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Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt return to the table

Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt return to the table

After months of diplomatic impasse over the Nile, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have finally decided to resume the tripartite talks without “mediators” or “observers” picking up from where they left off in Washington, The Reporter has learnt.

It can be recalled that the talks in Washington was interrupted after the Ethiopian negotiations team came out accusing the US, represented by the Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, of applying undue pressure on Ethiopia in favor of Egypt and its water interests, formulated based on a colonial time water treaty to which neither Ethiopia, nor Sudan were truly party to.

In an unusual manner, Mnuchin, in his overzealous effort to find a deal, issued a statement on the negotiation, which basically constituted a veiled threat against Ethiopia if it is to go ahead with the first phase of the filling, on its USD 5-billion the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Ethiopia then decided to leave the negotiations in Washington, until it conducts an adequate stakeholder’s discussion, back home and subsequently, decided not return.

In the meantime, the Egyptian diplomatic machinery did not relent and filed its accusation on Ethiopia regarding the latter’s plans to conduct its first phase dam filling process with United Nation Security Council (UNSC). Upon learning of the charges that Egypt has leveled against it, Ethiopia responded by asserting its sovereign right to do so, since 80 percent of the water resource in question originated from its territory. The authorities argued it is even consistent with the principles of the United Nations.

Apart from that, civil rights figures like Reverend Jessie Jackson, in a letter written to congress, asserted the absurdity of the Egyptian charge with UNSC saying: “Egypt did not bother to notify any of its upper riparian nations when it decided to build any of its dam infrastructures and Ethiopia should not be compelled to do so.” 

“I am writing about a deeply disturbing case, regarding a letter that the government of Egypt has submitted to the UNSC to pressure Ethiopia into signing a neo-colonial agreement that will make Egypt hegemony over the Nile River,” the Reverend said. “This is inexplicable because 85 percent of the waters of the Nile River originate from Ethiopia. The remaining 15 percent is contributed by 10 Sub-Saharan Africa Nile basin nations. Egypt contributes Zero percent to the river flow.”         

Upon receiving Ethiopia’s plan for the first phase filling, scheduled to commence on July, in an expected turn of events, Sudan voiced its opposition to the filing, exacerbating the conditions among the nations. 

Apparently, the Sudanese have some concerns with the safety of the GERD, since it was what was cited by Hamdok’s administration, in its refusal to accept the filling plans forwarded by Ethiopia. Concerns specific to earthquakes and earth cracks, which means the area where the GERD is situated, is prone to constant earthquakes.

In fact, in an interview with local news agency, the Sudanese minister of Irrigation and water resources, Yasir Abbass clearly argued that his country could not possibly have dam safety concerns (due to earthquakes or similar situation) since both the GERD, which is located some 15 KMs from the Sudanese boarder, and the Sudanese Roseires Dam, are on the same system and concern about GERD means concern about the Roseires. He further stated that let alone Sudan, even Egypt could not have given the green light for the Roseires had there been real safety concerns with dam.            

The strange stance taken by Sudan’s PM, which cited never before heard concerns, regarding the safety of the dam, did not last for long. Early this week, Hamdok was already on the phone with his Egyptian counterpart, Mustafa Madbouli, on the possibility of resuming the tripartite talks. Having secured the consent of the Egyptians, he proceeded to talking with his Ethiopian counterpart on Thursday, securing an agreement to continue the tripartite talks.