Ethiopia & Egypt to ink ‘political deal’ over Nile water on side of AU summit: Hear ye it is minefield to walk in!

22 Jan

Editor’s Note:

    This is the most delicate stage of the negotiations with Egypt to ensure Ethiopia’s sovereignty over its natural resources, especially the Nile waters, without harming the interests of the upper riparian states.

    So far the TPLF regime has managed to do the right thing in laying the foundations of GERD, as Ethiopia’s title deed on the Nile River, the country providing 86 percent of the share of the water to the two upper riparian states – Sudan and Egypt, including outflows to the Mediterranean Sea.

    Whether the people of Ethiopia would become the ultimate beneficiaries of the power and resources GERD affords our nation is a different story. We already know that and this blog has been stern critic of the regime’s policy about denying power and light to our people, while lighting up neighboring countries. To this day, only 23 percent of Ethiopians have access to power and light. There is no mistaking about it the TPLF has its eyes on the foreign exchange and not the country’s electrification.

    That aside, the new challenge now is the latest idea that has came from President El-Sisi. On December 30, 2014 he asked Ethiopia to sign a binding document that would ensure the rights of Egypt. This appeared on Ahram Online, wherein Mr. Sisi said he needed Ethiopia to put in writing its verbal assurances to date. The wording would be to the effect that the dam “won’t affect Egypt’s Nile share into a document binding on both parties: Egypt and Ethiopia”.

    While the responsibility of Ethiopia is to ensure the engineering side of the dam and that, in accordance with international practices and law, to be fair and not cause any deliberate harm. A country cannot and has no power to issue guarantee that no future harm would not occur to Egypt. This is not within the realm of any sovereign state to pretend to be all knowing.

    As we indicated on our Editor’s Note of 12 January 2015, President Sisi’s request reflects Egypt’s distrust of the work so far done within the framework of the tripartite negotiating machinery, set up by the three countries – Egypt, Ethiopia & the Sudan.

    Not only that this disputes recent media reports of successful negotiations between the two countries. But also on the contrary, it signals Ethiopia and Egypt have hardly managed to cross their Rubicon over their Nile Question to leave behind their sores arising from Ethiopia’s construction of its Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.

    This page believes Ethiopians now can choose to close their eyes to the president’s sins of encroachment on their nation’s sovereignty, caused by his need for additional document. However, his request undoubtedly is contrary to established diplomatic practices between sovereign states, who are still in the middle of negotiations about the different aspects and implications of the dam.

    If the TPLF is to go ahead and sign any document – as requested – outside the proper course the ongoing diplomatic negotiations must follow, it is no less than the crime of betrayal of our nation’s sovereignty. Ethiopians have many serious grievances on this, are aware that the Front’s record at best has been dubious.

    Since this is a very serious matter, the TPLF regime must refrain from tying the hands of present and coming generations. At best, it should understand that it is in no position to foresee how such ‘document’ would be used by Egypt 20 or 35 years on.

    Moreover, it behooves Ethiopia well to recognize that this is one reason why the international community has not managed thus far to develop full-fledged water law to this day. In the process is only now that the 1997 Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses came into force, in August 2014. Having been close to this issue in my previous life, even then I could state it is a very dicey issue politically and not so popular, as the number of signatories at 35 member states also shows.

    Whereas both Ethiopia and egypt have accepted the resolution at its adoption in 1997, neither them has to this day has signed or ratified it!

    That is why I urge the TPLF regime to refrain from jumping into the unknown and commit grave historical mistakes again!

 

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

CAIRO – Egypt and Ethiopia are expected to sign a political declaration by this end of this month regarding the Nile river water and a controversial Ethiopian dam, Egyptian political sources have said.

“The political declaration will be signed by leaders of Egypt and Ethiopia on the sidelines of the African Summit, due to be held on Jan. 29-31,” one of the sources told The Anadolu Agency.

He said the declaration will include “seven points that were articulated in a previous joint statement” by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in June in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.

“In a nutshell, the declaration is a political agreement under which the two countries can reach a consensus on matters related to water usage, and that can be later translated into multiple agreements, including a legal one,” the source said.

Another source close said that “the declaration will clearly stipulate respecting international laws”.

During a recent meeting with Patriarch Abune Mathias of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church last week, al-Sisi stressed the need for a “legal mechanism that would preserve the rights of both countries to the waters of the Nile, secure their interests and enhance mutual cooperation.”

Ethiopia and Egypt are in the middle of diplomatic rapprochement to narrow their differences over the former’s construction of a multi-billion hydroelectric dam on the Nile.

The two countries agreed to resume tripartite talks – which also included downstream country Sudan – Desalegn and al-Sisi met in Equatorial Guinea in June.

Meetings of a tripartite technical committee, set up in 2011, resumed in August after an eight-month hiatus due to ongoing differences between Cairo and Addis Ababa.

In September, the tripartite committee decided to commission research firms to study trans-boundary and environmental impacts of the Ethiopian Nile dam.

Egypt says the Ethiopian dam will negatively affect its share of water from the Nile – its only source of water – while Ethiopia says the project is indispensable for its own national development and the economic welfare of its growing population.
 
*Updated.
 

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