By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
Regarding the March 23, 2015 agreement between Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan, otherwise known as the Khartoum Declaration of Principles, the construction firm Salini impreglio matter of factly wrote on March 25, 2015 “Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan reached a cooperation agreement in Khartoum on March 23 on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam…The deal between the three countries comes after works were halted due to concerns, especially from Egypt, that the project might negatively affect its water supply by reducing the capacity of the Nile.”
The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO), while welcoming any peaceful ventures by the three countries, recognizing that not only that Ethiopia is the source of the Nile watering both countries. But also the fact must be accepted without any equivocation that Ethiopia is owner of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Of that, I observed in my article of April 1, 2015:
“[W]hile Article III. Principle of Equitable and Reasonable Utilization is an internationally accepted principle now, it is also open and malleable to becoming poison pill against upper riparians such as Ethiopia. That would render the Blue Nile waters the exclusive preserve of Egypt and the Sudan.
As I indicated in my initial reaction of March 24 on the [Khartoum] declaration, the operation of GERD itself could fall into joint ownership and management, already Article V, in sub-article (b) paving the road for the morphing of a body that would eventually become managing board/authority. It is already indicated that the three states may issue guidelines or rules how GERD is managed, the two non-owner states, i.e., Egypt and the Sudan, at par and in full authority. The declaration describes the purposes of this as facilitating “the annual operation of GERD, which the owner of the dam may adjust from time to time.”
More particularly, giving flesh and blood to this are the sub-articles listed in paras (a) – (i)] of Article III; they speak about “the relevant guiding factors” “but not limited” to those outlined therein.
Anyone one coming up with all sorts of hardsell interpretations requesting cooperation in accepting the efforts of these three states, as represented by the Khartoum Declaration, would be making senseless effort. This is because what is foreseen by declaration is not consistent with meaning of ownership, when at the same time the owner is bound by trilateral agreement to receive guidelines from others regarding the dam’s management and operations.
For that matter, the Khartoum Declaration has not made any reference to the concept of “participation” in Article III, much in the same manner as in the UN Convention’s Articles 5 and 6, which deals with the principle of “Equitable and reasonable utilization” shared water resources. Such provision would have helped in restricting its scope to the right to ‘utilizing’ the watercourse, instead of the present amorphous and possibly insidious Article 5. Principle to Cooperate on the First Filling and Operation of the Dam in the declaration, which in essence is a backdoor to dam ownership.”
Unfortunately, the TPLF-led Ethiopian negotiators at the Khartoum meeting on March 23, 2015 buckled and received an agreement, which has made Egypt and the Sudan co-owners of GERD. Speaking for myself, I would not have cared if it was a conscious decision predicated on joint prior understanding, while the two countries also footed the huge construction bill and in future its maintenance and management costs. That not being the case, the burden is now likely to fall on ordinary Ethiopians or else the entire management in Egyptian hands.
The TPLF chiefs are now denying one by one that is the case. Since their lack integrity is at its highest, it has become necessary to put whatever they say on ‘truth testor’ and they are still found wanting. They said to the Ethiopian people they could fill water storage anytime, which, by the Khartoum Agreement is not possible, and has been reassured once again at the latest tripartite meeting squeezed by Egypt’s high-powered delegation and succumbed to the original terms of the declaration of principles.
On December 30, 2015in TPLF’s propaganda on GERD gives way to principles of Khartoum Declaration, Egypt victoriously sees as Ethiopia committing to “transparency”, I mentioned how Egypt through its Minister of Irrigation shot Hossam Al-Moghazy the first salvo, which reads:
“Egypt’s irrigation minister has said that the Khartoum agreement that was reached on Tuesday between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on the Grand Renaissance Dam stipulates that no country is allowed to undertake unilateral action until technical studies have finished next October.”
While Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the new agreement addressed the main concerns of the three countries, including the concerns of the Egyptian people, he was quick to add “this latest agreement reverses the concern by Egypt caused by Ethiopia’s announcement on December 27/2015 that “it began the diversion of the Blue Nile, which was perceived by some experts as a sign that it will complete the construction of the dam regardless of the current meetings.”
The key point in the announcement states: “በአሁኑ ጊዜም የአራቱ ቱቦዎች ግንባታ ሙሉ በሙሉ የተጠናቀቀ ሲሆን፥ የአባይ ወንዝም የቀድሞው የጉዞ አቅጣጫውን ለቆ ግንባታቸው በተጠናቀቁ ቱቦዎች ውስጥ እንዲሆን ተደርጓል።” [“The Nile waters would henceforth course through the four tunnels just completed.”]. Of course, on this one Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources Hossam Al-Moghazy had come out and stated that what Ethiopia had done was a “normal step”.
On his part, the Tripartite Committee Chairman Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said the document includes all the issues of importance for the three countries and that each legal document signed is binding.
In Addis Abeba, the ICC-indictee Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir has found it necessary to atone to his sins against Egypt and assured the Egyptian president that Sudan stands by Egypt, notwithstanding his vocal support to GERD. The Sudanese president, therefore, had his tête-à-tête moment and, according to Ahram Online, where he pledge his loyalty to its Arab brethren “noting the pioneering role that Egypt has played throughout history in defending the capabilities of Arab nations.”
On the sidelines of the African Union summit, Egyptian President Sisi met the man in the Ethiopian prime minister’s office and in a manner that sounded an instruction from Big Brother, the Egyptian president underlined the importance for Egypt of Ethiopia “continuing the implementation of the Khartoum declaration and finalizing various technical phases concerning the Ethiopian renaissance dam so as to ensure Egypt’s water interests and Ethiopia’s development goals.”
All said and done, notwithstanding the lies the TPLF has fed the Ethiopian people, what is left for Ethiopia now is the glory or originating the dam idea going, according to Minister Debretsion Gebremichael to dictator Meles Zenawi, which eventually would rechristine GERD into Meles Zenawi Dam, even without any mention of Emperor Haileselassie, who had left them the blue print in the first place as prepared by United States army in the 1960s.
Perhaps it matters little to the TPLF, since they are sure there would be no attempt on the part of Egypt to needle them with its proven hands under the table. Also equally important for the TPLF potentates is that they would end up sharing the proceeds from GERD with their foreign partners.
On the morning of February 1, 2016, Irrigation Minister Hossam Moghazy made it his important duty to emphatically remind the TPLF leadership on The Cairo Post that the cost of GERD’s technical studies would be borne by Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, and that water storage would not begin until after the studies are submitted.
This is only the first step, as far as Egypt is concerned.
To the best of my recollection, at least, since the 1980s the model Egypt had often mentioned and embraced is the Mekong River Basin agreement. Even the Egyptian one-term former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali had indirectly tried to push through the United Nations system funding, while Egypt closely observed as years of negotiations until it eventually culminated in the 1995 Agreement amongst four of the six basin states Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Two upper Mekong riparian states China and Myanmar, opted observer status, while they advanced their respective national interests, without being pinned down by a river treaty with a force of law.
That, however, takes foresight, good policies anchored on the national interests, national commitment of a united nation principle, sharing from all the benefits, not only the miseries and ensuring the support of the people – not fragmentation on which the TPLF thrives.