in assisting the DRC to further strengthen and deepen their democracy as well as to further entrench their impressive commitment to human rights.
“We look forward to extending and deepening the close relations between our two great nations. We can do this across the many areas of shared interest, and in pursuit of a better future for our two great nations and peoples.
“In the spirit of ubuntu, which means ‘I am because we are’, and which is a core principle underpinning the work of the South African government, we will continue to stand side by side with the DRC.
“We will work together in seeing this great nation assume its rightful place as a fellow powerhouse of the African continent,” he said.
President Zuma said South Africa will forever be grateful for the solidarity it received from the Congolese people during the liberation struggle.
He said it has always been South Africa’s firm belief that in order to overcome poverty and to achieve prosperity through development, it was imperative that the essential preconditions of peace, security, and stability must first be in place.
He said South Africa remained deeply concerned by the enduring conflict in eastern DRC, perpetrated by local and externally supported armed groups on innocent Congolese civilians.
“We deplore the devastating loss of life, the human suffering, the displacement of more than a million civilians and the damage to property which this intolerable situation has resulted in.
“I extend the deepest sympathy of the people of South Africa to the Congolese people for the hardship they continue to endure as a result of this conflict,” he said, adding that South Africa stood in solidarity with the DRC, in overcoming the serious challenge.
While it remains South Africa’s strongly held position that conflict should be resolved through negotiated, political solutions, Zuma commended the government of the DRC on its efforts in the Kampala talks aimed at ending the conflict.
“Together, we united in sending the message that for too long have the people of the DRC endured the incalculable suffering as a result of recurrent cycles of conflict.
“Enough is enough. The time for peace is now and to those who would challenge this for their own self-interests. We stand firm in the message that your time is now up, lay down your arms, as no longer will the misery you inflict be tolerated,” he said.
Tripartite mechanism meets
Meanwhile, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane joined other senior officials at the 1st Session of the Ministerial Meeting of the Angola-DRC-South Africa Tripartite Mechanism on Dialogue and Cooperation ahead of President Zuma’s visit.
Nkoana-Mashabane said she was pleased with the outcome of the meeting, given that critical decisions were made with regards to the implementation of the tripartite mechanism.
“We have rededicated ourselves to make this unique mechanism a success consistent with the directives of our Heads of State. We have agreed to work towards the operationalisation of the Permanent Secretariat and we have committed ourselves to speed up the ratification process of the MoU on the Tripartite Mechanism,” said the minister.
On 12 March 2013, Angola, South Africa and DRC set up the tripartite cooperation mechanism.
It is a body designed to help consolidate peace in the Great Lakes region, and safeguard the conditions favourable to the implementation of the Framework Accord for Peace, Stability and Cooperation in the DRC, signed on 24 February 2013 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.