My views on the upcoming GERD Negotiation
Tesfaye Tafesse (Professor), Addis Ababa University, Center for African & Oriental Studies
We heard about some three days ago on Egypt’s willingness to resume the tripartite talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. As an academic, I like to begin by speculating what prompted or forced the Egyptians to acquiesce to Sudan’s attempt to come back to the round-table. As to me, four reasons might have accounted for that: (a) the letters of concern from the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) and the European Union (EU) Chiefs on the GERD negotiation impasse and the way out, (b) a monumental letter written by the well-known American civil rights activist, Rev. Jesse Jackson, to the US Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) with copies to the UNSG, the President of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the World Bank (WB) President and the US Secretary of the Treasury, (c) the defeat of Libyan warlord’s – Khalifa Haftar’s – forces that have a strong backing from Egypt at the hands of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and (d) the escalation of the Sinai insurgency in the eastern part of Egypt.
Having said that, let me throw some suggestions on the possible resumption of the tripartite talks and what the Ethiopian negotiators should pay attention to:
- Ethiopia should stand its ground firmly as she did at the end of February 2020 by refusing to sign the biased and one-sided ‘Washington document’! Whatever transpires in and around the upcoming tripartite talks, it should be framed within our firm and unflinching stands with due respect given to continuity par excellence;
- Based on the lessons that our negotiating team members have learned from some of the mistakes that were made in the past (e.g. the suicidal journey to the US), they should cautiously but surely proceed with the upcoming meetings;
- Any future negotiation on GERD shouldn’t fall prey to Egyptian machinations on which Ethiopia has no control. A good example for this is the clause(s) on mitigation mechanisms during dry periods and drought, forced and conditional release of water from Guba reservoir etc. If we fall prey to these Egyptian conditionality, GERD will literally become a hostage to Egypt in general and the High Aswan Dam (HAD) in particular;
- Given the stubbornness of Egyptians, we shouldn’t expect a consensual resolution anytime soon. The agreement on the resumption of talks could possibly be a time-buying ploy that is designed to delay the filling of the dam. They may come up with a compensation scheme in lieu of a delayed filling. Who knows what? Anything is possible on the Egyptian side. Hence, the first stage of the filling of the reservoir that spans a two-year period should by all means commence come next July with 4.9 bcm of water impoundment to be followed by testing the power plant in February 2021 and eventually the second impoundment of 13.5 bcm of water in summer 2021. So, at the end of the first filling of the reservoir, 18.4 bcm will be impounded at a height of 595 mts a.s.l.;
- We need to pursue our diplomatic efforts to bring Kenya and Burundi onboard to ratify the long-awaited Nile Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA). That will bring the desired proportion of signatories, i.e. two-thirds of the riparian states, to ratify the ten-year old CFA that is languishing at the Nile Secretariat in Entebbe, Uganda. It is incumbent upon us to mobilize skilled diplomats that could create enhanced awareness about the Nile throughout the world,
- We should always make sure that the GERD negotiation should stick only to the dam at Guba and not at all to the Abbay river! There is no way whatsoever to make any digression from this by talking about the Abbay or the Nile negotiation.
Following my humble suggestions that are jotted above, I am proposing to all concerned, namely the Ethiopian government, the Ethiopian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Water to write letters of thanks to the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Prof. Almariam for the unheeded and vocal support they made to promote Ethiopia’s cause. Rev. Jesse Jackson was a real friend of Ethiopia and the black world indeed – he came to our rescue when we were alone and the world was swayed by the Egyptian propaganda. No matter what truth will always prevail! I don’t even shy away from proposing the two gentlemen to be invited at the time of the GERD inauguration for ribbon cutting!
The writer could be reached via the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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