AU-led Negotiation ‘Right platform to Resolve Dam Dispute’

ADDIS ABABA – African Union-led process on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is the right platform to reach amicable solutions, according to Nile Riparian Countries.

The countries said this during a meeting between Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ethiopia, and Addis Ababa-based ambassadors and diplomats of the Nile riparian states on Wednesday.

The Nile River flows through 10 other African countries: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

But almost all of its water is allocated to Egypt and Sudan in terms of colonial treaties, which were signed without the involvement of the other riparian countries’ legitimate governments.

This has left Ethiopia, which contributes 86 percent of the water to the river, and the other Nile-basin countries with limited access to the water, pundits pointed out.

‘Dangerous Precedent’

While briefing on the latest status of the negotiations Wednesday, Demeke said the GERD represents the common aspirations of all the riparian countries to “equitably and reasonably utilize the water resource without significantly” harming downstream countries.

In this regard, the FM said the latest attempts made by Sudan and Egypt to take the GERD issue to the UN Peace and Security Council by mobilizing the League of the Arab States would “unnecessarily internationalize and securitize the matter”, according to a statement the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued after the meeting.

The latest move by Cairo and Khartoum to take the matter to the UN Security Council leaves a dangerous precedent and takes the negotiation process away from the AU standing contrary to the principle of solving African problems through African-led mechanisms, Demeke added.

The FM said Ethiopia believes that the GERD is a development project which does not fall under the mandate of the Security Council and called on the Council to respect the ongoing AU-led trilateral negotiations and process.

The UNSC is expected to on a meeting on the River after it was requested by Tunisia on Egypt and Sudan’s behalf, a diplomatic source told AFP news agency.

But France’s ambassador to the UN said last week that the council itself can do little apart from bringing the sides together.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Foreign Minister Demeke called on the riparian countries to forge a common front in opposing the approach taken by Cairo and Khartoum.

It undermines the role played by the AU and accentuates the colonial and monopolistic claims of the two countries over the resource, he added.

– Endorse for AU-led Talks-

Ambassadors and representatives of the missions of the Upper Riparian Countries present at the meeting appreciated the initiative taken by Ethiopia to update them on matters of the GERD as they are the main stakeholders of the shared water resource, according to the statement.

The countries further underscored that the Issue of the Renaissance Dam is their concern too since all of them also aspire to utilize the Nile River for development purposes, it added.

They also said the GERD negotiations have been in the capable hands of the AU so far, which should further be encouraged as the resource is African and the tripartite states are in Africa.

In this regard, the ambassadors underscored that all of the negotiating parties should seek peaceful solutions under the AU-led process being committed to the principle of finding “African Solutions to African problems”, the statement reads.

The diplomats have finally underscored that the UNSC has no mandate to decide on the GERD that is purely a development project, it concludes.

– Undermining AU’s Effort –

In April this year, DR Congo, the current Chairperson to African Union, attempted to restart the trilateral negotiations at the meeting held in Kinshasa.

Egypt and Sudan, however, “deliberately undermined the possibility of agreeing on a roadmap for the continuation of the negotiations”, Ethiopian officials said.

Addis Ababa agreed to seven of the nine proposals contained in the draft communiqué prepared by the DRC, while Cairo and Khartoum rejected the substantive parts of the communiqué prepared by the Chairperson.

This, coupled with their move to involve the Arab league, “clearly shows their lack of fidelity to the AU-led tripartite process,” according to Addis Ababa.

– Filling the dam –

The AU-led tripartite has been guided by the Declaration of Principles (DoP), which the leaders of the three countries signed in 2015.

Ethiopia is now adding the water to its reservoir as per the DoP and the recommendation of the research group composed of experts from the three countries.

Filling began last year, Ethiopia now targets to collect an additional 13.5 billion cubic metres of water this year, enough to test the dam’s turbines, an important milestone on the way towards actually producing energy.

The filling is conducted in parallel with the constructions. This has been clearly written in the declaration of principles, according to Eng. Gedion Asfaw, member of GERD negotiating team.