Despite the progress made, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiation has not reached a conclusion, owing to Egypt’s unjust stance, which wishes to preserve an unequal status quo dubbed “historic right” that was illegitimately acquired through colonial treaties that Ethiopia was not a party. As usual, Egypt has been devising malicious approaches to halt the negotiation and the completion of the GERD, which stands as a beacon of hope for all Africans. The recent attempt of ignoring the negotiation that has been conducted under the African Union (AU) leadership by demanding four-party mediation is futile.
The Unholy Alliance
Egypt with her usual daydream of dictating the utilization of the river has changed its approach and now its spears are being thrown through the hands of the pugnacious Sudanese generals who are working against the interest of the people of Sudan. These generals who are blindly serving the interest of Egypt have the audacity to call for an “international mediation” on the GERD that would involve the United Nations (UN), United States, European Union (EU), and AU failing to adequately explain the need to belittle the efforts underway by the AU.
Even if calling for “international mediation” is claimed to strengthen the role of the AU in the negotiation, the call has failed to take the tangible realities on the ground. Ethiopia has been consistent in its claim that the request made to involve a quartet in the GERD negotiation is futile. The country has shown commitment to the AU led talks on the GERD.
There are so many reasons that make such a request an exercise of futility. First, the Declaration of Principles on the GERD signed by the three countries in 2015 entails that all signatories must agree to decide the involvement of outside mediators. And this leaves Sudan and Egypt with few options to reach a deal with the absence of Ethiopia’s consent. The call for “international mediation” without a proper conclusion of the ongoing AU-led negotiations will taint African efforts to resolve the problem in an African way. It is still possible to reach an agreement by continuing the negotiation under the auspicious of the AU.
Second, the dam is considered as one of the flagship projects of the continent under the AU’s Program for Infrastructural Development (PIDA). Thus, passing by the AU is disregarding the very objective of the Union, which is to promote peace, security, and stability of the continent as stated under Article 3(f) of the constitutive act. This is tantamount to ignoring the rest 53 member states of the Union that have entrusted the Union with this mandate.
Third, the principle of subsidiarity that is enshrined in the UN Charter under Chapter 8 (Article 52) stipulates that regional arrangements or agencies are allowed to deal with matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security as are appropriate for regional action. The Article also entails members of the UN entering into such arrangements to make every effort to achieve peaceful settlements of local disputes through such arrangements. Thus, the invitation for the four-party mediation while the case is being handled under the auspice of the AU entails that it is an attempt to unduly internationalize or politicize the case and exert pressure over Ethiopia.
Fourth, speaking based on the reality on the ground, despite the fear of the lower riparian countries that the first filling of the dam would cause water shortages, what happened was to the contrary, Sudan was flooded while Egypt was not affected in any way. The first filling of the dam did not cause a problem to anybody nor will the second round.
Ethiopia still considers the age-old fraternal relation between the peoples of the Basin as a foundation towards a better future. In recent days, the Sudanese generals are politicizing the matter and trying to sow fear among its people as if the second year filling of the GERD will disrupt the lives of the people of Sudan. That is far from the truth. Such an approach of the government of Sudan is I presume a result of the honeymoon-like relations between the generals of Sudan and Egypt. At the end of the day, this will not help the people of Sudan. Ethiopia as a true friend of the people of Sudan has been doing its level best to maintain and safeguard Sudan’s interest on the Nile.
While it was unduly coerced in February 2020 in Washington D.C. to sign a partial document, Sudan refused knowing the approach and the substance was against its own national interest. So what has changed now? Is Sudan, with its proud people appearing as a messenger of Egypt?
To move forward what is needed is to engage in good faith in the negotiations over the dam under the auspices of the AU. Acknowledging that the river Abay is a lifeline for all of the three countries, Egypt and Sudan are advised to be wise not to refuse or oppose the win-win scenario Ethiopia is offering. Given its geographic location and unfulfilled interests in the Nile Basin, Sudan is expected to be objective in understanding its long-term interest in this regard.
The views expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter.
Contributed by Birhan Teka