An upstream kindness worth-sharing


Tripartite negotiation among Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on how to fill and operate the dam is still the contentious point among the three countries as Ethiopia prepares to launch the second filing of the dam.

The latest round of talks among three countries held in Kinshasa, DRC was also concluded without a deal. The role of observers was at the helm of the controversy. Egypt is opposing AU-led mediation looking and seeking to internationalize mediations and politicize the technical issue by proposing the elevation of the status of observers.

Cairo had previously taken the issue to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). This effort was seen as a foiled attempt to internationalize the matter. Egypt alone was clamoring for an international mediation with the aim of maintaining its colonial bestowed hegemony over the river.

Egypt has made relentless effort to politicize and internationalize of the GERD by taking the issue to the UNSC, and now is looking for a quartet mediation joining with Sudan however, its attempts cut short with the issue put under the auspicious of the African Union.

Lately, Sudan joined Egypt exerting maximum pressure on Ethiopia to accept the colonial era treaty which grants Egypt and Sudan to maintain an absolute control of the river without considering the right of Ethiopia so as to preserve their water rights excluding the rights of upstream countries.

However, Ethiopia rejected the internationalization of the issue and expressed its resolve to AU-brokered negotiations only. Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti this week that calling on different parties to mediate while the AU-led negotiations have not been completed is undermining AU’s efforts.

Ethiopia believes the negotiations supervised by the AU will achieve a win-win solution for all.

Egypt and Sudan believe that Ethiopia’s implementation of the second phase of filling the dam reservoir unilaterally would constitute a direct threat to their water security which is automatically wrong, Egypt portraying the project as existential threat. This is wrong; Egypt’s major desire is to perpetuate its centuries of monopoly over the Nile.

This week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that the second round filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will not have any impact on Egypt. Shoukry told Egyptian MPs that: “We imagine that the GERD will not cause damage to Egypt.”

“I say this from a purely technical point of view,” he stressed.

The Foreign Minister further said that a high Nile flood scenario this summer will help contain any possible problems. Addressing MPs on GERD Egyptian Foreign Minister said Thursday that Egypt’s High Dam and its water reservoir will allow the country to absorb any impact of the second filling of GERD. “A high Nile water flood will help us refill the Aswan Dam’s reservoir.”

Addis Ababa University Professor of Political Science and International Relations and researcher on Nile Water Prof. Yacob Arsano said that Ethiopia have been repeatedly telling that GERD will not have any impact on the downstream countries.

Last year Ethiopia achieved the first filling of the dam during the rainy season and no consequences was brought to the downstream countries. Ethiopia is planning to launch the second round phase in the upcoming rainy season. And, the country invited experts to make clear that GERD will not harm any downstream countries; however Egypt and Sudan rejected to assign delegates.

Continuing its act of transparency, Ethiopia also invited the two countries to nominate dam operators for data exchange before the filling of GERD in upcoming rainy seasons. This shows that how much Ethiopia is genuine in fair utilization of the resource.

MoFA Spokesperson Ambassador Dina Mufti said “With regard to particularly issues of data exchange raised by the Sudanese side, we promised that we are ready to give them the data on the filling of the dam and the safety of the dam even without reciprocity. Unfortunately, they are not accepting this because they are promoting the agenda of others. We believe this is a proxy position and they are promoting somebody else’s agenda.”

There seems a failure of recognition from many external stakeholders that there is no experience in the world to compare with Ethiopia who invited its downstream riparian to negotiate on its own hydro-electric generating dam on a river it originates from its lands. The US didn’t do it on its Hoover dam in Colorado in relation to Mexico. Turkey didn’t do it on its Ataturk dam in relation to Syria and Iraq. China didn’t do it either on its Mekong River in relation to its five downstream riparian. So Egypt failed to recognize Ethiopia’s generosity and understandings to negotiate in good faith.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Demeke Mekonnen said, neither politicization nor sabotage should guide policies over the Nile but promoting cooperation, understanding, and integration should be the guiding spirit.

The negotiations over the GERD provide this opportunity, if Egypt and Sudan follow a constructive approach to achieve a win-win outcome within the framework of the ongoing AU-led process.

Exerting unnecessary pressure on Ethiopia by intentionally politicizing and internationalizing the matter will not make Ethiopia accept the colonial era treaty and Ethiopia would never agree with such unfair terms that seek to maintain the hydro hegemony of Egypt and Sudan.

GERD Negotiating team member, Professor Yilma Seleshi told The Ethiopian Herald that, experience from other countries also showed us that there is quite disagreement between the owner of the project and the downstream countries. What the Egyptian is saying is against the international rule of trans-boundary resource though. Even if the resource is important for all of us, Egyptians is using it exclusively. No one can prevent the downstream countries from using the resources. What Ethiopia is advocating for is equitable and reasonable utilization of the resource, he added.

They are politicizing the matter than discussing and finding a way forward to reach an agreement. They claim that the water belongs to them, portraying themselves as the owner of the river which is unimaginable. Ethiopia is showing absolute genuine position and even up to inviting the downstream states to nominate for data exchange to the second round filling., according to Yilma.

Ethiopia has the right to use the resource without causing significant harm to the downstream countries and the right to develop the water for irrigation purposes in line with the power generation.

Ethiopia contributes over 85 percent of the Nile waters while Egyptian is using over 90 percent of the rivers contributing zero percent. Ethiopians have natural rights to use the resources without harming downstream countries. There is no moral and legal ground which prohibits Ethiopia from doing it.

Ethiopia is not willing to sign an agreement that will compromise the development endeavors of its future generations. Two colonial era treaties give Egypt and Sudan greater control over the Nile, an arrangement opposed by upstream countries which were not party to the treaties.

Lemlem Fissaha, member of the Renaissance Dam Negotiating team, said what Ethiopia has done enough in entertaining water-sharing talks. What Ethiopia did so far in the absence of binding law in the Nile water is commendable. Sudan and Egypt are keen on having a water-sharing agreement than handling the specific cases related to the GERD.

Ethiopia insists that the AU led trilateral negotiation is the only viable way to reach a win-win outcome. Cooperation and the spirit of African brotherhood are the best option for the management and utilization of the waters of the Nile.

The Ethiopian Herald 18 April 2021

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