Ethiopia: Sudan, Egypt Prolonging Trilateral Negotiations to Delay Filling of GERD, Say Experts

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd), under construction since 2011, began holding back water after the the Blue Nile swelled during heavy rains in July.

Addis Ababa — Sudan and Egypt are deliberately prolonging the trilateral negotiations in order to delay the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), experts revealed.

This does not, however, bring any change as far as the progress of the dam is concerned because the Government of Ethiopia has rightly declared the second impoundment of the dam will start this rainy season.

In an exclusive interview with ENA, Addis Ababa University African and Oriental Studies Center Assistant Professor Samuel Tefera said the negotiations have been disrupted a number of times by Sudan and Egypt.

"As stated clearly by the Ethiopian government, the trilateral negotiation was very much expected to bear fruit. But Egypt and Sudan are dragging their feet to buy time and prolong the filling GERD," he noted.

Samuel stated that the cooperation modalities put forward by Ethiopia have always been rejected by the two parties.

According to him, there are stages in the construction of the dam which require impoundment. "This is not a matter of choice; it a necessity. By hook or by crook, Ethiopia has to impound the dam this July. If it fails to do so, the whole process will stop at least for one year. This will also have financial consequences."

Peace and Security Expert, Lulsegged Abebe said on his part that the strategy of Egypt is to divert attention and make noise as usual when Ethiopia had the first filling of the dam last year. The difference is Sudan has now joined it.

"To be fair, the Declaration of Principle (DoP) clearly states that the construction and filling of the dam are to go concurrently. Both Sudan and Egypt have agreed and signed this declaration. I personally don't see how the current noise will impact the second filling of the dam. Ethiopia's position on filling the dam is very clear and consistent. It has never changed. Both countries are aware about this. Not only are both the countries aware of this, but the international community is also aware of it."

He stressed that the three countries should accept the reality, especially Sudan and Egypt, to resolve their differences and continue the negotiations in good faith.

"We are in the 21st centuries; things are dynamic; history is not static; things change daily and yesterday is gone. We have to look forward. Abay is enough for all of us, it is enough for the eleven basin countries. We should play a fair game. Egypt has to be really very fair on this. We have to move from selfishness," the expert underscored.

Florida International University Water Resources Engineering Professor, Assefa M. Melesse said "I believe this is all about a delay tactic by Sudan and Egypt so that the filling will not happen as scheduled."

He pointed out that "the fact that their requests and stands change every time shows their unwillingness and wavering to negotiate in good heart. By inviting others like USA, EU and UN and giving them a higher role to be part of the negotiations outside observational role, Egypt and Sudan think that this will delay the filling and give them more time to create another road block."

The stand is clear now and Ethiopia should stick to the schedule. Egypt and Sudan have still time to reconvene and come with a political will to resolve this impasse.

Furthermore, the professor noted that the issue is not technical at this point. It is lack of good will and readiness from Egypt and Sudan to agree to the filling and discuss the next steps.

"The challenges facing these countries will be immense and out of control as they delay the negotiation. It is critical that they develop trust and openness in their discussion. Ethiopia has a clear plan and facts are on her side that the non-consumptive use of water is beneficial to the three countries. It is well established," Assefa elaborated.

Binding agreement on water release infringes water consumptive use and sharing, which is a discussion that needs to happen next in the presence of the other basin countries, the professor explained.

The three countries alone cannot discuss water sharing issue, he said, adding that "signing a binding agreement in circumstances we have no control (like future climate change impact) and also side lining the remaining Nile countries is not sustainable and viable."

The trilateral negotiations between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) under AU ended with no progress earlier this week.

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