AU urged to step into GERD mediation as Cairo rushes to internationalize the issue
With Egypt rushing to what experts have described as “unhelpful and abnormal politicization and internationalization of GERD through Arab league and other groups,” the African Union is urged to step in and help the three countries break the deadlock and calm the intensified tension.
Over the last weeks, tensions have escalated after the Arab League’s support to Egypt’s resolution which Ethiopia has rejected in its entirety saying it is a blind support to a member country without taking into consideration key facts about GERD talks.
Since then, tension heightened as Cairo traded rather tactless words while on the other hand trying to convince other countries to rally on its side. However, experts agree that resolving GERD dispute only requires genuine talks among the three countries saying the involvement of Arab League or other third parties will only further exacerbate the matter.
Negotiation on GERD comes to a stalemate after Ethiopia skipped the latest talks over a concern on the way the U.S. Treasury handled the matter. Despite the recent war-like rhetoric, there have been calls for the three countries to ease dispute and resume talks.
Ethiopia announced that it will commence first filling of the GERD in parallel with the construction of the dam.
Later on Tuesday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Gedu Andargachew held talks with Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two discussed the status of the on-going negotiation on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The Minister reiterated that the negotiations on the GERD should be held in line with the principles of fair, equitable and reasonable utilization of trans-boundary natural resources. The African Union Commission Chairperson for his part underlined that the epicenter of the negotiation on GERD should rest on a win-win base.
With the U.S. congressmen pressing the U.S Secretary of the Treasury to adopt a more balanced approach, experts also expect AU and other blocs to step in help the countries to come to negotiating table without interfering in the mandate of the riparian countries.
Lately, the African Union has asked Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia to seek a compromise to end their dispute on the filling and operation of the 4 billion USD Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
AU Commissioner Moussa Faki Mahamat who paid a visit to Sudan on March 7, 2020 said the Nile River has always been a link between the people and states of Africa. “We, at the AU, demand our brothers in Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt to seek a compromise formula on this issue,” he said, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT, reported Arabic international newspaper headquartered in London.
The most important third party for the resumption of negotiations should be the African Union, and the Chairperson of the AU and the AU Commission must take their roles seriously. The government of Egypt must understand that the African Union cannot work according to its whims.
For the government of Ethiopia, it must accord more respect to the African, said Horace G Campbell (Ph.D.) Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences in an emailed interview with The Ethiopian Herald.
“The current government of the United States is incapable of coming up with a ‘balanced’ approach with respect to Africa and Africans. At the present moment, there is no a possibility that the US brokered negotiation would come back on track and become fruitful.”
At this moment, the most important question is to ensure transparency for the peoples of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. While there may be criticisms of the US/World Bank as mediators (given the recent statements about Africa and Africans), the Ethiopian government must take the diplomatic high ground and release the issues that were contentious and why they did not sign the proposed agreement drawn up by the US Treasury.
Egypt’s preference of GERD mediators & influencers from outside of Africa is unlikely to succeed in the long-term, tweeted Zemdeneh Negatu, an economist. AU youth Volunteer John Yohanis Magoc, says that eight years of talks had carried out on GERD — a dialogue that started with the spirit of Ubuntu embodied on African Solution to African Problems.
But the recently the parties reached a deadlock on filling and operation of the dam and decided to invite a newcomer to the negotiating table, the United States, he says, adding that “this shows a lack of confidence and trust in African-led efforts for African matters. “This undermines the role of the African Union body in which Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan are members.”
The task ahead lays on the shoulders of the Nile Riparian countries to give an opportunity for a continent- led and grown concession and agreement, with a shared economic development, according to him.
He believes that the parties can still rebuild trust and continue the dialogue on the guidelines and rules on the filling and operation.
Speaking on the way forward to resolve the issue, Prof. Campbell insists that in the first place the three countries must be transparent about the issues. The guidelines and rules of the first filing and annual operation of the GERD must be discussed by engineers, hydrologists and environmental specialists from the three countries, he says.
“Secondly, they need to work with climate scientists and those with satellite models of future rainfall patters and third, there are hundreds of Egyptian water engineers who are not necessarily siding with the current government of Egypt.
Similarly, there are hundreds of Pan-African engineers and hydrologists from the Sudan who must be consulted.”
The way forward must be patient and protracted negotiations to win over the peoples of Egypt and the Sudan. There must be slow and painstaking diplomatic work by Ethiopia to educate Africa and the global community about its intentions. In this enterprise, the Ethiopian government will have to be honest to the Ethiopian People, he says.
The process of filling the dam must be a protracted process, based on the forecasts of the volumes of water that will be available over the next seven years. The process of filling must involve consultations with engineers from Panama who have been working on monitoring the Gatun Lake for the past 100 years. Similarly, the experiences of the Chinese with the Three Gorges Dam should be of importance for Pan African engineers, and to Ethiopia. There is also the experience of the past 20 years of the Lesotho High Water dam, he adds.
Source: The Ethiopian Herald