AU mediation hopefully pushes towards GERD dispute settlement

AU mediation hopefully pushes towards GERD dispute settlement

Ethiopia’s claim of filling GERD in 2 weeks doesn’t add up after consensus on AU-led talks, says expert

(dailynewssegypt)–More than 90% of issues in the tripartite negotiations on the giant Nile dam between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have been resolved,” the African Union (AU) Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a statement on Saturday.

There are two outstanding issues between the three countries. One is the time period in which the dam will be filled by Ethiopia, and another is how much water it will release to downstream countries.

The AU statement said the Bureau of the Assembly agreed to augment the Tripartite Committee dealing with the GERD issue, which consists of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. The committee was augmented with the participation of observers, namely South Africa in its capacity as Chairperson of the AU, members of the Bureau of the AU, and experts from the Commission, with a view to addressing outstanding technical and legal issues.

It also welcomed the commitment by the three parties to refrain from making any statements or taking any action that may jeopardize or complicate the AU-led process aimed at finding an acceptable solution on all outstanding matters.

Regarding the filling part, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced earlier Saturday that hs country is scheduled to begin filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in the next two weeks, and during this time, the remaining construction work on the project will continue. 

The statement did not clarify whether the filing is conditional upon the three sides involved in GERD negotiations, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, reaching an agreement or not. Egypt has firmly rejected any unilateral action by Ethiopia in this matter. 

Ahmed’s statement seems contradictory to the consensus made by the three countries on Friday when Ethiopia declared it will delay filling the dam’s reservoir until an agreement was reached on the project’s pending points, according to a statement from Sudan’s Prime Minister on Friday evening.

Egyptian water expert and former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, professor Mohamed Nasr El-Din Allam, described the Ethiopian statement as “for local political consumption,” and an attempt from Ahmed to tell the Ethiopian people that he is not pressured into a deal.

The three countries’ agreement to delay the filing of the dam’s reservoir was witnessed by African and international bodies, Allam told Daily News Egypt.

He further explained that Cairo and Khartoum have issued statements, stressing that no filing before the deal, but the Ethiopian Prime Minister said that filing to be started within two weeks to make his people believe that Ethiopia is imposing its will over the other parties.

On Friday, the AU, currently chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, brought together Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia’s heads of state and government, in a mini-summit to address the dispute.

Ramaphosa said on Twitter, “The Bureau of the African Union Assembly convened an extraordinary meeting last night to facilitate negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan on the finalisation of the GERD.”

However, Allam expected the failure of the current round of AU-led talks because of the Ethiopian cupidity.

Regarding Egypt’s complaint to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the session scheduled for this matter on Monday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry explained that the African summit has no impact on the session which will be held on time and with Egypt’s participation.

He stressed that the UNSC is the main body of the UN that concerned with international peace and security. 

During the AU meeting on Friday, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdouk and the Ethiopian Prime Minister agreed to resume talks under AU mediation.The talks would look to reach consensus on the outstanding points before Addis Ababa takes any further action in the process of filling the dam’s reservoir.

Members of the AU’s Assembly Bureau, Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the Presidents of Kenya, Mali and DR Congo, have presented at the meeting as well. 

President Al-Sisi praised Ramaphosa for his role in brokering this meeting on this vital issue for the populations of the three countries. Al-Sisi emphasized Egypt’s willingness to reach an agreement to help Ethiopia reach its development goals, without harming downstream countries.

Al-Sisi emphasized Egypt’s willingness to reach an agreement to help Ethiopia reach its development goals, without harming downstream countries.

In the statement on Saturday, Ahmed mentioned that the River Nile and the GERD project are African issues that should be discussed “under the African umbrella to find African solutions”. 

A technical and legal committee from Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and members of the AU’s Assembly Bureau, will meet to formulate a legal agreement on the GERD’s filling and operation. A team of international observers will also be present during further talks.

“AU and Bureau members will support the process of reaching an agreement. Convening this has demonstrated that it is seeking an ‘African Solution to African Problems’ as a correct pathway for Africa’s problem solving. Africa can truly tackle its problems effectively,”Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Sileshi Bekele, wrote on Twitter following the meeting. 

The GERD is a large-scale hydroelectric dam project under construction in Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz region on the Blue Nile River. Construction of the Dam started in April 2011. Egypt has expressed concerns that the construction of the dam could negatively affect its 55bn cbm share of the River Nile’s water.