Unfortunately, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has become a constant headache for Africa. Instead of being a tool of cooperation and integration among Nile Basin countries, it became the biggest crisis facing the African continent in the 21st century.
Ethiopia is insisting on deception and procrastination. It is no surprise the latest round of negotiations, sponsored by Sudan and held last week, has failed. Making negotiations fail is an Ethiopian skill par excellence, where it announces the opposite of what it does and reveals the opposite of what it conceals.
It entered all the rounds of negotiations with the aim of wasting time and procrastinating in an attempt to impose a fait accompli situation on downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
Because Egypt was aware of this, it made a reservation before the beginning of the latest round of negotiations. But it answered the invitation of Sudan and didn’t want to close doors in the face of goodwill and sincere efforts of sister Sudan.
Headed by Sudanese irrigation minister Yasser Abbas, the negotiations, which lasted for more than a week, were an attempt to reach consensus regarding the points of contention in the technical and legal fields. However, Ethiopia stood still, kept dodging and didn’t offer solutions except exert efforts to impose a fait accompli on downstream countries.
At the same time, it did its utmost to blow the Egyptian-Sudanese consensus. It was a malicious approach adopted by Ethiopia since the beginning of the crisis and it started practising it with Omar Al-Bashir.
It employs this approach until this very moment; sowing division between the Egyptian and the Sudanese sides, in spite of the Sudanese government’s clear standpoint in refusing both the unilateral Ethiopian moves and refusing to join a bilateral agreement concerning the first fill of the GERD.
The Egyptian Irrigation Ministry’s statement was clear in refuting the Ethiopian standpoint which led to the failure of the latest round of negotiations in Sudan. According to the statement, Ethiopia refused to discuss the legal aspects for the three countries to conclude a binding agreement based ont inernational law.
Ethiopia wanted these aspects to be guiding rules which it can amend solely. It also sought to gain the absolute right to establish projects up the Blue Nile.
It also refused that the agreement include a binding legal mechanism for dispute resolution or that effective steps be taken to face drought.
At the end of the talks, the Ethiopian side refused that points of contention be referred to the three countries’ prime ministers as a last chance for accord. This led to ending the negotiations without reaching a solution like the previous rounds held during the last nine years.
This is the Ethiopian stance that has been repeated time and again throughout the last nine years. It pretends to be searching for a solution and announces its desire to reach consensus and a new round of negotiations begins extending for years on end and stops at the same point where it started. The Washington negotiations, called upon by the US and sponsored by President Donald Trump with the participation of the World Bank revived hopes for eaching a final agreement.
Marathon negotiations were held in which Ethiopian delegation participated and ended with a semi-final agreement. There were some points of contention for which the delegations of the three countries agreed on accepting the mediation of the USA and the World Bank. Indeed, a legal phrasing of these points of contention was reached from the participating international parties.
The Ethiopian delegation made an excuse to have a break for consultation but it didn't show up during the last round of negotiations. Egypt signed the agreement solely. This was an extremely intelligent move by the Egyptian delegation.
The Egyptian signature meant agreement has been reached by international partners and there was international acceptance of this agreement. Hence, Egypt was keen on signing to confirm to the entire world its desire for peace and at the same time expose the dodging and deceitful Ethiopian stance before the world.
Despite Egypt’s insistence on keeping the Washington card, it entered the latest round of negotiations with good will, under the sponsorship of Sudan, to explore all available means to reach an equitable and balanced agreement regarding the GERD that ensures Ethiopia’s developmental objectives and at the same time secures the interests of downstream countries.
However, Ethiopia shows every time its bad intentions and that it doesn’t want peace or good for the peoples of the Nile Valley. Instead of being a source of cooperation, the GERD became a source of concern and tension in the African continent.
Perhaps the only benefit gained from the latest round of negotiations was showing the unified Egyptian and Sudanese stand, where Sudan reiterated its refusal to a unilateral filling of the GERD as announced by its irrigation minister Yasser Abbas who pointed out the hazards of the Ethiopian unilateral stands, with regards to the Sudanese Roseires Dam, and the dangers awaiting it in case of operating the GERD unilaterally.
The Sudanese government stands are positive in their entirety, and accordingly the Egyptian irrigation minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati commended them and all the serious Sudanese efforts in this respect.
The Egyptian diplomacy cleverly and wisely exposed the Ethiopian tricks before the world and revealed the aggressive Ethiopian intentions aiming at harming the Egyptian people and its water resources while Ethiopia isn’t in need of more water resources.
Ethiopia announced that it wants the GERD in order to generate electricity and Egypt doesn’t oppose this principle since the beginning of the crisis but in the negotiations it showed the opposite and wanted to employ the dam as a gate for creating problems and disputes, pushing the region to the edge of the abyss and driving the whole African continent into a circle of conflicts and wars.
This tense situation, which Ethiopia has created in the region, drove the US National Security Agency (NSA) to tell Addis Ababa that it is time to reach a deal over the disputed GERD before starting to fill the dam’s reservoir.
In a tweet on its official account, the NSA said that “257 million people in East Africa are relying on Ethiopia to show strong leadership, which means striking a fair deal.”
The NSA’s move should be the beginning of a rapid international movement against Ethiopia, especially in the UN Security Council in order to play its expected role in keeping peace and stability in Africa and finding a solution to the permanent and continuous Ethiopian headache for Africa that started nine years ago.
It is also important that the African Union defuse the Ethiopian crisis before becoming exacerbated, especially that the African Union (AU) headquarters is in Ethiopia. The AU should adopt a clear and effective standpoint towards the Ethiopian bad intentions and its attempt to harm the interests of downstream countries, even if it requires freezing Ethiopia’s AU membership and relocating the headquarters of the union.
Ethiopia has become a state that creates disputes and instability and isn’t keen on peace and security in the continent.
I believe that there is no need for more negotiations and the Washington card is decisive in this respect. It all relies on the political will of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian leadership’s desire to embrace the path of peace and stability for the peoples of the three countries or else insist on moving in the opposite direction and setting off a crisis that has no justification in reality.