Ethiopian Dam talk concludes with “consensus”,critics say Egypt getting away with Ethiopia’s right

Ethiopians condemn alleged “consensus” on Ethiopian Dam talk between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia during “Washington Meeting.” Final agreement is yet to be signed in two weeks time.

Ethiopian Dam _ Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan
Pictures from the Washington meeting between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan (World Bank and USA attending as “observers”) Photo credit : Ftsum Arega

borkena
By Staff Writer
January 15, 2020

The meeting on the filling and operation of the Ethiopian Dam which took place in Washington is concluded on January 15.

Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, Fitsum Arega, said in a twitter message written Amharic that it concluded with consensus.

The United States’ Treasury Department and The World Bank were in the three days long meeting as “observers.”  The former has published the contents of the points upon which the alleged consensus is reached. 

The wordings of key points in the text seem to have clarity and specificity issues as in, for example, reflected “the hydrological conditions of the Nile Water and GERD” in addition to unspecified timing framework during which the dam could be filled. What hydrological situation entails what kind of commitment is unknown.

As well, while the initial stage of filling is said to provide for the “rapid achievement of a level of 595 meters above sea level,” it is vague how “rapid” is defined when Ethiopia is allowed to fill the dam only the months of July to August and under some unspecified circumstances in parts of September too. Not just that, in the course of doing so, if there happens to be a drought situation (this too is not clearly defined) in Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopia will take “appropriate mitigation measures” – which is another ambiguity area which could potentially lead to dispute.

In fact, the document clearly anticipates the possibility of future disputes even after an agreement is reached.  Under point number 6 the document stated: “An effective coordination mechanism and provisions for the settlement of disputes will be established.”

It is indicated in the document that there “will be technical and legal discussions in the interim period.’

The negotiating parties, water ministers and foreign ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan are due to return to Washington for the final agreement (which will be binding) in two weeks’ time between January 28 and 29 – according to the document.

The full content of the “Joint Statement of Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, the United States, and the World Bank” as published on the US Department of The Treasury Website reads as follows:

Joint Statement of Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, the United States and the World Bank
January 15, 2020

Washington, DC – The Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Water Resources of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and their delegations met with the Secretary of the Treasury and the President of the World Bank, participating as observers, in Washington, D.C. on January 13-15, 2020.  The Ministers noted the progress achieved in the four technical meetings among the Ministers of Water Resources and their two prior meetings in Washington D.C. and the outcomes of those meetings and their joint commitment to reach a comprehensive, cooperative, adaptive, sustainable, and mutually beneficial agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. 

Toward that end, the Ministers noted the following points, recognizing that all points are subject to final agreement:

1. The filling of the GERD will be executed in stages and will be undertaken in an adaptive and cooperative manner that takes into consideration the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the potential impact of the filling on downstream reservoirs.

2. Filling will take place during the wet season, generally from July to August, and will continue in September subject to certain conditions.

3. The initial filling stage of the GERD will provide for the rapid achievement of a level of 595 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.) and the early generation of electricity, while providing appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan in case of severe droughts during this stage. 

4. The subsequent stages of filling will be done according to a mechanism to be agreed that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of the GERD that addresses the filling goals of Ethiopia and provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought.

5. During long term operation, the GERD will operate according to a mechanism that determines release based upon the hydrological conditions of the Blue Nile and the level of the GERD that provides electricity generation and appropriate mitigation measures for Egypt and Sudan during prolonged periods of dry years, drought and prolonged drought.

6. An effective coordination mechanism and provisions for the settlement of disputes will be established.

The Ministers agree that there is a shared responsibility of the three countries in managing drought and prolonged drought.

The Ministers agreed to meet again in Washington, D.C. on January 28-29 to finalize a comprehensive agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD, and that there will be technical and legal discussions in the interim period.

The Ministers recognize the significant regional benefits that can result from concluding an agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with respect to transboundary cooperation, regional development and economic integration that can result from the operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.  The Ministers of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed the importance of transboundary cooperation in the development of the Blue Nile to improve the lives of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, and their shared commitment to concluding an agreement.



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